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 2500-3000 (2015, one way trip) depending on the driver.
By marshrutka or bus
Marshrutkas/village transport 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's Gai Bus Station typically every 30 minutes or until they have reached their full capacity, cost 250 AMD. To reach Gai Bus Station (located on Gai avenue, in front of a large Mercedes-Benz showroom) take buses 22, 26, 36 or marshrutkas 9, 69, 73 from the city centre. 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.
If you get stuck in Garni 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.
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. Foreigners 1000 AMD, at the evening when light and music turned on - 1200 AMD. Guided tour 1500 AMD in Armenian, 2500 AMD in foreign language.
- 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 (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). 17-19cc.
- Khumarzham Church (Khonarvats). 4th-5th centuries church which now lay in ruins.
- 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
- Geghard monastery (Taxis to Geghard monastery could be taken after much haggling for 2000-3000 AMD (2015) which includes 9km return drive to the monastery and one hour waiting). Arguably the most awe-inspiring site in Armenia is this 11th century monastery, much of which is carved out of the solid stone of the mountain it abuts. Once housing (and still named after) the lance that pierced Jesus' side, it is sited at the end of a canyon, surrounded by steep rock mountains, with fortified walls, holy springs, an upper chamber with unparalleled acoustics and many intricate khachkars. Monastery of Geghard together with the Upper Azat Valley is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
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 1600-2300m 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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, 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 11-th 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.
- 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.
- Trout fish restaurant. It's actually a fish farm which 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 AMD.
Given the proximity of Yerevan, most of the visitors stay in the capital.
- Hotel & Restaurant "Tonratun", 8 Marzpetunu st (right next to the fortress), ☎ +374 99 816008. Average rooms, even a bit rundown, But the views from the windows/balcony makes you forget about all disadvantages - it's simply stunning. Double 22000 AMD. Main dishes in restaurant - 1500 - 3000 AMD.
- B&B "Chez Yvette", 31 Avenue de Gueghard, ☎ +374 94 278076, +374 55 278076. It has eight rooms overlooking a garden, open air swimming pool, internet, car-park, restaurant (French and Armenian cuisine). Double AMD 18,000.
- Hostel "GarniRestHost", G.Marzpetuni str. 9. Simplistic hostel with smallish rooms, but the price is the lowest in the area. Double AMD 10,000.
- Dinadav rest house, Bagramyan str. 50/1, ☎ +374 93 679152. Private villa for rent. You get entire two floor house. If only one person stays - 20 000 AMD, 2 - 25 000, 3 - 30000 and then up to seven people.
- HyeLandz Eco Village Resort, 3 house, 6 Str, Geghadir village (15 km out of Garni on the way to Yerevan), ☎ +374 98-333322. Upscale option It has a bar and a restaurant with Armenian and Lebanese cuisines. Table tennis, massage, picnic zone, barbecue places. Double from 35000 AMD.
- 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 AMD.
- Bed & Breakfast 3 Gs, Geghard Highway 3 the impasse, house 4, ☎ +374 0 94496094. 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 AMD.
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