Above, the UNESCO listed Sanahin Monastery in northern Armenia. This won’t be the last you hear of Armenian Monasteries on here; we must have seen over 20 and personally visited over 10 during our stay in the country. Here’s the lowdown on visiting Sanahin Monastery.
There are not really any regular tours, buses or trains, which leaves you with these five main options:
1. Hire a Driver: Agree a price. Pay no more than 8,000 Dram for the car in total (2,000 each). We took this option and also did Haghpat at the same time.
You get great views down into the Debed Canyon en route – hiring a driver means you can stop off as much as you want.
2. Marshrutky from Alaverdi to Sarahart. If you’re based in Alaverdi, you can easily get a Marshrutky. Starting at 10 am and running until 5 pm, they will leave Alaverdi when they are full and cost 1000 Dram.
Marshrutkys become commonplace.
3. Walk it. Unless you’re staying nearby in Sarahart, this isn’t really an option especially since it’s all uphill, it’s far and it’s easy to get lost. There is a hardcore hike from Sanahin to Haghpat though, so this may be an option for you.
4. Hitchhiking. easier than you’d think in these parts.
5. Cable Car. I’m listing this as option 5 as the Lonely Planet book claimed there is a cable car there. We never saw it, heard about it, nor did any other travellers use a cable car to get there. If you have information on this, let us know.
Arrival at Sanahin Monastery
Sanahin is a World Heritage Site but there is no entrance fee. Donations are welcomed however and there are a load of stalls selling souvenirs on the way up the path.
Souvenirs shops are here at Sanahin just to prove commercialism hasn’t escaped these proud Armenians.
It turns out that Sanahin dates back to the 10th Century, and its very name hints at the fact that it is older than nearby Haghpat. A translation into Armenian is something like “this one is older than that one”.
Sanahin is older than nearby Haghpat.
Main Points of Interest at Sanahin Monastery
1. Domed Ceilings. These are cool – high, decorated, symmetrical and diverse.
2. Countryside Views. The location was chosen because of the height and the views and from here, you can see Haghpat Monastery.
3. Main Church – Surp Astvatsatsin Church – be sure to go inside.
4. Spooky Graves. The monasteries have a spooky and eerie element to them. There are graves inside the churches under the floor, on the grass and up on the hills.