If you are already in Armenia, plan your days for an unforgivable journey. Therefore, wake up early in the morning, enjoy a healthy breakfast with honey, dairy, and sun-kissed fruits before heading out. It will keep you full for a while. And, if you get hungry, no worries – Armenia is one of the places where you can have endless variety of healthy and delicious meals.
You sure have already enjoyed Yerevan: walked in spectacular places, visited museums, listened to the exciting open-air evening concerts, tasted red dry wine and had a delicious dinner on Saryan Street. Today, we will continue our journey towards Kotayk Province to visit the only standing monument to have survived from the Greco-Roman period- the pagan Temple of Garni dedicated to the God of Sun and the Geghardavank monastery.
The 1st century pagan temple of Garni and Geghard Monastery complex are both UNESCO heritage sites. These two landmarks are located in the same province and are very close to each other.
Temple of Garni
First, let’s go to Garni. By the way, the road to the temple has recently been renovated and a special status has been granted to that area. That is, the road service will be permanent in all the months of the year, which means that even in frosty winter, you will get there without any problems very quickly in 20 minutes from Yerevan. The distance is about 25km.
The pagan temple in Garni Fortress Complex is the only one that has survived to our days. In the 4th century, when Christianity was adopted, all the pagan constructions were destroyed. Only Garni was preserved, which, according to the historical facts, was built in the 2nd century. The fortress-complex is located in the Kotayk Province of Armenia, on the right coast of the Azat River. In the neighborhood, there is a village of the same name, where in autumn people make sweet sujuk (sujuk is an Armenian sweet made with nuts and special syrup).
History testifies that in the 1st century Roman troops destroyed the temple but in the year 77, one of the Armenian kings restored the palace and the temple, transforming the complex into a military station and a royal summer residence.
The temple of Garni is famous for its unique architectural style and particularly impressive ornaments.
To the west of the temple, on the edge of the canyon is the hall of the palace, a little further is the royal bath considered one of the most interesting examples of the Armenian architecture. Especially noticeable is the mosaic floor, depicting an episode from the Greek mythology.
Now let’s continue to Geghardavank. It will take 15 minute drive to reach Geghardavank from the Temple of Garni.
Along the road, there are wonderful views of mountains covered with forests, trails, springs, and rivers. Upon your arrival at Geghardavank you will feel the smell of sweet gata ( traditional Armenian cake) and sweet sudjuk (a string of syrup coated walnut halves) which extends from the counters below the entrance of the monastery. The sounds of the Armenian duduk, zurna and dhol will also indicate there has been a wedding ceremony in the monastery.
Geghard is a unique monastery carved from an entire rock. The historical facts prove that the monastery was built during the 4th century after Armenia adopted Christianity as a state religion.
Geghard means spear in Armenian. According to the legend, the monastery housed the sacred spear by which the Roman soldier Longin pierced the side of Jesus at the crusifixion.
In the end, do not forget to throw a coin in a natural well at the monastery and make a wish.