Armenia isn’t the most popular travel destination around, but we believe that will change in the future. It’s a country with beautiful natural scenery and a peculiar culture with its own language, alphabet, religion, and a long history. Furthermore, it has a long list of amazing landmarks. Armenia may not be popular, but it is fascinating.
Located in the Caucasus region, connecting Europe and Asia, it’s a landlocked country surrounded by Georgia, Azerbaijan, Iran, and Turkey to the South. The most famous landmarks in Armenia are monasteries and ancient ruins, but there are also more modern ones and wonderful natural landmarks. If you are planning a trip, we encourage you to read our 50 things you need to know before traveling to Armenia.
In this post, we will explore both natural and human-made landmarks in Armenia. We invited a few fellow bloggers to contribute with some of their favorite Armenian landmarks to produce the best information possible.
Famous Landmarks In Armenia – Human-Made
Cascade complex, Yerevan
The cascade is a giant stairway made of limestone located in the center of Yerevan. It is formed by multiple levels adorned with fountains and modernist sculptures gracefully connected by huge staircases. The stairs themselves are decorated with several tiers of grass, flowers, and bushes, reminding us of a Babylon garden. All together, it looks like an enormous spectacular modernist sculpture.
It’s difficult to define what the Cascade is; it’s not really simply a monument, a building, or even a landmark. We would call it an urban decoration in the form of a staircase connecting the city center with a higher residential area. The construction of the cascade began in 1971, and the first phase was finished in 1980. The second phase was from 2002 to 2009, which included a huge renovation. Finally, a large museum complex is planned at the zenith, but it is still in the early stages of construction.
Climbing the Cascade to see the city’s monument to Soviet victory in WWII is a must. Moreover, the views of the city while climbing the stairs are breathtaking! On clear days you can even see Mount Ararat.
Noravank Monastery was built in the 13th-century, about 122 km from Yerevan, on the edge of the narrow winding gorge of the Amaghu river, close to Yeghegnadzo. This gorge is known for its tall, steep, brick-red cliffs directly across from the monastery. The Monastery is included in the UNESCO heritage list since 2002.
In this article, you will notice that Armenians really know where to build their monuments. They are great tourist attractions not only because of the landmarks, their history, and architecture but also how they integrate with the surrounding nature. It is possible to go to the second floor by way of a narrow stone-made staircase jutting out from the face of the building to take a closer look at the dome.
The monastery is also known for having several exquisitely carved khachkars (stone crosses) and khachkar fragments on the south side of the old church. A Khachkar is a carved memorial stele bearing a cross, often with additional motifs such as rosettes, interlaces, and botanical motifs. These hold a special place in Armenian history, worshiped by pilgrims from the beginning of their tradition.
By Aram & Megan from Absolute Armenia
Also known as the “Armenian Machu Picchu”, Hin Khot (Old Grass) is an ancient and unique settlement in the south of Armenia located in the Syunik region at the slope of a massive gorge dating back to approximately the 2nd century BC. While it may be referred to as the Armenian Machu Picchu, it is actually older than the Peruvian site.
Through the century, people who were initially inhabiting Hin Khot began their existence living in caves there. For centuries, they built everything in and around the caves. Over time, man-made structures began popping up there, including churches and gathering buildings.
This is one of the most off-the-path yet worthwhile destinations in Armenia to visit! The inhabitants fled the gorge, left this area abandoned in the 1970s, and created a new village above the gorge, referred to as ‘Khot’.
Today, Hin Khot is one of the stops on the exciting Legends Trail, a 250-kilometer trail that winds through the province and goes directly through the abandoned village.
There is no direct transportation to Hin Khot, but travelers can take a taxi to Khot village from Goris (18 kilometers away) or Kapan (67 kilometers away). From Khot, they can hike down into the gorge to reach Hin Khot.
Located in Vagharshapat, fairly close to Yerevan, Etchmiadzin Cathedral is a major pilgrimage site and one of the most visited places in the country. It is a world heritage site since 2000 and naturally one of the most famous things about Armenia.
