We leave from Yerevan in the morning driving towards the south east of the country. The weather is a bit misty today but fortunately it isn’t raining so we should be able to get a good day of exploration of some of the religious sights close to Yerevan.
We are heading to one of the most famous monasteries in the country. The Khor Virap. The monastery is located right at the edge of the country only around 5 kilometers away from the border to turkey. From the monastery there should be a great view of the most important Armenian mountain – Mount Ararat – but with the weather condition we can’t really see the mountain today. I have managed to find photos where you can see the monastery in the foreground and the mountain at the back. It looks really good – so I guess we have a reason to go back and see the view on a clear day.
When we drive to the monastery we see it from a distance – it has a very distinct location on the top of a hill with a big wall around the church. It isn’t a big hill compared to some of the mountains in the country – but the land around the hill is very flat making the hill stand out.
We park at the monastery and we can see we won’t get the place to ourselves. This might be the most important destination in Armenia when it comes to the old religious places. And since it is only a short drive from Yerevan it probably shouldn’t be surprising there are a lot of people going here.
The monastery is fairly big so even with hundreds of other tourist it doesn’t feel very crowded. We go in the door – it is free to visit. And then we see the big church which is dominating the central area behind the wall.
At a corner of the area is the monastery main claim to fame. Inside a little building you can go down to a basement – the stair down there is really tight Yunni complained about lack of space despite her limited height – I had some problems navigating my 6 foot 4 down the stair but somehow managed. Below the stair is a small cave which were the prison of Gregory the Illuminator – he spend 13 years in this tiny cell. Gregory was one of the most important Christian missionaries to Armenia and is credited as the one making the country Christian.
After walking around inside the wall we go outside the wall a bit up the hill. From the top of the hill we can see the church and the wall from above which give a good impression of the construction.