Armenia (map) is an ancient country situated at the crossroads of Europe and Asia. This small country is known for its 3,500-year-old history, rich culture and amazing mountainous landscapes. Each year, an increasing number of visitors book Armenian tours to explore this interesting land, immerse themselves in centuries-old customs and traditions, learn about its colourful history and admire the spectacular scenery. The locals are warm and hospitable and do their best to make visitors feel welcome in their beloved motherland. If you’re planning a visit, here are ten places in Armenia you should not miss:
1. The city centre of ancient Yerevan
The capital of Armenia, Yerevan, is a cozy city famous for its beautiful architecture. The city has a centuries-old history – according to the cuneiform inscription of Urartian King Argishti, it was built in 782 BC, which shows that Yerevan is older than Rome! For those who are in Yerevan for the first time, we recommend visiting its centre known for its unique architecture masterpieces, cozy cafés, restaurants, and beautiful parks. The heart of the capital is formed by the Republic Square, designed by the famous Armenian architect Alexander Tamanyan in 1924. The square is framed by important buildings such as the History Museum of Armenia and the Government House.
If you cross the road from the square you will find the Northern Avenue. It is the most modern and high-end part of the capital with its fashionable boutiques and shops, office buildings and luxury hotels. The avenue leads to another must-visit attraction of Yerevan – the Opera and Ballet Theater. It occupies an important place in the cultural life of Armenians and offers an extensive repertoire with its national opera, ballet and excellent symphonic music.
The city of Echmiadzin is located about 20 km from Yerevan (30-minutes by car). A tour of Armenia wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Echmiadzin. Armenia is the first country in the world that adopted Christianity as a state religion (in 301 AD) and the Echmiadzin Cathedral was built to commemorate this. Built on the site of an ancient pagan temple, Echmiadzin is the religious centre of all Armenians.
3. Tatev Monastery
It takes four hours (253 km) to get to the monastery of Tatev from Yerevan by car but it’s really worth the effort! A visit to Tatev is simply unforgettable! The monastery is a majestic medieval (9th century AD) structure located on the edge of a deep gorge and surrounded by amazing mountainous landscapes. In order to get to the monastery, you can take the cable-car (listed in the Guinness Book of Records as being the longest in the world). You will glide over the deep gorge for about 20 minutes and enjoy the fantastic scenery.
4. Lake Sevan
Sevan (66 kms north-east of Yerevan) is one of the most popular towns in Armenia because of the stunning Lake Sevan. The lake is especially popular in the summer amongst both locals and tourists. At 1,900m, Lake Sevan is also considered to be one of the highest lakes in the world and sometimes it seems as if the azure waters are about to touch the sky. Its beauty has earned the lake the nickname ‘the pearl of Armenian nature’. While at the lake, you can have a BBQ, cruise on a yacht or catamaran or simply relax and take in the amazing scenery. Sevan is also known for its fish “ishxan” (Armenian trout), so once in Sevan don’t miss the opportunity to order delicious fish dishes at one of the local cafés or restaurants.
5. Selim Pass
On the way from Sevan to Yerevan, you can stop to enjoy the view of one of the most beautiful natural sights of Armenia: the Selim Pass. This pass was once the part of the famous Silk Road that linked Europe with the Far East. The ancient caravanserai (a resting place for merchants on the Silk Road) still stands till this day. The view of the verdant valley below is simply breathtaking.
Jermuk is one of the most popular spa towns in Armenia because of its healing mineral waters and mild climate. The town has more than 40 thermal springs! In Jermuk, you can visit the Gallery of Water for free tastings of the healing mineral waters. And don’t forget to visit the most popular attraction – Jermuk Waterfall, which is the second largest waterfall in Armenia. The water tumbles down from the height of about 70m.
In the Syunik region located about 200km from Yerevan, you’ll find one of the oldest and most popular megalithic sites of Armenia called Karahunj or Zorats Karer (‘army of stones’). It is located on a plateau at an altitude of 1,770m and consists of more than 200 stones each of which has holes 5cm in diameter. This construction remains a mystery for scientists who have different versions concerning its origins and use – the most popular version states that the construction dates back to the 6th century BC and served as an observatory for star-watching.
8. The cave city of Khndzoresk
In the same region of Syunik, there is another attraction that’s popular among tourists: the old village of Khndzoresk. This is a unique settlement where time seems to stand still. The old part of the village is composed of huge caves where people lived until the 1950’s. A new bridge connects the two parts of the village and the views from the bridge are quite literally breathtaking.
9. The symphony of stones
In the Kotayk region of Armenia, there is a beautiful canyon called Garni that’s famous for its unique basalt columns. As a result of geological processes, the stunning natural symmetrical columns were formed and these days, they’re aptly called ‘the symphony of stones’. Indeed, if you look at the canyon from afar, many of the cliffs resemble a giant organ!
10. Mamrot Qar waterfall
In addition to these popular sights, there are lots of less-discovered ones that are really worth visiting. Among them are the enchanting waterfalls ‘Mamrot Qar’ or ‘Zontikner’ (umbrellas). This interesting natural site is situated in Nagorno-Karabakh – the region in the eastern part of Armenia. The deep-water source originates in the Jrduz canyon, forming ever-flowing waterfalls in the form of a huge umbrella, covered with moss. This impressive natural monument is a sight that shouldn’t be missed.
Note: this post was brought to you in collaboration with Arara Tours.