Armenian landmarks are many and most of them are ancient. Here is the list of 15 most popular Armenian landmarks.
Armenia is a country with a history spreading out over several millennia, with stunning nature, with proud, but very friendly and hospitable people.
Although data regarding its economy might not reveal it, the keyword for Armenia is ‘rich’. It has a history full of episodes and events significant not only for the Armenians, but on a larger scale as well, several scientists, cultural and political personalities have an Armenian descent, not to speak about the taste of food in Armenia – ‘rich’ is too small of a word for describing it.
Here are some of Armenia’s most important landmarks.
Armenian Landmarks #1: Ararat Mountain
Ararat Mountain is the symbol of Armenians worldwide, of Armenian national identity as a whole. It is mentioned in the Bible as the mountain on which Noah’s Arch landed after the Flood- the symbol of salvation.
As a result of the caprices of an unfair history, it is one of the few not located in today’s Armenia’s territory – it’s just across the border, in Turkey.
There is a famous joke (a true story, some say), according to which, to a Turk’s enquiry as to why is the Ararat Mountain on the Armenian emblem if it’s not in its territory, the Armenian replied “Why, are the moon and stars in your territory?’.
Armenian Landmarks #2: The National History Museum
The National History Museum is a museum in Armenia, located in the Republic Square in the center of Yerevan.
It has 5 departments – Archaeology, Numismatics, Ethnography, Modern History and Restoration. It was founded in 1920 and it started off with a collection of 15289 objects, a number growing up to 400000 objects in the present.
It presents a complete picture of Armenia’s history and culture, from prehistorical times to the present.
The History Museum of Armenia continually replenishes its collections with finds from current excavations made at ancient Armenian sites by the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography and the National Academy of Sciences of Armenia.
Other objects are obtained through purchases and donations. The museum also presents rare traces of cultural interrelations between ancient eastern societies in the Armenian Highlands.
It has participated to several international exhibitions around the world, the latest one being at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York from 2014 to 2015.
Armenian Landmarks #3: The Tsitsernakaberd Genocide Memorial
The Tsitsernakaberd Genocide memorial is Armenia’s official memorial dedicated to the victims of the Armenian Genocide that took place at the beginning of the 20th century.
Every year on April 24th (the Genocide Remembrance Day), thousands of Armenians from around the world come and pay their respects to the victims of the Genocide.
It is located in Yerevan, on one of the 3 hills located along the Hrazdan river, named Tsitsernakaberd, and it was built in 1967 and designed by architects Tarkhanyan and Kalashyan and artist Hovhannes Khachatryan.
The 44-meter stele symbolizes the national rebirth of Armenians. Twelve slabs are positioned in a circle, representing the twelve lost provinces in present-day Turkey.
In the center of the circle, at a depth of 1.5 meters, there is an eternal flame dedicated to the 1.5 million people killed during the Armenian Genocide.
Along the park, at the memorial, there is a 100-meter wall with the names of towns and villages where massacres and deportations are known to have taken place.
On the rear side of the commemoration wall, plates have been attached to honor persons who committed themselves to relieving the distress of the survivors during and after the genocide.
Armenian Landmarks #4: Khor Virap Monastery
Khor Virap (“deep dungeon”) is an Armenian monastery located 8km south of Artashat, Ararat region of Armenia, just 100m away from the closed border with Turkey.
Khor Virap is located on a hill in Pokr Vedi; the village is 4 kilometers from the main highway. Yerevan, the capital and largest city of Armenia, is 30 kilometers to the north.
It used to be host for a theological seminary and it used to be the residence of the Armenian Catholicos. King Artashes I, founder of the Armenian Artashesid dynasty, established his capital nearby, at Artashat around 180 BC. Artashat remained the capital of the dynasty until 330, when it was moved to Dvin, during King Khosrov’s reign.
King Tiridates III of Armenia imprisoned Gregory the Illuminator here for 13 years, which makes the monastery a notable pilgrimage site.
Gregory was later freed by the king, became his religious mentor and in 301AD, as a result of Gregory’s activity, Armenia became the first country in world history to accept Christianity as a state religion.
Armenian Landmarks #5: Geghard Monastery
Geghard (“spear”) is a medieval monastery located in the Kotayk region of Armenia. It is partially carved out of the adjacent mountain and it is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The monastery’s name comes from the head of the spear that had wounded Christ at the Crucifixion and which was brought by Apostle Thaddeus to Armenia and was stored with several other relics.
