Today has been an incredibly long and exciting day! We were on the road for about 13 hours, but man, we covered a lot of ground. I’m so exhausted, so this post is going to be brief on the writing, supplemented by more photos.
We left this morning at 8am with our guide, Nurik, and our driver, Artur, to head to the southern-most region of Armenia to visit the famous Tatev Monastery. We had a few scheduled and unscheduled stops along the way, including a visit to the Naravonk Monastery Complex, and impromptu stop to taste Armenia’s famous apricots, a stop at Karahunj, an archealogical sight from the Bronze Age, and a quick wine-tasting.
Our first stop was Noravank, a monastery complex perched on top of a cliff in a gorge dating back to the 13th Century. Noravank literally translates to “New Monastery” which became its name after an earthquake destroyed the church that stood there before. The history behind it makes sense, but it seems crazy to call something from the 13th Century “new”. What’s really cool about this complex is that it’s still in use – a Priest lives just below the monastery and people come every Sunday for Mass. It’s one thing for a place like this to be a historical sight, but the fact that it’s still used is pretty special.
Tatev, our main destination today, has recently been made famous by a government sponsored restoration process that helped build the world’s longest aerial tramway over a series of peaks to reach the monastery. With the Grouse Mountain gondola back home, this wasn’t quite as much of a novelty as it might be for other visitors, but it was still really fun to take the 15 minute ride over these beautiful peaks to reach Tatev.
The Tatev Monastery is also still in use, which is really special. The Cathedral itself is stunning, and you can feel how ancient it is when you wander around the inside. Locals still use this ancient sight for weekly Mass, and people come from all over Armenia for marriages or baptisms. It was a really special spot – you could really feel how old it is and how many people have used it for safety in one form or another.
My favourite stop of the day was to Karahunj, which some people call “Armenia’s Stonehenge”. Karahunj is a partially excavated archealogical site that dates back to the Bronze Age. Today, it sits in the middle of a field, and consists of hundreds of massive rocks propped upright. It looks and feels incredibly powerful. When we were there the weather suddenly turned and it went from beautiful and sunny to cloudy and dark, before starting to pour rain down on us as we headed back to the car.
On our way back to Yerevan, Artur pulled over at one spot on the side of the road to point out the view; From this spot you could see Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Turkey, including tthe famous Ararat Mountainthat once belonged to Armenia but sits today in present-day Turkey.