So! Armenia! I’m sure you have heard of it, but probably not visited it. Honestly, it wasn’t a country I was super excited to visit. I didn’t know much about the history, or the landscape of the country. I went in with an open mind and low expectations. Oh my word, I was blown away! Armenia is such a BEAUTIFUL country! Like, it’s stunning. If you like Greece and its history and architecture, then you’ll love Armenia. Armenia has not only beautiful churches and sites, but it also has amazing mountains and landscapes. It really is so pretty! Yerevan is a really cool city, but outside that, in the countryside, you’ll find some amazing sites and monasteries.
Another thing I loved about Armenia is how cheap everything is. The food is so good and it’s so cheap. As a Westerner, you can eat like a king every night for almost nothing. It’s amazing.
I made such an amazing friend while there. I interviewed her for One Model Mission. Her name is Guyané and she is the nicest girl I’ve ever met. We spent the whole 3 days I was there together. We even cried saying goodbye! I’m so lucky to get to visit such incredible places and meet such lovely people. I still speak to her regularly. She’s like a little sister to me. I really wished I had made more time for Armenia. If only I knew how great it was! That is one country I will visit again.
Armenia is one of the oldest preserved civilizations in the world. It is a country with a rich culture and history and full of natural beauty. Historically, it has been the center of many major conflicts, including struggles with the Roman and Byzantine empires. It is also infamous for the horrors of Armenian genocide. Today Armenia continues to face unresolved conflict with bordering country Azerbaijan and poor relations with Turkey which stems from its role during the genocide. But despite the contention, all this interaction with other empires and countries is part of what makes Armenia so rich as a culture.
Where to stay
I stayed at Kantar which is a hotel, hostel, and apartments. I had never stayed at a Hoste,l but it had private rooms. I stayed in the hotel part, getting a private room and bathroom. Those are obviously a little more than the hostel rooms, but still cheap. The rooms were really big and clean. The décor was authentic and traditional to Armenia. I really liked staying here. The location was perfect as we could pretty much walk to all the sites. The staff was really helpful as well, and spoke good English. They helped organize our tours as well. The rooms were very cheap and worth it. I would have even paid more for them. The owner was really nice and even showed Ash and I his new property he just built, which has amazing views of Yerevan. I would recommend staying here because of the location and price. There are a lot of cheap hotels in Yerevan, but this hotel worked well for Ash and I.
First Time Tips
Before discussing things to do, there’s a few things you need to know before travelling to Armenia. First of all, outside of the capital city, it’s best to assume that no one speaks English. If you happen to know Russian, that should be enough for you to get by, but English is almost definitely a no. Most road signs are in English, so that helps, and the Armenian people are very friendly and despite knowing little to no English, they will try to help you as much as they possibly can. If you have the time, try to learn some simple Armenian words and phrases before you go, the locals will be super appreciative.
The currency in Armenia is the dram. Most of the food, drink and accommodation is pretty cheap, so this makes it a great place for a low budget holiday. Buses and taxis (called marshrutkas) are also fairly cheap, and go to the major tourist spots, so getting around is pretty easy as well. I walked around most of the city or took taxi’s which were safe and cheap.
As far as safety, you really have nothing to worry about. The country is as safe as anywhere else. Because of the disputes with Azerbaijan, it’s definitely best to stay away from the border area. Just use your common sense and intuition and you’ll be perfectly fine. I had no issues. Some people would stare at me a bit more, because I’m so blonde and there aren’t a lot of blondes there but that’s it. The people were so lovely.
Food and Drink
Armenia has a really wide variety of food, and it’s all equally delicious. Most of the dishes are meat based and Armenians grill everything, even vegetables. Pretty much anywhere you go you’ll that sweet, smoky barbecue scent. You’ll find a lot of lamb dishes in Armenia; eggplant, yogurt, cottage cheese, and grape leaves are common as well. Most, if not all, of your meals will come with a side of lavish which is a thin flatbread baked in a traditional oven.
The beer scene in Armenia is pretty basic, although craft beer is quickly picking up popularity. There’s a craft brewery in Yerevan called Dargett that does a really tasty brew, and on the weekend is always packed with locals.
But the real specialty beverage of Armenia is wine and cognac. In fact, the Yerevan Brandy Company, a major tourist attraction, uses the fame of Armenian cognac to offer tasting tours and even houses the Ararat Museum where tourists can learn all about Armenian brandy and its history.
