A Day Trip to Armenia’s Khor Virap Monastery

Every advertisement for Armenia includes an image of Khor Virap Monastery’s silhouette against snow-capped Mt. Ararat.

Khor Virap Church - Yerevan, Armenia
Khor Virap Monastery in the shadow of Mount Ararat

Khor Virap Monastery can be considered the site of origin of Christianity as Armenia’s state religion. At the end of the 3rd century, the pagan King Trdat III imprisoned Gregory the Illuminator for 12 years in the pit of a well. The story goes that the king was so moved by Gregory’s survival and his ability to cure the king’s madness that he converted to Christianity and deemed it the state religion in 301 A.D. Armenians will take every opportunity to remind you that their country was the first Christian nation.
Groovy Old Woman - Yerevan, Armenia
A family blessing and ceremony at Khor Virap Monastery

Christian history aside, our visit was highlighted by the blessing of a chicken about to be sacrificed. Children carried their live chicken upside-down and circled around the church several times while the priest prepared for its blessing. Meanwhile, the baking sun took its toll and grandmothers began to dance and sing, throwing their arms about in a heat-induced jig. They even invited us to take part in their celebratory feast. Unfortunately, we had to politely decline in favor of a packed return marshrutka (minibus).

At the foot of the hill leading up to the monastery, a black sheep bucked in frantic protest, for it was his turn to get blessed. He must have known what was in store.

How to get to Khor Virap: Catch a marshrutka at 11 AM from behind Yerevan’s main train station. Flag down the return marshrutka on the main road at Khor Virap several hours later (confirm the return time with the marshrutka driver when he drops you off).

Note:Yerevan’s Tourist Office on Nalbandyan Street (behind Republic Square) is the best Tourist Office in the Caucasus. In addition to offering glossy brochures, the center’s employees are well-informed and equipped to answer any question, from public transport options to available tours. Many of the Armenia’s more popular sites can be enjoyed as day trips from Yerevan, allowing you to get your dose of history and culture during the day while returning for a taste of the cosmopolitan at night.

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  1. Ervin says

    Nice Blog, We where in Armenia this winter, was great, visited so many cites too. The most we loved the historical monuments around and out of yerevan. The food, hospitality, the culture and the friendly people made our stay in Armenia unforgatble.
    We experianced dificulties in Dilijan, but that I was our fault to choose such a bad hostel to overnight. The name was Dili Villa B&B, it was dirty, not hygenic and had discusting food !! I am very amazed how can such a place be advertised oficially in the internet ! Armenians please shut that place down ! its terible.
    Yerevan nights was great, we had walks and some great food in the restuarants.
    We will for sure recommend Armenia to our friends as a great touristic location.

  2. says

    @Ervin: Sounds like you had a really great visit to Armenia (hostel in Dilijan aside) and were able to enjoy a bit of Armenian hospitality and food. I know the Armenians will be thankful if you recommend their country to others to visit.

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