What to see and do in Armenia
Armenia might be relatively new on the tourist radar, but travellers thinking of planning a trip there shouldn’t be fooled; Armenia boasts an ancient historical and religious heritage that spans all the way back to the 4th Century, and is widely recognised as being the perfect place to visit for archaeology and adventure lovers alike today. The country’s location within the region of Transcaucasia, nestled within the natural beauty of the Caucasus Mountains between the Black and Caspian Seas, bordered by its neighbours Georgia in the north, Azerbaijan and Turkey in the west, and Iran in the south, make it a truly unique holiday destination. Armenia’s eclectic mix of cultures from centuries of ruling by the Ottoman, Byzantine, and Persian Empires isn’t the country’s only pull for tourists though; almost 50% of Armenia is made up of mountain ridges, including dormant volcanic mountains, forest reserves, vast open plains, deep gorges, and villages meandering around the banks of flowing rivers, meaning that those looking for an outdoor adventure will find no shortage of things to do and see there.
To make the most of your tour of Albania, make sure to get in touch with one of our local experts, who will be able to take you away from tourist traps and spectacles and show you the real Armenia, whether you’re in search of activities, relaxation or education. Armenia was home to some of the earliest Christian civilizations, so you can imagine the range of beautiful sites and fascinating, picturesque ruins that can be found here. Around almost every corner is an amazing view, building, discovery or experience, and your local guide, being born and raised in Armenia, will know the very best hidden spots and experiences to take you off-the-beaten-track and into the trip of a lifetime. A holiday to Armenia will be one that you and your travel companions will remember for the rest of your life, so get in touch with one of our local agents to see what makes this hidden gem so unforgettable with your own eyes.
Best things to see and do in Armenia
What to see in Armenia
When it comes to choosing your next destination, Armenia is a great example of big things coming in small packages. Among its most popular sights and tourist attractions, the aptly nicknamed ‘Land of Churches’ offers a range of millenia-old temples, museums, cathedrals, basilicas, and monasteries, the likes of which you won’t find in such staggering numbers or set against more beautiful mountainous backdrops elsewhere. This makes a tour of Armenia an unbeatable choice for history fans or travellers interested in exploring religious sites, while its abundance of hiking trails, including the world-famous, white-tipped Mount Ararat which Armenia shares by Turkey, giving adventurers and walking enthusiasts a run for their money. So, to help you work out what to include in your tailor-made trip itinerary, here’s a short list of some of the best places to visit in Armenia:
- The Temple of Garni: a one week tour of Armenia will give you just enough time to see the country’s top highlights, starting with one of its most famous and popular temples: the Greco-Roman Temple of Garni, a mysterious ancient masterpiece set among untouched wilderness. Sitting atop a podium on the edge of a gorge overlooking the Geghama Mountains and the Azat River, the classical temple's enigmatic history is almost as impressive as its sheer size or architecture. As the only Hellenistic temple to have been left in-tact when all pagan structures were destroyed to make way for Christianity as Armenia's state religion in the 4th Century, a visit to the Temple of Garni will leave you speechless as you wander through its geometrically-designed pillars and colonnades.
- UNESCO-listed cathedrals: next, head to Etchmiadzin Cathedral, which is widely considered to be the oldest cathedral in the world. A UNESCO-listed World Heritage site, Etchmiadzin is not only one of the most noteworthy places to visit in Armenia today, but a popular pilgrimage site for locals and tourists. Located just over 10 miles west from Yereva in the city of Vagharshapat, Etchmiadzin is a short detour from the capital, and somewhere you can spend two or three days taking in other churches and cathedrals in the province, including Zvartnots, Saint Hripsime, and Saint Gayane. In short: Vagharshapat isn't known as the 'religious centre' of Armenia for nothing, so if crumbling religious ruins are at the top of your list, you'll want to stop off here during your trip.
- Khor Virap Monastery: five miles from the border with Turkey on the rugged landscape of the Ararat Plain, the Khor Virap Monastery, or 'Deep Dungeon' in Armenian, is perfect for spending a day exploring, and you can almost picture life here as it would have been in the 17th Century. The monastery is famous for being the site where Sr Gregory the Illuminator, later praised for helping convert Armenia to be the first Christian nation, was kept for 13 years, and it remains one of the most photographed spots in Armenia. For family travellers, kids will love learning about the pilgrimage site's fascinating history and clambering over the rocks on the exterior of the monastery.
- Noravank Monastery: for a combination of nature, architecture, and history, a visit to the intricately-decorated Noravank, meaning 'New Monastery,' is the answer. 'New' might be misleading; the staggering monastic complex dates back to the 13th Century and is located in a gorge surrounded by jaw-dropping red cliffs. There's something ethereal about the UNESCO-listed masterpiece's atmospheric scenery, thanks to its remarkably ornate facade, striking sculptures, meticulously-detailed religious reliefs, and grand representations. With as much to see in the monastery's architecture itself as in its dramatic surroundings, Noravank is a playground for budding photographers!
