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Armenia is one of the top destinations in Caucasus. Be captivated by its Rocky Mountains battered by the wind, its legends told in the warmth of a roaring fire, or its monasteries infused with the soul of a fortress. These are just some of the things that make up the identity of a people whose origins date back to Noah’s flood. A people who have always lived in the shadow of Mount Ararat.

The Armenians have the soul of a wandering merchant. But it is difficult to find people so honest and deep-rooted to their land. I always thought of them as an enigmatic people who, like the Hebrew, had suffered genocide, and dispersed into several diasporas carrying the trading gene in their veins.

A QUEST FOR ANSWERS

The main reason for starting this trip was to look for answers. Without foreseeing it, visiting Armenia became a journey to the origins of Christianity. An adventure with a spiritual element that changed my life for good.

Visiting Hayastan means walking through a land full of contradictions. It is a country sailing between the Mediterranean and the Black Sea; the East and the West; Asia and Europe. It’s funny that despite being such a small country, distances are so large. In a nation the size of Belgium, you can find Caucasian forests, alpine lakes that look like seas, ancient churches, mountains caressing the sky, and solitary landscapes that will touch your very soul. Here, one can get lost in order to find oneself.

When someone asks us what this country is like, we always answer: “Armenia is like the sound of the Duduk, its national instrument. Humble but noble, intense and moving. With warm notes that will soothe your soul but hide a tear within”.

Caucasers are a group of journalists from the UK, Spain, and Armenia. We have been discovering the secrets of Armenia for more than 10 years. We have written several travel guides about the Caucasus and now we offer you all our experiences in this blog. Are you ready?

ARMENIA TOURISM – WHY VISIT THIS COUNTRY?

For many people, the very word Armenia suggests mystery. After all, the country exists in the shadow of Mount Ararat, the place where Noah began a new life. Armenia is also a nation with the oldest churches in the world. It is the land of the apricot and the home of an ancient people who are said to have helped to build the tower of Babel.

Armenia Travel: Secrets and Heritage

Few places hide so many secrets in such a small space. In territory the size of Belgium, there are Caucasian forests, lakes which resemble seas, mountains which caress the sky, and solitary landscapes of bare rock. On top of this, you’ll experience long-standing traditions and magnificent and little-known gastronomic delights when you visit Armenia.

The Armenian is so proud of his heritage that he does not hesitate to open the doors of his soul to the stranger and to unlock the secrets of one of the most ancient cultures in the world. The country’s current borders are only a small sample of a civilization that used to stretch from the Caspian to the Mediterranean seas. These people hailed from the great empires of antiquity and that is definitely worth the time of any traveler.

Meet Passionate People

The passion for their past is the pillar that keeps the Armenians alive as a nation.

Armenia is a nation with the blood of a merchant who settled down in many parts of the world, but who always knew where his home was in the first place. Armenians are passionate people who when confronted by adversity, have always resurrected from the ashes like the Phoenix.

They already demonstrated it after the so-called Armenian Genocide, one of the darkest episodes in their recent history.

Travel to Armenia to meet and talk to these passionate people and experience for yourself their unique brand of hospitality.

Christianity and Spiritual Healing

Christianity is an essential part of the Armenian culture and visiting the country means entering a spiritual journey that will make you reflect.

Its people are really proud to say that they were the first nation in the world to adopt the faith of Christ. You can still get a taste of the origins of the most primitive Christianity throughout its numerous monasteries. These are amongst the oldest in the world.

Some of them, like the Etchmiadzin Cathedral, is over 1700 years old. Etchmiadzin Cathedral is the oldest cathedral in the world. Find out more about it here.

An aura of mystery surrounds the visit to the Armenian temples. They are usually dark, uncrowded, and quiet sanctuaries. Some of them, such as Noravank, Tatev, Sevanavank or Goshavank were built in such beautiful places that it seems as if their architects knew that from that exact position, the prayers would rise directly to the heart of God.

Many of these churches and temples have the soul of a fortress. You’ll often find thick walls surrounding the sanctuaries. They are the result of a troubled past in which the Christian places of worship were the last bastion of the population against the Persian, Mongolian, or Muslim invaders. These structures also served as the lighthouses that illuminated the Armenian culture for centuries.

Armenia for Non-Christians

If you are not a Christian, that doesn’t mean you are not welcome in this beautiful country.

Armenia is not just all about devotion. It offers numerous different sides to tourists. It boasts majestic nature. Visit the Natural Reserve for mountaineering and extreme sports.

The country also offers cuisine that will leave you with a very good taste in your mouth (and a few extra kilograms).

Armenia’s capital is perfect to have a few night escapades around its jazz clubs and bars. These establishments usually organize concerts every day. If you add to this the legendary Caucasian hospitality, the result is a cocktail that offers you a trip that you will remember for the rest of your life.

It is often said that “only by walking through its footpaths is the soul of the traveller able to transform”, and that visiting these lands will not leave anyone indifferent. So don’t miss a trip to Armenia!

What to Visit in Armenia?

There are so many places to visit in Armenia that will leave you amazed and fulfilled. To make it easy for you to decide, this Armenia travel guide is for you.

Yerevan

The capital of Armenia is famous throughout the Caucasus for its atmosphere, its cafés, and Jazz pubs. So, when you plan to travel in Armenia, Yerevan can be the perfect place to start.

Concerts are held every day and the inhabitants are always looking for new excuses to celebrate. During the Soviet period, Yerevan was known as the Pink City because of the colour of its facades. Buildings were built with a variety of very special volcanic stones giving off a lovely hue.

When it is a clear day, the upper neighbourhoods or the stairs of Waterfalls offer some of the most beautiful sunset views on the planet. Imagine the sun’s amazing golden display before it disappears over the horizon with the biblical Mount Ararat as a backdrop. We wish you luck so that the great white lady shows herself to you.

