Tatev is the most spectacular monastery in Armenia and it is a must-visit for us.
It is located 250 km (155 miles) from Yerevan and about 30 km (18 miles) from Goris. Its walls, its impossible location on the edge of a stunning cliff, and its defensive towers give it the soul of an impregnable bastion, more so than that of a place for praying.
The isolated location of the largest cultural and religious centre in the south of the country takes your breath away.
Tatev monastery is surrounded by forests, meadows, and huge mountains. And it is located on a small esplanade from where you can see the entire Vorotan Canyon.
It is as if its architects knew that from this place, prayers were going to rise directly to the heart of God.
The environment is made for filming, and it would be the perfect place to shoot a mystery or adventure film. A visit to Tatev mixes the cultural factor with the landscape and ecological importance of the place. It offers good walks and trekking routes within its surroundings, such as the Tatev-Harjis route and the Mets Anapad Monastery (17th century) route.
The area is full of old villages that are scattered on the slopes of the gorge. Tatev is famous for its gastronomy, especially for its wild herbs, its beans, and honey. The restaurant inside the Tatev information point is a good place to enjoy all of that. You should not miss their lavash (traditional Armenian bread), Lobi (dish based on local beans), their khorovadz (grilled meat), or the Madzoun (typical local yoghurt).
If you plan on staying at one of the area’s many shelter homes, take advantage of it and have dinner with them. Surely the women of the family are fantastic cooks.
The area is starting to develop tourism and a few B&B’s have been set up in the surrounding villages, especially in Halidzor. At the Tatev tourist office, they will inform you and they will help you out with anything (+374 93 845632). For more information: www.tatevinfo.com
A Little Bit of History
The religious complex was founded in the 9th century on the ruins of a small church that has been there since the fourth century. In its heyday, more than 1000 people lived here – monks and apprentices.
The monastery also housed an important university and a library with thousands of manuscripts. The enclosure was besieged and destroyed on several occasions by the Seljuks and the troops of Tamerlane. In addition, several earthquakes left the compound in ruins. However, it always resurrected from its ashes.
Inside, the most important temple is Surp Poghos-Pietros (Saint Paul and Saint Peter). This was built between 895 and 906. Its huge umbrella-shaped dome makes it distinctive and its beautiful bell tower crosses the entrance. Inside, there are interesting frescoes from the Middle Ages and pretty bas-reliefs.
The small church of Saint Gregory huddles on its south wall. It rises in the same place where a tremor of the earth destroyed the previous sanctuary.
Next door there is the mausoleum of Grigor Tatevatsi, a famous philosopher, scholar and religious man who managed the Tatev University during the feudal era. He took it to its brightest period.
Surb Asvatsatsin is another small church. It is next to one of the two towers which defend the enclosure. It is the church that welcomes anyone who enters Tatev and it dates from the 11th century.
In the courtyard, take a look at the eight-meter-high octagonal column topped by a khachkar. It is said to have been in the premises since the 9th century. It is called the Gavazan or Oscillating Column and it is one of the most famous structures in Tatev.
Apparently, the pilaster is very sensitive, and it tends to lean a little at the slightest movement, although miraculously it always returns to its original position afterwards.
Their oscillations served to alert the monks of earthquakes or of the arrival of an army (due to the tremors caused by the marching steps of the soldiers).
Tatev was like a small town. It had its own hostel for pilgrims, cells for monks, library, dining room, kitchens, patisserie, bathrooms, and the residence of the bishop. Outside, you can visit an old oil mill where the friars produced their own oil. If you want to explore more about its past, check out http://tatever.am/en
How to Get to Tatev Monastery?
To get to the monastery, there are two options: through the winding H45 Road that connects the small town of Halidzor with the village of Tatev at 14 km (8 miles). Or by taking the longest cable car in the world. Undoubtedly, the fastest and most memorable option is the second one.
The cable cabin offers breath-taking views of the mountains and forests of the Vorotan Canyon. It was built in 2010 and its 5,752 meters (18871 feet) made it enter the Guinness Book of Records. Each cabin has a capacity for 25 people.
Price: outbound trip: 2,500 AMD (low season); 3000 AMD (average season) and 3,500 AMD (high season).
Return trip: 3000/4000/5000 AMD.
Check the schedules with the Tatev Tourist Office.
If you have enough time and you want to enjoy a walk through this magnificent natural environment, you should climb up via the cable car but walk down the 8 miles to return.
Along the way, you will see the famous Devil’s Bridge, a geological formation generated by the erosion of the Vorotan River for thousands of years. That has resulted in a kind of rock arch under which the river waters flow. There are also two natural pools where people bathe in summer, so just in case, put a swimsuit in your backpack.
Discovering Tatev in Paramotor
The Sky Club of Armenia specialises in paramotoring throughout the country. The paramotor is a small aircraft that mixes the paragliding flight with the motor flight.
Recently, the club has incorporated flights to discover the Tatev Monastery and its surroundings from a bird’s eye view.
The experience is guaranteed. It is a joint initiative with tatever.am, a local organization that wants to boost tourism in Goris and in the area. The flights take off from the Goris Airport and they fly over the surroundings of Tatev and its monastery.
Price per person: 25,000 AMD. With transportation from Yerevan: 33.000 AMD.
Phone: + 374 60 46 33 33// +374 96 46 33 33
Tatev Tourist Office
Opening Hours: from 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Phone: ✆+374 93 845 632.
It is the perfect place to prepare for your hiking tours, get accommodation, transportation and anything else you may need. They speak English and Italian and they offer free WIFI.
There is a marshrutka from Goris to Tatev at 3:00 p.m. (AMD 700) on Mondays and Fridays, and from Tatev to Goris at 9:00 p.m. As you can see, the connections are bad, so we recommend other options. From Goris, there are quite a few Tatev tours (through Eden Hostel, Khachik’s B&B, and Goris Hostel). You should check their prices.
A round trip taxi from Goris goes from AMD 6,000 to AMD 10,000. It depends on your negotiation skills (remember: 1 km = AMD 100). If you share it with more people, it’s a great option. Remember that for every hour the driver waits, he will charge you an extra AMD 1000.
There is about 250 km (155 miles) from the country’s capital, Yerevan, to Tatev. There are many organized tours from Yerevan that stop in Tatev. The thing is that some of them are a little expensive, as they take you to many other sites along the way. We find this Envoy Hostel tour very interesting.
Price: 78,000-85,000 AMD. It lasts for two days.
It mixes a bit of hiking with oenological and cultural visits. The staff is very professional, and the experience is guaranteed. Another option to get to Tatev from Yerevan is to rent a car or a shared taxi seat. You should check prices and schedules with the hotel staff.