It is very comfortable to get to Garni using public transport (and quite an entertainment too, considering there are the same buses operating since the Soviet era) but I’m not sure if there are any bus stops near Geghard. There was a storm coming when we visited Garni, so we decided not to wander around and go to Geghard by a taxi. One thing you should know about Armenians – they are generally good people but it’s a poor country and they will try to get as much money from you as they can, so be prepared to haggle. When we were coming to Garni and asked one taxi driver where the buses left from, he tried to convince us there were no buses at all and we should take a taxi. We didn’t believe him as I was holding a bus schedule in my hand. 🙂 Anyway, we haggled with a taxi driver and got from Garni to Geghard and later to Yerevan for 6000 drams instead of 10000 he asked us for at first.
Hitchhiking might be an option too but, to tell the truth, we had a pretty bad experience. Two middle-aged men stopped to take us from Khor Virap back to Yerevan (~40 km ride). We got into their not so new Mercedes, had a small chat with the driver who did seem like a genuine person at the time and then the crazy part started – he was a speed fanatic and we were flying at 240-260 kilometers per hour… The road wasn’t bad but it’s not an experience you wish for sitting in an old car and driven by a stranger. As soon as we saw the first houses of Yerevan we were thanking him for the trip and got out of the car as fast as possible. We did reach the city in just a few minutes and alive, so I cannot complain much, I guess. Anyway, it’s pretty easy to catch a ride in Armenia, if you decide to do so.
To get to the bus going to Garni, you first need to get to GAI Poghots Street in Yerevan and find a Mercedes Benz dealership. Look around and you will see a small bus station for mini-buses and marshrutkas nearby the dealership. Ask locals which bus you need as numbers change. A journey to the Garni village takes around half an hour. After stepping off the bus you will see a sign leading to the temple. You just need to walk down the main street and you’ll be there. The entrance fee is 1000 Dram per person.
A place you cannot miss. It was built by the Armenian King Trdates I in the 1st century AD and was originally dedicated to the God of the sun. Now it is considered to be one of the most spectacular remaining pagan temples in the world. To think it stood there for so many years! That is pretty amazing.
It survived the universal destruction of pagan structures but after Armenia’s conversion to Christianity its purpose was changed. In the early 4th century the fortress was converted into a summer house for royals (temple was a part of the fortress, which ruins are still on the site). Although Garni collapsed during an earthquake in 1679, it was reconstructed in the 20th century.
Naturally, Garni is a UNESCO listed World Heritage Site. The Hellenistic temple is situated in a mountainous countryside and you might want to visit it just for the surrounding landscape. Nature sceneries are magnificent there! And so different from the ones in Georgia, which was quite unexpected to me, considering Georgia and Armenia are close neighbours.
Another UNESCO World Heritage Site, also known as the “Monastery of the Cave”, founded in 4th century. The main chapel was built in 1215. It is mostly astonishing because of how it was built – much of it is carved out of the solid stone of the mountain it adjoins. There are several churches and chapels within the complex which you can visit and there is also a maze of caves, secret rooms and tombs. One of the caves features a stream of holy spring water, which was considered sacred even in pre-Christian times! Wait in line with locals to splash yourself and fill up an empty bottle, the water is ice cold and very refreshing.
“Geghard” means spear in Armenian – it is believed that a spear used by Romans to pierce Christ at Crucifixion was kept in a monastery for a long time, thus it was an important destination for pilgrimage.
Once again, the location is wonderful… Geghard is established at the end of a canyon and surrounded by steep rock mountains. Wandering around admiring the views you will encounter trees full of ribbons. Make a wish, tie a ribbon on the branch and your wish will come true. Can’t guarantee though, I didn’t have anything resembling a ribbon to tie up. 🙂