Armenia is a very ancient country full of historical places that are worth your visit. Surely, you will be impressed and discover a lot about this small landlocked country and its history. And, as there are a ton of historical sites in Armenia, I just made a must-see list for you. So, let’s go!
Here is the list of the most visited historical sites in Armenia:
- Carahunge Observatory / Zorats Karer
- Tatev Monastery
- Khor Virap
- Zvartnots Cathedral
- The Blue Mosque
- Temple of Garni
- Geghard Monastery complex
If you decide to take a visit to any of the mentioned historical locations in Armenia, please let me know. You can do that by sharing some of your thoughts and photos with me on Instagram or Twitter with #ArmeniaTravelTips. I’m always excited to become a part of your fun adventures in Armenia.
Carahunge Observatory / Zorats Karer
The Carahunge Observatory is known under different names, including Zorats Karer (which can be translated as Mighty Stones) and the Armenian Stonehenge. You can find this place around 200 km from Yerevan close to Sisian city. This historical site represents a gathering of 223 stones, each having an impressive weight of approximately 10 tons! With a vertical position, these stones create an outstanding circle spread over an area that can comprise 14 football fields!
For several years now, this complex gathered the attention of both historians and scientists, which in turn led to many controversial opinions. There are many ideas concerning the origins of this complex. One of the most common is that it was indeed an ancient observatory site. Several stones in the circle come with a see-through hole, which is believed was meant to allow easy observation of the sky. Some experts believe that this site is older than the English Stonehenge. Still, there is no agreement about its exact age. While the common speculation is that the age of the complex goes between 5 to 7 thousand years ago.
Researchers discovered that Carahunge was also a temple dedicated to the God of the Sun, frequently praised by ancient Armenians. Also, some evidence shows that this site was used as a university, while many swords or war ornaments suggest this is, in fact, a cemetery for lost warriors.
Tatev Monastery is a very important historical site in Armenia. For many centuries, it was perceived as a pilgrimage spot known under the name Syunik. Even though it’s a bit far from the capital city, I believe you shouldn’t miss the chance of exploring Tatev. Surely, the landscape and architectural wonders found inside are worth the hassle. If you find yourself struggling to organize a day trip to Tatev, then check out my separate post for some help.
Historians believe that many people sought shelter under the monastery’s premises in times of distress during the centuries. Back in the Middle Ages, a small school was constructed inside the complex meant to support the local development of the nearby population. Still, this site was damaged after the earthquake in 1931, which is why the restoration is still undergoing nowadays.
The most satisfying part about your visit to the Tatev Monastery is that you will discover the Wings of Tatev. In fact it is the longest reversible cableway on the globe that is around 6km long! It is even featured in the Guinness Book of Records, as this aerial tramway represents a somewhat unique construction you won’t find anywhere in the world.
Wings of Tatev can take you 320m above the ground, getting you access to a breathtaking view of the area. It links Halidzor with the Tatev Monastery, and it is an excellent choice for reaching the monastery’s premises. Which, by the way, has been added to the tentative list of UNESCO World Heritage sites by the end of the 20th century.
At the base of Mount Ararat, you will find the Khor Virap, a construction positioned above an underground prison dating back to the 3rd century. This is a place of pilgrimage, as it is one of the most visited monastery sites in the area. You can also experience the most breathtaking and closest view of Ararat. I would say it’s a great historical site you can find in Armenia for taking memory pics! 😉
Most people come to visit here since it is believed that Gregory the Illuminator was initially imprisoned here for around 14 years at the order of King Tiridates III. And this happened because Gregory the Illuminator preached Christianity while the king and his supporters were Pagans. Somehow Saint Gregory survived the ordeals and ended up being the king’s religious mentor. This enabled him to persuade the king to establish Armenia as the first Christian nation back in 301.
Zvartnots Cathedral is absolutely one of the most popular historical sites for your visit. It is located quite close to Yerevan and has a very unique architectural design that was not very common in ancient Armenian architectural buildings. The cathedral has columns with Ionic capitals and this was mostly used in Roman and Byzantine empire structures. The construction technique was also not widespread considering how advanced it was back in the 7th century.
Visiting this place will surely take you to ancient times and you’ll feel it when you’re there. You can surely take loads of pictures there that will also include the view of our breathtaking Mount Ararat. And, finally, let’s not forget the fact that Zvartnots has been included in the UNESCO World Heritage list. So, don’t forget to have this on your must-visit list while planning your trip!
The Blue Mosque
Nowadays, the Blue Mosque is the only standing Muslim temple in Armenia, offering impressive architectural and historical value. Its renovation was meant to reinforce the Iranian-Armenian friendship. This is a rather pristine and spiritual location, and locals genuinely believe you can find your inner peace and rest with a visit to this historical site.
And one of the most exciting things about this place is that the library within the mosque’s premises regularly teaches the Persian language to anyone interested. Overall, a visit to this place will get you a glimpse of authentic Islamic values due to the various exhibition halls available on site. The architectural style and design resemble extremely well the traditional Muslim approach.
The Blue Mosque is perfect for you to relax and take a deep breath after a day’s visit to Yerevan’s premises. Even though the Armenians are primarily Christians, the Blue Mosque receives their utmost respect. This place is visited frequently by many people, no matter their faith.
Temple of Garni
The Temple of Garni is the only standing pagan structure that survives to this day after Armenia adopted Christianity as a state religion. This structure was built in the middle of the first century and probably survived as it’s known to be a masterpiece of art. Nowadays it became a symbol of pre-Christian Armenia and reflects on the historical ties with Greece and Rome.
The temple is located on a cliff and offers other interesting sites nearby for you to see while you’re there. The complex includes a Roman bath, a summer palace and a church that was built in the 7th century. Also, nearby you can find the Symphony of Stones which is a natural monument. This place is a result of the collapse of volcanic rocks and resembles an organ which is why it is sometimes referred to as “Basalt Organ Pipes”.
Geghard Monastery complex
If you have already made your decision to visit the Temple of Garni, then you must also include the Geghard Monastery in your plans. Why? Because these historical sites are located very close to each other and usually whoever goes to Garni also visits Geghard. I know that at this point you might probably not even believe me but Geghard is also considered to be a UNESCO World Heritage site.
This monastery dates back to the 4th century and was built by Saint Gregory the illuminator. Geghard is considered to be a masterpiece of medieval architectural art in Armenia and is a very well-preserved example from that time. It’s innovative and complete. However, after the invasion of Arabs in the 9th century, the monastery had to be reconstructed by the 13th century.
Final thoughts on historical sites in Armenia
All of these historical sites are very popular and present a real value not only to Armenians but also to the whole world. If you visit any of those sites, note that there are plenty of private tour guides in Armenia. I’m sure they will be more than happy to show you around if you need their help. You can also check out my separate post on the best-routed tours you can take from Yerevan and get some ideas on how to fully explore Armenia.
Featured image credits: Diego Delso on Wikimedia Commons