Considered by many the oldest cathedral in the world, Etchmiadzin Cathedral is the mother church of Armenia Apostolic Church. Though, It’s a significant location in Armenia not only religiously but also politically and culturally.
The original church was built in the 4th century, between 301 and 303, following the adoption of Christianity mentioned above. It was built over a pagan temple, symbolizing the conversion to the new religion. The building has gone through a lot during its long history, with several destructions and damages though it never lost significance for the Armenians.
By Aram & Megan from Aram & Megan
Located less than 20 kilometers away from Yerevan in the Armavir region, right before entering the Holy city of Etchmiadzin, are the Zvartnots Cathedral ruins. They are situated in a gorgeous valley filled with fresh produce, notably apricots.
The tetraconch-style church was erected in the 7th century by Nerses, the Builder, and it was unique because its style is atypical of other Armenian architecture throughout the period. The constructor said that he built the church where King Tiridates III was converted to Christianity by Gregory the Illuminator.
Unfortunately, in the 10th century, a massive earthquake destroyed the cathedral to the ground and until the 1900s, it was not excavated or fully known about.
After recreating the mock-up of the church in 2000 (which is the one you can visit there), it was immediately included on a UNESCO list due to its rare architecture for the region.
Getting to Zvartnots Cathedral from Yerevan is extremely easy. You can opt for public transportation leaving the Kilikia Station Matenadaran, or you can cheaply take a taxi (about $4). It will only take 20 minutes to get there.
You will also find a museum and souvenir shop at the Armenian site.
By Aram & Megan from Virginia Travel Tips
Located in the Aragatsotn region on the way to Aragats Mountain, you will find Amberd Fortress. It sits 2,300 meters above sea level at the slopes of the Ashtarak gorge. The 10th-century Amberd Fortress was said to be a royal summer house or a defensive fortress (or both).
The Amberd Fortress ruins are still standing strong after so many years because it was built from sturdy basalt blocks. Next to it, right on the edge of the gorge from the same stone, the Church of Surb Astvatsatsin was built in 1026.
The notable Armenian fortress was sold to the House of Pahlavuni, and after more construction, Amberd became a fully defensive fortress complex with thick stones but also had a water supply system, a bathhouse, and other accommodations for royal families.
Amberd was captured in the 1070s by Sejuk Turks, and for more than 100 years, it was a military base. In 1197, General Zakare Zakarian liberated it.
In 1236 after the Mongols invaded, Amberd was again captured and destroyed, and until the mid-20th century, it was abandoned before becoming an archeologic site and tourist destination.
To get to Amberd, take public transportation from Yerevan to Byurakan village, which is next to it, and then take a taxi or hike to this impressive Armenian landmark.
Temple of Garni
By Ruma Baidya from The Holiday Story
The Garni Temple in the village of Garni Armenia is one of the oldest historical monuments in Armenia. It falls in the Kotayk Province, 30 kilometers away from Yerevan city. From this city, daily minibusses ply to Garni. You can also rent a car to reach the temple.
Among the many Greco-Roman colonnaded buildings of the area, the Garni Temple is the long-standing one. It is one of the most important buildings in Armenia from the pre-Christian era. Historians believe that the construction was completed around 77 AD under the kingship of Tiridates I. It’s a classical structure dedicated to Mihr. Mihr is the Sun god according to Armenian mythology.
The temple is built on an elevated platform, true to its Greco-Roman architecture. It has an exterior portico and an interior chamber called cella or naos. A triangular-shaped pediment covers the top. The front portion has tall staircases, each about 30 centimeters in height
The Garni temple is an important symbol of how the ancient civilizations impacted Armenia. It showcases the country’s rich and diverse history. Historians keep visiting to learn more about this rare portion of human history.
Geghard monastery takes the integration with nature to a whole new level, a big part of the monastery is entirely dug out of the cliff rocks. In contrast, others are elaborate structures, with both architecturally complex walled sections and rooms deep inside the cliff. All together, they make the Geghard monastery unique and a delightful destination to explore in Armenia.
