- For other places with the same name, see Armenia (disambiguation).
Armenia (Armenian: Հայաստան Hayastan) is a landlocked country in the Caucasus. Once the center of an empire, this former Soviet republic straddles the line between Europe and Asia. Armenia has a rich, ancient history, and it is most famously known for being the first country in the world to adopt Christianity as an official religion.
|Central Armenia |
The political center of Armenia contains much of the country's museums and cultural venues in Yerevan, the religious center of Echmiadzin, the 4100-m-high volcano Aragats and the Monasteries of Geghard and Khor Virap. Much of this region consists of the flat and dry Ararat valley, though the hidden beauty of Khosrov Preserve is rarely visited.
|Lake Sevan Region |
This region is centered on the beautiful, 2,000-meter-high Lake Sevan, which is surrounded by ancient monuments, churches, monasteries, and popular beaches. Highlights include the largest khachkar cemetery in the world, the beaches near Sevanavank Monastery, and the countless fish and crayfish restaurants along the shores. Windsurfing has been reintroduced to the list of recreational activities.
|Northern Armenia |
Bordering Georgia to the north, this mountainous region includes numerous, wonderfully beautiful, and isolated churches and monasteries. The Debed River Canyon contains many of these, and the remote Shamshadin region is a glimpse of a virtually unvisited and beautiful Armenia.
|Southern Armenia |
A particularly beautiful section of Armenia stretching south to the Iranian border with interesting caves and more remote, beautiful Christian monuments. Highlights include Tatev Monastery, Noravank Monastery, Mozrov Cave, Selim Caravanserai and the thousands of petroglyphs atop Ughtasar Mountain.
A de facto independent republic that had been part of Azerbaijan before the Karabakh War. The ethnic Armenian population has close links with Armenia and the region is only accessible via Armenia. Visitors are attracted to the rolling green hills, high mountains, hiking trails and excellent monasteries. Its capital, Stepanakert, is home to approximately 50,000 of the region's 150,000 residents.
- 1 Yerevan — the capital, and by far the largest city
- 2 Alaverdi — home of UNESCO World Heritage Site Sanahin Monastery and nearby Haghpat Monastery, in the stunning Debed Canyon
- 3 Dilijan — popular forest resort known as the "Little Switzerland" of Armenia.
- 4 Echmiadzin — the spiritual capital of Armenia, home to the Armenian Catholicos, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site
- 5 Goris — picturesque town near old cave cities, abandoned cliff villages, and the famous Tatev Monastery, on the tentative list of UNESCO World Heritage Site
- 6 Gyumri — Armenia's 2nd largest city which once dwarfed Yerevan. Small old town area still shows earthquake damage from 1988, but is undergoing a rapid revival.
- 7 Jermuk — famous for its mineral waters, which come out at very high temperature and can be enjoyed at the spas. Ski lifts are under construction.
- 8 Tsaghkadzor — Armenia's ski destination.
- 9 Vanadzor — Armenia's 3rd largest city with large Soviet square.
|Currency||Armenian dram (AMD)|
|Population||2.9 million (2017)|
|Electricity||220 volt / 50 hertz (Europlug, Schuko)|
|Time zone||UTC+04:00, Armenia Time, Asia/Yerevan|
|Emergencies||112, 101 (fire department), 102 (police), 103 (emergency medical services)|
|edit on Wikidata|
Armenia has been around for at least 3,000 years. Armenians have historically inhabited the "Armenian Highlands", a vast section of mountains and valleys across eastern Anatolia and the Southern Caucasus. It is here that the biblical mountains of Ararat (and today's eponymous cognac brand) can be found. Armenia became the world's first Christian country in 301 AD.
Various vassal states, principalities, kingdoms and empires rose and fell in different parts of this highland during history. They were unified once, just before the time of Christ, in the empire of Tigran the Great (95-55 BC), which stretched from the Caspian to the Mediterranean Sea.
Much of the region's history has since been spent under the dominion of whichever great power was à la mode at the time: Romans, Byzantines, Ottomans, Persians, Russians and Soviets have all come and gone. These empires often fought their wars on Armenian territory, using Armenian soldiers. Despite rarely being politically independent, Armenians have consistently kept their language and their church. Its location on the silk road allowed Armenia to forge a link in the great network of merchant communities that extended from eastern Asia to Venice.
The modern independent state of Armenia only comprises of about half of the traditional Armenian lands, which was historically known as Eastern Armenia, while the historical Western Armenia, in which Mount Ararat, the holiest site in the world for Armenians, is located, is today part of Turkey. Western Armenia was largely ethnically cleansed of its Armenian population during the Armenian Genocide.
Russians and Ottomans dominated Armenia's modern history. Ottoman control was established early, upon the fall of the Byzantine empire in the fifteenth century. Russia's presence was established later, in the 1820s, after a series of wars with the Persians.
