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    Religious tours

    Religion, having ancient roots, is very important in Armenia and has remained strong up to present days. The Armenian Apostolic Church is considered to be one of the most ancient Christian churches in the world.  Christianity was first introduced in Armenia by the apostles Bartholomew and Thaddeus in the 1st century AD. Armenia became the first country to establish Christianity as its state religion when, in an event traditionally dated to 301 AD, St. Gregory the Illuminator convinced Tiridates III, the king of Armenia, to convert to Christianity. Before this, the dominant religion was Zoroastrianism and to a smaller degree paganism. Thanks to the sermons of Gregory the Illuminator, Armenian king Tiridates (287-330 A.D.) and his family were the first to be baptized, after which Christianity was announced as the state religion of the country.
    Christianity has a strong influence in the country, but there is a small presence of other religions too. Thus, over 90% of Armenians belong to the Armenian Apostolic Church, a form of Oriental (Non-Chalcedonianism) Orthodoxy, other Christian 4% (mostly Armenian Catholic and Russian Orthodox), Yazidi (monotheist with elements of nature worship) 1.3%, and small Muslim and Jewish populations. Armenia also has a population of Catholics and evangelical Protestants.
    There are also three seminaries in Armenia located in Gyumri, Echmiatsin (the Gevorkian Theological Seminary) and Sevan (the Vazkenian theological seminary).

    DAY 1: DEPARTURE/ ARRIVAL
    Arrive to Yerevan
    Transfer to hotel for overnight.

    DAY 2: YEREVAN/ EJMIADZIN/ CITY TOUR/ YEREVAN
    Breakfast in the hotel. Full day excursion to Armavir Region: tour to Echmiadzin – the holy seat of the Supreme Patriarch-Catholicos of all Armenians. The Cathedral was built in 303 on the site of a pagan temple after the adoption of Christianity as a state religion in 301 in a walled compound with gardens and various structures. The word “Ejmiatsin” means “the coming of the only-begotten”, and the cathedral was built on the very spot Grigor Luysavorich (St. Gregory the Illuminator) dreamt Jesus Himself descended to from heaven to show him where He wanted the church to be built.  Here you can also meet with the priest in the Gevorkian Theological Seminary founded by Catholicos Gevork IV in 1874. Visit St. Hripsime Church (7th century). Being one of the oldest surviving churches in Armenia it was built by Catholicos Sahak the Great in the year 395 AD that contained the remains of the martyred Saint Hripsime to who the church was dedicated to.  A few kilometers from Echmiadzin are the ruins of the 7th century AD Temple of Zvartnots (buiIt in 641—661), which was to suppress Ejmiatsin cathedral by its grandeur. The remnants of Zvartnots are a wonderful sight, even in ruins. Only the lower parts of the walls and individual fragments have been survived. Afternoon visit to Armenia History Museum and Matenadaran one of the world’s oldest repositories of Greek, Persian and Arabic manuscripts having a collection of over 16000 ancient manuscripts.
    Lunch independent.
    Dinner in the local restaurant in Yerevan.
    Overnight at the hotel in Yerevan.

        

    DAY 3: YEREVAN / ASHTARAK/AMBERD/ YEREVAN
    Breakfast in the hotel. Full day excursion to Ashtarak – one of the ancient cities of Armenia. The settlement is full of historical architectural monuments constructed in different periods (II millennium BC to XVIII AD). Here you can visit the church Karmravor (VII-XIX) that preserved its original appearance with red tile roofing. The 4th century Ohanavank monastery complex will also be visited. Will see the spectacular and romantic 7th century fortress of Amberd located 2300 meters above sea level beneath the groups of snow-covered Aragats Mountains. Founded by St. Gregory the Illuminator and that of the 13th century Saghmosavank, famous for its depository of manuscripts. Visit Mughni church, with its distinctive striped drum below the conical cupola, that was rebuilt in 1661-69 by the architects Sahak Khizanetsi and his successor Murat.
    Lunch independent.
    Dinner in a local restaurant.
    Overnight at the hotel in Yerevan.

