Armenia is a beautiful and hospitable country of the South Caucasus. It is an attractive travel destination which is gaining more and more popularity due to its impressive mountainous landscapes, ancient Christian sights, distinctive national cuisine and genuine hospitality. The tourist industry of the country is rapidly developing offering more and more interesting options for tourists like religious, gastronomic, hiking and trekking tours to Armenia. Moreover, due to its landscapes, the country is becoming an excellent place for extreme cycling and off-road tours to Armenia.
So, if you’re planning a visit to this colorful and welcoming country here is a brief guide with some useful information.
Language. The official language in the country is Armenian which composes an independent branch in the Indo-European family. Armenians have their own script created in 405 AD by Mesrop Mashtots – medieval linguist, theologian, and statesman. The Armenian alphabet has 39 letters.
Religion. Most of Armenians follow the Armenian Apostolic Church which is a part of Oriental Orthodoxy and is one of the most ancient Christian Communities. Armenia adopted Christianity as a state religion in 301 AD and became the first official Christian country in the world.
Accommodation. In Armenia, both budget travelers and those who prefer luxury travel can find some suitable options for an overnight. For a budget stay, you can choose among the number of hostels which are abundant in the capital and other big towns. The lowest cost starts from about AMD5000 ($10.5) per night. For comparing rates you can visit booking.com and airbnb.com
For a luxury stay the country offers a good choice of four and five-star hotels. The average price per person in such hotels will vary from AMD 55000 ($117, low season) up to AMD70000 ($150, high season). In the capital you will find such world-known hotel brands as Marriott, Royal Tulip, Double Tree by Hilton, Radisson Blu.
Food. Armenia has all the necessary conditions for cultivating great fruits and vegetables. In high season, in summer and autumn, when the shelves are full of bright and delicious fruitsand vegetables the aprox. prices will be following: apples -AMD200-600 ($0,4-1,2), apricots- AMD300-1000 ( $0,6-2), peaches – AMD250-1100 ($0,5-2,3), melons and watermelons- AMD100-200 ($0,2-0,4), potatoes – AMD150-500 ($0,3-1).
Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, is full of various cozy cafes and restaurants where an average breakfast/ lunch will cost from AMD 2000 to 6000 ($4 -10) and dinner ($10-20).
Transport. All the popular sights in Yerevan are concentrated at the city center so you will be able to get around by foot. But if your hotel is far from the center you can take a taxi where the minimal fare is AMD600 ($1,2) and each km adds AMD100 or use the public transport and get to the center by mini bus or bus. The fare is AMD100 ($0,2). You won’t need to buy any tickets, just pass the money to the driver before taking off.
The other way to get to the city center is by Yerevan underground. To pay the fare you’ll need to buy a token which costs AMD100 ($0,2).
Regions and sights
Armenia is divided into 10 provinces. In this article, we’d like to tell you about some of the most beautiful of them and highlight the most unique and attractive sights.
Armavir Province is located in the western part of Armenia. The largest town here is Vagarshapat which is an important religious place for all Armenians. Annually it attracts a large number of tourists and there is a good reason for that. Here was built the first Christian church in the world – Echmiadzin Cathedral.
The Cathedral was built in 301 AD just after the adoption of Christianity. According to the legend, Gregory the Illuminator, the founder of Christianity in Armenia, had a dream in which God showed him an exact place for the construction of the first church. Thus was founded the religious center of all Armenians. The church keeps a number of important Christian relics, among which is the spear of Longinus. The cathedral is listed as UNESCO world heritage object.
At a distance of 5 km from Echmiadzin Cathedral, there is another impressive architectural masterpiece -Zvartnots temple. The temple itself was built in the 7th century and had majestic and unusual for that time architecture. However, after 300 years the temple was destroyed by an earthquake. Nowadays we can contemplate only its ruins which were found in 1901 in the course of archaeological excavations. Zvartnots is also under the UNESCO protection.
