Dilijan is a spa town and urban municipal community in the Tavush Province of Armenia. Usually called Armenian Switzerland or Little Switzerland by the locals, it is one of the most important resorts of Armenia, situated within the Dilijan National Park. The forested and reclusive town is home to numerous Armenian artists, composers, and filmmakers and features some traditional Armenian architecture. The Sharambeyan street in the centre, has been preserved and maintained as an “old town”, complete with craftsman’s workshops, a gallery and a museum. Hiking, mountain biking, and picnicking are popular recreational activities. As of the 2011 census, Dilijan has a population of 17,712, down from 23,700 reported in the 1989 census. Currently, the town has an approximate population of 16,600 as per the 2016 official estimate. The Armenian government is planning to turn Dilijan into a regional financial capital, beginning with the move of much of the Central Bank’s operations to Dilijan in 2013.
Historically, the area of modern-day Dilijan -known as Hovk– was part of the Varazhnunik canton of Ayrarat; the 15th province of the historic Greater Armenia.
During excavations conducted in the 1870s, many valuable items were found, dating back to the late Bronze and the early Iron ages (between the end of 2000 BC and the beginning of 1000). Some of the excavated collections were transferred to the museums of Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Tbilisi, Baku and Yerevan, while the reminder was kept in the Dilijan Geological Museum. The historic Sharambeyan street renovated through the efforts of the Tufenkian Foundation of Cultural Heritage.
During the medieval period, the territory of Dilijan was known as Hovk. Hovk was a favourite forest and a summer resort for the Arsacid kings to show their abilities in hunting. The settlement of Bujur Dili was founded during the 13th century near the area of modern-day Dilijan. The monasteries of Haghartsin and Goshavank were built between the 10th and 13th centuries. The monastery complexes have quickly developed and have served as cultural and educational centers. Haghartsin is one of the iconic examples of the developing Armenian architecture during the Middle Ages. Many other important religious and educational centers of the Middle Ages have survived in Dilijan, such as the Jukhtak Vank Monastery and Matosavank Monastery.
Haghartsin (Armenian: Հաղարծին) is a 13th-century monastery located near the town of Dilijan in the Tavush Province of Armenia. It was built between the 10th and 13th centuries (in the 12th under Khachatur of Taron); much of it under the patronage of the Bagratuni Dynasty.
Traditionally, an eagle was soaring over the dome of the main building at its dedication and thus it became commonly known as the monastery of the playing (or soaring) eagle(“Hagh” means a game while “Artsin” a form of “Artsiv” means eagle in Armenian).
St. Astvatsatsin Church
St. Astvatsatsin Church in Haghartsin (1281) is the largest building and the dominant artistic feature. The sixteen-faced dome is decorated with arches, the bases of whose columns are connected by triangular ledges and spheres, with a band around the drum’s bottom. This adds to the optical height of the dome and creates the impression that its drum is weightless. The platband of the southern portal’s architrave is framed with rows of trefoils.
The sculptural group of the church’s eastern facade differs in composition from the similar bas-reliefs of Sanahin, Haghpat, and Harich. It shows two men in monks’ attire who point with their hands at a church model and a picture of a dove with half-spread wings placed between them. The umbrella roofing of the model’s dome shows the original look of the dome of Astvatsatsin church. The figures are shown wearing different dresses — the one standing right is dressed more richly than the one standing left. The faces, with their long whiskers, luxuriant combed beards and large almond shaped eyes, are also executed in different manners. These are probably the founders of the church, the Father Superior and his assistant.
St. Gregory Church
The oldest large structure of the complex, the St. Grigor Church, is accessible through its gavit.
St. Gregory Church gavit
The 12th-century gavit abutting St. Grigor Church is of the most common type of plan. It is a square building, with roofing supported by four internal abutments, and with squat octahedral tents above the central sections, somewhat similar to the Armenian peasant home of the “glkhatun” type. The gavit has ornamented corner sections. Decorated with rosettes, these sections contain sculptures of human figures in monks’ attires, carrying crosses, staffs, and birds. The framing of the central window of Haghardzin’s gavit is cross-shaped. Placed right above the portal of the main entrance, it emphasizes the central part of the facade.
One of the half-columns along the right hand wall towards the back has come forward, showing that it is hollow. According to legend, this was swung open and shut in the past and monastery riches were hidden inside at times of war and invasion.
St. Stepanos Church
The small St. Stepanos Church dates back to 1244.
Goshavank, meaning “Monastery of Gosh”; previously known as Nor Getik) is a 12th- or 13th-century Armenian monastery located in the village of Gosh in the Tavush Province of Armenia. The impressive monastery which has remained in relatively good condition also houses one of the world’s finest examples of a khachkar.
Goshavank was erected in the place of an older monastery once known as Nor Getik, which had been destroyed by an earthquake in 1188. Mkhitar Gosh, a statesman, scientist and author of numerous fables and parables as well as the first criminal code, took part in the rebuilding of the monastery.
At Goshavank, Mkhitar Gosh founded a school. One of its alumni, an Armenian scientist by the name of Kirakos Gandzaketsi wrote The History of Armenia. The architect Mkhitar the Carpenter and his disciple Hovhannes also took an active part in the building of the monastery. The complex was later renamed Goshavank and the village named Gosh in his honor.
Goshavank does not have outer walls, and is surrounded by village homes. All of the buildings are attached to each other except for S. Hripsime Chapel, which is located on the opposite hillside and within view. Numerous religious and monumental civil buildings show that in the twelfth to thirteenth centuries the monastery was full of life.
The churches are decorated in accordance with the traditions of the time. As a rule, the door portals and windows are framed in rectangular or arched platbands some of which are profiled. The façade niches have multifoil or scalloped tops like those of the niches of the main church at Geghard. The unusual and artistically framed sun dial on the southern façade is an eye-catching decorative element.
United World College Dilijan
As of 2009, Dilijan had 5 public education schools and 6 kindergartens with 2250 students and 350 children respectively. A music academy and another one for arts are also operating in the town.
Dilijan has an operating branch of the Yerevan State Academy of Fine Arts. Three intermediate colleges for medicine, arts and crafts are also operating in the town.
With a cost of US$80 million, the Central Bank of Armenia’s Educational Center was opened in Dilijan in 2013. Around 150 employees of the Central Bank moved from Yerevan to Dilijan along with their families on the step towards the transformation of the town into a regional financial center.
In 2014, the United World College Dilijan, a part of the global educational movement United World Colleges, was opened in the town.
The construction of the Dilijan Central School was launched in 2013 by the Ayb Educational Foundation with the cooperation of the Central Bank of Armenia. In autumn 2015, the newly-built state-of-the-art school was officially opened.
In 2017, the Monte Melkonian Military College of the Ministry of Defence of Armenia was moved from the capital Yerevan to Dilijan. It is housed in an up-to-date complex built between 2011 and 2016 with an approximate cost of AMD 26 billion (around US$ 54.4 million).