Garni Temple

Top choice in Garni & Geghard

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.

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.

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.’

Below the ruins is the Symphony of Stones rock formation visible with binoculars from the temple or along a terribly bumpy 4WD road (easier access is near Garni Fish Restaurant).