I’d first stumbled upon Garni temple and Geghard monastery whilst using Trover to find interesting things to see and do whilst we were visiting Yerevan. Given our limited time, we opted to hire a taxi for 20,000 AMD (approx £30), which the Envoy Hostel kindly arranged for us. Alternatively you can travel by marshrutka from Yerevan, although you may need a taxi to get from Geghard (or Goght) to the monastery.
We departed Yerevan around 2 pm. Our first stop was Garni Temple (Գառնիի հեթանոսական տաճար, Храм Гарни), an important symbol and structure of pre-Christain Armenia, situated around 30 km from Yerevan. Built in the second half of the first century AD by king Tiridates I, it was dedicated to Mihr, the god of sun. After Armenia converted to Christianity in the 4th century, all pagan places of worship were destroyed with the exception of Garni Temple, hence it’s cultural significance today. It was destroyed in earthquake of 1679, although was rebuilt between 1968 and 1976 by the Soviet Armenian Government. Entry to the temple was 1000 AMD. There were several stalls in the car park selling local produce, in addition to a souvenir shop. Whilst there is not a huge amount to see here, the temple is very impressive and has a very Indiana Jones feel to it; the views of the surrounding mountains and valley are also pretty spectacular. I did see a few accommodation options (hostels and guesthouses) as we drove through Garni.
Our second stop was Geghard Monastery (Գեղարդի վանք, монастырь Гегард), a UNESCO site situated a further 10 km from Garni at the beginning of the Azat Valley. This medieval monastery complex, dating from the 4th century, contains several churches and tombs, many of which have been carved out of the adjacent rock. Katoghike, the main church, was built in 1215 against the mountain, although the vestry is mostly carved from the rock and contains many rooms with decorative wall inscriptions. The surrounding mountains, trees (not many of those around here), and Azat River makes for a very peaceful and stunning location. Entry to the monastery is free. Photos to follow.
On our return journey, the driver stopped at a few places to allow us to take some photos of the surroundings, which was quite different to what I’m used to. We arrived back in Yerevan around 5.30 pm.