Top 10 places worth visiting in Armenia
Armenia is a small country of high Aratat and Aragats, free winds, clean water and sometimes scorching sun, stony fields and green meadows, majestic forests and blue-eyed Lake Sevan.
This is the land of kind, hospitable and sunny people, whose eyes are filled with the wisdom of centuries-old history of their people, next to whom you will undoubtedly feel surrounded by attention and support. You will not feel a stranger in Armenia, you will not be alone in your alien land, because Armenian people are famous for the fact that their doors are always open for guests and for their well-wishers.
Even though the territory of the country is not large, Armenia has many interesting places that are worth visiting. We will help you to get acquainted in advance with the subtleties of Armenia, with its traditions and sights, so that you, our esteemed guest, have an idea about this paradise place before you visit it.
Top 10 sights of Armenia:
1. Geghard Monastery or Geghardavank
Geghard Monastery, Armenia
Geghard or Geghardavank is almost the most famous landmark of Armenia. Geghardavank is a rock-cut monastery that stands in the gorge of the Gokht River, surrounded by intertwined towering mountains.
The name Geghardavank is translated as “monastery of spears” (“Geghard” means spear, “vank” means monastery). The Apostle Thaddeus, along with many other relics, brought to Armenia the spear of Longinus, which was plunged into the body of Christ on the Cross. From this spear comes the name of the monastery. Today the spear is kept in the museum of Echmiadzin.
2. The Pagan temple of Garni
Garni Temple, Armenia
Garni temple is the only surviving pagan temple in Armenia and is a witness and representative of the Hellenistic era.
The kings loved this temple because of its impregnability: the temple stands on a promontory surrounded on both sides by the river Azat and on the other by a deep gorge.
3. Symphony of rocks
In the gorge above which the temple of Garni is located, next to the river Azat, there is another miracle – this time a miracle of nature.
After the activity of volcanic lava appeared high basalt columns which are so symmetrical that they look like a great stone musical organ.
4. Noravank Monastery and Red Canyon
Noravank Monastery, Armenia
The name of the monastery literally translates as “new monastery” (“nor” – new, “vank” – monastery), but today the name of the monastery does not correspond to its reality: Noravank was built 13 centuries ago!
The monastery stands majestically in the gorge of the Arpa River, and the sheer red cliffs protrude menacingly into the gorge, making the view even more impressive. Noravank is famous for being a two-story church, and you can climb the very narrow stone steps along the wall of the church: not everyone would dare to climb these steps.
5. Wings of Tatev” aerial tramway
The longest aerial tramway in the world, Wings of Tatev, Armenia
The Wings of Tatev is a record-breaking attraction in Armenia. Why a record? The fact is that Wings of Tatev is the longest passenger aerial tramway in the world! “The flight” takes an average of 12 minutes and the length of the road is 5km. 752м .
A cable car passes over the Vorotan River gorge, and this road leads to the next famous landmark of Armenia – Tatev Monastery.
6. Tatev Monastery
Tatev Monastery, Armenia
Tatev Monastery was built in the 9th century. In Armenia the monastery of Tatev is of special importance and significance because for several centuries after its foundation the monastery became a scientific and educational center.
Philosophers, artists, teachers, musicians, translators and scribes lived and worked here in addition to monks.
The Echmiadzin Cathedral
The Etchmiadzin Cathedral, Armenia
The city of Echmiadzin, formerly known as Vagharshapat, was founded in the 2nd century. After the Romans defeated Artashat, Echmiadzin became the cultural and political and then religious center of Armenia and remains so to this day.
Construction of the Etchmiadzin Cathedral began in 301, after Christianity was established as the state religion in Armenia and had been underway for several centuries. So it is considered one of the first Christian temples in the world as Armenia was the first country that adopted Christianity as a state religion. Echmiadzin Cathedral is the main temple of the Armenian Apostolic Church.
8. Lake Sevan
Lake Sevan is the crown jewel of Armenian nature and the national pride of the people. Its view is mesmerizing, and the appearance of a blue spot on the horizon on the way, which grows and grows as you approach is a true surprise to visitors, even if they were, as they think, prepared for it.
Sevan is the main savior of the local population from the summer heat, because the lake is so high that the water temperature reaches 18-20C in the sultry summer.
