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Pay Homage at Geghard Monastery a Fourth-Century Chapel Carved in Rock

Published by Beth Ford

Country: Armenia

The Experience

Imagine standing in the midst of an ancient monastery carved into a cliff face, a beautiful mountain view, and a thousand years of history surrounding you. If that scene sounds appealing, start packing your bags, because you can experience this incredible site if you visit Geghard Monastery in Armenia.

Geghard Monastery is a historic stone monastery located directly outside of Goght, Armenia. This UNESCO World Heritage site is an easy daytrip from Yerevan. While traveling in Armenia, Geghard Monastery is a must-see site, and it is one of the top things to do in Yerevan.

The history of the Geghard Monastery stretches back over 1500 years. The monastery was founded in the fourth century and the current structure dates to the 13th century. Important relics from some of the original twelve apostles have been kept here. The most important relic that has been housed here is the spear that is said to have pierced Christ's side while he was on the cross, although unfortunately this relic is now kept in a museum and not on the monastery grounds. One of the most exciting opportunities provided by world travel is the absorption of ancient history such as this, so make sure you visit this monastery when visiting Armenia.

The setting of the Geghard Monastery is awe-inspiring. The site is a large complex, and several chapels are actually cut into the cliff face, so walking through them is like wandering through caverns. The effect is haunting and lovely, perfectly suited to the atmosphere of an ancient monastery.

But don't think that you will just be looking at cave walls at Geghard Monastery. When approaching the monastery, you will have your first encounter with the myths that surround the monastery's history. You will notice that some of the tree branches are tied with ribbons. Legend has it that tying a ribbons to a tree here will make your wish come true.

There are also plenty of impressive carvings and frescoes decorating the Geghard Monastery's chambers. One of the chambers contains a small stream that is believed by many Armenians to be holy, and they will travel from afar to wash themselves in its waters. Since you've traveled so far to get there, surely there's no harm in testing the powers of the water just in case. You will also be impressed by the acoustics of the chambers, which allowed the rooms to perfectly amplify monks' chants when the monastery was in use.

Entrance to the Geghard Monastery and its grounds is free, and you are able to spend as long as you like discovering all of its wonders. The road leading up to the monastery also has several vendors selling Armenian delicacies, so you can sample local Armenian favorites while walking up to this impressive site.

The monastery is less than an hour by car from Yerevan, so you can easily visit the monastery by day and make it back to your hotel in Yerevan that same night. Some tour companies provide guided tours from Yerevan to Geghard Monastery so you do not have to rent a car to visit the monastery if you don't want to. It is also possible to take a bus cheaply from Yerevan to Geghard.

If you are traveling in Armenia, make sure you make it to Geghard Monastery, as it is one of the most beautiful and ancient sites around Yerevan.

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When to Go to Geghard Monastery

You can visit Geghard monastery year-round.

Odds n' Ends

From Yerevan, marshrutkas (buses) to Garni (AMD250, 25 minutes, every 50 minutes from 10am to 9.30pm) ­depart from GAI Poghots (behind the Mercedes Benz showroom). You can get to the ­showroom by taking marshrutka 58 or 66 from Berekamutyun metro station or marshrutka 51 from Mesrop Mashtots Poghota`. In Garni the bus leaves you on the main road. Bus 284 continues to Goght and you can walk the additional 4.5km to Geghard. Alternatively, a taxi from Garni to Geghard and back with a one-hour wait while you are exploring the site is AMD3000.

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