The Caucasus is a fascinating place to visit, especially considering the vast differences in culture, language, traditions and food in such short distances travelled. Here is our recommended places to visit based on ease of access by land and visa requirements.
Artsakh (also known as Karabakh)
This beautiful mountainous land which has been fought over in recent history is really worth seeing. Accessible mainly by car, it takes about 6 hours to reach the capital’ Stepanakert. Karabakh is known to be a disputed territory due to its recent history of war with Azerbaijan. Travellers do need a visa (unless travelling on an Armenian passport) which can be arranged easily while in the capital’ Stepanakert, Karabakh. Once there, you should allow yourself at least 2 to 3 days to explore this historical land. Location: about 6 hours south east from Yerevan by private car Highlights of Karabakh include:
- The capital city’ Stepanakert – a clean and tidy city with many newly built buildings since the war. Notice the BBQ’s hanging off the balconies – quite a unique sight! You can tell they are fond of their Khorovats (Armenian BBQ) here! They speak a different dialect of Armenian which can be hard to understand for even those who speak mainstream Armenian.
- The history museum in Stepanakert
- Iconic statue of the Papik and Tatik (Grandmother and Grandfather) on route to Gandzasar. It symobilses how entrenched the Armenians are in this land that only their heads are above the land to watch over it (their bodies remain as roots in the ground).
- Also make sure you visit the famous, Gandzasar monastery 40 km away from Stepanakert, known to house the head of John the Baptist. The once impossible road to travel on to reach the monastery has recently been repaved and is now a perfect route to travel on. This monastery, perched up on top of a hill is set in tree covered rolling hills. It is said that inside the main church, images of two angels have appeared (one on either side of the altar) which has helped to protect it during the wars. You can see the marks from the shootings during the war on the far side wall of the main church.
- The city of Shoushi is the second biggest city in Artsakh only 10 km away from Stepanakert. This cliff top city has been a focal point in the war with Azerbaijan. It now sits on Armenian territory and is very safe to visit. The winding tree lined street up to Shoushi is stunning and so is the main cathedral there known to be one of the most beautiful in the region.
- The town of Amaras is renown for the school and church established by Mesrop Mashtots, the founder of the Armenian alphabet in the 5th century. You will also find the oldest tree in the ex-soviet region at Amaras. This tree is said to have been seen by John the Baptist, Mesrop Mashtots, Khrimian Hayrik and many others.
A close and easy destination from Armenia. If you have made an effort to reach this part of the world its a must see.
- Tbilisi is a very picturesque capital city with a beautiful old town area to explore. A hub of intellectual happenings back in the 1800’s its a mini Paris scene! Pay a visit to Envoy Hostel Tbilisi nestled close to the Narikala fortress when you are there!
- Enjoy the view of the Mtkvari River from one of the bridges
- Wonder around the cobblestoned streets of the Old Town area
- Visit the domed Orbeliani Baths
- Admire the colourful Mosque close to the Baths
- Visit the dominating Narikala Fortress
- Indulge in the fine Georgian food and wine
- Take a day trip to Mtskheta
- Spend a couple of days in Kazbegi, an excellent region for hiking. Also you will see the much photographed Tsminda Sameba Church
- Take a tour or two to explore the region with Envoy Tours in Georgia and book yourself in to stay at Envoy Hostel Tbilisi!
Getting around Armenia is relatively easy. The main options to consider are listed below (including a full minibus destination list to help you plan your trip).
So much to see and so little time! The entire country is studded with places of interest and historical significance. If you want to see everything in detail you could be here for months! However some of the highlights include the following:
Lake Sevan is the largest lake in modern Armenia. The weather is typically cooler in this area so Yerevan locals flock there in summer for relief from the summer heat. It is primarily a holiday destination and a favourite spot for those keen for fishing. However there are also a few places of interest to see close by such as Hayravank, Noraduz and others.
Location: About 45 minutes north of Yerevan by private car
Garni the only standing pagan temple dating back centuries (B.C. construction), rebuilt after an earthquake brought it down in 1679, this is one of the iconic sites of Armenia. Note there is an entrance fee (1200 AMD).
Location: About 30 minutes east of Yerevan by private car
Geghard An amazing two storey monastery carved inside a mountain! Dating back to the 4th century the acoustics inside the mountain church is amazing. There is also a newer built church standing at the entrance.
Location: About 30 minutes east of Yerevan by private car
Dilijan is a small town further north from Sevan. It is a popular holiday destination for locals. It is quite a pleasant and lush region. You can visit nearby attractions including the ancient church of Haghartzin, tucked away in the woods (well worth the effort to get there). Goshavank is another ancient church nearby and Barz Lij is a quiet lake nestled in woods. make sure to have a picnic here! Ijevan is a large city at the furthest point north before crossing the border to Azerbaijan. Its about another 45 minutes drive out from Dilijan.
