Must see attractions in Armenia

  • Top ChoiceSights in Garni & Geghard

    Geghard Monastery

    Named after the lance that pierced Christ’s side at the crucifixion (a shard is now on display at the museum in Etchmiadzin), this World Heritage–listed monastery is carved out of a cliff alongside the Azat River Gorge. Founded in the 4th century, the monastery's oldest chapel dates back to the 12th century and its tremendously atmospheric Surp Astvatsatsin (Holy Mother of God Church) dates from 1215. The cathedral features wonderful carvings and its surrounding chapels make for terrific exploring.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Yerevan

    Armenian Genocide Memorial & Museum

    Commemorating the massacre of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire from 1915 to 1922, this institution uses photographs, documents, reports and films to deliver a powerful museum experience similar to that of Israel's Yad Vashem (Holocaust Museum). Free tours are available for five or more. On the hill above is a 44m-high spire memorial next to a circle of 12 basalt slabs leaning over to guard an eternal flame.

  • Sights in Western Armenia

    Khor Virap Monastery

    Located 32km south of Yerevan at the foot of Mt Ararat, Khor Virap has been repeatedly rebuilt since the 5th century. Legend says the pagan King Trdat III imprisoned St Gregory the Illuminator (Surp Grigor Lusavorich) here for 12 years. These days, pilgrims climb down a metal ladder into the well where the saint was incarcerated. To join them, wear sturdy shoes and head to the small church in the compound's southwestern corner (the well is right of the altar).

  • Top ChoiceSights in Yerevan

    History Museum of Armenia

    Its simply extraordinary collection of Bronze Age artefacts make this museum Armenia's pre-eminent cultural institution and an essential stop on every visitor's itinerary. Many of the items were excavated at the Necropolis of Lchashen near Lake Sevan in the 1950s, and it's hard to do them justice in words. The collection includes bronze sculptures, four-wheeled wooden chariots with metal decoration, carved stone fertility symbols, and a magnificent array of weapons and armour (arrows, quivers, helmets and shields).

  • Top ChoiceSights in Southern Armenia

    Noravank

    Founded by Bishop Hovhannes in 1205 and sensitively renovated in the 1990s, Noravank (New Monastery) is one of the most spectacular sites in Armenia and should be included on every visitor's itinerary. Around sunset, the reddish hues of the dramatic cliffs surrounding the monastery are accentuated by the setting sun, and the reddish-gold stone of its churches acquire a luminous sheen – it's a totally magnificent sight.

  • Sights in Yerevan

    Sergei Parajanov Museum

    For something totally unique, head to this museum near Hrazdan Gorge. Crammed with collages, drawings, photographs and assemblages created by the experimental film-maker best known for his 1969 film Sayat Nova (aka The Colour of Pomegranates), it is as eccentric as it is engaging. Housed in an attractive 19th-century timber house, the collection manages to evoke Parajanov's prodigious talent, humour and humanity while at the same time illustrating the difficulties faced by artists, film-makers and writers living in the USSR.

  • Sights in Yerevan

    Matenadaran

    Standing at the top of Yerevan’s grandest avenue, this cathedral-like manuscript library is a source of enormous pride to all Armenians. The first matenadaran (book depository) for Armenian texts was built by Mesrop Mashtots, the inventor of the Armenian alphabet, at Etchmiadzin in the 5th century and held thousands of manuscripts. Invasions over the centuries led to enormous losses through looting and burning, but 1800 exquisitely illustrated and bound manuscripts survived. These form the basis of the stunning collection here.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Garni & Geghard

    Garni Temple

    Built by Armenia’s King Trdat I in the 1st century AD, this Hellenic-style temple set on the edge of a gorge overlooking the Azat River was dedicated to the sun god, Mitra. Largely destroyed by an earthquake in 1679, the Parthenon-like structure was rebuilt between 1969 and 1975. It features a monumental staircase and Ionic columns topped by a frieze. Next to the temple are the ruins of a Roman-era bathhouse (closed to the public) and a 7th-century church.

  • Sights in Stepanavan

    Lori Berd

    On a promontory between the gorges of the Dzoragets and Miskhana Rivers, this ruined fortress has huge towers and massive stone blocks along its exposed side. Originally the base of David Anhogin, who ruled the region of Tashir-Dzoraget from 989 to 1048, it eventually became a base for the Orbelians and Zakarians, powerful Armenian noble families. There are ruined buildings worth exploring, an ancient cemetery and hillocks that are actually Bronze Age tumulus tombs. A 14th-century bridge is in the gorge below.

  • Sights in Western Armenia

    Marmashen

    Marmashen’s location deep in a river valley 10km northwest of Gyumri is unusual – medieval monasteries in Armenia were almost always constructed in elevated locations. There are three churches hewn from lovely apricot-coloured tuff clustered together here, the most impressive of which is the 10th-century Surp Stepanos. A ruined 13th-century gavit is next to the church, and beautiful carved tombs and khachkars dot the surrounding landscape. The monastery is a popular picnic spot in summer.

