Garni is a village in the Kotayk Province of Central Armenia. Most visitors come on day trips from Yerevan to see Garni Temple and Geghard Monastery, but the area deserves a longer stay.
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 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.
By taxi is the quickest way to reach Garni. A one-way fare from Yerevan will be about 3000 dram.
By bus: Marshrutkas or minibuses are the standard way to reach Garni, but they're not the fastest or the most comfortable option. They run from Yerevan's Gai Bus Station every 30 mins or so, cost 250 dram. (See Yerevan#Get in for directions to Gai.) The route is east to Garni, where the 1 main bus stop is in town centre, and onward to Goght and Geghard Temple.
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.
- 1 Garni Temple and Fortress (Just south of main road through town, well signposted). Temple complex perched above the canyon of the Azat river. Its centrepiece is the Hellenistic temple built in the 1st C BC - this was smashed by an earthquake in 1679 but reconstructed in the 1970s. Also here are the medieval main gate and fortifications, the circular foundations of a church built in 897 AD, walls of a two-storey royal summer palace built by the Urartians in the 8th C BC, a Roman-era bath house, and a cemetery. Guided tours are available but the place is self-explanatory. 1500 dram.
- 2 Mashtots Hayrapet Church (Pok'r or "little" church) (Hidden behind houses just south of main highway through town). A hidden gem in Garni, a small basilica built in the 12th C in dark grey stone with red tufa decorations, intricately carved.
- 3 Surb Astvatsatsin Church (The Holy Mother of God) (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). 17th-19th centuries.
- 4 Khumarzham Church (Khonarvats). 4th-5th centuries church which now lay in ruins.
- 5 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
Out of the city
- 6 Geghard monastery (5 km east of Garni. Minibuses run to Goght, or a return taxi with one hour wait might be 3000 dram). Revered 11th C monastery, much of it carved out of the solid stone of the mountainside, in dramatic canyon setting. Monastery and canyon are a UNESCO World Heritage site. The fortified compound encloses the main church, holy springs, an upper chamber with unparalleled acoustics and many intricate khachkars. The "Geghard" was supposedly the Roman spear that pierced Jesus' side; this relic was long housed here but is now in Echmiadzin.
It's a national park located directly across from Garni. It is a noted area in the Caucasus region for unique European and Asian flora and fauna; and is located at an altitude of 1600-2300 m above sea level. To get there you may take a taxi or walk down 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, it can be acquired at the Garni's Information center or at the forest guards' kiosk located on the trail leading to Havuts Tar Monastery (after passing 11th-century footbridge). Some additional info about reserve can be found at reserve's official web site [dead link].
- 7 11th-century footbridge. crossing the Azat River. This is the starting point of the trail leading to Havuts Tar Monastery, which is about 5-6 km away from the bridge.
- 8 Havuts Tar 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). 11th to 13th century walled monastery.
Just before entering through the wall surrounding the Havuts Tar 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.
- 9 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.
- 10 Kakavaberd (Within the Khosrov Reserve). A medieval Armenian fortress with large sections of walls still intact, first mentioned in the 9th-10th centuries. Towers at the northeastern side are 8 to 10 meters tall. Within the fortress are the ruins of a church and other structures.
- Hike, horseback ride or camp at the Khosrov Reserve.
- It's possible to do a simple 2-hour return hike from Garni temple. First, descend from the temple to the river, follow it for 2-3 km till the 11th-century footbridge, then start ascending to the Garni village. Passing through the village you'll be able to see Mashtots Hayrapet and Surb Astvatsatsin churches.
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.
- 1 Grocery store, Marzpetuni st.
- 1 Tavern (10 m away from the entrance to the Garni temple). Armenian cuisine with excellent views over the gorge and Garni temple. Sometimes it gets very busy with the tourists.
- 2 Trout fish restaurant. A fish farm that has adjacent restaurant. They prepare mainly grilled fish, some side vegetables can be served as well. 3 types of the fish to choose from, 1 kg - from 3000 dram.
Given the proximity of Yerevan, most of the visitors stay in the capital.
- 1 Hotel & Restaurant "Tonratun", 8 Marzpetunu st (right next to the fortress), ☎ . Average rooms, even a bit rundown, But the views from the windows/balcony makes you forget about all disadvantages - it's simply stunning. Double 22,000 dram. Main dishes in restaurant 1500-3000 dram.
- 2 B&B "Chez Yvette", 31 Avenue de Gueghard, ☎ , . It has eight rooms overlooking a garden, open air swimming pool, internet, car-park, restaurant (French and Armenian cuisine). Double 18,000 dram.
- 3 Hostel "GarniRestHost", G.Marzpetuni str. 9. Simple hostel with smallish rooms, but the price is the lowest in the area. Double 10,000 dram.
- 4 Dinadav rest house, Bagramyan str. 50/1, ☎ . Private villa for rent. You get entire two-floor house. one person - 20,000 dram, 2 - 25,000, 3 - 30,000 dram and then up to seven people.
- 5 HyeLandz Eco Village Resort, 3 house, 6 Str, Geghadir village (15 km out of Garni on the way to Yerevan), ☎ . Upscale option. It has a bar and a restaurant with Armenian and Lebanese cuisines. Table tennis, massage, picnic zone, barbecue places. Double from 35,000 dram.
- 6 Golden Rooster Resort, Goght village. It has restaurant, table tennis, billiard, open air swimming pool. Rooms are quite big and richly decorated. Overall, hotel seems to have a good price-quality ratio comparing to other options in the area. Although to get to nearest sights it will be necessary to get a car/taxi as there is not much to do in Goght village itself. Double 20,000 dram.
- 7 Bed & Breakfast 3 Gs, Geghard Highway 3 the impasse, house 4, ☎ . Check-in: Open from 1 April and closed 1 October. B&B run by a Dutch couple, offering an outdoor pool, decent rooms with new furniture. Tents and campers are also welcomed. Double from 20,000 dram.
All three mobile operators have a decent 3G coverage in the area.
However, there was no WiFi spotted in local restaurants (2015), although some hotels might have WiFi available.
- Yerevan — Armenia's capital and the center of modern Armenian life