Armenia– Cradle of Civilization
Armenia- a country of miracles, you are at a junction of East and West here, where customs and rites of old are still around, while European attitudes prevail.
Time passes, scripts the history, still leaving us some footsteps behind to be found in this home of Armenians, which once counted among the great powers of the world, with a story dating back to the times of ancient Babylon. Armenians trace their history to the sixth century B.C. The ruins of the city of Erebuni, now the site of the current capital Yerevan, reveal an advanced civilization with well-developed architecture, language, and political system. The cuneiform found during one of the excavations in Yerevan claims that in 782 B.C. Menuas son Argishti built this fortress and named it Erebuni. This is a birth certificate of Yerevan, which informs the world that the capital of one of the most powerful ancient countries Urarru, Erebuni, at present Yerevan, is 2800 years old. Armenia was the first country in the world to adopt the Christianity, in 301 AD as its state religion. Armenia is one of the oldest centers of civilization.
The country whose past still comes to life today in unique and deep preserved traditions will warm you with its true hospitality and open mindedness. In this small territory professionals counted more than 15000 historical monuments, the oldest of them being five thousand years old. All historical sites of Armenia with old churches and temples, stones of cave towns and mountainous contrasted nature have their legend to tell.
Armenia has a wonderful nature: small waterfalls, green meadows, sky-scraping mountains and more than a hundred mountain lakes and the world’s highest fresh-water lake Sevan, which is at an attitude of 2000 meters above sea level.
- Khor Virap
- Tatev Monastery
- GARNI Temple
- Lake Sevan
- Tsakhkadzor Resort
- Etchmiadzin Cathedral
- Haghpat Monastery
- Zvartnots Cathedral
- Kecharis Monastery
- Khosrov Forest State Reserve
- Dilijan National Park,
- Shikahogh State Reserve
Views of Mount Ararat can be enjoyed from all over Armenia, but perhaps the best scenery of the mountain can be found from the Khor Virap monastery, which is definitely also worth visiting in its own right. This location is one of the most important historic sites in Armenia’s history as it was where Gregory the Illuminator was imprisoned for 14 years before he cured King Trdat III of his disease. The King then converted to Christianity, paving the way for Armenia’s religious future. As such, Khor Virap is a popular spot for Armenian weddings today, while the underground chamber in which Gregory the Illuminator was held can be visited during a trip to Khor Virap, which is among Armenia’s most visited pilgrimage sites as a result.
Tatev Monastery is a 9th-century Armenian Apostolic monastery located on a large basalt plateau near the Tatev village in Syunik Province in southeastern Armenia. The monastic ensemble stands on the edge of a deep gorge of the Vorotan River. Tatev is known as the bishopric seat of Syunik and played a significant role in the history of the region as a centre of economic, political, spiritual and cultural activity. In the 14th and 15th centuries, the monastery hosted one of the most important Armenian medieval universities, the University of Tatev, which contributed to the advancement of science, religion and philosophy, reproduction of books and development of miniature painting. Scholars of the Tatev University contributed to the preservation of Armenian culture and creed during one of its most turbulent periods in its history. Wings of Tatev, a cableway from Tatev to Halidzor village was opened in October 2010. It was included in the Guinness World Records as world’s “longest non-stop double track cable car”.
Almost anyone who comes to Armenia visits Garni, and they think it is the 76 AD temple and Roman style baths. Many learn when they visit that the cyclopic stone walls that surround the royal summer residence and temple are were in fact first laid in the 3rd millennium BC by ancestral Armenians who developed the region into one of the greatest metallurgical and trading powers in Mesopotamia and Asia Minor. The Temple was dedicated to Sun God Mihir or Mythra. Built in 1st century AD, the Temple was damaged by an earthquake in 1679 and restored subsequently.
