Top 10 churches to visit in Armenia

There are a ton of things to do in Armenia, but visiting the churches is probably a must. Here are the Top 10 churches to visit in Armenia, the first Christian nation in the world

Armenia is a country known for its churches.  It’s no surprise, since it was the first nation to accept Christianity as a state religion, all the way back in 301 AD.  It may not seem like it now, but this was quite innovative at the time!  And since the beginning, Armenian churches have played a central part in the history of the country, and the daily lives of its people.  It’s no surprise that most tours of Armenia will include quite a few stops at these impressive monasteries.

If you’re not so much into churches, that’s ok too, because Armenia has a lot more to offer as well!  But if you want to full Armenian experience, make sure you check out a few of these amazing religious sites.

The architecture

Most of the Armenian churches were built in medieval times.  The ones that were destroyed during wars and earthquakes have usually been rebuilt as per their original plan, with some modern touches.  Although the Armenian churches built in different periods have distinct features, they also have quite a few common characteristics.

All saviors church Gyumri Armenia
All Saviours church in Gyumri, Armenia

Here are some ways to spot typical Armenian churches.  Their pointed domes resemble the volcanic funnel of Greater Ararat and are attached above arched ceilings.  Often, the vertical accent of the whole building and its height exceed the length of the church.  They are almost entirely made of stone and have arched, stone ceilings.

The 10 best churches in Armenia

It’s important to note that these churches and monasteries are not presented in any order.  They all hold something unique and beautiful to discover.  Although we’re not religious, it’s hard to deny the work and dedication the people who built these churches had.  If nothing more, the churches are works of architectural art.

Khor Virap

This is probably one of the most important churches in Armenia.  Its history is also quite impressive as it is said to be the birthplace of christianity.  The story dates back to 287, when Tiridates III was put on the throne by the Romans.  His predecessor had been murdered by St Gregory’s father, but the young Gregory managed to escape to Cappadocia where he became a Christian.

Khor Virap from above Armenia
Khor Virap is probably Armenia’s most famous church

He then came back to Armenia to start converting others to the religion.  This didn’t work out too well since Tiridates threw Gregory into an underground pit where he remained for thirteen years, surrounded by snakes and rats.  You can actually go down into this pit when you visit Khor Virap.  It’s tiny enough as it is, it’s hard to imagine what it was like back in his time!

The story says that God struck the King with a terrible illness.  The King’s sister, obviously the wise one in the family, said that the best way to cure him was to release Gregory.  As a result, the King miraculously recovered and converted to Christianity, along with his court.  It was in 301 that Armenia was declared a Christian country.

Khor Virap Mount Ararat Armenia
Nestled at the foot of Mount Ararat, Khor Virap is beautiful to discover

Not only is this church beautiful, but its surroundings are as well!  Its backdrop is non other than the stunning Mount Ararat.  This is probably the best spot to see this impressive mountain.

Noravank

Noravank, about 2 hours out of Yerevan, was built in the 13th century.  It’s a great example of the ornate architecture of the period.  On the site, you will find three surviving churches, each decorated in intricate designs and religious reliefs, mainly created by Momik.  He also carved many “khachkars”, typical Armenian religious monuments that usually consist of a cross surmounting a circular symbol.

Noravank Monastery Armenia_
Noravank monastery, Armenia

The monastery is best known for its two-storey Surb Astvatsatsin (Holy Mother of God) church.  You can climb up to the second level by a narrow stone-made staircase jutting out from the face of building.  Luckily, there is a rope to help you up.

IMG_3839
The surrounding rock walls at Noravank

The church is also set in the most beautiful place.  Up on a cliffside, surrounded by tall rock walls.

Geghard

The monastery of Geghard is probably one of the most impressive in Armenia.  Most of the monuments here were built between the 4th and 13th century, and large parts were carved straight out the mountain it sits on.

Geghard monastery Armenia
Geghard Monastery dates back to the 13th century

This beautiful complex of medieval buildings is surrounded by great natural beauty, at the entrance of the Azat Valley.  With high cliffs that surround the northern side of the monastery, and a defensive wall that circles the rest.  It’s clear to see why this medieval monastery is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

What makes Geghard even more special is that the spear, which had wounded Jesus at the Crucifixion, was allegedly brought to Armenia by Apostle Jude, and stored amongst many other relics at this church.  The name “Geghard” actually means “spear”.  But don’t expect to see the spear at the church, it has since been moved to Etchmiadzin.

St Grigor Lusavorich cathedral

This is the newest of the churches on this list.  Its construction started in 1997 and was completed 4 years later, in 2001.  The Saint Gregory the Illuminator Cathedral, which is also known as the Cathedral of Yerevan is currently the world’s largest cathedral of the Armenian Apostolic Church.  It’s also the largest Armenian cathedral and is conveniently located in the central part of Yerevan, in the Kentron District.

St Grigor Lusavorich cathedral Yerevan Armenia
Saint Gregory the Illuminator Cathedral in Yerevan, Armenia

As if it wasn’t big enough, it’s also considered to be one of the largest religious buildings in the South Caucasus.  It’s also home to the relics and holy remains of Saint Gregory the Illuminator, brought from Naples, in Italy.  Make sure to go during the day, and at night.  It looks quite different when it’s lit up!

Saint Gregory the Illuminator Cathedral at night Yerevan Armenia.jpg
At night, the church is beautifully illuminated

Tatev

Tatev monastery is probably the furthest to get to in Armenia.  The route there will take about 3-4 hours from Yerevan, but it’s well worth it.  Not only is Tatev a beautiful monastery, but it has a really cool mode of transportation to get there.  The Wings of Tatev!  This is the World’s longest reversible ropeway, measuring a whopping 5,752 m.  The views from the tramway are just epic!

