Church of St Stephanos

Church in Jolfa

Jolfa’s tourist pearl is this stunning, Unesco-listed Armenian church, whose origins date back to St Bartholomew. On a wooded hill above the Aras River, 17km west of Jolfa, the church is a five-minute uphill stroll from the car park, passing an ancient stone arch and ‘mill’ cascade. The church's well-preserved exterior reliefs include Armenian crosses, saints and angels. The interior is still under restoration. A taxi from Jolfa (25 minutes) to St Stephanos costs around IR500,000 return with stops.

The earliest surviving part of the building is 14th century. However, St Bartholomew first founded a church on the site around 62, a single generation after Christ. There's a small museum and inner cloisters to explore, and the greater gardens are a popular picnic sport. Getting to the church entails a wonderfully scenic drive, especially when the late-afternoon light ignites the surrounding barren hills, but be careful with your camera on the road as the river constitutes a sensitive international border. Bring your passport with you, as there's a checkpoint just as you leave Jolfa and you may be stopped.

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