Islamic Ottoman rule was, for much of the time, largely benign. The Armenians' religious autonomy was bought through their higher taxation. However, relations soured in the late nineteenth century which saw various massacres of Armenians. This culminated in the Ottomans' reputation being thoroughly ruined during the Armenian Genocide of 1915–1923.
Nowadays, Armenia has strong backing from Russia, especially due to its vulnerability and conflict towards Turkey. While Georgia has been pro-western Europe since Sarkashwili or even before, Armenia remains locked in its dependency on Russia. This has visible consequences in Armenia's infrastructure, political system and society, as an educated traveller will notice quite soon.
During the First World War, the Ottomans fought the Russians. The Christian Armenians on the Ottomans' Russian border were considered liable to side with Russia and so they were treated as an enemy. The Ottomans attempted to kill or deport the entire Armenian population. Even the Ottomans' defeat in 1918 did not stop the persecution, which continued until 1923 and led to the deaths of 600,000 – 1.5 million people.
The genocide led to the huge Armenian diaspora community that exists all over the world today and the ongoing diplomatic hostility between Turkey and Armenia, since Turkey continues to deny it was a genocide, and resents Armenia for bringing up the topic internationally.
As was the case in other Soviet republics, Armenia saw great industrial growth and widespread increases in education. Yerevan mushroomed from a dusty garrison town of 20,000 to a metropolis of 1 million and the Soviet culture machine, within strict limits, churned out heavily subsidized cultural education and activities.
As the Soviet Union fell apart in the early 1990s, the Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh, a culturally Armenian region in Azerbaijan, fought for independence from Azerbaijan with support from Armenia, and the Armenian diaspora. The war was won militarily, but no diplomatic solution was reached. The ceasefire line of 1994 now represents a de facto national boundary and Nagorno-Karabakh is in an odd circumstance of unrecognized statehood. While the fighting on the ground stopped, with only minor exceptions, diplomatic tensions still run high. The Armenian/Karabakh borders with Azerbaijan are closed, and anti-Armenian sentiment in Azerbaijan is so high that entry is prohibited not only to Armenian citizens, but also to all ethnic Armenians regardless of country of birth or citizenship. Turkey has also closed its land border with Armenia in support of its Azeri-Turk kinsmen.
A small and mountainous, landlocked country, Armenia almost never fails to surprise visitors. The mountain passes, valleys and canyons make it feel much larger, and Lake Sevan provides a welcome sight, with endless water visible from its southern shores. Given the geographic variation, there is also much variety of climate — there are barren lunar landscapes, forests, snow-capped peaks and alpine lakes.
Five percent of the country's surface area consists of Lake Sevan (Sevana Lich), the largest lake in the Lesser Caucasus mountain range.
Given its proud claim to being the world's first officially Christian country, there are countless monasteries and churches, which are set in some places of incredible natural beauty. The monasteries at Tatev, Noravank, Haghartsin, Haghpat and Geghard are well worth a visit just for the landscape even without the impressive, millennium-old monasteries found there.
Armenia is at the fascinating crossroads of Europe and Asia and its culture draws from both. While most Armenians consider themselves European, their social conservatism in some realms sets them apart from western Europeans. The new world faced by Armenians after the fall of the Soviet Union has seen great social changes especially in the capital, Yerevan. The small and very homogeneous (about 99% Armenian) population is strongly family oriented. The people across the land are very hospitable, and place a lot of pride in their hospitality. Show up in a village without a penny, and food and a place to stay will flow - along with drinks and endless toasts.
Politically, Armenia has aligned itself with Russia and against its Turkish and Azeri neighbours.
Armenia also has lots of road signs in English, and there are a fair number of English-speaking Armenians in general, and you get the distinct feeling that tourists are welcome. Police does not appear to be too crooked, at least not in Yerevan, and in general the country appears to be both reasonably safe and well-organised.
The predominant religion in the world's first Christian nation is not hard to guess: 97% of Armenia's population belongs to the Armenian Apostolic Church, an Oriental Orthodox Church.
- Michael Arlen, Passage to Ararat, an autobiographical account of an American-Armenian's first visit to Soviet Armenia.
- Vasily Grossman, An Armenian Sketchbook, a Soviet journalist, novelist and dissident, on his visits to Armenia.
Citizens from the following locations can travel to Armenia visa free for 180 days (90 days for Iran and Macau): Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Belarus, Brazil, European Union, Georgia, Iceland, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Liechtenstein, Macau, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, Nagorno-Karabakh, Norway, Russia, San Marino, Switzerland, Tajikistan, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Vatican City.
Visa on arrival
For all others (except a handful of mainly African countries; see below), 21-day tourist visas are available upon arrival at Yerevan airport and at the land crossings at the price of 3,000 dram for 21 days and 15,000 (Armenian) dram for 120 days.
At Yerevan airport, there is currency exchange and an ATM located before customs and immigration. There is a hefty surcharge of approximately US$10 for changing traveler checks, which in general are not widely used in Armenia.
