Khor Virap, Armenia: A Holy Place

Khor Virap, Armenia: A Holy Place 1

Khor Virap: An Ancient Armenian Monastery On Turkish-Armenian Border

By Argun Konuk

As a Turkish traveler, I visited perhaps the most significant Armenian Orthodox Monastery in Armenia. Having been located 45 km away from Yerevan and a couple of hundred meters from the Turkish border, Khor Virap was one of the most breathtaking sites I have ever been to!

Khor Virap is one of the most popular spots in Armenia. Two prime reasons behind its popularity are its location and religious significance. The Monastery is located a couple of hundred meters away from the Turkish-Armenian border right near Mount Ararat, it is so close that you can easily discern Turkish soldiers and homes in Turkish soil.Khor Virap, Armenia: A Holy Place 2

As you might think, the view is… SPECTACULAR.  However, what really makes Khor Virap quite prominent is a religious-historical Saint Gregory the Illuminator, the saint who is known to be the first Armenian Saint who converted to Christianity and made Armenia the first Christian nation in history, was presumed to be imprisoned in the dungeons of Khor Virap for 13 years.

Tips & What To Expect

Work Hours

Summer 08.00 – 20.00

Winter 08.00 – 18.00

  • Khor Virap is one of the holiest sites in Armenia and it represents vital importance for the nation. Moreover, Surp Astvatsatsin Church is an active place of worship. As a result, during your visit, dressing moderately is suggested.
  • Getting there early is important to avert crowds and being able to take pictures and walk around comfortably.
  • Take a tour to Khor Virap and combine your visit with different touristic spots.
  • The village of Lusarat near Khor Virap has some shops where you can get food and water.
  • Even though the tunnel is very narrow, visit the underground pit where Saint George the Illimunator had been imprisoned for 13 years.
  • Some locals will approach you and will offer you to release doves for a small fee. They will tell that this is a spiritual practice and doves are hoped to fly to Mount Ararat. It is not a scam however, some see this as animal cruelty.
Khor Virap, Armenia: A Holy Place 3
Khor Virap, Armenia

Today, aside from its touristic purpose, Khor Virap is a common spot for traditional Armenian weddings, baptize ceremonies and pilgrimage. Upon visiting here, you might as well see some monks and Armenian Orthodox priests living and practicing their religious ceremonies.

Brief History of Khor Virap

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The first structure of the Khor Virap monastery complex was built in 642 CE. The main church Surp Astvatsatsin Church was built in the 17th century and it has been serving as the main symbol of the monastery complex.

The iconic dungeon where the first Armenian saint George the Illuminator had been imprisoned for 13 years is still intact on the bottom of St. Gevorg Chapel.

You can go down 200 feet to see the small dungeon room where the saint was held, however, it is a very suffocating place so if you are claustrophobic, be cautious.

Where Is Khor Virap Located?

Khor Virap is located 45 kilometers away in the remote suburbs of Yerevan. Also, it is only a couple of hundred meters away from the Turkish border, which indeed adds an intriguing vibe. The three most common ways of transport are taking a cab, going to my marshrutkas (minibusses) or taking a tour there.

Going all the way there by minibus is the least comfortable and convenient option. I, personally went there by a tour which can be around the same prices as taking a cab.

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Argun Konuk is a 24-year-old travel, history and language enthusiast who resides in Ankara, Turkey.  He speaks Turkish, English, Russian and Swedish, and has been to more than 50 countries and 200 cities.  He works at Swissotel Ankara as an Education Coordinator.

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