Visiting Garni and Geghard from Yerevan
Visiting Armenia was a rush decision for us so we didn’t end up planning a lot in advance (what’s new?). But after our 10 days in Armenia we can safely say that visiting Garni and Geghard and staying in the little village of Goght was a highlight of our trip.
Because Garni is so close to Yerevan, just 40 minutes drive, many people choose to see the area as a day tour. This is easily possible and if you’re short on time then I recommend doing this. Below are details of how you can reach these places by public transport for a budget option.
But if you have a day or two to spare in your itinerary I would thoroughly recommend basing yourself in the area and exploring all it has to offer. Especially if you’re into hiking as most places can be reached by hiking trails. Be warned though, if you’re traveling in the height of summer the weather can get very hot making it unpleasant to hike for long periods of time.
*Tip* There are drinking fountains everywhere in Armenia, often along the side of the road. So make sure you bring a reusable drink bottle.
How to get to Garni from Yerevan
Almost every guest house or hotel in Yerevan offers tours as well as many drivers hanging out in the centre of Yerevan. You can also arrange one through the tourism office. A day trip to Garni and Geghard costs about €30 per person. But be aware that you will have limited time at each spot and many tours often skip the Symphony of the Stones which was really incredible.
There are buses and minibuses to Geghard (going past Garni) every 30 minutes or so. They leave from next to a big tree by the large Mercedes outlet in the north of Yerevan. You can take a taxi or bus from the city centre to this stop and then just ask for Garni and people will point you in the right direction. The bus costs 250 AMD per person.
While we were waiting for the bus two locals asked us if we wanted to share a taxi as it was quicker and we could leave right away so we agreed. It costs us 750 AMD per person and we were dropped right at the door of our accommodation.
Armenia is a very easy place to hitchhike. Once you’re out of the city centre it is one straight road to Garni and Geghard so you should be able to get a ride fairly easily.
Where to stay near Garni and Geghard
We were lucky enough to learn about 3Gs Camping and Bed and Breakfast before we came to Armenia so had planned to spend a couple of nights there (we ended up extending our stay). This was such a great decision and it made the perfect stop for a few days allowing us to totally relax and enjoy the surrounding area at a slower pace instead of a whirlwind day tour.
This beautiful campground and guesthouse is set on a large section covered in fruit trees, you can literally sit under them as the fresh fruit falls into your lap (or onto your head). There’s an amazing pool area with views out over the valley. Guests can camp (more like glamping), rent-a-tent or stay in the comfortable double rooms. It’s located in Goght so is right in the middle of Garni and Geghard which makes it the perfect spot to base yourself for seeing these sights.
What to see in Garni and Geghard
The biggest attraction in Garni is the Garni temple, a Greco-Roman style temple sitting overlooking a large valley. Although the history of the structure is interesting and dates back to the first century AD, we felt a little underwhelmed by the reconstruction which was done in the 1970s. It looks completely new and at 1500 AMD per person to get in we decided against going in for a closer look.
We instead opted to head to the café next door which had a huge viewing platform with spectacular views out over the valley and the temple. There are some souvenir shops and a new outdoor space for wine tastings and food. There are also plenty of people so try to go early in the morning!
Symphony of Stones
Below the village of Garni is a large gorge. This can be reached by car but the road is pretty bad and most tour drivers won’t want to go down. On foot it takes about 15 minutes from the town and is 100% worth it!
The walls of the gorge are lined with hexagonal stones which fit together forming a crazy optical illusion-like effect. Think of the giant’s causeway in Ireland but upside down! It’s a very impressive sight. There is also a small river running along the valley where we stopped for a paddle and a cool down.
This historic monastery is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is set in a picturesque location at the end of a long road stretching along the valley. Although the views from outside the monastery are amazing it’s the interior that is the real draw card. Carved into the rock in the 4th century the rooms of the Geghard monastery have beautiful acoustics and even include a fresh water spring. There are many small rooms and chapels to visit with intricate carvings on the walls and doors.
If you visit on the weekend it will likely be much busier with tourists but you’ll be lucky enough to hear some local singers in the main hall of the monastery. It sounds incredible in the stone space. Just along the road from the monastery is a good café/restaurant with a beautiful wooden balcony and great views over the valley.
Getting Between Garni and Geghard
If you don’t go with a tour you can get between the two sights using the minibus service that runs along the main street. Simply wait on the side of the road and flag one down as it passes. You’ll likely be able to pick up a ride from some of the passing local traffic as well.
There is a hiking train in the works between the two towns but at present (2018) only the trail between Garni and Goght is open, after that you need to walk along the road. The whole walk should take around 2.5 hours.
Khosrov National Park
If you’re a hiker or even just interested in spending some time in beautiful natural scenery then the Khosrov National Park is just next door. There are lots of smaller hiking trails and the guys at Camping 3Gs can help with directions or arrange tours including horse riding or mountain biking.
If you are heading to Armenia the area around Garni and Geghard is really worth adding to you itinerary and a stay at Camping 3Gs will let you relax and enjoy the area to its full potential. For more practical information about travel in Armenia read our full backpacking guide.