29,743 square kilometers (11,484 sq mi). This is the exact number of the territory of Armenia. This rather small country, however, has a lot of amazing places to visit to show and amaze the world.
Armenia is the home of one of the oldest civilizations in the world. Situated at the crossroad of Europe and Asia it has a rich culture and history to explore.
There are over 4000 churches and monasteries in the country, and many of them are over a millennium old. Armenia is also one of the 35 biodiversity spots of the world; which means picturesque landscapes, rare animals, and tasty cuisine is awaiting you.
You may need some years to visit all the sights in the country, but here I have a guide of 15 best places to visit in Armenia.
Follow my route!
Areni is a simple village in Vayots Dzor district, and it wouldn’t be any different from other villages in the country. Archaeological excavations exposed the world’s oldest winery, a shoe, the remains of a humanoid brain, and many other materials dating back to 4200-3500 BC in a cave near the village called Areni-1 or Bird Cave. The cave is open to visitors.
The village is 110 kilometers far from Yerevan, the capital of Armenia. It may not be easy to visit the village in winter, as the roads may be covered with snow and ice but you can go there any other time of the year. However, I advise you to plan your visit on the first Saturday of October to participate in the annual Wine Festival of Areni.
Bjni is another village in Armenia that has huge historical significance. The remains of a medieval fortress stand high along the sides of a mesa.
Though a little part of the late mighty fortress is preserved as original, you can see and even climb up the stairs of one of the secret entrances of the fortress.
I felt like I’m going back to the ancient times when I climbed it myself.
The fortress is only 46 kilometers far from the capital, and you can go there by train and public transport too.
Though it’s not hard to get to the village in any season, you’d do better to go there in dry weather as you don’t want the snow, rain, or mad ruin your excursion.
Other places of interest near the fortress are the 11th-century church of St. Astvatsatsin (the Holy Virgin) and St. Sarkis Church built in the 7th century, situated at the very top of a high rock.
Gosh is in the heart of the Dilijan Reserve, near the village with the same name. Lost in the mountains, this lake is a major destination among hikers and is a paradise for photographs. The lake is only 100 meters in length and 80 in width with 8 meters of maximum depth, but it’s not recommended to swim here as the temperature is no more than 14°C even in the hottest summer days. Dense forests stretch around the lake, making the view breathtaking.
You can get to the lake by car, but I’d recommend to go on foot and enjoy the forests, mountains and the clear air of Armenia. The weather is never too hot here, but if you want to relish marvelous colors of an autumn forest, come here in late September and October. The lake is 117 kilometers far from Yerevan. While visiting the lake, I recommend sparing time to see Goshavank, a 12th-century monastery which includes three churches, and the picturesque village of Gosh.
Khndzoresk Cave Village
Well, the heading itself tells it all. Khndzoresk is a network of cave-dwellings that were inhabited well into the 20th century. Some estimates claim that up to 15,000 people lived in the cave-village. They even had a church and three schools.
A modern village with the same name was built in the past century, but the caves are open to all visitors. To get to the old village, however, is not for faint hearts. You’ll have to pass a 160 meter-long bridge made of ropes and cables that shakes with every step.
The climate here is mild, no hot summers or freezing winters will prevent you from enjoying your trip, but I’d anyway advise to plan it in late spring, summer, or early autumn. You can get here by car in 4-5 hours, and there are many places of interest on the way and such as the waterfall Shaki, Bekhi Anapat Monastery, and, of course, Tatev Monastery, and the latter well deserves to be spoken about separately.
Tatev Monastery Complex
This complex is one of the most popular sights of Armenia and most visited for a good reason. The complex was built in the 9th-century and is located on a large basalt plateau. It consists of three churches a library, refectory, bell tower, mausoleum all worth seeing. Here you can see the famous Gavazan, the pendulous column with eight meters height and a khachkar on the top.
This 10th-century column has a unique architectural significance. It can alert even minor earth tremors and be used as a warning of earthquakes and possible movements of the enemy’s army. Dzithan, an 18th-century mill, used to get oil out of olives is another interesting sight of the complex.
To get to Tatev you need to take a car or a taxi from Yerevan, and here is a big surprise, the world’s longest record-holder reversible aerial tramway will get you right to the complex. Twelve minutes of unforgettable flight above breathtakingly beautiful Vorotan gorge.
During your visit to Tatev, I recommend not the miss the opportunity to see Armenia’s natural wonder the Devil’s Bridge. Don’t be afraid to enter the cave under it; there is a heaven waiting for you!
Amberd – Fortress in Clouds
Standing on the slopes of Mount Aragats, at 2,300 meters (7,500 ft) above sea level Amberd has well earned its name. It is a 10th-century fortress protected by a deep gorge from two sides and is situated at the junction of rivers Amberd and Arkashen. During excavations of the fortress, underground walkways leading to the rivers were found, and the researches claim that once they served as a water supply system. Another very interesting fact about Amberd is that here researchers found still edible lavash (Armenian bread) dating back to the 12th century.
It takes about an hour to get to the fortress from Yerevan by car. However, make sure not to plan your visit in winter, as the road may be closed because of snow. You’ll also be able to see the 11th-century church called Vahramashen.
Stars are nearer in Armenia, and they are even more from Byurakan observatory. The world-famous Armenian scientist Viktor Hambardzumyan was the founder of the observatory. It is named after the village Byurakan, not far from the center. Here, perfect climate and clean air make it possible to see and observe the wonders of the universe. In Byurakan more than 1000 flare stars, tens of Supernovae, and hundreds of galaxies were discovered.
