View of ancient Etchmiadzin Cathedral in Armenia - three small towers and one large one

Armenia - The Best Bits

Author: Sue Rogers
Date: 23rd May 2009

A five night extended weekend trip. It was the last time the company ran this tour - there was no demand for Armenia they said. A shame. It's a pretty and tranquil country.  The mountains are beautiful and you can always use them as a fallback  when the monasteries begin to pall. There are a lot of monasteries. The weather was gorgeous and the buildings perfectly framed. We saw:

Yerevan

Yerevan, the capital. It is one of the world’s oldest inhabited cities, constructed 29 years before Rome. No prizes for guessing why they call it the "Pink City". Many of the buildings are constructed of rosy hued tufa stone.. Highlights are: the genocide museum, Liberty and Republic Squares and the Cascades open air staircase area, (still being constructed with two cranes at the top).

Etchmiadzin Cathedral

There's also the fourth century Etchmiadzin Cathedral, headquarters of the Armenian Church. The music was sublime and the Patriarch himself was there celebrating mass. He had a very kind face.

Garni

The Graeco-Roman Temple of Garni (The latter is the only pagan temple in Armenia probably built by king Tiridates I in the first century AD as a temple to the sun god Mihr.)

Khor Virap Monastery

Khor Virap Monastery is a pilgrimage site on the Ararat plain in Armenia, near the closed border with Turkey, The monastery was host to a theological seminary and was the residence of the Armenian Catholicos. Khor Virap's notability is attributed to the imprisonment here of Gregory the Illuminator by King Tiridates III of Armenia. Saint Gregory subsequently became the king's religious mentor, and they led the proselytizing activity in the country. Armenia was the first country in the world to be declared a Christian nation in AD 301. The first chapel was built here in 642. Mount Ararat looms in the distance.

Geghard Monastery

Medieval Geghard Monastery is n the Kotayk province of Armenia; it's partially carved out of the adjacent mountain, surrounded by cliffs and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site

Lake Sevan

Serene Lake Sevan (Black Van) and its monasteries. Noratus Cemetery near here has the biggest open air collection of ancient Armenian Khachqars (cross stones)and tombstones

Noravank Monastery

We climbed down a steep path to some basalt pillars by the lake and went on to Noravank, an impossibly picturesque 13th-century Armenian monastery in a narrow gorge made by the Amaghu River, near the town of Yeghegnadzor

Tatov Monastery

Tatov Monastery, the most scenically placed of them all. Like Machu Picchu the view is best from above

  • And a few other monasteries whose names I can't remember
  • We ate roundels of lavash bread and heaps of herby salad leaves
  • There were lots of storks, their nests on the top of posts - they're the national bird and they're sacred

You can read about my second trip to Armenia on the Golden Eagle Luxury train here.

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