Geghard is a medieval monastery in the Kotayk province of Armenia, being partially carved out of the adjacent mountain, surrounded by cliffs. It is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. While the main chapel was built in 1215, the monastery complex was founded in the 4th century by Gregory the Illuminator at the site of a sacred spring inside a cave. The monastery had thus been originally named Ayrivank), meaning “the Monastery of the Cave”. The name commonly used for the monastery today, Geghard, or more fully Geghardavank meaning “the Monastery of the Spear”, originates from the spear which had wounded Jesus at the Crucifixion, allegedly brought to Armenia by Apostle Jude, called here Thaddeus, and stored amongst many other relics. Now it is displayed in the Echmiadzin treasury.
The spectacular towering cliffs surrounding the monastery are part of the Azat River gorge, and are included together with the monastery in the World Heritage Site listing. Some of the churches within the monastery complex are entirely dug out of the cliff rocks, others are little more than caves, while others are elaborate structures, with both architecturally complex walled sections and rooms deep inside the cliff. The combination, together with numerous engraved and free-standing khachkars is a unique sight, being one of the most frequented tourist destinations in Armenia.
Lake Sevan, found in the heart of Armenia, is the country’s largest lake and a beautiful place to visit during a break in the country. The lake is surrounded by some stunning monasteries – the most impressive of them being arguably the Sevanavank Monastery – providing a glorious scenic backdrop to a relaxing trip. Windsurfing is among the recreation activities available at the lake, which also has a wide choice of excellent seafood restaurants along its shore. Lake Sevan has a number of popular beaches and, as the country has no coastline, this is the best place in Armenia to sunbathe, with Sevan Bay and its surrounding mountains providing spectacular scenery.
Dating back to the seventh century, Amberd Fortress is one of the most stunning places to visit in Armenia. It is located 2,300 meters (7,500 ft) above sea level, on the slopes of Mount Aragats at the confluence of the Arkashen and Amberd rivers in the province of Aragatsotn. Formerly among the Armenian Kingdom’s primary military-defensive points, the fortress can be reached in about an hour from the capital city Yerevan. The view from the top of the fortress is truly breathtaking, while the building itself is also stunning.
Noravank is a 13th-century Armenian monastery, located 122 km from Yerevan in a narrow gorge made by the Amaghu River, near the town of Yeghegnadzor, Armenia. The gorge is known for its tall, sheer, brick-red cliffs, directly across from the monastery. The monastery is best known for its two-storey Surb Astvatsatsin (Holy Mother of God) church, which grants access to the second floor by way of a narrow stone-made staircase jutting out from the face of building.
One of the main attractions of the Echmiadzin is the Cathedral — the most ancient Christian temple of Armenia, one of the first in entire Christian world. The first stone of the temple, as the legend goes, was laid in 30 by the first Catholicos of Armenian Church. The main Armenian temple’s construction, which began in the 4th century, was under construction for a long time. Originally the Echmiadzin Cathedral was constructed from wood in the form of basilica. But in 483 it was reconstructed and made into cross-shaped building with a dome. In the 7th century the Cathedral was made of stone. In the 17th century the existing dome and the three-level belfry were added. In the 18th century the six-column rotundas were built from the three sides of the Cathedral. The interior decoration of the Cathedral finished in the 18 th century is impressive with Byzantine luxury and various floral ornaments of orange-red and blue-lilac shades. Besides the ornaments and other decorations the artist painted various scenes based on the Holy Scriptures, more than 120 portraits with the images of saints and apostles. During the following years many frescos were destroyed. In the 20 th century thorough restoration was accomplished. The columns and the arches supporting the dome wee reinforced and the dome itself was jacketed with lead. The new marble altar was constructed. Marble was also used for the church floor. The old frescoes inside the temple were renovated and new ones added. A number of khachkars were installed in the niches .The distinguishing feature of the cathedral is that here are three more altars besides the main one. Two of them are located in the northern and southern niches. The other is in the centre and marks the holy site where Christ descended and ordered St. Gregory the Illuminator to build the temple on that particular place.In 2001 when Armenia celebrated the 1700th anniversary of adoption of Christianity, Pope John Paul II brought the relics of the first Armenian Catholicos there. For five hundred years the relics of St. Gregory the Illuminator had been kept in Naples, and now are in a cathedral of Echmiadzin.
