Echmiadzin (renamed Vagharshapat in 1992), in Central Armenia, is Armenia's fourth-largest city. It is the seat of the Armenian Catholicos, head of the Armenian Apostolic Church, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The marshrutkas to Echmiadzin (line 203) start at the central bus station of Yerevan every half an hour. The price are 250 dram (March 2015), no matter if you leave the bus a bit earlier at the Zvartnots ruins. The buses end at the corner Movses Khorenatsi street and Baghramyan street.
Much of the town that tourists visit is accessible by foot. Taxis are also quite cheap, and a couple of Marshutni lines run through the town.
The following 5 monuments are listed as World Heritage Sights by UNESCO.
- 1 Cathedral of Echmiadzin. Founded in 301 by St. Gregory the Illuminator and rebuilt and added to for over 1,700 years, Echmiadzin now is the heart of the Armenian Church, and seat of the Catholicos of all Armenians. The altar is built over an ancient pagan fire worshiping pit (accessible from the museum behind the altar), the inside has some interesting frescoes, altar, lamps, and thrones. The intricate bell tower entrance is an addition from the 1800s, and the surrounding grounds have gardens with examples of khachkars from throughout Armenia and further. Near the new entrance gates are a few exquisite khachkar examples from Jugha (now in Azerbaijan) - which had by far the largest khachkar collection in the world. The thousands of khachkars which remained there were destroyed during this decade by the Azeri government.
- 2 St. Hripsime Cathedral. An outstanding example of earlier Christian architecture, this 7th century cathedral with soaring ceilings and vast interior space was an example for future architects.
- 3 St. Gayane Church. Built in honor of one of the Christian virgins killed by the Armenian King, along with Hripsime, this smaller church with an arcade in front is a few blocks south of the Echmiadzin compound.
- 4 Shoghakat Church. At the site of the present day church of Shoghakat, there stood an earlier church of the 6th or 7th century which has not survived. Current building was erected in 1694 by Prince Aghamal Sorotetsi. The name of the church comes from Armenian (Շողակաթ եկեղեցի) meaning "drop of light" because of the ray of light that came down from heaven upon Hripsimé's martyrs.
- 5 Zvartnots Cathedral. 7th-century centrally planned aisled Armenian cathedral built by the order of Catholicos Nerses the Builder from 643-652. Now in ruins.
- 6 Khrimian Museum. Built and opened in 1896. It has been renovated to become a museum of art.
- 7 Alex and Marie Manoogian Treasury House. Constructed in 1982. The museum is home to treasures of the Armenian Church throughout the history.
- 8 Catholicosal Museum (Old Pontificial Residence). The old pontifical residence built in 1738–1741 and served as residence until 1962. Since 1968 the building has served as Catholicosal Museum.
The Echmiadzin compound and also the Hripsime cathedral area has a bookstore/souvenir store inside, with a collection of religious gifts, icons, books, dvds, crosses, jewelry, art, crafts, shirts, and other things. Worth popping in for a look.
Echmiadzin is famous for its kufte. If you've never had "Echmiadzin Kufte" before, they basically take a hunk of beef, then they grind, beat and whirl it into the finest paste, roll it into a big ball, and boil it. Sound appetizing? Well then they throw a hunk of butter on it to melt, and give it some flavor. Worth trying, while you're in town. Go to the town "shuka" (market) and ask for it, there's a few places that specialize in it around.
- 1 B&B Artson, Petrozavodsk Street 55. Wi-Fi, large living room, HD TV, washing machine, garden. Can meet guests at the airport free of charge, also organize a tour in Echmiadzin free of charge as well. Double 13,000 dram.
- 2 Machanents Guest House, Shahumyan Street 36. Very simple rooms with shared bathrooms. Budget double one is a really tiny room with bunk bed, regular double is a bit better. Guest house also has an Armenian bakery and tavern. WiFi. Budget double 13,000 dram, double 18,000 dram, dorms 7,500 dram.
- 3 Van Restaurant & Hotel, ☎ , , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 2-star motel offering 6 suites with private entrances off the main dining area and 2 lux suites upstairs. Although it can get crowded and loud in the evenings. They also rent a few flats nearby. Double 10,000 dram, lux 22,000 dram.
- 4 Zvartnots hotel and casino (near Zvartnots temple, on Yerevan-Echmiadzin road), ☎ , , . 2-3-star hotel complex which has restaurant-bar (with live music), tennis, billiard, swimming pools, gym. From 22,000 dram.
- Andranik Azatian and Anzhik Petrossian, Nalbandian Poghots 45, ☎ . A large two-room suite with antique furniture, bathroom with hot shower, nice garden. 11,000 dram per person incl. breakfast and dinner.