Garni, Symphony canyon, Havuc Tar, Aghjoc Monastery
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We are starting at your hotel in Yerevan. At first we will go by car in which we will store all our necessary trekking and camping facilities. Our first destination is Garni Temple. Almost anyone who comes to Armenia visits Garni. Many people are sure that it is the 76 AD temple and Roman style baths. It is only when they visit, that they learn that cyclopic stone walls that surround the royal summer residence and temple were in fact first laid in the 3rd millennium BC by ancestral Armenians who developed the region into one of the greatest metallurgical and trading powers in Mesopotamia and Asia Minor. The temple itself was built on top of an Urartian temple. The Garni complex was dedicated to the sun goddess Mythra. Armenians shared Zoroastrian pantheon with Persia (by the time when Garni Temple was founded, the Eastern Roman Empire adopted Mythra as a patron goddess), and worshipped fire as an ultimate gift from the gods, an entity in itself.
After exploring the only pagan temple in the whole former Soviet Union, we continue by foot. This is where our trekking route starts. We will walk down to gorge just below the Garni Temple, where the wild Azat River flows, and where you will witness one of the miracles of nature – the Symphony Canyon. The Symphony Canyon was named for its rock formations, a series of perfectly cut diamond shaped granite, basalt, slag and andesite stones. Inside the canyon are the remains of a 16th c. bridge, its finely engineered arches at one time leading to a narrow road that surmounted the Geghama mountain range and ended at Lake Sevan.
Then our trekking continues to the Havuc Tar – the remnants of old monastery. This part of our trek is around 5 km. First we reach a cluster of small shrines/tombs, then the monastery, and beyond it the Amenaprkich Church on the western outcrop. Amenaprkich was built in 1013 by the young Grigor Pahlavuni (ca. 990-1058), son of the lord of Bjni and nephew of the sparapet (troop leader )Vahram Pahlavuni. A fascinating character that went down in history as Grigor Magistros due to the Byzantine imperial titles he received after the Armenia kingdom of Gagik II Bagratuni passed into Byzantine hands in 1045.
He was also a major scholar of this period, author of a grammatical treaties, a 1000-line verse rendition of Holy Scripture, and a book of letters in an erudite but untranslatable style. The bulk of the monastic complex is 12-14th c., rebuilt in the early 18th c. by the Catholicos Astvatsatur after being ruined in the great 1679 earthquake. The walled enclosure preserves a rich trove of inscriptions and carvings from earlier times, as well as vaulted guest rooms. Our camp site will be situated in the vicinity of the monastery. We will have our cozy tents, warming bonfire and a guitar to make the atmosphere of our evening in the mountains even more inspiring and soulful. Of course, our late dinner will consist of snacks grilled on fire.
Next day early in the morning we head to our next destination – Aghjoc monastery which is nearly 10 km away from our campsite. The road leads us trough gorgeous Rocky Mountains, sometimes covered with dense forests, along the Azat River. While there you will learn some history of this old monastery. Aghjoc monastery is a 13th-century monastery situated along a tributary of the Azat River Valley within the Khosrov State Reserve located half a mile walk from the hamlet of Mets Gilanlar. We will have our dinner at the site. Then we will take some time to rest and contemplate the church and its magnificent surroundings. Then we will walk back to Garni, and then we will return to Yerevan by car.