While the main chapel was constructed in 1215, the monastery complex was founded in the 4th century by Gregory the Illuminator at the site of a sacred spring inside a cave. It represents the peak of medieval Armenian architectural achievement and comprises a walled complex set in stunning mountain scenery in the upper Azat Valley. Geghard both accents and rivals the natural beauty surrounding it.
Geghard monastery and the Garni temple (mentioned above) are close to each other, meaning they can and should be visited together. As it is relatively close to Yerevan, they also make up a perfect day trip from Yerevan.
Geghard monastery has been inscribed as a UNESCO heritage site in 2000. According to UNESCO themselves, the Geghard monastery contains several “churches and tombs, most of them cut into the rock, which illustrates the very peak of Armenian medieval architecture. The complex of medieval buildings is set into a landscape of great natural beauty, surrounded by towering cliffs at the entrance to the Azat Valley“.
By Agnes from The Van Escape
Tatev Monastery is one of the oldest and most famous monastery complexes in Armenia. It is a 9th-century Armenian Apostolic monastery. It’s located on a large basalt plateau near the Tatev village in Syunik Province in southeastern Armenia, not far from the city of Goris. During medieval times Tatev Monastery was a vital scholastic, enlightenment, and spiritual center and played a singular role in the country’s history.
At the beginning of the 11th century, Tatev hosted around 1,000 monks. The monastery suffered significant damage during the Seljuk invasions in the 12th century and the earthquake in 1136. In 1170, Seljuk Turks plundered the Monastery and burnt some 10,000 manuscripts. But the Monastery was rebuilt through the efforts of Bishop Stepanos near the end of the 13th century.
The University of Tatev, which was located in the monastery in the 14th and 15th centuries, contributed to the advancement of science, religion, philosophy, reproduction of books, and development of miniature painting.
The Tatev Monastery and the Great Tatev Hermitage in the Vorotan River valley have been on the Armenian UNESCO Information List since 1995.
The distance from Yerevan to Tatev is only 250 km. From Goris is 32 km. The best way to get there is on Wings of Tatev, our next famous Armenian landmark.
Wings of Tatev
The Wings of Tatev is a cableway from Tatev to Halidzor Village, considered the longest reversible cableway in the world with 5752 meters. The full journey takes about 12 remarkable minutes over the ravine of the Vorotan River. It’s the shortest, fastest, and most dramatic route to the Tatev Monastery. Riding the cableway enables you to fly over the Vorotan Gorge and experience unforgettable views 320 meters above the ground.
This ropeway takes a maximum of 240 passengers per hour, and the longest section is 2.7km, overlooking the Tatev monastic complex. Besides building the world’s longest reversible tramway, the region is creating a net of hostels, local food traditions are being revived, touristic paths, and museums created.
The Wings of Tatev are an infrastructure created to facilitate access to the Tatev monastery, but it became an attraction on its own and a modern landmark of Armenia.
Monasteries of Haghpat and Sanahin
By Emily from Wander-Lush
In a country known for its religious edifices, Armenia’s twin UNESCO World Heritage Listed monasteries in the north – Haghpat, and Sanahin – are among the most historically significant and visually impressive.
Nestled in the Lori region’s Debed Canyon, close to the Georgian border, the monasteries are easy to access from the nearby city of Vanadzor or Alaverdi. The most convenient way to visit the monasteries is by hiring a taxi from outside the Vanadzor bus station. Marshrutka vans are available, but schedules are sporadic. It’s also possible to hike between the monasteries following Hike Armenia’s World Heritage Trail.
The pair of Byzantine monastic complexes date back to the 10th-13th centuries and are paired together by UNESCO under one listing. The site was officially registered in 1996 based on its value to Armenian culture and heritage.
Haghpat, the younger of the two, was established by Queen Khosrovanush, with the oldest structures on the site dating back to 976 AD. Sanahin, founded as a burial place and administrative center for the ruling Bagratids in the 10th-11th centuries, similarly consists of several churches and a scriptorium.
