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Armenia

 

Armenia Destinations Travel Guide

 

 

 

Flag of Armenia

Language: Armenian

Currency: Drarm (AMD)

Calling Code: 374

 

 

 

Armenia (in Armenian: Հայաստան, Hayastán), officially Republic of Armenia, is a country of the South Caucasus and without exit to the sea. It shares borders with Turkey to the west, Georgia to the north, Azerbaijan to the east and Iran and the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic of Azerbaijan to the south.

Armenia is a former Soviet republic, a unitary, multiparty state in a process of democratization that has its roots in one of the oldest civilizations in the world. Endowed with a rich cultural heritage, it stood out as the first nation to adopt Christianity as an official religion in the early years of the fourth century (the traditional date is 301) Although Armenia is a secular constitutional state, the Christian faith plays a important role in its history and in the identity of the Armenian people.

Culturally, historically and politically, Armenia is considered part of Europe, but its location in the South Caucasus places it on a supposed imaginary frontier between Europe and Asia: in reality it is a transcontinental country, halfway between two geographical areas. These classifications are arbitrary, as there is no easily definable geographical difference between Asia and Europe.

Armenia is currently a member of more than 35 international organizations, including the United Nations, the Council of Europe, the Asian Development Bank, the Commonwealth of Independent States, the World Trade Organization and the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization. He is one of the members of the Association for Peace of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, as well as of the military alliance Organization of the Treaty of Collective Security (CSTO). He is also an observer member of the Eurasian Economic Community, the Francophony and the Non-Aligned Movement.

 

Travel Destination in Armenia

 

Ararat Province (Armenia)

Khor Virap Monastery

Khor Virap Monastery offers a great view of the mountain Ararat. According to Old Testament this was the mountain where Noah's Ark have landed after the Great Flood.

     

Armavir Province (Armenia)

Etchmiadzin Monastery

Etchmiadzin Monastery is an ancient Christian complex that is made up of Etchmiadzin Cathedral, the mother church of the Armenian Apostolic Church, church of Hripsime, Gayane basilica

     
 

 

Kotayk Province (Armenia)

Geghard Monastery

Geghard Monastery originally found in the 4th century AD is one of the oldest Christian monasteries. It is situated in Goght, Kotayk Province of Armenia.

     

Lori Province (Armenia)

Akhtala Monastery

Akhtala Monastery is located 185 kilometers (115 mi) north of Armenian capital of Yerevan near a town of Akhtala of Lori Province.

 

Debed Canyon

Debed Canyon is located in Armenia and stretches for 178 km. This picturesque valley is an important highway between Armenia and neighboring Georgia.

Haghpat Monastery

Haghpat Monastery located in Haghpat, Lori Province of Armenia was found in 10th century by Saint Nishan (Sourb Nshan).

 

Kobayr Monastery

Kobyar Monastery is located just of the Highway 6 in a Lori Province of Armenia. The name is derived from a village of Kober or Kobyar that is located near by.

Odzun Monastery

Odzun Monastery in Lori Province, Armenia is a medieval monastery that was built during early Medieval period in a remote plateau on the left bank of Debed river.

 

Sanahin Monastery

Sanahin Monastery was constructed in the 10th century on the slopes of Mount Tchantinler, although first references of a Christian church on this location date back to the 4th and 5th centuries. 

   

Yerevan Province (Armenia)

Erebuni Fortress

Erebuni Fortress was built 782 BC by King Argishti I on a strategic hill overlooking Armenian capital of Yerevan below.

     

 

 

 

 

 

History of Armenia

Antiquity
Armenia lies in the highlands surrounding the mountains of Ararat. There is evidence of an early civilisation in Armenia in the Bronze Age and earlier, dating to about 4000 BC. Archaeological surveys in 2010 and 2011 at the Areni-1 cave complex have resulted in the discovery of the world's earliest known leather shoe, skirt, and wine-producing facility.

