What To Do
The canyon is Siunik's crowning natural jewel, “Armenia's Grand Canyon”; carved by a mountainous river that flows from the western part of the Karabakh Plateau and courses 178 km through the heart of the province with a basin of 5650 square kilometers, etching the landscape with rugged canyon walls more than 100 meters deep and 3 km apart at its widest point.
From its headwaters on Mt. Davagioz (1), the small stream quickly gathers waters from countless springs and melting snow fields to feed the large Spandarian Reservoir (2), the ancient village of Angeghakot (3) northwest of Sissian (4) and the first of a number of deep canyons that pass Stone Age cave settlements, Bronze Age fortresses and shrines, Iron Age cities and Medieval fortresses, monasteries and villages. The river widens on the Sissian plane, dividing the town into its northern and southern districts.
Just to the east of Sissian, the river begins its most breathtaking part; a series of fantastically deep canyons that divide into needle mountains and island fortresses, with spectacular multi-colored canyon walls and teeming waters that in the spring make up one of Armenia's two world-class white-water rafting courses.
The waters pass Vorotnavank (5), the David Bek fortress (6) and the Vorotan hot springs (7), then feed Shamb reservoir (8), before beginning their final course through the river's most rugged territory. Passing the stunning canyon below Tatev (9), the Vorotan continues another 13 km to the spot you are at now, below the massive hydroelectric plant. The Vorotan is a left tributary of the Arax River, and it travels for 59 km through Karabakh before emptying into the Arax River, a boundary for Historic Armenia.
The Vorotan Cascade (10) consists of 3 hydroelectric power stations on the Vorotan River. The highest-pressure station is this 3rd that you see now, named Tatev hydroelectric power station. Other stations are at the Shamb and Spandarian reservoirs. Vorotan Cascade plays a primary role in Armenia's energy system, providing energy to the south of Armenia while supporting the water needs of the region.
Hiking is excellent in this area, especially in the forests. Trails include folowing the river west to Tatev (13 km to Devil's Bridge, 20 km to the monastery) and Shamb reservoir (another 13 km); and to the north to Karahundj village (9.5 km) and Goris (12.5 km), or on top of the north rim, to Khot (11 km on a fantastically twisting and turning road with amazing views), Shinuhair (1.5 km W of Khot), Halidzor (another 3 km) and Tatev (19 km from Halidzor). These are challenging climbs, with steep hills and rocky slopes and should not be attempted without a qualified guide.