What are interesting sites to see in Armenia? That is the question Derick and I usually encounter when we talk about our recent travel in the country. Although there are many things to love about Armenia, their centuries old monasteries and temples are high on the list of places to see. That is why I’m sharing here the top 7 monasteries that we have visited during our 4-day stay in Armenia.
I’m not going to explain the history of these monasteries and temples and its significance, rather this post will give you a hint of what to expect when you visit Armenia. Perhaps in that way it will give you something to get curious about on why Armenia take pride of these treasures.
The ruins of Zvartnots remained buried until its remains were unearthed at the start of the twentieth century. The site was excavated between 1901 and 1907 under the direction of vardapet Khachik Dadyan, uncovering the foundations of the cathedral as well as the remains of the Catholicos palace and a winery. The excavations furthermore revealed that Zvartnots stood on the remnants of structures that dated back to reign of the Urartian king Rusa II.
The name Noravank means “new monastery” in Armenian. Situated on the edge of a narrow gorge by the Amaghu River, the gorge is known for its tall, sheer and brick-red cliffs which offers breathtaking views of the monastery. Noravank is a 13th century monastery that is known for its two-storey feature.
Khor Virap Monastery
First constructed as a chapel in 642 AD, it was again built and repeatedly rebuilt during 1662. Khor Virap means “deep pit or deep dungeon”. According to our local guide, this monastery is significant for them since it was the place where their Saint Gregory the Illuminator was imprisoned. He was kept under a deep dungeon here for 13 years. Today it is one of the most visited pilgrimage site in Armenia.
Temple of Garni
During the early 4th century when the Armenian King adopted Christianity, he ordered to destroy all pagan worship places. There were many hearsay as to the reason why this temple in particular was not destroyed. Some say, the temple of Garni was spared because of the King’s sister. She begged her brother to give it to her as a gift since her summer house within the vicinity of this temple. From then on the purpose of the temple was changed and the sacrificial altar was removed. Regardless, the good thing here is that this structure remained standing as the only witness of the past.
Geghard Cave Monastery
The name Geghard means “Spear”. It was called the monastery of the spear or Geghardavank because allegedly the spear that wounded Jesus Christ when he was killed and hanged was brought to Armenia and was kept in this monastery. Now the spear is displayed at the Echmiadzin Treasury.
This monastery is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The main chapel of the monastery complex was built in 1215 and it was partially carved out of the adjacent mountain, surrounded by cliffs.
One of the most picturesque monastery in Armenia, which is also my favorite during our entire trip, is Sevanavank. The monastery was first situated in a small island at the southern shore of Lake Sevan. However, after an artificial draining of the lake, the water receded and it formed a peninsula.
This is the last monastery we visited before we crossed into Georgia. The Hagphat monastery is described as a “masterpiece of religious architecture and a major center of learning in the Middle Ages”.
It was also listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996 because the complex represent the highest flowering of Armenian religious architecture. Its unique style was developed from a blending of elements of the Byzantine ecclesiastical architecture and the traditional vernacular architecture of the Caucasian region.
Note: Some information mentioned above are from Wikipedia.