Garni and Geghard

A few miles away from Yerevan, surrounded by mountains and deep gorges, there are two examples that represent the past and the spiritual present of Armenia: Garni and Geghard.

The Garni temple is the only pagan sanctuary that is still standing in the country. It is of Greco-Roman style and it was dedicated to Mithra, God of the Sun.

The medieval monastery of Geghard, meanwhile, is camouflaged like a chameleon in the walls of the Geghardatzor Canyon. It is one of the most mysterious places in the country and it would be the perfect setting for a movie of the Crusades or the Templars.

Both temples are quite close to the capital and they make for a nice day trip. For more information about them, visit this page.

Etchmiadzin

When we speak about Armenia travel, it is impossible not to mention the Etchmiadzin.

After Jerusalem, Etchmiadzin is the holiest city for Armenians. The Catolicós lives here, clad in the same grace as the Pope. You can find the oldest cathedral in the world here too. Together with the churches of Saint Gayane, Hripsime, Shoghakat, and the nearby Zvartnots – the area houses one of the largest concentrations of UNESCO World Heritage monuments in the country.

Etchmiadzin is about twelve miles from the capital and is also a wonderful day trip destination.

Lake Sevan

Nobody will believe that you have visited the country if you have not been to Lake Sevan.

It is one of the largest alpine lakes in the world and it is the chosen area by many Yerevan citizens to spend their summer holidays. In a landlocked country, going to Sevan is tantamount to going to the beach. If you visit Armenia in July and August, Lake Sevan is a good place to “disconnect” for a couple of days and escape the suffocating temperatures that some areas of the south and centre of the country can reach.

Debed Canyon

Hundreds of metres tall and four miles long, Debed Canyon is impressive. Few places in the country have an architectural, cultural and natural heritage like this one.

Two of its monasteries, Sanahin and Haghpat, are UNESCO World Heritage sites. The place offers beautiful walks for trekking lovers. The temperatures are a little lower and it is a good place to “disconnect” for a few days. Know more about Debed Canyon here.

Tatev Monastery

Its strategic location on the edge of a deep cliff and its defensive towers give the Tatev Monastery a soul like that of an impregnable bastion opening for prayer.

The location chosen to build the largest cultural and religious centre in the south of the country takes your breath away. It is surrounded by lush forests, sweeping meadows, and huge mountains. Standing tall on an esplanade from where you can see the entire Vorotan River Canyon, the monastery is a structure of undeniable beauty. The area also offers good hiking trails and there is an emerging network of shelters if you want to spend a few days there.

Khor Virap

Surrounded by vineyards and located at the foot of Mount Ararat is Khor Virap. It is the corner of Armenia where Gregory the Illuminator was locked for almost thirteen years and in which was built one of the monasteries where more pilgrims from Armenia travel to.

It offers loads of picture-worthy opportunities and hundreds of thousands of tourists visit it every year. If it is a clear day, you can see the impressive Ararat here. A visit to Khor Virap is a typical half-day excursion from the capital. Check this place out.

Dilijan

 Dilijan is the most picturesque town in Armenia. It is located in the north of the country, in the midst of a national park full of forests, mountains, and rivers.

It is a good place to go hiking and visit some lost temples among the dense woodland. This is a beautiful place and there is an old Armenian saying which claims that “if Heaven exists, it must look a lot like Dilijan.”

Summer temperatures in Dilijan tend to be milder than in the rest of the country.

Gyumri

It is the second-largest city of Armenia and it is the birthplace of numerous artists throughout the years. Gyumri has the largest old town in the country, with modernist palaces and other buildings of the nineteenth century.

In 1988 it suffered a devastating earthquake. Although things are back to normal, you can still see the scars of tragedy on the structures of some buildings.

Yeghegnadzor

When it comes to Armenia travel destinations, Yeghegnadzor is another wonderful choice. It is the capital of the Vanadzor region and the least populated in the country.

In such a small area, you can visit the best wineries in the country. Noravank (one of the most visited monasteries) is also located there. Add to that the exciting Yeghegis Valley and tons of nature activities. It offers good routes by bike or for walking, caves for speleology, and good climbing areas.

Its inhabitants call this region “The museum under the sky”. Know more about this destination here.

Lastiver Cave and the Forests of Yenokavan

In the north of the country, in the surroundings of the city of Ijevan, you will find one of the most spectacular forests in Armenia. It is located in the province of Tavush, a region that is also known as the Switzerland of Armenia.

The forest extends over a deep gorge of 100 metres and the place is dotted with prehistoric caves, small waterfalls, and lush vegetation. It is the perfect place to de-stress from the world and practice adventure sports. Click here for more information.

Astrophysical Observatory of Byurakan

The conditions of Byurakan are perfect for curiously gazing at the universe. And here, is one of the most important astrophysical observatories of the former USSR. The centre is open to the public and it offers some very interesting visits during the day to its gigantic telescopes. Check out as well the house-museum of the astrophysicist Viktor Ambartsumian, considered a prominent figure in this area.

But it is at night when the centre is at its best and organizes night observations. It is a different experience, and the tour is overseen by the staff of the observatory. Mind you, you should book your tickets in advance. Find out more about Byurakan here.

Ascent to the Aragats

With its 4,090 metres (13418 feet), the Aragats is the roof of Armenia. Climbing the Aragats is an experience you will never forget.

Every year between 3,000 and 4,000 people try to make the summit, which makes it the favourite destination for mountain lovers. It is an extinct volcano whose crater formed four peaks. The south peak, at 3,879 m. (12726 feet) is the most accessible in the world. The ascent starts from Kari Lich Lake at 3,200 m. (10498 feet) and it takes about four hours to get to the top from the southern peak (it varies depending on the personal pace of each climber).

Of course, you should go in the summer and prepare for the route. There is usually quite a lot of snow the rest of the year. You must be prepared properly. In the video that we have left you in the link, the ascent is to the northern peak, the most complicated one.

