This article is co-written by Rhyne, the author of "The Armenia Blog", and Avi Abrams, DRB. Photography (except where otherwise stated) is from the beautiful travel portfolio site of Vahe Peroomian, by his graceful permission.

Epic history joins epic fantasy, in almost Tolkien-like landscape

Armenia is one of the oldest countries on Earth, its rich history apparent at every turn, from the capital city of Yerevan to the outskirts of the nation. It survived the Roman Empire, Alexander the Great, the Armenian Genocide in 1915 and dozens of other attempts at conquest - remaining largely independent throughout its history.

Armenia was also among the first post-Soviet countries to readily embrace capitalism, which served to improve somewhat the standard of living, but brought with it a score of other problems. However, regardless of (presently improving) economic situation, the point of this article is to remind the reader (and maybe the future visitor) about the incredible natural and cultural wonders of this country.

(Khorvirap Monastery with Mount Ararat, photo by Andrew Behesnilian)

Feel the deep poetry of stones:
(Armenia's mystical old churches & monasteries)

Garni Temple - This temple was constructed over 2,000 years ago and was likely paid for by Emperor Nero of Rome. It is probably the most eastern Greek temple in the world - Greek Gods were worshipped there until Armenia's adoption of Christianity (Armenia was the first country to officially adopt Christianity, in 301 A.D.)

(image credit: Anton)

(image credit: Alessandro)

Peaceful (and somewhat dreamy) monastery on Lake Sevan (also called Sea of Guegham) -

(image credit: Alessandro)

Spring at Echmiadzin Cathedral.(Built in 303 A.D.) -

(image credit: Isabelle)

Now we're entering the "epic fantasy" territory. Or rather, historic reality infused with deep spirituality - so evident in these places, visited by hordes of busy tourists - and waiting for a period of silence and a revered pause to speak to our inner selves. The interior of Geghart (or Geghard) Monastery (12th Century) -

Noravanq Monastery is located in the picturesque rocky mountainous region of Vayotz Dzor:

This place reminds me most of some "Lord of the Rings" locations:

Amroc: some nameless old stronghold -

(images credit: Albert)

Amberd Fortress (11 - 13th Century) sits on the slopes of Mt. Aragats:

Boromir and Aragorn would've loved it here. Areni Church, in the Vayots Dzor region of Armenia, is shadowed by a crag rising to its south:

Haghbat Monastery (10th - 13th Century) interior:

Makenyats Monastery sits on the slopes of the Gegharkunik range:

Tatev Monastery, in the Syunik region of Armenia:

Haghartzin Monastery, in the Tavush region of Armenia, is surrounded by dense forests and almost completely isolated. (the 13th century) -

Going even deeper into the mists of time:

Armenian Stonehedge - Believed to be somehow related to the Stonehenge in England, it also predates it by about 3,500 years! Karahundj, also known as Zorats Karer, is a 2nd Millenium BC rock fromation on a plain outside Sisian, in the Syunik Region:

This kind of nature needs an IMAX

The location of ancient city of Ani - former capital of Armenia about a thousand years ago. "It has suffered a lot from invasions, neglect and earthquakes. It is in far Eastern Turkey, near the town of Kars, right on the border with modern Armenia":

(image credit: Norman Grant)

Garni Village: Armenia enjoys all four seasons, but its winters are especially beautiful -

(image credit: Anton)

Lake Sevan is one of the largest high-altitude lakes in the world (covering 5% of Armenia), sitting some 2 kilometers above the sea level.

(image credit: Ara G.)

(image credit: titanium rodent)

(image credit: Alexanyan)

Springs on the old road to Jermuk:

Crystallized basalt cliffs in the Garni Gorge:

Shaki Waterfalls (Shaki was the prettiest girl of the region who chose to jump off from the cliffs to near death, rather than give herself to the Mongol invader Timur Lenk)

(image credit: pragaapple)

Zontik Waterfall:

(image credit: Raffi Kojian)

Armenian urban life picks up speed

Yerevan's Freedom Square buildings are made of solid slabs of granite and tufa, the latter responsible for the yellowy-red color found in structures throughout Armenia:

(image credit: Anton)

"The Singing Fountains" of the Republic Square (watch them in action in this video) -

(images credit: Vaghinak Petrosyan)

Designed by Prof. Abram Abramyan, they combine music, water and colour into a unique, unified whole - Yerevan got one of the first such installations in the world, back in the 60s.

