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Armenia

Main attractions

Khor Virap monastery and Ararat mountain, Armenia
Khor Virap monastery and Ararat mountain / Andrew Behesnilian, / CC BY-SA 3.0

In spite of its small size Armenia has quite a few surprising landmarks. Highlights of this country are:

  • Some of the oldest churches and Christian monasteries in the world. The oldest state built cathedrals and churches are found in Armenia - this was the first country to adopt the Christianity in 301 AD and soon after were built the first large churches, basing on older construction and art traditions. The first and most important is Etchmiadzin Cathedral, originally built in 303 AD, rebuilt in 480 AD.
  • Archaeological heritage, mainly - cyclopean fortresses, mysterious megaliths and cliff carvings. Most of the world was primitive, when in Armenia were domesticated animals and cultivated plants, used metals and writing. Here is found the oldest winery in the world (more than 6,000 years!) and the oldest shoe in the world. Rather many archaeological landmarks have unclear meaning - we don't know why these were built (Ujan gates) and even - how it was possible to make them (e.g. "Ladder to the sky").

Natural landmarks

Qasakh falls, Armenia
Qasakh falls / / CC BY-SA 3.0

Waterfalls

  • Jermuk falls - Vayots Dzor. 68 m tall waterfall of thermal, mineral rich water. Water is sliding down along travertine formations.
  • Qasakh falls(Kasakh waterfalls) - Aragatsotn. Impressive, 70 m tall waterfall with 2 main cascades. Falls into Qasakh canyon.
  • Shaki waterall (Shaque Falls) - Syunik. Interesting waterfall, divided into numerous smaller trickles. Approximately 18 m (40 m?) high.

Other natural landmarks

  • Archer cave - Vayots Dzor. Longest and deepest known cave in Armenia, some 3.3 km long and 145 m deep. In the cave have been found numerous bones of bears.
  • Qasakh canyon - Aragatsotn. Beautiful, unusual canyon, up to 150 - 200 m deep, with interesting basaltic cliffs. Contains a temple from the 4th century, carved in the rock.
  • Symphony in Stone in Garni Gorge - Kotayk. Large basalt outcrop with basalt columns in the spectacular Garni Gorge.
  • Vorotan Devil's Bridge (Satanayi kamurj) - Syunik. Natural bridge from travertine, formed by thermal springs. Bridge is 30 m long and 50 - 60 m wide. Thermal springs at the foot of bridge, travertine terraces (rimstone pools) in the cave.

Man made landmarks

Areni 1 caves, Armenia
Areni 1 caves / Serouj, / CC BY 3.0

Prehistoric and ancient settlements, hillforts

  • Argishtikhinili - Armavir. Remnants of the largest Urartian city in Armenia. Founded in 776 BC. Construction of city was enormous feat, there were built massive fortifications, city was some 1,000 hectares large.
  • Areni 1 cave - Vayots Dzori. Chalcolithic and Bronze Age settlement in a cave. Inhabited around 5,000 - 4,000 BC. Here was found also the world's oldest winery, where wine was made more than 6 thousand years ago.
  • Erebuni - Yerevan. Hillfort with ruins, built by Urartian king Argishty I in 782 BC. Buildings with frescoes, cuneiform inscriptions. Contains remnants of palace, Susy temple.
  • Horom citadel - Shirak. Cyclopean fortress of giant stones, built in the Bronze Age.
  • Lchashen megaliths - Gegharkunik. Cyclopaean fortress, built in the 4th - 2nd millenia BC and numerous other megaliths - stone circles, mounds, settlements, cemeteries.
  • Metsamor settlement and megaliths - Armavir. Hillfort, which has been inhabited for many millenia - from the 5th century BC to the 18th century AD. Remnants of megalithic stone walls, alley of enormous phallic stones and stone circles.
  • Shengavit settlement - Yerevan. Ruins of very old city, inhabited from the late 4th millenium BC (Chalcolithic Age) to the 2nd century BC. Contrary to most other settlements of this period, Shengavit was surprisingly developed city, with massive, cyclopean walls. Along the streets of city were built more than 1,000 circular and square buildings for diverse purposes. Underground passage provided a path for escape. City had organized guilds for different crafts.
  • Teishebaini (Karmir Blur) - Yerevan. Ruins of the former provincial capital of Urartu Kingdom. Built in the 7th century BC, contained enormous palace with 120 rooms, citadel. Destroyed by fire soon after, in the early 6th century AD.

