One of the essentials of religious life is traveling together for a pilgrimage to sacred sites, for prayer; Armenian pilgrimage is when physical travel is enjoined with a spiritual journey. This helps lead us to inner reflection with one’s past, wholeness of body and soul, and a unique reunion with God.
Note: The free book “Guide for Pilgrims to Armenia” is a modest attempt to share an appreciation of the centuries-old churches and monasteries that adorn Armenia’s spiritual landscape. This is not only a guide book with brief historical and architectural descriptions of the visited sites, but it is also a compilation of prayers, hymns and psalms from the Armenian Book of Hours, Divine Liturgy, and Requiem Service, offered in Armenian and English. It helps you to take part in prayer during your visits to these Holy Places. It will be provided to each of you at the beginning of the tour.
Day 1: Early morning arrival to Yerevan. Meeting at the airport. Transfer to the hotel in Yerevan. Check in hotel in Yerevan. Time for resting. Early breakfast. We embark on our journey to the lands of ancient treasures of Christian history - Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin, the "religious capital" and the seat of the Supreme Patriarch-Catholics of all Armenians. The story holds that the place where Noah made the fire after the flood is the site upon which the main Cathedral, one of the earliest Christian churches, was built.
Nowadays, it is located in the lower chamber, underneath the main Altar of the Cathedral. Participation in Divine Liturgy Then, admire the Hripsime and Gayane Churches (7th c) named after the faithful virgins, from the 3rd c. On the way back to Yerevan, visit the magnificent ruins of Zvartnots (celestial angels) Cathedral (7th c) which will show you the uniqueness of Armenian church architecture, where once stood an impressive three-tiered circular structure with a spectacular central dome. Lunch in Yerevan - Armenian Traditional Restaurant.
Day 2: Breakfast served. Your acquaintance with Yerevan will start with a look at the history of its foundation – a visit to Erebouni museum and Fortress founded in 782 BC. You will enjoy a tour of the most enigmatic of cities, visiting the remarkable Matenadaran Library and Research Institute of Armenia with houses about 17000 rare manuscripts, one of the richest depositories of manuscripts and books in the world. The history of the Matenadaran dates back to the creation of the Armenian alphabet in 405. This center of manuscripts is centuries old and continues into the 21st century with modern upgrades. Lunch in Yerevan. Later in the afternoon we will round off our tour with a stroll through “Vernissage”, the bustling open air handicraft market.
Day 3: Breakfast served. No trip to Armenia is ever complete without a visit to the sparkling blue waters of Lake Sevan - “The Emerald of Armenia”, set some 1900 m above sea level, situated high in the mountains and famed for its glorious and ever changing hues. Upon arrival, we will stop by the lakeside churches on the top of peninsula and have a chance to admire a spectacularly picturesque scene overlooking the lake and distant mountains.
There is a story which tells us that a famous archimandrite had a vision, in which the 12 apostles gave their blessing to this land and instructed the building of churches on this island. Indeed the vision became true. The churches were built and one of them was named after the apostles - St. Araqelots Church.
Continuing our journey across Armenia’s ever changing topography, you will travel to the lush environs of Dilijan - “a piece of Switzerland” in Armenia and one of Armenia’s most appealing resort towns. The town is peppered with numerous examples of traditional Armenian architecture. The magnificent Haghartsin Monastery complex - the romantic settings of the 11th century, still remembers the first uttering, in Armenian, “Lord Have Mercy”. You also have a unique opportunity to pray it yourselves. The book of “Guide for Pilgrims to Armenia” (page 31) will lead you. Lunch will be served in the ancient refectory of Haghartsin Monastery dating back to the13th century.
Day 4: Breakfast served. Driving through the fertile plains of the Ararat valley, you will reach Khor Virab Monastery – the beginning of the History of Christianity in Armenia, magnificently set against the towering slopes of Biblical Mount Ararat. You have some quite spectacular photo opportunities before a landscape of unparalleled beauty and majesty.
The monastery is the site where St. Gregory the Illuminator was incarcerated and is a pilgrimage destination for every Armenian, as well as for foreign believers. It is especially a time to reflect upon the work of our Church’s patron saint, Gregory the Illuminator, who spread the light of Christianity in Armenia and inspired King Trdat to proclaim Christianity as a state religion in 301, which had a determinate impact on the Armenia people and their history.
On the way to Noravank, you will taste and enjoy a guided tour of the famous “Areni Winery.” In Armenian, “Wine is bottled poetry”. After this take the path through the narrow gorge, revealing the wonder of Noravank Monastery, nestled inside the deep red landscape of the tuf stone mountains. Lunch in the historic 12th c. refectory of Noravank Monastery.
Day 5: Breakfast served. This morning you will travel to Garni, the location of the rare pre-Christian pagan temple maintained in Armenia. Later on, we will reach the Geghard (Cave monastery) architectural complex (12-13th centuries), carved out of one monolithic rock. Due to the extraordinary acoustics, when the local monk begins to sing in this chamber it is hard to believe a large choir isn’t singing… be aware it is only one man… join in singing with the assistance of the “Guide for Pilgrims to Armenia”. A visit to Geghard is truly a spiritual experience. Lunch in Garni.
Day 6: Visit Mt. Aragats, Saghmosavank. Breakfast served. We will begin our day with the psalms, paying a visit to the monastery of Psalms-Saghmosavank, set along a magnificent canyon. If you listen closely, you can hear the ancient psalms imbedded, along with the prayers of multitudes of pilgrims, in the walls of this monastery. During this day you will see one of the most beautiful and highest mountains in Armenia, Mt. Aragats.
Walking round Aragatsotn Region, a church or ancient structure can be found at every turn. You will take part in the traditional Armenian table lavash making in Mughni (14th c. Monastery of S. George) and try to make lavash yourself. Visiting the village of Oshakan, you will see the church which is built over the grave of Mesrop Mashtots, a 4th c. monk, who is the founder of the Armenian alphabet, and one of Armenia’s greatest benefactors. Lunch will be provided in Mughni.
Day 7: Yerevan. Breakfast served. After breakfast you will take an excursion to the Cathedral of St. Gregory the Illuminator (20th c), the symbol of the 1700th anniversary of the proclamation of Christianity as a state religion in Armenia. The holy relics of St. Gregory were brought from Italy in time for the opening, and Pope John Paul II came to pay an official visit shortly after the consecration. This is one of those unrepeatable structures, the future built on the past. The remainder of your day is free to explore Yerevan on your own. Farewell dinner in a typical Armenian Restuarant with live Armenian music and Folk Dances, completing your journey with unforgettable memories.
Day 8: Transfer to airport.
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