Garni is a village in the Kotayk Province of Central Armenia.
Garni is rich in history. The area was fist occupied in the 3rd millennium BC along easily defensible terrain at one of the bends of the Azat River. In the 8th century BC the area was conquered by the Urartian King Argishti I. The fortification at Garni was erected probably sometime in the 3rd century BC as a summer residence for the Armenian Orontid and Artaxiad royal dynasties. Later around the 1st century BC the fortress of Garni became the last refuge of King Mithridates of Armenia, where he and his family were assassinated by his son in law and nephew Rhadamistus. The fortress was eventually sacked in 1386 by Timur Lenk. In 1679 an earthquake devastated the area destroying the temple.
Much of the population today descends from people settled in the population exchange of 1829–1830, following the Treaty of Turkmenchay between Russia and Persia.
Taxis are the quickest way to get to and from Garni. They can be picked up in Yerevan and will cost on average AMD 2,000-2,500 to get there depending on the driver.
By marshrutka or bus
Marshrutkas/village transport buses (not to be confused with the marshrutkas/city buses) are the most affordable way to get to Garni but are definitely not the fastest or the most comfortable option. They leave from Yerevan typically every 30 minutes or until they have reached their full capacity, cost 250 AMD. From the centre takes buses 22, 26, 36 or marshrutkas 9, 69, 73 to a large Mercedes-Benz showroom: in a side street just before the showroom the marshrutkas for Garni leave. Stops are made at the villages of Garni, Goght and Geghard. Drivers wait 15-20 minutes at Goght after dropping off all of the passengers, then head back to Yerevan making stops along the way and at Garni to pick up more passengers.
Various tourbuses may be arranged ahead of time in Yerevan. They typically have tight schedules leaving you little time to explore the hidden gems in and around Garni.
Unless you are in a hurry, walking is the best way to see Garni. If you need to know where to find something, almost any of the residents will be willing to point you in the right direction or even walk you there.
- Garni Temple and Fortress (A large blue sign along the main highway points the way to the temple, located to the right (south) of the main road if arriving from Yerevan). The enclosed area of the temple complex at Garni is comprised of the main gate and fortification walls of the medieval era, foundational walls of a two-storey royal summer palace built by the ancient Urartians in the 8th century BC, a bath house, the circular foundations of a church built in AD 897, a cemetery and the Hellenistic temple built in the 1st century BC. The temple is one of Armenia's prized monuments and is a must see.
- Mashtots Hayrapet Church (Partially hidden behind houses. If you ask around, someone will show you the way). Also known as Pok'r meaning little, the church of Mashtots Hayrapet is a hidden gem in Garni. It was built in the 12th century and features numerous intricate carvings upon its exterior façades.
- Surb Astvatsatsin Church (A large blue sign points the direction to the church. Follow the main road just past the open area where the road forks and take the road to the right. The church will be after the two large buildings on the left).
- Garni Gorge (The gorge is most easily reached by a road that leads left of the temple and down to the gorge and river. Another more direct but harder to find road leads to the gorge through the village, down a cobblestone road, and into the valley. Once in the valley, turning right will take you to what is referred to as the Symphony of Stones and an 11th century medieval bridge. Taking a left will lead you along the river past a fish hatchery, up to the Khosrov Reserve and a little further is Havuts Tar Monastery). This portion of the Garni Gorge is typically referred to as the "Symphony of the Stones". All along the sides of the gorge are vertical cliff walls of well preserved basalt columns. It is well worth the walk
- Khosrov Reserve (Take the road that crosses the river and goes up the ridge across the gorge from Garni and Goght). You must obtain permission to enter the reserve. You could ask the gatekeeper if you may see Havuts Tar Vank, Aghjots Vank or Kakavaberd and he will likely let you in.
- Havuts Tar Monastery (The monastery is located within the Khosrov Reserve, and permission must be had before entering the premise. You may walk or take a taxi to the reserve which is located directly across from Garni. You may be able to get into the reserve without advanced permission by asking the gatekeeper if you may go and see the monastery. To get to Havuts Tar, take the trailhead that is at the entrance and directly left of the gate. Some medieval khachkars may be seen midway along the trail as it forks left and upon a low mound. Follow the trail a little further until you see the complex perched upon the ridge). Just before entering through the wall surrounding the monastery, a trail leads to the right up a hill and through a slightly wooded area. At the end of this trail not too far away, are the ruins of a small chapel with two khachkars nearby to the left and one to the right.
- Aghjots Vank (Within the Khosrov Reserve). The monastery of Aghjots Vank contains the church of S. Poghos Petros (S. Paul and Peter) of 1270, an adjoining gavit of the 13th c., the church of S. Stepanos, and numerous khachkars.
- Kakavaberd (Within the Khosrov Reserve). A medieval Armenian fortress with large sections of walls still intact.
- Hike, horseback ride or camp
- All of the above may be done at the Khosrov Reserve located across from Garni.
Because the economy of the village is based predominantly on tourism, many "tourist" stands may be seen near Garni Temple and the main roads. Some good foods may be bought from villagers trying to make a living.
- Walnuts - The quality of walnuts vary from each part of Armenia. Garni has good tasting walnuts.
- Garni Village Gata - Specific to certain towns or villages in each region, this sweetbread is especially delicious from here.
You may leave Garni either by Marshrutka, bus or possibly taxi. If you get stuck in the village past the time that the minibuses stop traveling to and from Yerevan, you need not to worry. Talk to almost any villager and they will most likely be willing to help you in any way possible and will try to arrange a taxi for you to get back to Yerevan. It will probably not be an "official" taxi but will charge comparable rates.
Taxis to Geghard monastery could be taken after much haggling for 2000 AMD (June 2014) - 9km drive to the monastery, one hour's waiting, 9 km drive back).