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Sanahin Monastery

Moss-covered Sanahin is a fascinatingly detailed church and monastery complex, packed with ancient graves, darkened chapels and medieval gallery schools (study halls where pupils sat on benches on either side of a corridor). The inner sanctum of the Surp Astvatsatsin (Holy Mother of God) Church, located in the middle of several buildings, is the oldest structure here, dating back to 928, while its adjoining gavit or entrance hall is one of the later buildings, built in 1211.

A library was created at Sanahin in 1062, and a medical school flourished in the 12th century. Sanahin means Сolder than that one, referring to its younger cousin at Haghpat. From the cable-car station, walk up to the main square of Sadahart and take a left; after 900m you reach a T-junction in Sanahin village (separate from Sadahart). Sanahin Monastery is uphill, or follow the sign downhill to the Mikoyan Museum (working hours 10am-1pm & 2-6pm), a shrine to the Mikoyan brothers Anastas and Artyom.

Anastas Mikoyan survived 60 years in the Politburo, outlasting even Stalin, and so deserves a museum. Artyom was the designer of the USSR's first jet fighter in WWII, the MiG. There's an early MiG jet outside the museum (no climbing allowed!). The charming administrator is unstoppable once she starts explaining every photo, medal and uniform on display a tip of AMD100 or so is a nice gesture after a tour.

Getting there & away - There are many ways to reach the monastery, but taking the cable car, the steepest in what was USSR is THE way to get there (AMD70, yes, that's 50 Euro cents!) from Alaverdi to Sadahart, which is a little more than 1km from Sanahin Monastery.  The ride itself is a thrill and then you'll enjoy some nice views while on the ride as well as views from the station on the top. You'll be then trekking your way to the monastery through the Soviet block apartment district that dissolves into the village. Always ask people for directions to Sanahin and you won't get lost.

There are also marshrutkas and taxis from Alaverdi to Sadahart (5km). You can also inquire about an early-morning bus that travels from Sadahart straight to the Bagratashen Sadakhlo border. If you are hitching, the turnoff from Alaverdi is 1km south of town at the bridge. Hikers may want to walk from Sanahin to Haghpat, via the village of Akner. The 7km walk takes less than three hours.

Sanahin Monastery