Armenia Off The Beaten Path
Off The Beaten Path
Row of khachkars
Chapel and the backs of khachkars
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Mother church - more than meets the eye...
Echmiadzin, often called the Mayr Dajar (Mother Church or Temple) in Armenian is the heart of Armenian Christendom. The oldest Christian nation in the world, this is the seat of the Armenian Catholicos, equivalent to the Catholic Pope. The church construction dates to 301, the year Armenia accepted Christianity, but little remains of that structure. It was however built over an earlier pagan fire worshiping pit. That ancient pit remains intact directly under the altar and can sometimes be seen by visitors. Most such pits were destroyed with the ascent of Christianity.You can learn much about the Cathedral from other sources. Basically, it's a nice building, the bell tower is very intricately carved. The inside is covered in frescoes. Nice altar, seat for the Catholicos, etc. There is much that is less known, and off the beaten track here however.Behind the altar, on the right, is a door...
Monastery carved out of mountain - crazy acoustics
The monastery of Geghard is an absolute must-see in Armenia. Just an hour from Yerevan, you cannot miss the experience of visiting this place. At the end of a canyon, with fortified walls, your entrance will be lined with villagers selling local breads and dried fruit sheets, a small group of musicians, and then the archway through which you enter the monastery grounds.The first thing you notice is the main church of Katoghike, with a big cupola over it. This was one of the last structures of the complex to be built, completed in 1215. It is built attached to the mountain. Before reaching it, is the large adjacent building called the gavit. Partially built adjacent to the mountain, partially carved out of it, this room is a masterpiece of medieval architecture. The ceilings are beautifully carved, and in some ways mimic a natural cave. Off from the gavit are two rooms, and one of those...
A 2,000 year old Roman Temple in Armenia??
Yep, around the time of Christ, the Armenian King Trdat agreed to go to Rome, where he would accept that Roman Emperor Nero would recrown him. Emperor Nero, in return, gave him treasures, and Roman architects to take back with him to Armenia. The result was this beautiful little masterpiece, on top of a peninsula of land jutting out atop sheer basalt cliffs. The adjacent ruins of the tiled Roman baths, and the foundations of later churches and castles, as well as ruins of massive fortification walls are all there for you to explore. There is a ticket booth, and tours are available.This is an obligatory stop, on your obligatory Garni/Geghard tour, to Geghard Monastery.In the area, you can also hike over to Havuts Tar Monastery, or if you're feeling very ambitious, spend the entire day hiking from Garni Temple, over to St. Stepanos (Aghjots Vank) Monastery in Khosrov National Preserve.
Haghpat and Sanahin - UNESCO sites
Up in Lori Marz, along the deep canyon of the Debed River, on opposite cliffs are the Haghpat and Sanahin Monasteries. Built a thousand years ago, these monasteries were a product of an Armenian-Georgian dynasty that ruled during a golden period in Armenian history.In a land famous for its monasteries, these two stand out for their beauty, both architectural, and in their natural setting. They're both built of basalt, and both have bell towers, halls, covered areas, storage vessels, stunning khachkars and more for visitors to enjoy. They once were regional centers of learning and to this day you can feel their importance during a visit, and imagine them humming with activity and prayers at all of their churches.It is possible to get up to Sanahin Monastery from the bottom of the canyon by car, or, by a cable car built in Soviet times. It is also possible to hike from Sanahin to Haghpat...
Noratus cemetary - largest khachkar collection
Most visitors have never heard of a "Khachkar" before arriving in Armenia, but this word, meaning "cross stone" will be ingrained in their memory after seeing thousands of them scattered across Armenia. This highly developed art form is almost unique to Armenians, who have been carving intricate patterns and designs in stone, surrounding crosses, for well over a thousand years. They've been used to mark tombs, memorials, to honor donations to the church and by those on pilgrimages to mark their passage.Travel across Armenia will expose you to many styles and khachkars from many difference epochs of Armenian history, but the collection in Noratus is now the largest in the world.Located in the village of Noratus, near the western shore of Lake Sevan, Noratus is just 25 minutes south from the popular Sevanavank Monastery on the peninsula to the north. A day trip to Lake Sevan could easily...
