Armenia | Travel

What to See and Do in Armenia? | Day 1: A Trip to Tatev Monastery and the Rest of the Places in the South

July 30, 2017

Armenia is one of those countries that doesn’t usually come to our minds whenever we talk about travel destinations. But what you don’t know is that, this country has a lot to offer to it’s tourists particularly when it comes to nature, culture and religion. 

Last June, Tep and I were very fortunate to explore Armenia for 3 days (check out our itinerary). During our first day, we drove through the southern part of the country, with Tatev Monastery as our main destination.  We hired the service of Artur, who is a driver/guide recommended by the owner of the apartment where we stayed at.

Our trip started around 6:30 AM. I was wearing a pink skirt that morning, when Artur told me that I should change to pants since I might get a hard time climbing steep stairs in some places that we will visit. I was too stubborn at first, but I eventually gave in.

Our first destination that day was Khor Virap. It is the monastery, where St. Gregory the Illuminator (patron saint of Armenia) was imprisoned. This place would also give you a stunning view of Mt. Ararat (believed to be the mountain where Noah landed his ark).

Khor Virap and Mt. Ararat from afar.

The view of Mt. Ararat from Khor Virap Monastery.

The facade and altar of the Church of the Holy Mother of God, that can be found within the monastery.

After our short tour of the monastery, we drove straight to Areni Winery, which is known as one of the oldest winemaking places in Armenia. We got the chance to taste 8 different wines here, which varies from dry to semi sweet. Apart from wine, I have also tried a mulberry flavored vodka that has 60% alcohol content.    

Areni Winery facade

This was inside the winery. I was surprised to learn that I don’t have any photos of the wines that we tasted.

The alcohol that we consumed made me feel a bit dizzy. But that didn’t stopped me from enjoying the sights of our next destination which was Noravank. This is a monastery as well, completed during the 13th century. 

Noravank Monastery is famous for its two narrow side stairs found at the Surb Astvatsatsin / Holy Mother of God Church.

St. John the Baptist Church in Noravank

The Altars

When we were done taking pictures and roaming around Noravank, we went ahead to get to the next place that we will visit. It was a long drive, but while on the way, we stopped at a small fountain to get some cold spring water, which is safe for drinking. This was also the time that we had our lunch at an eatery that serves yummy potato bread.

The fountain that I am talking about and the potato bread, which you have to dip or sprinkle with red pepper powder.

It was already around past 1:00 PM when we arrived at the Wings of Tatev, known as one of the longest cable cars in the world. The ride, that took around 10 mins, brought us to Tatev Monastery. I would personally recommend riding the cable car, just make sure to get a spot where you can see the view outside as it is really nice.

The cable car going to Tatev Monastery. Also known as the Wings of Tatev.

Took this photo while inside the cable car. 

Tatev Monastery is the oldest (built in 9th century) and most famous monastery in Armenia. Within the monastery complex, you will see St. Paul and Peter Church, Pendolous Column, Ancient Oil Press, dining hall, classrooms and other centuries old structures.

St. Paul and Peter Church located within the Tatev Monastery Complex

Left: The altar of St. Paul and Peter Church. Right: The Pendolous Column or Gavazan. It gives warning to the people during the early centuries when an earthquake is about to happen.

These are some of the equipments that they used during the early centuries to press oil from seeds and herbs. 

Tatev Monastery Complex from afar.

After spending an hour at Tatev Monastery, we drove straight to the place called Tatev Devil Bridge. It is named as such because this bridge was naturally built from huge masses of limestones. Sadly, we were not able to see this up close as it required us to descend using ropes. I am usually up for challenges like this, but we were not dressed for this type of activity that day.

Left: The rope that you will use to descend. Right: Down there is the Tatev Devil Bridge.

Left: This is one of the structures that you will see on the way to the bridge. Right: A pipe that releases natural carbonated water coming from the mountains. I’ve tried it, but I don’t like the taste since I’m not really a fan of carbonated water.

Harsnadzor Watchtower was our next destination after the bridge, where we saw awesome views of the mountains. After taking selfies and some photos of the place, we headed to the last place on our list that day which was the Shaki Waterfalls.

View from the Harsnadzor Watchtower

Shaki Waterfalls

On the way to the eatery, we stopped for a while at this beautiful flower farm to take some photos.

We decided to have dinner before we head back to the city. Artur made a stop at a small eatery where we had kebab. According to him, they serve the best kebab in Armenia.

This was the Kebab Eatery. The meat that they used was a mix of beef and pork. It was tasty and really nice, plus the owner and the staff are very accommodating.

It was already close to midnight when we arrived back at the city.


What you need to know:

  1. This is an all day trip and getting from one stop to another may take a long drive. Just be ready with something that will entertain you while inside the car.
  2. Make sure that your cameras and phones are fully charged. It is also advisable to have power banks and excess batteries.
  3. There will be stops along the way where you can buy food. But I would still suggest you to bring something to snack on inside the car.
  4. Wear comfortable shoes, as some of the places visited would require you to hike and climb.
  5. All the places I have mentioned here doesn’t have entrance fees, except for the cable car where you need to purchase a one or two way ticket.
  6. Bring a scarf. There are some monasteries that requires the ladies to cover their heads upon entrance. In case you don’t have one, you can borrow from there.
  7. Armenians usually light candles whenever they visit a monastery. If you also want to light one, there are stores within the monastery to buy some. I believe it cost less than AMD 300 (USD 0.63).

Additional Knowledge:

This is a stork’s nest. Armenians believe that it brings happiness to a family or household if they have this on top of their houses.


Tour in Armenia:
Artur 
+374 91 584 550 (available also in whatsapp)

 

Tatev Cable Car / Wings of Tatev:
Website: www.tatever.am
Contact Nos.: +37460-463333 +37496-463333
Ticket prices and Opening hours may vary depending on the season.

Budget Travelers Sandbox

Comments

  1. It was lovely to read your post of such a place as Armenia – there aren’t that many out there! We saw Mt. Ararat from the Turkish side. I love the look of Noravank Monastery, it is so beautiful. Your trip sounds wonderful. Thank you for linking up with Travel Photo Thursday.

    1. Thank you so much for your wonderful comment.. Good to hear that you like Noravank Monastery, most of the monasteries in Armenia are reallu beautiful.. I love linking up with Travel Photo Thursday, as I get to see and learn about different places..

  2. I love reading more about your trip to Armenia! I am so amazed at the gorgeous places you visited. The stops are a great mix of cultural and natural beauty. Love the waterfalls and Mount Ararat. #TPThursday

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