Pilgrimage is one of the main reasons stimulating a man to travel. Numerous pilgrims from Europe started on a journey full of dangers, difficulties and hardship with an aim to reach Jerusalem or any other shrine and bow before sacred places, to cure themselves or show their gratitude to the God. A great number of pilgrims and palmers didn't return to their homeland, taking their death from the hands of the robbers, of illnesses and hunger. But this didn't stop believers, on the contrary – to take a death on the way of pilgrimage was thought of as martyrdom. In the contemporary world pilgrimage isn't interfaced with such dangers and difficulties as in the ancient times, the way to the sacred places takes less time. All this favours the development of the religious tourism.
From time immemorial Artsakh has been and still is one of the strongholds of Christianity not only in Armenia, but in the South Caucasus as well. Christianity penetrated here as early as the 1st c. CE. In Artsakh even in the period of the USSR the national shrines such as churches, monasteries and temples were protectively kept. The main centers of pilgrimage in Artsakh remain the monastery of Gandzasar where one of the main shrines of Christian world, the head of John the Baptist, is buried, the monastery of Dadivank founded on the burial place of one of the disciples of Thaddaeus Apostle – Apostle of Dado, monasteries of Amaras and Eghishe Arakyal built accordingly over the tombs of the grandson of Gregory the Illuminator, Grigoris, and Apostle of Eghishe (Elisha). In the monastery of Amaras the relics of St. Zachary and St. Panteleimon are buried as well.
According to the legend childless couples were coming here for the pilgrimage, taking a bit of holy soil and usually had children later. The more detailed information about the saints one can get at page “The Saints of Christian Church in Artsakh” at the same site.
Annually Artsakh receives numerous pilgrims having come to bow before such Christian shrines as the head of John the Baptist, the relics of St. Zachary and St. Panteleimon. Besides the main centers of pilgrimage as Gandzasar, Dadivank, Amaras, where one can get to from the capital of AR, Stepanakert, by transport on the route North-South, there exist numerous sacred places in every region of Artsakh as well. The road to this sacred places is often heavy and one can only reach them on foot or on horseback, this, however, doesn't frightens numerous pilgrims coming here from the various inhabited locations. Dizapayt, Spitak Khach (White Cross) in Hadrout region, the church of St.Eghishe in the village of Chartar (Martouni region), the church of St. Gevorg in the village of Ulubab in Askeran region, the monastery of Eghishe (Elisha) Apl. in Martakert region and others. Many of these temples and churches lost in virgin forests are founded on the burial places of the saints and martyrs and are considered to have healing properties from the very ancient times (Spitak Khach in Hadrout, the gravestone in the church of St. Gevorg with an opening, which women, wishing to heal barrenness, passed through).
Non-religious people, having visited these places, will not feel deprived as well: besides the opportunity to see these magnificent monuments of ancient architecture, tourists, visiting Divine Service, will be able to get acquainted with the ancient and distinctive culture and faith of the local population more closely. Take sharakans (psalms) alone, written and collected in the 11c. by the Catholicos of Nerses Shnorhali, which are considered to be the pearl of the Armenian medieval poetry!
Besides the Christian shrines the few monuments of Islamic (Persian and Seljuk) culture – mosques, mausoleums and tombs, are protectively kept in Artsakh. They attract not only Muslim pilgrims, but also tourists who follow other religions.