Tatev Monastery Armenia
Tatev Monastery viewed from the wings of Tatev, Armenia

This monastery was built in the 9th-century, on a large basalt plateau.  The monastic complex stands on the edge of a deep gorge and offers spectacular views of the mountains and valleys.

Tatev gorge Armenia
You must cross the Vorotan gorge to get to the Tatev Monastery, Armenia

Tatev played a significant role in the history as a centre of economic, political, spiritual and cultural activity.  Back in the 14th and 15th centuries, it hosted one of the most important Armenian medieval universities, contributing to the advancement of science, religion and philosophy, reproduction of books and development of miniature painting.

Today, parts of the monastery are under renovation to restore it to its past glory.  The experience of getting to Tatev, combined with the beauty of the complex and the impressive surroundings make it one of our favourites!

Etchmiadzin Armenian Apostolic Church

About 30 minutes outside of Yerevan, in the city of Vagharshapat, this cathedral is a very important landmark of the Armenian Apostolic Church.  It’s basically like the Vatican for Armenians and is considered to be one of the first and oldest cathedrals not only in Armenia, but the whole world.

Etchmiadzin Cathedral Armenia
The Etchmiadzin Armenian Apostolic Church is one of the most important churches in Armenia

The original church was built in the early 4th century by Saint Gregory the Illuminator.  We hope you guys remember who this guy is after everything we’ve mentioned about him!  It was believed that the church was built where where Christ had struck the earth with a hammer.  But after many archaeological studies, it was shown that beneath the cathedral, there is in fact, a Roman temple.

Etchmiadzin Armenian Apostolic Church Armenia
The entrance to Etchmiadzin Armenian Apostolic Church, Armenia

The shape and structure of Etchmiadzin are actually the blueprint for most Armenian churches that were built after it.  The museum of the church is quite impressive to visit as well.

Sevanavank

This is one of Armenia’s most visited churches, mainly because it’s set on the beautiful and beloved Lake Sevan.  The monastic complex of Sevanavank is set high atop the peninsula of the Lake.

Sevanavank church lake Sevan, Armenia
No trip to Lake Sevan is complete without going up to Sevanavank

Fun fact (that’s not so fun): the monastery was initially set on top of an island, but because of the artificial draining of Lake Sevan during Stalin’s era, the island turned into a peninsula.  The water levels dropped 20 meters, which is considerable (and a shame).

Lake Sevan Armenia
Lake Sevan, Armenia’s largest body of water

The church is small, but really beautiful.  It’s a short climb to get to it, but the views you get up there are really stunning!

Haghartsin

Built between the 10th and 13th centuries, Haghartsin is near Dilijan, about 2 hours outside of Yerevan.  It’s actually situated in the Dilijan national park and is a stop on the Transcaucasian Trail, a long-distance hiking route.

Hagartsin’s name actually comes from the eagles who soar above it, as it means “games of eagles”.  That’s probably why the image of this proud bird can be seen on its walls.

Haghartsin Monastery DIllijan Armenia
Haghartsin is nestled in the forest mountains near Dilijan, Armenia

Sitting atop the the canyon, Haghartsin is one of the most mysterious places in Armenia.  On the site, you will find 3 churches, St. Gregory church (11th century), St. Astvatsatsin church (1281), St. Stepanos church (1244) as well as the 13th century chapel, the tomb of Bagratids (12th century), the refectory (1248) and various premises built in the 12th & 13th centuries.

Again, the surroundings of the church make it even more beautiful to discover.  Make sure you walk around to get a full sense of how impressive this whole site is.

Churches in Artsakh

Some may argue that Artsakh is not part of Armenia, but we beg to differ.  Artsakh has been inhabited by Armenians for generations, and it was only when the maps for the post Soviet Union were drawn that this beautiful plot of land was given to Azerbaijan.  Today, the Republic of Artsakh is a de facto independent country in the South Caucasus.

If you are in Armenia, we strongly urge you to visit Artsakh.  It is very safe to go to, you just need to get a visa at the border, and you’re all set!  When you’re there, there are 2 main churches to visit.

Gandzasar monastery

Built between the 10th to 13th century monastery in the Mardakert district, welcome to Gandzasar monastery.  The monastery holds relics believed to belong to St. John the Baptist and his father St Zechariah.  It’s also the seat of the Archbishop of Artsakh appointed by the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin.

Gandzasar monastery Artsakh
The Gandzasar Monastery in Artsakh

“Gandzasar” actually means treasure mountain or hilltop treasure in Armenian.  It’s probably because it really does look like a treasure atop the hill.  The surrounding mountains and valleys are also a beautiful sight to see… just don’t make the same mistake as us and go when it’s still light out!

Ghazanchetsots

Ghazanchetsots is in Shushi (or Shusha) and is the seat of the Diocese of Artsakh.  Although the cathedral was recently rebuilt, it is quite a historic place.  They started building the cathedral in 1868 and it was consecrated 20 years later, in 1888.

Ghazanchetsots Shushi Artsakh
The Ghazanchetsots Cathedral was right across the street from our host family’s apartment in Shushi, Artsakh

During the 1920 massacre of the Armenians, it was heavily damaged and it only fell into a decline in the following decades.  Then, during the Nagorno-Karabakh War in the 1990’s, Azerbaijan used the cathedral as an armoury, knowing Armenians would never attack a church.  When the Armenians won the war, they restored to its current glory in 1998.