At the land crossings, border guards will happily take other currencies but only at lousy rates. Try to have Armenian dram before arriving at the border. Some travellers have been charged as much as US$20 (the approximate equivalent of three times the official price), but as of August 2015 you will be charged US$10 for a 21-day visa at the Bagratashen-Sadakhlo border crossing. Border guards and customs officers will not be able to change a US$100 note—so, do not even try.
Visa in advance
A slightly more expensive option (officially at least) is the e-Visa (US$10 for 21 days; US$40 for 120 days). These e-Visas are processed completely online and take up to two business days to be issued. They allow entry into Armenia through Yerevan Airport and the following land border crossings: from Georgia, Ayrum railway station, Bavra, Bagratashen and Gogavan; and from Iran at Meghri.
A 21-day visa obtained in advance from an embassy (not online) costs US$8.
Some West Asian airlines (Syrian, Iranian, etc.) serve the airport.
There are very frequent flights from across the Commonwealth of Independent States. Russian airlines include: Aeroflot, S7, Ural, Polet, Tatarstan, UTAir and Yamal. Others include Belavia (Belarus), Dniproavia (Dnipro, Ukraine) and SCAT (Kazakhstan).
Several European airlines also serve Yerevan: Czech Airlines, Air France, Austrian, LOT.
In summer the overnight train #202 runs daily from Batumi, Georgia via Tbilisi to Yerevan, leaving Batumi at 15:35 (Tbilisi at 22:16) and arriving at 07:25 the next morning.
See the official timetable for details—passenger traffic on the left.
It is possible to drive to Armenia via Iran or Georgia. 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 a bus, a private car may be more comfortable and combined with sightseeing along the way.
It is impossible to enter via Turkey and Azerbaijan; the borders with those two countries are closed.
Coming from Georgia, there are warnings, e.g. from the German Federal Foreign Office, not to use the eastern route (via Noyemberyan) that passes by the Armenia-Azerbaijan border only a few dozen metres, due to the ongoing conflict and the minor clashes between Armenia and Azerbaijan army that happen from time to time in this region. However, the route via Alaverdi is said to be maintained badly. An option might be via Tashir. More convenient, if you travel Georgia before, can be to continue into Armenia after visiting the supposedly dead end region of Samtskhe-Javakheti including Borjomi, Bakuriani and Vardzia.
There are marshrutkas from Tbilisi to the border for about 17 lari to Yerevan. From Tbilisi to Yerevan they take this same route and cost about 35 lari. It is also possible to get out at Alaverdi (closest major town to Haghpat and Sanahin monasteries).
Also, several marshrutkas leave daily from Akhalkalaki into Armenia (Gyumri). Akhalkalaki is conveniently located when visiting Samtskhe-Javakheti including Borjomi, Bakuriani and Vardzia. Marshrutkas pass through Ninotsminda, so it is possible to jump on there. The associated border crossing near Bavra is quick, though the condition of the roads on the Georgian side is appalling. However, minor restoration is taking place (May 2019).
Otherwise, the only Iran/Armenia land border at Nuduz/Agarak is very badly served by public transport. On the Armenian side, you can get as far as Meghri by one Marschrutka a day from Yerevan. In both directions, 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. On the Iranian side, the closest public transport can be found around 50 km to the west in Jolfa, so a taxi (around US$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 Russian or Farsi helps a lot here. Consider for yourself whether this is a safe option.
If you are coming from Nagorno-Karabakh, you will have been in Armenia before, since this is how you entered this region in the first place, via road. Any other entrance into Nagorno-Karabakh, e.g. via Azerbaijan, is very dangerous and can be life-threatening.
There are no checkpoints administrated by Armenia when re-entering (or leaving) Armenia neither via the northern nor via the southern route. There are only checkpoints administrated by Nagorno-Karabakh police. Everything you require to be allowed back into Armenia is your still and sufficiently long valid Armenian visa you received in the first place. The Armenian visa does not expire nor prolong when entering Nagorno-Karabakh, and you cannot obtain a new one when entering Armenia from Nagorno-Karabakh.
By bus or marshrutka
Public transportation is very good and inexpensive (about 100 dram/10 km) in Armenia, with timetables here and connections here. Use google translator if you do not read Armenian. It can also 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 and each city offering 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 depending on where you want to go, you should find out which bus interchange station services the area of your destination. Unlike many countries in Eastern Europe, Armenian marshrutkas do not sell tickets beforehand, and do not issue tickets at all. You pay the driver, at any point in the trip (though some will collect at the beginning). Exact change is never required, but a 20,000 dram note for a 1,000 dram ride might present a problem. Tips are unheard of on public transportation.
- Transport for Armenia (Journey Planner). An amazing journey planner website and non-government project run by volunteers to improve public transport in Armenia for Yerevan and for the rest of the country. Since this service is also available in English and Russian, this website is not just great for locals but travellers likewise. They also have the prices available for numerous inter-city marshrutkas—no more discussion with marshrutka drivers. FB.
