Yerevan is the ancient home of the Armenian people, a city steeped in history and culture, that has long played an integral role as a crossroads between the east and the west. Visiting Yerevan, you’ll find different languages and influences from across the Caucasus, from Russia to the north, Turkey to the west and Persia to the east.
It’s a melting pot, graced with beautiful architecture, excellent galleries and museums, and lively streets crowded with bars, restaurants and surprisingly good wine. There’s also a darker history, and you can learn more about the Armenian plight through the 20th century at the Armenian Genocide Museum, but just remember, the Armenians are always looking forward, even as they remember the past.
It’s an intriguing city to visit, a place quite unlike anywhere else in the world, and to help inspire you to visit the Armenian capital, here’s our ultimate travel guide to Yerevan.
This ultimate travel guide to Yerevan will show you all the most beautiful places in Yerevan and what to expect when visiting, which will help you in planning a trip to Yerevan.
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How to get to Yerevan
Despite its geographical location seemingly in the centre of the Caucasus, at the intersection of Europe and Asia, Armenia’s convoluted history and politics ensure that travelling to the country is much trickier than it needs to be.
Armenia, once part of the Ottoman Empire, has no transport connections to modern Turkey due to ongoing political disputes over the Armenian Genocide. This means that despite its proximity – Yerevan is just a few miles away! – you can’t cross the land borders either way, or fly in from Istanbul.
You also can’t cross the borders from Azerbaijan to Armenia, again due to ongoing political disputes that saw Nagorno-Karabakh seek independence with Armenian support in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union. If you are travelling around the Caucasus, you can only enter via Georgia, or via Iran. For many, the only viable option then is to enter from Georgia, as Iranian visas can be difficult to procure depending on your nationality.
Yerevan is home to the country’s main international airport, but you won’t find a huge quantity of flights, giving Armenia an almost isolated feel to it. There are regular flights scheduled to Russia and much of eastern Europe, as well as Iran and the Middle East. Travellers flying in from Europe or North America will find good deals connecting via Kiev, in Ukraine.
Travelling overland, there are regular connections to Tbilisi in Georgia, a journey of at least 6 hours by local minibus, or via the comfortable international train route. There are also long-distance buses to Tabriz in Iran and onwards to Tehran, the Iranian capital.
Travellers need to be aware that due to the unresolved and very sensitive conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, that you will likely endure questioning if you have an Azerbaijani stamp or Armenian stamp in your passport and try to enter either country. It’s not illegal, but they like to give people a hard time. It is, however, illegal in the eyes of Azerbaijan to visit the breakaway region of Nagorno Karabakh, which is technically part of Azerbaijan. Regional politics are endlessly confusing in this diverse part of the world.
What to Expect in Yerevan
Going to Armenia will always be an exciting trip for anyone, but you will find it can be a bit overwhelming at first if you are unused to travelling in this part of the world. Yerevan is a fast growing city, and much of the city centre is incredibly modern, with a mixture of local restaurants standing alongside very westernised shops and fast food outlets. It’s a real mixture of old and new.
While you will find that the younger generation is learning English, the vast majority of the population still speaks either Russian or Armenian as their first and second languages. While Armenian, using the wonderful Armenian script, is the official language of the nation, Russian is still a de facto language and you’ll see the Cyrillic script everywhere. It can help to learn at least the basics of this alphabet to get around using public transport and reading menus. Speaking Russian will be just as useful as learning Armenian, particulalry if you are planning on travelling around the rest of the Caucasus at the same time as your Armenia travel excursion.
The Armenian currency is the Dram (AMD), which is fairly inflated in comparison to the US Dollar – with roughly 500 Dram to the USD at the time of writing. It can be difficult to procure Armenian Dram outside of Armenian, but if you are travelling from Georgia or Iran you may have some luck in the capitals. In Yerevan, you will find plenty of places to change money, particularly USD, Euros or Russian Roubles, while there are plenty of ATMs across the capital too.
Many first time travellers to Armenia will be wondering, is Yerevan safe? The short answer is yes. Stick to the usual rules of travelling and you will find yourself enjoying a pleasant trip. The capital is prone to hosting demonstrations and protests, particulalry if there is conflict flaring up on the distant, remote Azerbaijani border, but again, keep out of the way and you will be fine.
How to get Around Yerevan
Yerevan has a fairly compact city centre that is quite easy to walk around. The suburbs though, sprawl outwards and you’ll want to get acquainted with the public transport system to get around easily, and cheaply. Downtown Yerevan is connected to the rest of the city by a network of minibuses, trolley buses and the metro.
The metro is quick and simple to use, but there is only one main line. You must purchase a token at the booth, to then pass through the gates. Like many Soviet-era metro systems, the stations themselves are works of art and a huge draw for tourists.
The more extensive minibuses and trolley buses can get you around easily, but make sure you know where you are going and that you are on the right bus. The minibus network also connects Yerevan to the rest of the country.
Taxis are abundant and cheap to use across the city. You can also download the App Yandex, which is sort of like a Russian version of Uber. This will help beat language barriers and provide an extra level of safety.
The Best Time to Visit Yerevan
Yerevan experiences a continental climate, and the landlocked country generally has cold, at times brutal winters, and hot, sweltering summers. You can visit all year round, particularly if you are interested in soaking up the culture and cuisine, but if you want to enjoy any outdoor pursuits then the start and end of summer are best, when it’s not too cold and not too hot to visit.
