Do you love visiting UNESCO World Heritage Sites? Then you will definitely love visiting Sanahin Monastery in Northern Armenia!
Sanahin Monastery is one of the most beautiful monasteries in Armenia and this guide details how to visit it, why you should, and a brief history of Sanahin!
Simply looking for the best tours to Sanahin? Here are the best rated day tours to Sanahin Monastery from both Yerevan and Tbilisi:
- Private tour to Haghpat and Sanahin Monasteries (from Yerevan)
- Tour to Odzun, Haghpat, Sanahin, and Akhtala Fortress (from Yerevan)
- Day trip to North Armenia to Sanahin, Akhtala, Haghpat (from Tbilisi)
More often than not, Armenia will blow your mind with its diverse array of mountains, gorgeous, and rich natural places. Another thing that will blow your mind is its cultural heritage and historic masterpieces of architecture.
Sanahin Monastery is a prime example.
Located in Sanahin village close to Alaverdi in the north of Armenia, you will find Sanahin Monastery, a UNESCO World Heritage Monastery that allows you to escape to an ancient world the moment you enter it.
You will find eerie silence accompanied by jaw-droppingly old facilities with stone ornaments and khachkars, and so much more. It truly is a magnificent place to visit in Armenia!
This guide details how to visit Sanahin Monastery (from both Yerevan and Tbilisi), practical tips for your trip, and a little bit of the history of Sanahin.
Do note that most people opt to visit Sanahin and Haghpat on the same trip. It is very easy to do so, especially by taking a tour. This guide covers solely Sanahin, but do be aware that it is very easy to visit both together!
Sanahin Monastery History
Founded in the 10th-century by King Ashot III Voghormats, Sanahin Monastery is the oldest of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Northern Armenia.
From the exact translation, Sanahin means “this one is older than that one” referring to Haghpat Monastery.
Legends state that the facility was actually founded in the 4th-century as other constructions were built there throughout that time.
Sanahin is not a simple, stand-alone church, but it is rather a compilation of five churches that during its prime in the 12th to 13th centuries, was a school of calligraphers, philosophers, illuminators, and scientists. It was also an active book depository amongst other things.
But throughout this time, all five churches were surrounded by fortress walls to protect the monastery complex from the enemies. This is why you will currently see many churches in Armenia built at a high elevation with a fortress around them.
The monastery complex includes the cross-shaped facade St. Astvatsatsin (the Mother of God) with a large dome, the major monastery called Amenaprkich (All Savour), and the Academy of Gregory Magistros (built in the 11th-century).
Also, there are amazing constructions like the temple of St. Gregory the Illuminator, built in the 11th-century, scriptorium, and many ancient graves of important people like Zakharid and Argutin-Dolgoruky (princes).
It is amazing how all five of these notable constructions are connected with one another and designed with handcrafted stone art and khachkars from different centuries.
Its belltower and all of these constructions really showcase how the goal was to create a hub where science and religion meet for the better of the people.
Sanahin Monastery Practical Information
Here are a few FAQ about Sanahin Monastery from those who are curious to visit and those who have already been:
Is it free to visit Sanahin Monastery? There is no entrance fee to Sanahin, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. However, donations are accepted and you will need to bring cash if you are keen to purchase souvenirs or something at a cafe or kiosk nearby.
Is there wheelchair access at Sanahin Monastery? The area is wheelchair-friendly but please note that some places inside of the monastery will be inaccessible (narrow walkways and stairs). You will be able to see it from the outside, however.
How far apart are Sanahin and Haghpat Monasteries? Sanahin and Haghpat are 15 kilometers away from each other (or 36 minutes in driving distance). If other websites tell you that these monasteries are right beside each other, they are very wrong!
Are there restaurants near Sanahin Monastery? Yes, but not particularly on-site. You will find our favorite, Atorick Restaurant, right on the river in Alaverdi. It has a wonderful terrace area, perfect for solo travelers or large groups.