If you’re big into wine, then you’ll want to visit the world famous Areni factory for a tasting. Armenia has loads of other vineyards and factories that produce top quality wines. As one of the oldest wine producing countries in the world, you definitely don’t want to miss out on tasting the fruits of ancient grape cultivation.
If you’re unsure of what to try, just ask the locals! Like I said earlier, Armenians are super friendly. They’ll be really happy to have someone interested in their food culture, and it’ll be a great way to try some new dishes and discover what you like.
Places To Go
Despite being a Soviet era city, the capital Armenia is actually really metropolitan. I mentioned it earlier for having a really popular craft brewery, and that’s the sort of thing you can expect in Yerevan. I’d say you’d want at least a day, preferably 2 to be able to take in all the city has to offer.
The landmarks worth seeing are definitely Tsitsernakaberd or The Armenian Genocide Memorial. It’s really special and very emotional seeing. Also walk about Republic Square, it does have a great atmosphere that allows you to really immerse yourself in the country and its culture. I would take a peek at Matenadaran, it’s an old memorial and institute with exhibits of rare documents. Then you can’t miss the Yerevan Cascade. Walk up to the top and get great views of the city. It’s also an art museum and has great art inside and outside in the small park in front of it. It had Botero stuff which I’m obsessed with. Go see the Zvartnots Cathedral or the Mother Armenia monument. There are a lot of walking tours you can check out that are great and super cheap.
Yerevan has a great nightlife with loads of clubs and European style bars. There’s also lots of hip and quirky restaurants like the Art Bridge Bookstore Cafe which lets literature enthusiasts read while enjoying a meal, or Mer Gyuh (Our Village) which features a lot of traditional Armenian dishes and other foods found in most Armenian homes. I ate at Lavash and it was great!
If you prefer to mix in a bit of history and education into your time in Yerevan, the Armenian genocide museum is well worth a visit. It’s a very sobering experience, and extremely sad, but it will also give you a better understanding and appreciation for Armenian people and culture. There are other museums in Yerevan and the National Gallery, which are a really cool visit as well.
This city is known for being the home of the longest cable car in the world. Wing of Tatev is a 3.5 mile cable car that leads up to the Tatev monastery. Honestly no trip to Armenia is complete without a ride, especially if it’s your first visit. The views are breathtakingly gorgeous. The monastery itself is really pretty, and super old, dating back to the 9th century! The mountainous landscape surrounding the monastery is an excellent example of the natural beauty that permeates throughout Armenia. You can do tours or get a private taxi for pretty cheap.
Get a taxi to Garni temple and Geghard Monastery. The taxi is cheap there, if you don’t want that, then you can book a tour on TripAdvisor for around 40USD. Our driver didn’t speak a word of English, but he was so nice. He took us to a great restaurant after the sites that was situated on a mountainous cliff. The owner was a Russian woman, and so nice. So nice that she tried to marry me off to her son! Hahaha. I can speak a little Russian so we could communicate that way. The restaurant is gorgeous and has amazing views outside. The meal for Ashli and I was like 12 dollars total for the both of us. It was crazy cheap! The Garni Pagan Temple was so cool to see. It reminded me of being in Greece. Walk around the temple as there are some amazing views. The monastery is also incredible. They were doing a baptism when we were there. We were able to walk in and watch. It was cool to see how things differ from America in different ceremonies.
Other Day Trips
There are so many wonderful day trips that I wasn’t able to enjoy, due to the short time I was in Armenia. I would love to go back for a week and do them all. There is also The Haghpatand Sanahin monasterieswhich are two of the most impressive sites in Armenia. They are also UNESCO sites.
Another site to see, is Khor Virap monastery. You can then visit TatevandNoravankmonasteriesand then cross into Nagorno-Karabagh. You can stay over-night in Stepanakert and explore the city which is so neat.
Don’t miss Lake Sevanif you don’t have to. It is so beautiful and there are plenty of things to see around it. Ash and I had it top on our list but just ran out of time. I was bummed.
If you look at these sites on Google or TripAdvisor, you will see how special and gorgeous these places are. I can’t wait to go back and see more
Armenia is a great place to visit as you can do it on such a cheap budget. It was one of the cheapest countries I’ve been to, and because it’s not swamped by tourists, its enjoyable and remains cheap.
Truly, add Armenia to your list! It’s off the beaten track and just as beautiful as Greek without the high prices and super commercialize