5 reasons to visit Garni temple and Geghard monastery
1. Drive from Yerevan
The short 45 minutes’ drive from Yerevan to Garni is an ideal day trip form the capital or the perfect way to adjust to Armenian driving.
As you approach Yerevan’s periphery, wide boulevards turn into windy roads, and the traffic gets lighter. Behind every curve, you’ll be greeted by beautiful scenery and amazing Ararat views.
2. Last remaining pagan shrine
Just 29 kilometers (18 miles) outside Yerevan, located on a natural plateau overlooking a stunning gorge, you’ll find the last witness of Armenian pre-Christian era.
Garni is the easternmost Greco-Roman temple in the World and the only remaining pagan shrine in former Soviet Union. The structure dates back to the 1st century AD. The view over the surroundings is breathtaking as well. The “Symphony of the Stones,” basalt columns carved by Azat river into a cliff, is visible from the temple’s park.
Good to know: The entrance fee is 1 500 AMD (as of May 2019). During our trip, Garni was the only sight accepting credit cards. There are several restaurants around the temple. We tried the Merojakh family restaurant with an unobstructed view of the valley.
3. Chasing the light in Geghard
If you follow the Azat river for another 10 kilometers, the road will lead you to one of the three UNESCO World heritage sights of Armenia, the Geghard monastery.
The religious complex is cut into a rock. Khachkars, Armenian stone crosses, decorate the monastery’s natural walls and amplify the medieval architecture experience.
After walking into the main chapel, look for a beam of sunlight entering through the oculus in the ceiling.
As the earth moves, the light wanders through the chapel, illuminating the carvings until it reaches the flames of countless candles in a divine moment. You can light some candles yourself. They are available in monastery’s religious shop.
4. History and legends
Legend has it that Gregory the Illuminator founded Geghard in the 4th century. The monastery became famous throughout time for housing important relics.
The most famous is the spear that wounded Jesus Christ during crucifixion. It gave the monastery its Armenian name: “The Monastery of the Spear.” Nowadays, the legendary lance is kept in the museum of Echmiadzin.
5. Golden hour Azat river valley
If you don’t want to drive back to Yerevan for the night, opt for a B&B and enjoy the beautiful view over the wild valley. We stayed at B&B 3Gs in Goght. The lovely property with an adjacent camping site is a perfect place to relax after a long sightseeing day.
Tip: Few restaurants along the Geghard Monastery Road offer Armenian dishes. We enjoyed the food and a vista over the valley at Lavash Bakery.
Traveling in Armenia
Check out more information about Armenia
– Yerevan: The Pink Capital
– Garni and Geghard: Medival beauties close to Yerevan
– Sevan Lake and Armenian Stonehenge: Traveling to the South
– Tatev: Monastery on the edge of a deep gorge
– Noravank, Areni and Khor Virap: History and wine
– Practical tips for traveling