Don’t Skip the Mikoyan Brothers Museum
A couple of hundred meters down from the Sanahin Monastery, you can visit an iconic and interesting museum dedicated to the Mikoyan Brothers that were born in Sanahin village.
The two brothers were very famous figures during Soviet times and Anastas Mikoyan was Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet which built diplomatic relationships with China and Cuba.
His brother Artem Mikoyan was a legendary aircraft designer who created the legendary MIG USSR aircraft.
You can see one example of the aircraft displayed near the museum alongside their private car and other interesting exhibits from the Soviet-era.
Don’t miss out on this little, yet fascinating museum that is also located next to the picturesque field and mountains overlooking the region.
Mikoyan Brothers Museum Hours: The Mikoyan Brothers Museum in Sanahin is open from 9:30am until 4:45pm daily. Please note that hours may change seasonally.
Mikoyan Brothers Museum Entrance Fee: The entrance fee to the Mikoyan Brothers Museum is 500 AMD for adults (about $1) and 250 AMD for children ($0.50).
How to Get to Sanahin Monastery from Yerevan
It is fairly easy to visit Sanahin Monastery from Yerevan but it will take some time! We recommend setting aside a couple of days and enjoying Northern Armenia and visiting then, or taking an organized day tour there from Yerevan (or Tbilisi).
Given that Sanahin Monastery is closer to Tbilisi than Yerevan, we definitely recommend taking a trip to the place from Georgia if you’re looking to take a trip to Armenia for a day (or hopefully longer!)
This guide details the four ways you can visit Sanahin from Yerevan, and one option for visiting from Tbilisi. Please do note that this will take you to Alaverdi before Sanahin as it is really challenging to get directly from Yerevan to Sanahin Monastery otherwise with public transportation.
The first option for getting from Yerevan to Sanahin Monastery is to take a bus (minibus, or marshrutka). You will find that the distance is about 165 kilometers and the journey is approximately 3.5 hours long.
Because there is no direct transportation between Yerevan and Sanahin village, you will need to take the minibus from Kilikia Bus Station in Yerevan to Alaverdi (Ալավերդի).
From Alaverdi, you can look for taxis that will take you further on to Sanahin. The drive from Alaverdi to Sanahin is about 10-kilometers or less. If you want to show the taxi driver where you’re going, this is Sanahin written in Armenian (Սանահին).
The bus departures from Kilikia bus station to Alaverdi are as follows:
The price for a ticket from Yerevan to Alaverdi is 1500 AMD ($3).
Renting a Car
An alternative option for getting to Sanahin from Yerevan is to rent a car. Public transportation can be a bit slow in Armenia as the country develops its roads and system better, but renting a car in Armenia allows you to explore at your own pace and make stops along the way.
Some of the places you can explore in Northern Armenia with a rental car alongside Sanahin are Lori Fortress, Ijevan, Haghpat Monastery, Akhtala, and more!
Another option for visiting Sanahin from Yerevan is to take a taxi there. While this is not the most budget-friendly option, it is really a great idea if you’re with a group of people and want to make the most of the road trip (there are so many cool stops!).
The ride is more comfortable and it can be done at your own pace, pending you’re willing to hire a taxi all day. A taxi trip to Sanahin from Yerevan will cost around $38, one-way (17200 AMD).
Tours to Sanahin from Yerevan
Another viable way to visit Sanahin Monastery is to take a tour there from Yerevan. There are a couple of really great tour options that we recommend.
An advantage of taking an organized day tour to Sanahin from Yerevan is that you will also get to see other places on the trip, like beautiful Haghpat!
Below are the top tours to Sanahin Monastery from Yerevan.
Armenia: Private Tour to Haghpat and Sanahin Monasteries
Prices start from €388 per group
Duration: 9 hours
Don’t miss out on the opportunity to explore the wonders of ancient architecture at the UNESCO World Heritage Monasteries in the North of America – Sanahin and Haghpat. This is a private tour (can be a private group of up to five people).
