Armenia

Nestled in the north of the West Asian region, Armenia stands as a captivating and independent state, beckoning travelers with its wealth of natural wonders, historic landmarks, and unique cultural traditions. Although it lacks a coastline, Armenia surprises visitors with its scenic beaches and towering mountains. The country is a mosaic of diverse people, each marked by openness, friendliness, and a strong sense of independence. Welcome to Armenia, where a world of exploration awaits!

Armenia on the Map

Armenia on the map

Geographical Overview of Armenia

Armenia, the only landlocked country in Transcaucasia, shares borders with Turkey, Iran, Azerbaijan, and Georgia, spanning a total of 1570 kilometers. The landscape is predominantly mountainous, with the Lesser Caucasus to the north and east, and the Armenian Plateau dominating the remainder. Nearly half of the country lies at altitudes exceeding 2000 meters. Mount Aragats, standing at 4090 meters, crowns the Armenian landscape, while the Araks valley marks the lowest point at 380 meters above sea level.

Waterways and Lakes

The Arax River, the principal and largest watercourse in Armenia, forms borders with Iran and Turkey. It extends 158 kilometers within the country, and its major tributary, the Akhuryan, stretches for 186 kilometers. Lake Sevan, the largest lake in the Caucasus region, graces Armenia with its presence, covering an area of 1240 square kilometers and boasting an average depth of 27 meters.

Rich Biodiversity

Armenia’s diverse ecosystems are categorized into five natural zones: steppe, forest, semidesert, subalpine, and alpine. Approximately 80% of the country is blanketed in lush forests, creating a picturesque landscape. Alpine meadows burst into bloom, showcasing some of the most exquisite flowers. The fauna is equally rich, featuring deer, mountain sheep, goats, bears, and the endangered Asiatic leopard.

In Armenia, nature’s bounty seamlessly intertwines with a rich cultural tapestry, offering travelers an immersive experience that transcends geographical boundaries. As you embark on your journey, be prepared to discover the wonders that make Armenia a truly exceptional destination.

Safety for Tourists

Armenia, nestled between Turkmenistan and the U.S. in the global peace index, reflects a nation grappling with recent historical events. Despite its position at 120th place, the country offers a paradoxical blend of safety and tension, shaped by a low crime rate and the ongoing conflict with Azerbaijan.

Crime and Security:

Armenia boasts one of the lowest crime rates globally, providing a secure environment for tourists. In cities like Yerevan, nighttime strolls, cab rides, and even hitchhiking are generally safe. The warmth and hospitality of Armenians towards foreign tourists contribute to a welcoming atmosphere. However, the lingering tension from the conflict with Azerbaijan can lead to occasional protests, and visiting bordering territories is not advisable.

Transportation and Traffic:

Armenia maintains a calm traffic environment where rules are observed, and pedestrians are given the right of way. Video surveillance enhances safety on the roads. Despite these measures, some locals exhibit daring driving habits, making it important for tourists to remain vigilant.

Health and Hygiene:

Sanitary and hygienic conditions in Armenia are commendable. Tap water is safe to drink, and the country is relatively free from dangerous diseases. Government monitoring ensures high standards for street food, offering tourists a taste of local cuisine with confidence.

Climate and Wildlife:

Armenia’s climate is generally mild, with no extreme heat. The absence of dangerous animals in forests provides a secure environment for outdoor enthusiasts. While the country’s landscapes are rich, visitors can explore nature without major safety concerns.

In conclusion, adhering to basic safety measures and personal hygiene allows tourists to thoroughly enjoy Armenia, gaining positive experiences amidst the country’s unique blend of hospitality, history, and natural beauty. Awareness of the geopolitical context, combined with an appreciation for local customs, can contribute to a safe and enriching travel experience in this captivating nation.

Celebrations and Holidays in Armenia

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Armenia, a nation known for its cheerful and humorous people, thrives on a rich tapestry of celebrations, embracing both secular and religious festivities. At the state level, Armenians observe 11 holidays, each contributing to the vibrant cultural fabric of the country.

Secular Celebrations:

1. Independence Day: Commemorating the nation’s freedom, Independence Day is a significant secular celebration marked by patriotic fervor and community events.