At 35 metres (115 ft) high, Ghazanchetsots is one of the largest Armenian churches in the world.  It’s also a beacon of hope and a beloved landmark of Shushi and Karabakh.

There are a ton of other beautiful churches to visit in Armenia.  Seriously, a ton!  From Saghmosavank, to Zvartnots, Goshavank, Vahramashen, and Sanahin, the list goes on and on!  Depending on your style of travel and what you like to see, you can easily cross a few of these off your bucketlist, as most are easy to get to.

Have you been to Armenia?  What were your favourite churches to see? Let us know in the comments.


We put a lot of time and effort into the content we create.  Please like, comment and share, every action on your part helps us out tremendously and is very much appreciated.

Love our blog? Sign up to get our latest posts, and help keep our dream going

You can also help us by pinning it for others to find.


Top 10 churches to visit in Armenia. There are a ton of them, but these ones were particularly beautiful and striking to us. Armenia was the first Christian nation so it's no surprise that there are so many churches to visit.   www.wediditourway.com

8 amazing day trips from Yerevan

Armenia has a ton to offer.  From quaint little villages, to hikes, local markets and festivals, and so much more.  Here are the best day trips to do from Yerevan, Armenia’s capital.

Armenia has a ton of things to offer.  From quaint little villages, to hikes, local markets and festivals, and so much more.  A good 2 weeks are needed to fully enjoy the beauty of the country, but if you’re tight on time, here are some of the best day-trips to do from Yerevan, Armenia’s capital.

Some might say that the best things to see in Armenia are the churches.  There is also a ton to do here that is not limited to churches, so get out there and explore it all!

Getting around

Depending on the size of your group, there are many ways to do these excursions.  You can either go through different tour companies and opt for private or group tours.  You can rent a car and drive yourself.  You can grab a GG in town, asking the driver for a set cost before leaving.  You can grab shared taxis or marchutkas to the villages.

Or finally, you can hitchhike.  We were told it’s easy to get around this way in Armenia, so you can always try that if you’re feeling adventurous!  Just be warned, most of the time, your ride will offer you a meal and drinks at their place before dropping you off at your final destination!

Lake Sevan

Lake Sevan is Armenia’s largest body of water, and it is beautiful.  Head there in the morning to take full advantage of its beauty.  The route should take you about 45 minutes to an hour.

Lake Sevan Armenia
The beautiful Lake Sevan, Armenia

Once there, you can climb up the peninsula and visit Sevanavank, the beautiful church at the top of it.  Then, head down to the shore and enjoy a walk on the beach.  If you love swimming in cold water, jump on in!

Sevanavank church lake Sevan, Armenia
Sevanavank monastery on the shores of Lake Sevan, Armenia

You can either prepare your own BBQ khorovats meal on the beach, check out one of the many restaurants on its shores, or head back on the road and stop by Semoi Mot to have the famous fish there.

Dilijan

Dilijan is named the Switzerland of Armenia, and rightfully so.  Nestled in the mountains, this city is just beautiful!  The trip there should take you 1.5 to 2 hours.  If you leave early enough, and depending on what you want to do, you can fit Lake Sevan and Dilijan in one day trip.

Wediditourway Parz Lake Dilijan national park Armenia
Beware of the killer ducks at Parz Lake in the Dilijan National Park, Armenia

Dilijan has many beautiful things to do.  If you love hiking, you have many routes there, including the TransCaucausus Trail, the Dilijan National Park and many more.  There is a beautiful hike that will take you to the quaint Parz Lake.

You can also visit the Tufenkian hotel, where they have recreated a beautiful village with 19th century architecture.  They have even included intricately carved balconies, displaying the region’s historical love for fine woodwork.

CouplePIctureDilijanArmenia
Having fun taking our pics at the Tufenkian hotel in Dilijan, Armenia

For your meal, we recommend Kchuch, a delightful restaurant where you can have an array of wood oven cooked meals.  Everything we had was delicious, but the mushroom pizza/flatbread took the cake for us.  For your coffee fix, we recommend Caffeine, a beautiful little microroastery.

Garni, Geghard, Tsaghgazor

This trip is an awesome one.  This day trip is one of our favourites.  Garni is about 30 minutes away from Yerevan, Geghard, another 30 from there, and Tsaghgazor is another 30 from there.

Garni temple Armenia
Temple of Garni, the only standing Greco-Roman colonnaded building in Armenia and the former Soviet Union

Garni is home to an old pagan temple.  It was thought to be built in the first century AD, as a temple dedicated to the sun god Mihr.  It’s really a unique site in Armenia, not only because of its structure, but also because of its beautiful setting at the top of a cliff, surrounded by mountains.

Geghard monastery Armenia
Geghard Monastery, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Kotayk province of Armenia

Geghard is one of the most spectacular monasteries in Armenia.  It’s a true architectural beauty!  The name “Geghard” means “spear”, as it is thought that the spear, which had wounded Jesus at the Crucifixion, was allegedly brought to Armenia by Apostle Jude, and stored here amongst many other relics.  What makes Geghard even more special is the fact that it is partially carved out of the adjacent mountain and its surrounded by cliffs.

Ski lift at Tsaghkadzor Armenia
Take the ski lift at the Tsaghkadzor ski resort to get a breathtaking view of the Kotayk Province of Armenia

Finally, make sure you stop by Tsaghkadzor, a spa town and one of the most popular health resorts in Armenia.  You can either indulge in one of the many different spas there, or make your way up the mountain on the ski lift.  Up there, you have beautiful views of the mountains and valleys.  A gorgeous spot!

Letters Monument, Amberd & Byurakan Observatory

This little trip will only take you a few hours, but it’s well worth it.  If you can, try doing it later in the afternoon so you can finish at the Observatory to see some stars.

