Discover the beauty and mystery of Armenia

If you want to experience six climate zones and environments in one trip – from semi-desert to forest, from steppe to alpine – but have little time, welcome to Armenia!

Here, on the border of Asia and Europe, high in the mountains above an altitude of 1000 metres, you’ll meet a fascinating cocktail of history, nature, flavours, and emotions.

We offer a few highlights you won’t want to miss during a trip to this earthly paradise.

 

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See Mount Ararat from above

Begin exploring Armenia at The Cascade
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The place most tourists usually begin exploring Armenia is at The Cascade, a long stairway made of limestone that begins in central Yerevan and leads up a hill to a viewing deck.

At the foot of The Cascade stands the statue of the Armenian architect Alexander Tamanyan, which is surrounded by many cafés and restaurants.

Taste a dessert at the foot of The Cascade

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For the best impression, first have some coffee or tea with dessert or gelato at the Brew, Sorriso, or August cafés.

Then stroll along the sculpture alley, which features contemporary works of art from Gerald Cafesjian’s collection.

Before The Cascade staircase you will find the sculpture alley from Gerard Cafesjian collection

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When you reach the stairs, enter the Cafesjian Centre for the Arts, whose galleries are nestled under the massive Cascade.

With the help of escalators, explore the exhibition halls, and by the end you will have reached the top of The Cascade and the viewing deck with its 56-metre obelisk titled ‘Revived Armenia’.

From here, the city centre, the Ararat Valley, and the prominent mountain will bow to you.

 

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Meet the ancient world

Yerevan is one of the oldest cities in the world – at least 2804 years old.

Unfortunately, you don’t see this on the streets, but proof can be found at Erebuni Fortress, thanks to a cuneiform tablet found there.

Archaeologists have learned that the fortress was built by King Argishti I of Urartu in 782 BCE.

Visit Yerevan - one of the oldest cities in the world

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Various other curious objects have been discovered during excavations at the fortress, including items made of gold and silver.

However, the 23 cuneiform tablets are considered the most valuable discoveries, which have given researchers more information about the Urartian era.

The tablets are stored in the Erebuni historical and archaeological museum-reserve near the remains of the fortress, which is one of the critical centres for studying the history of the ancient state of Urartu.

 

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Enjoy the musical fountains

Summertime in Yerevan is quite hot, so the public fountains and smaller drinking-water fountains are a salvation for locals and visitors alike.

But while the summer sun often forces people to shelter indoors or in the shade, evening turns the abandoned streets into crowded streams of pedestrians.

Fountain in Yerevan Republic Square

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Just like the residents, you can start your evening stroll from the upper parts of Abovyan Street and head towards Republic Square.

Once there, grab a freshly squeezed juice or smoothie and enjoy the spray of the unique dancing fountains and light show set to beautiful classical music or the songs of Frank Sinatra and Charles Aznavour.

In the evening in Yerevan enjoy the spray of the unique dancing fountains and light show

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Get closer to the stars

Feel the breath of history in the Amberd Fortress
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The Amberd Fortress stands at an altitude of 2300 metres on the slope of Aragats, the highest mountain in Armenia. Here you can feel the breath of history.

Some sources claim that this summer residence of Armenian kings was partly built already in the 7th century CE, during the reign of the Kamsarakans.

Nowadays, while objects uncovered during excavations hint at it, one can only guess at how rich the decorations here actually were.

Mount Ararat is one of the symbols of Armenia

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As you stand on the ancient ruins, you can enjoy the view of the symbols of Armenia: the Araks River and Mount Ararat (although it is now within the borders of Turkey).

Don’t hesitate to drive up to Kari Lake, which translates to ‘rock lake’. On a clear night, you might see a meteor shower, a parade of planets, and a lunar and solar eclipse all in one sitting.

Learn new interesting things about the Earth in the Byurakan Astrophysical Observatory

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On your way back, visit the Byurakan Astrophysical Observatory, which coordinates space exploration.

Thanks to the kind and enthusiastic specialists there, you can learn many interesting things about the Earth, stars, and galaxies and enjoy an unforgettable observation of celestial bodies through a telescope.

 

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Explore grand sites

The pagan Temple of Garni has become one of the country’s most famous sites and lies just 40 minutes by car from the centre of Yerevan.

On the way there, stop at Charent’s Arch on a hill on the right side of the Yerevan-Garni highway.

Enjoy the incredible view of Mount Ararat at the Charent’s Arch

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Take a moment to feel the beauty of the Ararat Valley and enjoy the incredible view of Mount Ararat.

The surrounding area also provides many hiking and cycling opportunities.

Visit Garni temple, it is the only standing colonnaded building in Armenia

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Then continue on to Garni, a Hellenistic temple dedicated to the god of the Sun.