All trains in Armenia are Soviet-era stock. There is only one fast train: the international Yerevan-Tbilisi (+Batumi in the summer). All other trains are slow but incredibly cheap (1,000 dram Gyumri-Yerevan). There are several daily trains towards Gyumri and one to Yeraskh at the closed border with Nakhichevan. On summer weekends, one daily train operates from the northern Almast station to Lake Sevan, all the way to Shorzha on the far side (unavailable as of May 2019). See the official timetable for details—passenger traffic on the left.
The only station north of Gyumri that is officially accessible to passengers is Vanadzor, where the Georgia-bound train stops. North of Vanadzor there are only technical stops to which tickets can not be bought (Pambak, Shahali, Sanahin, Ayrum). One can still try to enter/leave the train though and ticket inspectors may allow this.
- See also: Hitchhiking
Not as common as in the days of the post-Soviet collapse, hitchhiking is still perfectly safe and acceptable, and travellers hitchhiking are not an uncommon sight on the main routes. Drivers often do not expect anything in the way of compensation, but offer anyway and sometimes they will take the mashrutka fare. Flag cars down by holding your arm in front of you and patting the air; this is how taxis, buses and mashrutkas are flagged. Pointing your thumb outwards is also acceptable, which will make it obvious that you are a traveller. Do not be too surprised if you befriend a driver during your ride and eventually end up staying at their house for a few days with the family - though this would largely be dependent on having a certain level of Russian. You might be lucky enough to be picked up by an English speaker, but do not bank on it.
A popular route for hitchhikers is Yerevan/Goris. This route is heavy with traffic going to and from Iran, and you stand a very good chance of being picked up by an Iranian truck driver who might want some company for the long journey. From Goris you can go onwards to Tatev, the Iranian border or up to Nagorno-Karabakh. You can expect to be picked up fairly quickly if hitchhiking from Goris to the Nagorno-Karabakh capital Stepanakert - just make sure to ask the driver to stop at the border.
For the average Western European tourist, you can hire a taxi to go most anywhere in the country on very short notice. If you have decided to travel heavy by bringing big bags, then going by taxi will be the best option. Prices are 100 dram/km, and often taxi drivers will just point to the km counter, meaning they will multiply the final km with 100. Since most taxis do not have meters though, you can negotiate a price before you leave.
Shared taxis leave from the main bus station in Gyumri to Yerevan. A seat in a share taxi will cost you 2,000 dram. Simply arrive and ask around and you will be pointed in the direction of a car, which will leave once full. This is probably a better option compared to the bus as there is a good chance the car will be air-conditioned.
The Yandex.Taxi and gg ride services are very popular in Armenia, especially the cities. Also, they are excellent to negotiate a price. Nevertheless, some drivers will go especially slow or take detours to increase the price calculated by the app. So, you are probably better of agreeing on a fixed price (for the whole car not each passenger, and in dram not US dollars).
By rental car
You can rent cars in Yerevan. Driving in Armenia for the average tourist will be different than at home, though roads are getting better and better and driving style is quite good in general. If you decide to rent a car, there are a growing number of car rental companies, including Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Alamo, National and others throughout the central Yerevan.
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 maintained and rather bumpy and you can feel it especially when using public transport! (Minibuses are often in bad condition too) Pot holes are very much a part of the experience and can test your driving skills. Consider an all wheeled vehicle or sport utility if available.
Better not go during the night, since unexpected pot holes, stray dogs, and missing street lighting and marking can make driving then quite dangerous.
Due to mountainous location and hills, bicycling is not such a common mode of transport in Armenia, as it is in the rest of Europe. Otherwise, it is a great way to see and experience much of the countryside if you can handle the inclines and the sometimes terrible condition of the roads.
Armenia has only two working airports (Yeveran and Shirak) but there are no internal flights between them. Flights to Stepanakert in Nagorno-Karabakh are planned but the region's uneasy diplomacy is stalling progress.
One of the most convenient but not necessarily authentic or exciting 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 US$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, for example, require special planning.
Aside from the plentiful day tours, you can take a package tour of Armenia.
- See also: Armenian phrasebook
Armenian is the official language of Armenia. Armenian is not in any way related to languages spoken outside of Armenia and it has an extensive set of letters (approximately 38) that have been in use since 405 A.D. It is widely regarded as a very difficult language to learn.
Russian is widely spoken in Armenia and it is a second language for most Armenians. It is widely taught in schools as a compulsory subject.
Although English is becoming more and more popular, bear in mind that very little of it spoken, even in the capital city Yerevan. English is a usually third language (rarely a second language) for those who have studied it.
A good knowledge of Russian and/or Armenian is essential for the independent traveller.
