Armenia is a former Soviet republic, landlocked between Turkey, Iran, Georgia and Azerbaijan. It’s one of the oldest countries in the world, making it a very special place to visit and learn about. There are almost three times the amount of Armenians living outside of the country than within. The natural landscapes of Armenia are diverse and pristine, and you can experience its beauty at any of time the year.
This ultimate travel guide to Armenia will show you all the most beautiful places in Armenia and what to expect when visiting, which will help you in planning a trip to Armenia. Furthermore, you’ll find out why nature and history lovers will want to book a trip as soon as possible. Check out our extensive Armenia travel guide below.
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How to get to Armenia
There are two international airports in Armenia. Zvartnots is the main airport, located 15 kilometres from the capital city, Yerevan. The second airport, Shirak, serves the north of Armenia. Over 50 cities worldwide have regular and direct flights to Yerevan. Armenia is also easily accessible by either train or bus from Georgia.
What to expect in Armenia
Armenians are naturally friendly people. If you’re in Yerevan, you’ll have a lot of younger people coming up to you to talk and practice their English. Outside of the city, you’ll have a harder time communicating. While the official language is Armenian, between 70 to 90% of citizens also have knowledge of Russian. Nonetheless, the locals will always greet you with friendly smiles and an offer to try fresh fruit straight from their gardens. Overall, Armenia is incredibly safe and there is very little to worry about here.
Armenia uses a currency called dram, made up by 100 luma. One euro currently equals about 550 dram. You’ll be able to exchange common currencies like euros, pounds and USD, as well as the Georgian lari, at banks, exchange offices and SAS supermarkets. Tipping is quite new here, but it has become more common in Yerevan due to exposure to Westerners. At restaurants and cafes within the city, you may feel inclined to round up the bill or add 10% if you’re used to tipping.
One extra thing to note is the amount of cigarette smoking. If you’re from a country with strict smoking laws, this may come as a shock to you.
Above all, it’s best to go to Armenia without expectations or a strict schedule. This way, you can enjoy all the country has to offer and always be pleasantly surprised.
How to get around Armenia
The express bus between Zvartnots International Airport and downtown Yerevan costs 300 dram one way.
When trying to get around to all the Armenia must see locations, you have a couple of options with public transport. Buses and minibuses are commonly used, as fares are only a few hundred dram. If you’d prefer to take a taxi, expect to pay at least 1000 dram. There is also a brand new subway in Yerevan, but at the moment there’s only one line with 10 stations. If you don’t want to book a tour, there are many places to rent a car to get around Armenia yourself.
The Best Time to Visit Armenia
Armenia experiences a typical highland continental climate. In the middle of summer, temperatures can reach 40 degrees Celsius. Therefore, the best times to visit are when summer is beginning and ending. In late May and September, the days are warm while the evenings receive a cool mountain breeze. The beginning of autumn is a beautiful time to explore Armenia and see the changing colours, so consider a visit in early October too.
Unless you love the snow and are planning to visit a ski resort, don’t book a trip for winter. You’ll find the cities emptied out during the major holidays, so try to avoid the first week of January and the first half of May too.
Things to do in Armenia
Open-air markets are found throughout Armenia. They’re the perfect place to find some handcrafted souvenirs to take home, or get a feel for the style of crafts Armenians produce. Yerevan Vernissage is one of the largest and most-frequented markets. It’s open from seven a.m. to six p.m. daily and showcases the very best Armenian folk art and jewellery.
The Armenian Genocide Museum is an important place to visit while in Yerevan. It is next to the Tsitsernakaberd Memorial Complex, which is dedicated to the 1.5 million Armenians who lost their lives in the 1915 genocide. At the centre of the monument is an eternal flame to honour their memory. The museum itself is free of charge and has informative and in-depth exhibitions that you won’t forget about.
What else is there to see and do in Yerevan Armenia? There are numerous religious sites to appreciate, such as Etchmiadzin Cathedral, Zvarnots Cathedral and Saint Hripsime Church. The Yerevan Castle is home to cascading stairs, beautiful fountains and manicured gardens. Matenadaran holds ancient books and manuscripts, and Erebuni Fortress is an important cultural centre full of interesting artefacts.
Dilijan is the best place to go hiking in Armenia. The national park here is one of four in the country. There are a number of trails you can take that vary in levels of difficulty. Parz Lake to Gosh Lake is one of the most popular trails here, spanning 24 kilometres. The landscapes change quickly here in Dilijan, with beautiful fields of wildflowers, lush forests and uninhibited rivers. There are also over 40 types of mammals and almost 150 species of birds living in the national park. You’ll always see something new while hiking in Armenia.
Places to visit in Armenia
What is famous in Armenia that you need to check out? The Wings of Tatev is in the Guinness Book of Records as being the longest non-stop double-track cable car. The tramway spans 5,752 metres, and travelling one way takes less than 15 minutes. It connects the medieval 9th-century Tatev Monastery with the village of Halidzor. The gorgeous views of the Vorotan Gorge on the way up and down will leave you in awe. The area is 250 kilometres from Yerevan but well worth the travel.
For more top Armenia sightseeing spots, you can’t go wrong with Lake Sevan. It’s the largest body of water in the Caucasus and has the only beaches in Armenia. You’ll also find a number of worthy attractions surrounding the lake. First is Sevanavank at the northwestern shore. This 13th century monastery was built on what used to be a small island. Moving further south, you’ll reach another monastic complex called Hayravank. 12 kilometres away, you’ll find Noratus Cemetery. The large number of medieval tombs (known as khachkars) make the cemetery one of the most unique historic sites. At the south of the lake sits two more monasteries, Vanevan and Makenyats Vank.
