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Armenia Country Guide

Armenia-travel-tips

There are many things to do in Armenia. With a culture spanning 3,000 years, Armenia has a history which is longer than most other European countries. It is one of the earliest Christian countries with medieval monasteries and churches dating back to the fourth century. The numerous Armenian monasteries, set among stunning, mountainous scenery, are the number one reason why people visit Armenia. Increasingly popular, the number of people visiting has been growing by 25% each year since 2001.

Armenia key facts

What is the population of Armenia? It has a small homogeneous population of 3.1 million, of which around 99% are Armenian. Over a million live in Yerevan, the capital. With its lively and atmospheric bars, cafes and nightclubs, it's a great place to experience Armenian nightlife. Situated in the Caucuses, the country is landlocked, bordering Turkey, Georgia, Iran, and Azerbaijan.

Armenian people are strongly family-oriented, socially-conservative, generous and welcoming. Armenians place a lot of pride in their hospitality. In towns and villages across the country, tourists are invited to share food, drink, and endless toasts.

Hiking in Armenia is very popular, as are other outdoor activities. Its many mountains, rivers, and valleys make for a spectacular landscape. Lush green forests contrast with stark, arid areas. 5% of country's surface is covered by the great Lake Sevan, one of the largest high-altitude lakes in Eurasia. Skiing in Armenia is a typical activity which locals and tourists enjoy.

Armenian history is fascinating. Situated on the Great Silk Road, Armenians built a network of merchant communities and ties extending from the far east to Venice. Armenia also lies between the borders of many of the great empires, it has changed hands many times. Interspersed by periods of independence, it has been under control of the Ottoman, Persian, Byzantine and Mongol empires as well as the Soviet Union. Although the history is both rich and complex, it is also steeped in tragedy.

Food in Armenia is a highlight of any trip there, the range of dishes reflect its history and geography. Typical Armenian dishes are made from a wide variety of ingredients including lamb, eggplant, bread and a range of beans, dried fruits, and vegetables. Stews and casseroles such as fasulya (lamb stew) and ghapama (pumpkin stew). Armenian coffee and range of fruit flavored wines are also a real treat.

What language do people speak in Armenia? The official language is Armenian and the most important foreign language is Russian. English is not widely spoken, so visiting Armenia is not always easy, as communication can be difficult. However, a holiday to Armenia offers a highly-rewarding and unforgettable experience.

Armenia Basic Information

  • Country: Armenia
  • Capital: Yerevan
  • Population: 3
  • Currency: Armenian Dram
  • Language: Armenian, Russian
  • Time Zone: GMT+4

When to Go

When is the best time to visit Armenia? Though summer is considered ‘high season’ in Armenia, each season is special in its own way. The best time to travel depends on what you are looking to experience.

Summer (June-August): Summer in Armenia is undoubtedly beautiful. The tips of the mountains are still snow-tipped while blooming flowers cover the green hills and valleys. The streets are full of life and the markets full of summer fruits and vegetables. The monuments which are buried in snow at other times of the year are fully revealed as the temperatures are hot. Hiking is one of the main activities in Armenia, and this can be difficult in the heat. Temperatures in Armenia go up to around 30°C (sometimes up to 40°C!) and many choose to wait until the evening before setting off for a walk.

Fall (September-November): Generally dry until October, this can be a fantastic time to go as the weather is pleasant and mild. Many people choose September as a time to go as rainstorms are more likely in October and November.

Winter (December-February): Winter in Armenia is very cold, especially in the mountains which are dominated by snow. However, in the valleys winter is a time of festivity and the weather is mild, so it is a good time to experience Armenian culture. These are good months to go skiing in Armenia when skiers enjoy the world-class ski resorts at Tzaghkadzor and Dilijan. Cross-country skiing in Armenia is a typical winter activity for locals and tourists.

Spring (March-May): With warm but comfortable temperatures and blossoming flowers, spring is an excellent time to visit Armenia. Winter can continue into March, which is known for its changeable, unpredictable weather, but April and May are some of the best months to go to Armenia for hiking.

