Sites in Armenia

Ejmiadzin

The Mother See of Holy Ejmiatsin is the administrative and religious center of the Armenian church worldwide and the residence of the supreme patriarch or the Catholicos of all Armenians. The Mother Cathedral of Ejmiadzin is the 1st state-built church in the world constructed in 303 by St. Gregory the Illuminator, the 1st Catholicos of all Armenians, as Armenia was the first country to adapt Christianity as a state religion in 301. Ejmiadzin houses numerous relics and treasures, some of which are exposed in the 4 museums of Ejmiatsin. The architectural invention of Mother Cathedral of Ejmiatsin belongs to the central-domed cross-hall  type (both from interior and exterior). There are several prominent medieval churches nearby the Mother See. The most remarkable ones are the churches of St. Gayane and St. Hripsime, dedicated to the 3rd century martyrs. St. Hripsime church was constructed in 618 and is still intact. It is the masterpiece of an architectural style, which has a cruciform interior and rectangular exterior and is the strongest and the most widely spread style in Armenia. St. Gayane church is a three aisled domed basilica, which was constructed in 630 on the grave of Abbess St. Gayane. The architectural styles of Ejmiadzin Cathedral, St. Gayane and St. Hripsime churches were spread in the region, in the neighboring countries and Europe, bringing contribution to the development of world architecture as well. The religious buildings of Ejmiadzin are included in the UNESCO World Heritage.

The remains of Zvartnots

The remains of Zvartnots cathedral and the archaeological site are a Unesco World Heritage site, too. Zvartnots, which literary means “celestial angels” was constructed in the 7th century, but was destroyed in the 10th century because of an earthquake. It was an immense and splendid structure 45 meters high and richly decorated with carvings. Zvartnots represents the architectural type of cruciform church with 4 apses on the inside and round on the outside, being a unique example of early mediaeval Armenian Christian architecture.

Haghpat and Sanahin

Haghpat and Sanahin are sister monasteries separated by a distance of merely 15km. They were founded in the 10th century during the reign of Ashot the 3rd Bagratuni, when the Armenian kingdom enjoyed a prosperous and flourishing period. Haghpat and Sanahin were very important cultural centers especially in terms of education and science. These monasteries had many prominent scholars and a rich collection of manuscripts decorated with miniature art. Sanahin was more famous for its university, which offered studies in humanities, arts, medicine and other domains of science. . The monasteries were expanded during the centuries, especially in the 13th century by the Kyurikian princes and encompassed a number of religious and secular buildings.

Dilijan

Dilijan is a spa town on the bank of the river Aghstev surrounded by thick forests, which occupy 34000 hectares of the Dilijan National park. The Dilijan forests are rich in flora and fauna with 902 types of plants, 43 types of mammals, and 147 types of birds. Hence Dilijan is famous for its fresh air due to its forests and is sometimes called Armenian Switzerland. The climate is mild, as it is located on an average altitude of 1200 meters. The town has several mineral water springs, 2 of which are being bottled. Dilijan is the town of arts and crafts, as since centuries there were a lot of masters and famous studios of rug and carpet making, carpentry, ceramics, metallurgy etc.

Haghartsin

Hidden in the forest of hornbeams, oaks and other trees, this beautiful 10-13th century monastery is located in the picturesque gorge of the upper reaches of the river Haghartsin with remarkable views of forests and landscapes. Haghartsin monastery consists of churches, narthexes, the sepulcher of the Bagratuni dynasty and a refectory. The Holy Mother of God church dominates the whole ensemble. The church is a domed-hall construction. The facades with magnificent decorations are divided by “Armenian niches”, which protect the building in times of earthquakes. The monastery underwent a profound restoration in 2013.

Sevanavank

Sevanavank or Sevan monastery, founded in 874 AD, is located near the northwestern shore of Lake Sevan,. Lake Sevan is one of the highest freshwater lakes in the world. It lies at about 1,900m above sea level in a mountain hollow. An extraordinary picturesque lake, its turquoise-azure waters, pure curative air and the beauty of the surroundings attract big numbers of holiday makers and travelers. Sevan Monastery is comprised of two churches, Surb Arakelots (Holy Apostles) and Surb Astvatsamayr (Holy Mother of God). These are triapsidal cruciform churches and are made of tuff stone.  The monastery is surrounded by dozens of khachkars (Cross-stones).