2. Constitution Day: Recognizing the legal foundation of the country, Constitution Day is an occasion for reflection on the principles guiding the Armenian state.

3. Army Day: Honoring the dedication and sacrifices of the armed forces, Army Day is a testament to the country’s commitment to its defense.

4. New Year’s Day: Like many nations, Armenians usher in the new year with festivities, joy, and cultural traditions.

5. Women’s Day (March 8): Celebrating women’s contributions and achievements, this day is marked by expressions of love and appreciation.

Religious Celebrations:

1. Christmas: As the only officially recognized religious holiday, Christmas holds a special place in Armenian celebrations, marked by religious services and family gatherings.

2. St. Sarkis Day: Celebrated as the day of St. Sarkis, the patron saint of lovers, this occasion is embraced with expressions of love and devotion.

3. Vardavar (Transfiguration of the Lord): A unique water festival, Vardavar involves playful water fights and symbolizes the purification of the soul.

4. Surb Zatik (Easter): This significant religious celebration is marked by special church services, festive meals, and the exchange of colored eggs.

National Identity Day – Navasard (August 11):

August 11 holds a special place in the hearts of Armenians as National Identity Day – Navasard. According to legend, it marks the founding of the Armenian state in 2492 BC, adding a deep historical and cultural dimension to the country’s festivities.

Fun Activities in Armenia

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Armenia, a country with a growing tourism industry, offers a myriad of activities catering to various interests. With 2.3 million visitors in 2023, Armenia captivates tourists with its stunning landscapes, historical monuments, and unique cultural traditions. Here are the top 10 exciting activities to indulge in while exploring Armenia:

1. Beach Vacation: Although Armenia lacks a traditional coastline, Lake Sevan, nestled in the mountains, offers picturesque beach spots for sunbathing and swimming.

2. Fishing: Lake Sevan is a haven for fishing enthusiasts, featuring the renowned Sevan trout. Fishing tours from Yerevan during the season, which runs from April to October, start at $200 per day.

3. Rafting: Armenia’s abundant mountain rivers make it an appealing destination for rafting. Various routes cater to different skill levels, with beginner trips, like the one on the Debed River, costing around $170 for two people.

4. Paragliding: The mountainous terrain provides breathtaking views for paragliders. Popular sites include Khatis Mountain, Lake Sevan vicinity, and hills near Vedi town, with a 20-minute flight costing around $130.

5. Equestrian Tourism: Discover Armenia’s beauty on horseback with tours ranging from a day trip to week-long adventures. A 6-day horseback tour, including visits to monasteries, costs approximately $700.

6. Bicycle Tourism: Explore mountain roads on bicycle tours, varying in duration and difficulty. A one-day trip from Yerevan to Dilijan costs around $50, while a three-day route around Lake Sevan is priced at $200.

7. Trekking: Hiking enthusiasts can embark on various trails, such as the 8-kilometer trek from Amberd fortress to Antarut village. Armenia offers both easy day hikes and challenging routes for seasoned trekkers.

8. Zipline: Enjoy a thrilling zipline experience, with locations like Yenokavan offering breathtaking descents. The cost for a zipline adventure typically starts from $30.

9. Alpine Skiing: Tsaghkadzor, Armenia’s popular ski resort, situated at an altitude of 2000 meters, offers a winter wonderland for skiing enthusiasts. A 7-day stay with accommodation in a three-star hotel costs around $270.

10. Explore Historical Monuments: Immerse yourself in Armenia’s rich history by visiting iconic monuments like the Zvartnots temple ruins, Garni temple, Geghard monastery, and more.

What is important to know about Armenia

If you are planning to visit this state, here are some of the most important things to know:

Language

The official language in the country is Armenian. It is the native language for the majority of the population.

However, a significant part of the population speaks English and Russian to some extent. Kurdish, as the language of the national minority, is also used.

Population

Currently, the country is home to just over 3.1 million people, more than 63% of whom live in urban areas.

In terms of national composition Armenia is a mono-ethnic state, as more than 98% of the population are Armenians. The second place is occupied by Yezidis (Kurds), with a little more than 1% of them in the country.

  • More interesting facts about Armenians, their character and local color can be found in this article.

Currency

The national currency is the Armenian Dram, which is divided into 100 lumens, although the latter are practically not used in circulation.