Letters Monument Armenia
Find your initials at the Letters Monument in Artashavan, Armenia

First stop is the Letters Monument that was built in 2005, when the Armenian alphabet celebrated its 1600th birthday.  To commemorate the important date, a gift of 39 giant Armenian letters carved out of stone were erected near the final resting place of Mesrop Mashtots, who created the alphabet.

The Letters Monument is set against the beautiful backdrop of Mt. Aragats, the highest peak in Armenia.  This is a fun little stop to make, that shouldn’t take too long.  Make sure you find the letters of your name!

Amberd fortress Armenia
Amberd fortress, built in the 7th century in the province of Aragatsotn, Armenia.

Next, make your way to Amberd, the “cloud fortress” or fortress in the clouds.  This is a beautiful 7th century fortress overlooking a gorge on the cliffside of the mountains.  There, you will also find the 11th century Vahramashen Church, and a bath house dating between the 10th and 11th centuries.

This whole complex is located on the slopes of Mount Aragats, right where the Arkashen and Amberd rivers run.  The setting here is just beautiful, especially in the fall, when the leaves start changing colours.

Finally, check out Byurakan  Astrophysical  Observatory (or BAO) on a clear night.  The observatory was founded in 1946, and located on the slope of the mountain Aragatz.  The BAO focused its studies mainly on the instability phenomena taking place in the Universe.  You can contact the Observatory and set up a tour.  Entrance is just 1,000 dram (roughly $2USD).  But make sure you call before to confirm your tour, because it does depend on the weather.

Khor Virap, Areni Caves, Noravank

Get ready to step back in time on this tour.  The furthest point of this trip is about 2.5 hours away from Yerevan, so with long stops, this will be a full day of exploration.

Khor Virap is probably the most famous monastery in Armenia.  Not only does it offer beautiful views of Mount Ararat, but it’s also the birthplace of christianity in Armenia.  They say that Gregory the Illuminator was imprisoned in a pit here for 13 years by King Tiridates III of Armenia.

Khor Virap Mount Ararat Armenia
Khor Virap at the steps of Mount Ararat, Armenia

You can actually visit the pit where he was said to spent these years, surrounded by snakes and rats.  He is said to have survived by the grace of God and the help of the king’s sister.  When he got out, he became the religious advisor to the king, and in 301, Armenia was the first country in the world to be declared a Christian nation.  This is why Khor Virap is one of the most visited pilgrimage sites in Armenia.

Khor Virap from above Armenia
Khor Virap, said to have imprisoned Saint Gregory the Illuminator for 13 years, on the plains of Ararat, Armenia

Next, make your way to Areni, in Vayots Dzor.  This region is known for the production of wine, not only today, but centuries ago as well.  In 2007, the earliest known winery in the world was said to be found at the Areni-1 cave complex.  It was estimated to be 6100-years-old.  In 2008, the world’s oldest leather shoe was found.  Then in 2011, that the discovery of a straw skirt dating to 3,900 years BCE was reported.  It’s quite an impressive site to see.

Areni winery Armenia
Armenia is said to be the first place in the world to produce wine, if you ask an Armenian!

In the same region, you can go do some wine tastings.  We recommend you skip the Areni winery, where the lines are long and the wine is not so great.  Instead, head to Momik’s WineCube for some amazing wine in a lovely setting.  You can also opt to stop here after you’ve visited all the sites, all depending on what time it is, and how hungry you are… if you’re like us, that’s all the time!

Noravank Monastery Armenia_
The Noravank monastery, near the town of Yeghegnadzor, Armenia

Another awesome monastery to see that’s a few kilometres from the Areni-1 cave is Noravank.  This is a 13th-century monastery is known for its two-storey Surb Astvatsatsin church.  You can climb up to the second level by the narrow stone-made staircase jutting out from the face of building.  Luckily, there is a rope to help you up.  The setting of this monastery is gorgeous!  It’s in a narrow gorge forged by the Amaghu River.  The gorge is known for its tall, sheer, brick-red cliffs.  It’s a beautiful place.

Gyumri

There are many ways to get to Gyumri, but the most enjoyable and easy one is to take the new electric train.  This train only runs on weekends for now (including Friday).  From the main station in Yerevan, grab the 10am train to Gyumri.  Tickets cost 2,500 dram, or about $5 USD.  You’ll get there around noon.

Gyumri train station Armenia
Another example of why you should always look up. The chandelier at the Gyumri train station, Armenia

Gyumri is a beautiful city that is just building itself back after the 1988 earthquake.  It used to be the cultural centre of the country and strives to regain that title today.  Here, you can walk around Vartanants square, explore the beautiful Holy Saviour’s Church and the black fort.  There is also a market street by the church where you can by delicious local fare.

All saviors church Gyumri Armenia
Holy Saviour’s Church in Gyumri, Armenia

Right off the main square, there are a few beautiful pedestrian streets to stroll on.  Lined with bakeries, restaurants and shops, they are perfect to explore on a day trip.  And, if you have time to spare, check out Central Park, and the old soviet amusement park.  It’s a real trip back in time!

Gyumri Armenia
Gyumri was rocked by the 1988 earthquake, and though the effects still show today, the city feels rejuvenated!

If music or technology are your thing, then you can also check out the Tumo Center for Creative Technologies.  It offers free after-school education to local youth in areas such as music, robotics, computer programming, and a variety of other non-classical educational subjects.

Make sure you make it back to the train station before 5pm, to grab the train back to Yerevan.  You can also spend a night in Gyumri and take more time to explore the city.