9. Khndzoresk. Suspension bridge to the abandoned city
Khndzoresk, Cave City, Armenia
Old Khndzoresk, the cave city, is the main attraction of the Syunik region. For a long time this village was a living corner in a deep gorge, but in the 20th century, people moved to the top of the mountains, thus forming New Khndzoresk. The people in old Khndzoresk were cattle ranchers and farmers, and lived in caves and natural grottoes.
In 2012, a suspension bridge was built here, which has also become a tourist attraction. Before it was built, people used to walk to the opposite side, and residents and tourists could only reach one part of the gorge.
10. Karahunge Observatory. Armenian Stonehenge, Zorats Karer
Karahunge Observatory, Armenian Stonehenge
Armenia has much left from the ancient civilizations that lived on its territory. However, the most mysterious trace of antiquity is the observatory Karahunj or Zorats Karer (mighty stones).
It is still unknown what it was built for and what it served, but one thing is clear: it looks a lot like English Stonehenge.
Top 10 tourist attractions in Armenia
If Armenia is your next vacation destination, you might want to check out what this stunningly beautiful, religious country with a rich history – a former part of the now-defunct USSR – has to offer. If history and nature in all their unspoiled beauty are high on your list of vacation requirements, then you’ll enjoy our list of Armenia’s top 10 attractions.
10. Karahunj Observatory (Armenian Stonehenge)
Karahunj Observatory (Armenian Stonehenge)
Also known as Zorats Karer (Russian: mighty stones) or Zorats Kar, the Karakhunj Observatory received its official name from the Armenian government only recently, in July 2004. This ancient site, in the region of South Syunik, is considered one of the earliest man-made structures and is believed by some to be 3500 years older than Stonehenge, a similarly constructed megalithic structure.
In fact, the translation of the Armenian word “kara” means stone and “Khunj” correlates with henge, so there are good reasons for the similarity. The site is a combination of Bronze Age tombstones (otherwise known as stone tombstones, dolmens or mounds) together with 223 standing stones, or menhirs, each 2-3 meters in height and weighing up to 10 tons. Many of these stones have holes drilled into their rough faces at eye level, making it possible to hypothesize that the structure was used for astronomical and calendar observations.
9. Tatev monastery.
Also located in Syunik region. This monastery and its associated buildings are located one kilometer high on the edge of a deep and rocky river gorge – together with the monastery, which offers a stunning view of the surrounding countryside. Not surprisingly, when it was built between A.D. 895 and A.D. 906, the monastery formed much of the defensive fortress, which is striking even today when you see the architectural techniques used then.
With tall cylindrical towers, narrow, closely spaced windows, and solid, thick, stone walls on two sides and high walls on the other two sides, the monastery served more than 1,000 monks in its heyday. Nowadays there are considerably fewer of them, but the monastery is still functioning and the church of Pogos and Peter (Peter and Paul) is worth a walk around. Choose between driving up the long, narrow, winding, and at times, very intimidating Armenian road or the more relaxing way of taking a gondola ride using the longest (5.7 km) cable car in the world! The choice is yours!
8. Lesser Caucasus Mountains
The Lesser Caucasus Mountains are an impressive string of snow-capped peaks in the northern part of Armenia. Many tourists travel and climb a variety of trails that offer stunning views, fresh mountain air, and an abundance of small quaint Armenian villages where you can buy local honey and other goods at very reasonable prices.
If your option for fun is fresh air and exercise on beautiful terrain, these mountains, filled with new wonders ready for contemplation near every rock and crevice, and with ancient monasteries and churches springing up everywhere to maintain historical and cultural interest along the way, will be just perfect for you.
7. Matenadaran – Museum of ancient manuscripts
Matenadaran – Museum of ancient manuscripts
Before you yawn and scroll down the web page to the next attraction, just stop for a moment and think, where did the word “scroll” come from? This museum, located in the Armenian capital Yerevan, is exactly where the answer lies. The Armenian alphabet is one of the oldest in the world, developed in 405 by an Armenian, Mesrop Mashtots, and many ancient and important texts have been translated into Armenian. The Matenadaran, otherwise known as the Mesrop Mashtots Institute of Ancient Manuscripts, really emerged shortly after the alphabet was created, and today this museum is one of the greatest collections of ancient writings and texts in the world. You will be amazed at the intricate beauty of the Echmiadzin Gospel, which dates back to 989 and is decorated in ivory, or how a tiny 15th century calendar weighs only 15 grams. When you’re done looking at the artwork inside, don’t forget to walk outside, where there is a statue of the creator of the Armenian alphabet with a student at his feet.
