X Century - Vayots Dzor Marz
This is a perfect place to visit on the way to Jermuk, or heading to southern Armenia. The ancient monastery complex is a thousand years old, and in good condition. There are two ways to reach G'ndevank, both are roads leading to Jermuk. If you take the new highway to Jermuk, you will have to exit into the village of G'ndevaz, and hike down the canyon (approx 45 minutes down) to reach the monastery. Before you do this, you might take the time to visit the village church which is old and plain, for its frescos. There are some that appear older and are rather nice, while the newer ones are not impressive.
The hike down the canyon wall will afford you with great views, and depending on your route, a waterfall and cave (on the inside corner formed by the joining of the canyon walls). Also, depending on your route, you will either arrive above or below the vank. The view from just above it is perfect for a photo including much of the canyon and the entire complex.
The other way to reach G'ndevank is preferable if you are willing to try a rather dilapidated road, usually wide enough for only one car. This is the old Jermuk road, and will take you all the way to Jermuk. If that is your final destination, you should try to take this road on your way either in or out. This road which goes through the canyon along the stream, is breathtaking compared to the new road. The stone walls often look like massive grills (for lack of a better analogy). The G'ndevank turnoff over a little bridge is not very well marked, so watch carefully for it! The upper parts of the canyon, past G'ndevank are the most beautiful and would be perfect for mountain biking down (drive the bike up and enjoy the ride down!), camping, backpacking and all sorts of other outdoor activities. If you are taking this road up to G'ndevank, the entrance is a few dozen meters north of the well marked entrance to the new Jermuk road. If you are taking this road on your way down from Jermuk, you should ask directions in town, but you must drive over the damn on Jermuk lake to make your way down the canyon on the old road.
The monastery complex is surrounded by fort-like walls. Once inside one of the entrances or walls, you see the entire complex. There is a very nice church, with some great carved stones all around it, a large courtyard partly shaded by a large walnut tree, and the fort like walls, which have many chambers to explore. If you enter certain rooms you can just crawl into lower chamber after chamber and in this fashion go about 3 stories underground, so bring a flashlight! The excavations are incomplete, so like many monasteries there is the story that there is a tunnel leading to the river.
"Vayots Dzor was a ring without a stone; I cut and set that stone in the ring", said Princess Sophia, the founder of G'ndevank. The monastery is a true marvel in that mountainous region. G'ndevank is situated not far from the Jermuk spa, on the left side of the River Arpa valley, in a beautiful landscape. The church of St. Stepanos, the principle building, constructed in 936, is in its general plan a reproduction of the Armenian cruciform and central cupola'd church; it only lacks a pair of sacristies on the west face. In 999, which Kristapor was the Abbot of the monastery; a vaulted jhamatun was built on the west of the church. It is in all probability an example of the more ancient edifices of its kind bequeathed by Armenian architecture. The monastery is surrounded with high walls. in the southern and western parts of the precincts are rows of domestic buildings for the use of the monks. The restoration works on the church and the jhamatun, damaged by earthquakes, were undertaken between 1965 and 1969 thanks to financial aid from the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, in Lisbon. [Paragraph Source: Monuments of Armenia]