Mount Aragats

Mount Aragats is Armenia’s highest peak, at 4,090 m.  It’s actually a four-peaked volcano massif that you can climb with the help of a tour guide.  The best time to hike this peak is between June and October, as the peak gets snowy and difficult.

If hiking is not your thing, you can drive up to Kari Lake and relax at the hotel and restaurant there.  During colder months, the restaurant is known for its khash soup.  This is a traditional Armenian soup made of cow hoof.  It’s eaten with copious amounts of garlic, lemon, lavash bread and vodka!

Etchmiadzin & Zvartnots temple

The route to Etchmiadzin is about 30-45 minutes away from Yerevan.  You can stop at Zvartnots on the way there or back.

Etchmiadzin Cathedral Armenia
Etchmiadzin Cathedral is like the Vatican for Armenians

It’s considered the mother church of the Armenian Apostolic Church.  According to many scholars, it’s the first cathedral built in ancient Armenia, in the early 4th century.  It’s considered to be the oldest cathedral in the world as well.  In 2000, it was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Zvartnots Cathedral, on the other hand, is a 7th-century cathedral.  Although it is now in ruins, it is a beautiful site to see.  It was only at the start of the 20th century that the ruins of Zvartnots were uncovered.  They discovered the foundations of the cathedral as well as the remains of the Catholicos palace and a winery.  After more excavations, it was revealed that Zvartnots stood on structures that dated back to 680 BC.

Both sites are quite close by and really beautiful to visit. Make sure you head out on a sunny day.

Longer trips

Some people may include these stops as part of a day trip, but they are quite far, so it makes for a really long day.  We’re talking about 12-14 hours.  You can do these separately or together, it’s totally up to you.  Just know that it is quite a journey!

Karahunj

Located on the route to Tatev, Karahunj, or Zorats Karer, is said to be the oldest astronomical observatory in the world!  This place is really magic.  Unlike Stonehenge which is blocked off, you can explore Karahunj freely.

Karahunj astronimical observatory Armenia

The site is made of six different parts, and a total of 223 stones of which 80 have a circular holes.  Studies showed that 17 of the stones were for observing sunrises or sunsets at the solstices and equinoxes, and 14 for the lunar extremes.

Karahunj stone Armenia
Many of the stones at Karahunj have these circular holes, used for viewing astrological phenomenons

This place is one of the coolest we’ve seen and you can really feel the energy when you’re there.  It’s a magical spot that is well-worth the visit.

Tatev

The route to Tatev will take about 3-4 hours from Yerevan.  Not only is Tatev a beautiful monastery, but it has a really cool mode of transportation to get there.  The Wings of Tatev!  This is the World’s longest reversible ropeway, measuring a whopping 5,752 m.  The views from the tramway are just epic!

Tatev Monastery Armenia
The Tatev monastery as seen from the Wings of Tatev, Armenia

The monastery, although under construction, is still a beautiful sight to behold.  Set on the edge of a cliff, it’s breathtaking.  And if you don’t want to see the church, that’s ok too!  You can go hiking in the area, do some wine-tasting, or even go paragliding!

Kndzoresk

Past Goris, Kndzoresk will take you 4-4.5 hours to get to.  Access to this site is not for the faint.  The swinging bridge to get here swings and bounces quite a lot.  But it’s quite awesome to see what’s on the other side.

Khndzoresk suspension bridge Armenia

Khndzoresk is a village and rural community in the South-East of Armenia, right by Goris.  It’s an old village built into the side of the mountains.  With caves and ruins for you to explore, it’s such a cool place.  Especially since it was inhabited until the 1950’s.

Yerevan is a great place to do these day trips from.  If you want to, you can also visit these spots on a continuous route as part of a 2-week Armenia road trip.  The possibilities are really endless.

What do you prefer? Long road trips or day trips from a home-base?  We like to have the option of doing either, mainly because we love road trips!


We put a lot of time and effort into the content we create.  Please like, comment and share, every action on your part helps us out tremendously and is very much appreciated.

Love our blog? Sign up to get our latest posts, and help keep our dream going

You can also help us by pinning it for others to find.


8 amazing day trips from Yerevan, Armenia's capital.  From churches, monasteries, astronomical sites, temples, Lake Sevan and so much more.  Here are all the amazing sites you can visit right from Yerevan.   www.wediditourway.com

 

15 things to do in Armenia that are not churches

Armenia is an ancient country, with tons to see and do. Most concentrate on the churches, but we found 15 awesome things that are not churches

Armenia!  This beautiful old country, full of history and wonder… and churches!  Not many people know where Armenia is, or can point to it on a map.  Things are slowly changing for this country as more and more people are starting to explore the Caucasus and adding Armenia to their list.  And we can’t blame them.  Armenia is awesome!

Being the first country in the world to accept Christianity as a state religion in AD 301, it’s no surprise that most famous sites here are churches.  Impressive, we know, but there is so much more to this magical place than see the monasteries!  So here are the top 15 things to see and do in Armenia that are not churches.

Karahunj astronomical observatory

Welcome to what is suspected to be the oldest astronomical observatory in the world!  Before Stonehenge, there was Karahunj, or Zorats Karer.  It’s a prehistoric archaeological site near the town of Sisian.  As its name indicates, these are Speaking Stones or Standing Stones.

Karahunj astronimical observatory Armenia
The impressive sight of Karahunj, near Sisian, Armenia

The site is made of six different parts: the central circle, the north arm, the south arm, North-East alley, the chord (crossing the circle) and separate standing stones.  There are a total of 223 stones of which 80 have a circular holes.  After many studies, it was found that 17 of the stones were associated with observations of sunrise or sunset at the solstices and equinoxes, and 14 with the lunar extremes.