Both monasteries feature beautiful examples of Khachkar cross-stones, decorative arches, and stone friezes. The setting for Haghpat in particular – atop a hill overlooking Debed Canyon – is magnificent.
Among all the landmarks in Armenia listed here, this is may well be the least known and least visited. However, this doesn’t mean you should skip it. Carahunge, or Zorats Karer, is located in the south of Armenia, 4 km from the town of Sisian, and it’s perfectly located as a stop when visiting the Tatev further south.
The Carahunge pre-historic site is known as the Armenian Stonehenge; however, you should note that it is much older and more rudimentary. It is estimated that it was built around 3500 BC, making it 5500 years old and considered one of the most ancient megalithic constructions in the world! The site is rich with stone settings, burial costs, and standing stones – Menhirs.
There are 223 identified stones with heights varying from 0.5 to 3 meters above ground level, weights ranging up to 10 tons. It is suggested that the standing stones could have been used for astronomical observation, but these are mostly conjectured as there are no certainties. Either way, it’s a delightful destination to freely walk around this site, enjoying the views and the ancient stones.
Famous Landmarks In Armenia– Natural
Sevan Lake is the biggest lake in Armenia, and the Caucasus Region occupying 5% of all Armenian Territory. This lake is located at 1900 meters of altitude, making it one of the biggest freshwater high-altitude lakes in the world.
As mentioned earlier, Armenia is a landlocked country which means that this lake is their best chance of going to the beach. However, we didn’t find the beaches appealing, and you should note that being at 1900 meters of altitude means that it’s significantly colder than other places.
There are several Monasteries on the shores of the lake, with the most interesting one being Sevanavank Monastery. The monastery is on top of the peninsula hill, built of crude black stone on the exterior. Although beautiful, in our opinion, it isn’t as impressive as other Armenian landmarks mentioned here.
Sevan lake is also the biggest fish source in Armenia. Hence if you like fishing, you have a great opportunity, particularly trout and crayfish. There are several restaurants on the shore of the lake for you to choose from.
By Aram & Megan from Next is Hawaii
The 4,090 meters high, four-peaked Aragats mountain is the highest mountain in Armenia and the Lesser Caucasus. It is the highest point located in the Aragatsotn and Shirak regions.
It is one of the most popular hiking destinations and trails in Armenia during the summertime, where travelers start their hike from Byurakan village to the mountain. Don’t overlook Byurakan, however! It is home to a famous Soviet observatory.
Hikers can alternatively begin their trek from a much more popular spot, starting from Tegher in Kotayk. This trail is 15.4 kilometers in length and leads to Kari Lake and the mountain’s North Summit.
One of the most famous waterfalls in Armenia, Gegharot Waterfall, is also located at Aragats, and it is becoming a popular photography spot in the region.
Another thing that Aragats is famous for is that during the late summer and early autumn, there is a small restaurant close to the lake where you can taste a delicious Armenian dish called ‘khash’ alongside a bit of vodka!
By Ellis from Backpack Adventures
The Debed Canyon is most famous because of its ancient monasteries, but it also offers one of the most impressive natural landscapes of the country. The Debed Canyon is formed by the Debed river that runs all the way from Vanadzor to Alaverdi and the border with Georgia.
The Debed Canyon is a great outdoors destination to go rafting on the river or go hiking in the surrounding mountains. There are several scenic trails in the Lori countryside where you might even encounter wild goats. The Debed Canyon is also a great spot for birdwatchers with different species of vultures, buzzards, and eagles.
Hiking the Debed Canyon is the perfect way to get off the beaten path in Armenia. Many trails pass by small villages as well as churches and monasteries that rarely receive visitors. You will have the area’s natural beauty all to yourself in this part of Armenia.
Tourism in the Debed Canyon is still in its infancy, but a new visitor center makes it easy to book all kinds of activities. You can rent bicycles, go on a horseback riding tour or go rafting on the Debed River.
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