hor Virap is one of the most popular destinations in Armenia for a number of reasons, primarily because it is where Grigor Luisavorich (St. Gregory the Illuminator) was imprisoned for 13 years before curing King Trdat III of a disease. This caused the conversion of the king and Armenia into the first officially Christian nation in the world in the year 301. To this day you can visit the underground chamber which he was imprisoned in, located in the nondescript St. Gevorg Chapel apart from the main church. Be careful in this building, there are two holes which can be climbed down but are unmarked. There is one smaller chamber by the door which has some stairs and then a twist and a ladder leading to the small room. There is another hole in the main room, to the right of the altar, with a long ladder leading down into the larger cistern where Grigor Luisavorich was imprisoned. It is actually impressive in size for an underground prison cell, and due to candles and a lack of air circulation was very stuffy, much like the other smaller chamber. Even with the candles it is rather useful to have a flashlight. I blew out all of the candles to preserve some oxygen when I went down there.
This monastery rests atop a little hill in an otherwise very flat Ararat Valley. You can make it out from the highway a few kilometers away and it grows bigger as you turn off the highway and drive towards it. When you arrive you will be as close to Mt. Ararat as you can probably get in Armenia. It is huge and towers over Khor Virap on even hazy days. You can actually see the green belt along the Arax River which denotes the boundary with Turkey from the monastery and there are some military lookout posts around this area. At night there are lights visible on Mt. Ararat, these are American listening posts and Turkish bases.
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