The monastery complex was founded in the 4th century by Gregory the Illuminator at the site of a sacred spring inside a cave, but the main chapel was built in 1215.
The spectacular towering cliffs surrounding the monastery are part of the Azat River gorge and are included together with the monastery in the World Heritage Site listing.
Armenian Landmarks #6: Garni Temple
The Temple of Garni is the only building in Armenia and the former Soviet Union having an ancient, Greco-Roman architectural style and still standing.
Located in the village of Garni, Kotayk region of Armenia, at almost 1400m of height, it’s part of a larger protected area and it’s the best-known structure and symbol of pre-Christian Armenia.
The structure was built in the 1st century AD by King Tiridates I as a temple to the Sun God Mihr, but after conversion the Christianity two centuries later, it was turned into a royal summerhouse for King Tiridates II’s sister.
According to some scholars, it was not a temple but a tomb and thus survived the universal destruction of pagan structures. It collapsed in a 1679 earthquake.
Renewed interest in the 19th century led to excavation at the site until the mid-20th century and its eventual reconstruction between 1969 and 1975.
It is one of the main tourist attractions in Armenia (together with the neighboring Geghard monastery) and the central shrine of Armenian neopaganism.
Armenian Landmarks #7: Garni gorge – Symphony of Stones
The Garni gorge is situated under the village with the same name from Kotayk region, 23km from the capital Yerevan. On a promontory above the gorge, the first-century AD Garni temple may be seen.
Along the sides of the gorge are cliff walls of well-preserved basalt columns, carved out by the Goght River. This portion of the Garni Gorge is typically referred to as the “Symphony of the Stones”, due to its typical shape.
It can be reached mainly by two ways: via a road that leads left down the gorge just before reaching the temple of Garni or a road leading to the gorge through the village.
Armenian Landmarks #8: Tatev Monastery
The Tatev Monastery is a monastery located in the Tatev village, Syunik region of Armenia (historically known as «Zangezur»), not far from the city of Goris and 280 km away from Yerevan.
It was built in the 9th century on a large basalt plateau overlooking the deep gorge of the Vorotan River. Tatev is known as the bishopric seat of Syunik and played a significant role in the history of the region as a center of economic, political, spiritual and cultural activity.
Popular etymology of the monastery’s name includes a legend telling of an event that is tied to the construction of the main church, where an apprentice secretly climbs to the top of its steeple intending to place a cross of his own design.
However, the apprentice is spotted by his master during his descent. Shocked by his discovery, the apprentice loses his foothold and falls into the abyss as he calls upon God to grant him wings, which, in Armenian is: “Ta Tev”.
In the beginning of the 11th century, Tatev hosted around 1,000 monks and a large number of artisans.The monastery suffered significant damage during Seljuk invasions in the 12th century and the earthquake in 1136 – Seljuk Turks plundered the Monastery and burnt some 10,000 manuscripts.
The Monastery was rebuilt at the end of the 13th century. During Tamerlane’s campaigns into Syunik, Tatev was looted, burnt, and dispossessed of a significant portion of its territories and received an additional blow during Shah Rukh’s invasion in the mid-15th century.
The monastery was reborn in the 17th and 18th centuries; its structures restored and new ones were added. The monastery was seriously damaged after an earthquake in 1931, the dome of the Sts. Paul and Peter church and the bell tower were destroyed. In the latter years the Sts. Paul and Peter church was reconstructed, but the bell tower remains destroyed up to today.
The fortified Tatev monastery consists of three churches (Sts. Paul and Peter, St. Gregory the Illuminator and St. Mary), a library, dining hall, belfry, mausoleum as well as other administrative and auxiliary buildings.
In the 14th century, fortifications were built to the south, west and north of the monastery with buildings for habitation, administration and other purposes.
In the 18th century, additions were made to house the bishop’s residence, cells for the monks, storage, dining hall, kitchen, bakery and winery. Sixteen rectangular classrooms, covered with arched ceilings, were built along the main fortifications.
To the northeast of the monastery, outside of the fortifications is the olive press. It has four production rooms, including two domed storage rooms and pressing chambers with arched ceilings.
In 1995, the monasteries of Tatev, Tatevi Anapat and their adjacent areas of the Vorotan Valley were added to the tentative list of World Heritage Sites of UNESCO.
Launched in 2008, Tatev Revival foundation was founded by impact investor and entrepreneur Ruben Vardanyan. The main goal of Tatev Revival is the restoration of Tatev Monastery.