This tour is for those who want privacy and to explore at their own pace and really relish in the historic sights of Lori province.
You’ll be picked up and dropped off in Yerevan at your hotel and your day will be spent exploring by means of a modern vehicle with WIFI, air-conditioning, and bottled water.
Insurance will be covered by the tour organizers and you will have a knowledgeable guide that will ensure no detail is overlooked and you really enjoy your day at Sanahin and Haghpat.
Armenia: Odzun, Akhtala and UNESCO Heritage Sites Tour
Prices start from $138
Duration: 11 hours
Another fantastic way to see Haghpat and the other iconic sights in America’s north is to take this tour of Armenian cultural heritage in the Lori region. You will be with a knowledgeable guide in a private transfer vehicle that has wifi and comfort for everyone.
This tour will guide you to Odzun, one of the oldest villages in Armenia and home to a very historic church called ‘Odzun’. It is located right on the Debed Gorge and is spectacular!
You will then visit UNESCO World Heritage Sites Sanahin and Haghpat Monasteries. You will get to learn more about each on this all-day tour.
Finally, you will explore the fortress-monastery of Akhtala, a gorgeous piece of architecture that sits nestled in the forests and mountains near Alaverdi.
Tours to Sanahin from Tbilisi
A surprisingly popular option for visiting Sanahin is as a day trip from Tbilisi. It is around 110 kilometers one-way and it is a fantastic way to see these UNESCO monasteries!
The following tour is a top-rated one that will take you from Tbilisi to Northern Armenia (and Sanahin!)
Tbilisi: Full-Day Armenia Tour
Prices start from $55
Duration: 11 hours
If you’re looking for an affordable day tour from Tbilisi to Sanahin Monastery, this is one of the best options! It is a wonderful way to see some of Northern Armenia’s most iconic sights, such as Haghpat and Sanahin.
On this tour, you will visit Haghpat, Sanahin, and Akhtala Fortress (one of our very favorite sights in Armenia!). You will also have a chance to marvel at the Debed Canyon, wander around a Copper Smelting Factory, and check out a legendary MiG 21 aircraft.
This is a fantastic day trip from Georgia and you’ll be so amazed at Armenia’s beauty that we hope it entices you to pop down for a bit longer!
Where to Stay Near Sanahin
Yeritsuk Guest House
One of the closest guest houses to Sanahin Monastery is Yeritsuk Guest House. The lovely facility has a nice terrace, a garden, clean rooms, and all the necessary amenities for an enjoyable stay.
The hosts are very hospitable and helpful and the food is delicious and local. It’s a great location if you want to see mountains and be close to the Sanahin Monastery complex because it’s within walking distance.
Palma Guest House
In downtown near Alaverdi city center, you can enjoy an absolutely great and beautiful Palma Guest House with a pool and gorgeous garden.
It is a perfect location to start discovering Alaverdi before driving up to the hill to see Sanahin Monastery and Mikoyan Brothers Museum.
The rooms are super clean and the host is very nice and hospitable. It will cook for you a great Armenian BBQ and show true Armenian hospitality.
ARMBEE Honey Farm
A unique place located at the entrance of Alaverdi on the top of the hill that you should visit and learn about the concept of the facility, as well as stay there overnight!
You will stay in the cozy cabins which are super clean, charming, and fully-equipped. ARMBEE Honey Farm is located right on the edge of the hill with fabulous views… but the secret of the place is that under your cabin are beehive boxes.
It’s an ancient fact that sleeping atop the beehives is a great and healthy procedure called apitherapy, known for being beneficial to your immune system. The facility also has an open terrace and garden with amazing views and the host is very lovely.
Should You Visit Sanahin Monastery?
If you’re in Northern Armenia, Sanahin Monastery should absolutely be on your itinerary for Armenia! This UNESCO Monastery is so gorgeous (no matter the time of the year!) and is a fantastic trip alongside its sister monastery, Haghpat.
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