Currently, there are 50, 100, 500, 1000, 2000, 5000, 10000, 20000, 50000 and 100000 dram banknotes in circulation. As well as coins of 1, 3, 5, 10, 50, 100, 200 and 500 drams.

It is better for tourists to have cash dollars and euros. Payments in the country are made only in local currency, and international plastic cards are accepted in major cities and stores. Only drams can be withdrawn from the card.

You can exchange cash dollars and euros for drams in exchange stores (the most favorable rate is there), banks, at the airport and in hotels.

The approximate exchange rate is 1 dollar for 405 drams.

Religion

Armenia is a secular state, but most of the population professes Christianity and belongs to the Armenian Apostolic Church. The number of those practicing Catholicism or Islam is very small.

Climate

The territory of the country lies in the zone of continental and temperate climates, rather dry, with warm summers and cool winters. The climate of the country is greatly influenced by the mountains and altitudinal belt. The higher into the mountains – the cooler it gets. On the tops of the highest mountains there is snow all year round.

In summer, hot and dry air masses from the Arabian Peninsula invade Armenia. They bring hot weather with almost no precipitation. The average temperature can reach +24 degrees Celsius.

In winter, Armenia is more humid and the temperature often drops below 0 degrees Celsius.

The amount of precipitation in Armenia is not great. For most of the country it is limited to 500-700 millimeters per year. Most precipitation falls in spring.

The best time to travel to the country depends on the purpose. If you’re going skiing, it’s winter. If you’re going rock climbing and hiking, it’s July through September. If you’re going for culture and sightseeing, it’s September-October.

Water temperature in Lake Sevan

The average water temperature in Lake Sevan, the largest basin in the region, undergoes annual fluctuations and generally remains too cold for swimming for a significant portion of the year. This is unsurprising given the lake’s location at an altitude of nearly 2 thousand meters above sea level. August stands out as the only month when the water temperature reaches a relatively more comfortable +20 degrees.

Here’s a breakdown of the water temperature across seasons:

  • Winter Months (December-January): Ranging from +2 to +8 degrees Celsius.
  • Spring Months (March-May): Varied between +3 to +10 degrees Celsius.
  • Summer Months (June-July): Fluctuating between +15 to +20 degrees Celsius.
  • Autumn Months (September-November): Starting from +17 degrees in early fall and gradually decreasing to +11 degrees in autumn.

While the lake may not offer warm swimming conditions for most of the year, its breathtaking surroundings and various recreational activities make it a captivating destination, especially during the milder summer months.

Natural Disasters

Situated in the dynamic and youthful mountain system of the Caucasus, Armenia faces specific challenges related to natural disasters that impact safety in the country. Notably, seismic activity and mudflows are among the primary concerns:

Earthquakes: Armenia experiences frequent seismic activity, with four faults traversing its territory. The intersections of these faults serve as epicenters for earthquakes.
While hundreds of minor earthquakes occur annually, they are typically imperceptible. However, significant earthquakes are infrequent, with the devastating Spitak earthquake in December 1988 being the most recent. It measured 6.9 in magnitude, resulting in 25 thousand casualties.

Mudflows: Occurring primarily after heavy summer rains, mudflows pose a recurring threat. July witnesses the highest frequency, averaging around 10 powerful mudflows annually.

Rockfalls: Rockfalls are common, occasionally obstructing roads but typically without causing casualties.

Floods: Floods are rare due to the limited precipitation in the region. In 2017, heavy rain led to flooding in some streets and underpasses in Yerevan, the capital.

Forest and Grass Fires: Armenia faces the risk of fires, attributed to high forest cover and hot summers. Although these fires are generally small in scale, they are typically brought under control within 2-3 days.

While Armenia grapples with these natural challenges, the country has mechanisms in place to respond and mitigate the impact of disasters. Understanding the nature of these occurrences aids in better preparedness and resilience against potential threats.

  • For further insights, you can explore historical accounts of the most devastating disasters in Armenia in the provided article.

Political System

Armenia operates as a presidential republic, where the president serves as the head of the executive branch and is elected for a term of 7 years. The president holds the authority to appoint the prime minister.

The legislative power is vested in a unicameral parliament known as the National Assembly.

