Garni Temple

The symbol of pre-Christian Armenia – Garni is a pagan temple built in the 1st century AD and dedicated to the sun god Mithra. It sits on a cliff overlooking a ravine surrounded by mountains, making it one of the most iconic attractions in Armenia, which is situated in the village of Garni, in Kotayk Province, at a distance of 26km from Yerevan. Garni temple is the only pagan temple that survived the 4th century transition to Christianity as a state religion not only in Armenia but also in the Caucasus region and in the territory of the former Soviet Union. It is actually a palace complex which includes remains of throne room, formal hall, residence and a royal bath house, a church built in the 9th century, a cemetery and the site’s most famous and best preserved Greco-Roman temple. Another natural wonder can be seen from the hill. The gorge of Garni is remarkable for its beautiful, seemingly artificial rocks over Azat River. They stretch from valley bottom till the top of the gorge and are glorified as “Stone Symphony”, as though the sound of the flowing river with the organ-like hill create a “symphony”

Geghard Monastery

The unsurpassable masterpiece of Armenian architecture – Geghard Monastery is revered throughout Armenia as one of the country’s greatest spiritual and cultural centers located in Kotayk province of Armenia, at a distance of 36km from Yerevan. Monastery is partially carved out of the adjacent mountain, surrounded by cliffs. According to the legend, the monastery was founded during the first years of adoption of Christianity as state religion by Gregory the Illuminator (the beginning of the 4th century). In the remote past the monastery was called “Ayrivank” (“Monastery in Rock”) because of the constructions, dug into the rock. From the 13th century it was also called Geghard or Geghardavank (“The Monastery of Spear”) in honor of the spear, kept in the monastery (spear with which Jesus Christ was pierced during Crucifixion). The territory of Geghard monastery complex is known also for a holy water spring, which continues to flow from pagan times till now through one of the rock hewn chapels of the complex. The monastic complex is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site with enhanced protection.

Khor Virap Monastery

Khor Virap Monastery is the most famous pilgrimage site, one of the most worshipped ones in Armenia. This is where Christianity in Armenia all started…The monastery is located on a small hill in the Ararat plain with the closest view of Mount Ararat and at a distance of 44km from the capital Yerevan. The story begins from pre-christian times: during the reign of King Tiridates III the Great, Gregory the Illuminator was trying to spread Christianity in Armenia, which was not approved by the pagan ruler. Gregory refused to worship pagan Gods, thus, the king ordered to throw him into a deep well. He was imprisoned for 13 years in that dark, damp and small place, until the dream seen by Tiridates’ sister, Khosrovidukht, miraculously changed the whole situation. Thus, Gregory was released from that prison and rewarded with the official conversion of Armenia to Christianity, making it the first country to officially adopt the religion in 301 AD. Later in 642, Catholicos Nerses built a chapel on the sacred land over the dungeon. The pit dungeon is still there. In fact, the name Khor Virap means “deep pit”.

Noravank Monastery

Armenia is truly full of numerous churches, but even in the diversity of those churches you can never find one resembling the other. The Monastery of Noravank is not an exception which is a 13th century Armenian monastery, located 118km from Yerevan  in a narrow  blood-red canyon, near the town of Yeghegnadzor. The monastery, nestled at the end of the impressive canyon, is a realization of the grandiose dreams of the 13th century Orbelian family, and the repository of some of Armenia’s finest sculptures, including one that is often pointed out as Armenia’s first Renaissance art work. Literally translated from Armenian, Noravank means “New Monastery”.  Here worked famous Armenian architects Siranes and Momik. The monastic complex has an interesting love story behind. Due to the great love of the master Momik and the princess the world has the chance to enjoy the monastery of incredible beauty.

Tatev Monastery

Tatev Monastery complex is one of the most spectacular places of Armenia located 1600 high in the mountains, on the right elevated bank of the river Vorotan, in Syunik province, 250km from Yerevan. “Tatev” means “give me wings” in old Armenian. Built in the 9th century AD, Tatev monastery complex was one of the oldest spiritual centers of medieval Armenia, the largest centre of philosophy and science as well as the biggest university of its time. Besides grandiose churches of the complex there is an interesting column called “Gavazan”. This was originally a pagan monument, built to line up with Orion’s Belt on August 11, when Armenians used to celebrate the New Year. This mysterious column also is said to have been used to predict seismic activity in ancient times by its motions. At the entrance of the complex there you can see also an ancient oil mill with stone grinders. One of the treasures of Armenia is also situated right there: “Wings of Tatev”, the longest non-stop double track cable car in the world (5,7km) registered in the Guinness Book of World Records. If you are fond of nature and road journeys, you can reach to the monastery by the long road, but if you are looking for an extraordinary adventure the longest cable-car is waiting for you “to give you the wings” to fly to the monastery and enjoy the marvelous scenery!

Etchmiadzin

Armenia is the first country in the world which announced Christianity as a state religion in 301 AD, therefore the first Christian church was built in Armenia, in Etchmiadzin. Once it was one of the biggest cities and the main capital of ancient Greater Armenia founded in the 2nd century BC. Etchmiadzin, situated 20km far from Yerevan city, is often called “Armenian Vatican”, because it is considered to be the country’s “spiritual capital”. According to the old legend, the Saint Gregory the Illuminator, the first Christian of all Armenians, once had a prophetic vision in this place: Jesus Christ descended from heaven and with his golden hammer pointed to the place to erect the church. So, in 301 King Trdat III founded Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin, meaning “the Descent of the Only-Begotten” in Armenian. In Etchmiadzin one can find numerous old churches: Saint Hripsime church, St. Gayane Church, Church of St. Shokagat, as well as museums, the residence of the Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians and many other Christian facilities. According to some legends, these above mentioned churches were named after some of the first Christians in Armenia, who preached and spread the faith in one God and were martyred. In 2000, the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin was included in the UNESCO Cultural Heritage List.

