On my third day in Armenia (and last before I headed to Georgia), I went and visited the Geghard Monastery. This was one of the sights that we went that day. There was supposed to be a tour that I was joining, however, we couldn't find a 5th person, as 5 was the minimum number of people needed for the tour to run. So what we did was that the remaining four people (me and 3 friends) just asked the hostel to get a taxi for us, which we hired, and we were driven to the same places that the tour would have stopped. After all, these sights were essential ones if one were to visit Armenia, so we figured we couldn't let it pass.
If you look at the location of this place, it is amazing. The canyons are sheer in size, and where the mountains meet, this monastery is situated. Part of the monastery is actually a cave, as some of the rooms are carved in the rock. As we were approaching it, I just took pictures of the superb location of this place. It was very much jaw-dropping in my opinion.
This monastery complex was found in the 4th century, by Gregory the Illuminator. You can see in later pictures the dark cave rooms that provided as the basis of this monastery. The main church at the middle of the courtyard was finished in the 13th century. The backdrop of the gorges which are formed by ancient rivers carving out the mountains are actually included in the listing in the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The photos above show the dark cavernous rooms. Some of these rooms are indeed very old, back from when this monastery was founded in the 4th century. The acoustics of some of the chambers are fantastic; in fact, there was a small group of 4 singers singing a capella in there, illustrating how wonderful the acoustic properties are of the room. It was quite a nice performance.
I also saw religious behavior of very devout Armenians. They were lighting candles all over the place, and I couldn't help but think how powerful religion can be in the lives of people. Armenia is a very religious community, and people's lives are constantly affected by this power. No wonder monasteries and churches are all over the place in the country; as not only does it provide cultural heritage, it still functions as a social force.