Lyova (Levon) Arakelyan, a builder by trade was already 44 when his wife, Tosya, asked him to create a potato cellar beneath their home in Arinj, Armenia. Yet by the time he passed away at the age of 67 he had dug a stunning series of caves beneath their home using nothing but hand tools, instinct, and a tireless work ethic.
Levon began chipping away at the earth back in 1985 when his wife requested he build a root cellar beneath their home where she could store potatoes, however once he started, he simply couldn’t stop. Tosya has since said that her husband was motivated by dreams and visions in which a voice told him he must continue carving the cave. He worked every day, often for up to 18 hours with little rest and only his small hand tools to carve the hard rock, shunning traditional support structures or power tools. He included stairs, halls, twists, and multiple rooms going as deep as 70 feet beneath the house. He also created small shrines and artistic carvings all throughout the cave system, giving it a properly sacred feel.
In 2008 Levon passed away, still planning on working on expanding the caves. Today the widow Tosya runs a small museum devoted to his efforts out of their home and gives tours of the strange caves her husband created. A small room now acts as a makeshift museum, displaying artifacts, pictures, and publications dedicated to Levon’s life of devotion to the cave. On the tour, his wife also notes one particular point in the cave which her husband claimed had special magnetic properties.
The late Levon’s devotion to creation and stonework is also reflected in the stone mosaic portraits he embedded in the courtyard walls around his home, which in retrospect was also the man’s greatest work.
Know Before You Go
Visitors should take public transport to the village of Arinj, at which point they should ask a local for Levon's home. They'll be able to point you in the right direction. Entrance is 2,000 AMD cash.