Zvartnots Temple

A splendid St. Gregory Church of Vagharshapat, otherwise called Zvartnots Temple was erected in Ararat valley, 12km West from Yerevan city, in Armavir town. This early medieval Armenian masterpiece built in the 7th century AD was an important example of Armenian architecture. Temple had a unique design and architecture techniques employed in its construction that has global influence on architecture. The overall bold design and construction represents architectural innovation at its finest. Unfortunately, like the majority of other ancient Armenian temples, Zvartnots has survived only in ruins since it was completely destroyed by a powerful earthquake in the 10th century. But even the ruins of this temple gives us an idea of its rare and majestic beauty. Dedicated to St. Gregory, it was located in the place where a meeting between King Trdat III and Gregory the Illuminator was supposed to have taken place. In 2000, the ruins of Zvartnots Temple are designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

Saghmosavank Monastery

The beautiful Saghmosavank monastery is located 35km from capital city Yerevan, in the province of Aragatsotn. Saghmosavank monastery was built at the edge of Kasakh River’s gorge and its excellent location provides additional beauty and comeliness to the monastery. According to the legend Gregory the Illuminator was the founder of the church. They say that once, Saint Gregory moved to the Mount Aragats and built two chapels. In one of them were classes of psalm-singing and that’s why it was called “Saghmosac” chapel. “Saghmos” is Armenian word which means “psalm” – a spiritual song or lyric poetry. But actually, Saghmosavank is mentioned in historical sources only at the end of the 12th century. Saghmosavank Monastery was famous for its manuscripts. There a number of miniatures-illustrations were created and copied.

Haghpat Monastery

One of the most ancient sights in northern Armenia’s Lori region is the medieval Armenian monastery complex Haghpat, also known as Haghpatavank, located 170km far from city Yerevan. The monastery was founded by Saint Nishan (Sourb Nshan) in the 10th century AD. During the 10th-13th centuries Haghpat was eminent spiritual and cultural center of Armenia. Once this monastery was famous in its library and school where the pupils were taught philosophy, rhetoric, music and how to illustrate manuscripts. It had the premises for the library manuscripts copying, refectories and universities. It is one of the largest and most impressive monastery complexes in Armenia, where you can see the most characteristic features of medieval Armenian architecture. The complex was surrounded by high barriers for protection from enemy’s attacks. In 1996 the Haghpat Monastery was added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List.

Sanahin Monastery

Sanahin is a medieval monastic complex, a precious gem of Armenian architecture located in the North of the country, in the province of Lori, situated 165km far from Yerevan city. According to documents and evidence of material culture this structure belongs to the 10th century AD. The name Sanahin in Armenian means “older than that” evoking that it is older than the nearby Haghpat monastery. Sanahin was a major monastery in the region, its patrons, the Zakarians, expanded it to its height of eminence as a school of illuminators and calligraphers, as well as a college of religion, philosophy and science, during the 12-13th centuries.​It is encircled by a fortified wall, making it a formidable fortress in times of attack. In 2001 Sanahin monastery complex was added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List.

Goshavank Monastery

The medieval monastery complex of Goshavank stands in one of the most picturesque places in Armenia, near the village of Gosh, in Tavush region, 117km far from city Yerevan. Built in the 12th-13th centuries AD, the monastery was once one of the most important spiritual and cultural centres of Armenia. Goshavank was named in honor of the great Armenian scientist, politician, fabulist and writer Mkhitar Gosh, who in 1188, with the support of Prince Ivane Zakaryan, took part in the construction of the monastery. Mkhitar Gosh was one of the great intellectual persons of his day, “a humble man of wisdom”, authoring numerous works, including a Codification of Armenian Law, his extremely popular Fables, a number of prayers, theological treatises and other writings. The monastery had a school and university where were kept numerous manuscript. The monastery is located among the houses of the village, so while visiting it, you will get a chance to see how people of Armenian villages live.

Sevanavank Monastery and Sevan Lake

The blue-eyed beauty of Armenia- the lake Sevan is one of the top tourist attractions you may not want to miss during your trip in Armenia. Beautifully situated 70km far from city Yerevan, in the embrace of majestic Geghama Mountains, in Gegharkunik province, the Lake Sevan is the largest in Armenia, and one of the major freshwater high-altitude lakes in the world. Alongside with the Lake Van and Lake Urmia, Sevan was considered one of the three major lakes of the historical Armenian Kingdom. Nowadays, the picturesque Sevan Peninsula houses the medieval Sevanavank Monastery (“The Black Monastery”) which is one of the most-visited sights in Armenia. The inscription in one of the churches says that the monastery was built in the 9th century AD founded by Princess Mariam, daughter of the founder of Bagratuni dynasty Ashot I, who used to live in the monastery for a while. From the territory of the peninsula you can enjoy the changing colors of Lake Sevan. This architectural monument is included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.

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