One of the quintessential places to visit near Yerevan is Khor Virap – the place where Christianity began in Armenia.
You can easily visit Khor Virap independently with the use of local marshrutkas or by hitchhiking.
Alternatively, many organized tours combine Khor Virap with other popular attractions in Armenia.
Here’s my experience and all the up-to-date information about the bus from Yerevan to Khor Virap as well as my top recommendation for a day tour!
Yerevan to Khor Virap Bus
Your first step on the journey from Yerevan to Khor Virap is to get to the bus station at Sasuntsi David. It’s sometimes also called the Southern Bus Station and has buses going to, well, destinations south of Yerevan.
This includes Khor Virap, which is around 40 km south of Yerevan.
The Yerevan Metro has a stop at Sasuntsi David, so if you’re staying in the center, take the single line of the metro and get out right in front of the bus station.
At the bus station, you should look for bus 467. If there is no such bus, look out for a bus going towards Ararat, with these signs written on it:
- Armenian: Արարատ
- Russian: Арарат
In any case, Armenian people are very friendly so just ask them about the bus to Khor Virap.
As of 2023, the bus goes at 9:00, 14:00, and 18:00 and costs 500 AMD (1.3$). Check out the timetable on the official website.
Bus #467 is a relatively new service and stops in front of Khor Virap. In the past, there was only a bus going towards the village of Ararat and you had to get off at Pokr Vedi and walk, hitchhike, or take a taxi for the last 5 km to Khor Virap.
It’s still a good idea to let the driver know that you want to go to Khor Virap. You know, just in case.
Best Tours to Khor Virap
Khor Virap is the most famous and most visited attraction in Armenia (besides Yerevan itself of course).
There are so many tours to pick from, you may quickly get overwhelmed by choice. I’ve narrowed it down to just 3!
|Khor Virap + Noravank + Areni + Jermuk
|Best value for money
|Khor Virap + Noravank + Tatev (Cable car)
|Khor Virap only
A short history of Khor Virap
Khor Virap is practically where Christianity began in Armenia, which was the first country to officially accept Christianity as a state religion in 301.
Christianity in Armenia is a big thing to this day. Armenian people are very pious. That’s why Khor Virap is an important pilgrimage site.
Gregory the Illuminator was imprisoned in Khor Virap in the 3rd century due to political reasons. He was put in a deep hole (which you can go in) hence the name “Bottom-most pit” which is precisely the meaning of the name Khor Virap.
Later, the king that imprisoned him kind of went crazy and his family released Gregory in the hope that he would bring the king’s sanity back.
He did that by baptizing him. Voila, we have Christian Armenia.
What you’ll see in Khor Virap
Khor Virap is a monastery and a Christian Pilgrimage site with a long history and impressive architecture. It’s beautifully set on a hill where the surrounding area is flat fields.
There are unobstructed (unless it’s cloudy) views towards the sacred Mount Ararat.
The Church of the Holy Mother of God
A 7th-century church in the middle of the monastery complex. It’s quite beautiful inside. It gets packed during the Sunday morning prayer (exactly when I went).
It got so crowded that the air started feeling too stuffy for me so I left. quite quickly.
The pit where Gregory was held
On the far side of the monastery is a small basilica called Gevorg Chapel. Inside you will find a hole with steep stairs going down to a claustrophobically small room.
As the hot air gets trapped and it’s more than 50 meters beneath, it is incredibly hot there. But quite cool too – in the metaphorical sense of the word.
There’s a small hill just beside the monastery with good views of Mt. Ararat (on clear days).
I also recommend the nearby graveyard as the decorations on some of the tombstones are… how do I put it…politically interesting. It’s a military cemetery, sort of, as most of the buried there are casualties in the many wars with Azerbaijan over the past 30 years.
You can nonetheless visit Azerbaijan after Armenia.
How to get back from Khor Virap to Yerevan
To go back from Khor Virap to Yerevan, take the same bus #467 from the bus stop in front of the Monastery.
You have to be mindful of the timetable as the bus is not frequent. There are only 3 buses going back to Yerevan at:
The other option you have is to make your way back to Pokr Vedi by either walking, hitchhiking, or hailing a random person as a taxi (yes, in Armenia everybody can be a taxi), then either hitchhike back to Yerevan or hail down a bus going towards the capital on the highway.
I talk a lot about hitchhiking. Armenia is one of the easiest countries to hitchhike in and I doubt you’ll have any problems getting a ride unless you’re in a very remote region. Check out the Hitchwiki page for Armenia for practical tips about hitchhiking there.
I myself hitchhiked a lot in Armenia – almost always in old Ladas, some barely still moving.
A Possible Detour to Dvin
When I was finished with Khor Virap, it was still early in the day so I decided to be a bit more adventurous and opted to visit the ruins of the ancient city of Dvin on the way back.
I hitchhiked A LOT!
I took more than 10 rides around all the small villages between Khor Virap and Dvin (about 20km in total).
It was a ton of fun – I met a dozen people and really dived into rural Armenian life at least for a short while.
Dvin itself is all ruins.
The locals have gathered all the archeological findings and put them in the alley running between the hill and the remaining ruins of the ancient city.
You can climb up to the top of the mound, but that’s pretty much it for Dvin.
Where to next?
Have you explored all that Yerevan has to offer? I have this 2-day guide to Yerevan, the pink city, geared towards budget-conscious travelers.
Or are you looking for more day trips to take from Yerevan? You should check out this short guide on getting to Geghard Monastery by bus.
If you’re finished with Yerevan, consider checking out Armenia’s second-biggest city – Gyumri.