Since travel budget means being closer to the people and their culture we could not choose any better place than Armenia. Armenians are beyond everything you may have seen with regards to hospitality and generosity and they will make you feel like you are family.
Armenia tourism is mostly related to religious places and with the country not being a popular place to go (yet), you can appreciate the beauty of these sites crowd-free and generally entrance-free. Even if you are not shuttling around the country, using your own transportation, one week is a good length of time to visit Armenia. Here is our recommended itinerary.
2 days : Erevan and surroundings
After landing to Erevan (or Yerevan) airport, catch the local transfer bus running every 30 minutes (24/7 service) into town. The modern capital city is nice to walk around in the evening, there is a nice feel to it with boutiques, live music, bars, restaurants and cafés near the Republique square. Make sure you go up the Cascade to a monument commemorating the 50th anniversary of Soviet Armenia at sunrise or sunset and get a nice view of Mont Ararat. Many museums, few cathedrals and churches are also interested to see in Central Yerevan like the State Museum of Armenian History or Surp Sargis Church.
Outside of the city centre, the Genocide memorial and museum are a must (Tsitsernakaberd). The place commemorates the 1915-22 genocide with such brutality. All based on historical facts, pictures and testimonials, you will grasp better the history of the Armenians and be respectful by how far they have moved on, although they have not forgotten. Get there with a local taxi (AMD1000), walk back into town or get a local bus (marshrutka) besides the memorial.
From Yerevan it is easy to get to some historical places nearby. Garni temple built in the 1st century and Gerhard monastery built in the 4th century are the main attractions. Easy to get to with a taxi from the city centre ( download the Armenian Uber app called GG) or go on an organised day trip. If you are on a budget take the local buses. Note that in that case you cannot go all the way up to Gerhard monastery and that you will have to get a taxi (AMD 3000 with waiting time at the monastery), walk or hitchhike from the last bus stop (5km). Very easy though to get to and affordable. Find out the bus numbers from the local information centre.
1 day : From Khor Virap to Noravank
35km South of Erevan, the stunning Khor Virap monastery with the view on the Mont Ararat. The legendary mount in Turkey where Noah landed his Ark, so say the Bible. If you get there late in the afternoon (before 7pm as the site closes around that time), you can appreciate the light and the view better. Stay in Vedi for the night, although accommodation are not easy to find there. Your best option is to visit the monastery on a day trip from Yerevan (2H) or to continue your journey and sleep in Areni. Note that if you take at the local bus it will stop you on the main road – 10km away from the site. Taxis will be there to take you all the way up and you can always hitchhike or flag down a cab.,
Going further South on the wine route make a stop in Areni and one of the most spectacular site in Armenia : Noravank, just about 5km from town. Make you way there for the sunset and enjoy this peaceful place. Here again a day trip from Yerevan is possible to organise.
1 day : The caves of Khndzoresk, Goris and Tatev
Tatev is probably one of the most touristic place in the country. You can access the monastery of Tatev by a cable car or by road (35km away from the main junction). . You can stop on the way up and visit the Satan’s bridge with natural spring pools and caves in the canyon. On a good day you can be lucky and appreciate the view down the gorge.
2 days: Getting to Lake Sevan and Dilijan via Selim pass
If most people travel from Yerevan to Sevan going the shorter route, make sure to take the Selim pass to enjoy one of the most beautiful natural sights in the country. It was once part of the Silk Road and you have few resting places for the merchants to visit on the way. The road will lead you to the Northern Armenia.
Lake Sevan. 1900m above the sea level, Lake Sevan is a nice stop to make on your way to Yerevan or Dilijan. The main attraction is on the peninsula with Sevanavank monastery. Very touristic in the summer, the monastery might be busy over June-August.
