Tsaghkadzor (Armenian: Ծաղկաձոր, also Romanized as Tsakhkadzor; formerly, Darachichag) is a spa town and a popular health resort in Armenia located north of Hrazdan in the Kotayk Province (marz). The population of 1,600 in 2009, is a decrease of more than half of the 3,400 reported in the 1989 census.
Tsaghkadzor means valley of flowers in Armenian. The city is located 50 kilometers north of Yerevan, on the southeastern slope of Teghenis Mountains, at a height of 1750 meters above sea level, surrounded with alpine meadows.
In the early medieval period the region belonged to the feudal clan of Varazhnuni, which governed the forest that was used as a hunting ground for the Armenian Arshakuni Kings from the 4th to the 5th centuries. In the 6th century, the territory passed into the possession of the House of Kamsarakan. Beginning from the 10th century, the clan of Kamsarakan merged with the House of Pahlavuni, who were also related to the Arshakunis. Gregory Pahlavuni, the leader of the clan and subsequently the prince of the Kecharis principality, built the Kecharis Monastery in honor of Gregory the Illumanitor in 1033. In 1051 he constructed the Church of Holy Nshan. The territory passed to the rule of Zakarid princes during the 13-14th centuries, at times falling to the rule of Proshyan and Khagbakyan families. During the larger part of the later centuries, the region was constantly the arena of the Ottoman-Persian wars. Finally in 1828, according to the Treaty of Turkmenchay, the region was connected with the Erivan Governorate and entered into the composition of the Russian Empire.
During the Soviet era Tsaghkadzor was developed into a modern city intended to attract large numbers of tourists. Many historical buildings and dachas, built before the revolution by industrialists and merchants from Yerevan and Tbilisi, were either nationalized in favor of the state or they were sold in auctions.
Currently, Tsaghkadzor is a fast developing winter resort that attracts hundreds of ski and snowboard enthusiasts from around the world. Many people choose this undiscovered destination to combine their snow experience with an extraordinary experience of touring the country in the wintertime. The best months for skiing and snowboarding are normally February and March. Usually, snow cover is good from January to mid-April.
On August 11, 2008, about 90 American Peace Corps volunteers, trainees and staff members were relocated to Tsaghkadzor from the Republic of Georgia as a precaution during the military conflict with Russia.
One of the most interesting religious complexes of Armenia is located in Tsaghkadzor. The Kecharis Monastery of the 11th century is a group of 4 churches, and it is one of the well-preserved medieval architectural samples of the Armenian Highland.
The Orbeli brothers' house-museum in Tsaghkadzor is dedicated to the Armenian scientists Ruben, Levon and Joseph Orbeli who were native of Tsaghkadzor. Professor Ruben Orbeli was the founder of marine archaeology and one of the major specialists of ocean engineering. Physiologist Levon Orbeli was a member of the Academies of Science of USSR and Armenian SSR. Scientist Joseph Orbeli was an orientalist specialized in medieval history of Southern Caucasus, he administered the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg from 1934 to 1951.
The infrastructure of tourism is highly developed in Tsaghkadzor, with many luxurious hotels, resorts and amusement facilities. The Tsakhkadzor ski resort is located just above the town, on a height of 1750 meters above sea level.
During the recent years the ski resort was fully modernized. All ropeway lifts are manufactured and operated by Leitner Group. The current structure replaced existing soviet era lifts, mostly following their path. There were initially three consecutive lifts stretching from the foot of the mountain (1969m above sea level) up till the mountain peak (2819m), with the first and second lifts ending at 2234m and 2465m above sea level respectively. In 2006 a fourth lift was added, stretching from the end of the first stage towards an opposite hilltop, thus adding two trails, both leading down to the foot of the slopes. Apart from the lifts the resort offers ski and snowboard rental as well as skiing instructors. The skiing season in Tsakhkadzor normally starts mid December and stretches well into March with the top slopes often fit for skiing in April.
The Olympic Sports Complex of Tsaghkadzor was built specifically for the preparation of the Soviet athletes for the 1968 Summer Olympic Games in Mexico. Today the sports complex which was thoroughly overhauled in 2008, opens its doors to all visitors. The complex provides training facilities for 35 types of sports. It consists of a football stadium, swimming and diving pools, a ski run piste, several indoor sport halls and facilities for many other types of sports.