It had been almost one year since I last visited Geghard Monastery and Garni Temple, two of the most visited tourist sites in Armenia. Last weekend my girlfriend and I decided to take a day trip by local bus rather than through a tourist company, something I did during my previous visit. One of the benefits of traveling on your own is that you are not rushed and can spend as much time as you like at a location and take in the atmosphere.
Geghard Monastery is a medieval monastery dating back to the 4th century and is also an UNESCO World Heritage Site located near Garni Temple about 45 minutes outside of Yerevan. The complex was founded by Gregory the Illuminator however there are inscriptions dating back to the 1160s and also the main chapel dating back to 1215 which was built by Queen Tamar of Georgia’s generals who took back Armenia from the Turks. Geghard Monastery was once known as Avyrivank which means “the Monastery of the Cave” because it was founded as the sited of a sacred spring that ran inside a cave. Its current name means “the Monastery of the Spear” which originates from the spear that wounded Jesus at crucifixion which is said to have been brought to Armenia and stored there before being moved to Echmiadzin. The weather during the morning was not the best for spending much time in Geghard, there was still wind and clouds left behind from the previous days dust storm. As the day progressed the weather began to clear making way for beautiful light and interesting skies.
Most people including myself during my first visit take a bus or taxi between Geghard and Garni. The drive takes around 20 to 30 minutes through narrow and curvy roads on the edge of mountain cliffs. The landscapes are stunning and some of the most breath taking in Armenia next to Tatev and other regions in the south east of the country. This time however we decided to do something different which was to walk from Geghard Monastery to Garni Temple. Some people might think this is crazy because it takes several hours by foot however my thinking is if others during ancient times could do this, why can’t I do it? The journey by foot is something special because not only do you feel close to nature with times of nothing but quiet, but you also get to see things you will miss while on a bus which is how average people live and it gives you a different perspective on life. The journey took around 7.8 miles or 12.55 kilometers by foot where we were greeted by cows, some curious dogs, and women selling their local produce on the sides of the road. The best thing about a long walk is that you have plenty of time to think and also talk without being interrupted. If it’s a long walk with someone you love, it’s the perfect opportunity to unite and appreciate one another just a little more than you did before.
The journey on foot took over 3 hours before we arrived at Garni Temple, a Greco-Roman temple dating back to 77 AD. Garni Temple sits on the edge of a cliff overlooking the Azat River and Gegham mountains. It’s thought to have been built as a temple to the sun god Mihr during the reign of king Tiridates I, a king who was crowned by the controversial Roman Emperor Nero during his visit to Rome in 66 AD. Once Christianity was adopted as the state religion in the 4th century, all pagan places of worship were destroyed. Garni Temple is the only structure from that time known to have survived, however it collapsed in 1679 due to an earthquake located nearby. Located near Garni Temple is a Roman bath with a mosaic floor, the same style you see throughout Italy, like Pompeii as well as other locations that were under Roman rule.
Below are some photos taken at Geghard Monastery, Garni Temple and the journey in-between with the Canon 5D MkIII and DJI Mavic Pro.