Ughtasar and Muradzar Petroglyphs

The summits of Armenia are full of primitive remains in the form of rocks with engravings made by the country’s ancient inhabitants. These carvings present scenes of everyday life, beliefs, and more.

Two of the most famous places are the petroglyphs of Ughtasar (around Sisian) and Muradzar (Yeghegis Valley, near Yeghegnadzor). If you want to get there, you will have to undertake a long trek or rent an SUV. You should read carefully the chapters of the guide referring to these sections where we provide you with some contacts and recommendations to prepare for your adventure.

Zorats Karer (Carahunge)

When planning your Armenia travel, do consider visiting the Zorats Karer or the Carahunge. This is known as the ‘Armenian Stonehenge’ and it is very close to the city of Sisian. Zorats Karer is the best-known megalithic monument in the country and it has 222 menhirs.

Some of them have strange holes completely pierced from side to side of the rock. Why was it built? For some people, it was an astronomical observatory. For others, it was a ceremonial place connected with the Ughtasar Petroglyphs. There are also people who defend the theory that it was only an ancient cemetery.

Either way, the place releases a particular energy that is best experienced for yourself. We recommend you visit it early morning or late evening when there are hardly any tourists.

Arpi Lich Lake

The Arpi lake is more than 2000 metres high (6561 feet tall). It is located on the border between Armenia, Georgia, and Turkey.

It is a paradise for bird-watching lovers. Here live about 120 species of birds, many of which are endemic to the Caucasus area. The area is also the meeting point of another 70 types of birds during their migrations in spring and autumn.

In 2009 the Government of Yerevan declared the Arpi Lich Lake as a National Reserve. After Sevan, it is the second reserve of fresh water in the country and a sanctuary for other mammals, such as the otter, the Caucasian shrew, or the wolf. Obsidian is omnipresent along the shores of this lake.

Practical Information about Armenia

  • Official Name: Republic of Armenia
  • Surface: 29.800 km² (11,484 sq. mi)
  • Capital: Yerevan
  • Population: 2,974,000. 97.5% are Armenians, 1.3% are Yezidis, 0.5% Russians and the rest of other ethnic minorities.
  • Religion: 94.7% belong to the Armenian Apostolic Church, 4% to the rest of the Christian faiths, and 1.3% are Yezidis.
  • Type of government: Democratic Republic
  • Language: the official language is Armenian, although a large part of the population also speaks Russian fluently.
  • Currency: The dram (AMD). 600 AMD=1€
  • Life expectancy: 74 years
  • Literacy rate: 99.6%

Useful Websites to Prepare for Your Adventure

  • www.armenia.travel It is the official tourism website of Armenia. You really should check it out in order to prepare for your trip. This site offers very good information for visiting the country. It is perfect as your first port of contact and to get your juices flowing.
  • www.welcomearmenia.com – It is a website specializing in tourism in Armenia. It offers basic and specific information about the country and each region. It also provides recommendations on what to visits in each part of the country. It has a small hotel search engine as well and even offers a small directory of companies in your destination. This is very useful for business tourists. It is a very practical virtual platform if you travel on your own. The information is available in English, Armenian, and Russian. Highly recommended.
  • www.armhotels.am It is the most important online booking system in Armenia (with the exception of the all-powerful Booking, Trivago, and Trip Advisor). What is great about Arm Hotels is that it is a local search engine and you can take advantage of some offers that do not appear in the major booking portals. You will have access to plenty of hotels at every price distributed around the main tourist centres. On their homepage, you can find some offers with discounts to spend the night at a good price. Once again, the information for international tourists is in English only.
  • www.armenianheritage.org This website provides information about the main monuments of the country. It is a multimedia channel whose objective is the protection and broadcast of the Armenian heritage. If you travel on your own, it will be really useful for you to know which places you want to visit and to have a little information about the places you are visiting.
  • www.civilnet.am Civilnet is a digital newspaper that offers news and documentaries in both Armenian and English. It is one of the best ways to get to know the country’s current situation. Young staff are in charge of writing the news. The site is a critical and progressive media.
  • www.mfa.amThis is the webpage of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Armenia.
  • www.spyur.amThese are the yellow pages and here you can find practically everything. It will be really useful for you if you need very specific things, such as a tailor to fix your suitcase. There is also detailed practical information for tourists. It is worth browsing this site.
  • www.armeniaguide.com This is a very complete guide with resources of all kinds that will help you prepare for your trip before and guide you during the adventure.

Do I Need a Visa?

Tourists from the European Union do not need a visa to visit Armenia (stays of less than six months). It is enough that the validity date of the passport is greater than six months after the end of the trip and you have it available to show to the customs authorities. You do not need any other official document to cross the land border between Georgia and Armenia, as long as you are a citizen of the E.U.

Customs: What Kind of Restrictions Are There?

You can only carry a maximum of two litres of alcoholic beverages and two hundred unreported cigarettes in your suitcase. You can also carry personal assets for a value not exceeding $10,000 and up to five litres of perfume products divided into six bottles.

It is prohibited to take pornographic materials. Fruits and vegetables that do not have the necessary licenses are not allowed as well. Do not even think about bringing any kind of narcotics. The laws of this country regarding drugs are very severe, and prison conditions have nothing to do with those of Europe.

As for antiques, including coins, precious stones, manuscripts and works of art, the permits of the corresponding authorities are required both on the outward and return trips. If you want to bring any type of animal, it must be accompanied by its appropriate veterinary health certificate.

Vaccines: Do I Have to Get Any?

It is not mandatory to get any vaccine. However, it is recommended to get vaccines against Hepatitis A and B, tetanus, diphtheria, and typhoid fever. For those of you who are going to be in contact with animals or expect to stay for longer, you should have the rabies vaccine.

Note that it is usual to see wild dogs wandering around the villages and some cities, especially at night. It is also common to encounter regional shepherd dogs in mountain areas, and they can be quite territorial. So please be careful, and if attacked, you should go immediately to the nearest medical centre. You should call the international vaccine centre in your area as well, ideally a couple of months before your trip. They will advise you about the vaccines needed.