Medieval and younger settlements, hillforts

Old Goris - ancient aparments in cliffs, Armenia
Old Goris - ancient aparments in cliffs / Lori-m, / public domain
  • Amberd fortress - Aragatsotn. Impressive mountaintop fortress, built in the 7th century AD. Located in the site of Stone Age settlement. Abandoned in 1236.
  • Berdavan fortress - Tavush. Impressive, well preserved mountaintop fortress. Originally built in the 10th - 11th centuries, current structures most likely from the 17th century. Walls are up to 10.5 m tall.
  • Dilijan, Sharambeyan street - Tavush. Historical district of Dilijan city with its characteristic architecture. Stone houses here are adorned with ornate wooden details.
  • Dvin - Ararat. Location of early capital of Armenia, built by Khosrov III in 335 AD. City had up to 100,000 inhabitants, gradually declined after the eartquake in 893 AD. Contains ruins of a church from the 4th century.
  • Kakavaberd - Ararat. Remains of large hilltop fortress from the 4th century AD. Major part of massive stone walls preserved. Located in the pristine Khosrov forest.
  • Khndzoresk cave settlement and Stone pyramids of Gori (Old Goris) - Syunik. Ancient village in river canyon. In the cliffs have been formed numerous artificial caves - houses, which were inhabited until the 1950s. Each of apartments has door, window, oven. Doors are some 4 - 5 m above the ground.
  • Kumayri historic district - Shirak, Gyumri. District with thousands of buildings from the 18th - 19th century. One of the few places with dense concentration of historical Armenian architecture.
  • Smbataberd fortress - Vayots Dzor. Hilltop fortress, well preserved. Built mostly in the 9th - 10th centuries.
Garni Temple, Armenia
Garni Temple / Mcschreck, Wikimedia Commons, CC-BY-SA-2.0

Ancient and non-Christian shrines

  • Anapat Cave - Tavush. Cave, which is adorned with very interesting carvings of faces and other symbols, which resemble Mayan stone carvings. Cave served as an ancient cult site (Anahit or Nana cult).
  • Garni temple - Kotayk. Hellenistic temple in the prehistoric Garni fortress. Temple most likely was built in the 1st century AD by Tiridates I of Armenia. Reconstructed in 1969 - 1975.
  • Oshakan Tukh Manuk shrine - Aragatsotn. One of the shrines of the popular cult of Tukh Manuk which united Christianity and paganic beliefs. Now in ruins.
  • Tsitsernakaberd shrine - Yerevan. Iron Age (second millenium BC) shrine and necropolis with megalithic wall, stone altar and graves covered with up to 2 tons heavy stone blocks. Nearby - memorial to the victims of Armenian Genocide.

Churches

Etchmiadzin Cathedral - Christian church in Armenia
Etchmiadzin Cathedral / Butcher, Wikimedia Commons, CC-BY-3.0
  • Etchmiadzin Cathedral - Armavir. Centre of Armenian Apostolic Church and spiritual centre of Armenia. Initially built in 303 AD, rebuilt in 480, beautiful stone carvings.
  • Lmbatavank - Shirak. Small, very old church, built in the 7th century, with frescoes from this same period. Bronze Age cemetery belov the church and around it.
  • Saint Gayane Church - Armavir. Very old church, built in 630 AD and little changed since then.
  • Saint Hripsime Church - Armavir. One of oldest churches in Armenia, built in 395 - 618 AD. Important monument of architecture which to some extent defined the traditional Armenian architecture. Constructed over prehistoric cult site.
  • Zvartnots Cathedral - Armavir. Ruins of cathedral, which was built in 641 - 653 AD. According to some reconstructions building had bold design - it was three floors high rotunda.
  • Yererouk Basilica - Shirak. Ruins of very old church, built in the late 4th or 5th century AD. Destroyed by an earthquake in the 17th century.