  • Sights in Haghpat

    Haghpat Monastery

    Occupying a commanding position overlooking the gorge, this monastery has atmosphere and architectural splendour in spades. Founded around 976 by Queen Khosrvanuch, who funded construction of the domed Surp Nishan (Church of the Holy Cross) at the centre of the complex, it saw a building boom in the 12th and 13th centuries. Surp Nishan's frescoes and the porch, gavit, bell tower, library and chapter house were added at this time. The monastery's name means 'huge wall', acknowledging its hefty fortifications.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Goris

    Old Khndzoresk

    Dug into volcanic sandstone on the slopes of Khor Dzor (Deep Gorge), the village of Old Khndzoresk was inhabited as far back as the 13th century. By the late 19th century, the town was the largest in eastern Armenia, but after being devastated by the 1931 earthquake it was abandoned (save for a brief stint during the Karabakh War when caves were used as shelter). Now Old Khndzoresk stands a ghost town of caves and 17th-century churches worth spending several hours exploring.

  • Sights in Yerevan

    Republic Square

    From dawn till late into the night, Republic Sq is Yerevan's focal point and beating heart. Designed by architect Alexander Tamanyan as part of his 1924 urban plan for the city and originally named after Vladimir Lenin until 1991, the square is enclosed by a few current and former government buildings, the Armenia Marriott Hotel and the History Museum and National Gallery. Its famous musical fountains (8pm to 10pm in summer) are the city's most endearing attraction and a popular meeting point.

  • Sights in Goris

    Medieval Goris Cave Dwellings

    Locals say the cave shelters of Old Goris carved into the hillside on the east side of town were built and inhabited in the 5th century. Several trails lead up over a saddle where there are epic views over Goris and volcanic pinnacle clusters similar to the 'fairy chimneys' seen in Turkey. It's worth exploring the cave rooms, many of which are linked together and feature arched ‘shelve’ walls. Nowadays, some caves are used to house cattle or as churches.

  • Sights in Lake Sevan

    Noratus

    Approximately 900 khachkars (headstones) dating from as far back as the 10th-century dot this breathtaking cemetery on the western edge of Lake Sevan. Legend has it that an invading army was forced to take cover as their commander mistook the field of khachkars for a battalion of enemy soldiers. All khachkars face west and thus are better photographed in the afternoon. Watch out for the ladies who propose guided tours – for a price.

  • Sights in Ashtarak

    Hovhannavank

    Perched on the edge of the Kasagh Gorge, this monastery in the village of Ohanavan was once an important educational and theological centre where manuscripts were written and illuminated. It has two adjoining churches: a basilica dating from the 5th century and the 13th-century Church of St John. The church has an altar decorated with frescoes, as well as unusual cantilevered staircases, detailed engravings and beautiful hanging chandeliers. The entrance to both buildings is via a splendid 13th-century gavit.

  • Sights in Ashtarak

    Saghmosavank

    Surrounded by a fortified wall and commanding wonderful views over the Kasagh Gorge and to Mt Aragats, Saghmosavank (Monastery of Palms) is located in the village of the same name. The monastery is comprised of two main church buildings: the Church of Zion and the smaller Church of Karapet; both date from the 13th century. The monastery's gavit and L-shaped library date from the same period. A 7.5km trail connects Saghmosavank with Hovhannavank along the Kasagh Gorge (five to six hours return).

  • Sights in Yerevan

    Centre of Popular Creation

    Its somewhat esoteric name means that many visitors to Yerevan overlook this museum. This is a great shame, as it is home to the best folk-art collection in the country and is well worth a visit. Spread over two floors, the collection of woodcarving, silverwork, embroidery, carpets, lace and costumes is in mint condition and attractively displayed, with good lighting and English-language labels. The 19th- and 20th-century carpets and the intricate woodwork (some inlaid) are particularly impressive.

  • Sights in Gyumri

    Museum of the Aslamazyan Sisters

    Artists Mariam (1907–2006) and Yeranuhi (1910–98) Aslamazyan were born in Bash-Shirak village near Gyumri and two floors of this handsome 19th-century building showcase a large collection of their brightly coloured canvasses and ceramics. The sisters were huge travellers and painted scenes of their trips in many parts of the world, something that was extremely unusual for any Soviet artist of the time, let alone women.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Yerevan

    Cafesjian Center for the Arts

    Housed in a vast flight of stone steps known as the Cascade, this arts centre is one of the city's major cultural attractions. Originally conceived in the 1920s by Soviet architect Alexander Tamanyan as part of his plan to modernise Yerevan, work on the monumental structure finally commenced in the 1980s but stalled after the 1988 earthquake. Eventually, Armenian-American philanthropist Gerard Cafesjian came to the rescue, funding its completion and transformation into a multi-level contemporary arts space.