The complex included Roman baths, a royal summer manor, and a 7th-century church.

One of the most popular historical places in Armenia - Garni temple

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The mosaic floor of the baths, made of natural stones in fifteen different colours, has been perfectly preserved.

At the entrance to the temple area, locals sell homemade sweets, dried fruits, and herbal teas.

The Symphony of Stones - one of the most well-known natural monuments in Armenia

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Not far from the village of Garni is one of the most well-known and beautiful natural monuments in Armenia, the basalt columns known as the Symphony of Stones.

These massive pentagonal and hexagonal columns of rock with a height of about 50 metres are located in the basin of the Azat River and almost seem intentionally made due to their amazing symmetry.

 

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Relax with wine after hiking

One of Armenia’s best sights is the picturesque Noravank Monastery, a famous site located ten kilometres south of the village of Areni, in the Vayots Dzor region.

This 13th-century monastery is surrounded by the Gnishik River Canyon, which is an impressive climbing area with a seemingly endless amount of rock that’s very easy to access.

The picturesque Noravank Monastery is surrounded by the Gnishik River Canyon

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If you love adventure and enjoy nature, you should consider hiking through the untouched natural beauty of Gnishik Canyon.

For example, the 2.8-kilometre Noravank Trail connects the old settlement of Amaghu – now in ruins – with the Noravank Monastery complex.

The trail runs through the canyon, which is famous for its red rocks and endangered fauna and flora, such as juniper forests.

If you love adventure, consider hiking through the untouched Gnishik Canyon

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After an active day out in nature, raise a glass of wine in one of the numerous vineyards of the Vayots Dzor region, such as Trinity Canyon Vineyards or Old Bridge Winery for interesting local wines and homemade food.

This area is mainly known for Areni wine, but you can also find other exciting varieties here.

Raise a glass of wine in one of the numerous vineyards in Armenia

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Indulge in the mineral waters

With more than 20 amazing hot mineral water springs reaching temperatures of up to 64º C, the high-mountain town of Jermuk is the most popular destination in Armenia for those who crave true relaxation and recreation.

The first thing to do here is to visit the Mineral Water Gallery, where a healthy drink at various different temperatures runs from numerous taps.

Visit the Mineral Water Gallery, where a healthy drink runs from numerous taps

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The symbol of this town is a deer. Legend says that a mortally wounded deer ran away from a hunter, and, having reached the mineral waters, fell into them.

Then a miracle happened: the deer emerged from the waters completely healthy.

The hunter spread the word about the miraculous waters far and wide, and the deer that discovered these springs became a symbol of the town.

To feel as rejuvenated as that deer long ago, you may wish to book a stay at, for example, Jermuk Hotel & Spa.

Heal your body and soul from the enormously fast tempo at the Jermuk Hotel & Spa

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Here it’s tranquil, and you can heal your body and soul from the enormously fast tempo of the modern lifestyle.

Don’t hesitate to also buy some of the herbal tea mixes and jams that the locals sell.

 

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Spend a day at Lake Sevan

Armenia is a landlocked country, but it takes pride in having one of the largest high-mountain freshwater lakes in the world.

Called the ‘blue pearl’ of Armenia, Lake Sevan is located in the very middle of the Armenian highlands in a huge mountain bowl framed by picturesque peaks rising to a height of 1900 metres.

The lake itself is surrounded by numerous mineral springs, scenic landscapes, and cultural monuments.

The blue pearl of Armenia - Lake Sevan

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A number of water-based activities are available at Lake Sevan.

Swim in the cool blue waters of the lake, worship the sun on the public beaches, or jet-ski and windsurf on the lake.

Boat rides are also offered, which give you a great opportunity to explore other parts of the lake and the Sevan peninsula.

Visit the Sevanavank Monastery with magnificent view to Lake Sevan and mountains

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If you’re a history buff, be sure to visit the Sevanavank Monastery, which was founded in 305 CD and is steeped in stories and legends.

Among its unique features are the many carved cross-stones (khachkars), the oldest of which date back to the late 10th century.

The monastic complex is located on the northwestern shore of Lake Sevan.

The view from there is simply magnificent: the mountains surround the lake on all sides, and snowy tops can be seen around almost the entire perimeter.

But don’t forget that this is a high-altitude lake and the area is always windy. Bring sunscreen, a warm jacket, and a tight-fitting hat.

Stop at Collette Restaurant for fresh local fish dishes

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Leaving the peninsula, stop at the Semoi Mot (At Semo’s) fish restaurant for fresh local trout or whitefish prepared in a very simple but delicious, homemade style.

Also, try a crawfish kebab if it’s available.

 

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Cover photo on Unsplash
Text by Anahit Minasyan

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