Administratively, Armenia is organized into 10 regions and 1 city of republican subordination.

The capital city of the country is Yerevan.

The Largest Cities and Resorts

Yerevan, founded in 782 BC, stands as the largest and most populous city in Armenia, predating even Rome. With a current population of just over 1 million people, Yerevan attracts tourists with its vibrant atmosphere, numerous museums, historical monuments, recreational parks, and modern hotels. The city boasts a rich nightlife, with local jazz bands earning particular renown.

Gyumri, the second-largest city in the country, is home to 110 thousand people. Tourists are drawn to Gyumri for its array of historical monuments, including Sanahin, Matosavank, Marmashen, and other monasteries.

Dilijan, with a population of 17 thousand people, is a sought-after balneological and mountain-climatic resort. Surrounded by a picturesque national park, the city is also near the renowned Agartsin Monastery.

Yenokavan, a small village situated 140 kilometers from Yerevan, is known for its entertaining park featuring the best zip line in Armenia. Additionally, the village boasts an ancient church and fortress, adding to its appeal.

Symbols of Armenia

Ararat stands as the ancient symbol of Armenia, representing the mountain where, according to biblical legend, Noah’s ark came to rest. Presently, Ararat is situated within the borders of Turkey.

Armenian cognac, renowned globally, holds a significant place as the country’s most famous alcoholic beverage. Notably, Sir Winston Churchill was a devoted admirer of Armenian cognac.

The Duduk, an Armenian flute, holds distinction as one of the world’s oldest musical instruments.

Arevakhach, a symbol of eternity, is prominently featured on numerous historical monuments and has become an enduring emblem of national identity.

How to Reach Armenia

For European or American tourists, the primary mode of reaching Armenia is by air travel. Only international flights connect Armenia to destinations outside the region. Residents of neighboring countries, on the other hand, have the option of convenient intercity bus services, and there is also a functioning railroad connection with Georgia.

Armenia hosts two international airports. The main hub is Zvartnots Airport in the capital, Yerevan, which handles over 3.5 million passengers annually. This airport facilitates regular flights from major European capitals, as well as from Israel, the Emirates, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, and several other Asian countries. Another international airport is Shirak Airport, situated near the city of Gyumri.

Cost of Vacation in Armenia

The cost of a vacation in Armenia can vary depending on the travel style, whether you choose to plan independently or use the services of a travel company with guides. Being situated on the border between Asia and Europe, Armenia offers relatively inexpensive flight options for tourists from the EU. For instance, a round-trip ticket from Paris to Yerevan can start from as low as 150 euros.

Budget-friendly tours to Armenia typically range from 800 to 1200 dollars for a 7-day package, excluding the cost of the flight. Within the country, tourists can expect the following expenses:

  • Food: Prices for meals are generally lower than in Europe. An inexpensive restaurant lunch for two costs around 40-50 dollars (excluding alcohol), while fast food snacks range from 5-8 dollars. A cup of cappuccino is priced at 2-3 dollars, and a cheeseburger at 2 dollars.
  • Accommodation: A double room in a three-star hotel averages around 30 dollars, with hostel options available for as low as 11 dollars. Five-star hotels with more amenities start at around 60 dollars.
  • Sightseeing: Many historical sites and monasteries have free admission, but museums and amusement parks may charge entrance fees. Guided excursions vary in price, ranging from 50 to 700 dollars.
  • Souvenirs: Popular souvenirs include board games, ceramics, wood and leather goods with national designs, and local food products such as brandy, jams, and sauces. Souvenir costs are individual and can vary.
  • Transportation: Public transportation, including buses and shuttles, is available for city travel. Cab services are accessible through popular aggregators, with bus tickets costing around 25 cents. Cab fares start at 1.5 dollars, with an average additional charge of 0.3-0.4 dollars per kilometer. Yerevan also has a subway, with a ticket priced at approximately 20 cents.

Considering unforeseen expenses, a vacation for two people in Armenia for 7 days, including flights, may range from 1000 to 2000 dollars. Keep in mind that the total cost can vary based on individual preferences and choices.

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If you’ve visited Armenia, we invite you to share your impressions in the comments. Share what you enjoyed the most, memorable moments, and any recommendations for other travelers. Your insights are highly appreciated!

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