Amazing Armenia

It was a short flight from Tbilisi to Yerevan, the most relaxing I ever had. Though honestly, I wasn’t expecting something like Tbilisi or Georgia as a whole on this trip, but at the end Armenia is surprisingly amazing!
The short flight was followed by a stressful arrival. When the luggage conveyor finally stopped and empty of any bags, me, an American couple, 2 European and an Indian gentlemen looked at each other with the same question… where is our luggage? It ended up not arriving with us, or perhaps it went on another flight somewhere else haha! In short it was lost. However, Armenian airport officials are truly helpful in assisting us.  Armenians are truly friendly, kind and accommodating. With that said, I became excited on what was there to experience in my weeklong vacation to this amazing country.
Just like my trip in Georgia, visiting Armenia for the first time using online travel tour “Armenia Expedition” that I came across on facebook whom gave me an outstanding experience. From my hotel accommodation, tour and most especially in assisting me in locating my lost luggage. I was surprised that they continuously check my luggage in the airport without my knowledge. Isn’t that awesome! I was truly impressed with this travel agency going out of their way to help me in all sorts.
Please do try the Armenian way of hospitality by booking your trip with this Armenian local travel agency that I used during my trip. Let’s support small scale travel agencies who gives hands on personal care to their guest. FACEBOOK: Armenia Expedition
ARMENIA a former Soviet Republic lying in the Caucasus region straddling Asia and Europe is arguably considered as the world’s first Christian country more than 1,700 years ago. Most historians based from research believed that in 301 AD, it became the first country in the world to adopt Christianity. No wonder you’ll be awed by its amazing medieval monasteries and sacred churches, and not to mention Armenia’s outstanding rugged mountainous landscapes.

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GEGHARD MONASTERY is by far my favorite. A UNESCO World Heritage Site being partially carved out of the adjacent mountain, surrounded by cliffs. A well preserved medieval monastery previously named Ayrivank or “cave monastery,” is truly impressive on how it was entirely dug out of the cliff rocks that gives cavernous look with embellished structures and complex walled sections and rooms deep inside the cliff.

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I always have this uncanny feeling each time I enter very old churches, and not to mention a church within a cave. Kinda eerie in a way, though it is truly remarkable  to note how it was built and carved with extraordinary details done centuries ago.

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Geghard monastery was founded in the 4th century by Gregory the Illuminator at the site of sacred spring inside the cave. You’ll notice people throwing coins to the water and perhaps making a wish… and you bet, I did follow the ritual. Who knows, my wish will be granted haha!

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The monastery was later renamed as Geghard, meaning “spear” after the spear used by Roman soldier to stab Jesus on the cross was kept here for several centuries according to legends.
The whole complex is awash with detailed sculptures and many striking stone crosses known as “Khachkars” elaborately etched into rock faces. Very impressive!

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I was lucky that during my visit, an acapella choir is performing in one of the caves. They sounded like angels descended from heaven with a voice so divine and angelic. It seems that the architectural design of the Geghard’s rock church is such that it provides extraordinary acoustics, making spiritual songs sound remarkably solemn and eternal. Their voice bounce back and forth from every corner of the cave, echoing a sound so heavenly and mystical that I just wanted to stay and listen to them the whole day. Truly amazing!

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GARNI TEMPLE is the best known structure and symbol of pre-Christian Armenia. It was built by King Tiridates 1 in the first century AD as a temple to the sun god Mihr of Armenian Mythology. The temple imitates the typical style of classical Ancient Greek architecture. It is comprised of 24 columns and symbolizes the 24 hours of the day. Today it stands as a symbol of Armenian Neopaganism.

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KHOR VIRAP meaning “deep dungeon” was completed on 17th century is an Armenian Apostolic Church monastery located in the Ararat plain, near the border with Turkey.  It is where Grigor Luisavorich (St. Gregory the Illuminator) was imprisoned for 13 years by King Tiridates III. It is said that the king was cured of disease which caused the conversion of the king and Armenia into the first officially Christian nation in the world in the year 301.

