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 heathen 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.
Archaeologists have found Urartian cuneiform inscriptions dating back to the 8th century BC in the area around the temple, indicating that it has been inhabited since Neolithic times. The high promontory site is protected on three of four sides by a deep valley with rock cliffs, with a wall of massive blocks on the fourth side. Originally, the wall featured 14 towers and an entrance graced by an arch.
In the ruins of the church, look for the vishap (carved dragon stone). This is a marker to show the location of water. Some marks on the middle of the stone are in fact writing from King Argishti from the 8th century BC, which reads: ‘Argishti, son of Menua, took people and cattle from Garni to Erebuni [the original site of Yerevan] to create a new community.’
Entrance to the site is free on the last Saturday of every month.
To reach Garni from Yerevan on public transport, you will need to make your way to GAI St, from where buses and marshrutky travel to Goght via Garni. To get there from the city centre, take bus 25, trolleybus 1 or marshrutka 44 from Mesrop Mashtots St, or marshrutka 5 from Opera Sq. Look out for a large park with an equestrian statue on the right-hand side of the road and then alight at the next stop, a Mercedes Benz showroom.
Marshrutka 266 and bus 204 (AMD250, 35 minutes) depart for Goght when full and operate between 9am and 6pm. They leave from a carpark to the right of the showroom, opposite the fresh produce market.
In Garni, alight at the crossroads with a bus shelter opposite a butcher shop and then walk south to the temple.