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Armenia - Khor Virap

Day trip out of Yerevan

When we visited Armenia we decided to stay in Yerevan and take day trips out. Luckily Yerevan's central location and the county's small size makes it easy.

Armenia is the first country to adopt Christianity, and Armenians won't miss a chance to tell you about that.

On this day we have decided to take a day trip to Khor Virap - an ancient monastery located just 800 meters from a border with Turkey.
The easiest way to get there is to take a bus from Yerevan's central bus station towards the town of Ararat (not to be confused with the mountain) and ask to drop you at Pokr Vedi. From there it's a 4 km hike to Khor Virap.

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It's a beautiful walk towards the monastery especially on a clear day as you can see mighty mount Ararat on the background. To climb Ararat is a bit complicated as the Turkish-Armenian border is closed, so you will need to detour via Georgia and than get a climbing permit from Turkish authorities.

It takes about an hour to visit the monastery, but the area around it is the real attraction. Make sure to go down to the cave underneath the church. It gets a bit claustrophobic, and gives you a bit of a funny feeling as if there is something out there.

Important bit, we thought there was a bus from Khor Virap to Yerevan a couple of times a day, well it's not there. The bus stop is only for tour buses, so just walk back to the main road and catch a public bus. We spent about an hour playing cards with friendly locals before we realised that a bus won't come.

We met a young Polish couple who hitchhiked all the way from Poland. Apparently Turkey and Armenia are very easy to get a ride, and most people will be happy to speak to foreigners.

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Posted by dima.safr 12:01 Archived in Armenia Tagged church armenia ararat khor_virap hitchhike Comments (0)

Georgia - Mtskheta

Mtskheta - an ancient Georgian capital and christian heritage

Mtskheta is an ancient town and one of the historical capitals of Georgia, located about 20km out of Tbilisi. Mtskheta was the place of Georgia's adoption of Christianity in 3rd century AD and still is the headquarters of the Georgian Orthodox Church. It's a both main tourist destination and a christian pilgrimage site.
Not many people know, but Georgia was the 2nd country to adopt Christianity. Armenia was the first.

You can get a minibus from Dibude bus station, same place that you get a bus to Kazbegi. You will need to get a ticket from a small window at kiosk-like ticket office. The ride takes about 1 hour and costs 1 GEL. Prepare for the minibus to get seriously full.

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Once you get to Mtskheta prepare to get "templed-out". It's a capital of Georgian Christianity after all.

Main sites to visit:
Jvari (The Cross) Monastery.
Samtavro (Place of the Ruler).
Bebris Tsikhe (The Elder's Fortress). Located further up the main road from Samtavro.
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We decided to go first towards the Fortress. It was fun climbing the ruins although a bit dangerous in flip flops :-).
Than we came down to the river and found a place to cross and found an off road track leading up to the Jvari monastery . It's about 4 km hike, as there are a few trails crisscrossing you have to have your wits about you and check were you turning unless you want to get lost in the middle of Georgian nowhere.

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We bumped into this pack of hostile bulls or buffalo blocking our pass, when we tried to approach them they would get up and make unfriendly advances at us. We ended up having to bushwhack across nettle field to get around them. Well, I'll take nettle stings over a buffalo headbutt any day of the week.
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Jvari was a highlight of the day. A great view point over the town and the valley beyond.

Posted by dima.safr 11:50 Archived in Georgia Tagged temple church hike georgia tbilisi mtskheta Comments (0)

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