Off-the-beaten-track highlights

In the central provinces Around Gavar The most important site in the vicinity of Gavar is the field of khachkars at Noratus but for those who enjoy visiting small village churches there are a number of some interest in and around Gavar. Although the churches are often locked the key holder can usually be found…

Tatev Monastery

© Norayr Grigoryan, Unsplash According to legend, the architect couldn’t get down when he finished the cupola of the main church. He cried out: ‘Togh astvats indz ta-tev’, which means ‘May God give me wings’. And so the monastery got its name. Syunik’s best-known historical site, Tatev Monastery, is dramatically situated on the cliffs above…

Etchmiadzin

Etchmiadzin Cathedral, the spiritual centre of the Armenian Apostolic Church © Deirdre Holding Officially Vagharshapat since 1995, yet still almost universally referred to by its old name, Etchmiadzin is Armenia’s fourth most populous city. The central square is Komitas Square, where a statue of Komitas by the same Yervand Kochar responsible for the eagle at Zvartnots…

Noravank

Noravank, or ‘New Monastery’, is set against a dramatic mountainous background, particularly striking in the winter © Hovhannes Boranyan, Shutterstock This is one of Armenia’s best known and most worthwhile tourist sights. Noravank’s construction in red stone set against the similarly coloured rock of the mountainside is particularly evocative in the early morning or late evening…

Yerevan

Arabkir Church, Yerevan © Nasser Ansari-Yer Yerevan is the cultural and financial capital of Armenia and has in recent years developed into a pleasant, thriving and visitor-friendly hub of cosmopolitan life. Armenia’s rapidly modernising capital sits at the foot of the mountains on the edge of the Ararat plain, straddling the gorge of the Hrazdan…

Selim Caravanserai

The long building was constructed of basalt and has only a single entrance at one end for better defence against thieves © Tom Allen With a fantastic setting below the Selim Pass, this is undoubtedly one of the best-preserved caravanserai in the world. Also referred to as Orbelian’s Caravanserai after the dynasty who built it, Selim Caravanserai…

Geghard Monastery

Various stone-carved detail on the side of the Geghard Monastery © Adrian Chan Visiting Geghard on a Sunday morning is an enthralling experience with beautiful singing from the choir. One of the great sites of Armenia and on the UNESCO World Heritage list since 2000, Geghard (Spear) Monastery in its gorge setting should ideally be seen…

Tigranakert

The impressive fortress is the centrepiece of Tigranakert © Lukasz Z, Shutterstock Founded by Tigran the Great, this excavated ancient city and fortress are well worth a visit. A medieval fortress sits at the foot of the dramatic site of the ancient city of Tigranakert, founded by Tigran the Great (ruled c95–55BC). Behind the medieval…

Dadivank

Dadivank is notable for its exceedingly complex layout © Maria Oleinik Dadivank, one of the largest medieval Christian monastery complexes in the region, is on the northern route to Armenia from Nagorno Karabagh. It is traditionally believed to be on the site of the grave of St Thaddeus who was martyred in the 1st century…

Makaravank

Makaravank is home to a number of fine carvings © Adrian Chan  Spectacularly located on the side of Mount Paytatar, this fine monastery is home to one of the country’s most impressive stone carvings.  Makaravank, on the slopes of Mount Paytatar, is beautifully situated with fine views over the Aghstev Valley and into Azerbaijan. It…