Armenia, situated in the mountains of the Caucasus region with a population of only 3 million people is famous for its hospitality, religious past and history. But only a few know about these hidden gems. So keep reading to find out about the 10 places you must visit in Armenia as told by the locals.
If you are flying to Armenia, then this is where you’ll probably land, at the Zvartnots International Airport in the capital city Yerevan. It is one of the oldest cities in the world. Locals like to call it – an open air museum. And that is the truth.
Yerevan is a walkable city, and transportation is very cheap. If you are in the downtown area, you should take a walk to Kond (follow the map). Kond is an old district in Yerevan, which is now an open air gallery curated by Sereg Navasardyan. Even though there are people who live in this neighborhood, before the launch of this project, it looked abandoned and lifeless. It’s beautiful to see this place revamped and roaming with tourists.
“ Art gallery should be open and free to everyone. Kond Gallery is an open space for artists to create a new contemporary area in the oldest district of Yerevan.” says the curator.
In a predominantly christian country this is definitely a must see. A beautiful 18th century Blue Mosque, of the Iranian period, right in the heart of the capital city (follow the map).
Dalan Art Gallery & Cafe
This type of cafe/gallery format of a conceptual art space has been adopted in Yerevan only recently (follow the map). But now, there are lots of cafes in the city where you can grab a coffee and participate in an art exhibition at the same time. The most popular are Dalan Art Gallery, 2nd Floor and Mirzoyan Library.
Sergei Parajanov & Yervand Kochar Museums
These two museums are one of the smallest and yet the most impactful museums in the city. The work of these artists really embodies the contemporary character of Armenia and Armenians in general.
Sergei Parajanov is one of the 20th century’s greatest movie makers. His movies are a mix of absurdity, history and questions of spirituality. He is one of the faces of rebellion against Soviet Regime. Check out the museum site and make sure to visit (follow the map) when you’re in town.
Yervand Kochar is an Armenian artist and sculptor. He is one of the most famous faces of the Armenian Avant-Gardes. The museum is in the city center (follow the map ) and the tickets are really cheap, so there’s no excuse for you to miss this one.
ENTERTAINMENT IN YEREVAN
While you’re enjoying walking around in Yerevan in broad daylight, keep in mind that there’s a lot to see and experience in the city at night. Jazz clubs with 70 years of history and musical talent everywhere. Check out some of the clubs below if you want to party or listen to some high quality music.
MALKHAS JAZZ CLUB
Now let’s move outside the city. Armenia will be able to please even the most demanding hikers. CNN has listed it in the “23 of the world’s best hiking trails”. It is a perfect destination, just grab your gear and go.
You must wonder why would someone travel the world to see an arch? Because, words can’t describe how beautiful this place is. Take your camera, you will want to take photos.
“One of the most peaceful places, and the clouds came in front of the Mount Ararat, but still looked beautiful”, – National Geographic
LEVON’S DIVINE UNDERGROUND
Just a few kilometers out of Yerevan, in the little town of Arinj there are underground caves hand carved by a man called Levon. In the beginning he was only planning to dig a potato cellar for his wife, but the more he dug, the beautiful the place became. Using nothing but hand tools, an ordinary man created a beautiful attraction in this small town. Just ask for Levon’s Divine Underground, and the locals will lead you.
SYMPHONY OF STONES
Every guide will take you to Garni – the only hellenic temple left in Armenia. When you do go visit this beautiful place, ask a local to take you to The Symphony of Stones very close to the temple, in the Garni gorge, to see this beautiful “church organ”. That’s how locals call this natural wonder.
This is the 3rd highest mountain of Armenia. If trekking is something that you like to do, you should definitely climb to the top. Here you will get a spectacular view of the Lake Sevan and Mount Aragats. Moreover, what will really make it worth your while is the 8-meters deep volcanic lake in the crater and stones covered in ancient petroglyphs.
While you’re on your way to see the biggest lake in Armenia – Sevan, Chayniy Domik must be your stop. Homemade food, tea from Armenian herbs and a cozy atmosphere.
Located 90 km away from Yerevan, Noratus Cemetery is one of the oldest cemeteries in the country. Here you will find khachkars (Armenian carved cross-stones) dating back to the late 10th century. Ask locals to tell you about the mystery and the legends surrounding this historical sight.
This stop was created in 1332, by an Armenian prince to accommodate travelers. Orbelians Caravanserai is the best preserved caravanserai (a stop for caravans and travelers after a long journey) in the country.
The Areni-1 cave complex, near Areni village is famous in Armenia for its historical significance for the humankind. Here, archeologists have found the earliest examples of wine and shoemaking.
Even though Lori province is out of our current route – locals will sure tell you to pay a visit. Here, you should visit Mikoyan Brothers Museum and UNESCO World Heritage Site Sanahin Monastery. These are hidden gems that have been exposed to travelers only recently, so don’t miss your chance to witness this beautiful mix of Armenian eras in one small village.
Note: This article has been written by a local who has lived in Armenia for more than 20 years.