Health: Sanitary Basic Tips

  • Medicines: If you are suffering from a chronic illness or you are going to need medication during your trip, you should take the necessary doses – together with the medical prescriptions – which cover the full period of your stay.
  • Water: Although the local people say that water in the country has exceptional quality and it comes from the Caucasian peaks, we do not know what the water treatment really is like. Especially outside the capital cities. If your stay is not too long, we recommend you drink bottled water so you don´t suffer any stomach bugs.
  • Meals: Make sure to wash your hands. Many diseases are transmitted by germs which enter our body via our hands.
  • Sex: Don’t forget to practice safe sex. Although the rate of people infected with HIV in Armenia is within normal parameters, there is always some risk.
  • Snakes and scorpions: In Armenia, you should watch your step, especially when hiking or walking around the mountains. There are several types of snakes, although only a few of them are vennomous. The most dangerous is the lebetine viper, known as giusa or gurza. During the winter, the snakes remain in their burrows, but you should be careful from April to October, especially when walking in rocky areas with nooks and crannies. These animals only attack when they feel threatened and it is not often that anything happens, but it is better to be safe than sorry. There are also scorpions so if you are travelling with children, you should take precautions. In the event of an accident, rush immediately to the nearest health centre.

Is Armenia Safe?

Robberies accompanied by violence towards tourists are very rare, although as in any other place, you should keep a vigilant eye on pickpockets and thieves. Sexual crimes are not usual either, and the country is a fairly safe destination even for women who travel alone. However, you should avoid walking alone at night in some suburb locations and avoid getting into strange cars.

When Should I Go?

Any time of the year is good if you want to visit Armenia. However, it is freezing cold in the winter, and in the summer it is blisteringly hot (especially in the capital).

For us, the best seasons are spring and autumn, when the temperatures are moderate and more pleasant. Despite the heat, July and August are high seasons. What is our recommendation? If you cannot stand the heat, you should go to the north, to the mountain regions of the Lesser Caucasus (Tavush and Lori) or to Lake Sevan.

The summer months are perfect for mountaineering since the snow has left most of the peaks at this time. We don´t recommend you to go during winter. In addition to the cold, some mountain passes and roads will be closed because of snow and ice. This will definitely make your excursions difficult and planning can be a huge pain.

However, if you like skiing and some excitement, Armenia offers good possibilities in the winter. Little-known ski resorts such as Tzaghkadzor are worth visiting. You can also find extreme excursion options. How about a little Heli-skiing in the Armenian mountains?

Weather

The climate varies a lot from one area to another. However, most of the country is dry and it has a rather extreme continental climate, with cold winters and fairly warm summers.

The North of Armenia is more humid and the climate tends to be milder. If it feels too hot for you, we recommend a short break to the regions of Lori, Tavush, and Lake Sevan. Spring is usually the rainiest season and, like Autumn, the temperature is milder. In our opinion, it is the best time to visit the country.

However, due to the mountains, each area has its own micro-climate. This means that within a distance of 60 kilometres (37 miles), you can go from a sunny and suffocating day in the capital to a rainy and quite a cool one in Lake Sevan. In the southern plains, the climate is usually very arid and extremely continental.

Meanwhile, as we have already mentioned, in the mountainous regions of the North the weather is much more humid. The average rainfall is 570 mm, ranging from 114 mm in semi-desertic areas to 900 mm in mountainous areas. So you just have to be prepared for any eventuality.

Geography

With its 29,800 km² (11,484 sq. mi), Armenia is very similar in size to Belgium. It is located southwest of the Transcaucasia region and it is landlocked. In the west it shares borders with Turkey and the Azeri settlement of Nakhichevan.

Armenia also has borders with Georgia in the North, Iran in the South and Azerbaijan and the self-proclaimed Republic of Upper Karabakh in the East. With the exception of the Ararat plateau, which comprises the regions closest to the capital – where landscapes are flat and the land is fertile – and some other isolated regions, the country is mountainous.

Its average altitude is 1,800 metres above sea level (5905 feet) and the highest point is the Aragats summit, which reaches 4,090 metres (13418 feet). There are around 200 rivers flowing within its borders. The most abundant rivers are the Araks, the Debed and the Aghstev Rivers.

The most important water reserve is Lake Sevan, with a length of 72 km and a width of 56 km (44 miles long and 34 miles wide). Most of the landscape is rocky, due to deforestation, except in the Northern provinces, which are much more humid and wooded, and some areas of the Syunik province in the South. Its inhabitants call their country Karastan: the country of stone.

Nagorno-Karabakh is a portion of land that is de facto independent, but it belongs to Azerbaijan in the eyes of the international community. It is inhabited by a majority of the population of Armenian descent who, after an armed conflict which lasted from 1988 to 1994, sought to separate from Azerbaijan and join Armenia.

The war left thousands of people dead. Nowadays, no country recognizes it as an independent state and, on paper, it still belongs to Azerbaijan. However, for most Armenians, it is part of their country. Therefore, you are likely to see some maps of Armenia that also include this area in dispute. Later on we will talk about this issue in depth.

Survival Tips for Single Travellers

Armenia is a safe destination. People are quite respectful, and thefts or aggressions are few and far between. However, it is not an easy country. Travelling by public transport is quite chaotic, roads are shattered and outside the capital, people do not speak English.

But magic can happen, and problems are always solved. If you are going to explore the country on your own, you should pay attention to these recommendations: if you are on the mountain, you should be careful with snakes and scorpions. Besides, you should be careful with shepherd dogs. They are very territorial.

You should always carry a flashlight with you. The lighting is conspicuous by its absence outside of the capital. Always put on your seatbelt and drive really carefully. The driving style of the locals can be quite aggressive. Be careful with radars. Police cars usually have them built-in and there are quite a lot, especially in the vicinity of the capital.