There is so much history and mystic coolness associated with this place.  It’s almost like you can feel the energy when you’re there.  We highly recommend you stop by on your way to Tatev.

Wings of Tatev

Ok, this one is kind of part of a church, but not really!  The Wings of Tatev are the record holder for the World’s longest reversible ropeway, at 5,752 m.  With epic views over the valley, this ropeway will take you to the beautiful Tatev Monastery.  If you don’t want to see the church, that’s ok too!  You can go hiking in the area, do some wine-tasting, or even go paragliding!

Tatev gorge Armenia
The epic view from the platform of the Wings of Tatev, Armenia

Khndzoresk

Access to this site requires a strong heart.  The swinging bridge to get to the caves is not for the faint.  Be warned that this guy swings and bounces quite a lot.  But if you can get across, it’s quite awesome!

Khndzoresk is a village and rural community in the South-East of Armenia, right by Goris.  There, you have an amazing view of the steep slopes of Khor Dzor (Deep Gorge).

Khndzoresk is an old village that has been built into the side of the mountains.  With caves and ruins still up for you to explore, it’s quite a site.  It’s such a cool place and well worth the detour if you go to Tatev, Goris or Artsakh.  It was inhabited until the 1950’s.  How freakin’ cool!

The climb down to the bridge is long (even longer on the way up).  You can take a taxi to get back to the main road, though if you’re slightly fit, you don’t need to.  The steps there make it a pretty easy hike.

Explore Armenia’s traditions on a tour

Armenia is a beautiful country full of natural riches and traditions.  We had a great time doing various tours of the some of the countries exports.  The typical tour is a wine tasting.  The Areni region is known for producing great wines, so find a wine you like and go do a wine tasting at their vineyards.  If wine is not your thing, then you can head to the Ararat brandy distillery and get a crash course in the tradition of brandy making in Armenia.

Megerian carpet company music phonograph
The beautiful rugs at Megerian Carpet factory, in Yerevan, Armenia

Next, you have the traditional carpet making tour.  We had a great time exploring the Megerian Carpet factory near Yerevan.  We learned how they make these carpets with the traditional Armenian double knot, visited their museum and warehouse, and so much more.  It was super interesting.

And finally, for those who love natural and organic cosmetic products, you can tour the beautiful Nairian lab and production facility.  We had a wonderful time seeing what plants and herbs are used to make their natural products.  They even have a shop where you can try and buy these.

Shaki waterfalls

This little waterfall is just magic.  You need to hike a short 5 minutes to get to it, but it is gorgeous.  Lush and abundant, it’s somewhat surprising to find this waterfall in an arid Armenia.  But there it is, tucked in a beautiful natural setting, on your way to Tatev.

Shaki waterfall Armenia
The beautiful Shaki waterfalls in Armenia

There are plenty of tables and places to hang out before getting to the waterfall, so do as the locals do and set up a little BBQ.  It’s the perfect setting to take in the surrounding beauty.  Unlike the locals, pick up your trash when you leave.  This place is too beautiful not to care for it.

Hike the trails

Armenia is slowly getting noticed for its amazing hiking trails.  Through valleys, mountains and beautiful scenery, there are so many trails that run deep through this country.

Dilijan khatchkar Armenia
The beautiful hikes in Dilijan, where the Transcaucasian Trail passes

Whether you want to do multi-day hikes, a loop circuit or get from point A to B, there is something for everyone.  For those looking for a challenge, you can hike up Mount Aragats or Mount Aghzahad.  There are beautiful lush forest hikes in the Dilijan National Park, what we call the “Switzerland of Armenia”.  You can even hike to different countries on the Transcaucasian Trail.  To find the best hikes, check out HikeArmenia’s website.

Mt. Ara Armenia
Mt. Ara, one of the many mountain hikes you can do in Armenia

Eat. A lot.

In case you didn’t know, the food in Armenia is just delicious.  Most of the produce is grown locally, and cooked with care.  In fact, cooking and food are an important part of Armenian culture.  If you know any Armenians, even if they are not living in Armenia, chances are, every time you see them, they try to offer you insane amounts of food to eat.  Yeah, we all have that in common!

So if you want a good glimpse the beautiful and generous culture of this country, we highly recommend you eat as much as you can.  Prices are low, and the food is so delicious!

Here are some of our favourite dishes.  Obviously, we prioritize the vegetarian ones (or versions):

  • Lavash:  This traditional Armenian bread is a staple of every meal. Thin and cooked in a tonir (clay barrel).
  • Eggplant rolls:  Grilled eggplant, rolled with a mix of cheese, dill and walnuts, sprinkled with pomegranate. Yum!
  • Vegetarian manti:  Manti is a traditional Armenian dumpling (ish), served with broth and yogurt.  They have the non-vegetarian version too.
  • Cheese platter:  Simple, but the locals cheese here are amazing. Derek’s new favourite is Lori cheese, the perfect mix of squeaky and salty.
  • Garden salad:  Another simple dish, but when the veggies are this fresh, it’s delicious!
  • Lahmajoon: Also known as Armenian pizza. It’s a thin dough covered in meat.  Some places have the vegetarian lahmajoon, if not, go for the za’tar!
  • Khorovats:  Basically, this means BBQ.  The veggies, the meats, it’s all delicious!
  • Gata:  A typical Armenian coffee cake.  Each family and city makes it a certain way.  Regardless of how it’s made, it’s delicious, especially when it’s fresh out the oven!
  • Surjukh:  Known as Armenian Snickers, this dessert is a string of walnuts dipped into a mixture of fruit juices and spices, then dried.  You’ll find them sold at groceries, on the side of the highway, and at major tourist sites.

