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ARMENIA TRAVEL GUIDE

Few nations have histories as ancient, complex, and laced with tragedy as Armenia. The first country to adopt Christianity as its official religion over 1700 years ago - and the first country to make chess compulsory at school level! A capital city older than Rome and ancient monasteries perched atop misty mountains. It's not an easy destination to explore as roads can be rough, public transport hard to find, and language a challenge. As Armenia straddles Europe and Asia, East and West, so does Armenian culture. Armenia is a surprise waiting to be discovered.

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  • Capital: Yerevan

  • Currency: Armenian dram

  • Area: 29,743 km2

  • Population: 2,976,372 (July 2006 est.)

  • Language: Armenian

  • Religion: Armenian Apostolic 94%, other Christian 4%, Yezidi (Zoroastrian/animist) 2%

  • Electricity: 220V/50Hz (European plug)

Chess is a significant part of Armenian culture and is even taught as a mandatory subject in schools. Despite its small size, Armenia boasts a monoethnic population with 97% being Armenians, and it has a vibrant diaspora, with more Armenians living abroad than within the country itself.

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SEASONS AT A GLANCE

Most destinations have different times of the year when they’re more or less popular with tourists. 

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Peak Season

Shoulder Season

Off Peak Season

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Climate Chart with avergae monthly temperatues and rainfall

BEST TIME TO VISIT ARMENIA

Peak tourist season from the middle of June to around the end of August and this period is generally marked by dry, moderate weather. with temperatures getting as high as 35 °C at times. Although it does get somewhat busier over this period, prices are similar to the rest of the year and as Armenia is still off the radar of most tourists it's definitely not overrun.

 

The best time to visit Armenia if you want to avoid the hottest period is the shoulder season months of May to June and again September - October. During these times you will find mostly mild weather - suitable for outdoor activities. That said, May and June are the wettest months and you should be prepared for some thunderstorms on occasion. If you plan to travel to Lake Sevan, June through September will be the best time.

 

  • Most of Armenia has a dry, high-altitude climate, though there are some verdant rainy pockets in the Lori, Tavush and Syunik regions. These receive most rain in early spring.

  • In spring temperatures are mild and the countryside is covered in wildflowers, making it a perfect time to go hiking.

  • Autumn has long, warm days and stable weather conditions.

  • Summer in Yerevan can be 40°C with little or no breeze for days at a time; weather in the north is cooler.

  • Conditions in winter can be bleak, with temperatures falling to -10°C or even lower in many areas. Roads are often closed due to snow and ice.

BEST TIME FOR:

Armenia offers a rich tapestry of hiking and cycling opportunities, with trails that cater to a variety of skill levels and preferences. The country's diverse terrain includes the stunning Geghama Mountains and the highest peak, Mount Aragats, providing both challenging treks and breathtaking views. 


For the best experience, the ideal times for outdoor activities are during the spring, when wildflowers are in bloom, and the fall, which offers a chance to enjoy the ripe fruits of the harvest. Whether you're looking for a leisurely ride or an adventurous hike, Armenia's landscapes await with open arms and scenic beauty.

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ARMENIA TRAVEL COSTS

If you have the budget and can split the cost, by far the best and most convenient way to get around Armenia is by car. To rent a car you will need an International Driving Permit (IDP) which you should get while in your home country.

 

If you will be making use of public transport you will find that the infrastructure is not the best and information is a bit thin. Most of the public transport websites are not available in English and you should ask at your accommodation for assistance in helping with information on local and intercity buses.

 

Intercity transport in Armenia is best done by bus and minibus (marshrutka). There are three main bus stations in Yerevan, as well as a railway station. Intercity buses are relatively inexpensive but navigating the bus stations can be tricky as English isn’t widely spoken.

The best would be to ask the day before at your accommodation to help find the right bus and on the day get there early and look out for it. Bus fares are cheap and usually based on an hourly fare. Note that even short routes may include plenty of stops which will end up taking much more time than expected.

 

There are also trains on a daily schedule which connects Yerevan to Gyumri (3 hours), Yeraskh (1.5 hours), Araks (1 hour), Arrat (1 hour), and Hrazdan (1.5 hours). During summer months the Hrazdan line will extend all the way to Lake Sevan. There are also affordable trains to nearby cities outside of Armenia such as Budapest and Prague. Depending on the route and the train it could be uncomfortable and painfully slow or surprisingly modern with air-conditioning.

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TRAVEL TIPS FOR ARMENIA

Armenia isn’t going to break the bank and a budget traveller will be able to get by with well under $40 per day. You will find plenty of free activities, especially if you enjoy the outdoors, which almost makes it hard to spend a lot. Throw in cheap food, beer, and accommodation, and you can really stretch your budget.