If you are going to take a taxi outside of Yerevan, you should keep in mind the following rule to negotiate the price: 1km = 100 AMD (the flag drop is 500 AMD = 5 km and the waiting time is paid at 1000 AMD). If you are moving via a marshrutka (a form of a routed taxicab) around the country, you should always try to be 30 minutes early to secure your seat. You should not drink tap water, especially outside Yerevan.

What Should I Pack?

  • Essential: Hiking boots, a flashlight, utility knife, two credit cards, a towel, a hat, a camera, an auxiliary backpack for days out and flip flops.
    Dress code to enter monasteries: Women should cover their heads in order to visit the interior of churches, so it is a good idea to pack a pashmina, a scarf or something similar in your suitcase.
  • First aid kit: In addition to the typical medicines and basic first aid kit, you should pack a broad-spectrum antibiotic, just in case.
  • Clothing: It will depend on the season you are planning to visit. However, you should keep in mind that temperatures vary drastically from one region to another, ranging from the Alpine cold in the mountain regions to intense heat in the Yerevan area. Which is our recommendation? You should wear clothing that is wearable in any situation. You should be very well prepared if you’re going to the mountains, the weather changes really fast!

Language: Will I Have Problems to Make Myself Understood?

Probably. Especially outside the capital. But that is part of the adventure. Armenian people speak Armenian and Russian perfectly and some French, but no Spanish.

Young people are the only ones who speak English fluently. However, outside of Yerevan, things get complicated. Nevertheless, they go out of their way to make themselves understood and if they have to call their cousin in the capital, the one who knows English, they will do so. We think that says it all about their hospitality.

LGTBI Travellers: Should I Be Careful?

Although homosexuality and other sexual orientations are not deemed as a crime, unfortunately the Armenian society is still very old-fashioned in this matter. The same thing happens for transgender people. To give you an idea: in 2012 two people set fire to a ‘gay’ bar in Yerevan and homophobic attacks are not uncommon. What is our recommendation? Try to be discreet to avoid any uncomfortable situation.

Budget: Is It Expensive to Eat and Sleep in Armenia?

ARMENIA ACCOMMODATION in a double room RESTAURANTS (average price per person)
Cheap / Budget Up to 35 € (20.000 AMD) Up to 4 € (2.500 AMD)
Medium Up to 70 € (40.000 AMD) Up to 10 € (6.000 AMD)
Expensive Up to 150 € (85.000 AMD) Up to 15€ (9.000 AMD)
Luxury More than 150 € (+ 85.000 AMD) More than 15 € (+ 9.000 AMD)

Note: Even though transport and restaurants are quite affordable for the occidental tourist´s pocket, accommodation in Armenia is expensive when you compare it to the spending power of its citizens, especially in Yerevan.

Eating Out in Armenia

Typically, you can eat well for an affordable price in Armenia. There are plenty of regional food restaurants, although some of them also have international dishes available. If you have your own habits established and you do not like experiencing new flavours outside of those you already know, it is best to go to the hotel restaurants, since they offer menus adapted to the taste of the western tourist.

The capital offers the most varied offer and you can find restaurants offering Lebanese, Georgian, Iranian, Japanese, Russian cuisine, and food from other nationalities.

In the large cities of the country, there are venues of all kinds: from those who have control of the smallest detail to the most popular ones. If you are on a low budget, you should go to the most informal restaurants, where they usually serve shawarmas, kebabs, or pizzas. These places are usually frequented by young people. Generally, the prices vary a lot depending on whether alcoholic beverages are ordered or not.

Tipping in Armenia – the going tip rate is 10% of your total order. In some places, though, the tip or gratuity is already included in the bill, so you should be extremely careful not to pay it twice.

Type of restaurants Average Price per person (no alcohol)

CREATE TABLE

Cheap / Budget?? Up to 4 € (2.500 AMD)
Medium Up to 8 € (5.000 AMD)
Expensive Up to 15 € (8.500 AMD)
Luxury More than 15 € (+8.500 AMD)

Accommodation in Armenia

Compared to the local average wage, which barely reaches € 300, hotel rates may be a little high. Especially in the capital, where prices can be really exorbitant. However, over the past few years, there has been an explosion of new bed & breakfasts in the main tourist centres. These places usually have a very acceptable price range and provide value for money.

If you travel on a low budget, the bed and breakfast establishments are the best options outside of the capital. Another alternative to consider if you are on a tight budget is couch surfing or Airbnb, which is slowly becoming fashionable in Armenia. Recently, hostels for backpackers have opened in the capital. The atmosphere and the experience-sharing here are assured, and the prices are quite affordable.

If money is not an obstacle for you, Yerevan has options to suit everyone and it has a good infrastructure with hotels of all kinds: boutique, luxury, and other accommodations for people travelling with an average budget.

Some hotels belong to large chains and their services are adapted to their quality standards. You can also find good accommodation in the main centres of attraction for visitors, such as the city of Gyumri, Lastiver Caves, the picturesque village of Dilijan, the shores of Lake Sevan, the village of Gori, the canyon of the Deved River, or the Tsakhkadzor Ski Resort.

From these places, you can set up your centre of operations to organize excursions to the most interesting places in each region.

Type of hotels Average Price per double room
(high season)

CREATE TABLE

Cheap / Budget??? Up to 35€ (hotels, hostels and B&B) 20.000 AMD
Medium Up to 70 € (40.000 AMD)
Expensive Up to 150 € (85.000 AMD)
Luxury More than 150 € (+ 85.000 AMD)

How to Move around in Armenia

It is in this facet of the country where the single traveller becomes aware of which part of the world they are visiting at that time, especially when travelling on the asphalt, which sometimes represents a challenge. The

Road transport is quite chaotic, especially in the capital. The roads are often in poor condition, with many potholes and cattle crossing the middle of the road. The seatbelts in public transportations often do not work, and the driving skills of the local people do not offer much security either.