Armenia lies at the root of the Christian faith, as it is known as the first country that was evangelized by two of Jesus' own disciples. Today, there is still a wealth of religious heritage to see. Beautiful churches and monasteries are omnipresent, and some are up to 1700 years old. A few of the most important ones are listed on Unesco's World Heritage list. To start, there is the monastery of Geghard, carved out of a mountain slope and dramatically situated between the stunning cliffs of the Azat river gorge. Once you are there, the Garni Temple with its Greek temple style buildings is just a quick stop downriver. The Etchmiadzin Cathedral in Vagharshapat has parts dating back to the 5th century and is considered the oldest cathedral in the world. The Monastery of Sanahin, which means as much as "this one is older than that one" is just a stone's throw from the Haghpat Monastery. Both date back to the 10th century. The 7th century Zvartnots Cathedral is now in ruins, but considered of great archeological value.
If you are up for more, consider the basilica and archaeological site of Yererouk or the ruins of the historic city of Dvin. Some heritage sights sit in beautiful valleys. The monastery of Noravank is a good sight in the lovely Amaghou Valley, while the monasteries of Tatev and Tatevi Anapat sit in the Vorotan Valley - a gorgeous area with great landscapes and dotted with churches.
Unlisted but surely beautiful is the monastery of Khor Virap. It offers great views of Mount Ararat which is in Turkey, but is nonetheless seen on the Armenian national flag.
This famous mountain can be seen (weather permitting) from the nation's capital, Yerevan. Yerevan tural centre, with plenty of opera and theatre to go around. The Museum of Armenian History has an excellent collection and the Armenian Genocide Memorial & Museum has a sad but worthwhile story to tell. For a more casual side, visit the lively Vernisaj Market or climb the stairs of the Yerevan Cascade. Another hotspot for domestic and international travellers alike is Lake Sevan. In summer, the beaches of this massive high-altitude fresh water lake (one of the largest in the world), are a popular destination for anything from daytrips to camp site vacations and resort holidays.
- Hiking – Armenia has a cheer endless amount of hiking trails and peaks to discover. South of Lake Sevan Region, around Garni, up and down from the Alaverdi gorge, and Southern Armenia are just a few of the highlights. For reliable maps and comprehensive trails and map information, consult OpenStreetMap, which is used by this travel guide, and by many mobile Apps like OsmAnd (comprehensive with many add-ons) and MAPS.ME (simple but limited).
- Cycling – Bike Armenia Tour Route has a great route mapped out to see Armenia (and optionally Karabakh) by bicycle.
- Events – A list of upcoming events can be found on the official tourism website.
- Otherwise: rock climbing, wind surfing, sun bathing, camping, and even skiing
Exchange rates for Armenian dram
As of January 2020:
Exchange rates fluctuate. Current rates for these and other currencies are available from XE.com
The Armenian currency is known as the dram, sometimes denoted by the symbol "Դ" (ISO currency code: AMD). Wikivoyage will use dram in its articles to identify the currency.
The dram is accepted everywhere, and in some rare cases US dollars will be accepted for larger purchases - though the dram is the only legal currency for commerce. US dollars, euros and Russian rubles can be exchanged almost anywhere in the country, with other major currencies also easy to exchange. Exchange booths and commercial banks do not charge a commission and rates are almost always quite competitive.
ATMs (Bankomats) are widely available in larger towns; though outside of Yerevan, you should have a major system such as Visa or MasterCard on your card for it to work.
Credit cards are not widely accepted outside Yerevan.
Armenian carpets, cognac, fruits, handicrafts and Soviet memorabilia are some of the most popular things people take home from Armenia. Most of these are plentiful at Vernissage, a seemingly never-ending weekend flea market next to Republic Square with the more touristy stuff in the back half, further from Republic Square.
There are several shopping malls in Yerevan, as well as many supermarkets and small stores and boutiques. Most shops and restaurants are open every day and offices and schools are open Monday to Saturday. Mornings are usually slow, and places do not tend to open early, or even on time.
Bargaining and tipping
Bargaining is uncommon in Armenian stores, though when purchasing expensive items or bulk, they may be amenable to it. In markets, however, bargaining is a must!
Tipping is increasingly common in Armenia, especially at cafes and restaurants. Many Armenians will simply round up their checks, or leave ten percent. Some café staff are only compensated in the tips they earn, though you cannot always tell by the service they provide. Many restaurants have begun to charge a 10% “service fee” which they usually do not share with the waiters, and it is not clear for what it is used. This fee is often not clearly stated on the menu, so you should ask if you want to know. Tipping is usually not expected in taxis, but again, rounding up is not uncommon.
Vernisage Crafts and Flea Market - every Saturday and Sunday near Republic Square, there is a huge open market with great shopping for tourists and locals alike. There are large sections for old carpets, intricate wood carvings and backgammon boards, paintings, souvenirs, old porcelain and old housewares, with smaller sections for needlework and embroidery, stone work, books, military surplus and countless other random things.
The GUM Shuka farmers market is a large covered market near the Tashir Mall near the intersection of Tigran Mets Ave and Movses Khorenatsi Street. Inside are fresh fruits and vegetables, great dried fruits, and a butcher section and dried herb section. Outside on one side are more butchers and on the other more fresh fruit and vegetable vendors, next to a row of hand made metal wood-burning stove stalls.