Christian monasteries

Geghard Monastery, Armenia
Geghard Monastery / , Flickr / CC BY 2.0
  • Geghard Monastery - Kotayk. Unique structure - partly carved in adjacent cliff, richly ornamented. Monastery was founded in the 4th century.
  • Goshavank Monastery - Tavush. Old monastery, established in the 12th - 13th century. Consists of a group of beautiful churches and other buildings. Special value of monastery is a collection of some of most intricate stone carvings in the world - several outstanding khachkhars, including the famous Needlework khachkhar from 1291, created by Poghos.
  • Haghartsin Monastery - Tavush. Small monastery, built in forested mountain valley in the 10th - 14th century. Contains St. Astvatsatsin church, built in 1281. Renovated.
  • Haghpat Monastery - Lori. This monastery was established in the 10th century and contains unique architecture and art values - including some of the best and intricate stone carvings. One of oldest buildings - St. Nishan church, originally built in 966 - 967, later extended and rebuilt.
  • Harichavank Monastery - Shirak. Beautiful historical monastery, established in the site of prehistoric hillfort in the 7th century AD or earlier. Main building is the impressive Church of the Holy Mother of God from 1201, with interesting architecture details.
  • Khor Virap monastery - Ararat. Very old monastery, chapel first built here in 642 AD. Important historical site close to Ararat mountain (now in Turkey).
  • Noravank Monastery - Vayots Dzori. Group of architectonically interesting buildings, built mostly in the 13th century. Especially interesting is the Surp Astvatsatsin (Holy Mother of God) church with outer stairway leading to the second floor.
  • Sanahin Monastery - Lori. Very old monastery, established in the 10th century. The old buildings are adorned with intricate stone carvings.
  • Sevanavank - Gegharkunik. Monastery at the shores of Sevan (originally - on island), established in 874 AD. Best preserved are two churches - some of most picturesque Armenian churches with Lake Sevan as magnificent backdrop.
  • Tatev Monastery - Syunik. This monastery was established in the 9th century and is located on the rim of canyon, in the site of former pagan cult site. In the 14th - 15th century here operated Tatev university. Sts. Paul and Peter Cathedral is built between 895 and 906 AD, ornamented with murals in 930. Monastery has also pendulous column (Gavazan Siun) which warns about the earthquakes.

Megaliths

Vishap of Aragats, Armenia
Vishap of Aragats / MEDIACRAT, / CC BY-SA 3.0
  • Karahunj (Zorats Karer, Carahunge) - Syunik. Megalithic stone circle - necropolis. Some 223 stone tombs found here, from the Middle Bronze Age to Iron Age. Many stones have holes in them and there is a hypothesis that these holes were used in ancient astronomy.
  • Vishap of Aragats - Aragatsotn. Approximately 3 m tall standing stone, erected in Neolithic Age, some 5,000 years ago. according to legends this is a guardian of Kari lake.

Rock cut architecture

  • Ladder to the Sky in Arpa River Gorge - Vayots Dzor. Approximately 100 m tall cliff monolith with amazing step ladder leading up to the summit of this monolith.
  • Ujan gates - Aragatsotn. One of several mysterious gates leading into the mountain. Gates are closed with large stone door from the same material as the surrounding cliff. When gates are closed, they are almost invisible. Another such gate in Sesame mountain, present day Turkey serves as a possible inspiration to the legend about Ali-Baba.
  • Yelpin stairs - Vayots Dzor. Prehistoric footsteps carved in a 50 m tall cliff.
Khachkars in Noratus cemetery, Armenia
Khachkars in Noratus cemetery / Arantz, / CC BY-SA 3.0

Other man made landmarks

  • Matenadaran - Yerevan. One of the largest collections of medieval manuscripts in the world, mostly in Armenian language. Collection has almost 17,000 manuscripts and huge number of other documents.
  • Noratus cemetery - Gegharkunik. Medieval cemetery with the largest aggregation of khachkars - intricately carved gravestones - in Armenia. In total here are some 900 khachkars, the oldest are from the 10th century. Carvings on some stones depict the wedding.
  • Ukhtasar petroglyphs (Ughtasar) - Syunik. Rocks with numerous prehistoric engravings - goats, deers, mufflons, horses. Created in the 5th - 4th century BC and the 3rd - 2nd century BC, but the oldest could be from the 6th millenia BC.

List of described attractions by provinces

Armenia is divided into 11 provinces. Here below they are listed in alphabetical order:

Aragatsotn
Ararat
Armavir
Gegharkunik
Kotayk
Lori
Shirak
Syunik
ArrowKarahunj (Zorats Karer)Megaliths, Ancient and prehistoric cemeteries, Ancient cities and towns
Tavush
Vayots Dzor
Yerevan

Map of Armenia

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