According to the story of Hayk, the legendary founder of Armenia, around 2107 BC Hayk fought against Belus, the Babylonian God of War, at Çavuştepe along the Engil river to establish the very first Armenian state. Historically, this event coincides with the destruction of Akkad by the Gutian dynasty of Sumer in 2115 BC, a time when Hayk may have left with the “more than 300 members of his household” as told in the legend, and also during the beginning of when a Mesopotamian Dark Age was occurring due to the fall of the Akkadian Empire in 2154 BC which may have acted as a backdrop for the events in the legend making him leave Mesopotamia.

Several Bronze Age states flourished in the area of Greater Armenia, including the Hittites (at the height of their power), Mitanni (southwestern historical Armenia), and Hayasa-Azzi (1500–1200 BC). The Nairi people (12th to 9th centuries BC) and Urartu (1000–600 BC) successively established their sovereignty over the Armenian Highlands. Each of the aforementioned nations and tribes participated in the ethnogenesis of the Armenians A large cuneiform lapidary inscription found in Yerevan established that the modern capital of Armenia was founded in the summer of 782 BC by King Argishti I. Yerevan is the world's oldest city to have documented the exact date of its foundation.

During the late 6th century BC, the first geographical entity that was called Armenia by neighbouring populations was established under the Orontid Dynasty within the Achaemenid Empire, as part of the latters' territories. The kingdom became fully sovereign from the sphere of influence of the Seleucid Empire in 190 BC under King Artaxias I and begun the rule of the Artaxiad dynasty. Armenia reached its height between 95 and 66 BC under Tigranes the Great, becoming the most powerful kingdom of its time east of the Roman Republic.

In the next centuries, Armenia was in the Persian Empire's sphere of influence during the reign of Tiridates I, the founder of the Arsacid dynasty of Armenia, which itself was a branch of the Parthian Empire. Throughout its history, the kingdom of Armenia enjoyed both periods of independence and periods of autonomy subject to contemporary empires. Its strategic location between two continents has subjected it to invasions by many peoples, including Assyria (under Ashurbanipal, at around 669–627 BC, the boundaries of Assyria reached as far as Armenia and the Caucasus Mountains), Medes, Achaemenid Empire, Greeks, Parthians, Romans, Sasanian Empire, Byzantine Empire, Arabs, Seljuk Empire, Mongols, Ottoman Empire, the successive Safavid, Afsharid, and Qajar dynasties of Iran, and the Russians.

Religion in ancient Armenia was historically related to a set of beliefs that, in Persia, led to the emergence of Zoroastrianism. It particularly focused on the worship of Mithra and also included a pantheon of gods such as Aramazd, Vahagn, Anahit, and Astghik. The country used the solar Armenian calendar, which consisted of 12 months.

Christianity spread into the country as early as AD 40. Tiridates III of Armenia (238–314) made Christianity the state religion in 301, partly, in defiance of the Sasanian Empire, it seems, becoming the first officially Christian state, ten years before the Roman Empire granted Christianity an official toleration under Galerius, and 36 years before Constantine the Great was baptised. Prior to this, during the latter part of the Parthian period, Armenia was a predominantly Zoroastrian country.

After the fall of the Kingdom of Armenia in 428, most of Armenia was incorporated as a marzpanate within the Sasanian Empire. Following the Battle of Avarayr in 451, Christian Armenians maintained their religion and Armenia gained autonomy.

Middle Ages
After the Sasanian period (428–636), Armenia emerged as Arminiya, an autonomous principality under the Umayyad Caliphate, reuniting Armenian lands previously taken by the Byzantine Empire as well. The principality was ruled by the Prince of Armenia, and recognised by the Caliph and the Byzantine Emperor. It was part of the administrative division/emirate Arminiya created by the Arabs, which also included parts of Georgia and Caucasian Albania, and had its centre in the Armenian city, Dvin. Arminiya lasted until 884, when it regained its independence from the weakened Abbasid Caliphate under Ashot I of Armenia.