In Dilijan, it feels very much like being in a summer ski resort. Labelled as the “Switzerland of Armenia”, Dilijan offer many hiking routes and trails departing from the town centre. Best to get to the local information centre behind the lake to get the latest information and maps. There are other lakes and monasteries around Dilijan to visit. Hagharstin in the forest valley, don’t miss out on honey local production on the side of the road or Goshavank monastery in the mountain village of Gosh. Dilijan is the most expensive place after Yerevan in Armenia.
1 day in Alaverdi
Back into soviet union influenced area, drive along the Debed river in the Debed canyon. The green of the mountains contrasts with the grey of the open copper mine town of Alaverdi. If the cable car is operational climb up to Sarahart and visit the nearby village of Sanahin and its monastery. Don’t miss out on Haghpat monastery also a World-Heritage listed monument.
From Alaverdi, head back to Yerevan to fly out but best to cross the border over to Georgia to continue your journey.
Never stop exploring.
- As in most countries, you can get day tour or packages to visit the different sites at an affordable prices. They are all selling packages on the side of the road, your Hotel might also accommodate you and recommend some agencies. We took the alternative option and used local buses from Yerevan (the information centres scattered in the citiy will help you out), hitchhike (completely safe and easy) and at times taxi (very affordable).
- The ideal would have been to rent a car to be more flexible and easily access sites.
- Weather conditions are always to consider and you should change your itinerary accordingly, most sites being outdoors, you might be disappointed to have some rain. Not to say that it will spoil your journey but a sunny day is always nicer.
- Apartment rentals and B&B are very popular in Armenia. They are very affordable, nice and clean accommodations, breakfasts are included, lunch or dinner can be added for far less money than in restaurant (and better quality), wifi, etc. Check out on Airbnb or booking.com and don’t hesitate to find your own places when getting to places.
WHAT HAVE WE MISSED ?
There is always more to do and to see. If you have the chance, add to your schedule:
- Echmiadzin near Yerevan (being restored while we were there)
- A hike up to Mt Aragats, the highest mountain in modern Armenia (weather prevented us to climb)
- Karahunj. 200km south of Yerevan this is the oldest Armenian megalithic site and it remains a mystery for scientists (we simply missed it).
- Nagorno-Karabakh. Beyond the political and military sensitivity there, many locals would recommend to go and see this region said to be safe by Armenians and very different to what you would have seen in the rest of Armenia. If you do decide to get there, make sure your visa is stamped on a separate page to avoid issue at the Georgian – Azerbaijan border. Note that at the date of this article, you cant access Azerbaijan from Armenia.
7 days in Armenia
Average spent per day and per person. It includes excursions, accommodation, food and transportation.
The most expensive accommodation per person in Yerevan (the whole apartment).
The lowest negotiated room was 7 Euros (guest house in Areni). All B&B include breakfast.
Average daily spent for transport. Hitchhiking was our preferred way to go around the country.
Average spent in entrance fees as most sites are free to visit.
Average price for the cost of a meal but they are small portions !
HER & HIS highlights
“It has to be this awkward situation after landing at 4am in the morning. We were walking down Yerevan streets hoping to find a coffee place to stay until the city wakes up. We bumped into this young group of Franco-Armenia girls. One of them spontaneously offered to stay at her parents room at the Marriott Hotel for the rest of the morning as they had to leave early that night to the airport. She simply said that this is a normal thing for Armenian to do ! Here was us travelling on a budget and spending what was left of the night at the Marriott.
Equally we were once picked up by a young lad with his family as we were making our way to Tatev for the day. We ended up picnicking with them and they made a detour to take us to the Noravank monastery, that was 200km away ! Incredible people !”
“The day we got picked up by a Turkish heavy-duty truck driver to cross the Selim Pass going to Sevan Lake. We had an amazing time talking about his experience of driving through Caucasian and central Asian countries (thanks to Google translate). He made us a proper Turish lunch at the back if his trailer. That was delicious.
On that same night we found a guesthouse owned by a Nagorno-Karabakh family. They invited us for dinner offering us Armenian home produced sweet red wine, delicious barbecued pork, local bread (Lavache) and cheese.”