Isn’t it wonderful to feel a part of this place?
Many trips are organized to the observatory, and you can also come here on your own. It’s only 40 minutes way from Yerevan. As you understand, it’d be wise to choose a clear, dry evening to visit the observatory. In the surroundings, you can also visit other places of interest like Artavazik Church built in the 7th century, Surp Hovhannes Church from the10th century and also 13th-century big Khachkar monument.
Sevan – The Queen of Mountains
At an altitude of 1,900 m (6,234 ft) above sea level lays the Armenian queen of the mountains, Sevan lake. This alpine lake is the largest water body of the country and one of the biggest drinkable water supplies in the region. Sevan is a major touristic destination, especially in hot summer days.
There are numerous public beaches and fortune hotels on the beaches of Sevan. The northern shore is especially known for its resorts, where you can enjoy many activities like swimming, sunbathing, jet-skiing, windsurfing, and sailing, while the eastern shore has beaches with small cabins where you can have peaceful holidays.
The northern shore of the turquoise lake is about an hour far from Yerevan. There are many sights to enjoy during your visit like the Sevanavank monastery built in the 9th century on a small island of the lake (now a peninsula), Hayravank monastery, the field of more than 900 khachkars in Noratus village.
Garni & Geghard
Well, you can’t find an Armenian who won’t advise you to see Garni & Geghard every time you visit Armenia. Those are the names of a pagan temple and a monastery complex. This may sound contradictory, but no one ever visits them separately.
Temple Garni was built in the 1st century BC. However, the name doesn’t only refer to the temple, here you can find the ruins of Garni fortress. Not far from the temple, there is a typical Roman bath. You can take a look at the mosaic floor made in the best traditions of the fine arts of ancient Armenia.
Geghard is one of the most beautiful Armenian monasteries of Armenia cut into the living rock. Built in the 4th century, Geghard is designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
It will take you less than an hour from Yerevan by car, and you can come here all year round. Here you’ll be able to taste Geghard Gata (Armenian sweet), see the symphony or stones, and visit Garni village to participate in the ceremony of making Armenian Lavash.
Gyumri is the second biggest city of Armenia and has kept its unique and warm colors. Here you should visit Vardanants Square, see Church of Surb Amenaprkich, which was heavily damaged by an earthquake in 1988, and, of course, visit Kumayri historic district, an open-air museum with more than a thousand buildings from the 19th and 20th centuries.
The locals are known to be witty and too self-confident, but they have the right to be so. Most of the world champion sportsman of Armenia are from Gyumri. It is also a city of great artists.
The city is 120 kilometers far from Yerevan, and you can get here by express train, car or public transport.
Yerevan is the capital city and the heart of Armenia. It’s also called a pink city as most of the buildings are made of Armenian pink tufa stone, but I’d add, Yerevan is a green city with many parks and green zones where you can have a nice picnic or just sit on a bench and enjoy the pace of the big city.
Did you know that Yerevan is 29 years older than Rome? However, it’s not an old city; it’s young and joyful.
Well, public transport is not perfect in Yerevan, but you’ll surely have unforgettable trips in “marshrutkas” (minibus). Taxi services, however, work perfectly, and they are rather affordable. Come with me and let’s find out the best places to visit in Yerevan.
Kond – Old Yerevan
Just in the heart of the modern city, the narrow stairs from Saryan street lead to Kond, one of the first quarters of Yerevan. The name means “long hill” in Armenian, and it has kept all the colors of the ancient city. Here you’ll find women sitting together to gossip, elderly men, playing “Nardi,” and drying food laying under the sun. This place just makes everyone smile.
Everyone who visited Yerevan once has noticed the high standards of the cafe culture of the city. Saryan street is the center of cafes. A hot atmosphere flies here especially in the evenings, with tens of cafes, both indoor and outdoor, where you can enjoy your cup of coffee, have a nice party with friends, or dinner with your family. Also, if you happen to be here at the beginning of May, you’ll have the opportunity to join in the Yerevan Wine Days held in this street every year.
Cascade complex is a massive staircase with many terraces adorn with modern statues and beautiful floral decoration. Just inside the stairs, you’ll find the Cafesjian Museum of Art that consists of the Gallery One, Khanjyan Gallery, Eagle Gallery, Sasuntsi Davit Garden Gallery, Star Landing, and the Special Events Auditorium. Take the stairs up for a 360-degree view of the city. There is also an escalator inside in case you need it.
Erebuni is the old name of Yerevan. The Urartian fortress was the actual center of the city and was founded in 782 BC by Armenian king Argishti. You can visit the museum to get an insight into the pre-Christian life of Armenian royal residence, see ancient artifacts from the palace, and other objects found during excavations.
Matenadaran & Other Museums
Matenadaran is both a museum of ancient manuscripts open to visitors and a scientific research institute. Established in 1959, Matenadaran is home to about 23,000 manuscripts and scrolls. The oldest fragments date back to V-VI centuries.
Other significant museums to visit in Yerevan are Armenian Genocide Museum, Parajanov Museum, Yerevan Brandy Factory-Museum, State Museum of Armenian History, Megerian Carpet Museum, and many others.
Ready to Visit Armenia?
Hasmik Voskerchian is a writer at bumpylands.com/blog, interested in traveling, archeology, and journalism.