Majestic view of Caucasus mountains, green landscapes, ancient monasteries and delectable cuisine. Armenia has lot to offer to its visitors. And not to miss that friendliest people of Armenia will make your trip unforgettable.
Armenia, a landlocked nation with 6000 years of turbulent history, recently has started unfolding its stories to the world. If you have Armenia in your travel bucket list, wonderful! visit here before it gets over crowded with tourists.
‘The Economist’ named Armenia, country of the year because of its political and economic stability in 2019. “Forbes”, 2020 highlighted that Armenia is the most underrated destination. Well connected with Europe and Asia, this could be you next travel destination. There are hundreds of reasons to travel Armenia , and just a few of them I have listed below :
1. Spellbinding History
Visiting Armenia is like a time travel. Trip to monasteries is stirring experience to traveling back to ancient period. Present Armenia is only a part of ancient Armenia. It is one of the oldest civilizations of the world with recorded history of 3500 years. 1st century BC was the golden age for Great Armenia. It was the time was Tigran the great, the grandson of Artashes I, was the King of Armenia. The Armenian empire extended from Caspian sea to Mediterranean sea during his time.
Armenia is the first country took Christianity as a state religion in 301 AD. During this period thousands of churches and monasteries built in Armenia. ; Khor virap, Tatev, Notavank and Haghartsin are few of them.
Famous silk route which connects east with west is through Armenia. It was the main trading and military route for major powers in the history. 13th Century Orbelion Caravan Serai on Silk Route has not changed with time. A major part of 7000 km Silk route passes through Armenia. You will see many old bridges while driving here.
The oldest structure Carahunge is around 7500 years old. It is the oldest Observatory on our Planet. Go there for camping and stargazing. Perfect day would be no moon night.Due aggressive foreign invasions, it finally lost its autonomy in 14th century. The western Armenia got occupied by Turkey, and the eastern part by Iran. It was the gloomiest period for Armenia and which lasted for centuries.
Armenian Genocide is one of the most heartbreaking tragedy in the History of world. 1.5 million Armenians killed or massacred by Ottoman Empire in early 19th century . It seems that aggressors wanted to erase the name of Armenia from the map of the world. today, most of the countries in the world do not recognize it, and Turkey has always denied it till today.
In early 19th Century Armenia came under Russian Union for around 70 years. It got independence on 23 September, 1991.Armenia is a story of great civilization and now it is getting back in power again. Situated between Georgia and Iran, trapped between it’s enemies Turkey and Azerbaijan. Armenian are proud of their nation, and why not? A country which ruled from Black sea to Mediterranean Sea, started art of making wine ans was the first nation to adopt Christianity has a lot to offer to the world.
2. Landscape and Outdoors
Armenia is a land with diverse landscape. Average altitude of Armenia is 5900 feet with no lowland. Lofty mountains, deep rivers, volcanic plateaus and lush highlands are blessings for nature lovers.
One of the most striking is feature of Armenia is view of Mount Ararat from Yerevan City. Snowclad Ararat is a surreal dream from every angle. Though it is very far, but in a clear bright day , it looks as if it is at walk-able distance from Yerevan. It’s a biblical mountain, where Noah built his arc.
Blue eye of Armenia, the Lake Sevan is like a picture postcard in Gegharkunik region. Thousands of birds flocking, surrounded by snow clad peaks and fed by 28 rivers and streams. Vastness of this lake will give illusion of Sea. This place is a heaven on Earth, and a hub for various water activities.
Khndzoresk in Syunik province will take you to a different world. A cave village, where hundreds of caves peeping out on the slope of mountains. A days hike will be ideal way to see this area.
For adventure lovers, Armenia is full of exciting stuff. Paragliding over Lake Sevan, hot air ballooning, watching sunset/sunrise, horse riding in wilderness, rock climbing, mountain cycling and hiking are few of them.
Mount Aragats’s four summits are very popular among local hikers and tourists. The trail starts from Lake Kari and Aragat Village, you can climb all the peaks in one day if you are a regular hiker. The volcanic crater at the top of the peak is a striking feature.
Another impressive hiking trail is mountain ridge hike near Lake Sevan, it leads to an extinct mountain Azhdahak . If you are here in spring season , the small tiny colourful flowers will be all over. And do notice grey colour stone stelae while climbing up, also called dragon stone
3. Food , wine and brandy
Armenian food is traditional and cooked in similar way last thousand years. Food is Fresh from garden, homemade and very cheap compare to any European country. Armenian food is an invitation…. long menus and variety of dishes are overwhelming in the restaurants. And all look delectable. There is a vast interesting spread for vegetarians too. Flavour of Armenian food come from the natural ingredients, not from added spices.
There are number of traditional Armenian restaurants in Yerevan. These restaurants serve authentic Armenian food and local artists perform live here.
Few local delicacies, which I enjoyed the most in Yerevan :
Dolma : Mixed meat, rice, zucchini, herbs and spices and wrapped in vine leaves in winter season and in summers, cabbage leaves used to wrap . For vegetarians ,it is served without meat. It is served at room temperature and generally eaten with mazdoon(thick Armenian curd). Khorovadz : This barbequed pork, lamb and meat. Mushroom and vegetable barbeque is also available for vegetarians . We had delicious homemade chicken Khorovadz cooked in open traditional furnace with a local family. It was served with fresh home made lavash and onion, tomatoes and herbs.
