Abandoned Young Pioneer Camp In Armenia. Road trip! Armenia style. At first brush, on a guided trip you might think Armenia is solely populated with ancient rock monasteries and abundant helpings of khorovats (BBQ Armenian meats). But scratch the surface just a bit … and you will realize this landlocked country offers much more.
On my two-day road trip to the northern part of the country, no churches or monasteries were on the list. In fact, the mission was a visit to an abandoned Young Pioneer camp in Spitak. The Young Pioneers founded in 1925 was the socialist version of the Boy Scouts, ubiquitous in the former Soviet Union and other socialist countries. In 1973, 40,000 summer camps could be found just in the Soviet Union servicing nearly 10 million kids.
As Armenia was part of the Soviet Union until 1991, Armenia kids headed off to the mountains to have in a patriotic manner across the republic. This included the Fairy Tale Young Pioneer Camp set in the mountains on the outskirts of Spitak, a town devastated by the earthquake of 1988.
I need to give two shout outs for this incredible Dark Tourism find … to the Vlogger Bald and Bankrupt who introduced me to this camp and my friends Aram and Megan of Absolute Armenia, a great resource for Armenia.
I and my friend and traveler and photographer/writer (he is a triple threat), Raffi, slept over in Armenia’s second city, Gyumri and made our way to Spitak the next morning. Besides for Raffi directing me in the wrong direction on a one-way road it was a rather uneventful road trip. Spitak is a rather tiny town of about 10,000 with a traditional Soviet like square you will find in many towns.
We headed off in search of a back road to bring us to the camp. While the road hastily turns into a bumpy and dirt road it is relatively easy to traverse in a two-wheeled Ford Fiesta. Some shepherds affirmed our directions and we headed deeper into the hills and over the bumps.
A sign welcomed us to the camp under a threatening sky. We were immediately rewarded with an incredible mosaic at the entrance of the camp. I never get tired of these magnificent works of art, and this was to be the start of a series of gifts.
While there is a locked gate, you may simply walk to the left where there is an open entrance.
A statue stands sentry on top of an overgrown staircase.
Another stone staircase leads to the center of the Young Pioneer Camp.
Next we noted some abandoned and dilapidated remnants of an amusement ride.
A Soviet Star stands sentry over the camp. It has seen better days.
A series of buildings in sturdy stone housed campers, a dining room, and a kitchen. The rooms stand empty.
A stone wall, some parts in disrepair surround the camp.
A prancing horse statue rests in dried yellow vegetation.
One of the day’s other great finds was another incredible mosaic. I am always amazed and impressed with the details and colors of these Soviet mosaics. This mosaic highlights the symbols of Zodiac calendar.
I felt our exploration was more than well rewarded, but the day was not over. The denouement was soon to present itself. There was one building left unvisited.
We entered the last building and quickly realized this was an indoor pool. These Young Pioneers lived well! On the far ends of the pool were magnificent and incredibly well-preserved mosaics in addition to more tiles on the long wall interspersed with windows.
This craftsmanship is worthy of being in a museum yet here this artwork stands in isolation.
While this camp is abandoned and empty, someone is maintaining this area. I am not sure who or why but I hope that person continues their efforts.
How to get there? Spitak is less than two hours from Yerevan. The dirt road to the camp is about 15-20 minutes. And here are the coordinates to find the camp. 40.8052071, 44.3026739. This Abandoned Young Pioneer Camp In Armenia is a must-see.