We all love superlatives. Biggest, tallest, fastest. Armenia located in the South Caucacus can lay claim to several historic superlatives.
Scientists discovered the oldest shoe ever documented, clocking in over 5,500 years ago. This right-footed shoe was found in a cave preserved in sheep dung and fabricated from tanned cowhide. In 2011, archaeologists discovered the world’s oldest wine press. It dates back over 6,000 years. In a cave complex, they found a grape press, storage vat, and an array of fermentation jars. Armenia was also the first country in the world to adopt Christianity as its state religion. The Armenian Apostolic Church was founded in 301 AD, beating contenders Georgia and Ethiopia, 25 and 29 years later respectively.
In 2010, Armenia was awarded another superlative with the world’s longest tramway confirmed by the Guinness World Records. The tramway is 5,752 meters long. If partaking on this breathtaking ride is not sufficient; the icing on the cake is the 9th century Tatev Monastery found at the end of the tramway.
The Wings of Tatev (the tramway) takes 12 minutes compared to a 45 minute ride on switchback roads. The highest elevation is at 325 meters and the cabin holds 25 passengers with an operator.
How to get around in Yerevan? Check out this taxi guide.
The Wings of Tatev are found approximately four hours south of Yerevan, the capital. The roads are winding and the panoramas are spectacular. It is easy to make multiple stops along the route including Khor Virap, an ancient monastery at the foot of Mt. Ararat, and Noravank, a 13th century church nestled between mountains. The four hour drive can easily be a full day with these stops. Plan on spending a night in Goris, which is found in a valley. Red roofs and verdant trees combine to create an attractive vista.
Begin your day with a 20 minute ride to the Wings of Tatev. The tickets are only 3000 Dram (less than $8) for a one-way ride. If you can arrange it, try and take the tramway one way and drive the other. The drive offers another way to appreciate the sights. You and 25 of your new friends will take in the views of the mountains and valleys. Only three towers support the five plus kilometer tram. After one support, you descend into a valley with a giant plunge at 300 plus meters. After the 12 minutes you are delivered to Tatev Monastery.
Where else can you visit in Armenia, check out this guide.
Tatev Monastery is a fortified fortress that majestically hangs on a cliff overlooking a gorge and its neighboring mountains. At its height in the 11th century, over 1000 monks made their home in Tatev. In the 12th century, the Seljuk Turks plundered Tatev and destroyed over 10,000 manuscripts. During the 14th and 15th century, Tatev Monastery was a place of higher learning. The University of Tatev was a place of study for science, religion, and philosophy. Today, it prospers as an active church.
Check out the video of the Wings of Tatev.