Khor Virap

Travel: One hour from Yerevan by marshrutka

Just about an hour outside the capital lies arguably Armenia's most famous site, an ancient monastery called Khor Virap. If you've ever looked into traveling to Armenia, you've probably already seen this image before. Usually, it is presented with the monastery in the foreground and the giant Mt. Ararat looming behind (as pictured above). Let me say this, however, that these pictures do the area no justice. Going there are seeing the site myself was something far beyond anything that can be conveyed by camera or written description. Nonetheless, here's what I can say. Everywhere, the Earth seemed flat and dry due to the clearly arid climate of the area. There is one hill, and on that hill stands the old stone monastery, which by itself would have been an impressive site to see, but is dwarfed by the mountain in all its glory, covering the entire horizon with absolutely nothing blocking its way.

What made this so incredible is that mountains are usually found in groups, or just a segment in a greater chain, but Ararat literally stands alone, allowing you to see just how massive and monumental it is. Even from hundreds of miles away, Ararat covers the entire length of horizon visible to the eye while its snow-capped peak at 5200 meters (18,000ft) pierces the clear blue sky. And while the mountain is visible from many parts of the country, including the capital, it was only here that I was able to see it quite like this