The Monastery of Geghard
Monastery of Geghard © John Barker
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Monastery of Geghard is by far and away Armenia's most memorable tourist attraction. The monastery complex, partially carved out of an adjacent mountain, and surrounded by the spectacular cliffs of the Azat River gorge, was founded in the 4th Century by Gregory the Illuminator, at the site of a sacred spring deep inside the cave. The main chapel, a hugely impressive structure, full of ornately-carved steles, was built in 1215, and is a lasting testament to the devotion and architectural skill of the Armenian people. The monastery complex takes its name from the Armenian for 'Monastery of the Spear', a reference to the weapon which wounded Jesus Christ, and was supposedly brought to Armenia by Jude the Apostle.
The monastery is located at the end of the road and visitors walk up a short path lined with a few souvenir and snack vendors, which is a great chance to try Armenian treats like sweet lavash and gata. There is also a collection of interesting cave-rooms located just outside the monastery complex, which are worth visiting for tourists fit enough to climb up the path. Don't miss out on visiting this fascinating site, where even those who are not religious will be swept away by the richness of the valley's history, and the beauty of the cavernous church.
Address: Near Goght, Kotayk Province