Temple of Garni
In a land filled with medieval churches amidst fruit trees and sprawling landscapes lies the only standing pagan temple remaining in Armenia. This is the Temple of Garni, which stands precariously on the edge of the Azat River gorge east of Yerevan. This Roman-era structure harkens back to a time nearly forgotten in the highlands - a time of paganism. Even though Armenia is well known as the first officially Christian nation in the world, it’s prior remnants speak how different it was here. Tiridates I, King of Armenia in the first century A.D. is credited with the construction of the temple. He is well known for founding the Arsacid dynasty of Armenia, a priest of Zoroastrianism, as well as his impact on Rome during his travels west. Today, this two-thousand year old structure stands with the best of the Roman-era ruins of the world. Although small, it is nearly intact and involves little to the imagination what it may have been to witness it those many years ago.
It has been said that the original temple was standing up until 1679 when a devastating earthquake shook the region. Although the columns were toppled, a careful restoration project underwent in 1968 to restore it to its original appearance. It remains a mystery why the temple remained standing all those years, especially after the nearly complete destruction of any pagan remnant following Armenias conversion to Christianity. Some scholars suggest it was actually a tomb rather than a temple, which could be reason it was spared from destruction. Today it has become a tourist hot spot and a pleasant stroll through the past, with the temple standing beside foundations of early churches and kakhars.
Around 1 hour east of Yerevan, standing above the Azat River Gorge.
The temple is believed to be constructed in the first century A.D. by King Tiridates I.
As a temple for the sun god of Mihr during the pagan period of Armenia. Mihr was an ancient Armenian deity for light of heaven and the sun.
One of the most popular tourist spots in Armenia now. Foreigners are charged an entrance fee of 1500 AMD (summer 2023).
Situated in the simple village of Garni and past several restaurants and shops lies the entrance to the temple complex. The entrance fee cost 1500 AMD per person as of June 2023, a rare entrance fee in Armenia but well worth it. Even though full of many visitors, we found the atmosphere to be most peaceful. Carefully crafted gardens with flowers were in full bloom, benches were places under fruit trees, and amazing views of the canyon can be had behind the temple. Armenia cherishes their cultural relics, which is quite evident when walking the ground of the temple. A short day trip to the Temple of Garni and the Geghard Monastery is on the short-list of must do activities in Armenia.