Another photo of Yerevan:

(image credit: Alessandro)

Yerevan at Night: Armenia's capital city has a very vibrant night life, with people filling its many pedestrian-friendly streets until the early hour of morning. Mount Ararat, the possible Biblical landing of Noah's Ark, stands guard (the Soviet-era architecture, admittedly, is unbelievably ugly)

(image credit: randbild)

(images credit: Andrew Behesnilian)

Kids at the wedding:

(image credit: Arsineh Khachikian)

Statue of David of Sassoun, who is said to have driven Arabic invaders out of Armenia in ancient times -

(image credit: Alexanyan)

Immense crystal chandelier, one of dozens, that hangs inside the Opera House:

(image credit: Roupen Nahabedian)

Modern Office Building - and a Maybach car - in Yerevan (capitalism did indeed bring a higher standard of living for most and a luxurious lifestyle for the lucky few)

(image credit: Khashayar Zand)

From modern money to ancient carved mysteries

No matter where you are in Armenia, you are never too far away from Khachkars - the ancient Cross Stones, which pepper countryside and can be found in many cathedrals.

There are approx. 40,000 of them, each khachkar an intricate and unique engraving (amazingly, some feature Celtic knot pattern) with a mighty legend or a prayer commemorated on it... Here is one near Odzun monastery:

(image credit: Hovik Melikyan)

The art of these "immortality reminders" is probably worth a separate post. Send us the patterns that you find most beautiful. Also, our next entry in the Near and Middle East travelogue series will be Lebanon, and its natural wonders (if you have good pictures, please let us know)

Visit "The Armenia Blog" for most current news and articles about Armenia.

(all images are by permission of respective owners)

Also read: "The Hanging Monasteries of the World"

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Blogger Vier said...

Amazing pictures! I have to visit this place.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Looks beautiful!
And cold! :D
Nice photos.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Echt starke Bilder!
Kurtchen (Bremen/Germany)

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Besutiful especailly the pics from Reykjavik I think, I really wanna go there sometime...

Anonymous Anonymous said...

These pictures remind me a lot of Armenia's neighbor, Georgia. And the distinctive dome-cross architecture of the churches in the photos is the same as found in old and new Georgian churches. example: Svetitskhoveli Cathedral

Anonymous Anonymous said...

How beautiful! The beauty of the wilderness is enhanced by there being not one single person in each of those pictures

Blogger kmars314 said...

Thank you for posting this!! I'm Armenian and am proud of the beautiful country =) These are gorgeous photos!

Blogger Rhyne said...

I'm glad you guys are enjoying the photos. Do you want more??? :)

Blogger kmars314 said...

yes post some more =)

Anonymous Anonymous said...

it's been established that armenia was, in fact, the first christian nation...but bickering over that would be pretty un-christian, huh?

Blogger rodbotic said...

great shots.

I love this site

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry raphtee you are mistaken, the Armenians were indeed the first nation to become Christians in 301.
In 2001 Canada post issued a commemorative stamp in this honour...check out the history pages...Google search Gregory the Illuminator, very interesting historical facts :)
Breathtaking pics by the way!

Blogger Donald said...

Thank you for collecting and sharing these wonderful pictures of the land of my ancestors. My Armenian mother was born in Iran and raised in France, living 60 years in Denmark now. The rest of my family is mostly in California.

Blogger Avi Abrams said...

thank you guys for all great comments... Visit Armenia, and be a blessing to Armenian people.

Blogger Unknown said...

If the temple at the beginning of the article was built over 2000 years ago it could not have been paid for by Nero. Nero was emperor of Rome from 54 AD to 68 AD. Also, if Nero did pay for it, or it was built approximately 2000 years ago, that would firmly make it Roman, not Greek.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Adam, when they write Greek, this means Helenist style, and not from Greece or having Greek nationality!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Incredible pics of Armenia. I didn't know anything about it and I would like to visit is someday.


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