There are hundreds of reasons to travel to Armenia and one of them is her insanely beautiful monasteries. They are many hundreds of years old, they were erected in unusually picturesque places and the entrance to such places is essentially free. Photos of these monasteries will almost completely amaze friends and acquaintances, and instagram and facebook accounts will be overwhelmed with likes and enthusiastic comments.
But I will not be unsubstantiated. Let me tell you, for example, all about the three monasteries of southern Armenia. They can be visited in one day, however, this will require a vehicle, because then you will have to drive almost 300 kilometers.
Let me introduce - Khor Virap, Novarank and Tatev! They are the best in this part of Armenia!
All the monasteries are very popular with tourists attractions, but if you get up early and try not to slow down on the way, you can have time to enjoy their views almost all alone. We have succeeded only in part.At 9 o'clock in the morning we were in the Khor Virap monastery closest to Yerevan. At that moment it was still deserted here, although literally in half an hour the number of arriving buses with new turgroups began to go off-scale.
This monastery is located on a small hill 35 kilometers from Yerevan. They come here, first of all, because of the magnificent views of Ararat. The view of the monastery on the background of the legendary mountain can be safely called one of the most popular in the world. I could not resist and take such a photo in which two mountain peaks are visible behind Khor Virap - the Great and Small Ararat.
Very interesting and the history of the creation of the monastery. 17 centuries ago, the then capital of Armenia, the city of Artashat, was located in this place. For the preaching of Christianity here in a deep well Gregory the Illuminator spent 13 years in prison.
Later, he managed to cure the madness of the then king of Armenia Tiridat, thanks to which he proclaimed Christianity the main religion of his kingdom. Gregory himself became the first Supreme Patriarch of all Armenians, and after his death one of the most revered saints here.
Later, a chapel was built above the well, called Khor Virap,which means “deep dungeon” in Armenian. About a thousand years ago, a monastery appeared here. A little later theological seminary. All the buildings in Khor Virap were rebuilt more than once during the following centuries. Now this monastery looks like a fortified fortress with powerful walls and towers.
Inside it, the Church of the Holy Mother of God towers in the center, and next to it is a smaller church. It is here that inside there is the entrance to a deep well, sort of like the one where Gregory the Illuminator languished in prison.
There it is worth climbing, although it is not so simple. Usually from those who want to get down is not a weak queue.
On the monastery itself and near the surrounding area offer excellent views from a nearby cliff. The monastery is located near the border with Turkey. In the other side is the huge cemetery still in force. From above it looks more like a village, and its more ancient part is a multitude of randomly scattered gravestones and is clearly visible from above.
In Khor Virap, I wanted to be more, but we had just enough time and now we are in a hurry further.After 100 kilometers, our car turns off the main road towards Noravank Monastery.
It was built at the expense of local princes Orbelyan about seven centuries ago. This monastery is very unusual. It is located on the ledge of the rocky gorge of a characteristic reddish color.
The main dominant of the monastery is the unusual two-story Surb Asivatsatsin church. On its first floor there is a family tomb, and on the second is a memorial church.
You can get to the second floor by a very uncomfortable narrow staircase without railings. The steps are very high and completely unsafe. You can reach the top only on all fours, go down too. It looks funny from the outside, but this action has its deep meaning, because the path to God cannot be easy.
Upstairs there is a spacious bell tower. And nothing more. This detail concerns the interiors of almost all the churches I have seen here.
This church is unique, nothing like this is almost anywhere in the world. The famous local sculptor and architect of the past Momik applied his hands to its construction. Looking at its amazing details and bas-reliefs, you can get stuck in Noravank for a long time.
There are also many khachkars - the famous Armenian stone crosses, which I personally personally reminded of Ireland.
I can not say about one fat minus. Noravank is an amazingly beautiful place, but it was enough to throw a glance to the side and it was difficult not to notice heaps of rubbish on the sidelines. How deep the religiosity of the Armenians is combined with the total burden of leaving behind heaps of garbage is difficult for me to explain.
As soon as we were ready to go further, we saw a wedding procession approaching the monastery. At first we were delighted to see the Armenian wedding, but then we tensed. The fact is that according to local traditions about 300 guests usually participate in such a celebration. And this time the road from Noravank was completely blocked by a huge number of cars.
From this traffic jam, we got out only an hour later, lagging far behind our schedule. We arrived at the monastery in Tatev by the very evening, barely having time for the last flight of the Wings of Tatev cable car.
Built 7 years ago, this cable car is a great pride of Armenia. For 11 minutes on her way we crossed the picturesque gorge of the river Voratan and found ourselves on its opposite side.The same way by car can be overcome by narrow serpentines in one hour. The ultimate goal of our journey was Tatev Monastery. This complex of buildings is also extraordinarily beautiful from the side and resembles a magical castle, which grew up right on the sharp cliffs.
Rows with the entrance to the monastery local people sell all sorts of delicacies. With the advent of the cable car, their business is flourishing.
The monastery is more than 11 centuries old. Tatev was once a major educational center. The university was located here and at the same time lived up to 1000 people. This idyll was destroyed by the warriors of Tamerlane, who burned the monastery almost six centuries ago.
The relative inaccessibility of Tatev played a cruel joke with the monastery. This beautiful place has long been almost completely abandoned. Time and earthquakes did not spare this place.
Now everything is changing rapidly. The monastery gradually acquires its former features.
It was exciting to wander through its deserted rooms with magnificent views of the gorge and the surrounding mountains. This place has a magical appeal.
By the way, the monastery operates in our days.True, there are only two monks here. They have enough work. The territory here is large, a lot of rooms.
At the moment there is a restoration of a small church, which was built directly on the fortress wall. So in the near future, Tatev will become even more attractive to the eyes.
I think now you at least understand a little how beautiful Armenia is. At the same time I told only about some of its not the most important attractions.