Little Armenia convinces with great landscapes. Views between the Ararat and the Caucasus, green valleys and lonely mountain villages attract vacationers with a sense for something special. The country is not yet on the major tourist maps, but the old monasteries and churches in particular are definitely worth a visit and allow an insight into the diverse culture. The region was also shaped by the legendary Silk Road.
Top 10 Sights in Armenia
As one of countries starting with letter A featured by COUNTRYAAH, Armenia is considered the oldest Christian country in the world. Accordingly, Armenia is rich in cultural sites, churches, monasteries and UNESCO World Heritage Sites. But also the beautiful nature of Armenia can be admired from the many rocky outcrops and mountains and offers impressive panoramas.
In the following we present our TOP 10 sights for Armenia. These are not necessarily the most famous places or the most visited attractions. Even beyond these highlights, Armenia has many places worth seeing.
10TH PLACE: ROCK ART FROM UGHTASAR
You have to take on a lot to be able to see the pictures carved in stone, so-called petroglyphs, because they are located in the Armenian highlands at an altitude of about 3,000 meters. The stone blocks originally come from the extinct volcano Ughtasar. The predominant motif are goats and other animals, but also hunting scenes and people. The age of the petroglyphs cannot be precisely dated, but it is estimated that they date from the 4th – 3rd millennium BC.
9TH PLACE: ZORAKARER
This square has a long history that begins as early as the Bronze Age (20th – 16th centuries BC). The many burial chambers, some of which are considerable for that time, date from this era. Valuable grave goods could be found in some of these resting places. Zorakarer, also known as Karahundsch, has another eye-catching sight to offer: More than 200 upright boulders can be found here. A little younger than the graves, but at least as exciting. About 40 of these megaliths form a circle. The meaning of the “Armenian Stonehenge” is still unclear, but it is believed that the 7,500 year old structure was used for astronomical purposes.
8TH PLACE: THE GORIS ROCK CAVES
At first glance, Goris is just a very young city, built up like a chessboard and home to around 20,000 inhabitants. Goris itself is rather unspectacular and devoid of great historical significance. But on the outskirts of the city, which is 1,300 meters high, you can discover many small caves that have been carved into the rocks by humans. Back then, and until the middle of the 20th century, these caves served as shelter and protection for people. This can be seen even better in the widely branched dwellings of the cave settlement in Khndzoresk, not far from Goris.
7TH PLACE: GEGHARD MONASTERY
One of the most beautiful monasteries in the Caucasus is the Geghard cave monastery, only 40 km from the capital Yerevan. The UNESCO World Heritage is known for its exceptional acoustics. This beautiful monastery is located in a gorge, surrounded by trees and towering cliffs. The monastery churches and chapels, some of which were carved into the rock face, are particularly impressive. On the discovery tour through the complex you can discover artistic carvings and decorations.
6TH PLACE: THE TEMPLE OF GARNI
An approx. 5 km long hiking trail leads through the beautiful surrounding nature from the Geghard monastery to the temple of Garni. Here you can reach the small temple from the first century with its magnificent basalt columns on a ledge. In contrast to the many Christian buildings in Armenia, this structure is of pagan culture. During excavations in the vicinity, a Roman bath house with a stall made of mosaics has been discovered. This suggests the Roman imperial period.
5TH PLACE: ECHMIADZIN
Only 20 km west of Yerevan is the city of Edzhmiadzin, which nowadays officially bears the name Vagharschapat again. The city was the capital of the country from the 2nd to the 4th centuries and is still considered the religious center of Armenia today.
There are several churches in the town of 50,000 people, the most famous and important of which is the Etchmiadzin Cathedral. This cathedral was consecrated in 303 and was built on the foundations of a pagan temple. It is considered the first Christian church to be built by a state.
4TH PLACE: TATEV
At our place 4 it is difficult to decide whether the monastery itself or the cable car that leads to the monastery is the bigger attraction.
The Tatev Monastery is located in the south of Armenia, about 250 km from Yerevan. It was built high up on a hard-to-reach rock and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The monastery from the 9th century consists of three churches, the Peter and Paul Church being the oldest and most important of the complex.
The associated Tatev cable car has spanned 5750 meters between Halidsor and Tatev since 2010. It is the longest aerial tramway in the world that connects two places without stopping. Hence they are also called the Tatev wings. During the 11-minute drive over the Worotan Gorge you are up to 500 meters high in the air and have a fantastic view of the green valleys.
3RD PLACE: THE YEREVAN CASCADE
Like many other cities, the capital Yerevan has gradually grown together from several places. Due to the difference in height between the city center and the residential areas to the north, something special had to be thought of for the connection. This was done by the city architect Alexander Tamanyan, who created the designs for this gigantic staircase in the 1930s. The 50 meter wide and 450 meter high architectural masterpiece was only built between the late 1970s and 2009. Those who climb the 572 stairs are rewarded with a wonderful view over the city and Mount Ararat.
Today the cascade officially bears the name “Cafesjian Center for the Arts”, because Gerard Cafesjian invested in this building in order to develop it into a museum for modern art and to present his own collection there. In front of the stairs there are sculptures in the open air and on each of the four levels there are various works by artists from all over the world. Well-tended green spaces and creative planting round off the atmosphere at this popular meeting point.
2ND PLACE: LAKE SEVAN
The largest freshwater lake in the Caucasus lies at an altitude of around 2,000 meters and is called the “Blue Pearl” of Armenia or the “Armenian Sea”. The gigantic lake is over 75 km long and 55 km wide. Since the 1930s the lake has lost a lot of water due to excessive water abstraction, but more water is fed back into the lake through a tunnel system so that the water level slowly rises again.
The lake, located on the border with Azerbaijan, also plays an important ecological role, because the Sevan Trout and the endemic Armenian seagull make their home here.
A special highlight is the Sevan Monastery or Sevanavank, which is located on a peninsula in the lake. The monastery was founded in the 9th century and was considered a kind of penal monastery for sinful monks or disgraced nobles.
1ST PLACE: CHOR VIRAP
Chor Virap means “deep hole in the ground” or “deep dungeon”. According to legend, Gregory the Illuminator was founded by King Trdat III in the 3rd century. locked in a cave when he wanted to spread Christianity in today’s Armenia. The king fell ill over 13 years later. Since Gregory was able to heal him miraculously, Christianity was made the state religion by the king and the first Christianization of a country took place. To commemorate this legend, a chapel and later a small monastery were built on this site in the 17th century. From the cathedral there are two holes in the floor from where you can look into the cave dungeon and even go down a ladder.
On a clear day from the monastery you have a fantastic view of the Ararat, the holy mountain of the Armenians, which is located on Turkish territory. A deserved first place and a must-see in Armenia!