A small country with a lot to offer, Armenia is a beguiling destination that you’ll quickly come to love. Take in the café culture, museums and artistic flair of its lively capital, Yerevan, before heading into the stunning mountains to enjoy winter sports and beautiful hiking trails, or explore the country’s fantastic medieval heritage in some of the most gorgeous monasteries found anywhere in the world. Visit in the spring to experience Armenia at its most spectacular, when wildflowers burst into life across the country.
Armenia’s capital Yerevan is a vibrant city packed with innovative architecture and first-rate museums. Start your day with a visit to the remarkable Cascades, an open-air sculpture gallery arranged along a marble staircase that extends up the hill to the city’s north: check out the innovative artworks on display here as you ascend, and at the top turn around for fantastic city views spread beneath the picturesque twin peaks of Mount Ararat. In the afternoon, head down to Republic Square, a Soviet plaza built in soft orange sandstone, and explore the nation’s eventful past at the excellent National History Museum before enjoying dinner at one of Yerevan’s top-class restaurants. One of the city’s best places to stay is The Alexander, a Luxury Collection Hotel, which is centrally located in a gorgeous historic building and offers fantastic views over town from its elegant top-floor restaurant. Another good choice is Armenia Marriott Hotel Yerevan, just steps from the stunning Republic Square.
Tsaghkadzor is where to go in Armenia if you’re looking for winter sports: the town is built on the slopes of Mount Teghenis and boasts a first-rate ski resort offering 27km worth of runs. Take a break from the adrenaline for a day trip to the nearby Lake Sevan, where you’ll find the beautiful thousand-year-old Sevanavank Monastery nestled picturesquely on a grassy peninsula. Stay at the luxurious Tsaghkadzor Marriott Hotel, conveniently located in the town centre and not far from the ski lift, which has a fantastic spa to help you relax after a long day on the slopes.
The mountain town of Dilijan is one of Armenia’s best places to visit for those hoping to enjoy the country’s great outdoors: there are numerous hiking trails, both short and long, starting from here. One particularly pleasant route takes you from Dilijan to the attractive lake of Parz Lich, with the option to continue through wooded hills to the stunning medieval Goshavank Monastery. Return to Dilijan in the evening to enjoy hearty Armenian cuisine in one of the town’s many fantastic restaurants.
Of all Armenia’s fantastic dishes to try, khorovats is unmissable: a delicious skewer of barbecued pork, delicately flavoured with spices and served with potatoes and vegetables. You’ll find khorovats on the menu at every Armenian restaurant, and it’s almost always sublime. Try it at Lagonid in Yerevan or Flying Ostrich in Dilijan.
Armenia claims to have invented wine, and archaeologists working in the Areni region have discovered evidence of wine-making going back at least 6000 years. The tradition is still strong: Armenian vintages, particularly the reds, are excellent and many have won international awards. While you’re here, make sure to visit one of Yerevan’s many wine bars to sample some of the country’s finest – the well-stocked In Vino on Saryan Street is a good place to start.
For a delicious and filling meal, it’s difficult to think of a better choice than kchuch, a hearty stew prepared with lamb, vegetables, onions and peppers, and flavoured with garlic and spices, then baked slowly in a clay pot until the meat is beautifully tender. Make sure to grab some lavash flatbread as a side dish. There are many great places to eat kchuch, but arguably the very best is the eponymous Kchuch restaurant in Dilijan, which also offers a fantastic selection of Armenian wines.
If you’re based in Yerevan, one of the best things to do is take a day trip along the road heading south to visit some of the country’s top sights. First up is the iconic Khor Virap Monastery, which nestles beneath the towering Mount Ararat, and is famous for leading Armenia’s conversion to Christianity in the early fourth century. Next on the list of fun things to do is a visit to the excellent wineries in the town of Areni to sample some of their fine products, before taking in sunset at Noravank Monastery, where the beautiful carvings in red-golden stone take on a fiery orange hue in the evening light.
One of Yerevan’s unmissable attractions is the Ararat Brandy Factory, found on the city centre’s southern edge, where Armenia’s iconic brandy has been in production for more than 130 years. Tours of the factory are one of the city’s most interesting things to do, with passionate guides giving visitors fascinating insights into the history of the company. Tours conclude with the chance to sample the tipple.
One of Armenia’s most unique things to do is check out the tantalising remains left behind by the country’s prehistoric peoples. Down in the country’s south, you’ll find two remarkable sites that offer glimpses of this long-gone world. Firstly, pay a visit to the beautiful Karahunj, a stone circle that’s often described as Armenia’s Stonehenge, then head up into the mountains to check out the remarkable Ughtasar petroglyphs, which are up to 7000 years old and depict humans and animals. Alternative things to do while you’re in the area include stopping by Shaki Falls, one of Armenia’s most impressive waterfalls.
Armenia’s Christian tradition dates back a long way, and has had a profound influence on much of the country’s artistic heritage. While in Yerevan, visit the Matenadaran Museum to explore beautiful medieval illuminated manuscripts, or stop by Nzhdeh Park to see examples of khachkars – intricately carved stone crosses that can be found in all Armenian monasteries.
Published: July 26, 2022
Last Updated: February 23, 2023
Article Tags: Armenia
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