Armenia is a nation, and former Soviet republic, in the mountainous Caucasus region between Asia and Europe. Among the earliest Christian civilizations, it’s defined by religious sites including the Greco-Roman Temple of Garni and 4th-century Etchmiadzin Cathedral, headquarters of the Armenian Church. Khor Virap Monastery is a pilgrimage site near Mount Ararat, a dormant volcano just across the border in Turkey.
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The Atlandis Top 3 'Things to Do'
Despite being one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, Yerevan has surprisingly little to show for it in terms of historic buildings and monuments. This is because Soviet planners knocked down most of them in the 1920s in an attempt to create a ‘perfect city’ in the vein of Paris or Saint Petersburg. As such, Armenia’s capital now makes for a fascinating place to explore as Soviet-era buildings lie alongside wide avenues with some delightful old buildings and churches to be found scattered here and there.
While Yerevan is certainly not a pretty city, it does have a lot going for it as its streets positively thrum with life and countless cafes and terraces occupy every street corner, square and park. As well as being home to a third of the country’s population, the city also boasts lots of great cultural institutions in the shape of its many museums and theaters. Of these, the haunting Armenian Genocide Museum is simply a must visit if you want to understand the horrific events that so profoundly impacted the nation and its people.
With so many different sides to it, it is well worth spending a few days in Yerevan before heading off to explore the many incredible landscapes and age-old historic sights that dot the country.
Lying on the outskirts of the picturesque town of Garni, Geghard Monastery is a very popular day-trip destination from the capital and is certainly worth visiting if you have the chance. Carved out of the mountainside, with majestic peaks overlooking it, the famous monastery has a beautiful church for you to wander around.
There are also a number of gorgeous chapels showcasing some elaborate and intricate carvings, with some parts of the complex dating all the way back to the fourth century.
The monastery’s scenic setting is absolutely stunning. It’s no surprise that it has long been a place of pilgrimage, with people having visited the site long before Christianity first found its way to Armenia. A must-see when in Armenia, Geghard Monastery certainly won’t disappoint with its incredible rock-hewn churches and chapels and beautiful setting in the Azat River gorge.
Located just a short distance away from Yerevan at the foot of the Khosrov Forest State Reserve, Garni is an enjoyable place to spend some time – although most people visit primarily to see its magnificent first century AD temple and delightful monastery. Perched atop a cliff edge overlooking ululating hills and mountains, the Temple of Garni displays some beautiful Hellenic architecture.
The 11th century Geghard Monastery has a fantastic fortified compound for you to explore, which encompasses a magnificent old church, elaborate carvings, and hot springs. Although these two historic sights are deservedly its main attractions, Garni has much more to offer: the surrounding countryside has a plethora of great paths and trails for you to hike, cycle, or horseback ride along.
In addition, the center of town has lots of fine restaurants on offer, as well as some beautiful old churches, while the nearby Garni Gorge is also well worth checking out.
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