For Armenian- and Russian-speaking visitors, a visit to the used book market can be quite interesting. In a park near the corner of Abovyan and Moskovyan Streets, close to the Yeritasardakan Metro Station, vendors sell thousands of books. You may try to bargain.
- Khorovats – A barbecue which can be chunks of pork, lamb, chicken or beef (called Shashlik in other post-Soviet countries). Usually, it is flavored with onions and other Armenian spices. Tomatoes, eggplant and bell peppers are also part of the khorovats meal. Kebab is the ground-meat version of khorovats, and is cheaper.
- Harissa – A kind of homogeneous porridge made of previously stewed and boned chicken or lamb and coarsely ground soaked shelled wheat. The dish dates back many centuries, and is traditionally served on Easter day. It is considered a national dish of Armenia, and is widely prepared by Armenians around the world.
- Borscht – A commonly served Ukrainian vegetable soup. It is traditionally made with beetroot as a main ingredient, which gives it a strong red color. It is usually served warm with fresh sour cream.
- Khash – A traditional dish, originating in the Shirak region. Formerly a nutritious winter food for the rural poor, it is now considered a delicacy, and is enjoyed as a festive winter meal. Made from less commonly used parts of animals, most visitors consider it an acquired taste.
- Dolma – Stuffed grape leaves; varieties with stuffed cabbage leaves, or bell peppers and aubergines also exist.
- Byorek – Consists of phyllo dough folded into triangles and stuffed with cheese, spinach or minced beef, and the filling is typically spiced. A popular combination is spinach, feta, cottage cheese (or pot cheese) and a splash of anise-flavored liquor (such as raki).
- Ishli kufta and Kufta – Best described as when bulgur meets meat. Very delicious and a must-try.
- Jingalov Hats (Lavash bread stuffed with herbs) – A specialty from Karabagh, and best tried fresh from the afternoon market in Stepanakert.
Desserts and snacks
- Gata or Nazook – A flaky pastry with a sweet filling.
- Alani – Pitted dried peaches stuffed with ground walnuts and sugar.
- Kadaif (ghataif) – Shredded dough with cream, cheese, or chopped walnut filling, soaked with sugar syrup.
- Anoushabour – Dried fruits stewed with barley, garnished with chopped almonds or walnuts (a traditional Christmas pudding).
Armenian fruits and vegetables are special. One should definitely try them and will never forget the taste of Armenian apricot, peach, grapes, pomegranate, etc. Especially the watermelons in Armenia and neighboring countries with similar altitude and climate are of superior taste.
Armenian bread is very tasty. There is a wide range of different types of bread, including black, white lavash (a soft, thin flatbread), and matnaqash.
Do not miss trying milk products. Along with ordinary milk products, there are some traditional and really tasty and refreshing ones. Matsun (yogurt) is a traditional Armenian dairy product that has centuries of history. It contains a number of natural microelements, which have high biochemical activity. It's really refreshing, especially when you try it cold during hot summers. Diluted with water or whey (or both) until drinkable, it becomes tan, and is sold in bottles. Okroshka is cold soup with tan, cucumber and dill; it is a healthy and refreshing dairy product. Spas is really tasty hot matsun soup with grains in it.
Café culture rules in Armenia, and the best places to have a cup of coffee and people-watch are sidewalk cafés. Any place near the Opera is certain to be jumping late into the summer nights. A popular chain is "Jazzve" (several locations throughout the city, including near the Opera and off Mesrop Mashtots Avenue), which offers many varieties of tea and coffee as well as great desserts.
Alcoholic: Vodka, tutti oghi (mulberry vodka), honi oghi (cornelian cherry vodka), Tsirani oghi (apricot vodka), local beer (Kilikia, Kotayk, Gyumri), wine (can also be made of pomegranate), and brandy. Respected wines include Karas, Karasi, Kataro, Armenia and some new wines hitting the market. Many are made with Armenian grape varietals not being grown anywhere else in the world. Areni is one of the most popular grape sorts which the largest number of red wines are made from, and the name of Armenia's wine country, while khndoghni is a variety grown in southern Karabakh that the Kataro wine is made from.
Other: Tan (yogurt combined with water and salt), Jermuk (mineral water), masuri hyut (rose hip juice), chichkhani hyut (sea buckthorne juice), bali hyut (sour cherry juice), Armenian coffee, and herbal teas.
Across Armenia, you can find bed and breakfasts that are pleasant and will give you a true taste of Armenian culture. The language barrier will be significant in the rural areas of Armenia if you do not speak Armenian or Russian, but if you take a phrase dictionary with you, you should have no trouble, as people are patient. Any effort to utter an Armenian phrase or term will be met with a friendly smile.