Take in the art

Armenians have always been a very artistic culture.  It’s no surprise that we dance, sing and play music, every chance we get!  There are art museums, galleries, statues and street art around every corner of major cities.  At most tourist sites, you will find a local painter selling his art, or a musician playing traditional Armenian songs.

PaintersVernissageYerevanArmenia
Find beautiful paintings at the Painter’s vernissage in Yerevan

In Yerevan, you are spoiled.  You can find any type of gallery, museum or handcraft.  If you want to get traditional pieces, ranging from household goods, to jewellery, painting to instruments and so much more, head to Vernissage or the Painters’ vernissage.

Walking around the streets, you’ll also find statues on almost every street in Yerevan.  You can take in the beautiful art installations at Cascade.  Even Cascade itself is a beautiful piece of art, with stunning views of Ararat!  If you’re lucky, you may spot some cool street art around the city too.

Musical nights

Whether you are into the ballet, the opera or musical performances, you can always find tons going on, especially in Yerevan.  From the National troupes, to local musicians, from jazz shows to traditional Armenian classics and funky rock/Armenian fusion, there are shows going on nightly in certain bars around the city, at the National Opera or in coffeeshops.

Opera Yerevan Armenia
Home to musical performance and ballet, Opera in Yerevan, Armenia

Honour the past at Tsitsernakaberd

Armenia has quite a bloody past.  Although it is working hard to move past it, it’s still important to recognize what happened over 100 years ago.  That’s why, no tour of Armenia would be complete without visiting Tsitsernakaberd, the Armenian Genocide memorial complex.   This is Armenia’s official memorial dedicated to the victims of the Armenian Genocide of 1915.  The monument was built in 1967, which is quite rare to see from the strict Soviet regime, and a trip there is quite moving.

Tsitesnagerb Yerevan Armenia
The stele and slabs of Tsitsernakaberd

The monument is made of 2 structures.  First, there is a 44-meter stele that symbolizes the national rebirth of Armenians.  Then, you have 12 slabs placed in a circle to represent the 12 provinces lost in present-day Turkey.  At the centre of this circle, there is an eternal flame dedicated to the 1.5 million people killed during the Armenian Genocide.

Eternal flame at tsitesnagerb Yerevan Armenia
The eternal flame, in the heart of Tsitsernakaberd

On the same hill, you have the genocide museum.  It is a brutal recounting of the atrocities that the Armenian people endured during the Genocide.  It is a stark reminder of the cruelty humans are capable of, and moreover, it’s a warning sign to ensure no such atrocities are ever committed again.

Byurakan astronomical observatory

Byurakan  Astrophysical  Observatory (or BAO) was founded in 1946.  Located on the slope of the mountain Aragatz, Armenia’s highest peak, the observatory focused its studies mainly on the instability phenomena taking place in the Universe.  Since its opening, the observatory has discovered special star clusters – stellar associations (1947), more than 1,000 flare stars, dozens of Supernovae, hundreds of Herbig-Haro objects and cometary nebulae, and hundreds of galaxies.  However, after the breakup of the Soviet Union, the observatory fell into hard times.

It still runs today, and it’s possible for you to visit the observatory on clear nights.  It’s quite an experience to see the telescopes, get a sense of how things work and gaze at our beautiful galaxy.  A must for any astronomy fans!

Soviet amusement parks

In most major cities, mainly Yerevan and Gyumri, you will find these old soviet amusement parks.  They are a mix of scary, thrilling and creepy!  But they are kind of fun to check out, if only to wonder how these rides are still operating, and if they’re still up to code!

Certain rules are stricter than in other parks, like you can’t bump the bumper cars, but you’re sure to have some fun.  If you want a real thrill, we suggest heading up the ferris wheel, that creaks and sways with the wind, or with the slightest movement!

Another cool timepiece left from the soviet era is the children’s railway station in Yerevan.  The station itself looks like a castle out of a fairytale.  The trains and locomotives sitting in the back yard are also pretty cool.  If you’re lucky, you may just get there when the trains are operating and you can go for a little ride with the kids.

Chill by the water

Armenia is a very arid and mountainous country, but there are some places you can relax by the water.  Being a landlocked country, don’t expect to see any oceanic beaches, but you will find some beautiful lakes!

First is the beautiful Parz Lake.  When you come to Armenia, you have to visit Dilijan.  Nestled in the mountains covered with lush forest, Dilijan is truly a unique place.  Your trip there would not be complete without driving (or hiking) through the Dilijan national park, making your way to Lake Parz.  There, you will find a lovely restaurant, a floating restaurant, as well as a ropes course, for those who need more action.

Wediditourway Parz Lake Dilijan national park Armenia
The beautiful Parz Lake with its changing leaves, Dilijan, Armenia

Then, you have the famous Lake Sevan.  This is the largest body of water in Armenia.  Sure, there’s a monastery at the top of the peninsula, but that’s not what we’re here for today!  There are tons of cafes, restaurants and bars around the lake.  If not, you can do as the locals and set up camp by the shores, make your own BBQ and take in the beauty of this massive lake.  If you’re brave enough, you can also jump in, but be warned, because the water is always cold!

Lake Sevan Armenia
Lake Sevan, Armenia’s largest body of water

Finally, there is Kari Lake, at Mount Aragats.  This lake is by a hotel and restaurant, renown for serving khash, a traditional Armenian soup made of cow hoof.  The lake is also the starting point for hiking Mount Aragats.  It’s a beautiful lake, and if you don’t want to hike all the way up to the peaks of the mountain, you can go until the top of the nearby crater.