An intriguing time to visit the city is around Armenian Genocide Memorial Day when Yerevan sees a huge influx of visitors from across the Armenian diaspora returning to their homeland to remember the victims of the genocide.
Things to do in Yerevan
There is a great range of things to do in Yerevan, and most travellers will find something to their tastes in the Armenian capital, be it museums, art or culture. Here’s our travel guide to the best things to do in Yerevan.
Republic Square is the heart of Downtown Yerevan. This is the centre of the city, a Soviet-designed plaza that is surrounded by ornate architecture, fountains, government buildings and museums.
Republic Square is lit up spectacularly at night time, but any time of the day is just as resplendent to walk around. Make sure to call in at both the History Museum and the National Gallery, to learn more about Armenia’s ever-intriguing culture.
Armenian Genocide Museum and Memorial
Although a visit to the Armenian Genocide Museum and Memorial is never exactly a fun thing to do in Yerevan, it is a necessary part of any visit to the capital, as you’ll learn first hand what the Armenian people endured under Ottoman rule before eventually gaining short-lived independence (before then joining the Soviet Union).
Found on the outskirts of the city centre, the complex is built atop Tsitsernakaberd hill, and you can find both a detailed if graphic museum and an eternal flame dedicated to the victims of the genocide, perpetrated during World War 1.
The Yerevan Cascade is a lively and picturesque part of the city to visit. The Cascade rises elegantly from the lower part of the city to higher levels, and you can walk up the grand stone steps or take the many escalators found inside.
At the bottom of the Cascade, there are a great number of bars and restaurants, while the top offers exceptional views over the city. On the way up there are works of art, sculptures and even museums to explore.
Freedom Square is Yerevan’s second most famous square, and this one is home to the grand Armenian Opera House. If you are into culture, then this is the place to go to soak it up and throughout the year you will find many great performances being held.
Frequently, the square itself becomes the scene of protests and demonstrations, but most of the time it’s a pleasant place to enjoy.
Erebuni Fortress is found on the edge of the modern city and is one of the most ancient sites in Armenia. Founded almost 3000 years ago, the ruins here are the remains of one of the first Armenian kingdoms to develop around Yerevan.
What to eat in Yerevan
Yerevan has a fast-growing culinary scene, and travellers will find a unique array of Armenian food and drinks across the city. You will find influences from across Russia, Iran and Turkey to name just a few.
Local traditional Armenian fare to sample in Yerevan includes Dolma, stuffed vine leaves which are delicious to try. Head to the aptly named Dolmama restaurant for the best. You’ll also want to order Manti – stuffed dumplings – local soups, Lavash and much more.
Cognac lovers will want to tour the local Ararat Factory, where you can find some of the best alcoholic beverages in the world. So good, even Winston Churchill kept a bottle of Armenian cognac in his cupboard. You can tour the distillery and learn about the famous brand’s history before trying a few shots.
Where to stay in Yerevan
Budget travellers will find plenty of quality hostels with cheap dorm beds or even basic hotel rooms or Airbnbs for just a little more. Hostels outside the city centre can cost as little as 4 USD per night.
Double rooms can be found for upwards of 10 USD, while international hotels, generally located around Republic Square in downtown can cost upwards of 100 USD, which given the quality and brand isn’t extortionate. A good upscale choice includes the Marriot.
Tours to do in Yerevan
With a compact downtown, you can easily explore Yerevan on foot, and a walking tour can be the best way to see the highlights. While local companies run free, tips based walking tours for budget travellers, you can also consider joining specialised tours which delve deeper into the city’s history or culture, from food and cuisine to communism.
Day trips from Yerevan
Lake Sevan is Armenia’s most beautiful lake, and being a landlocked country, in summer it can quickly become packed with people day tripping out from Yerevan to enjoy the sunshine. The lake is enormous, but the closest point is just one hour away from the capital.
The Tatev Monastery is found a good few hours drive away from Yerevan but makes for a great trip out of the capital. You’ll want to stay the night to make the most of it, but here you can find a beautiful monastery dating back hundreds of years.
An hour from Yerevan, in the hills close to the city, is the medieval monastery of Geghard. This 13th-century monastery complex is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the best examples of Armenian architecture in the country.
Just a few miles from the Turkish border is Khor Virap, a monastery which can trace its foundation back to the 7th century. It’s an important pilgrimage site, and from here you can see across the dividing fence to Turkey, a border which is impassable.
Want to learn how to travel on a Budget? Check out our dedicated “Budget Conscious Travel Guide”
Recommend budget tours in Yerevan
- Daily jeep tour to Garni gorge and Geghama Mountains
- Day Trip to Garni,Gegard and Lake Sevan
- Day Tour to Sevan Lake, Tsakhkadzor Rope Way and Kecharis Monastery in Armenia
- 3 days-2 nights tour to Artsakh-NKR from Yerevan
- Saghmosavank, Alphabet Alley, Amberd, sweet master class, Karmravor, Oshakan
- 10-Day Exploration of Armenia and Nagorno Kharabagh (Extremely well priced!)
- 8-Day Armenia and Georgia Tour
- King Smbat Fortress Full Day Off-Road Tour
- Yerevan City Tour
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