15 Most Magnificent Monasteries in Armenia That You Should ABSOLUTELY See
Nestled in the southern part of the Caucasus Mountains, amidst the two continents of Europe and Asia, Armenia is a treasure house waiting to be discovered. This small mountainous country has an abundance of untouched natural beauty.
The landscape has everything that makes it a visual delight. The mountain ridges, lush green valleys, gorges, canyons and natural springs are truly a feast for the eyes.
Apart from Nature’s bounty, it is also interesting to note that Armenia has a rich and ancient cultural heritage. It was one of the earliest Christian civilizations and the first Christian state in the world.
There is an impressive lineup of innumerable monasteries spread across the entire Armenian country which are unmatched in their sheer beauty and spectacular views. These magnificent ancient and medieval monasteries are one of its main attractions. Together with the incredible beauty of their surroundings, they make Armenia an irresistible holiday destination.
Travelerati presents you a list of the most magnificent monasteries in Armenia.
1. Geghard Monastery
A UNESCO World Heritage site, the Geghard Monastery is the most visited place in Armenia. The word ‘Geghard’ means ‘spear’ in Armenian language and the monastery is also called the Monastery of the Spear.
It is believed that the spear which was used to wound Jesus Christ was first kept here. The same spear is now preserved as a relic in the treasury of the Etchmiadzin Church.
The entire Geghard monastery complex has been dug and carved out of a mountain. The churches are basically caves, some of which are very small, while others are built in an elaborate and structured pattern.
The intricately carved crosses called “Khachkars” found on the rock surfaces and in standing positions in the caves, impart a unique character to this monastery. The paved street to enter this complex is dotted with women selling Armenian sweets and souvenirs, while musicians try to woo the visitors with their music.
2. Khor Virap Monastery
Khor Virap which means ‘deep pit’ is another architectural marvel and popular destination point in Armenia. It is regarded as a place of pilgrimage, being the holy site of the Armenian Church. Khor Virap is also the first church in Armenia.
It is believed that Saint Gregory, the Illuminator and Baptist of Armenia, was imprisoned in a dungeon here for thirteen years. The monastery was built above the dungeon.
This iconic monastery is located at the foot of the now extinct volcano Mount Ararat. It offers splendid views of the snow capped mountains and the beautiful Ararat valley. On a clear day, it is possible to see the Turkish border from here.
3. Tatev Monastery
This is the largest monastery in Armenia. It is strategically poised on the steepest edge of a deep gorge, and can be accessed by a cable car which is one of the longest in the world.
Tatev Monastery boasts of some of the most stunning views in Armenia. It is said that this monastery has an intriguing history, so it is best to take a guided tour of this place with a professional guide.
4. Sevanavank Monastery
Flickr/Tommy and Georgie
The word Sevanavank literally means ‘seven monasteries.’ This complex is situated on a peninsular hill which extends right on to the shores of Lake Sevan. There are two churches here and the views of Lake Sevan from here are beautiful.
5. Haghpat Monastery
Flickr/Tommy and Georgie
Haghpat means ‘strong walls’ and the soot-stained blackened walls of Haghpat live up to its name. A UNESCO World Heritage site, this monastery has managed to survive all the onslaughts of war and the ravages of nature. Though its towers and arches are black and walls are bare, its storied history makes it a destination worth visiting.
6. Sanahin Monastery
Sanahin Monastery is situated on a raised plateau area above a gorge, which merges into the surrounding mountains. Also a UNESCO World Heritage site, this monastery is quite similar in structure to Haghpat and probably belongs to the same ancient period.
The complex is made up of four churches with carved Khachkars (cross stones) flanking a central dome. Interestingly, the dome has an opening to facilitate the passage of light.
7. Goshavank Monastery
Wikimedia/İhsan Deniz Kılıçoğlu
Goshavank Monastery is named after the village of Gosh in which it is located. The complex is made up of a number of churches, chapels and bell-towers. It is particularly known for its Khachkars. One Khachkar is especially unique with its fine engravings, intricate designs and texts which are carved on it in many layers.
One of its churches has a ticketed entry, making it the only monastery in Armenia which has a paid entrance to its church. Although this monastery is no longer used for religious purposes, it is still a popular place to visit.
8. Harichavank Monastery
Wikimedia/Liveon001 © Travis K. Witt
This seventh century monastery is located in the village of Harich, which now looks like a ruined fortified area. This ancient complex consists of many buildings, and is known as being one of the main centres of Armenia’s religious and cultural activities.
The oldest church here is named after Saint Gregory, the Founder of Christianity in this country. It is one of the most beautiful and well preserved churches in Armenia, with its richly carved interiors embellished with patterns of roses and doves.
From the exterior, one can see an ornately designed cupola type of grand dome. The church is perched on a canyon and the view of the canyon below is simply wonderful.
9. Hayravank Monastery
Dating back to the period between the 9th and 12th centuries, Hayravank Monastery is built on the shores of Lake Sevan. It is a relatively simple complex that has a church, a hall-like gavit and a chapel.
What lends an aura of sanctity to this place is the diffused effect created by the rays of the sun hitting against the narrow windows. Many Khachkars can be seen in the surrounding area of the monastery.
10. Saghmosavank Monastery
This monastery is picturesquely perched on top of a gorge with a river flowing below it. Not only is its location and surrounding area stunning in its natural beauty, the church itself is very beautiful with its pretty wall paintings and intricately carved designs.
11. Noravank Monastery
Majestically standing at the end of the road coming up the gorge, is the spectacular Noravank monastery area. Around it, mountains and steep red cliffs make the whole area look ethereal and mesmerizing. The occasional eagles flying over the mountains only add to the enigmatic charisma of this place.
12. Haghartsin Monastery
Flickr/Tommy and Georgie
Haghartsin Monastery was built in the 13th century. A visit to this place is indeed a rewarding experience, as here natural beauty is complemented perfectly by the splendour of the architecture of the monastery. This monastery has to be seen to be believed!
13. Kecharis Monastery
Kecharis Monnastery lies in the lap of the mountains and is visible from the skiing slopes of a nearby skiing resort town. The complex has three churches and two chapels which are well worth a visit.
14. Akhtala Monastery
The Akhtala Monastery lies above the Haghpat and Sanahin monasteries. The main attractions here are the beautiful frescoes and murals which adorn the interiors. This monastery is undoubtedly one of the finest examples of medieval Armenian architecture and culture.
15. Marmashen Monastery
Dating back to the 10th century, the Marmashen monastery lies beside a stream. Further down is a river flowing by, with fruit trees lining its banks. This pretty complex has five churches and their ruins which definitely warrant a visit.