Armenia and Georgia, in the Caucasus region, are recognised for being the first countries in the world to adopt Christianity as a state religion, in the IV century. At that time, the Caucasus was constantly attacked by Mongol, Russian, Persian and Ottoman armies. In order to escape the invasions and religious persecutions, the monks sought to build their monasteries in isolated locations with difficult access. They were not kidding as they built some incredible places! Check it out our list of the top 10 most beautiful monasteries in Georgia and Armenia!
1- Khor Virap Monastery, Armenia
This is one of the most important and beautiful monasteries for Armenians because it was here that their patron, St. Gregory, got stuck between snakes and scorpions (snakes = khor / scorpions = virap) for 13 years. Besides the main church, you can also visit the pit which Gregory, the Illuminator was imprisoned. The surrounding area is also beautiful to explore.
The church has in its background the Mount Ararat, mentioned in the Bible as the place where Noah anchored his arc when the flood ceased.
2- Noravank Monastery, Armenia
Not only the monastery is beautiful but the way there is also gorgeous too. To get there, you have to drive between mountains and next to a river through a small forest. Noravank was built in the XIII century and has two churches, each with rooms and access made of stones. The designs carved both inside and outside the churches are unbelievable and is definitely one of the most beautiful monasteries in the region.
3- Vardzia Monastery, Georgia
This is another one of the most beautiful monasteries that seems straight out of a fantasy movie. The Georgian Cappadocia is a set of monasteries dug into the mountain.
It was built in 1180, a time when the country was trying to escape the Mongol invasion. Queen Tamar wanted a sanctuary that could not be found by the enemy and ordered the monastery, and the home of the monks, to be dug in the mountains like caves.
You can explore almost the entire place. Between holes and stairs, you will find meditation rooms, the rooms of the monks and churches with sacred paintings still preserved.
4- Tatev Monastery, Armenia
The most scenic of all. It sits atop of a rock and to get there you can choose to go for the longest cable car in the world, the Wings of Tatev or drive. The view from both the cable car and the monastery is breathtaking.
The place is still the house of monks and in it was recognized as an important centre of studies since its construction in the IX century.
We drove for hours, all the way from Yereven, just for the sake of seeing Tatev Monastery and check it out on this video what happened to us!!
5- Katskhi Pillar Monastery, Georgia
This is the most surreal of all in our opinion. They built the monastery on top of a narrow limestone 40 meters high, overlooking a valley. The monastery still works and you can visit it, but to do that you have to climb the stair attached to the rock. Will you face it?
6- Sevanavank Monastery, Armenia
Monastery on the shore of Lake Sevan, one of the world’s biggest altitude lakes. There are two churches on the peninsula, providing endless views of the lake. In the area, you can still see several copies of the Khachkar, the crosses carved on rocks so traditional in Armenia.
*Are you interested in religious sights around the world? So read this post on the fascinating Bangkok Temples.
7- Geghard Monastery, Armenia
A medieval monastery partially carved inside the mountain. The site is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is one of our favourites.
The main church is made up of large rooms and its walls have carved designs that will transport you to the past. The acoustics of these rooms is perfect and for this reason it was used to function as a music institute in the past.
The monastery is next to a river and is surrounded by mountains. The view is a must.
8- Jvari Monastery, Georgia
It was built in the VI century and it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Jvari sits atop of a mountain overlooking the city of Mtskheta, former capital of Georgia. The rivers Mtkvari and Aragvi meet by the rocky mountain too. The name Jvari means cross, derived from local tradition which a gigantic wooden cross erected on the site which used to be a pagan temple was believed to perform miracles. A church was constructed over the remnants of the cross known as Church of Jvari (Church of the Cross).
9- Kazbegi Gergeti Monastery, Georgia
It is located near Stepantsminda village in northern Georgia and it is on the way of the only way to go to Russia by land, through the Military Road.
The monastery was built in the XIX century, on top of Mount Kazbegi, completely isolated. During times of invasion, it was here that the religious relics of other churches in the country were brought to, to guarantee their safety.
10- David Gareja Monastery, Georgia
Another complex of Cave Monasteries. There are more than 15 spread around the region.
The Mongol and the Persian armies destroyed David Gareja at different times in history. Today, it is rebuilt and open to visitors.