Location: About 1.5 hours north of Yerevan by private car
Alaverdi is a quaint town situated in a valley along the picturesque Debed Canyon. It is a mining town with refineries close by. Close by you will find many historic sights worth visiting. This includes Akhtala Berd, an ancient castle which also has a church on the grounds. Look out for the mosh (blackberry) bushes around in summer. Haghbat is a monastery where Sayat Nova stayed at. This quiet monastery nestled on top of a hill, has a series of churches next to each other, one with underground storage vessels. There is a secret passage to the village below used by the locals in history in times of war. Sanahin is another monastery complex dating back to the 10th century, home to the Mikoyan brothers who designed the MIG fighter airplanes.
Location: About 2.5 hours north of Yerevan by private car
Oshakan is where the grave of Mesrop Mashtotz resides. A church has been erected on the site in his honour. Make sure you check out the manicured grass Armenian alphabet on the church grounds. A cute village next to Oshakan is Voskevaz. A short drive further will get you to Byurakan, a quaint, relaxing village on top of a hill. Make sure you stop at the .Asdghadidaran. (Observatory) on the way.
Location: About 30 minutes west of Yerevan by private car
Mt Aragats is the highest peak in modern Armenia and it has four peaks. You can drive to the Black Lake situated at a high altitude. Also close by is Amberd, an ancient castle in ruins and an accompanying Church. This region is quite suitable for hiking for those who are keen! Be warned though, you are likely to encounter snow even in summer!
Location: About 1 hour north west of Yerevan by private car
St Echmiadzin is where the head church of Armenia resides.There are often special services held for different events. In close proximity there are also 3 other old Churches some of the oldest in Armenia (including St. Hripsime and St Gayane)
Location: about 45 minutes north west of Yerevan by private car
Khor Virap this is where Christianity all began for Armenia. The monastery is built on the dungeon pit where the St. Grigor the Illumintor was imprisoned for years, leading to Christianity being accepted as the National religion in 301.A.D. It is here where you can take postcard quality photos of the majestic Mt Ararat.
This is a must see destination.
Location: About 1 hour south of Yerevan by private car
Noravank a remarkable two storey structure church/ monastery built in an isolated area, perched high on a hill top and surrounded by majestic mounatins in reddish colour. This “New Monastery” as the literal translation is one you will never forget.
Location: About 2 hours south east of Yerevan by private car
Jermuk is the city where the source of the popular bottled mineral water is found. You can visit the Jermuk mineral water factory, a state of the art bottling plant. Also must see attractions are the local waterfall (where the water hugs the surface of the rock as it descends) and the hot water spring where it is said that the different temperature water will cure different ailments.
Location: About 3 hours south east of Yerevan by private car
Tourist Attraction Markets:
These markets are highly recommended as a tourist destination.
Looking for a wide range of original hand crafted souvenirs? Then Vernisage is your place to visit. Although there are many individual souvenir shops along the central streets in Yerevan, the Vernisage market offers a wide variety of souvenirs in one location ranging from jewelry, wood carvings and paintings through to old Soviet era relics, rugs and embroidery. Open on weekends from 10am till approximately 6pm, Vernisage is stretched between Khanjyan and Nalbandyan (from the foot of the metro on Nalbandyan to Khanjyan). A small section of the market remains open during the week.
(translated “Closed Market”) has been an institution of Yerevan for decades. Originally a Soviet era food and grocery market, it has recently been renovated as a modern day supermarket from the inside. It is still worth visiting for its amazing entrance door structure – a work of art in its own right.
General Trade Markets:
Need a new pair of shoes, luggage, or some trendy new clothes? These markets are where you are likely to find it. Just take note that for most of the markets in Yerevan you’d be better off to have a compass and map in hand! But its worth the adventure! Take your camera and enjoy it as a sight seeing experience even if you dont have anything to buy (for that purpose Rasia and Ferdos are the most intriguing).
Tip: Must say if you are after shoes – look to find local made shoes – the leather is beautiful, prices are reasonable and you cant beat on quality.
Dalma | This modern shopping centre is on par with any western mall. What ever you are looking for, from shoes to new suitcase, you should be able to find it here. Positioned on Tsitzernakaberd Hwy, its just outside the Yerevan city circle.
Petak | is an indoor market on two levels with stalls selling fashion, footwear, house ware and food items. Petak is behind Sourmaloo (a wholesale market off Arshakoonyats St.).
Ferdos | is a small, winding, overcrowded-rabbit-warren like market. But don’t get put off by any of this, in fact all these features adds to the character of this popular market. If you find a bargain don’t think twice and get it as you might not be able to find you way back to the same stall again! There are lots of stalls selling fashion, footwear and house ware items. Enjoy this charming market typical of what you would find in the middle east! Ferdos is located on Tigran Mets between the Hrabarak and Khanjyan. It has a small entrance off the street, so make sure to ask so you don’t walk past it!