Included in this objective is the creation of infrastructure around the monastery while respecting its cultural, historical and spiritual significance, as well as the concurrent development of local communities.
Armenian Landmarks #9: “Wings of Tatev” Cableway
«Wings of Tatev» is a 5.7 km long cableway between Halidzor village and the Tatev monastery in Syunik region, 250km south of Yerevan. It is the longest reversible aerial and holds the record for «longest non-stop double track cable car». Construction was finished on 16 October 2010.
The cable car travels at a speed of 37 km (23 mi) per hour and a one-way journey takes around 12 minutes (whereas the trip up the steep switchback road of the Vorotan Gorge takes around 40 minutes). At its highest point over the gorge, the car travels 320 m (1,050 ft) above ground level.
The Wings of Tatev aerial tramway operates all year round, and the operating hours vary from season to season. In summer (June–August), the aerial tramway operates from 9 am to 8 pm; in colder weather (October–April), it operates from 10 am to 6 pm; in May and September, it operates from 10 am to 7 pm. During high summer season, the aerial tramway operates every day, without exception. The rest of the year, it runs on every day but Monday.
Armenian Landmarks #10: Sevan Lake
Lake Sevan is situated in the Gegharkunik region of Armenia, at a little over 1900m of altitude, being the largest lake in the Caucasian area as well as one of the largest fresh-water high-altitude lakes in the world.
The lake itself has a surface of around 1,240 km2, and the volume is 32.8 km3. It is fed by 28 rivers and streams. Only 10% of the incoming water is drained by the Hrazdan River, while the remaining 90% evaporates.
During Soviet times it was heavily used for irrigating the Ararat plain, as a result of which it’s level decreased with 20m and its volume with 40%.
A couple of decades later, two tunnels meant to divert highland rivers were constructed – the Arpa-Sevan and the Vorotan-Arpa tunnel; the construction of the first one was ended in 1981 and the second was inaugurated in 2004.
As an effect of these tunnels’ construction, the level of the lake started to rise – in 2007a rise of approx. 2.5 m in the previous 6 years was recorded.
The Sevan Lake is a popular site and one of the locals’ favorite recreational sites during the summer, and that too for several reasons, including the numerous beaches that are located along the entire lakeshore and which provide unique experiences within the landlocked country for Armenians.
Activities include swimming, sunbathing, jet skiing, windsurfing, and sailing. The area also includes numerous campgrounds and picnic areas for daytime use.
Another point of interest here not to be missed is the Monastery of Sevanavank, located on the lake’s only peninsula (which used to be the lake’s only island until the mid-20th century).
Armenian Landmarks #11: Noratus medieval cemetery
The Noratus (or Noraduz) cemetery is the largest surviving Armenian medieval cemetery with khachkars, after the destruction of the one of Old Julfa, Nakhichevan by Azerbaijani authorities in 2005. It is located in the village of Noratus, Gegharkunik region, Gavar and Lake Sevan, 90 km north of Yerevan.
The oldest khachkars in the cemetery date back to the late 10th century. The cemetery is spread over a seven-hectare field containing almost a thousand khachkars each of them having unique ornamentation.
Several tombstones in the cemetery depict carved scenes of weddings and farm life. One of the khachkars from the cemetery was donated to the British Museum in 1977 by Catholicos Vazgen I.
A popular folktale associated with the cemetery concerns the invading army of Tamerlane. According to the story the villagers placed helmets on top of the khachkars and leaned swords against them.
From a distance the khachkars looked like armed soldiers holding a defensive position, thus Tamerlane’s army retreated.
Armenian Landmarks #12: Tigranakert ( Artsakh)
Tigranakert in today’s Artsakh Republic (also known as the Nagorno Karabakh Republic) is the site of one of the four capital cities built by King Tigran I of Armenia in the 1st century BC.
King Tigran is also known as Tigran the Great (“Tigran Medz” in Armenian), because during his reign Armenia had its largest territory, stretching from the Caspian Sea to the Mediterranean Sea. “Tsovits tsov Hayastan”/”sea to sea Armenia” is an expression widely used by Armenians to refer to Tigran Medz’s kingdom, during which was the most glorious period of their entire history.
It occupies an area of about 50 hectares and is located in the region of Martakert in the Republic of Artsakh, approximately 4 km south of the Khachenaget River.
