Armenia is a country which provides a unique experience of Christian heritage and is known as being the land where Noah came down from the Ark, the first country to proclaim Christianity as its State religion as early as 301 A.D., the country of wonderful churches, monasteries and one of the few places in the world where you will see khachkars (cross-stones) dating back as far as the 4th century AD, and it’s the country providing outstanding opportunities for pilgrimages and spiritual vacation.
EXPLORE THE CHURCHES OF YEREVAN. YEREVAN CITY TOUR.Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, is a modern, colorful city, situated in the Northeastern part of the Ararat Valley. Yerevan is one of the oldest cities in the world. The fortress of Erebuni, the birthplace of Yerevan, was founded by King Argishti of Urartu in 782 B.C. The Urartu Kingdom was a powerful and highly developed civilization. Yerevan skyline with biblical Mount Ararat on the background is very impressive.
Visit St. Gregory the Illuminator's Church built in 2001 to commemorate the 1700 anniversary of proclamation of Christianity as a state religion in Armenia. This is the biggest church in Yerevan. The holy relics of St. Gregory were brought from Italy in time for the opening, and Pope John Paul II came to pay an official visit shortly after the consecration.
Visit St. Katoghike Church on Abovyan street. Though a tiny church it is considered the oldest church preserved in Yerevan.
Continue to St. Sargis Church dedicated to the protector of all lovers. Its location is very picturesque as it’s overlooking the Hrazdan River Gorge dividing Yerevan into two parts.
No trip to Armenia is complete without a visit to Matenadaran – a book depository of ancient manuscripts, a unique research institute of manuscripts and a museum. Lunch in a traditional Armenian restaurant. Overnight in Yerevan. Day 2 IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF ST. GREGORY THE ILLUMINATOR
Duration: 2 days Visit Khor Virap Monastery, Noravank Monastery, Areni's St. Mary Church. It was in Khor Virap Monastery where St. Gregory the Illuminator was imprisoned for 13 years before curing King Trdat III of a disease. This caused the conversion of the king and Armenia into the first officially Christian nation in the world in the year 301A.D. To this day you can visit the underground chamber he was imprisoned. Its location, near the closest point to Mount Ararat within Armenian borders, offers a spectacular view of the mountain, the national symbol of Armenia.
In the village of Areni, above a cliff you'll see the spectacular St. Mary Church built in 1321.This church is embellished inside and outside with a series of high reliefs and ornate architectural motifs.
Proceed to Noravank Monastery, an architectural gemstone nestled among brick-red cliffs, just above a deep gorge. It’s only here where you can see a bas-relief with the representation of Father God with almond-shaped eyes which look far ahead. No where else in medieval Armenian art God is represented as a man. He was usually depicted in the form of a descending right hand. But Noravank Monastery is an exception! It’s a majestic sight to visit which will remain in your memories forever. Lunch at a lovely restaurant on Arpa River bank. Overnight in Goris town. Day 3 Explore Goris, visit Tatev Monastery, Khndzoresk Cave Village.
After breakfast explore the town of Goris.Goris is one of the most beautiful towns in Armenia. It’s a town in orchards and all the houses have the same unique architecture with red tile roofs. The town is beautifully planned by a German architect in the 19th century. It’s famous for its home-made mulberry and cornel vodka.
Drive to Tatev Monastery, a formidable monastic complex founded in the 9th century. It's located on a promontory more than 100 meters above the Vorotan River. According to tradition the relics of the Apostles, Sts. Peter and Paul, were placed under the dome's supporting pillars. It’s a miraculous monastery surrounded by bottomless gorges. The road to Tatev (26km off the main highway) is in a bad state as there are erosions there.
Proceed to Khndzoresk, a medieval and early modern village largely hewn into the soft rock where people used to live until 1950's.
On the way back to Yerevan visit Jermuk town, a first-rank climatic and hydrotherapic resort famous for its mineral water. Here you'll see the beautiful waterfall known as “Mermaid’s Hair” and the mineral water drinking gallery where you can taste the mineral water with rich chemical compostion and of various temperatures. Lunch in Jermuk. Back to Yerevan.
Day 4 PILGRIMAGE TO HOLY ECHMIADZIN. Visit the town of Echmiadzin, the Holy See of the Armenian Apostolic Church, where the Armenian Catholicos (Supreme Patriarch) resides. Echmiadzin Mother Cathedral, historically, is the focal point of the city of Echmiadzin, the oldest church in the world. It was originally built by Saint Gregory the Illuminator as a vaulted basilica in 301-303A.D., when Armenia was the only country in the world the state religion of which was Christianity. The Etchmiadzin Cathedral is listed among the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. In the Museum of the Mother Cathedral you'll admire some amazing exhibits such as a piece from the Noah's ark or the Holy Lance by which a Roman legionary pierced Christ's side.