 

In 1045, the Byzantine Empire conquered Bagratid Armenia. Soon, the other Armenian states fell under Byzantine control as well. The Byzantine rule was short lived, as in 1071 the Seljuk Empire defeated the Byzantines and conquered Armenia at the Battle of Manzikert, establishing the Seljuk Empire. To escape death or servitude at the hands of those who had assassinated his relative, Gagik II of Armenia, King of Ani, an Armenian named Ruben I, Prince of Armenia, went with some of his countrymen into the gorges of the Taurus Mountains and then into Tarsus of Cilicia. The Byzantine governor of the palace gave them shelter where the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia was eventually established on 6 January 1198 under Leo I, King of Armenia, a descendant of Prince Ruben.

Cilicia was a strong ally of the European Crusaders, and saw itself as a bastion of Christendom in the East. Cilicia's significance in Armenian history and statehood is also attested by the transfer of the seat of the Catholicos of the Armenian Apostolic Church, the spiritual leader of the Armenian people, to the region.

The Seljuk Empire soon started to collapse. In the early 12th century, Armenian princes of the Zakarid family drove out the Seljuk Turks and established a semi-independent principality in northern and eastern Armenia known as Zakarid Armenia, which lasted under the patronage of the Georgian Kingdom. The Orbelian Dynasty shared control with the Zakarids in various parts of the country, especially in Syunik and Vayots Dzor, while the House of Hasan-Jalalyan controlled provinces of Artsakh and Utik as the Kingdom of Artsakh.

Early Modern era
During the 1230s, the Mongol Empire conquered Zakarid Armenia and then the remainder of Armenia. The Mongolian invasions were soon followed by those of other Central Asian tribes, such as the Kara Koyunlu, Timurid dynasty and Ağ Qoyunlu, which continued from the 13th century until the 15th century. After incessant invasions, each bringing destruction to the country, with time Armenia became weakened.

In the 16th century, the Ottoman Empire and the Safavid dynasty of Iran divided Armenia. From the early 16th century, both Western Armenia and Eastern Armenia fell to the Safavid Empire. Owing to the century long Turco-Iranian geopolitical rivalry that would last in Western Asia, significant parts of the region were frequently fought over between the two rivalling empires. From the mid 16th century with the Peace of Amasya, and decisively from the first half of the 17th century with the Treaty of Zuhab until the first half of the 19th century, Eastern Armenia was ruled by the successive Safavid, Afsharid and Qajar empires, while Western Armenia remained under Ottoman rule.

From 1604, Abbas I of Iran implemented a "scorched earth" policy in the region to protect his north-western frontier against any invading Ottoman forces, a policy that involved a forced resettlement of masses of Armenians outside of their homelands.

In the 1813 Treaty of Gulistan and the 1828 Treaty of Turkmenchay, following the Russo-Persian War (1804–13) and the Russo-Persian War (1826–28), respectively, the Qajar dynasty of Iran was forced to irrevocably cede Eastern Armenia, consisting of the Erivan and Karabakh Khanates, to Imperial Russia.

While Western Armenia still remained under Ottoman rule, the Armenians were granted considerable autonomy within their own enclaves and lived in relative harmony with other groups in the empire (including the ruling Turks). However, as Christians under a strict Muslim social structure, Armenians faced pervasive discrimination. When they began pushing for more rights within the Ottoman Empire, Sultan Abdul Hamid II, in response, organised state-sponsored massacres against the Armenians between 1894 and 1896, resulting in an estimated death toll of 80,000 to 300,000 people. The Hamidian massacres, as they came to be known, gave Hamid international infamy as the "Red Sultan" or "Bloody Sultan". This period is known as Russian Armenia.

During the 1890s, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, commonly known as Dashnaktsutyun, became active within the Ottoman Empire with the aim of unifying the various small groups in the empire that were advocating for reform and defending Armenian villages from massacres that were widespread in some of the Armenian-populated areas of the empire. Dashnaktsutyun members also formed Armenian fedayi groups that defended Armenian civilians through armed resistance. The Dashnaks also worked for the wider goal of creating a "free, independent and unified" Armenia, although they sometimes set aside this goal in favour of a more realistic approach, such as advocating autonomy.

