Armenia is famous for its monasteries. You can find them everywhere. Wikipedia lists 90 monasteries and some more cathedrals and churches. We visited many of them. Some are in a very good condition, some are more rundown. Some are touristy, some are like a secret playground for adults. We liked this variety a lot and did not get tired to take the smallest, steepest and most rocky trail leading to one of them.
There are a few blog articles out there that list the XX most beautiful, spectacular, unforgettable etc. monasteries in Armenia. We found these articles after we had left Armenia already. And to be honest, we liked all the monasteries we had visited. We found them all beautiful in their way, spectacular and unforgettable. But what was the thing we liked the most? Why do we feel a little bit more connected to a few of the monasteries? Why is this post called “St. Camp”?
Our list is about the monasteries in Armenia we not just visited for a couple of hours. We found four beautiful places where you actually can camp and enjoy the special atmosphere just next to these holy buildings. All of the campsites were quiet and remote with great views and a star-spattered sky at night.
Just click on the icon on the map and get the GPS coordinates for the next perfect spot for your overlanding trip!
1. Monastery Spitakavor
This is a nice, small monastery at the end of an easy dirt road. It is in a good condition and offers a table and benches to have a break. We had lunch there and enjoyed the views down the hill. A few hikers came by. Besides that we did not see anybody. On the less good side was some garbage lying around the parking area.
The best thing was to ring the church’s bell there!
2. Monastery Tsaghatskar
Beautiful monastery at the end of partly difficult dirt road. There is a water source, table and benches. We camped next to the renovated church. The next morning, it was a Sunday, some locals took the bumpy ride up to carry a chicken around the church and slaughter it afterwards on the spot. Another local, an architect, showed us as the hidden site of the old, ruined part of the monastery on the other side of the meadow. Do not miss to climb around there! It has a very special atmosphere.
Very close to the monastery and only a short detour from the road, you find the ruins of former Fort Smataberd. It is another nice place to climb around and enjoy the views down to the valley.
3. Monastery Tatev
This huge monastery was under restoration when we were there but still impressive with a small museum on site. There are many rooms with signs in English, e.g. the former kitchen. Pretty touristy place though.
We could attend a service in the dark hall and experience two girls singing in this magical light. It was really unbelievable lovely.
We camped on the meadow next to one of the restaurants up the road for only a few bucks. There is a sign “Camping”. The light of sunrise to the monastery the next morning was great.
From the road to the village you can stop at a view point. If you are not traveling with your car or accept to leave it down the hill, you can take the cable car across the valley.
4. Monastery Noravank
This is one of the best known monasteries in Armenia. It is another one on the UNESCO world heritage list and is in a really good shape. Of course, there are many other visitors. But it is worth the drive into this great valley. Besides the main building you can find smaller halls and one with a special acoustic. Sing there like in an opera (even when you are not the best singer)! It is great!
We camped on one hill opposite the monastery. We could enjoy beautiful light when the sun set with views of the monastery.
A nice spot for a coffee break is the small cave cafe on the right site of the road to the monastery,
Besides these monasteries, we visited many more. As mentioned above, we liked them all. But if you are looking for a special place for the night, we recommend one from our list.
If you have found other unique campsites in Armenia and want to share your experiences, please leave a comment!