- Hiking / Trekking
- Place or Religious Monument
- Place or Historical Monument
Imagine a desert landscape, a moon like plain from which emerges an arid mountain, a volcano with a snow covered summit that is more than 5,000 m high, and, in the foreground, a stone monastery, looking dwarfed by such immensity. Well, that's what you can expect from Khor Viap monastery!
Obviously, the site's beauty is not completely unknown because the monastery is a much prized pilgrimage site for Armenians, who also go there to get married, to have their children baptized, or to make traditional animal sacrifices, especially at the weekends when the site is quite busy.
But if you can go there on a week day and outside high season during your trip to Armenia, you are likely to be more or less alone, like I was lucky enough to be, with the magnificent landscape around you.
I spent a day at Khor Virap, which was enough time to visit the monastery and take a little stroll around the religious building with Mount Ararat in the background.
Try to go on a Sunday morning, because you'll get the chance to attend a religious ceremony, knowing that Armenia is mostly Apostolic. This is an opportunity to experience the country's religious aspect more. According to one study, Armenia is considered the 3rd most religious country in the world.
For the more fun part of your visit, there are dungeons to check out, and you get there by going down numerous underground ladders. Beware: you shouldn't go down if you're claustrophobic...
Don’t forget to try the local cuisine during your stay in Armenia, a real treat. Carnivorous friends rejoice, because barbecue is the country's main dish, and finish your meal with a glass of cognac, renowned here for its quality.
It would be a shame to not go to the Khor Virap monastery during a stay in Armenia because this place alone is the symbol of the country. The simple silhouette of the monastery built in the more pure Armenian architectural style distances itself from Mount Ararat, located a few miles away on the Turkish side of the border. A mountain and a monastery - not much else could be more Armenian.
Aside from that, you have to admit that the monastery itself isn't very big, and its architecture is relatively simple. The trip is worth taking, however, especially for the view. Nevertheless, for Armenians, it is a significant pilgrimage site, where Saint Gregory the Illuminator (the founder of the Armenian Apostolic Church) was imprisoned for 12 years.
Since Khor Virap is located near Yerevan, the monastery can be the destination of a half-day excursion from the capital.