 

The Ottoman Empire began to collapse, and in 1908, the Young Turk Revolution overthrew the government of Sultan Hamid. In April 1909, the Adana massacre occurred in the Adana Vilayet of the Ottoman Empire resulting in the deaths of as many as 20,000–30,000 Armenians. The Armenians living in the empire hoped that the Committee of Union and Progress would change their second-class status. The Armenian reform package (1914) was presented as a solution by appointing an inspector general over Armenian issues.

World War I and the Armenian Genocide
The outbreak of World War I led to confrontation between the Ottoman Empire and the Russian Empire in the Caucasus and Persian Campaigns. The new government in Istanbul began to look on the Armenians with distrust and suspicion, because the Imperial Russian Army contained a contingent of Armenian volunteers. On 24 April 1915, Armenian intellectuals were arrested by Ottoman authorities and, with the Tehcir Law (29 May 1915), eventually a large proportion of Armenians living in Anatolia perished in what has become known as the Armenian Genocide.

The genocide was implemented in two phases: the wholesale killing of the able-bodied male population through massacre and subjection of army conscripts to forced labour, followed by the deportation of women, children, the elderly and infirm on death marches leading to the Syrian desert. Driven forward by military escorts, the deportees were deprived of food and water and subjected to periodic robbery, rape, and massacre. There was local Armenian resistance in the region, developed against the activities of the Ottoman Empire. The events of 1915 to 1917 are regarded by Armenians and the vast majority of Western historians to have been state-sponsored mass killings, or genocide.

Turkish authorities deny the genocide took place to this day. The Armenian Genocide is acknowledged to have been one of the first modern genocides. According to the research conducted by Arnold J. Toynbee, an estimated 600,000 Armenians died during deportation from 1915–16. This figure, however, accounts for solely the first year of the Genocide and does not take into account those who died or were killed after the report was compiled on 24 May 1916. The International Association of Genocide Scholars places the death toll at "more than a million". The total number of people killed has been most widely estimated at between 1 and 1.5 million.

Armenia and the Armenian diaspora have been campaigning for official recognition of the events as genocide for over 30 years. These events are traditionally commemorated yearly on 24 April, the Armenian Martyr Day, or the Day of the Armenian Genocide.

 

Culture

As Armenia straddles Europe and Asia, East and West, so does Armenian culture. Many Armenians refer to Armenia as a European nation, but their social conservatism in some realms hasn't been seen in Europe proper for a few decades. The collapse of the Soviet Union has opened up many channels with the West again and change is coming rapidly, although much more so in Yerevan than in the rest of the country. Armenia's small, very homogeneous population (about 99% Armenian) is strongly family-oriented. All across the land, people place a lot of pride in their hospitality. Show up in a village without a penny, and food and a place to stay will come to you along with drinks and endless toasts.

Religion
In 301 AD, Armenia became the first country in the world to adopt Christianity as a state religion. One can find thousands of churches and monasteries in Armenia. Armenians are Apostolic Christians and have their own Catholicos (religious leader, like the Pope for Roman Catholics).

Geography
Armenia is a small, mountainous, landlocked country whose geography almost never fails to surprise foreign visitors. Mountain passes, valleys and canyons make Armenia feel much larger than it really is, and when you're on its southern shores, Lake Sevan provides the sight of endless water. In addition to its geographic variation, Armenia's climate varies a great deal as well; be ready for everything from barren lunar landscapes to rain forests to snow-capped peaks and a vast alpine lake. There are some places in Armenia where several of these can be experienced at once.
Get in

Sanahin Monastery in Northern Armenia.
Visas
European Union passport holders and nationals of Schengen Agreement member states can now enter Armenia without a visa and stay for a period of up to 180 days per year. Together with other countries, that means the list of passports that don't need a visa now includes: Argentina, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Georgia, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macau, Malta, Moldova, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Tajikistan, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Uruguay, Uzbekistan. Iranian passport holders don't need a visa to enter and stay 90 days . U.S. passport holders don't need a visa to enter Armenia.