REGIONS & HIGHLIGHTS OF ARMENIA

  • Yerevan - Laze away a few days in the welcoming cafes, wine bars and restaurants of the capital.
  • Noravank - Watch the sun slowly set over the dramatic reddish-gold cliffs surrounding picture-perfect church buildings.
  • Dilijan National Park - Hike through millions of springtime wildflowers.
  • Geghard Monastery - Marvel at the ancient rock-hewn churches.
  • Areni - Visit wineries in a region that’s been producing wine for 6100 years.
  • Goris - Explore an abandoned cave city carved out of soft volcanic rock.
  • Debed Canyon - Visit magnificent medieval monasteries and fresco-covered churches.
  • Tatev - Float to the fortified monastery on the world’s longest cable car.

 

Armenia’s capital, Yerevan, is one of the world’s oldest continually inhabited cities - 29 years older than Rome. Throughout its 2,800-year history, kingdoms, invasions, Communism, and dictatorships have come and gone. Today, Yerevan is a city of one million, with a European ambiance, lined with wide boulevards and sidewalk cafes. Yerevan is cosmopolitan, safe, and affordable—with museums, hotels, overly generous portions of food and wine, and even a night at the opera-going for friendly prices.

 

WESTERN ARMENIA

Those looking to break out of Yerevan for a short trip will be ecstatic to know that some of Armenia’s best sights are a short drive from the capital. Three Unesco World Heritage sites are less than an hour’s drive, including Armenia’s Vatican, Mother See of Etchmiadzin; the 7th-century Zvartnots Cathedral ruins; and Geghard Monastery carved out of a rock face. Armenia’s second-largest city, Gyumri, which is soaring from the ashes following its devastating recent past, is also found here. Gorgeous hikes abound, you can zigzag up and around Armenia’s largest mountain, Mt Aragats, or church hop along the Kasagh Gorge near Ashtarak. In winter, the Tsaghkadzor ski resort continues to be popular well after Soviet athletes trained there in the 1960s. While we recommend exploring the entire country, of course, you’ll get a healthy taste of Armenia in this region.

 

NORTHERN ARMENIA

Armenia’s northern region is decorated with verdant mountain ranges and ancient monasteries, many of which are in the process of being consumed by their lush natural surroundings. As with the rest of Armenia, crumbling Soviet buildings populate the cities and towns, save for the pretty resort town of Dilijan, which now boasts several superb restaurants and B&Bs.

The north is better explored outside of the cities. Hiking is terrific here, and you can dip your toes into the Transcaucasian Trail (TCT), bounce along the rapids of the Debed Canyon or soar through the air on a zipline over Ijevan. This is a region nature lovers won’t want to miss.

 

Download map waypoints for Armenia here: KML / GPX

WHAT TO SEE AND DO IN ARMENIA

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More location information and points of interest are available in the above map

LAKE SEVAN & AROUND

Set 1900m above sea level and covering 1240 sq km, the vast expanse of Sevana Lich (Lake Sevan) is the largest lake in the Caucasus and one of the largest freshwater high-altitude lakes in the world. Its colours and shades change with the weather, forming dazzling azure to dark blue hues, and a thousand shades in between. Fish populations include the endangered ishkhan (prince trout) as well as introduced crayfish and sig (whitefish). In the 1950s, Soviet planners irrigated the nearby Hrazdan River, causing Lake Sevan’s water level to drop 20m. The drop uncovered forts, houses and artefacts dating back 2000 years, but combined with overfishing and sewage dumping, also led environmentalists to declare the lake is on the brink of destruction. Lake Sevan’s beaches are very popular with Russian tourists and noisy day-trippers. For some tranquillity, head to the eastern side to visit Wishup Shore or the Tufenkian Avan Marak Tsapatagh Hotel.

SOUTHERN ARMENIA

Armenia’s southern regions stretch from Karabakh to the east and the Azerbaijani enclave of Naxçivan to the west. Vayots Dzor (Gorge of Woes) centres on the headwaters of the wine-growing Arpa valley. The name comes from a history of ruinous earthquakes across these mountainous valleys and cliffs. It’s a great area to winery hop or explore off-the-beaten-track trails by foot, horse or 4WD – just keep an eye out for snakes. The province of Syunik, in the extreme south of the country, is accessed via the high-altitude Voratan Pass. The landscape here is surrounded by epic mountain ranges, high pastures that are home to grazing animals, drifts of wildflowers and clusters of beehives. Its main settlement, Goris, is populated with charming 19th-century buildings and is next to a mysterious ghost town of abandoned caves carved out of volcanic rock. Travellers must cut through Syunik when visiting Karabakh or Iran.