Ghapma : Ghapma is a mouth watering dish, it is butternut pumpkin is scooped out and filled with rice, apricots, prunes, plums and baked until becomes soft. It’s natural sweet taste and rich aroma comes from fruits.
Lahmahcun : Armenian pizza “Lahmahcun” is fast food here. A quick grub. It is made up of thin crust and topped with tomatoes, onion ,garlic, sautéed minced beef and served with fresh lime and mint leaves. It is spicy and goes very well with chilled beer.
Harissa : It also called “Courage Dish”. It is made up of broken wheat(bulgar) meat or chicken and butter. Must try when very hungry, it is delicious, nutritious and filling.
Gata, Baklava, Borag, Manti few more local dishes not to be missed. I being salad person, relished variety of salad : Eech, Tabbouleh salad, Garden salad are few of them.
Traditional Lavash and Baklava
Lavash is a traditional bread, you will find with every meal. While traveling across villages, you will find Lavash was being cooked in a tonir(traditional oven in the ground)in local shops. In one place when we went to see the tonir, the lady making Lavash greeted us with smile and gave us big pieces for tasting.
Making wine at home is a part of Armenian culture.They take pride in their wine making skill. A country, which is making wine last 6000 years, will definitely have collection of exotic wines. Ararat Brandy has got history to tell, plan a day trip for wine tasting at Ararat Brandy Factory in Yerevan. Areni Wine factory and Areni Caves , slightly away from Yerevan,are got to go place for wine connoisseurs.
4. Friendly and welcoming
Armenians are immensely proud of their nation. They welcome all with a smile and want others to visit and appreciate their country.Almost all the places where we went, we were greeted with a smile and open heart. One of the such incident is Noravank Monastery, where the main priest himself offered prayers for us when we told him that we are from India.
At Echimiadzin Monastery, trees were loaded with apricot. children playing in the garden offered us apricots enthusiastically. when they realized that we want to taste it. One of the kid climbed the tree to pluck the ripe one for us.There are many examples of their niceness and hospitality towards outsiders. Incredible hospitality, delectable homemade food and friendly warmth. An evening dinner in a quiet remote village, far off from Goris will always remain special for us.
5. Armenia is resoanble
Armenian currency is called “ Armenian Dram”.
$ 1 USD = Armenian Dram
It is easy to find hostels, Airbnb, good hotels at reasonable price in Armenia. Generally, a room in a youth hostel will cost $10-12 USD/per night in a dorm. Mid luxury hotel room will cost $50-100 USD and super luxury will cost around $170-300 USD. I stayed in Airbnb in the heart of the city, which was very reasonable and had all the amenities. The window view of Mount Ararat was icing on the cake. The fridge was stocked with breakfast items, milk and a bottle of wine and all was complimentary. In fact, I forgot my hair straightener in Airbnb in Yerevan, and got it collected after six months.
In high end restaurants, lavish spread will cost around $10-12 USD. Fast food meal like shawarma or local meal lahmajoun will cost around 2 dollars. Regular good food in normal restaurant will cost 5/6 dollars.
For coffee connoisseur, cup of good coffee will cost $1 to $2.50 USD. Domestic beer Kilikiya, Ararat or Kotayk will cost only $1 USD in grocery shop and $3 in restaurant. You can drink water from local taps, water quality is good here. Tips are 5% for avearge service and 10/20% for good service.
Travelling in buses and marshrutaka is extremely reasonable. Metro system is also very cheap in Yerevan.. Taxis are reasonable. Use local app Yendix, you will not face bargaining problem. Yendix is like Uber in Armenia and Russia. Hitchhiking is common here. The cost of traveling in Armenia is cheaper than any other European country
7. Armenia is Safe
Armenia is very safe. Just like any other European country, necessary safety and precaution should be taken. People are good natured and peaceful. Crime rate is very low on street crime, pickpockets and theft. Travel in public transport is a good and happy experience.
Armenia has special police unit called “ Guardian Angels”. They look after the people , in case of nay emergency you can approach them. Every one of them carry medical kit for small medical issue.
Tap water is safe and good for health. You don’t need to buy water bottles here. The food hygiene and quality standards are very high.
Be careful when you are taking taxi. Negotiate and fix the price before boarding taxi otherwise they may cheat. They ask excess amount at the end of the trip. At Airport, take airport taxi, which is reasonable and safe.
Road driving is safe here, people follow rules of the road. Drivers give way to the pedestrian. Though certain remote parts roads are not good but drivers drive safely.
Armenia is a country, which is getting ready for influx of mass tourism. A place where Asia meets Europe seamlessly, and the country has best of both.
Don’t wait….Go now……
With all right ingredients, Armenia is emerging as a tourist destination. A country after centuries is coming back into limelight, which it deserves. There are thousands of reasons to travel Armenia….go see experience yourself. It is a promising land and you will love it.