Armenia, known as ‘the land of churches’, has some of the oldest churches and monasteries in the world, standing in some incredible settings. There are thousands of them – 4,000, in fact – in cities, towns and villages across the country. From the largest – Saint Gregory the Illuminator Cathedral in Yerevan, to the smallest – the 7th century Karmravor church in the Ashtarak region, their historical beauty is something to be seen.
Lakes and Mountains
From deep ravines cut by ancient rivers to the glittering waters of Lake Sevan, water plays a major part in Armenia’s landscapes, but with around 90% of the country standing 900 metres or more above sea level, it’s the dramatic mountain scenery that will leave the lasting impression. The second largest freshwater alpine lake in the world can be found in Armenia and it’s also host to a medieval monastery offering breath-taking surrounding views.
A very important aspect of Armenian cuisine is the traditional bread in the country. Lavash (Armenian thin bread) for Armenians has a sacred meaning and symbolizes well-being, luck, abundance, and prosperity. Lavash has been selected for the UNESCO List of Intangible Cultural Heritage and as one of the most beautiful and common Armenian national traditions, is a baking process well worth witnessing when visiting the country.
Top Places to Visit
The city older then Rome. It’s the capital and largest city of Armenia and one of the world’s oldest continuously inhabited cities. It’s 2800+ years old city which historical center dates back to the 8th century BC. Today, Yerevan is also a modern charming city with interesting cultural life, beautiful green parks and numerous fancy restaurants.
The religious center of Armenia 20 km west of the capital. The city is best known as the location of Etchmiadzin Cathedral and Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin, the center of the Armenian Apostolic Church, one the first Christian churches of the world. The city is home to other early Christian period churches with unique architecture and all are listed among UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
A small village in the south of Armenia best known for its wine production and home to the Areni-1 complex where the earliest known winery in the world was uncovered. It’s a 6100-year-old winery that defines Armenia as one of the oldest wine producing regions of the world with endemic grapes. The wine making tradition is preserved until now and you can enjoy a set of local wines during annual Yerevan Wine Days festival.
This village can be found in the southern gates of Armenia. It’s home to a huge medieval monastery which is located on a large basalt plateau near the village. It hosts a station of the Wings of Tatev – the world’s longest non-stop double track aerial tramway. Get on the tramway and have an unforgettable trip to the monastery overlooking the magnificent gorge of Vorotan river.
A village to the south-east of Yerevan which hosts the only pre Christian standing building in the region and the CIS countries. The Pagan temple dedicated to the God of Sun dates back to the 1st century AD. It’s at the edge of a triangular cliff overlooking Azat River gorge along the sides of which are cliff walls of well-preserved basalt columns called “Symphony of the Stones”.
50 kilometers north of the capital Yerevan, surrounded with alpine meadows, this spa town is situated on the slope of Mount Teghenis, at a height of 1841 MSL and is a perfect place for ski lovers and for winter holidays. Here the skiing season normally starts in mid-December and stretches well into March with the top slopes often fit for skiing in April.
The second-largest city in Armenia in the northwestern part of the country. By the end of the 19th century, when the city was known as Alexandropol, it was one of the largest cities of Russian-ruled Eastern Armenia. Throughout centuries, Kumayri-Gyumri was labeled as the “city of crafts and arts” and it’s the cultural capital of Armenia. It has a well preserved historical center where different local and international festivals and cultural events are held.
The emerald of Armenia and the second largest freshwater high-altitude (alpine) lake of the world. Its sole major island (now a peninsula) host a medieval monastery and offers a breathtaking panoramic view to the blue waters of the lake. This huge freshwater basin is home for endemic Sevan trout (Salmo ischchan) which is delicious especially grilled with vegetables.
Geghardavank means “the Monastery of the Spear”, originates from the spear which had wounded Jesus at the Crucifixion, allegedly brought to Armenia by Apostle Thaddeus and preserved in the monastery till 17th century. It’s a partly cave monastery of 12-13 century and is listed in UNESCO highlights with enhanced protection status.
A spa resort in the north-east of Armenia within the Dilijan National Park. The forested town is often referred to as the Armenian Switzerland by the locals. It features some traditional Armenian architecture on cozy and charming Sharambeyan Street where one can visit the craftsman’s workshops, a gallery and a museum or just have a nice stroll through its narrow romantic streets.
A unique place in the world. It’s a village located near Lake Sevan which cemetery has the largest cluster of khachkars – memorial stele bearing a cross. Also known as Armenian cross-stones they are a national symbol and are unique to Armenia. Since 2010, khachkars, their symbolism and craftsmanship are inscribed in the UNESCO list of Intangible Cultural Heritage.