In spite of everything, this is the way to know the other side of Armenia. Besides, that is part of the adventure! 

The options that you have for travelling inside or outside of the cities are the following:

Marshrutkas

They are minibuses with capacity for up to 20 people. They are usually white or black Ford Transit vans. Marshrutkas are the most popular means of transport and after the taxi, the second-fastest in the whole city.

In addition, they are one of the most economical means of transport, too. In cities like Yerevan, they are a very agile and cheap way to get from one place to another, since you do not usually have to wait more than ten or fifteen minutes between one marshrutka and another.

The only thing to note is that the front panels informing about the route they cover are usually written in the Armenian alphabet, and many do not stop at any marquee. So, you will have to ask the hotel staff for information. They can explain what marshrutka number you have to take, and where you have to get on exactly. You should inform the driver about the place you want to go to so that he lets you know where you need to get off.

Urban Buses

Most of them are old junk with wheels, inherited from the Soviet period. They are very cheap, but they are also very slow. They usually cover trips between towns or they link neighbourhoods within the suburbs.

Taxis

They are comfortable and cheap. Their use is common and very useful in Armenia, not only in large cities but also for journeys throughout the country.

At the date of publication of this guide, the minimum fare in the capital was 600 drams. And each extra mile was priced at 100 AMD drams. If you do not want any bad experiences, you should always use the official taxis (they are the ones with the yellow license plate) and make sure beforehand that they have a meter so you do not have any surprises later.

Outside Yerevan, taximeters are conspicuous by their absence. That is why you should negotiate the price with the driver beforehand, considering what we have just told you. Otherwise, they are likely to try to scam you.

It is quite normal to use shared taxis for road trips. If you want to take one, you should notify your hotel reception and they will organize everything. If the driver is waiting for you for one hour, he will charge you 1000 AMD.

Train

The railway system is obsolete. It is slow and it only operates in the north. The mainline is the one that connects Yerevan with Tbilisi, and it also connects the cities of Gyumri and Vanadzor. The most important node is the Sassountsi Davit Metro Station, which located in the capital.

Car Rentals

There are franchises of Europcar and Hertz in the capital, as well as from other local companies such as car.rent or caravan.

The average price of the cheapest car for a week is usually between 20 and 35 € / day. You will need to present your passport, your international driving license, and you must pay a deposit. Some roads are in very bad condition and others are not paved, so it’s not a bad idea to opt for a small SUV if you plan on going hiking in the mountains or into deep Armenia.

It is also a good idea to take a GPS device with you since some parts of the country are badly marked. Careful: it is quite normal to find cattle on the loose on certain secondary roads.

Hitchhiking

Armenia is generally a safe country. If you are a single traveller and you have been left in the lurch somewhere without connections, hitchhiking is an option to get out of your predicament.

It probably will not be long until someone feels sorry for you and picks you up. However, you should take precautions and always travel with someone if possible, especially if you are a woman. We did not have any problems, but you can never tell.

Of course, you should always fasten your seatbelt. In Armenia, people usually drive quite badly: aggressiveness, double overtaking, overtaking in elevation changes… It’s like riding a roller coaster.

Language

Armenian is one of the most enigmatic Indo-European languages. It bears no direct relationship with the other languages of the same family. According to experts, this could be due to the fact that since ancient times, the people who spoke it already had some kind of unity, such as awareness of being part of a nation or a common administration.

This actually demonstrates the ancient past of the country’s inhabitants and the relationship which existed amongst the different tribes of the Armenian plateau from the beginning of time. There are two variations of this language: the oriental and the occidental.

The current Armenian language dates back from the nineteenth century and it was developed from the Yerevan dialect, thanks to the works of the writer Khachatur Abovian. He made it fashionable. In the past, they spoke ancient Armenian, which is still used in the liturgies and was commonly used until the tenth century. Middle Armenian was also spoken, but it ceased to be used when the way of speaking from the capital prevailed over the rest.

Armenia has had its own alphabet since 406. Its creator was the monk Mesrop Mashtots who gave a new symbol to each sound of the language and he thought up the 36 basic characters of its writing. His creation marked a milestone, as it helped to create a national identity against conquerors. In the twelfth century, three more letters were added to complete their alphabet.

Time Difference

In Armenia, unlike in many European countries, the clock does not move forward or backward twice a year. Therefore, in winter there are over three hours of difference and only two hours of difference in summer.

Do I need an adapter for my mobile charger?

You need an adapter, neither for the mobile phone charger nor for any type of household appliance. The plugs are the same as in Europe: 220 V and 50 Hz.

Phone Calls

For stays longer than one week, we recommend you buy a prepaid sim card. They cost just a few euros and include some balance and data to use the Internet. You should take your passport in order to make the arrangement.

There are Customer Service centres for the different operators in the main cities, especially in the capital. There are some at the airport, too. The most powerful mobile phone companies in Armenia are:
• Beeline
• Viva Cell
• Orange

Will I have Problems when Withdrawing or Exchanging Currency?

No. In Yerevan, the centre is full of ATM banks that accept international credit cards and there are also money exchange offices for you to exchange your money. Many hotels offer this service too.

You should calculate the commission that the intermediary takes so they do not fool you. Traveller’s checks are also accepted, but they are somewhat obsolete now. Provincial cities also have their own financial entities in urban centres, although to a lesser degree than Yerevan.

Nevertheless, you should take enough cash with you if you go deep into Armenia, especially since you will not be able to pay by card in many hotels. The most prominent banks in the country are HSBC, the Central Bank of Armenia, and the VTB. Business hours are from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Post Offices

Haypost is the state company of the Post Office. It has more than 155 offices spread throughout the country. They offer letter mailing, parcel, and money remittance services. Other private companies, such as DHL, also operate in the country.

Will I have Internet Connection Problems?

