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Armenia Travel Guide

Armenia Travel Guide

armenia-002Heard of Armenia?  My guess is probably not – it’s a country which isn’t quite ready for individual travel, and with a lack of infrastructure for tourism it’s not the easiest country to make your way through, especially alone.  The country is, however gradually opening up to tourism, and tours are becoming more available due to the increasing demand from international travelers.

With a beautiful rugged landscape made up of high plateaus and volcanic terrain, as well as a cultural heritage which dates back to the fourth century (with village churches and monetarists still standing from this time period)  if you are an art historian, hiker, or perhaps a Christian pilgrim, you will find Armenia to be enchanting.  Armenia is a friendly country, however being landlocked by Turkey to the west, Georgia to the north, Iran to the south, and Azerbaijan to the east, it is located in an awkward part of the world which has seen much conflict over borders.

Armenia was the world’s first Christian country, and you won’t easily forget this fact when traveling through; Armenia’s myriad of monasteries are, after-all, the main tourist attractions here, and are among the most ancient religious buildings in the history of Christianity.  The cathedral of Echmiadzin in Central Armenia is the most famous.  The oldest state-built church in the world, the cathedral is a fourth century vaulted basilica which is now home to a museum filled with relics.

Other notable monasteries, and there are many, include; the fourth century Geghard monastary which has chapels partly carved into a mountain; the Noravank monastery which has two churches built into a narrow gorge and which only allows access to the second floor of it’s S. Astvatsatsin church by way of narrow stones jutting out from the face of building; the Khor Virap monastery which offers stunning views of the majestic Mount Ararat; Sanahin which was one of the most important Christian centres during the 10th to 13th centuries; and Hayravank which overlooks Lake Sevan.

Khor Virap monastry with the amazing Mount Ararat in the background. Photo Nat Geo Traveler

Khor Virap monastry with the amazing Mount Ararat in the background. Photo Nat Geo Traveler

Armenia is landlocked, and as such Lake Sevan is the most popular summer beach destination.  The huge lake covers 5% of the country and is potentially the most equip region to deal with tourism, with many resorts, cabanas, fish restaurants and other amenities for visitors available.  Winters here however are generally much longer than anywhere else in the country due to elevation, so July and August are the main months which are warm enough to travel.

Continuing the theme of ancient cultural heritage, Armenia’s capital Yerevan is one of the oldest cities in the world, and it’s not located too far from Mount Ararat.  While here be sure to visit the famous national library, which has over 2,000 ancient Armenian manuscripts on display, including the Echmiadzin Gospel.  Yerevan also has a great mosque and market along with theaters and museums.

If you are traveling for climate you will want to hit Armenia between April and October.  If you are traveling for nature you should travel during April through the end of June.

Booking yourself onto a tour is the best way to experience Armenia.  There is much more choice and diversity offered in terms of tours now due to the demand from tourists, however the best idea would be to find an 8-14 day tour during spring which offers both hiking in the countryside as well as visits to the main monasteries and churches.

If you choose to discover the country at your own pace, day tours are the best option for getting around, as the country has very poor and infrequent public transport to lot of the major attractions (plus, when using public transport you can feel how unmaintained the roads are!)  Day tours are advertised throughout Yerevan and easy to join.

Hiring a taxi or a car would be your next best bet – tourists can hire a taxi to take them anywhere for the rate of around 33 US cents per kilometer.  Rental car companies are popping up all over Armenia, however it’s probably wise to hire yourself a driver when you rent your car.  Driving in Armenia is very different to driving in the western world; your driving skills will be put to the test and pot holes are part of the experience!  Consider renting a 4WD.

Hitchhiking is perfectly acceptable and safe, and cars can be flagged down by holding your arm in front of you and patting the air.  Don’t be surprised if you end up spending a few nights with your driver and his family however after becoming friends!

There are no internal flights within the country.

Armenia straddles Europe and Asia and is landlocked by Turkey to the west, Georgia to the north, Iran to the south, Azerbaijan to the east.  This may be off-putting to the average traveler, however the country is quite safe as long as you stay away from the borders of Azerbaijan and the Nagorno-Karabakh region.  The borders of Azerbaijan  and Turkey are closed.

It is recommended to travel with a driver or in a group, however that’s not to say you cannot safely make your way around the country individually.  Just be sure to take any words of warning seriously and practice caution wherever you go.

Pros: An amazing country which remains undiscovered by the vast majority of travelers.

Cons: Tourism infrastructure is inadequate.

