The Temple of Garni, Armenia – a much smaller Parthenon, built for sun god Mihr 2


A majestic 1st Century CE Greco-Roman temple, reminiscent of the Parthenon in Athens only on a much smaller scale, perched atop a rocky protrusion, high above a meandering gorge. Butterflies flicking between the wildflowers, a blue sky speckled with white fluffy clouds, lush greenery all around, the air fragranced with the perfume of spring flowers. A remarkable spot for its natural landscape alone, even better when you add the ornate Temple of Garni, dedicated to the sun god Mihr, to the picture.

The Temple of Garni, Armenia

The Temple of Garni. Photo credit: Benjamin White

Perfect weather too – the tribute to the sun god is clearly paying off today. Everything about this scene is perfect… except for the ruckus being caused by the other few tourists at the site. Currently in the grounds of the Temple of Garni are a group of loud Filipino tourists whose idea of fun is to drape themselves over various elements of the temple while being photographed. There’s a group of loud Chinese tourists who have split into two groups and are shouting at each other from either side of the temple. There’s a group of loud Iranian tourists who are not doing anything of note; just being loud. And there’s a group of loud Armenian tourists who are standing in the doorway of the Temple of Garni while their guide shouts at them – I’m not sure why he needs to shout, possibly just to be heard over the noise of the others.

The Temple of Garni, Armenia

Photo credit: Amrita Ronnachit

Just four groups of tourists – five if you count Ami and myself – and the atmosphere of the Temple of Garni, has gone from tranquil to carnival-esque.

The Temple of Garni, Armenia

Photo credit: Amrita Ronnachit

None of the tourists are doing anything wrong, they’re just enjoying the tourist attraction in their own way, which happens to involve making a lot of noise.

The Temple of Garni, Armenia

The natural landscape at Garni. Photo credit: Amrita Ronnachit

The Temple of Garni

The Temple of Garni is thought to have been built for King Tiridates I in the 1st Century CE as a dedication to the sun god Mihr. Detractors say this cannot possibly be the case, as every pagan temple in Armenia was destroyed following the nation’s conversion to Christianity in the 4th Century CE. In their opinion, the Temple of Garni is more likely to be a tomb.

The Temple of Garni, Armenia

Photo credit: Amrita Ronnachit

Either way, temple or tomb, the structure was converted into a royal summer palace during the Christianisation of Armenia, and, sadly, collapsed in entirety during an earthquake in 1679. It was rebuilt between 1969 and 1975.

The Temple of Garni, Armenia

Photo credit: Benjamin White

The Temple of Garni is one of the most popular tourist sites in Armenia. It is absolutely worth visiting, but it’s a small site, and easily overrun by boisterous holidaymakers.

If I had my time again, I’d make sure to arrive first thing in the morning when the crowds are lightest.

And when you have finished checking out the temple, remember to take a quick side trip to the nearby gorge to admire the geological marvel that is Symphony in the Stones.


Practical information and how to reach Garni:

The Temple of Garni is 30 kilometres from Yerevan. It’s possible to reach the temple via a combination of marshrutka (mini-buses), or there are plenty of tourist agencies in Yerevan that provide transportation. Most tourists visit the Temple of Garni and the nearby UNESCO World Heritage listed Geghard Monastery on the same day. More transport info here.

Read more on the Temple of Garni here.


More on Armenia:

Noravank – the New Monastery of 1205 CE with its famous Stairs of Death

Zorats Karer – 223 standing stones in a grassy field. Is it linked to Stonehenge?

Selim Caravanserai – built by the Orbelian Dynasty at Vardenyats Pass in 1332 CE.

The geological marvel of Symphony of the Stones 

Tanahati Monastery – as good as Noravank or Tatev without the crowds


Posts on the Caucasus:

Georgia:

Vardzia – 400 room, 19 level cave city. Watch out for falling rocks.

Ushguli – watchtowers on every house; even Genghis Khan was deterred

Uplistsikhe – cave city that housed 20,000; destroyed by Mongols

Nagorno-Karabakh:

Sea Stone Hotel, Vank – a lion head carved into the hillside. Pure genius!

Azerbaijan:

Gobustan – stone age petroglyphs that inspired Thor Heyerdahl

Baku – at 28m below sea level, it’s the world’s deepest capital

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