This won’t be the last you hear of Armenian Monasteries on here – there are stacks of them and we must have seen over 20 and personally visited over 10 during our stay in the country, including Haghpat and Garni Temple(not a monastery though), plus Gandzasar in Nagorno Karabakh. Each monastery has its own thing however so here’s the lowdown on visiting Sanahin Monastery in northern Armenia.
Getting to Sanahin Monastery
Ok so there are not really any regular tours, buses or trains, which leaves you with these five main options:
1. Hire a driver and go there yourself. Agree a price. Fill the car with 4 people (fellow travellers). He can sit around and wait and drive you back. 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.
2. Marshrutky from Alaverdi to Sarahart. If you’re based in Alaverdi you can get a Marshrutky. They start at 10 am and run until 5pm ish. They will leave Alaverdi when they are full. This will cost 1000 Dram. Cheapest way to do it! But then you have to walk from Sarahart, not too long though so worth a pot if you’re travelling alone.
3. Walk it. Unless you’re staying nearby in Sarahart, this isn’t really an option. It’s uphill and it’s far and you might get lost. There is a hardcore hike from Sanahin to Haghpat though, so this is an option for you. For me – these are just mega monasteries and didn’t merit a crazy backpacking hike!
4. Hitchhiking. easier than you’d think in these parts – and a lot of travellers do this.
5. Cable Car. I’m sticking this as option 5 as the Lonely Planet book claimed there is a cable car there. We never seen it, never heard about it, nor did any other travellers use a cable car to get there. Leave a comment if you did it by Cable Car!.
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.
When was Sanahin Monastery Built?
I had to do a bit of reading when I got to Sanahin because there is just way too much history to take in. 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”.
Main Points of Interest at Sanahin Monastery
Right, I’m no real expert here and generally I just walk around, take it all in, read the signs and take my own memories from it, but these are the things I personally liked about Sanahin.
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. From here you can even see Haghpat Monastery. Worth a walk to the top to check out the views.
3. Main Church – Surp Astvatsatsin Church. Well this is the centrepiece and while they all may look the same, there are different designs in each one. Make sure you go inside and explore all the parts.
4. Spooky Graves. These 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. A tad spooky, but still need to be checked out when you’re there.
In all honesty, you don’t need more than an hour or so to explore Sanahin. And I didn’t linger much longer in the others either. If you need any travel tips on backpacking in Armenia be sure to let me know and check out my Facebook Page.
Here are a few videos: