Self driving tour of Armenia - Noravank and Tatev

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June 23rd 2018
Published: July 3rd 2018
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Picked up our Lada Niva for a 6day tour around Armenia.

First stop was Geghard monastery, not so far out of Yerevan (UNESCO world heritage site, Medieval monastery). This is a big complex founded by Gregory the Illuminator (3rd Century founder of Christianity in Armenia and patron Saint of Armenia). There are some lovely carvings in the stone, both inside and outside. We were fortunate to catch a choir singing beautifully in a cave chapel. It was a very popular destination, probably due to it being Saturday.

Close by is Garni temple, a left over from Roman occupation, interesting history but not so interesting to visit.

From there a longer drive took us to Khor Virap monastery (17th century) which has great views to Mt Ararat, it's also where Gregory the Illuminator was incarcerated for 13 years in a pit, which you can look into. Good but not great views of Mt. Ararat for us (this is where Noah's Ark ended up).

It was lovely scenery on the route, rolling hills and verdant valleys full of fruit and vegetable farms.

The final leg of the day's drive was south to Noravank monastery (13th century), more enjoyable scenery. Another busy site, despite arriving around 6pm. We're staying at the guest house at the monastery, it’s a great location, very welcoming hosts.

This is another monastery in a stunning location that looked just beautiful in the warm evening light. It’s built of yellowish stone with surrounding cliffs of bright red rock.

Good dinner in the vine covered courtyard of the guest house, including local flat bread made their own baking pit.

The next day we did a return trip from the monastery guest house right down to the south to the famous monastery of Tatev, a centre of learning and religion for a long time but destroyed by earthquakes and rebuilt several times. Another enjoyable drive over mountains with colourful fields of wild flowers, droves of sheep and goats. The last 5km is by the world’s longest reversible aerial tram! 15 mins flying over villages and woodland. The monastery itself wasn’t amazing, clearly had been very large, a walk of about 10 mins to the view point above gives stunning views of the building and its location on the edge of a big canyon.

We had a pleasant lunch back at the restaurant at the start of the cable car with great views along the valley.
Just to see what it was like from below we drove down the windy road to the bottom of the valley to Devil's bridge, not worth it at the bottom, but some good views along the way. Half way down is a narrow ridge to walk along to the former bell tower, good views down both sides of the valley from there.

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