You will not have connection problems since the Internet user index has grown spectacularly in recent years, and WIFI is available even in the shelter homes of provincial cities. In the capital, there are many coffee shops and bars offering WIFI to their customers and there are plenty of Internet cafés as well.

For Smokers

If you are a smoker, you are in luck. Tobacco is very cheap in Armenia. Currently, its use is allowed in bars, restaurants, and coffee shops.

However, the Ministry of Health is planning to ban smoking in public places. The habit is well established amongst the male population. Over half of the male population in Armenia smokes on a daily basis and people see it as a symbol of virility. Maybe that’s why women hardly do it and still today it is shocking to see a girl smoking out, especially outside of Yerevan.

Cigarettes are sold in grocery stores, supermarkets, coffee shops, and newsstands.

What Are the Business Hours in Armenia?

  • Banks: Monday to Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Saturdays from 10:30 a.m. to 1.30 p.m.
  • Shops: Monday to Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
  • Bars: from 6:00 p.m. until the last customer is leaving.
  • Restaurants: from 11:00 a.m. until after midnight.

Shopping in Armenia

The most traditional souvenirs are musical instruments, such as the duduk, tahr, or dohol. Woodwork, pottery, gold jewellery, and rugs can be another good gift for your relatives. You can also buy some religious objects as a souvenir in the shops of the monasteries. They are smaller and take up little space in your suitcase.

You cannot miss is the atmosphere of the street markets (shuka). These trading temples are alive and bustling, and people from all corners of the country mingle together. Here, the persuasion of the East shines in its all its glory, and you can find the best food from both European and Asian cuisine. They usually start early in the morning and they stay open until five or six in the afternoon.

Adventure Sports

Armenia is not just all about monasteries, traditions, and old fortresses. It is so much more. It is untamed nature and wonderful corners to be discovered. As such, the country is the perfect destination to practice adventure sports in places that are still not very exploited.

Although this type of tourism is still not very developed, there are huge possibilities offered here. The country has alpine lakes, fast-moving waters, huge mountains, and forest trails. It has very good snow all winter and impressive caves as well.

In Armenia, there are good spots for caving, such as the Arjeri Cave. This goes almost 4 kilometres into the bowels of the Earth and hides a lost settlement, which dates back 8,000 years and was home to almost 100 people. There is also Magil Cave, which is 1,500 metres in length (4921 feet long) and offers an interesting population of bats of four different species.

Do check out Mozrov as well, the smallest cave but showing interesting formations of stalactites and stalagmites. All three are within walking distance from town, in the Yeghegnadzor region. Local caving associations warn that it is always better to be accompanied by a guide and that you must respect the ecosystem.

Armenia is an amazing place for paragliding and paramotor lovers, too. There is plenty of sun, little rain, and wide valleys for landing. A good place to practice these sports is Hatis Mountain, 2528 metres (8293 feet), near the capital.

Another incredible area is the Gegham Mountains, near Sevan, where you can fly over an alpine lake from one shore to another. According to experts, the best time to burn some adrenaline in the clouds ranges from the end of April to the beginning of November. You should seek advice beforehand on the exact areas and the geothermal currents of each place.

The country is also famous for the quality of its snow and it is a paradise for heli-skiing. This sport is an extreme ski adventure, consisting of flying by helicopter to impossible summits to then skiing down hills full of fresh snow. Some of the most legendary places to practice heli-skiing are Mount Aragats at 4090 metres (13418 feet), Ishkanasar at 3550 metres (11646 feet), and Azhdahak at 3597 metres (11801 feet).

As for mountain hiking, the country offers hundreds of breathtaking routes. You can trek to the top of the Aragats, the roof of the nation. Perhaps you want to try an excursion to Ughtasar, which is over 3,000 metres high (9842 feet tall) and is home to thousands of petroglyphs dating back to prehistoric times.

The remote valley of Yeguidis is another place to get lost in. It has good routes and an exceptional atmosphere. In the north, the dense forests of Dilijan offer some roads connecting semi-abandoned churches for centuries.

If you want to take amazing photos, the valley offers landscapes rich with diverse fauna. Expect to find deer, bears, lynxes, wolves, and if you’re really lucky you might even spot the elusive Caucasian leopard. Needless to say, you will need a guide who knows all the land.

And what about in winter? Armenia usually has good snow and the Tsaghkadzor Ski Resort is quite famous. Lately, Heli-skiing has become fashionable in the Caucasus, since it is much cheaper here.

What is it all about? You have to board a helicopter that takes you to the top of a mountain and then descend back down skiing. Fresh snow is guaranteed! You should always explore the most extreme side of Armenia with a local guide. The best options are:

Armenian Extreme Club. Address: 18 Amiryam Poghots Street (Yerevan). Phone: ✆ +374 93 265576/+374 95 265576. Email: ayzak@rocketmail.com

The Armenian Extreme Club is the association of extreme sports guides of the country. They are trying to develop adventure tourism and place Hayastan on the world map as one of the main destinations to experience adrenaline-filled adventures.

They know all their regions like the palm of their hand and they rent all kinds of equipment. They offer guided services, personalized excursions, and they advise tourists without any kind of commitment. It is the cheapest option to make your trip around the country way more interesting.

Sky Club. Address: 16/1 Kalents Poghots Street. Phone: ✆ +374 98 05 5119. Email: skyclubarmenia@gmail.com

Armenia is one of the best places to practice paramotor. It boasts over 300 sunny days a year and it is also very mountainous. If the day does not allow you to fly in one place, you could look for another place to take off nearby.

The Sky Club specializes in tandem paramotor flights throughout the country. They offer introductory courses and instructor run flights through some of the most amazing places in Armenia, such as Lake Sevan, Tatev Monastery, and the forests of Dilijan, Aparan, or Mount Atis.

