Armenia / Places We Go

A Caravanserai In Armenia

This caravanserai is located at Armenia’s Sulema Pass (also known as Selim Pass) at an altitude of 2,410m…

armenia caravanserai

What’s a caravanserai?

I didn’t know before this trip either. This caravanserai, or inn, is but one of many in Armenia; overnight spots for caravans laden with goods meant for markets in Europe and the Orient.

Many think of the Silk Road as a single trail, but in fact there were dozens of routes connecting East and West, most by land, some by sea. They crossed east to west and north and south, the most popular tracing river valleys and lake shores as they wound their way to their final destinations.

A faint inscription over the entry dates the building to 1326-1327. Inside the arched entry, however, the completion date is 1332, attributed to the Prince Orbelian Chesar and his brothers. The two bas-relief carvings on the facade are emblems of the Orbelian family; a winged animal and a bull.

The entrance:

armenia caravanserai

The basalt structure consists of an entry hall on the east end and a long hall for animals (13m x 26m) divided into three aisles with two rooms for people. Feeding troughs lay between the pillars.

The interior:

armenia caravanserai

To the east of the caravanserai is a large half-buried vaulted chapel.

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3 thoughts on “A Caravanserai In Armenia

  1. Justin:
    Enjoying the posts and really liked this picture. Quite a unique building. It would be pretty interesting to see both style variations along the route but also whether the model is similar or whether the physical arrangements vary greatly.. Maybe a Silk Roads investigation/trip? I checked out visiting the Stans lately with that idea in mind but it seems that it would be difficult to organize visas to visit them all in one sweep as they each require you to send in your passport for a visa, want 30 days to process it and then it is only available for a limited time. What is the solution for that?

  2. Thank you for your comment, Christopher. I’m glad you have been enjoying the posts.

    I agree with you that it would be interesting to see how the caravanserais differ along the various routes. As I indicated in my posts, I was not even aware of their existence prior to this most recent trip. However, now that they have registered with me, I intend to keep an eye out for them in the future and to hopefully soon have some more examples I can share.

    A Silk Road trip would be epic, no doubt. However, as you correctly indicated, the logistics are nightmarish. The biggest problem I have had with ambitious trips like that is the one you indicated – that the visa is often only valid for a short period of time after receiving it and so it isn’t possible to organize all of the visas before you depart. Another problem I have had is that the visa is only valid for a very exact set of dates and if those dates are missed in any way, then the entire visa is rendered invalid. Obviously, it is tough to nail an exact entry date when traveling on such a trip. And then, of course, there is the problem that arises when countries do not like each other. Just for example, because I visited Nagorno-Karabakh, I am now strictly unwelcome in Azerbaijan. I have two passports which helps with this issue as I try to put all of the more questionable destinations in my American passport and to keep the more neutral destinations in my British passport. However, this is still another logistical hurdle to overcome.

    Solutions? Well, the situation on the ground can sometimes be very different than what the official policy is. So, for example, my wife and I were able to make it into Syria recently despite hearing literally everywhere that it was absolutely impossible. It was just a matter of showing up at the border and being very polite and trying to seem as harmless as possible. And then, of course, for a place like Afghanistan a bribe will resolve any problem. However, none of these options offer any certainty of success which is quite discouraging when trying to make plans. So, I am afraid that I don’t have a magical, surefire solution for you. I’ve always been impressed with my success rate when I have approached a border problem with a friendly smile and a pocket full of money, but I also always try to have a Plan B or even a Plan C for the inevitable failures that come along. I’m afraid that is probably the best we can do.

  3. really liked the photos of the caravanserai – can’t help but wonder how many people over the years have stayed there – also didn’t know there was more than one Silk Road

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