The monastery was founded by Saint Nishan (Sourb Nshan) in the 10th century during the reign of King Abas I. The nearby monastery at Sanahin was built around the same time. The location of Haghpat Monastery was chosen so that it overlooks the Debed River in northern Armenia’s Lori region. It was built, not on a peak, but halfway up a hillside on a site chosen to afford protection and concealment from prying eyes and also in response to a kind of monastic humility. A peak on the opposite side of the river is over 2,500 meters high. The clock-tower was erected in 1210 and is one of the most beautiful examples of its kind from the medieval period in Armenia. The monastery’s bell tower, built in 1245, stands apart from the main ensemble of monuments, and is architecturally noteworthy.There are also a number of splendid khachkars (cross-stones) of the 11th-13th centuries standing on the territory of the monastery, the best known among them is the “Amenaprkich” (All-Savior) khachkar which has been standing since 1273. The monastery has been damaged many times. Sometime around 1130, an earthquake destroyed parts of Haghpat Monastery and it was not restored until fifty years later. It also suffered numerous attacks by armed forces in the many centuries of its existence and from a major earthquake in 1988. Nevertheless, much of the complex is still intact and stands today without substantial alterations. Haghpat monastery, together with Sanahin monastery, was placed on UNESCO‘s World Heritage List in 1996.
Located 5 km from Echmiadzin is one of the brightest landmarkst of medieval Armenian architecture –the magnificent Zvartnots Temple constructed in the 7th century. Unfortunately, like the majority of other ancient Armenian temples, Zvartnots has survived only in ruins since it was completely destroyed by powerful earthquake in the 10th century. But even the ruins of this temple give us the idea of its rare and majestic beauty.
Dilijan National Park
Armenia has four national parks and Dilijan national park may be the most beautiful of the lovely quartet. The park, which was only established in 2002, is famous for its medicinal mineral water springs, as well as its natural monuments. Many of Armenia’s more important cultural locations can be found within the grounds of the park, such as Haghartsin Monastery, Goshavank Monastery and Jukhtak Vank, as well as Matosavank Monastery and the Akhnabat church. The Aghestev and Getik river basins are also both within the boundaries of Dilijan national park.
Khosrov Forest State Reserve
Khosrov State Reserve or Khosrov forest is one of the most beloved places for tourists, visiting Armenia.Historical sources say that the name “Khosrov Forest” is associated with the King Khosrov II Kotak (4th century). It is believed, that Khosrov had planted over one million trees, creating a private hunting preserve, saving a piece of Armenian unique ecosystem for generations. During centuries the King Khosrov’s forest became a reserve.“Khosrov Forest” State Reserve was established in 1958. It is located in Ararat region of Armenia, not far from Ararat valley, on the mountainous ridges Geghama, Yeranos and Yerakh. It occupies a territory of 23,878 ha at the altitudes from 700 to 2,800 m above sea level.More than 1850 species of plants are grown in the territory of state reserve, which makes more than 50% of the flora of Armenia. 156 plant species are considered rare, endangered on extinction.
Landscapes of the reserve range from semi-desert to mountainous and alpine meadows. 70% of the animals, registered in the Red Book of Armenia, dwell here. Most of them are in the danger of disappearing and are registered in the International Red Book, such as Armenian Mouflon (wild sheep) and an amazing hedgehog with large ears. The reserve includes also 192 species of birds, fish, reptiles, amphibias.
n the territory of Khosrov forest there are also numerous historical monuments and natural obelisks, such as cave settlements, ancient medieval monasteries, cross-stones and churches. Here is a holy place for pilgrimages – Saint Stepanos Church. This church has been a sanctuary for millions of people for many centuries. Another architectural monument is Kakavaberd fortress. One of the most stunning natural attractions of reserve is “Symphony of Stones”, also called “Basalt organ”. It’s a massive rock structure formed by basalt hexagonal pillars due to the frozen flows of lava. These huge rocks look like an organ, so people call it “Basalt Organ”.