        

    DAY 4: YEREVAN/ GARNI & GEGHARD/ SEVAN
    Breakfast in the morning. Transfer to Sevan via sightseeing of the picturesque Avan Canyon, skirting formidable cliffs and passing exotic-looking gorges until a green plateau by the Azat River comes into view. Here, in the harmony of the relief and the virgin nature you will see the pagan Garni architectural complex of the 1st century and feel the spirit of ancient ages. Garni Temple lies on the road to Geghard and both can be comfortably seen on the same day. When you get to Garni, it will remind you of a somewhat plain Parthenon. It was built in the first century A.D. by the Armenian King Tiridates with the money he received after visiting Emperor Nero in Rome. The temple was destroyed in 1679 in an earthquake, but was reconstructed in Soviet times.  Another ten minutes ride through the gorge will take you to the cave monastery of Geghard (12th –13th centuries). The monastery of Geghard is a unique architectural construction in the Kotayk province of Armenia, being partially carved out of the adjacent mountain, surrounded by cliffs. It is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.   Arrive at Sevan and visit Sevanavank monastery. Here you have the opportunity of meeting with the priest in the Vazkenian theological seminary founded in 1990 on the Sevan peninsula.
    Check-in the hotel in Sevan.
    Lunch independent.
    Dinner in the local restaurant.
    Overnight at the hotel in Sevan.

        

    DAY 5: SEVAN /MOLOKAN VILLAGE/ SANAHIN & HAGHPAT MONASTERIES/AKHTALA/SEVAN
    Breakfast in the hotel. Continue to Lori region for the sightseeing tour to the 10th-13th centuries Haghpat and Sanahin historical and architectural monument set amidst forest-clad hills close to the town of Alaverdi (178 kilometers from Yerevan). The monuments are preserved by UNESCO and included in the World Heritage List. The ensembles of Sanahin and Haghpat stand out not only for the original architecture of religious and especially civil buildings but also as samples of town building art which show high skill of Armenian architects. Marked by the unity and compactness of their asymmetrical layout, they had a tremendous influence on the development of medieval Armenian architecture. Visit Akhtala church. Above Sanahin and Haghpat lies the lesser known but very worthwhile fortified monastery of Akhtala with breathtaking frescoes.
    Lunch independent.
    Dinner in a local restaurant or hotel in Sevan.
    Overnight at the hotel in Sevan.

        

    DAY 6: SEVAN /SELIM/ TATEV/ GORIS
    Breakfast in the hotel. Visit Hayravank dating to the 9th century. Hayravank Monastery is located near the village of Hayravank along the southwest shore of Lake Sevan in the Gegharkunik Province of Armenia. Hayravank has a quatrefoil cruciform central-plan with four semi-circular apses that intersect to create a space for the drum and dome to stand above. The drum and dome at one point had collapsed completely, but were later restored. Visit Noraduz -medieval cemetery with a large number of early khachkars located in the village of Noratus. The cemetery has the largest cluster of khachkars in the republic of Armenia. It is currently the largest surviving cemetery with khachkars.. Drive to Goris via Selim pass. Stop at Halidzor Village to take the longest in the world tramway to the Tatev Monastery. According to historian Stepanos Orbelian, the first church of what later became the mighty walled complex of Tatev was actually built in the 4th century. In the 8th century, it was made the throne of the Syunik bishopric and in the 9th century, it expanded, becoming a major feudal power. Take the longest in the world tramway, newly build in October 2010.
    Lunch independent.
    Dinner in a local restaurant or hotel in Goris.
    Overnight at hotel in Goris.

        

    DAY 7: GORIS/ ZORATS KARER/ NORAVANK /ARENI/ KHOR VIRAP / YEREVAN
    Breakfast in the hotel. Visit Zorats Karer: The site is located on a rocky promontory near Sisian. About 223 large stone tombs can be found in the area. It was explored by a team of archaeologists from the Institut für Vorderasiatische Archäologie, University of Munich who published their findings in 2000. The tour will on to the monastery complex of Noravank set in a canyon rich with rare flora. Noravank (meaning “New Monastery” in Armenian) is a 13th century Armenian Apostolic Church monastery, located 122 km from Yerevan in a narrow gorge made by the Amaghu river, nearby the city of Yeghegnadzor, Armenia. The gorge is known for its tall, sheer, brick-red cliffs, directly across from the monastery. The monastery is best known for its two-storey S. Astvatsatsin church, which grants access to the second floor by way of narrow stones jutting out from the face of building. The monastery is sometimes called Amaghu-Noravank, Amaghu being the name of a small recently destroyed village above the canyon, in order to distinguish it from Bgheno-Noravank, near Goris.  Areni wine factory. Visit Khor-Virap (4th-17th cc), an important place for a religious tour. Khor Virap, one of the romantically sited monasteries in Armenia with views across a vast plain to Turkey and the twin peaks of Mount Ararat. Here, in the atmosphere of historical environment and vivid imagination you will notice the Noah’s Ark in the snows of Ararat.
    Lunch independent.
    Dinner in a national restaurant with folk music performance.
    Overnight at the hotel in Yerevan.

        

    DAY 8: YEREVAN/AIRPORT
    Breakfast in the hotel.
    Transfer to the airport.

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