After you have marvelled at the sight of Garni Temple, you cannot help but swivel around and marvel at the gorgeous Garni Gorge.
As your eye sweeps over Garni Gorge your eye alights upon a curiosity: a rugged, twisting, narrow section of ravine.
Venture down into the gorge and you’ll find an astonishing geological formation (you can walk to the gorge following a path that starts at the temple, or you can be lazy and drive. We drove ).
Garni Gorge: Symphony of the Stones
The locals have given this bizarre cliff-line, formed of neat, hexagonal columns, the title: Symphony of the Stones.
These days we know how the hexagonal columns are formed. It’s a geological process called columnar jointing.
Columnar jointing occurs when the rock material (its nearly always volcanic in origin) cools and contracts, forming a network of narrow cracks.
When cooling occurs at equally spaced centres the cracks will form at 120 degree angles (i.e. forming hexagons).
The tall, straight columns, formed where cooling has been uniform, are called colonnades.
The warped columns (see photo below), formed where cooling has been erratic (usually because water has been flowing over the cooling rock), are called entablature.
The most famous examples of columnar jointing are the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland, and the Devil’s Tower in the United States.
These days we understand the geological processes that produce columnar jointing, and we have a sound knowledge of geomorphology, and yet we still find the sight of these hexagonal columns bewildering.
Which makes me wonder; how did the worshippers at the first incarnation of Garni Temple view the Symphony of the Stones?
Did they see the hexagonal columns as regular, boring stone?
Or did they think them a plaything of the gods?
Practical information and how to reach Garni Gorge:
Symphony of the Stones is located about one kilometre east from Garni Temple. Garni Temple is 30 kilometres from Yerevan, and can be reached via a combination of marshrutka (mini-buses), or on a tourist shuttle. More transport info here.