Visit St. Hripsime Church built in the 7th century. It is considered a masterpiece of early medieval Armenian architecture. Lunch at a restaurant. On the way back to Yerevan visit the Ruins of Zvartnots Cathedral. Zvartnots was a magnificent cathedral dedicated to St. Gregory. Zvartnots, built as Armenia's main cathedral in 641-661A.D., was to suppress the Echmiadzin Cathedral by its grandeur. The remnants of Zvartnots, even in ruins, are a majestic sight. The Ruins of Zvartnots are listed among the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Overnight in Yerevan.
Day 5 PILGRIMAGE TO HAV00TS TAR, ALSO VISIT GEGHARD MONASTERY AND GARNI PAGAN TEMPLE
Car takes you to the Pagan Temple of Garni. The Pagan Temple of Garni is the only non-Christian temple currently standing in Armenia. Gracing the hillside the pagan temple was dedicated to the God of Sun, Mithra. It was built in 77A.D. by the Armenian King Trdat I. The architectural complex of Garni was Armenia's foremost center of Hellenistic culture and the summer residence of Armenian kings.
Then you proceed till the entrance of the Khosrov Forest Reserve, where the hiking tour starts from. You walk in the forest listening to the chirping of birds and admiring the beauty of the fascinating Azat River gorge while walking towards the Havoots Tar monastic complex (XI-XIII cc.). It's an impressive walled monastery, half ruined, on a promontory across the Garni river gorge. From there, it is planned to visit the Monastery Geghard (by car). Geghard is an incredible ancient Armenian monastery, partly carved out of a mountain. It is said that the Holy Lance that pierced the body of Christ was kept here. The architectural forms and the decoration of Geghard's rock premises show that Armenian builders could not only create superb works of architecture out of stone, but also hew them in solid rock. It is included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Lunch in an Armenian peasant house in Garni village. Overnight in Yerevan.
Day 6 PILGRIMAGE TO HAGHARTSIN AND GOSHAVANK MONASTERIES. Visit Haghartsin Monastery, nestled in a temperate rainforest on a mountainside. It is one of those spots in Armenia that feels like you are walking through a huge, unreal movie set. It was founded in the 12th -13th cc. It was a scholarly, cultural, and educational center in the Middle Ages.
Continue to Goshavank Monastery, erected in place of an older monastery, Getik, which had been destroyed by an earthquake in 1188. Mkhitar Gosh, a statesman, an outstanding scientist and a writer, an author of numerous fables and parables and of the first criminal code, took part in the construction of the monastery, which was renamed as Goshavank in his honor after his death. Lunch in an Armenian family in Dilijan town.
On the way back to Yerevan stop at the Lake Sevan to admire the beauty of the aquamarine waters of this huge alpine lake, described as "a genuine piece of sky in the dropped from heaven into the mountains”. Here you'll climb up to Sevanavank Monastery (9th century) which once used to be on an island (now a peninsula). Overnight in Yerevan.
Day 7 PILGRIMAGE TO HAGHPAT, SANAHIN AND ODZOUN MONASTERIES Visit Haghpat and Sanahin Monasteries. These are huge complexes in the North of Armenia founded in 10th-13th cc. The both monasteries are outstanding masterpieces of Armenian architecture in which artistic merits transcended the limits of the national culture. They are included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Lunch at a restaurant.
Proceed to Odzoun. It is a domed basilica church having earlier 6th century origins as its architectural design suggests. Overnight in Vanadzor, the third largest city of Armenia.
Day 8 PILGRIMAGE TO ASHTARAK REGION'S CHURCHES
Drive to Aragatsotn region at the foothills of Mount Aragats (4090m), the highest peak of Armenia.
Visit Oshakan - St. Mashtots Church where the primordial alphabet-giver St. Mesrop Mashtots is buried, just under the altar of the church. It's a hall-type church with frescoes. The church is surrounded by an apricot orchard with ornamented Armenian alphabet letter statues.
Visit Saghmosavank Monastery. It is situated on the edge of a deep gorge at the foot of Mt. Ara, with Mt. Ararat and Mt. Arargats rising majestically on the western and northern horizons. It's an 11th century structure. Lunch in an Armenian peasant house.
Continue to Karmravor, a tiny, but a very beautiful cruciform church dating from the 7th century in the town of Ashtarak. Its unique red tile roof came down to us completely unharmed.
Drive to Mughni village to visit St. Gevorg (St. George) Church, founded in the 13th century. It houses some relics of St. George. Especially striking is the black and orange striped dome of this church. It's surrounded by a beautiful orchard of fruit trees and roses. Overnight in Yerevan. Day 9 Transfer to airport. Departure.
*Itinerary is subject to change at any time upon your request.