WHAT TO EAT IN ARMENIA

The Armenian kitchen is hundreds if not thousands of years in the making, combining fresh flavours and spices from its own fertile soil along with borrowed flavours retrieved by its expansive diaspora. If invited in for dinner, accept; it could very well be the best memory from your trip. Armenian cuisine combines elements of the foods of all its historic neighbours – Arabic, Russian, Greek and Persian – but remains distinctive. The quality of local produce is high, and the fruits and vegetables on offer are fresh and packed with flavour. This is because crops are often grown on a small scale in villages and backyards across the country without the use of greenhouses or pesticides. Meat isn’t factory farmed, as evidenced by highway cow and sheep traffic jams.

 

If there’s one word for dining, it’s khoravats (barbecued meat). Pork is the favourite, though lamb, beef and sometimes chicken are usually available too. Ishkhan khoravats is grilled trout from Lake Sevan. Siga is another good grilled-fish dish. Kebabs are also very common. The signature herb is dill – Armenians use it in innumerable dishes but especially in salads.

 

Broadly speaking, western Armenian cuisine has a Levantine influence, while eastern Armenian cuisine incorporates Russian and Georgian influences. Besides khoravats, staples include dolma (rice wrapped in vine leaves), spas (yogurt soup) and lavash fresh from the oven. Khash is a thick winter stew made from animal parts. Starters include cold salads, farmyard-smelling cheese and dips such as matsoon (sour yogurt) and jajik (yogurt with cucumbers and fennel). Cured meats include sujuk (dark, cured spicy sausage) and basturma (finely cured ham).

 

There are few strictly vegetarian restaurants in Armenia but many restaurants offer beet salads and veggie stews made with tomatoes, rice, eggplants (aubergines), zucchinis (courgettes) and a profusion of herbs and spices. Western Armenian cuisine features hummus, tabouleh, labneh, fatayer (cheese or spinach pastries) and other vegetarian dishes associated with Lebanese cuisine.

 

In Yerevan, you will find a booming restaurant scene with international cuisine available everywhere. Much Armenian cooking is based on lamb, either grilled and served as shashlik with flatbread, or prepared as soup or stew - often in combination with fruit or some form of nut.

 

Some local specialties:

Shampours - skewers with marinated meat and vegetables.

Ghapama - pumpkin stew with rice, raisins, apples, and cinnamon.

Khash - A broth made from ham-hocks and herbs with a tradition going back centuries.

 

Take a wine tasting tour:

Considering that Armenia has a 6 000-year-old history of making wine it's probably unsurprising that the region produces 500 unique and native varieties of grapes - virtually unknown to the world outside Armenia. If you are a wine lover, taking a wine tour is a must. Sadly most of the wineries were shut down during the Soviet era but over the last decade, Armenia has rediscovered its winemaking roots.

LGBTQ IN ARMENIA

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WHERE TO STAY IN ARMENIA

When visiting Armenia for the first time, choosing the right area or region to stay in can greatly enhance your experience. Here are some recommendations along with accommodation suggestions for each category:


Where To Stay In Yerevan:

As the capital city, Yerevan offers a perfect blend of history, culture, and modern amenities. It serves as an excellent base for exploring the rest of the country.

  • Budget: One Way Hostel & Tours - Affordable dormitory-style rooms with a lively atmosphere.

  • Mid-range: Republica Hotel Yerevan - Centrally located, modern rooms with excellent facilities.

  • Luxury: The Alexander, a Luxury Collection Hotel - Elegant rooms, top-notch service, and a prime location near Republic Square.


Where To Stay In Dilijan:

Known as Armenia's "Little Switzerland," Dilijan boasts stunning natural landscapes, historic monasteries, and a serene atmosphere.


Where To Stay In Goris:

Goris serves as a gateway to the fascinating Tatev Monastery and the stunning landscape of the surrounding Syunik region.

  • Mid-range: Mirhav Hotel - Offering comfortable rooms and a warm atmosphere, it provides great value for mid-range travelers.

  • Luxury: Harsnadzor Eco Resort - Upscale accommodations with stylish decor, a restaurant serving local cuisine, and panoramic views of the mountains.


Where To Stay In Gyumri:

As the second-largest city in Armenia, Gyumri offers a glimpse into traditional Armenian culture, with its historic architecture, museums, and lively markets.

  • Budget: Artsakh Hotel - Affordable rooms with basic amenities, located close to the city center.

  • Mid-range: Berlin Art Hotel - Stylish rooms featuring contemporary artwork, with a central location for exploring Gyumri.

  • Luxury: Grand Hotel Gyumri - Elegant rooms, excellent dining options, and attentive service in a historic building in the heart of Gyumri.



For hassle-free bookings, use platforms like Booking.com for competitive rates or Holiday Swap for unique homes worldwide. Ensure to book in advance, especially during peak seasons, and align your preferences with nearby activities such as surfing, snorkeling, or cultural exploration.

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DiscoverCars.com is a leader in online car rental bookings; we compare car rental deals from many companies so that you can choose which is best for your trip. 12Go connects the world door-to-door, from transfers to flights, under the same user-friendly ticket.

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