Citizens of most other countries may obtain single-entry tourist visas at any border control point. 21/120 day tourist visas cost 3000/15000 dram. Alternatively, those eligible for a visa on arrival can arrange an e-Visa beforehand. They cost US$40 and are generally approved within two business days. Travelers arriving with an e-Visa can enter Armenia at Ayrum railway station, Bavra, Bagratashen, and Gogavan land borders with the Republic of Georgia, Zvartnots International Airport, and Meghri land border with Iran.

Passport holders of Afghanistan, Algeria, Bangladesh, Cameroon, Côte d'Ivoire, Egypt, Ghana, Iraq, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Nepal, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Syria, Sierra Leone, Tunisia, and Vietnam require an invitation and must apply for a visa at the nearest embassy/consulate before arriving. Holders of Indian passports are eligible to apply for e-visa and/or visa on arrival, however, e-visa is recommended, as per Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Armenia. Chinese passports are now exempt from the invitation requirement, but the e-visa facility is not available to them.

Although border guards at land crossings do accept non-Armenian currencies, they may not give you a good exchange rate, so it is best to have Armenian dram before you arrive at the border. Some travelers have been charged as much as US$20 to purchase a visa. Border guards and customs officials cannot give change for large foreign notes.

Visas bought at the Yerevan airport must be paid for in local currency. There is a change booth and an ATM at the Yerevan airport before immigration control. There is a hefty surcharge of approximately US$10 for changing traveler's cheques, which are not widely used in Armenia.

 

By plane
Zvartnots International Airport (IATA: EVN), 10 km west of Yerevan is the country's main airport.

The national carrier was Armavia (now defunct), and served destinations across the CIS, Europe and the Middle East. Some West Asian airlines (Syrian, Iranian, etc.) also serve the airport.

There are very frequent flights from across the CIS. Russian airlines include: Aeroflot, S7, Ural, Polet, Kuban Airlines, Saravia, Tatarstan, UTAir and Yamal. Others include Belevia (Belarus), Dniproavia (Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine) and SCAT (Kazakhstan).

Several European airlines also serve Yerevan: Czech Airlines, Air France, Austrian, LOT and Atlasglobal from Istanbul Turkey.

Shirak Airport (IATA: LWN) in Gyumri has a few flights from Russia.

By train
There is an overnight train once every other day to Tbilisi, Georgia. The train links with Turkey and Azerbaijan are severed.

By car
It is possible to drive to Armenia via Iran or Georgia. The borders with Turkey and Azerbaijan are closed. Local travel agents can arrange transport to the border; some Georgian agents can arrange transport all the way through to Tbilisi. Although more expensive than a train or bus, a private car may be more comfortable and can be used for some sightseeing along the way.

By bus
Georgia
As of 2014 there is a comfortable Mercedes Vito minibus (marshrutka) service from Tbilisi to Yerevan for about US$17 (30GEL). Marshrutkas leave from the parking lot in front of the railway station (old name: vagzlis moadeni; new name and name of the metro stop: sadguris moedani) at 9am, 11am, 1pm, 3pm and 5pm. Reservations can be made under +995 598 57 12 12 in Russian, Georgian and possibly basic English, too. From this service, it is also possible to get out at Alaverdi (closest major town to Haghpat and Sanahin monasteries).

Marshrutka also leave from "Ortachala" bus station in Tbilisi , at least in the mornings before 11am, 30GEL.

As of Oct 2018, the price was 35 GEL and the minibus departed only in front of the railway station.

Iran
There is a daily modern bus service to Yerevan available from Tehran or Tabriz for about $60/$50; check travel agencies for that. Otherwise, the only Iran/Armenia land border at Norduz/Agarak is very badly served by public transport. On the Armenian side, you can get as far as Meghri by one Marshrutka a day from Yerevan. It leaves from the Sasuntsidavit bus stop that is near/behind the main train station. It leaves when it's full, so be there by 7:30 or 8:00 at the latest. Also be prepared for the marshrutka to be packed with luggage and people. That marshrutka might head down to Agarak after passing Meghri, though it's best to confirm this with the driver. The driver might also be able to set you up with a sleepover option close to the border in Agarak for about 10 € per night. In both directions, the marshrutka leaves quite early in the morning.

