Although Armenia is a discreet tourist destination, this jewel on the border of Asia and Europe attracts the attention of the traveling public. The diversity of its landscapes, spectacular mountains and centuries-old religious traditions are sufficient reasons to visit this country.
If you want to know what are the most impressive natural and cultural sights in Armenia, read on. Here is our list of 10 fantastic places to see in Armenia.
Many travelers arrive or leave Armenia from the capital Yerevan, but the city is more than just a jumping point for other attractive sights. In the heart is the Republic Square, the most important civic space in Yerevan. From a bench, you can appreciate the architecture of the early 20th century, built with orange tufted stone. One of the exotic-looking buildings houses the History Museum and the National Gallery of Armenia. Both will provide an adequate introduction to Armenia. Learn more about the country and its history at the Armenian Genocide Museum, with great exhibitions on these tragic events in the early 20th century. Yerevan Cascade is the perfect vantage point to watch the sunset over the city and the majestic Mount Ararat.
2. Khor Virap
Of all the ancient monasteries in Armenia, Khor Virap has the most breathtaking scenery. This sacred site is at the western end of Armenia and offers splendid views of Mount Ararat (approx. 5137 meters) and the valley. The complex dates back to 180 BC, but it became a cloister when Armenia accepted Christianity as a state religion in the year 301. There is much to explore in the monastery itself; the beautiful main chapel, monks' chambers and even a dungeon from the time before Khor Virap became a monastery. You can take a taxi or service bus directly from the center of Yerevan to Khor Virap. This journey takes about an hour.
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3. Mount Aragats
Mount Aragats is truly an iconic mountain in Armenia. At 4090 meters, it is the highest peak in the country and a dream destination for hiking lovers. Mount Aragats has 4 rugged peaks and all can be reached on foot, although this requires experience in hiking and decent shoes. The views of Armenia's snow fields and dry plains are more than impressive.
On the way from Yerevan to the mountain, it is recommended to take a break at Amberd Fortress. Although the original castle was built in the 7th century, the current ruins were built in the 13th century, after devastating invasions. The ruins of this ancient fortress, the 11th century church and the deep canyon to the west are grouped together in a remarkable scene.
Dilijan makes you feel like you've been catapulted back to the Soviet era; charming Lada Cars can be seen everywhere, as well as traditional workshops in wooden houses. This, combined with the mountainous landscapes and forests, makes this city an attractive haven in Armenia.
Head to Lake Parz for a relaxed walk, surrounded by greenery. Especially during the fall, when the leaves are glowing red and orange, this is a great place to stretch your legs. Watch master craftsmen working in their studios along Myasnikyan Street. Here they work on jewelry, wooden toys and paintings.
When traveling for 30 minutes outside the city, you will find the beautiful Haghartsin Monastery, a medieval complex surrounded by abundant pine forests.
5. Lake Sevan
Lake Sevan is the largest lake in Armenia and even in the entire Caucasus region. With its 1242 square kilometers, it represents approximately 4% of the country's total size. One of the highlights of Lake Sevan is the Sevanavank Monastery, which is on the northwest coast of this massive basin. This complex dates back to the 800s and is located in a picturesque location, overlooking the lake and huge snowy peaks in the background.
When visiting, you can rent a boat to explore Lake Sevan or go out on one of the many beaches. For those after a hike, consider climbing Mount Artanish. Up here, you can enjoy the best views possible.
6. Geghard Monastery
With a history of more than 1600 years and a UNESCO World Heritage listed for cultural importance, the Geghard Monastery is one of the most important monuments in Armenia. The Geghard Monastery is located in a deep gorge, surrounded by high cliffs. A part of the monastery is cut from the rocks and includes tombs, ancient sculptures, art and religious symbols.
Inside the main chapel, the sacred atmosphere is palpable; footsteps are all you can hear, and the only light is the daylight in the windows and candles lit by visitors. The Geghard complex has many khachkars, the Armenian cross stones carved with the Christian cross and a representation of other typical religious and Armenian symbols.
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7. Garni Temple
Another excellent example of Armenian ancient architecture and cultural display is the Garni Temple which is located 30 kilometers east of Yerevan. It is estimated that this ancient pagan temple was created in the 2nd century BC. Its Greco-Roman style makes the Garni Temple unique in Armenia and undoubtedly reminds travelers of the Greek Acropolis.
In addition to its unique status and brilliant design, Garni is also worth visiting for nature. The pagan pagoda has surroundings consisting of hills and streams that flow through the valley. Although you have a sense of the landscapes of the temple itself, it is gratifying to follow the trail and get closer to the stone walls where the Garni Temple rests.
In terms of scenery, the ancient cave village of Khndzoresk belongs to the most incredible in the country. This settlement, almost glued to the border with Azerbaijan, is built on a mountainside and consists of natural and artificial caves. Contrary to its almost prehistoric appearance, Khndzoresk was inhabited until the 1950s. You can explore the caves and, if you dare, cross the suspension bridge over the gorge in which Khndzoresk is built. The building measures 160 meters and features daredevils with stunning views of the canyon and the cave.
9. Etchmiadzin Cathedral
Etchmiadzin Cathedral is 20 km from the heart of Yerevan, in the city of Vagharshapat. The cathedral is the mother church of the Armenian Apostolic Church and is recognized as the oldest cathedral in the world. The construction was completed in 303, just two years after Armenia accepted Christianity as a state religion.
The interior is fascinating, with frescoes on the walls and vaulted ceilings, as well as impressive altars. A public bus service connects Yerevan and Vagharshapat, making it easy to attempt a short trip to the church. You can enter Etchmiadzin for free.
10. Noravank Gorge
The Noravank gorge perfectly sums up the natural and cultural treasures that Armenia possesses. The orange rock formations, flora and rare animals, such as the Persian leopard, give this canyon an unparalleled appeal. In the gorge, you will also find the charming Noravank Monastery. With red-yellow cliffs in the background, this 12th century abbey even rivals Khor Virap when it comes to beautiful scenery.
If you are interested in culture and want to spend a good part of your trip in stunning nature, Armenia is an excellent option. Armenia has a long and intriguing history, incredibly beautiful monasteries and numerous trails to feed your outdoor desires.
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