Armenia is a good destination for:

Armenia Entry Requirements

A passport valid for six months is required to enter Armenia.

US and EU nationals do not need a visa to enter Armenia and stay for up to 180 days in a year (normally for a maximum of 90 days for each visit).

Australians and Canadians do need a visa to enter, and other nationalities need to check with the embassy.

The cost of each visa depends on the length of stay and whether it is a single-entry or multiple-entry visa. The process of applying for and obtaining a visa takes around 2-3 days. It is possible to obtain a visa on arrival but the cost is higher. It is possible to gain an extension on your visa once you’ve got one.

Armenia Country Atractions

Steeped in history and full of natural beauty, Armenia is rich in places to see. A fantastic place to go hiking and do other outdoor activities, its monasteries are the number one attarction.

Things to see and do in Armenia

  1. Medieval monasteries: There are hundreds of monasteries dotted around Armenia which serves as an open-air museum of Christianity. Armenia became Christian in 301AD and the structures date back to then. There are numerous day trips and hikes which you can go on to visit them. There are so many that it is difficult to narrow down which ones to visit but Tatev, Noravank, Haghartsin, Haghpat, and Geghard are some of the most famous.
  2. Hiking: With an abundance of spectacular gorges, hills, snow-tipped mountains, rivers and lakes it is not surprising that hiking is a popular activity in Armenia. It can get very hot in the peak of the summer so this may be a time to avoid if you are planning a walking holiday.
  3. Yerevan: Known as ‘the pink city’ due to the color of its buildings, Yerevan is the capital city of Armenia. With its population of over one million, it is known for its lively, atmospheric bars, cafes, restaurants, and clubs (which are open until the early hours of the morning). There is a host of markets, where you can buy fresh, seasonal produce, and museums, where you can learn about Armenia’s fascinating culture and history.
  4. Garni Temple: The best-structure of pre-Christian Armenia, King Tiridates built this Greco-Roman temple in the first century. The site is in the village of Garni and includes the temple, a Roman bath, and a partially-restored Greek mosaic.
  5. Lake Sevan: Armenia is landlocked so Lake Sevan, which covers 5% of its land, is the most important body of water. Surrounded by mountains the setting offers fresh air and spectacular views, especially during sunrises and sunsets.
  6. Tsaghkadzor: Located north of Yerevan, Tsaghkador is a popular spa town and ski resort. Home to an ancient monastery and surrounded by forest, it is a great place to escape the city in the summer, and a great place to ski or have a relaxing spa in the winter.

Travel Tips

  • Temperatures and weather in Armenia vary dramatically so do your homework! The peak of the summer can be as hot as 40°C, whereas in the mountains it can be as cold as -30°C. This varies greatly depending on the time of year, the altitude and the region. It is important to know what to wear in Armenia and to be fully prepared.
  • Learn some basic Armenian phrases. Russian is the most spoken foreign language in Armenia and few people speak English. The Armenian people are very welcoming and willing to help tourists but it’s always good to know a few basic phrases to break the ice and show you’re making an effort.
  • Change your money before you go. Arriving in any country without the right currency can be tricky, and Armenia is no exception to this. There are many ATMs in Yerevan, the capital, but outside of the city, they are not so common. It is best to change some money before your trip and to carry a credit or debit card. What is the exchange rate for the Armenian Dram? Although it varies, US$1 is roughly 480AMD.
  • Is Armenia safe? Crime levels are relatively low and people’s experiences of the locals are very positive. However, as in many places, tourists can be targeted and become victims of pick-pockets, so watch your things!
  • Be wary of the roads and plan trips carefully. Armenian roads are hectic and some of the drivers are reckless so it is advised to be very careful when driving in Armenia. Public transport in Armenia can also be problematic due to overcrowding, so don’t count on getting a seat!
  • Avoid certain roads and areas. A ceasefire was reached between Armenia and Azerbaijan in 1994 but there are still skirmishes along the closed border. Don’t drive on the M16 or H26 and don’t go to the area between the towns of Ijevan and Noyemberyan.