19 October 2013

Cavorting in the Caucasus: Noravank

The last thing I saw during the long day where I joined a tour of holy Armenian sites was this monastery complex located on a spectacular canyon location. Noravank Monastery is located about 120 kilometers south of Yerevan, and very close to the border with Azerbaijan (more specifically, with the border with Azerbaijan's exclave, Nakhchivan). This monastery complex has been around since the 13th century, and therefore again, is very impressive and loaded with history.

In order to get here, we had to drive for about two hours from where we were. Hence, most of us were napping when we finally arrived. I on the other hand was awake, and saw how spectacular the scenery was becoming, and always looked out the window during the trip. I gazed at the canyons and was wishing we'd get out sometime soon, which we did, after reaching the very top of the hill where the monastery was located.

As you can see, the canyon located is fantastic. And I haven't even showed you the monastery yet. I find it a fascinating thing to see these religious structures in the middle of perhaps the remotest places of the country, in fantastic locations, waiting to be visited. I'd love to trek in these locations, blazing through trails while admiring the heights. It is a mind-blowing experience.

There are two main structures here. The Surb Astvatsatsin and Surb Karapet Churches are the most prominent ones, and the most photographed. As you can see, some of the architecture can be death-defying. Surb Astvatsatsin Church is a double-storey church, but in order to reach the top-level, one must use the very narrow staircase that forms the facade of the church. This is seen clearer from the set of photos below.

See how narrow that staircase is? I climbed that, of course. But imagine brides who get married at the church during the weekends. They climb that up and down with their high heels.

Before I end this post, I have a few pictures above of the interior. I should say that this still follows the Armenian stereotype that church interiors are dark and musty places. Noravank is no different.

I have to say that this place perhaps is my most favorite place among the places I have visited in Armenia. There are other fascinating places in Armenia that I have seen, but this one takes the top spot. I should say this place is a must-see, and anyone visiting the country should definitely make a point to visit this monastery.


  1. Sometimes not napping is a good idea for long road trips as you get to admire the landscape! You've been rewarded ;-)

    1. Zhu,

      Definitely! That being said, I was so tired in this trip, as this was the day when I arrived from Europe at 3:30 in the morning, and the flight was not long enough for me to have a good night's sleep. :)

  2. Holy cow, they do know how to select a spectacular site for a monastery complex :) I'm actually aghast when I find fellow travelers asleep when the views outside - cars, buses, ferries - are just as awesome as the destination.

    1. TNP,

      I know! It might just be passing scenery, but somehow those are worth checking out as well. Now if only the vehicle would slow down so we can take a photo. :)