Excavations at Tigranakert began in March 2005, when it was first discovered. Archaeologists have uncovered two of the main walls of the city, as well as Hellenistic-style towers and an Armenian basilica dating to fifth to seventh centuries AD
In June 2010, a museum dedicated to the study and preservation of artifacts unearthed from Tigranakert’s ruins was opened in the adjacent Shahbulagh Castle, a Persian fortress dating back to the 18th century.
On the top of the hill where the two main walls of the city were discovered there also is a church from the 7th century named Vankasar.
Overall, the site is an interesting place to visit for those who are interested to know about Armenian history at its peak, as well as a pleasant alternative to always busy tourist attractions in Artsakh such as Stepanakert and Shushi.
Armenian Landmarks #13: Dadivank (Artsakh)
Dadivank is an Armenian monastery in the Shahumyan region of the Artsakh Republic (Nagorno Karabakh). Being located on top of a hill, deep between the mountains, surrounded by lush green forests, it’s rightfully considered one of the hidden gemstones of Artsakh, of Armenia itself.
The monastery was founded by St. Dadi, a disciple of Apostle Thaddeus, who spread Christianity in Eastern Armenia during the 1st century AD. However, the monastery was first mentioned in the 9th century. In June, 2007, the grave of St. Dadi was discovered under the holy altar of the main church.
In 1994 following the end of the Nagorno-Karabakh war, the monastery was reopened and in 2004, a renovation process began with funding from Armenian-American businesswoman Edele Hovnanian, ending in 2005. The restoration efforts restored the Cathedral, along with a chapel which was restored by Edik Abrahamian, an Armenian from Iran.
Armenian Landmarks #14: Shushi (Artsakh)
Shushi is a city in the unrecognized, de-facto independent Republic of Artsakh (Nagorno Karabakh), with one of the richest historical and cultural heritages in the Armenian Highland. It’s situated at the very extremity of the latter, right at the opening of the Asian plain.
The earliest mentioning of human settlement in what is today Shushi date from the Middle Ages. Later, Shushi became a fortified stronghold in Varanda, one of the 5 Armenian «melikutyuns» (principalities), traditionally governed by the Melik-Shahnazaryan aristocratic family.
The town of Shushi as such was founded by Panakh Ali Khan, the leader of the Jevanshir Muslim tribe, in 1750-1752. Later during the 19th century, Shushi became one of the most developed cities of the Caucasus, coming ahead of Tiflis and Baku, being an important commercial, cultural and industrial center in the area.
Today, after having witnessed several ethnic confrontations and the war marking the end of the Soviet era, the city was reborn from the ashes, thanks to the unified efforts of the local government, the government of Armenia and the large Armenian Diaspora around the world – several building of public importance have been renovated, starting from the City Hall to schools, cultural centres, art galleries and museums.
One of the must-see places is the Ghazanchetsots Cathedral, situated in the very heart of the city. It was built in the 2nd half of the 19th century (1888). During the Soviet rule, which had strong atheist policies, its functions ranged from granary in the 1940s to deposit for missiles and ammunition during the war at the end of the 1980s.
The fortress walls seen at the entrance of the city are remnants from Panakh Khan’s fortifications from the 18th century. They also give a spectacular view on the capital of Stepanakert.
Other notable places to be visited are the History Museum, located in a building that used to function as a maternity during the Soviet Azeri rule, as well as the newly opened Geological museum. Also don’t forget «Jdrduz», the esplanade from which you have a spectacular view of the Hunot Canyon and from where you can hike down the cliff to another famous spot – the Zontik Waterfall, named that way because of its typical shape of an umbrella.
Armenian Landmarks #15: “Tatik-Papik” Monument (Artsakh)
The «Tatik Papik» monument, officially known as «We are our Mountains», is a large monument situated just outside capital Stepanakert of the Republic of Artsakh, on a small hill.
It was designed and built in 1967 by sculptor Sargis Baghdasaryan, much to the dismay of the authorities at the time, who were expecting a monument glorifying the Soviet Azeri rule. Instead, the monument unveiled represented a man and a woman in traditional Karabakhi outfit, with only their heads coming out of the ground, having a strong symbolic message – the Armenians’ roots go deep in the land, forming an unbreakable bond.
The monument is present on the Artsakh Republic’s coat of arms and is a symbol not only of Artsakhi Armenians, but of all Armenians.
It’s also a revered place for locals, who also lovingly refer to it as «Dedo Babo» («grandma grandpa» in Russian) and newlyweds often visit it and get pictures in front of it.
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