ARMENIA – Land of Ancient Monasteries, Rich Wines & Breathtaking Scenery
Quick Facts about Armenia:
- Armenia is a landlocked Eurasian country located in South Caucasus. It faces Georgia to the north, Azerbaijan and the Republic of Artsakh to the east, Turkey to the west and Iran to the south.
- Its history can be traced back as far as 4000 BC, with records of early civilization dating to the Bronze Age.
- In 301 AD, Armenia became the first every country to be declared as a Christian nation.
- Throughout the centuries, the Kingdom of Armenia was conquered by various powerful regimes, including the Persian Empire, Byzantine Empire, Mongol Empire and the Ottoman Empire, but it remained a Catholic Christian country.
- In 1922, it came under the rule of the Soviet Union (Russia) through the Transcaucasian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic.
- Sixty-nine years later, the Republic of Armenia proclaimed their independence on September 21, 1991, though it was only recognized three months later, on December 26, when the Soviet Union had been officially dissolved.
- In 2015, Armenia has chosen to join Russia’s Eurasian Customs Union over the EU Association Agreement.
Why travel to Armenia?
- Rich culture and history, picturesque landscapes and cityscapes, good food, and beautiful people!
- Short trip! It’s just a 3-hour plane ride from Dubai, UAE.
- As UAE residents, we get to enjoy the “visa-on-arrival” privilege (you still need to pay 3,000 AMD (US$ 6-7) for a 21-day tourist visa).
However, your UAE residency should be valid at the time of your travel to Armenia.
- Extremely cheap! Honestly, our biggest expense was the airfare – and it’s still cheaper compared to other flights going to Europe.
- Its charming old European feel – it’s like visiting a European country back in the 1980s/1990s. And that’s a compliment!
Where to go and what to see in Armenia?
Yerevan – The capital and largest city of Armenia.
Geghard Monastery – A medieval monastery founded in the 4th century and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Temple of Garni – A pagan temple built during pre-Christian Armenia and is the only standing Greco-Roman colonnaded structure in the country.
Lake Sevan – “The largest body of water in Armenia and the Caucasus region.”
Sevanavank Monastery – Completed in the 9th century, Sevanavank is a monastic complex composed of two churches: Surp Arakelots and Surp Astvatsatsin.
Khor Virap – Khor Virap monastery is built in the Ararat plain near the closed Armenian-Turkish border. It offers spectacular views of the famed Mount Ararat.
Areni Wine Factory – Hin Areni is one of the noted wine factories in Armenia; they use handpicked native Armenian grapes for their wines which are stored in oak barrels.
Noravank Monastery – A beautiful Armenian monastery surrounded by red jagged cliffs and stunning vistas.
Tatev – One of Armenia’s oldest and famous monasteries. Tourists can reach the Tatev Monastery by riding the Wings of Tatev, a Guinness world record holder for “the longest non-stop reversible aerial tramway.”
These are just destinations included in our tours, but Armenia definitely has more sights and scenes to offer. We’d love to go back and see more of it someday!
TIPS & TRIVIA:
- Communication – Most Armenians, especially the adults and elderly, do not or barely speak English, so expect a lot of challenges when it comes to communication. Armenian and Russian are their primary languages; some know a bit of French too.
- Taxi – The best and fastest way to get around the city is by walking. But since our Airbnb is a bit outside the city center, we had to take a taxi every time we needed to go back. And it had always been my most dreaded part of the day due to the language barrier.Before you enter a taxi, ask the driver first how much will the fare be, so you don’t get overcharged or surprised by how much you have to pay. In our experience, the average taxi fare is around 400-500 AMD; 1000AMD is probably still okay but more than that and you have to think twice!We downloaded a taxi app called uTaxi, which is their version of Uber. It helped us but it was still a challenge to pinpoint the destination on the map since we’re not really familiar with the place.Brace yourself: No offense meant, but all the Armenian drivers we’ve met drive like crazy! It’s a miracle that we didn’t really see or experience any accidents, but we did have a couple of “near-accidents.”
- Join tours! – Although the tours are limited by time, it is honestly one of the most convenient ways to get around Armenia, especially if you only have a few days of travel. You can also do it DIY and rent a private car, but getting directions might not be as easy given the language barrier. But if you know Armenian or Russian and know how to drive, I would suggest exploring Armenia at your own leisure and time would be the ideal way to do it!
- Check the weather – We packed a lot of summer clothes because we thought it’s summer in Armenia. Well, it was summer but the temperature was still a lot cooler than we expected and so we were mostly underdressed for the weather. But we did bring an umbrella due to periodic showers forecasted by AccuWeather.
- Google maps – You can easily navigate Yerevan with Google Maps. It really helped us find the city’s most iconic landmarks and attractions and the restaurants we wanted to go to.
- Have AMD & USD ready – Convert your USD to AMD at the airport. You can pay USD for your visa but you’ll need local currency as soon as you exit the airport (pay for your taxi/pick-up, hostel, food, etc.). The exchange rate is also better at the airport (i.e., $1 = 477 AMD vs. $1 = 480+ AMD in the city).