- Karahunj, 'Armenian Stonehenge': finally, if you're lucky enough to have time for a two week tour of Armenia, hiring a car and driving out to the more remote corners of the country is a possibility. Heading somewhere off-the-beaten-track like the mysterious megaliths of Karahunj, the ancient celestial observatory which pre-dates Stone Henge by thousands of years. Astonishingly, most travellers have never even heard of Karajunj, also known as Zorats Karer, but if you have time on your side and are looking to venture to one of Armenia's tourist attractions that still remains something of a hiddem gem, you can easily reach the site from the town of Sissian in southern Armenia.
What to do in Armenia
Let's face it, there are so many things to do in Armenia that the hardest part is choosing between them all. Luckily, our hand-picked local agents know their destination like the back of their hand and will be able to show you the most incredible places in Armenia, from its best authentic restaurants to recommended accommodation and activities throughout your itinerary. Whether you're set on an outdoor family tour, a hiking excursion, a romantic escape, or a trip focusing on history, religion, and culture, here are some tried-and-tested experiences that we recommend you to try:
- Visit Yerevan, the 'Pink City': the first stop on any Armenia tour should be to the capital, nicknamed the 'Pink City': Yerevan. Famed for its gorgeous architecture, terraced gardens, musical fountains, and museums, Yerevan is one of the oldest cities in the world, boasting activities and excursions for every type of traveller. It's here that you'll find the vivid Blue Mosque, Republic Square, Vernissage Art Market, the Mother Armenia Monument that keeps watch over the city, and Matenadaran, a world-renowned library research institute which is home to collections of ancient manuscripts. Armenia is known for its friendly and welcoming people, so exploring Yerevan with an experienced local guide is the best way to take in the sights of the city.
- Spend the day at Lake Sevan: moving onto one of Armenia's most idyllic natural wonders, you'll want to set your sights on Lake Sevan, one of the country's top attractions. Imagine a vast, azure freshwater lake which makes up a sixth of Armenia's total territory and boasts some of the country's best beaches, and you'll see why this gem should be on everyone’s list for a trip to Armenia. As well as providing breath-taking views and ample opportunities for photographers, the pristine surroundings of Lake Sevan are scattered with nearby monasteries, churches, and ruins dating back to the 8th Century. Add to this an afternoon of water sports like sailing, jet-skiing, and windsurfing, or simply relaxing on the pristine shores of the lake, and you have a day out that'll please all the family.
- Go trekking in a national park: it's no secret that Armenia is a haven for walking and trekking enthusiasts in search of new trails, and those planning on spending most of their holiday outdoors should set their sights on one of Armenia's four national parks for a guided hiking excursion: Dilijan National Park, hailed for its dense forests and natural springs, Sevan National Park, the perfect choice for birding trips thanks to the park's population of over 250 bird species including the endemic Armenian gull, Lake Arpi National Park, offering views across mountain steppes and alpine meadows, and Arevik National Park, home to many of Armenia's rarest wildlife species like the Caucasian leopard, bezoar goat, brown bear, otter, striped hyena, and Mediterranean turtle.
- Go wine tasting: one of the most popular activities in Armenia revolves around something you might not have suspected that the country was known for: its stunning food and drink. After returning from a long walk or visit, you'll definitely want to try some Armenian culinary specialties, including lavash, a delicious and traditional flat bread that is considered so sacred that it's actually on UNESCO's list of Intangible Cultural Heritage. You might also think wine belongs to France, Spain, and Italy, but did you know that Armenia is in fact the oldest country in the world to have produced wine? A wine tour of Armenia will allow you to discover the fruits of Mount Ararat's fertile valleys with a local guide who'll talk you through the wine-making process before the all-important wine-tasting session, and will give you a fantastic day out exploring cosy vineyards nestled at the foot of mountain landscapes.
For the best tips, information, and inspiration to plan your holiday to Armenia, ask the experts: Evaneos' hand-picked local travel agencies based there. As well as providing unparalleled local knowledge including access to hidden gems and advice on how to avoid tourist-traps, they'll organise the trip of a lifetime for you based around your needs and interests.
Best time to visit Armenia
Armenia is a year-round destination and your choice for when to visit will depend on what you want to do during your time there. The most popular time to visit is during the peak summer months of June through to August, with tourists flocking to enjoy the warm and dry weather. Expect to see more crowds and to book further in advance during these times to avoid disappointment. During June, the capital city plays host to the Yerevan International Film Festival, which is a great time to visit. Likewise, August sees an extreme sports festival held at Lake Sevan. The winter is usually cold and snowy throughout the majority of the country and especially in the mountains and higher ground. This means that from December to March the country becomes the ideal location for a winter ski trip, with several resorts to choose from.
Travel tips and advice for travelling to Armenia
Visa regulations for Armenia
Residents of the EU or the USA with a valid passport are allowed visa free entry to Armenia for 180 days over any year-long period, making it an easy place to travel for a holiday. For more useful information see Evaneos’ online advice or visit the embassy website for more specific circumstances.
Vaccinations for Armenia
In order to travel to Armenia, you will need to ensure that your routine vaccinations are up to date, however you may also want to get a vaccination against Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B and Rabies depending on where exactly you plan on travelling and what you plan on doing during your visit. Speak to your doctor or GP to make sure that you are able to travel safely.