Stunning monastery atop kilometer high cliff!!
It's incredible that many visitors to Armenia never see Tatev Monastery, built in 895 CE. It's a bit off the beaten track, and the road leading to it is rough, but the rewards are extremely worthwhile!This stunning, huge monastery complex, with massive fortifications, rises out of the edge of a cliff nearly a kilometer high. The setting in the gorge is amazing - mountains, gorges, plains, a river with a natural land bridge (known as Satan's Bridge) worthy of exploration in its own right.Mostly rebuilt after a devastating earthquake knocked parts of it down, the huge Peter and Paul Cathedral has been mostly restored, but the bell tower remains at a fraction of its former height. There is another chapel in the compound, a spring, and many levels of rooms, some quite expansive for lay purposes. Just outside of the compound are more ruins and a mill building with a massive millstone...
Caveman drawings 10,000 feet up...
At the top of the mountains near Sisian, there is a peak called Ughtasar. In a bowl of peaks is a mountain valley thousands of meters high, with a small lake, and snow patches which remain year round... there are thousands of large boulders strewn across the valley, many of them covered in petroglphs - caveman drawings. The variety of subjects includes people, animals, dances, hunting and some scenes nobody understands for sure. The feeling of being up there, cut off from the modern world, transports you to the land before time.Getting there is tricky. You can only go for a few months a year - July-September, due to the heavy snow cover. If you're there at the right time, you have to find a way to get there. Best is to contact some of the travel agencies in Yerevan, or spend an evening in Sisian looking for a guide who can arrange transport. The ride is straight up the side of the...
Ancient cave carvings in a spectacular canyon...
If you've ever wanted to feel like a caveman, or maybe like an Aztec or Mayan, spend a night camping in the canyon past Yenokavan Village (near Ijevan). The canyon is breathtaking and pristine, with sheer cliffs, lush forests, a river with rapids, and a few caves. One of them has ancient carvings, in a style found nowhere else in the region, which will remind you much more of the Aztecs and Mayans than anything else you see in Armenia.A couple of really nice and easygoing guys have set up a comfortable if basic campground near the river, where you can spend the night, and they'll arrange your food, cook it, guide you in and out, all for a very reasonable price (I think it was around $25 a person a night with food, but I forget exactly. They're flexible on price if you bring your own food, gear, etc). Take a swim while they bbq some food they've brought for you, then have a drink by the...
Vanadzor is a town situated in northern Armenia, in Lori region. It is surrounded by green hills and is built on the banks of Pambak River. Many of the buildings here are built of the pink stone, so common in Armenia. In the outskirts are some big factories, like an ammonia plant. It is a quite big city with about 70 000 inhabitants.I haven’t spent much time in Vanadzor. In 2003 I changed buses here, going between Yerevan and Alaverdi, and spent some time at the bus station. In 2006 I stayed a night on my way between Tbilisi and Dilijan. I arrived too late to visit the museum, but walked around, went to a restaurant and an Internet café.
Gevorg Chavush Statue and Ararat
On our way to Khor Virap, we stopped by the statue of Gevorg Chavush, a historic Armenian freedom fighter in the late 1800's. There are many stories in history books of the battles he led and his expertise on the battle grounds. The site where the statue is situated is breath taking.. It is not to be missed when visiting Khor Virap by the road leading to the monestery. The background is of mount Ararat with its to peaks, Sis and Masis currently situated in Turkey. We enjoyed our stop by this statue and the great view of mount Ararat in the background along with Khor Virap on the right hand side.
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Reviews and photos of Armenia off the beaten path posted by real travelers and locals. The best tips for Armenia sightseeing.