What to visit in Armenia

Armenia is a land of surprises. Although it may appear on the map as “small”, it has a great variety of landscapes and places. Travelling in Armenia is something unique: from the hellenic temple of Garni, to its Monasteries, from fortresses and its khachkar (the famous crosses in stones that you will see all across the countrz), the fascinating history of Armenia revives through its landscapes.

 

 

Armenia offers a lot also to those who love nature: you will find mountains, canyons, woods and valleys, all with its own characteristics and breathtaking views.

Last but not least, the warmth of its people will impress you: during our trip we even were invited by locals to eat in their own houses. Armenian people’s kindness and open hearts will surely touch your heart.

Capital: Yerevan

Inhabitants: approx. 3 million, half of them living in Yerevan

Language: Armenian. Many elderly still speak very good Russian, while the younger generation tend to know more English

Currency: Armenian Dram – AMD (1 EUR equals 550 AMD)

International prefix: 00374

Time zone in Armenia: CET + 3h (in summer time it is CET + 2h)

Water: Armenian tap water is drinkable and very fresh. You can fill up your bottle in the numerous fountains you find all around the country.

Security: Armenia is very safe. People are always trying to help you and they are very curious to discover where are you from: don’t be shy and engage with them 🙂

 

WHEN TO VISIT ARMENIA?

We highly recommend you to visit the country, in particular during Spring (we were here in May and we found it the perfect month! Not too hot, not too cold), where the nature is blossoming and the green of its trees and mountains beautifully contrast with the blue sky and its shining sun. The temperatures varied between 12 (in higher up places such Lake Sevan) to 25 degrees during the sunny days. We also heard that autumn can be beautiful with all the different colours!

WHAT TO VISIT IN ARMENIA?

Here the itinerary that we followed during our 10 days trip around Armenia.

We strongly suggest you to buy a local SIM CARD as soon as you get to the country: there are several mobile companies and we went for VIVACELL 2500 (you can find a overview of the other offers here) and we paid 2500AMD – around 5 euros for 4GB of data. You can find the stand of the different mobile companies in the airport.

HOW TO VISIT ARMENIA: ORGANIZED or FREE SPIRITED?

Depending on how you want to organize your trip in the country, you can choose between two options: let it organize it by a local agency or rent a car and explore the country on your own schedule and rhythm.

1. ORGANIZED: many of the local agencies arrange for you one to three days trips around the country. If you want to make sure you’re in good hands, we suggest you to go to Hyur agency: they offer you different packages, with or without guides.

2. FREE SPIRITED: this is the option we went for, because we wanted to freely visit the country without the constraints of time and we loved it! We rented a LADA NIVA 4×4 and we highly reccomend to hire such a type of car since the roads in some parts of the countries are in very bad conditions. We rented it at Car & Caravan. Besides, how cool is it to drive around Lada Style?

Our Lada in action on Armenian soil

THE ROUTE

We decided to go with the flow and follow some suggestions of our local Armenian friends and inspirational blogs. Here you find the list of places we visited during our trip:

  • Yerevan – 3 days
  • Garni & Goght – 2 days
  • Goris – 1 day
  • Yeghegnadzor – 1 day
  • Tatev – 1 day
  • Lake Sevan – 1 day
  • Dilijan – 1 day

 

 

1) YEREVAN

The Armenian capital is very lively and modern, a mixture between Europe and former Soviet Union. The hospitality of the people struck us from the beginning.

THINGS TO DO and to SEE in YEREVAN:

The city offers you plenty of places to visit and see. We suggest you, for the first day, to get lost walking around the city. The main attractions are not far from the main square, Repulic Square.

We really liked:

  • Cascade Complex –  An amazing view of the city and mount Ararat from the top
  • Genocide Museum – History lesson about the genocide in 1915
  • Opera – Cultural excursion
  • Vernissage – Artist corner and street market
  • Wine street – Saryan Street (read the next paragraph for more info)

The view from way up the Cascade Complex with the view on the majestic mount Ararat

Besides, we also took a Free Walking Tour of the city, which gave us a lot of inside information, although the guide we had was being quite techinical and sometimes a bit impatient with the group.

Discover more about funny facts that we discovered on that day on our Instagram post

WHERE TO EAT and DRINK NICE WINE in YEREVAN:

  • In Vino: We suggest you to go to Saryan Street, also known as the wine street, to experience the wine culture which is developing in the city. Have a nice aperitivo with a nice Takar or Karas wine, we loved it!
  • Lavash Restaurant: Traditional Armenian food revisited with a modern touch of cuisine
  • Tavern Yerevan: Traditional Armenian food in a suggestive atmosphere

WHERE TO SLEEP in YEVERAN:

We had two accomodation, one medium and one in a low budget. We did like both.

  • Medium budget: Yerevan Welcome Apartments (double room: 35 EUR per night)
  • Low Budget: Yerevan hostel (double room: 20 EUR per night)

HOW TO GET AROUND in YEREVAN:

TAXI

If you need to cover longer distances, take a taxi. If you want to play it safe, we suggest to go for the following apps:

  • GG Taxi (Armenian App)
  • Yandex (Russian App used in all Caucasus regions)

We personally used GG Taxi: little English is spoken, but the taxi driver brought us from A to B (1.6km for 700 AMD, approx. 1.20 EUR. Pay attention, if you don’t use the apps, to either bargain before with the taxi driver or to make sure that he has his taximeter on.

METRO

If you want to have a Soviet experience, try the metro. It was built during Soviet times and it can basically bring you just from north to south of the city (and vice versa) in a circle, since there is one line only with 10 stations. Initially 36 stations were planned, but then the Soviet Union collapsed.. In any case, we really liked the vintage Soviet Style of it 😉

WALK

You can easily walk around the center and it is also beautiful to see and discover the city in this way.