Hrazdan | This market is situated right next to the Hrazdan Stadium. It is an indoor complex of stalls. One of the more expensive markets in town but has a large and interesting range of fashion and footwear.
Tashir | is a more modern shopping complex in Yerevan. Bearing the legacy name of ‘Goom’ from the Soviet days, it has several levels of stores you would expect to find in any shopping mall including a supermarket on the ground floor, eating areas, exclusive boutiques, fashion and footwear, stationary stores, jewellery stores etc. Tashir is situated further down from Rasia on Tigran Mets.
Voski Shooka | means Gold market. This is where you can have any gold jewelry made to order or buy a ready made item. It is located on Khorenatsi St (previously Marx St) closer to Khanjyan St.
When it comes to shopping Yerevan has a lot offer. 🙂
Here’s a few highlights of Armenian cuisine to consider trying while in the region.
If you are a meat lover and can pronounce that then you will never go hungry (as Armenians are meat lovers)! It’s the Armenian style BBQ meat . The main type of BBQ meat is pork which is very tender and delicious. You can also find beef and chicken too. And in summer you will find BBQ vegetables which is a must! Kebab is BBQ minced meat, also a popular dish.
Wine leaves stuffed with meat, rice and herbs, intricately wrapped are delicious little parcels. Dolma is one of the most traditional food locally. They even have annual competitions for best dolma! You can also try vegetable dolma (cabbage, eggplant, tomatoes etc). Highly recommended!
Also dubbed as the ‘Armenian pizza’, its a thin layer of pizza style bread topped with ground beef, onion, parsley and tomato paste. It tastes good with a squeeze of lemon.
If you are vegetarian, there is a wide range of delicious salads (Stolichnitzia a potato based salad is very filling, igra a delicious medley of bbq’s eggplant, tomatoes and onion etc) and spas (a yoghurt based soup) and more. Some places will also have vegetarian stuffed vine leaves (dolma) – definitely worth trying.
Where to Eat?
There are many options of where to eat in Yerevan. Especially where we are located is in walking distance to many excellent cafe’s, restaurants and eateries. The following is just a few worth mentioning, listed in alphabetical order.
Artashi Mot | If you want to try some tasty Armenian food which is really loved by Armenians, then you should visit the “shaurma place” Artashi Mot. At lunch time you will see a big crowd of Armenians talking, laughing and waiting for their meal. Armenians love meat, especially when it’s prepared well and quickly. You can try their delicious shaurma, the BBQ or kebab. Just drop in and order what you want (if you can decide 😉 ). If you are not in a hurry and want to enjoy your meal visit the restaurant downstairs. You will be surprised by the taste of the soups and the wide range of meat dishes. Its in short walking distance to Envoy situated on Alexander Spendiaryan Street (towards Stepan Zoryan street).
Malocco| A small but very cozy place with amazing interior design and peaceful atmosphere. You won’t get bored even if you’re alone, as there are so many details you can discover in every corner. The fun begins when the waitress brings the menu: a small bunch of yellow, old looking papers fixed by a small clothes pin and with hand written comments on it. Pasta, salads, sandwiches (also for vegetarians), yummy desert, wine and more. Don’t forget to try their hot chocolate (with cinnamon) when you drop by on a chilly evening as you have to compare it with the hot chocolate of another nice place – Achajour café (Envoy staff can’t decide which one is better). Malocco is positioned closeby to Envoy on 40 Tumanyan Street.
Achajour | And here is the next great place to have tasty snacks and spent good time while drinking a hot chocolate or a milk shake, when it’s hot outside. You can find Achajour café on Ghazar Parpetsi street, only a minute walk from Envoy hostel and in the Lover’s park (Baghramyan ave.), which is very famous during the summertime, because of it’s location and being open air. And when it gets cooler in the evening, just take a blanket and enjoy the twilight. The Achajour café at the Lovers’ Park is the first in the top 10 Foursquare venues in Yerevan by ranking.
Gemini | Do you like to drink a coffee or tea while watching the people passing by? If yes, then this is for you. The Gemini cafeteria is located in the corner of Ghazar Parpetsi and Tumanyan streets (one of the most beautiful streets in Yerevan). Only few small tables where you can enjoy the best crepe in the city. Gemini offers a wide range of crepes and good coffee/tea. A nice place to have breakfast or dinner. Plus its just around the corner from Envoy!
