Caucasian Vacation 10 (Armenia): Tatev

After lunch, we continue our drive further east, getting closer to the border with the disputed territory of Artsakh. Our destination is actually the Tatev Monastery in its namesake village, but the unexpectedly long drive (almost three hours, plus we really took our sweet time at lunch) results in us getting around the area almost close to evening. We thus decide to check in our accommodation for the night, the Harsnadzor Resort in the nearby town of Syunik.

It’s a really charming place, with a cluster of rustic cottages set in a backdrop of mountains and cliffs. The area is far from the main towns, but there is a restaurant that serves cheap meals and beer. Due to the location’s altitude, it gets really cold at night that it feels more like winter than the middle of the spring.

The next morning, after our breakfast, we check out and head to the Wings of Tatev. It’s listed in the Guiness World Book of Records as the world’s longest reversible cable car, taking passengers on a trip of more than 5 kilometers above the picturesque Vorotan River Gorge and into the Tatev Monastery.

The monastery itself is one of Armenia’s most famous, with its distinct architectural style and the spectacular landscape surrounding it. Dating back to the 9th century, the Tatev Monastery was created in a plateau where a pagan temple once stood. The monastery has since become the seat of the bishop of the Syunik province.

One of the most notable structures in the complex is the Gavazan column, a Medieval version of the seismograph. The pillar tilted when the ground shook from earthquakes, alerting the complex’s residences. The monastery reached its peak in the 11th century when nearly 1000 monks and artisans lived within its walls. It all came to an end when Seljuk Turks invaded the country in 1170, looting and burning the monastery.

Since then, the monastery underwent several restoration efforts, the most recent of which was the one launched in 2008 by the Tatev Revival foundation. The project first renovated the oil mill, which shows how the monastery was self-sufficient. Also within the compound is the tomb of Grigor Tatevatsi, the leader who oversaw Tatev in its golden era.

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