You should call them to prepare everything as you have to book a few days in advance anyway. The pick-up point is usually the Glide Hostel in Yerevan. For more information: , visit www.paraplan.am

Up the Rocks. Address: 16 Meliq Meliqyan Poghots Street. Phone: ✆ +374 93 33 7937. Email: info@uptherocks.com.

These climbing, extreme skiing, and mountaineering lovers are a good contact who will help you set up your adventure in Armenia. They provide advice, mountain guides, transportation, and whatever you need on your trip. For more information,  check out www.uptherocks.com

Glide Adventures. Address: 16/1 Kalenst Street. Phone: ✆ +374 98 055 119. Email: info@glideadventures.com.

They organize flights to practice heli-skiing. You board a helicopter that takes you to the summit of a mountain so that you can go back down skiing. The rental price of the helicopter is usually $ 2000 / hour.

The helicopter has a capacity for 10 people, so if you travel in groups and you are able to share expenses, it will not be an expensive experience. For more information: www.glideadventures.com

Nueva vista. 14 Vardanants Street (Yerevan). Phone: +374 10 541 463. Website: www.explorearmenia.net

They have their own equipment and they organize trips to the snow, mountain bike tours, trekking, photography trips, photo hunting, or bird watching. The positive aspect is that the staff are very professional. They speak English and other languages like Spanish, Russian, and French perfectly and they will help with anything.

The Alphabet

Armenia has had its own alphabet since 406 BC. Its creator was the monk Mesrop Mashtots who gave a new symbol to each sound of the language and he thought up the 36 basic characters of the Armenian writing. His creation marked a milestone as it helped to create a national identity against conquerors. In the twelfth century, three more letters were added to complete the Armenian alphabet.

<td colspan=”6″Correlation between the Armenian and Latin alphabets

Ա ա a /a/ Ծ ծ – ts /ts/ Ջ ջ – g / ‘j ‘ of Jack -eng./
Բ բ – b /b/ Կ կ – k /k/ Ռ ռ – r / rr/
Գ գ – g / ‘g’ of gas/ Հ հ – h /h/ Ս ս – s /s/
Դ դ – d /d/ Ձ ձ – dz /dzh/ Վ վ – v /v/
Ե ե – e / ye/ Ղ ղ – gh /gh/ Տ տ – t /t/
Զ զ – z / ‘z’ of Zeus/ Ճ ճ – ch /ch/ Ր ր – r /r/
Է է – e /e/ Մ մ – m /m/ Ց ց – ts /ts/
Ը ը – /ə/ Յ յ – y /’y’ of yours Ու ու – u /u/
Թ թ t /t/ Ն ն – n /n/ Փ փ – p /ph/
Ժ ժ – zh /zh/ Շ շ – sh /sh/ Ք ք – q /q/
Ի ի – i /i/ Ո ո – o /vo/ Եվ և – ev /yev/
Լ լ – l /l/ Չ չ – ch /ch/ Օ օ – o /o/
Խ խ – j / ‘j ‘ of jay Պ պ – p /p/ Ֆ ֆ – f /f/

In the chart, you can find the correlation in capital and lower-case letters of the Armenian alphabet. Next to the letters are their approximate sounds in Latin letters.

Vocabulary for Travelers

Day-to-day:

Hello: barev

Goodbye: Hayó

Good morning: bari luis

Good night: bari gisher

Thank you very much: shnorhakalutiun

Please: khantrem

You are welcome: khantrem

How are you?: inchpes ek?

I am fine, thanks: lav em, shnorhakalutium

Very good: shat lav

Wrong: shat vat

Yes: Há/ayo

No: che/voch

I don’t understand: chem haskanum

I am sorry: neretsek

Goodbye: tstesutiun

I love you: yes kez sirum em

What’s your name? Inch e qo anune?

About Transportation

Bus: avtobus

Bus station: Avtokayan

Bus stop: gankar

Minibuses: marshrutka

Airport: otanavakayan

Train station: gnatski kayarane

Underground: metro

Taxi: taxi

Car: mekena

Road: yanapar

When is the next…? yerp jampa gelle…?

Baggage: yampruk

I lost my luggage: Champrunkners korel en

Are You Lost?

Where is the…? Vortegh e….?

Street: pogots

Town: gyug

Museum: tangaran

Hotel: Hiuranots

Store: janut

Laundry: ivatskatun

Post office: post

Room: senyak

Fortress: berd

Monastery: vank

Mountain: lar

Rock: kar

Pension: pansionat

Square: hraparak

City Hall: karakapetaran

Go Shopping

How much? inch?

How much is it? inch arjhey

Bank: bank

Expensive: tank

Cheap: ezhan

Market: shuka

Open: bats

Closed: pak

Emergencies:

Pharmacy: apoteka

Hospital: hivandanots

Where is the bathroom?: vortegh e zugarane

Police: vostikan

I am sick: hivand em

Accommodation:

Are there any available rooms? Unek senyak?

Having a Good Meal

Food: kerakur

Water: yur

Wine: guiny

Beer: gareyur

Tea: Chai

Coffee: Surdj

Lamb: vochkari mis

Beef: gov

Chicken: havy mis

Fish: dzuk

Fruit: mirg

Apricot: tsiran

Shuarma: shaurma

Bread: hats

Typical Armenian bread: lavash

Barbecue: jorovats

Yogurt: matsun

Pepper: bibar

Salt: agh

Sugar: Shakaravaz

Tomato: lolik

Egg: dzu

Cheese: panir

Meat: mis

Rice: brindz

Cuccumber: varung

Eggplant: patlijan

Cheese: paneer

Soup: abour

Numbers:

One: mek

Two: yerku

Three: yerek

Four: chors

Five: hing

Six: vets

Seven: yot

Eight: tu

Nine: inn

Ten: tas

One hundred: haryur

Thousand: hazard

Days of the week:

Monday: yerkushapty

Tuesday: yerekshapty

Wednesday: chorekshapty

Thursday: hingshapty

Friday: urphat

Saturday: shapat

Sunday: kiraki