Kapan and Kajaran are more frequently served by marshrutkas, but it is a long and mountainous (and therefore expensive) stretch to the border from there. From Meghri, it is around 8 km to the border, and hitching or taking a taxi is the only option if your marshrutka didn't take you all the way to Agarak in the first place. On the Iranian side, the closest public transport can be found around 50 km to the west in Jolfa, so a taxi (around 10-15$) again is the only (commercial) choice. The border is not busy at all, so when hitching, you have to mainly stick with the truck drivers and knowing some Russian, Persian or Azeri/Turkish helps a lot here. Many truck drivers go from Norduz to Tabriz. Consider for yourself whether this is a safe option.

Get around
By day tour
One of the best options for getting to the major tourist sites - some of which have infrequent public transport - are the many day tours advertised throughout Yerevan. Starting at $6, you can choose from a variety of half to full day trips which include a good number of the country’s major attractions. Some of the more remote and exotic destinations such as the Petroglyphs of Ughtasar and many of the caves require special planning.

 

By mini-bus or bus
Public transportation is very good and inexpensive in Armenia, but it can be tough to get to more remote sites outside of populated areas. The system could be described as a hub and spoke system, with each city offering local transportation to its surrounding villages as well as connections to Yerevan. Most inter-city travel is by 14-seat minibuses or buses. Yerevan has several bus interchange stations that serve the whole country, so you should find out which bus interchange station services the area of your destination. Note that unlike many countries in Eastern Europe, Armenian minibuses do not sell tickets beforehand and, in fact, do not issue tickets at all. You simply pay the driver at any point during the trip (though some will collect at the beginning). Exact change is never required, but a 20,000 note for a 1,000 dram ride might present a problem. Tips are unheard of on public transportation.

By taxi or car
The average Western tourist can hire a taxi to go almost anywhere in the country on very short notice. If you are traveling with a lot of big or heavy bags, then going by taxi is the best option. Prices are about 100 drams (33 US cents) per km. Most taxis do not have meters, though, so you should negotiate a price before you leave. A taxi is a good option for longer trips, especially if you don't like waiting for hours for a minibus. Tip. Before arriving have "GG" taxi or "Yandex" taxi on your phone. They are cheap, fast and reliable.

If you are used to driving in the West and have not driven outside of America or Western or Central Europe, you should hire a driver when you rent your car, as driving in Armenia is often a difficult undertaking for the average tourist. A growing number of car rental companies may be used, including SIXT (office at Zvartnots airport), Europacar, Hertz, and Naniko.

Most main roads around Yerevan are in decent to fair shape, with some being in unusually good condition. When you travel north (Dilidjan) or south (Jermuk), roads are less well-maintained and rather bumpy, and you can feel this especially when using public transport! (Minibuses are often in bad condition, too.) Potholes are very much a part of the experience and can test your driving skills. Be careful and consider getting an all-wheel drive or sport utility vehicle when renting.

By thumb
Not as common as in the days of the post-Soviet collapse, hitchhiking is still perfectly safe and acceptable. Drivers often don't expect anything in the way of compensation, but offer anyway and sometimes they'll take the marshutni fare. Flag cars down by holding your arm in front of you and patting the air; this is how taxis, buses and marshutnis are flagged. Don't be too surprised if you befriend a driver during your ride and eventually end up staying at his house for a few days with his family!

By bicycle
Due to the mountainous terrain, bicycling is not as common a mode of transport in Armenia as it is in the rest of Europe. It can be a great way to see and experience much of the countryside, though, if you can handle the inclines.

Recommended Reading: "Tour De Armenia", a cycling travel book

By train
Trains in Armenia are Soviet-style and a little slow as a means of moving around the country. Trains can be taken up to Gyumri and from there on to Alaverdi and Georgia, or they can be taken up to Lake Sevan all the way to the far side.

By plane
Domestic flights are not an option as there are only two working airports and no internal flights in this small country. Intermittent service to Karabakh has been available in the past and scheduled flights from Yerevan to Stepanakert may start up again - if passengers can be assured that Azerbaijan will not shoot them down.

By tour operator
Aside from the plentiful day tours, you can take a package tour of Armenia.