One of the mysterious corners of Lori Province is the Zarni-Parni cave-fortress complex, located in the western part of Haghpat Monastery. The structural components of this historical complex are the “Zarni er”, “Parni er” and “Tsak er” caves. Uncovering the history and the origin of the name, it becomes apparent that it was named in honor of Governor Zareh. Zarni was considered to be “Zareh’s Er”, and Parni was “Gentlemen’s Er” (“ayr”- a cave). According to the legends, during the defense against enemy attacks, Governor Zareh, along with the nobles of his dynasty, took refuge here and cherished the manuscripts and treasures belonging to the Haghpat monastery complex. The second cave, which was for having rest, was appropriately called the “Gentleman’s cavern”.
The cave “Tsak Er” (Holey Cave) is also a unique architectural value, where the Armenian chronicler, great multi-disciplinary scholar, and philosopher Hovhannes Imastaser secluded in the 11-12th centuries. There are two roads leading to the cave. The first is a historical road, which starts from the western side of Haghpat village and is about 650 meters long. The second road starts from Tsaghkashat and Haghpat villages’ road section and is 1250-meter long.
Numerous findings inside the walls of Zarni-Parni are evidence of early human life hereabouts and tell us a lot about their lifestyle. The winepress, survived and still well-preserved, reflects the grape cultivation and winemaking traditions that have always been vital here. To convey the spirit of local traditions, customs, culture, and the everyday life of an ordinary worker, as well as to revive the history, the exhibits of unique items, such as a plow, a yoke, wooden ploughs, an anvil, pitchers, jars, swords, basins, and various household items can be seen here.
The presence of the dome fountain in the castle, which the locals now call the “Drop Fountain” is also crucial. Completely pure water dripping right from the ceiling of the cave was believed to have healing powers.
To fully enjoy the harmony of Tumanyan’s nature and historical reality, as well as to spend warm evenings by the fire, there is an underground fire pit inside the castle.
The cave has been restored and fortified recently, and the condition of the road has been improved. Due to the efforts of a private investor, now there are some establishments such as a museum, a cafe, a winery, and a souvenir shop. The above-mentioned are open only during the summer season. In the Zarni-Parni cave complex nature merges with history and culture.