2) GARNI, GOGHT & GEGHARD MONASTERY

We loved this area of Armenia! We had the pleasure to actually stay in a place which made our time in Goght unforgettable: B&B 3Gs, an amazing oasis of peace with possibility of camping or private room. The view, the swimming pool and the hospitality of the host made it one of the best places we have ever stayed.

THINGS TO DO and SEE in GARNI and surroudings:

Day 1: We hiked up the first day to Geghard Monastery. It is a easy hike, it takes around 1 hour and you have the possibility to have a great view of the surroundings. There are plenty of opportunities to hike.

Day 2: We visited Garni temple and the Symphony of Stones, amazing complex of stone not far from Garni temple. You can either walk down or, if you have a good car, go down.

Geghard Monastery

 

WHERE TO EAT and DRINK in GARNI and its surroundings:

  • Bash Garni: It is a so called “family restaurant”, meaning that every group gets its own private room and a little electronic bell to ring whenever you need the waiter to come. The host was more than welcoming. He even brought 3 flags, representing our countries (Italy, Germany and Armenian). It was all in all a very pleasent experience. The food is great too by the way 🙂
  • Goght Restaurant: While hiking up to the Geghard monastery, we stopped for lunch here. Beautiful view, nice food and caring staff. Recommended!

3) GORIS

After Goris we drove to Goris. Our plan was just to visit Monastery of Khor Virap, but then we got invited for lunch from a very welcoming family on our way to Goris.

So: engage with people in the street, do not be afraid and you will be surprised how nice it is!

The Monastery of Khor Virap is also worth a visit: Gregory the Illuminator was imprisoned there for more than 13 years back and he managed then, in 301 A.C., to convert onverting Armenia from paganism to Christianity. From the monastery you have also an amazing view of Mount Ararat, where Noah with his Arch and animals touched again earth soil after the biblical flooding described in the Bible.

We also stopped by a winery in Areni, it is really worth it!

In the evening we stayed in Goris, a cute town not far from Tatev, where we wanted to start our hike the following day.

WHERE TO EAT and DRINK NICE WINE in GORIS:

  • Wine Garden: Wonderful home-made Armenian cuisine from a real Armenian mama. We went both for dinner and lunch. Their rice and vegetable was amazing!

 

4) TATEV MONESTERY and DEVIL’S BRIDGE 

Tatev Monestery is one of the most beautiful and well known Monasteries in Armenia. Up on a mountain, it is easily reachable by cablecar Wings of Tatev, the LONGEST in the world with its 5,75km. It costs 5500 AMD and it is worth the ride! At the highest point you are going to reach is about 320m over the amazing valley which surrounds you.

Tatev Monastery

We parked our car at the cablecar starting point, Halidzor.

We then hiked downhill to the Devil’s Bridge: what an AMAZING view! The paths are marked and it was beautiful. Be aware that there might be some snakes sometimes, so we sugget to hike with long pants and a stick (you can easily use one branch of wood you find on the way).

 

THINGS TO DO and SEE in Tatev:

  • Take the Cablecar to the Monastery
  • The Monastery of Tatev
  • Hike down to Devils’ Bridge
  • Hitchike back to your car in Halidzor 🙂

5) LAKE SEVAN

Lake Sevan is this blue lake, which occupies 5% of Armenian territory. Its water is blue and to us, it brought us back to a Soviet era which is blocked in space: the remains of the hotels and entertainments of that area are still visible while driving next to it on the new road. Half finished hotels as far as the eye can reach..

WHERE TO GO EAT AND SLEEP at Lake Sevan:

  • We suggest you to stay in Lavash Hotel if you want to chill for a day: the hotel is done in a rustic but homy way and its interior is very cozy. It is the right place to relax and read a book while staring at the lake from the sofa in your room.
  • We also ate directly in the restaurant of the hotel, with an amazing view on the lake.

6) DILIJAN

From Lake Sevan to Dilijan it is a short drive. Dilijan is surrounded by beautiful nature and there are plenty of possibilities to hike around. Unfortunately, due to a small injury of Marta and her ankle, we weren’t be able to do any of that.

In any case, there is a very cool app that you can use for whole Armenia, it is called HIKEArmenia. It is very well-done and shows some tracks to follow. We also contacted them by email and they were very helpful, sending (FOR FREE, since it is a project to boost tourism in Armenia) the link and information regarding the various hikes around the area. An example of their proposals of hikes around the areas:

  • “Oh My Gosh”, it’s an easy hike. It goes from Gosh Lake to the village of Gosh and its monastery on this 4.2 km (2.6 mi) trail (part of the Transcaucasian Trail route through Dilijan National Park).

  • “From Town to Twin Churches” this is also an easy hike. Say hi to the twins when you travel 7 km (4.3 mi) on this trail (part of the Transcaucasian Trail route through Dilijan National Park). It will lead you from Dilijan’s town center to the twin churches at Jukhtakvank.
    Though they are twins, the churches aren’t identical. One was built in the 12th century and the other was built in the 13th. They still look similar as they are both made from gray colored stone.   

THINGS TO DO and to SEE in DILIJAN:

  • Its beautiful surroundings
  • The famous (but small) Lake Parz
  • Haghartsin Monastery (you can also hike there)

WHERE TO GO EAT and SLEEP:

We slept at the Belveder Eco Resort, which is around 16km away from Dilijan. It is cute if you look for an escape, but it was kind of difficult to communicate with the owner, since she is very nice but quite hectic. They are renovating a lot of things, so be ready to have some work in progress. The outside benches and picnic area is very cute. They also serve breakfast and dinner.

All in all, we loved Armenia. Its history, its landscapes and its people conquered our heart. We strongly suggest to come and see: it is worth it! GO VISIT ARMENIA 😉

 

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