In Yerevan, there are a couple of hostels. Outside Yerevan, there are a few main recreational areas that offer very reasonable accommodations, but you will be required to live without some conveniences. At the high end are some hotels on Lake Sevan and in Northern Lori Marz (50 km from the Georgian border). Here you will miss nothing, but you will pay Western prices for the accommodations. Around Lake Sevan, there are numerous types of cottages and hotels. Prices are reasonable and start at about US$10 per day for a cottage with electricity and within walking distance from Lake Sevan. The city of Sevan, due to its proximity to Yerevan, is the most popular place on Lake Sevan but the history, culture and non-Western European feel of the accommodations change as you go south on Lake Sevan.
Tavush Marz is a wonderful place to summer. Dilijan and Ijevan are wonderful towns in which to be based, with day trips to the many ancient churches that pepper this remote region. Costs are very reasonable and Dilijan is known for its sanatoriums from the Soviet era. Do not expect hot water all hours of the day, but you can have a lovely room that will accommodate a family, including food for about US$20 a day. Take another US$20 to hire a car for the day to visit the surrounding historical sites.
Lori Marz is the second most beautiful region after Vayots Dzor. It has many health resort areas such as Stepanavan, Dendropark (Sojut) next to village Gyulagarak. Lori is considered to be the Armenian Switzerland. It has numerous churches, monasteries, medieval bridges and monuments. The Stepanavan area is great for hiking, tasting fresh dairy products, etc. Small hotels and B&Bs are available in the area of Stepanavan, Odzun, Tumanian, etc.
Tsaghkadzor is a well-known winter retreat. It has many lovely hotels and is popular year round. Check with a travel agent to find the best deal depending on what activity you are looking to undertake. Jermuk, made famous by the bottled water of the same name, is a wonderful get away, but will again require you to leave your western European expectations behind.
Armenian language and history. Since Armenians are very proud to be the first nation to adopt Christianity as the state religion, nearly everyone is almost an expert on Armenian history, which goes back to 3000 years. Museum of Ancient scripts, "Matenadaran", which is in central Yerevan is a place, where one can learn about history and witness ancient (really ancient) manuscripts. 
Armenia is a very safe country, so you shouldn't worry about walking around late at night. People leave you to your own devices.
Overall, Yerevan is also safe, though theft and pickpocketing are not unheard of, particularly targeting foreigners. Use common sense and usual precautions when walking on the street at night, especially after drinking.
Female travellers should be aware that unaccompanied women are an unusual sight after dark. In the outskirts of the city, a single woman walking alone at night may attract attention—though this attention may not be as malign as other parts of the world.
The biggest danger in Armenia are taxi drivers, especially in Yerevan. See the Yerevan article and included warning to read all about it. As stated above, always agree a price in advance, and if they are reluctant to agree, do not take the ride. Another taxi will not be long coming.
If you are dining with Armenians, they will feed you until you cannot eat any more. The food is generally safe, even from the roadside khorovats stands.
The tap water is generally safe, as it comes directly from mountains. Tab and spring water is available virtually everywhere, especially at churches and monasteries. This means that you do not need to carry a lot of water with you, just a 0.5 l bottle should be enough.
Armenia has restrictive non-smoking laws that are widely ignored. The country has the highest rate of cigarette smoking among men in Europe. Every year more than 5100 Armenians are killed by tobacco-caused disease.
There is still a little number of non-smoking restaurants and cafes in Armenia yet it's slowly growing. French bakery type eateries and wine bars are typically non-smoking havens.
Armenians are like any other Europeans in their manners and lifestyle, though very much on the traditional end of the spectrum in some ways. In contrast to Western Europe, Armenia remains deeply religious, and women occupy a place in society that Western Europe has not seen for a number of generations.
Women are traditionally treated with chivalry. Female travellers should not be surprised or alarmed if their male Armenian friends take the initiative to pay the bills at a restaurant, give up their seat on public transportation for them, open every door in front of them, and/or help them carry items or objects. Male travellers should understand that these nuances will be expected by Armenian women, even if they're not in a romantic relationship with one. The "ladies first" rule is considered important.
Many Armenians believe that Russian rule saved Armenia from complete Turkish extermination, and many Armenians are Slavophiles. Armenians do not mind if you speak to them in Russian, unlike some other post-communist countries.
Staring is quite common in Armenia; People, both old and young, are likely to stare at you simply for being a foreigner, though this doesn't happen as much in Yerevan as it does in other cities/towns and in out-of-the-way places. Do not be surprised if such curiosity doesn't extend beyond a stare. Staring does not indicate hostility; it indicates curiosity.
When visiting churches, men and women are supposed to dress modestly (i.e. no shorts, miniskirts, sleeveless shirts/tops), though most churches do not say anything to tourists passing through. Since entrance is free, lighting a candle can be a nice, but completely optional gesture. You should not talk loudly when you are visiting a church.
Direct personal questions (based on your personal life, salary, education, and lifestyle) are commonly asked. To Armenians, it's not considered impolite, but rather it's a way to get to know someone fully.
