Back in 2020, I had plans with a friend to travel to Armenia. However, then covid happened and we had to cancel it. Finally, I was able to go in April 2023 just after visiting Georgia. I only had a few days there and enjoyed the capital city of Yerevan and one day out in the Garni and Geghard areas. Yerevan is a lively city with a mix of communist and modern architecture. There are lots of statues, fountains, and parks to meander through while walking around.
Before visiting Armenia, I didn’t know much about the country. I had only tried some of the food because there are lots of Armenian restaurants in Los Angeles, which has one of the largest Armenian populations abroad. Food was definitely a highlight of the trip, especially the tolmas. Another highlight in Yerevan was seeing the Gravity ballet at the Armenian National Opera and Ballet. What a beautiful building and excellent performance!
There are many possible excursions outside of the city. I chose one that would not be too far away, as I had limited time. The Pagan Temple of Garni is a beautiful reconstruction located above the Garni Gorge. Interestingly, later in the tour we went into the gorge to see the Symphony of Stones, and we could see the temple above. Next, we visited the Geghard monastery in the snow. We experienced all of the seasons in one day!
This is a short guide based on my travel to Armenia. However, I did not get a chance to see a lot of the country since I was there for only a few days. I hope to go back again one day!
- Yerevan, the capital city
- Republic square
- Vernissage outdoor market for souvenirs and handmade crafts
- National gallery of Armenia
- History museum of Armenia
- Walk through the many parks in Yerevan
- Armenian National opera and ballet– definitely recommend seeing a show
- Delicious food including BBQ and tolmas
- Red wines
- Pagan temple of Garni
- Garni Gorge
- Geghard monastery
- Symphony of Stones, unique rock formations
- Watching the Armenian women make the traditional lavash flatbread
- Charent arch and the view over the valley- on a clear day one can see Mount Ararat
Before you go
- US and UK citizens do not need a visa to enter Armenia, and they are allowed to stay up to 180 days in a year
- Armenia in the native language is called Hayastan after their legendary hero Hayk
- Get a local sim card at the airport or in the city. It’s cheap and convenient
- Wi-Fi is available in most restaurants and hotels but speed and stability can vary
- You’ll probably need cash for taxis and smaller shops, so you can take some out at the airport or from banks in the city
- For cultural events in Yerevan you can check the VisitYerevan website
- Weather can be variable with rain so dress in layers and bring a raincoat or umbrella
- Some people speak English, but a translation app is useful
- Many desserts and foods have walnuts so be aware if you have any nut allergies
- Tap water is generally safe to drink
- There were no direct flights between London and Yerevan. From Tbilisi, I flew Air Dilijans via Georgian Airways to Yerevan. The flight is very short, about 40 minutes. However, I had a major issue with when the flight time suddenly changed from 21:00 to 09:00. I had already booked activities in Tbilisi, so I tried by phone and email to reach the Georgian Airways Office with no response. Finally I texted a number I found for Georgian Airways Amsterdam. Miraculously, a woman answered me and said she would tell the Tbilisi agent to contact me. Sure enough, a few minutes later I got a call via Whatsapp. The lady was very friendly and put me on the 09:00 flight the next day. She even sent me kisses by WhatsApp when I said thank you!
- Yerevan has a metro and bus system, though I never used it
- It’s easy to walk around Yerevan
- You can also take taxis via the Yandex, GG or UTaxi apps. However, these usually do not accept foreign credit cards so you will need cash
- In Yerevan, I stayed at a very quaint boutique hotel called L’Image Art Hotel. Each room is named after a famous Armenian artist, which is very cute but means the staff have to show you where your room is
- All of the staff were very friendly and helpful. They seemed to work very long shifts. I saw one lady in the late morning and she was still there when I left for the airport at 2AM the next morning
- The location is very central and it is easy to walk to the main sites in the city. In addition, there are a number of restaurants nearby and it’s directly across from the Vernissage, a big outdoor market
- My room was on the ground floor so it was not great for opening the windows with people walking by just outside. However, the room was large and comfortable, with an ensuite bathroom.
- Wi-fi was good when it worked, but sometimes in would randomly disconnect for awhile. For work, I had to use the data on my phone
The currency of Armenia is the Dram (AMD). As of May 2023, one British pound is equal to 481 dram.
I recommend to check the currency conversion just before you leave as this fluctuates
I’ll write more about specific restaurants in the following posts. This section will be about Armenian food and wine in general, and highlight my favourite dishes so far!
First of all, barbecued meat is one of the main foods in Armenia. There are lots of different barbecued meats including chicken, lamb, kebabs, beef, etc. Menus tend to emphasise if the meats are charcoal grilled, as that gives a very good flavour. The bbq is often served with a flatbread called lavash. This is often made by hand and cooked in a clay oven.
Next, a typical snack food is lahmajun, which is like an Armenian pizza. It consists of flat bread topped with meat and/or cheese and some other toppings. They are very cheap and people eat them as snacks. The bread base is very thin, so it doesn’t seem heavy. For a full meal, I think I could eat three of them.
My absolute favourite dish was the Tolmas, vine leaves wrapped around meat and rice. They are similar to the Greek dolmas. However, the the Armenian version has less rice and more tomato sauce, and they’re thinner. I tried them at two different places in Yerevan, and both were delicious. They are usually served with a side of garlic sauce.
Salads are fresh and delicious. They can have a mix of lettuce, cucumber, tomatoes, herbs
Many of the dessert shops had a mix of cakes and pastries. The more traditional pastries, called paklava, reminded me of Greek baklava with pastry and nuts. Unfortunately, I could not eat them because most had walnuts. The cakes were also very delicious. And there were a number of chocolate shops around, with some unusual flavours including watermelon.
The oldest known winery was found in Armenia’s Areni region. There are several wine regions although I didn’t get a chance to visit any of them. At the shops and restaurants, there definitely seemed to be more red wine than white wine offered.
All of the Armenian red wines I tried were very fruity and full-bodied. I liked them and they were not too sweet, which is what I had feared before trying them.
Q: Do I need a tour guide?
A: You don’t to see Yerevan, but it is good to have a guide and driver for exploring areas outside of the capital
Q: Do people speak English?
A: Some people speak English, but a translation app will be useful for translating signs and speaking
Q: Can I travel solo?
A: Yes, it seems relatively safe but be aware if walking alone at night
Q: How easy is it to send postcards?
A: There were very few places selling postcards. I found some at the permanent shop in the Vernissage. On the other hand, finding stamps from the post office was easy. See Sending Postcards from Abroad for details on cost and the time it took to reach the USA.
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