At the eastern part of Armenia, there is the largest province of the country – Gegharkunik. Here is located the gem of Armenian nature – an amazing Lake Sevan or “Geghama Sea” as the locals call it due to the huge size.
Sevan is one of the largest freshwater lakes in the world located at an altitude of 1900 m above sea level. The territory around the lake is an excellent place for a pleasant rest. Here the guests will find various hotels and cottages, those who wish will find excellent opportunities for an active past time. Sevan isalso famous for its delicious fish iskhan (the local trout) which can be ordered in any local restaurant. Another no less popular local dish is a kebab of crayfish.
You can combine your holidays at Lake Sevan with a visit to local historical attractions. On Sevan peninsula, there is a small monastery Sevanavank built in the 4th century. It is located on a hill from the top of which opens a fascinating view of the lake and mountainous surroundings. At the territory of the monastery, you will see many unique khachkars (cross-stones).
Geghard Monastery is one of the most popular sights of Kotayk Province. It is unique because of its rocky architecture: half of the monastery is carved in the adjacent mountains. Geghard was founded in the 4th century and was first celled «Ayrivank» which is translated as «cave monastery». Being destroyed several times the monastery got its modern look in the 13th century and was renamed into Geghardavank which is translated as “the monastery of spear”. The fact is that for many years it kept the spear of Longinus which was transferred to Echmiadzin Cathedral.
Tatev Monastery – the gem of Armenian medieval architecture – is located on a large plateau overlooking the deep gorge (see the photo at the top of this page). You can get to the monastery by the cable car “Wings of Tatev” which was constructed in 2010 and became the longest in the world. Due to that, it was recorded in Guinness Book of Records. It will take about four hours to get to the monastery from Yerevan but it really worth the effort!
Aragatsotn province is located in the western part of the country. Its name is translated as “the slope of Aragats Mount”. Aragats is an amazing must-visit destination which will be discussed below.
Aragats is a stratovolcano, the northern peak of which is the highest point of modern Armenia. Climbing the Mount Aragats is very popular among lovers of trekking. Beginners are advised to conquer the southern summit which is the lowest one (3879 m). The highest is the northern summit with the height of 4090 m. For its conquest you’ll need some preliminary preparation. We recommend combining your journey to Aragats with some sightseeing. At the foot of the mountain at an altitude of 2300 m there is an ancient fortress of the 7th century - Amberd. You can explore its ruins and enjoy the contact with the ancient ages.
Tavush region is located in the north-east of Armenia and is known for its lush forests, mountains and beautiful alpine meadows. Each summer the locals and tourists come here to take a break from the hustle and relax in the lap of nature. One of the most attractive resort towns in the area is Dilijan.
Dilijan is famous for its velvet wooded forests and fresh healthy air filled with pine aromas. Many compare its nature with Swiss beauties. Here you can seclude yourself, improve your health, breathe the clean mountain air and enjoy the crystal clear water from the natural mineral springs. Holidaymakers can choose among good sanatoriums and hotels. The town is surrounded by the Dilijan National Reserve, the territory of which is great for trekking and hiking. We recommend taking the delightful trekking route that originates at Lake Parz (20 min. drive from Dilijan). Follow the path from the lake which leads to Gosh village. At the end of the way, you can visit the medieval monastery of Goshavank and plunge into the ancient history. The route length is 8 km.
Jermuk is another attractive resortof Armenia, which is famous for its curative mineral springs. It is said that the treatment composition of the local water is similar to those of Karlovy Vary in Czech Republic. The local water contains chlorine, sodium, potassium, calcium, iron, fluorine, bromine, magnesium and etc. Once in Jermuk be sure to visit the Gallery of Water (near the sanatorium “Jermuk Armenia”) where you can try the water of different temperatures. Another attraction of the town is powerful Jermuk Waterfall located at altitudes of 1700-2200 meters. It is really an impressive sight!
Feel free to comment with recommendations, tips, or your stories on Armenia. Any other highlights that we may have missed? I’m always looking to supplement/update the above and welcome all constructive feedback!