It’s hard to believe that Noratus is becoming increasingly popular in Armenia, but according to Deputy Head of the Noratus community Vachik Khachatryan, the number of travelers visiting this Gegharkunik province village reaches 200-300 per day. If we consider the lowest of the numbers, Noratus gets a mind boggling 6000 visitors a month, about 72000 a year. How many tourists do you think come to Armenia each year? To give you a hint, if you believe Mr. Khachatryan, a third of them flock to Noratus.
Khachatryan told Armenpress that the tourists are particularly interested in the medieval cemetery that contains a large number of early khachkars, the largest surviving cemetery with khachkars in the country.
But a number of 200-300 tourists a day seems a bit inflated, unless these tourists arrive here with short day-trip packages. The shortage of hotels in the area makes it challenging for tourists to find accommodation; but tourists from Yerevan, for example, only need 1.5 hours to arrive here.
Yet this sudden flux of tourists to Noratus cannot be explained. Aside a renovation/ restoration project in 2010 (with support from the U.S. Ambassador’s Culture Fund), that consisted of installing a protective, decorative fence, two new entrances and electric lighting, visitor center and craft center, there hasn’t been much done to promote Noratus Cemetery with foreign tourists. There is only one panel at the entrance of the graveyard, with information in Braille, as well as English, Russian, French, German, Italian, and Armenian. And when it comes to news about this destination, Noratus is remarkable through its utter absence from the main media streams.
There can be a lot more done to attract more tourists to Noratus – and the funds resulting from an increased number of visitors could be used to continue the preservation projects begun in 2010. For instance, tourists could be offered more clear information on what else, aside the cemetery, they can experience in the village: local traditions, culture, cuisine, other landmarks, nature, etc.