Geghard Monastery, Armenia
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Monastery on the mountain
Built into the side of a mountain in the Azat Valley, Geghard Monastery is one of Armenia’s most popular tourist destinations. People have lived on the mountainside for millennia, thanks to the natural spring found in one of the caves.
Saint Gregory the Illuminator – the patron saint of the Armenian church – founded the first monastery here in the 4th century (although those buildings are long gone). Work on the existing complex began in the 13th century and the buildings are regarded as some of the best-preserved examples of medieval Armenian architecture.
What really makes the complex unique are the monastic cells and chapels carved directly into the mountain itself, with elaborate bas relief stone carvings and beautiful Armenian stone crosses, or 'khachkar', throughout. Designated a Unesco World Heritage Site, protections extend to both the monastery complex and the surrounding countryside, making a trip there an opportunity to step back into the medieval world.