28 km southeast of Yerevan there is another Armenian landmark – the village and region of Garni. The site is believed to date back to the 3rd millennium BC, when Garni was built at the time in one of the bends of the Azat River, which offered its natural protection.
Nowadays some of the most popular attractions are the nearby Hellenistic temple of Garni which was built in Greco-Roman style and has beautiful mosaics in its baths, also nearby places: the Church of St. Astvatsatsatsin (Virgin Mary), the Church of Hayrapet Mashtots – a one-bay church of 4th century now in ruins but still architecturally stunning, ruins of the Tak Manuk Osakan tomb, tomb of St. Sarkis and also tomb of Queen Katrinida.
If you start to feel tired at all these historical and religious sites, why not take a “brain break” and look at the “Symphony of Stones” in the nearby River Gorge, a fascinating view created by Mother Nature by basalt columns that have been carved out of rocks by the force of the river over the centuries. A truly significant area for history or geology has been created!
A short walk from the Matenadaran Museum to downtown Yerevan and you’re at this remarkable landmark that combines modern aesthetics and architecture with the stunning natural beauty of the area. The Cascade is a kind of mixture of a modern city square and a giant staircase, the top of which can be reached either on foot (by steps) or by an elevator inside.
The entire Cascade inside and out is like an art exhibit. Add to that Mount Ararat in the background and the view of the Armenian capital Yerevan below from the top, and you start to get the picture. Great luck for those who visit it, as the cafes, pubs and bars nearby will also add their charm and appeal.
4. Khor Virap
Perhaps the most visited pilgrimage site in this religious country, the Khor Virap Monastery is located 8 km south of the Turkish border in the Ararat region of Armenia. The monastery became known as a pilgrimage site after 13 years of Grigor Lusavorich’s imprisonment by King Trdat III of Armenia. Grigor, who later became Saint Gregory and the king’s religious tutor, played an important role in spreading Christianity here-so important that Armenia became the first country in the world whose population adopted Christianity. Originally there was a small chapel on this site, built in 642 in Kirat Virap at the behest of Nerses III the Builder – in honor of St. Gregory, but over the centuries the monastery has been rebuilt and expanded many times over. It is a must see, and the views of Mount Ararat from the monastery are spectacular.
3. Republic Square
Formerly known as Lenin Square during Armenia’s time as part of the USSR, Republic Square in the center of Yerevan was built during the Soviet era and, like many other squares, there was once a large statue of Lenin, which has now been removed. Occupying about 14,000 square meters, the square has 7 main buildings along its perimeter and is now famous for its “dancing and singing fountains,” a wonderfully computer-generated audio and visual display of the fountains changing direction and colors to the rhythm of the different genres of music being played at the moment. Visit it during the day or night and get 2 completely different impressions of Armenia! A visit to Yerevan would not be complete without spending a couple of hours here.
2. Tsitsernakaberd (Armenian Genocide Museum).
This poignant memorial, which stands on a hill, is called Tsitsernakaberd and was built in 1965 in Yerevan – for the 50th anniversary of the period (1915-1916) when the Ottoman Empire, massacred and killed over 1.5 million civilian Armenians. The memorial consists of a large concrete spire and next to it, below, a circular memorial whose center contains an “eternal” flame of remembrance. Every April 24th, thousands of Armenians and tourists flock here to pay their respects to the dead. Next to the memorial there is a small museum that tells more about the Armenian Genocide.
1. Geghard Monastery
Given Armenia’s religious history as a country, it’s perhaps not surprising that its leading attractions are religious monasteries. The Geghard Monastery, however, is a remarkable example of a medieval monastic complex that was carved into the rock. Located at the top of the Azat Valley in the midst of outstanding natural beauty, surrounded by towering mountain cliffs, this remote monastery is to be seen for the full depth of workers’ skills and artwork that must be appreciated. The entire monastery complex is very well preserved, so there is much to see. The monastery was founded in the 4th century AD, in keeping with the tradition of St. Gregory the Illuminator, but it was destroyed in the 9th century by invading Arabs before arising again in the 13th century. Now an enduring legacy of Armenian faith and conviction, the entire area is a place where a quiet, peaceful reflection and sense of timeless history not only fills the air, but permeates the entire cliff on which this ancient monastery stands.