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ARMENIAN ALPHABET MONUMENT located near the village of Artashavan, stands 39 giant carved Armenian letters. It is said that in 2005, on the occasion of the 1,600 birth anniversary of the Armenian alphabet, this monument was erected near the final resting place of the man who created the alphabet, Mesrop Mashtots in 405.

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SEVANAVANK MONASTERY is another must visit with the spectacular view of Lake Sevan and the surrounding snow-capped mountain. It was built on the Sevan Peninsula in 874 by Princess Mariam. Notice the different khachkars that was preserved and displayed at the entrance of the church.

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LAKE SEVAN is the largest lake in the region and one of the highest fresh water in the world almost 2,000 meters above sea level.
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Have a lunch in one of the restaurants along the Lake Sevan. Great food with a stunning view, simply fantastic! Or have an Armenian black coffee along the way… literally on the road haha!
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NORAVANK MONASTERY is a 13th century Armenian monastery literally mean “new monastery.” The 2 level Surb Astvatsatsin church (Holy Mother of God) is the grandest structure in the complex and the Surb Karapet  church. Both have intricate carves on its façade and walls that depicts different religious figures. However, going to Noravank alone is truly breathtaking with the narrow road and beautiful rocky mountain formation on both sides along the way is such an experience.

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AMBERD is a fortress complex with a church built on the slopes of Mt. Aragats at 2,300 meters above sea level in the 7th century. Worth visiting with stunning view of the mountains around it.

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SAGHMOSAVANK is a 13th century Armenian monastic complex built by Prince Vache Vachutian.

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HOVHANNAVANK is a medieval monastery located in the village of Ohanavan. The monastery was dedicated to John the Baptist, whom Armenians consider their patron-saint.

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To break the tedious hiking up-hill of medieval churches and monasteries, we headed back to YEREVAN. The capital city of Armenia also called as “The Pink City” because of the color of the stone used for building. New and modern buildings can be found within the city, though most of the houses are great example of the architecture from the Soviet times. Old but appealing because it creates a harmonious blend of the new Armenia.
From the modern Republic Square with its dancing fountain, the cascades that is so unique with lovely views from the upper part of the gigantic stairs at the middle of the city, museums, restaurants and cafes, shopping mall and the statue of Mother Armenia to name a few. Yerevan is alive from morning till night.
The Cascades 

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Mother Armenia

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The Republic Square

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ARMENIAN GENOCIDE MEMORIAL is a solemn place with an eternal flame at the middle of the 12 slabs representing twelve lost provinces. Built in 1967 on the hill of Tsitsernakaberd in Yerevan. It is said that it was built as an official memorial dedicated to the victims of Armenian Genocide of 1915. Annually every 24th of April they observe “Armenian Genocide Memorial Day” as a national holiday.

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When was the last time you did something for the first time?
I always like to end every trip with something new to experience, whether it is something to relax or to do something extreme. This time I prefer the later.
Since I was young, I’ve been looking forward to flying out. Who does not dream of flying  even in imagination just like superman haha!
I found this site to experience something new to see Armenia from a different angle. Tandem paragliding by SKY CLUB (www.paraplan.am) gives me the experience that is truly exhilarating and extraordinary.
The wind was not favorable for a tandem paragliding, instead we proceed on powered paragliding. It is a motorized version of paragliding. We used the type “Quad” or “Trike” as they call it, where the motor is mounted to a go-kart-style platform with wheels.
It was a smooth take off and landing. Fear was replaced by amazement at a real beauty that can only be seen from the sky. A bird’s eye view of the stunning landscape of Armenia’s countryside is truly magnificent. We continued to fly over the mountains, admiring the breathtaking rugged mountain from up high was beyond epic. I couldn’t have asked for a better view. It’s like opening the wings of freedom and make your dreams come true of flying in the air.

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I hope soon Armenia will flare up on its tourism industry, because it is truly a place not to miss. Stunning landscapes, historical medieval monasteries and churches, modern architectures within the city, great food and wine and most especially friendly, kind and hospitable people. What else is there to look for… grab your bag, booked your flight before crowds start flocking to this amazing destination.

SHNORHAKALUTYUN ARMENIA!

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