Travel Documents: European passport holders can enter Armenia without a visa, however everyone else requires one to enter Armenia.  Visas can be purchased at the border and you can expect to be charged as much as $20 US – visas cost 3000/15000 dram, however don’t expect to get a good exchange rate from the guards if you’re paying in a foreign currency.

Language and Currency: The majority of the country speaks Armenian which is the official language.  Other languages spoken include Russian and Azerbaijani.  Dram is traded as currency, and as of July 2013 $1 USD was equivalent to roughly 410 dram.

Time to Travel: From New York to Yerevan you’re looking at a 16.5 hour connecting flight, where-as London to Yerevan is only 5 hours and nonstop.

Plan to spend $2,000 US over two weeks. 

A great resource I used for information on Armenia was Rudy Maxa’s ‘100 countries, 5000 ideas“.

 Have you been to Armenia?  Do you have anything to add?


  1. Nice post Megan, love the photo of mount Ararat. A friend, who’s parents are Armenian, recently went back and she loved it. It’s a poor country, but the people are very welcoming and the geography amazing. You’re right that it’s not ready for independent travel – but with a good guide I’d love to go!
    Good job,
    Frank (bbqboy)

    • Thanks Frank! I have a friend who’s currently volunteering in Armenia and she’s having the most amazing time. Think it would be a great country to spend a while and really get to know…really glad that the interest in tourism here is growing!

  2. I loved this! I am currently volunteering in Armenia and my focus is on developing tourism in the area. It is such a beautiful country with great people, I love it here! PS who is your friend, this country is small I probably know them!

    • Wow so amazing that you’re there right now – I’m really glad that there are proactive initiatives to establish tourism for the area. Such a shame that the country doesnt see tourism when it has so much to offer!

      My friend is Zofia Baldyga – such a small world! Let me know if you two know each other!!

  3. I never considered Armenia as a holiday destination but your article certainly warrants it a consideration and it would be a good talking point if someone asks where you have been on holiday.

    • It would be a great talking point! I really don’t know that many people who can say they have travelled here – it’s an undiscovered gem! Merry Christmas!

  4. Armenia! I was there in October, it’s a beautiful and inexpensive country. Armenians are very hospitable and the country is very safe to travel. I’m even planning to return in the next couple of months to take a Russian course, as it’s much cheaper than in Russia.

    • Fantastic! I’m glad that the country is starting to see more travel and tourism – very cool that you’re returning! Safe travels!

  5. I’m researching a trip to Georgia and Armenia for next year…I’m sure it will be amazing. I have photos of Ararat from the Turkish side…so pretty.

    • Fantastic! I know you’ll have such a wonderful time, it’s such a beautiful country. Safe travels!

  6. Unparalleled, unrivaled views in beautiful Armenia!
    Photographer’s paradise!

    • Amen to that! There aren’t many places left on earth like it!

  7. I’ve been to Armenia and I loved it instantly.
    Especially the area around Alaverdi I found amazing. The old mining sites and the monasteries of Haghpat, Sanahin and Akhatala. So impressive!
    And then the people, extremely nice and friendly. We never hitchhiked (with the thumb), but cars kept stopping when we were walking to ask if they could take us somewhere. This I had never seen before…

    • It’s seriously unlike any other place on earth – if only other countries were as friendly and as hospitable – I’m so glad you enjoyed your time in Armenia! Thanks for stopping by :)

  8. I am an American Armenian and I lived in Armenia for two months several years ago. I follow many travel bloggers and your blog is one of the rare ones to post about Armenia and I just wanted to say thank you. My country is a beautiful, magical place and seeing your post about it made me ridiculously happy. I’m glad you enjoyed your time there! I hope your post encourages more people to visit Armenia :)

    • Thanks Maral! I’m so glad that you enjoyed the post, and that we could make you happy through reading it! Definitely a country which I believe receives far less attention than it deserves when it comes to tourism. I’ve never heard a bad word from any traveler who has been here.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  9. Megan, It was a pleasure to have met both you and Mike. I could have chatted with you all evening. The next time you are in YYZ pls do not hesitate to contact me. My husband and I would love to exchange travel stories over dinner. BTW, he is Armenian!! Thought it wud b fitting to post a message on here….hehe…Good Luck on your terrific journey. God Bless,

    Air Canada Concierge

    • Hi Lina! It was wonderful meeting and chatting with you – a big thankyou for the wonderful experience with Air Canada!! We will definitely let you know when we make it back, next time with more time to spend than just overnight. And likewise, let us know when you make it to Aus! :)

      Have a wonderful time in Barcelona on your upcoming cruise :)

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