In the evening we reach Yerevan where we will be spending the next couple of days. We also use the capital as base to a couple of day-trip destinations, the first of which is the Temple of Garni.
The temple, located in the village of Garni (about a 45-minute drive east of Yerevan), is the only pagan temple in Armenia. In a country full of monasteries featuring a mix of Armenian, Persian and Turkish architecture, the Garni Temple’s Greco-Roman style stands out, more so because it’s perched on a cliff overlooking a scenic valley. For a few moments, I feel more like being in the Mediterranean than in South Caucasus.
The temple, dedicated to the Armenian sun god Mihr, was built by King Tiridates I in the 1st century AD. The temple survived the destruction of pagan temples after Armenia converted to Christianity in 301 AD. It remains as the only surviving remnant of pre-Christian Armenia.
Near the temple is a bath house made from bricks and volcanic stones. The layout of and the designs in the bath house closely resemble those found in Rome, indicating, along with the Garni Temple, the strong ties of the Caucasus region with the Roman Empire.
In the spring, the walkway from the entrance to the temple itself is lined with blooming apricot trees that resemble cherry blossoms, providing a magical vibe as we stroll around the area. The Azam River cutting through the Gegham valley can be seen from a viewing deck west of the temple.