Orbelian’s Caravanserai

Orbelian’s Caravanserai was built along the Vardanants mountain pass in 1332 by prince Chesar Orbelian to accommodate weary travelers and their animals as they crossed from, or into the mountainous Vayots Dzor region. Armenia has several caravanserais (medieval hotels), bridges and fortresses which played an important role for several world trade routes (such as Silk Road). Located at a height of 2410 meters above sea level, Orbelian’s Caravanserai is the best preserved caravanserai in the country with a hall divided into three naves.

The Wings of Tatev is the longest reversible aerial tramway in the world (5752m.). Stretched above the Vorotan gorge, it offers an alternative and picturesque route to the Tatev monastery. The latter is a 9th century historic monument and one of the oldest and most famous complexes in Armenia. In the Middle Ages, Tatev Monastery was a vital scholastic, educational, spiritual, cultural and political center with around 1000 monks, and played a singular role in the country’s history. Amongst various secular and religious buildings are St. Peter’s and Paul’s cathedral, St. Gregory’s and Holy Mother of God churches, an ancient oil mill with stone grinders, a unique medieval swinging column, the tomb of the dean of Tatev University  st. Grigor Tatevatsi.

Shushi

Shushi is one of the most known towns in the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, which is also known as Artsakh, a de facto independent republic.  The fortress located in the town used to be the center of the Armenian Varanda principality during the Мiddle Аges. The town was one of the cultural centers of the South Caucasus, having several publishing houses, schools, lyceums, universities, cultural clubs, libraries and theatres, as well as several studios of arts and crafts, including rug and carpet making.  It also was of religious and strategic importance to the Armenians, housing Ghazanchetsots Cathedral, Kanach Zham and two other churches, a monastic convent and other cultural and historic monuments. There is also a Tank Liberation and Holy Savior monuments, which are dedicated to the Artsakh liberation war and its victims.

Stepanakert, originally Vararakn (“rapid spring” in Armenian), is the capital and largest city of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic.

Gandzasar

Gandzasar Monastery of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic stands on the top of Mount Gandzasar (hence the name), which means  “Treasure Mountain” in Armenian and owing its name to the copper and silver mines found in the vicinity. Gandzasar is a 13th century walled abbey with both ecclesiastical and non-ecclesiastical buildings, the centerpiece of which is the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist constructed there, where the saint’s head was buried. It is a large domed church cruciform inside and rectangular outside. After the Akhtamar Cathedral of St. Cross on Lake Van (now in Turkey), Gandzasar is the second Armenian monastery with the largest amount of sculpted decor and exclusively rich decorative patterns of the interior and exterior. Between the 14th-19th centuries, the Monastery hosted the Catholicosate of Aghvank, the easternmost branch of the Armenian Apostolic Church. Having great religious and political importance, the Holy See of Gandzasar played a key role in the Armenian national liberation movement due to prince Hasan Jalal Vahtangian and his descendents assuming the religious, administrative and military leadership of the region.

Tigranakert

Tigranakert is a ruined Armenian city, which dates back to the 1st century BC. It is located in the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. Tigranakert is one of the cities founded by king Tigranes the Great, during whose reign Armenia reached the pinnacle of its might, and earned the title “Armenia from Sea to Sea”, for it stretched till the shores of the Mediterranean, Caspian and Black seas. The area of 50 hectares it occupies has provided the archaeologists with many precious findings, such as two of the main walls of the city, around 450-meter-long fortress walls built with Hellenistic technologies, Hellenistic-style towers, early mediaeval basilica etc. There is a museum dedicated to the study and preservation of artifacts dated between prehistoric times and 17th century AD, which were unearthed from the city’s ruins during the excavations.

Noravank

Noravank Monastery is situated in the Noravank canyon, and from afar appears to be perched high on the flat surface of a rock, nestled into a majestic mountain. Noravank means “New Monastery” in Armenian. The 10th -14th century monastery was created by the talented Armenian architect and sculptor Momik (13th-14th centuries) and features several masterpieces of Armenian architecture. The complex includes the Holy Mother of God sepulcher-church, St. Stefan church and its narthex, St Gregory Church, the Orbelian Sepulcher.  The Holy Mother of God Church is one of the rare 2-floored churches in Armenia. Noravank is also famous for a rare sculpture of God on the top of the narthex entrance. There are also beautifully carved crosstones (khachkars), which are called embroidered stones.  The breathtaking rocky nature around provides very nice opportunities for hiking, tracking and climbing. The area is also famous for its diversity of birds.

