Region: Syunik Province
Sisian was first mentioned in the 8th century BC. At that time the city was still part of Great Armenia – long before the Christianization of Armenia. Between the 4th century BC and the 5th century AD, today's Sisian belonged to the Kingdom of Armenia, which was ruled by the Orontid, Artaxid and Arsacid dynasties. Still visible today are the petroglyphs of Ughtasar – 20 kilometres north of Sisian and directly on the border to Azerbaijan. The rock paintings date from the 5th to 2nd century BC. They tell a lot about the culture of that time and show scenes of festivities and hunting.
Three invasions into the 15th century
In the year 1103, Sisian belonged meanwhile to the kingdom Syunik, the Seljuk invaded and plundered in the region of Sisian extensively. It was not to be the last invasion. After the end of the kingdom in 1170 the Mongols, the Turkmen Ak Koyunlu and the Kara Koyunlu (from today's Iran, Iraq and Turkmenistan) invaded successively. These conquest campaigns lasted until the 15th century.
Sisian under Persian and Russian rule
At the beginning of the 16th century the Persians came and conquered Sisian, which at that time was still called Sisakan. The city became part of the Khanate Yerevan (Erivan Beglarbegi), which in turn belonged to the Safavid Empire, which stretched from Armenia to Pakistan and Afghanistan. It took until the 18th century before resistance against the Persian occupation formed. With the help of numerous patriotic volunteers, Army Commander David Bek managed to liberate the province of Syunik until 1750.
Only a few decades later, however, the next adversity followed: Armenia became part of the Russian Empire. The short period of Armenia's independence between 1918 and 1920 was to be the only one until 1991, when Armenia became independent again after the end of the Soviet Union.
Zorokarer, the Stonehenge of Armenia
The most important sight in Sisian is Zorakarer (other names are Zorats-Karer or Karahund). The ancient cemetery is 7 hectares large and lies about 4 kilometres north of Sisian. In addition to the remains of an ancient settlement, there are 30 chamber tombs and around 223 megaliths (standing boulders) on the site. About 40 of these two to three meter high stones form a circle that surrounds the central grave of the complex. Individual stones weigh up to 10 tons. Because of its appearance, Zorakarians are occasionally referred to as the Stonehenge of Armenia.
Most of the graves were robbed through time. Only five graves, dating from the early Iron Age and discovered and excavated in the 1980s, still contain treasures and grave goods such as daggers, arrowheads, clay vessels and jewellery. Visitors can view the finds in the museum in Sisian.
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How to get to Sisian
From Yerevan several Marschrutkas (minibuses) drive daily to Sisian. The journey takes about 4 hours. There are two daily connections from Goris; the journey takes 45 minutes to Sisian.
The nearest airports are Syunik Airport near Kapan in the south of Armenia. From the airport it takes 2h 45min by car. From Yerevan airport it takes just over 3 and a half hours.
There are no trains that go to Sisian or nearby.