Respect for the elderly is immense. It's common for Armenian parents to be intimately involved in the life choices of their children, and it is considered rude to directly challenge someone older than you. In buses and trains, you are expected to give up your seat to the elderly.
- If you've been invited to an Armenian home, do not show up empty-handed. Bring your hosts a small gift as a form of respect. Simple gifts such as chocolates and flowers will suffice. Very expensive gifts might be viewed with suspicion.
- You'll often be encouraged by your hosts to take second helpings ad infinitum. If so, take it as a form of respect as it may leave a good impression on your hosts. To not try everything would be considered insulting to the host.
Topics to avoid
- Do not mention or have a discussion about Turkey. Anti-Turkish sentiments are widespread in Armenia, largely over the Armenian Genocide. It's safe to say that there are no "safe middle ground" positions in anything concerning Turkey in Armenia.
- Show extreme respect when discussing the Armenian Genocide. This event, in which more than a million Armenians were massacred by the Ottoman Turks, is still actively denied by the government of Turkey and to virtually all Armenians (including members of the diaspora), it is a highly sensitive issue. Do not attempt to question if the event ever occurred; Armenians will be very offended. On a separate note, denying the Armenian Genocide is a criminal offence in many European countries, including Switzerland.
- Be careful when discussing the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Although it's not as sensitive as it is in neighbouring Azerbaijan (most will refer to it as a border dispute), many Armenians are supportive of Artsakh. Azerbaijan's victory in the recent Nagorno-Karabakh war led to widespread protests throughout Armenia.
Yerevan is full of cafes with free wifi. These are beginning to pop up in a number of towns outside of Yerevan as well. Many hotels and cafes provide WiFi for their guests. International calling is available through prepaid mobile phone cards using a landline. Mobile phone companies often offer special prefixes to dial before the number to use VoIP, which is extremely cheap, and a good quality call. Short-term mobile phone rental is also possible. Regular calls can always be made from the post office, and is cheap within Armenia, but a bit expensive for international calls. Try to find a phone office that uses the internet for much cheaper rates. Local calls can be made from kiosks or the rare payphone.
Phone numbers in Armenia are of the form
+374 312 57659 where "374" is the country code for Armenia, the next 2-5 digits (starting with a 1, 2, 3 or 4 in the case of land lines) are the area code and the remaining 3 to 6 digits are the "local" part of the subscriber number that can be called from within that particular area code using abbreviated dialing.
Area codes starting with 6 have been assigned to Internet telephony service providers to provide non-geographically based numbers. Mobile phone numbers have two digit mobile prefixes denoting the original network and all begin with a 9 (Nagorno-Karabakh mobile networks that used to start with a 7 have now been re-numbered to 97).
You must dial "0" in front of the geographic area code from outside that particular area code (but when still within Armenia).
Mobile numbers in Armenia must always be dialed with all digits (including a "0" prefixing the "9n" from within Armenia), no matter where they are being called from. The 9n is a mobile prefix, not an "area code", as such and the second and sometimes third digits (the n part) des the original mobile network assigned. As is the case with most mobile numbers, they can also be called within or outside Armenia using the international format. Most Armenian toll-free numbers and Premium Rate Numbers can not be called from outside Armenia. These numbers have the format
Mobile phone providers
There are three GSM service providers operating in Armenia. It is strongly advised to acquire a temporary prepaid SIM card as they cheap and convenient, allowing both local and international calls, no charge for incoming calls and no monthly fee. Mobile internet and UMTS are also offered from all companies, as are the normal full range of wireless services.
VivaCell MTS has booths offering free SIM-Cards to incoming visitors at the airport. The majority of foreign visitors find their unlocked mobile phones compatible with Armenian SIM cards (GSM 900/1800). GSM coverage maps of Armenia.
- VivaCell MTS is the leading GSM service provider in Armenia and offers quality service at reasonable rates (owned by the Russian giant MTS). They have the best coverage outside of Yerevan. A VivaCell MTS pre-paid SIM card ("ALO" card) costs 1,100-7,000 dram, depending on how much starting credit you want. At their flagship store off of Republic Square, VivaCell MTS is very helpful to foreigners and will make sure that you understand everything in English, French or Russian. They offer very low prices for international calls from your phone via a VoIP (be sure to dial 77001+country code+the number!); in fact, it is much cheaper per minute to call the US or Canada (13 dram) or Russia (30 dram) than it is to dial Armenian networks.
- Ucom is a local provider offers a pre-paid card called U!pre-paid. (Aug 2017)
- Beeline (formerly ArmenTel but have switched to the Russian brand) offers a pre-paid card for 1,000 dram.
VivaCell MTS and Beeline claim to cover 90% of the Armenian population with 2G services and up to 60% with their 3G services. All of these networks are rapidly growing and expanding their coverage of both 2G and 3G services.
VivaCell MTS has a 4G (LTE) network.