Areni

Armenia has old traditions of viticulture: the oldest winery in the world has been found in Armenia in a cave near the village Areni. There are plenty of sorts of vine in Armenia, most of which are endemic. The village Areni has several wine factories, which use the Areni and other grape sorts to produce wine. These factories offer tours and tasting of varieties of wine and other alcoholic spirits.

Khor Virap

Khor Virap (meaning «deep dungeon») monastery is one of the most popular tourist and pilgrimage destinations in Armenia. It stands in front of the snowcapped flanks of Mount Ararat, offering a spectacular view of the mountain, the national symbol of Armenia. This is the place where St. Gregory the Illuminator was imprisoned for 13 years before curing King Trdat III of his disease. The miraculous recuperation inspired the king to convert and Christianize Armenia in 301. The underground chamber, where St. Gregory the Illuminator was imprisoned, is located in the unremarkable St. Gevorg’s Chapel. The main church of the monastery, Holy Mother of God, was built in the 17th century and belongs to the domed-hall type. The hill of Khor Virap used to be a part of the ancient Armenian capital Artashat, built in the 2nd century BC. Initially, the city’s prison was situated on the site of the monastery.

Amberd

The complex of Amberd, which has magnificent view, incorporates a rich variety of buildings (church, chapel, baths, walls, gates, etc.) protected by deep gorges and fortified walls. It is situated high on the slopes of Mt. Aragats at 2,300 meters above sea level and was constructed in the 11th-13th centuries. Standing on a rocky eminence, a two-storied structure fitted with a majestic staircase, the castle is protected by walls with inclined towers. The church was built in 1026 by prince Vahram Pahlavuni. It is planned as a cruciform and central-domed building. Currently in a ruined state, the fortress of Amberd  (Armenian for “fortress in the clouds”) used to be one of the primary military and defensive structures of the Armenian Kingdom. It is surrounded and protected by the gorge on three sides and only the northern side was fortified.

Saghmosavank

The monastery of Saghmosavank was built near the deep gorge of the river Kasakh. Its excellent location at the spectacular canyon provides additional beauty and comeliness to the monastery built in the 13th century. The main temple of— the Church of Zion belongs to the cross-winged domed type with two-floor annexes in all the corners of the building. The L-shaped book repository of Saghmosavank is among Armenia’s rare buildings in terms of their composition. The monastery has been an important educational and spiritual center for Armenians in the Middle Ages. It was also a significant center for calligraphy.

Ashtarak

Ashtarak is a regional town on the gorge of the river Kasakh . Ashtarak is an interesting old town with lots of old buildings. It has several bridges, castles, 11 churches constructed in different periods. The churches include  Karmravor (7th century), Tsiranavor (6th century), St. Mariane (13th century), St. Sargis (14th century). The neighbourhoods of Ashtarak are full of fruit trees including vines.

Garni

Garni is a Hellenistic fortified fortress which was constructed in the 3rd-2nd centuries BC, serving as a summer residence for Armenian kings. It is located on the spectacularly triangular canyon of the river Azat, which is unique with its natural monument of perfectly vertical cliffs called “The symphony of stones”. The secular and religious buildings of the fortress include the palace, a bath house, the medieval church. But the most important part of Garni is the only preserved pagan temple in Armenia, as others were destroyed after the adoption of Christianity. The temple was constructed in the 1st century AD and was dedicated to the god Mihr, the god of sun and fire.

Geghard

Being an exceptionally well-preserved and complete example of medieval Armenian monastic architecture and decorative art, Geghard monastery consists of many remarkable rock-cut churches and tombs. Therefore, it was also famous as Ayrivank (from the 4th to the 13th century), meaning “cave monastery”. The monastery, which dates back to the 12th-13th centuries, was more famous for the relics it housed. The most celebrated of these was the Holy Lance, which was used by a Roman soldier to pierce Jesus Christ’s side on the cross. Hence the current name Geghardavank (the Monastery of the Lance). The Holy Lance was kept in Geghard for a long time before being brought to Holy Echmiadzin. Geghard is also a prominent pilgrimage site due to its healing water springs. Geghard monastery is included in the List of the UNESCO World Heritage.

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