Monastery in Gyumri

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 (Church of St Stephen). 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.

To get here, take the main road north from Gyumri, follow the signs to Vahramaberd and pass through the village of Marmashen. When you arrive at Vahramaberd, turn left onto an unsealed road leading through farmland down into the valley. The monastery is near a lake and a small hydroelectric plant. A return taxi from Gyumri should cost around AMD5000 including 30 minutes at the monastery. Make sure the driver understands that you want to see the monastery and not the nearby village of the same name.