6 Awe-Inspiring Armenian Monasteries That You Should Visit

Photo of Ioanna Sakellaraki
10 November 2016

Immerse yourself in Armenian culture and history dating back centuries by visiting some of the most amazing monasteries perched into various canyons and mountain tops of this country. With significant architectural and historical importance, as well as religious spirituality, Armenian monasteries are some of the most well-known masterpieces of cultural heritage to be seen in the world.

Armenia | © Gregor Samsa/Flickr


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Geghard Monastery
Geghard Monastery | © IoannaSakellaraki
Half cathedral and half cave, this is one of the oldest Armenian monasteries dating back to 800 years ago. Dimly lit with narrow windows and passages, Geghard stands in a steep scenic canyon near the city of Garni, where the holy Temple of Garni is also located. Legend has it that it was found during the 4th century with the ancient cave churches dating back to the 7th century. Some very eye-catching arched chapels and monastic cells as well as the typical Armenian khatchkars (stones with elaborate engravings representing a cross) are to be found in here. The monastery is a historically unique place with amazing acoustics, especially inside the cave churches.


Map View
Tatev Monastery
Tatev Monastery | ©Ioanna Sakellaraki
Located in a province named Syunik in southeastern Armenia, Tatev is one of the most magnificent architectural and spiritual attractions of Armenia. Built on a fairy-tale natural fortress of rock perched on the edge of a deep gorge, the Vorotan Canyon, Tatev dates back to 9th century. The views from the Wings of Tatev cable cars, which offer an amazing crossing over the breathtaking valley, reach until the peaks of Nagorno-Karabakh, lost in the mists of another era.


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Haghpat Monastery
Haghpat Monastery | © IoannaSakellaraki
On the lip of Debed Canyon, this is a spiritual pearl of distinguishing Armenian medieval architecture founded by Queen Khosrovanush in the year 976, and is today part of UNESCO World Heritage. The principal motif consists of the chief monastery temples forming integral, interconnected entities in a harmonious architectural balance embracing the monastery’s spiritual character. Various ornamented khachkars of unique identity are found here adding to the charming composition of the complex.

Khor Virap

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Khor Virap Monastery
Khor Virap Monastery | © IoannaSakellaraki
30 km away from Yerevan, Khor Virap is an iconic Armenian monastery and pilgrimage site at the foot of Mt Ararat located on a hillock close to Araks River. The story goes that King Trdan III imprisoned Grigor Luisavorich (St. Gregory the Illuminator) for 13 years in a well until the Saint miraculously cured the King from madness. This fact led to the conversion of the king to Christianity and therefore of the whole Armenian nation, which was the first officially Christian nation in the world in the year 301. A strongly spiritual pilgrimage with some of the most scenic views of Mt Ararat, Khor Virap is a must visit.


Monastery, Ruins
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Noravank Monastery
Noravank Monastery | © IoannaSakellaraki
A 13th century monastery not far from Yerevan, located in a gorge near the Armenian city of Yeghegnadzor, Noravank was founded in 1205 by Bishop Hovhannes and was restored in the 1990s. There is a beautiful viewpoint to the holy ruins and the surrounding view, seen by climbing up the external stone staircase between the compound walls to reach the second floor of the complex. Consisting of different towerlike churches, Noravank is the masterpiece of the architect Monik. The real meaning of its name is ‘’New Monastery’’.


Church, Monastery
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Sanahin Monastery
Sanahin Monastery | © IoannaSakellaraki
A fascinating monastery and church complex dating back as early as 928 with later buildings being gradually constructed between 1062 and 1211, Sanahin literally translates from the Armenian language to ‘this one is older than that one’, probably meaning to compare Sanahin with its as old neighboring Haghpat monastery. Numerous ancient graves and medieval style chapels as well as khachkars can be seen while wandering around this extremely fascinating historical complex.

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