In the early 1920’s the Armenian Soviet architect Alexander Tamanian was given the task of transforming Yerevan from a small provincial town to the capital it is today. He envisaged a city of wide boulevards and neoclassical buildings. The end result was a fine, compact city, with uniquely Armenian touches such as the pink stone and traditional carvings, yet still distinctly Soviet. Of the many museums in Yerevan, the Museum of Ancient Manuscripts is undoubtedly the highlight. Armenia’s turbulent history has meant that many objects have been lost from the collection over the years, but 1,800 exquisitely illustrated and bound manuscripts have survived and make up the centerpiece of an extraordinary collection.
30km outside Yerevan lies the temple of Garni and the Christian monastery of Geghard. The only Hellenistic colonnaded building in Armenia, Garni dates from the first century AD. It was built as a temple to the sun god Mithra but was converted to a royal summer house when the nation converted to Christianity. The Unesco-listed Geghard is one of the oldest Christian monasteries in the world, dating from the fourth century. The complex was partially carved out of the mountainside, while the main chapel was constructed in 1215.