Among other sights on the territory of the forest are beautiful waterfalls. They are called by names of Armenian pagan gods Astghik (godess of love) and Vahagn (god of war).
Kecharis Monastery is a medieval Armenian monastic complex dating back to the 11th to 13th centuries, located 60 km from Yerevan, in the ski resort town of Tsakhkadzor in Armenia. Nestled in the Pambak mountains, Kecharis was founded by a Pahlavuni prince in the 11th century, and construction continued until the middle of the 13th century. In the 12th and 13th centuries, Kecharis was a major religious center of Armenia and a place of higher education. The domes of the two main churches were heavily damaged in an earthquake in 1927. Today, the monastery has been fully restored and is clearly visible from the ski slopes.
Nor Getik or Goshavank is an example of 12th-13th century architecture. It was founded by Mkhitar Gosh, a medieval Armenian ruler who was both a scholar and a politician. The earliest building is the Church of the Virgin (1191-1196). On the church’s western side is a large four-column gavit (1197-1203). The other church is St. Gregory (1208-1241) near a small chapel named for St. Gregory the Illuminator (1237) the portal and decorative arches of which exemplify the architect’s remarkable taste and décor. A 13th century book depository, its roof resting on criss-crossed arches, was later topped with a belfry (1291). A number of small chapels complete the site, surrounded by delicately carved khachkars, works of the master Pavhos (13th century), one of which is displayed now in the State Museum of Armenian History.
Hidden in a verdant valley 13km northeast of Dilijan, Haghartsin (‘Dance of the Eagles’) was built between the 10th and 13th centuries and has three churches: one named for Gregory the Illuminator; another for the Virgin Mary (Surp Astvatsatsin); and the third for St Stephen (Stepanos). There are stunning khachkars (don’t miss the one on the southern wall of Surp Astvatsatsin), a sundial on the wall of St Gregory, a ruined gavit and a refectory with stunning arched ceiling. The monastery was built by order of two brothers, princes of the Bagratuni kingdom, and their family seal can be seen on the back of St Stepanos.
Shikahogh State Reserve
The second largest forest reserve in Armenia, Shikahogh State Reserve is so unspoiled that large parts of it remains unexplored to this day. The forest is believed to be home to animals including leopards, bears, wild goats and vipers and it is also thought that Shikahogh State Reserve has about 1,100 species of plants, although its fauna has not yet been fully explored. The reserve was threatened by a planned highway in 2005, but environments successfully lobbied for the forest’s future to be protected. The reserve also has a number of very beautiful waterfalls to enjoy.
Armenia’s mountainous scenery makes it ideal for winter sports and the country’s best ski resort can be found at Tsaghkadzor in the heart of the country. Ski lifts are paid for by the ride and are among the most affordable in Europe. Tsaghkadzor boasts some of the finest hotels in the country, while the resort also has one of the nation’s biggest entertainment centers in the form of the Senator Royale casino complex. Tsaghkadzor also has the Kecharis Monastery, which is one of Armenia’s most important religious complexes, dating back to the start of the 11th century.
Often referred to internationally as Armenia’s version of Britain’s Stonehenge, Karahunj is one of the most fascinating places to visit during a break in Armenia. Located close to the city of Sisian in the Syunik province, Karahunj is made up of well over 200 massive stone tombs, while the main area sees 40 stones standing in a circular formation, supposedly built in honour of the Armenian main God, Ari, named after the Sun. A small museum in Sisian is dedicated to findings that have been made at Karahunj, which is claimed to be the oldest observatory of its kind in the world.
Jermouk is a health resort situated at 2100 meters above sea level. It is connected to Yerevan with a highway. Jermouk’s famous mineral waters are used both for drinking and bathing and are highly recommended for curing many diseases. There are about 40 springs with a temperature ranging from 57 to 64 degrees. The beautiful landscape and the climate of this spa and its environment have very high curative qualities. There is a special pavilion in downtown where the guests can taste the mineral waters.