What to eat in Armenia
If you like to eat fresh and organic produce, you’ll enjoy the food in Armenia. While you can pay a fortune for non-GMO at Western markets, it’s the norm here in Armenia, so it’s very affordable to eat healthily. Locals will invite you over for delicious home-cooked meals, so you don’t need to concern yourself with finding the perfect restaurants. If you’re invited into someone’s home, remember to bring some flowers or chocolates to show your appreciation.
For meat lovers, marinated skewers are aplenty. Khorovats (barbecued meat kebabs) and khashlama are popular dishes commonly made with lamb. Harissa is a meal that takes time and love to prepare, and is made with a thick wheat porridge and chicken or lamb.
Anyone with a sweet tooth will want to try Armenian Snickers, aka churchkhela. This treat is a string of nuts (typically walnuts, almonds and hazelnuts) dried in grape juice and flour. Another name for it is sudjuk because it looks a bit like a sausage when prepared! You simply can’t leave Armenia without trying some.
You’ll also find a lot of Turkish favourites here, such as manti (baked dumplings with yoghurt), dolma (vine leaves stuffed with meat or vegetable fillings) and baklava (a sweet filo pastry dessert).
Where to stay in Armenia
Yerevan has many modern hotels that impressively weave in Armenia’s culture and history. Finding a great place to stay in this country won’t be a problem, but here are a few suggestions for you.
Republica Hotel is in the very centre of Yerevan, and a short walk from Republic Square. It’s a contemporary place to stay that incorporates traditional Armenian hospitality. Republica was the first 100% smoke-free hotel, so be sure to book here if that’s a priority for you. All of the rooms are elegantly designed and decorated with touches of ancient Armenian carpet patterns. Experience the incredible food at the open-air Quanto Basta Cafe and get an in-room massage to relax after a day of sightseeing.
HyeLandz Eco Village Resort is located 20 kilometres outside of Yerevan in a town called Geghadir. It’s the perfect getaway accommodation if you want to be close to the city but still immersed in nature. There are many cosy, cabin-style rooms to choose, but be aware that prices are slightly more expensive during the high season (July and August). There are yoga and tai chi classes on offer, as well as lavash and gata baking. The eco restaurant can prepare natural foods according to your dietary requirements.
If you’re spending some time exploring the south of Armenia, Harsnadzor is one of the best hotels in the area. It’s another eco village, but this time you can stay in charming rounded barrel cabins. This inviting little gem in Halidzor sits by the gorge of the Vorotan River and has breathtaking mountain views. In addition to the big three-bedroom villa, there are double, twin, triple and quadruple rooms available.
Tours to do in Armenia
Here are some of the highlights of Armenia you can explore.
Alphabet Alley, a memorial park with giant golden letters. The land is dedicated to the creator of the Armenian alphabet.
Khor Virap, a popular Armenia tourist spot near the Turkish border. There’s an incredible view of Mount Ararat from this ancient monastery.
The Temple of Garni, a mysterious pagan and pre-Christian temple dating back to 77 AD. Garni is one of the most puzzling religious sites in the world, and has become a modern shrine for Armenian neopagans.
Geghard, a medieval monastery in Kotayk with churches and tombs carved out of a rocky mountain. These ancient ruins are UNESCO World Heritage listed.
Tsaghkadzor, a spa town home to many health resorts. It’s a beautiful spot any time of year, and transforms into a top skiing destination in winter.
Noravank, a 13th-century monastery nestled into a small gorge in the Amaghu Valley.
A hot air balloon ride is another breathtaking activity in Armenia, no matter what the season. The Skyball Balloon Ride can be taken right after sunrise or before sunset. Peacefully flying over the changing Armenian landscapes is one of those once-in-a-lifetime memories. The pilots at Skyball are experienced and professional. Not only do they allow you to have an incredible adventure, but they can teach you how to inflate the balloon too.
Day trips from Armenia
Short trips between Armenia and Georgia are common, and there are many joint tours to see both countries. You can catch an overnight train from Yerevan and wake up in Tbilisi, Georgia for a day of exploring. In the low season, this train only departs every second day.
If you’re driving from the northern towns of Vanadzor or Gyumri, the journey to Georgia’s capital only takes between three and four hours.
When you’re in Tbilisi, wander Rustaveli Avenue and the Dry Bridge Market. You can also have a look at the fortress of Narikala and the Anchiskhati Basilica of St Mary.
Unfortunately, the border between Armenia and Turkey is closed. It is strongly advised that you don’t attempt to enter Azerbaijan by border due to ongoing conflict.
This guide has shown you some of the best places to visit in Armenia. It’s a unique destination that’s surprisingly distinct from its neighbours, so don’t skip out on it if you’re planning on heading to this part of the world.
Recommend budget tours in Armenia:
- Day Trip: Tatev Ropeway, Monastery,Karahunge, Shaki waterfall,Areni Winery,lunch
- Day Trip to Garni Temple Geghard Monastery Lavash baking and tasting
- Old Khndzoresk – Swinging Bridge
- Day Tour from Yerevan: Dashtadem Fortress, Gyumri Old Town, Black Fortress and Marmashen Monastery
- Lake Sevan Dilijan Haghartsin Tour
- Armenia: On Noah’s traces
- Armenia first look
- Private Hiking Tour to the top of Artanish
- Saghmosavank, Alphabet Monument, and Amberd Tour from Yerevan
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