Go fortress hunting

There are a ton of fortresses around Armenia, all quite old and full of history!  Luckily, the main ones are near Yerevan.

The first is Erebuni fortress, located just outside the city centre.  Some also call it Arin Berd.  It is an Urartian fortified city and one of many fortresses built along the northern Urartian border, dating back to 782 BC.  This place used to be one of the most important political, economic and cultural centres of the vast old kingdom.

Next, you have Amberd fortress, which literally translates to “Cloud fortress” or Fortress in the clouds.  This 7th century fortress is located on the slopes of Mount Aragats, right where the Arkashen and Amberd rivers run.  It’s a beautiful fortress, overlooking a gorge on the cliffside of the mountains.

Amberd fortress Armenia
Amberd fortress in Armenia

Finally, you have Smbataberd, a 5th century fortress located between the villages of Artabuynk and Yeghegis in the Vayots Dzor.  You will notice that Smbataberd was built in a very advantageous position.  It’s on the southern end of a ridge, guarded by steep cliffs on three of its sides. Its large ramparts with its towers are still relatively intact on the exterior, making it quite a site to see.

Celebrate

If there’s one thing Armenians know how to do well (ok, it’s one of the many things they do well), it’s party.  You already know they love to sing and dance, well, they also like to celebrate while they’re doing that!  During our 7 weeks in Armenia, we saw fireworks at least 4 times.  That’s almost every other week!  For the best parties, be sure to be in Yerevan.


During national celebrations, the city’s streets shut down, becoming pedestrian walkways.  There are concerts, shows and kiosks all around the capital, all for free.  Street performers, bands, face painting, and of course, fireworks!  Expect to have a ton of fun during these days!

Not only are national holidays cause for celebration, but you will find tons of bars, clubs and wine bars where you can get the party started any day of the week.  If you want to experience the real Armenian joie-de-vivre, we highly recommend you head out for a night on the town!

Although the history of Armenia is very rich, and that churches are an intricate part of it, there is much more to the country than some of what the traditional tours offer.  These churches and monasteries are beautiful, and true architectural wonders, having stood through wars, earthquakes and the tests of time.  But if you want to truly discover all the beauty of this ancient country, we recommend going off the beaten path and seeing the other beauties it offers.


We put a lot of time and effort into the content we create.  Please like, comment and share, every action on your part helps us out tremendously and is very much appreciated.

Love our blog? Sign up to get our latest posts, and help keep our dream going

You can also help us by pinning it for others to find.


Discover the 15 top things to do in Armenia that are not churches. From hikes, food, arts and so much more.  www.wediditourway.com

Armenian carpets – thousands of years in the making

The tradition of making rugs in Armenia dates back to pre-Christian times, nearly 30 centuries ago. The Megerian Carpet Company showed us just how it is done. Come see for yourselves!

We live in a world of products largely made in China, by people in conditions we can’t even fathom.  Or by machines that are quickly killing manufacturing jobs around the globe.  So when we were invited to the Megerian Carpet Company‘s factory in Yerevan, Armenia, we were really excited.  It was with great pride that they shared with us the history and beauty of their company.

For over 100 years, the Megerian family, originally from Armenia and now living in New York City, have been producing unique, handmade rugs and carpets.  They are made from local wool, and dyed with local Armenian ingredients.  That is why they last for centuries.

Armenian rug natural dyes wool Megerian
Natural dyes sourced in Armenia

The tradition of making rugs in Armenia dates back to pre-Christian times, nearly 30 centuries ago.  We were taught that Armenian rugs can be identified by their unique Armenian double knots.

They even had one of their workers show Carine how it is done.  They told her that all Armenian women should know how to weave this special knot before they get married, something I wish I had known 3 plus years ago!

She couldn’t quite keep up the pace so, needless to say, she won’t be quitting her day job anytime soon… oh wait, she doesn’t have a day job!

They showed and told us a few things that really blew our minds.  Most of their work is done with sheep’s wool.  Each square metre of carpet has 160,000 Armenian double knots.  It takes them between 35-40 days to weave a small rug, and between 6 to 9 months for larger rugs.  They make some rugs that are 100-square metres, so just imagine how long those must take!

They also make rugs from silk, which can have up to 1 million double knots per square metre!  How crazy is that.

Armenian rug Megerian carpet company museum 4
A special carpet with an amazing story

As they brought us through their rug museum, we were shown the rug pictured above.  The story behind it was simply amazing.  Made over 160 years ago in Armenia, you can see in the picture that it was ripped in half down the middle.  At the time of the Armenian genocide a mother ripped in two, wrapping each of her two daughters in it.

They were split up in the chaos that was the genocide.  The mother’s wish was that one day, her daughters be reunited.  60 years later, they finally were, and the rug was stitched back together.

The Megerian carpet company weaved a handful of rugs commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide.  They gifted them to prominent figures such as Pope Francis, Serj Tankian of System of a Down and the late Charles Aznavour.

They even have a reception area where they host weddings and special events.  They also have a restaurant that can feed hundreds of the visitors who come to their facilities, like we did.

We were blown away by our tour of the Megerian Carpet Company, their history, their craftsmanship, their dedication, and of course their beauty.  But don’t just take our word, take a look for yourself!


We put a lot of time and effort into the content we create.  Please like, comment and share, every action on your part helps us out tremendously and is very much appreciated.

Love our blog? Sign up to get our latest posts, and help keep our dream going

You can also help us by pinning it for others to find.


Armenian carpets - thousands of years in the making - www-wediditourway-com.png