æon – Anti café | When a Cafe is not a cafe, it’s an Anti cafe! This is by definition what æon is. If you are tired of all the meat dishes and you just want to spend some nice time with friends, then this is the right place for you. æon (3a Teryan str) is a famous time café, where you have time and space for books, games, movies, discussions and more. Just pay for the entrance and get tea/coffee and biscuits, play board games and create music. You will be allowed to order food from other restaurants or cafés. Meet new and interesting people and create your own unforgettable time!
Grand Candy | Calling all those with a sweet tooth! This is more of an institution rather than a new hip cafe. Locals go here for its ‘ponchicks’ which are a custard filled doughnut type pastries (without the hole!). These are baked fresh on site and are very popular with locals. It is situated close to the Madenadaran Museum at the end of Mashtots. While there, also try their chocolates – we recommend trying their unique local dried fruit & walnut chocolates (can select from fig/ peach and their very tasty apricots!) – you’ll find yourself buying some as a souvenir to take home!
Jazzve | One of the most famous cafés in Yerevan and a local institution in its own right. Over 10 years the Jazzve café is well known amongst the locals and has always something new to offer. Just thumb through their old news paper menu, chose one of their delicious cakes and have a laugh at the jokes mentioned in their menu 🙂 . See how old, traditional accessories from Soviet times have rounded off the interior and enjoy the nice music. Beside the cakes you will find waffles, snacks, soups, salads, a wide assortment of alcohol and non alcoholic drinks and even glintwines.
Retro Cafe | What can make a beautiful day even more enjoyable? – of course a nice evening at a welcome place. If you are a fan of Retro style, then you have to visit this café located on Mashtots ave. and Tamanyan str. (Cascade). Just walk through the Cascade enjoy the beautiful art works and when you get tired, enjoy a meal back in the wonderful epoch of Retro.
Green Bean Shop | Be green! One of the most popular slogans in our modern world. And here is a Coffee shop, where people realize this idea. Being eco-friendly – that’s the way Green Bean has chosen. You can get the best coffee in town in a smoke free environment. Using fresh and organic products the staff will take time to create something special and unique for you, which will give positive emotions and power to continue your day. So make sure you pop in to this great place while you’re walking down the Amiryan Street to the Republic Square.
Yerevan Tavern | The best place to enjoy Armenian traditional food is near the Republic Square. Pork, Beef and chicken combined with vegetables make a colorful and delicious composition which is spiced up by Armenian traditional music. Once you are there you just have to try the dolma or the stuffed aubergine and pepper. Another recommendation is the bean soup with walnuts. Yum! Yerevan tavern offers not only Armenian but also regional food. And all that served with the famous Armenian hospitality!
Mer Gyough | Translated to “Our Village” is a quaint little restaurant on Sayat Nova (behind the Opera). This friendly little place offers great quality traditional Armenian food including stuffed wine leaves, lentil dishes with yoghurt dressings and more. Complete with a hand written menu, chipped plates, and waiters/ waitresses dressed in traditional clothes it offers great food and atmosphere.
Old Tbilisi | Hope you are planning to visit our neighbours while in the Caucasus’ and in particular Georgia as they are famous for their fabulous food! Try some delicious Ajarian khachapouri (a bread boat with cheese and egg), khinkali (giant pasta parcels with minced meat) and more. Still in the city circle (5-10 minutes drive) but perhaps a bit far to walk from Envoy – ask reception to book you a taxi.
Poplavok | An icon and landmark in its own right. A very popular place among locals. It is set on a man made lake with paddle boats and typically has live jazz music. It offers an extensive menu but is best known for its name. Poplavok means fishing float in Russian as it appears to be bopping on the water.
One thing you would definitely like about Armenia is the four season weather. Heat, cold, rain, snow… Another thing that you might find surprising, is that Armenians don’t like to talk about the weather much 🙂
Armenia’s different varieties of climates depend on the absolute height of the land. However, the winter and summer are more severe and the spring and autumn are much milder and shorter. Typical Yerevan temperature in winter (Dec-Feb) reaches around minus 20 degrees C and the summer (Jun-Aug) temperature averages around the mid to high 30 degrees C dry heat. Other regions can vary across the year.
Find more detailed information here
Best time to visit
Plan to visit Armenia? The best time to travel to this country would be the beginning and ending months of summer. This is is the time when the heat is comparatively less. You would feel comfortable and idle for walking around the city. Rains are also unlikely this time of the year, so no need to carry an umbrella. You will also enjoy the picturesque autumn colors and delicious fruit and vegetable.
If you are a “winter” person, then Armenia is a great place to spend winter holidays with the whole family or friends. There are many ski resorts in Armenia. They offer comfortable conditions as foreign analogs in terms of equipment and quality of service. That is why the number of tourists who prefer winter tours in Armenia annually increases.
So, you just need to choose the best season for you and have fun in the country of four season weather and tons of fun. Welcome to Armenia!
Marshrootka | Most of Yerevan gets around on Marshrootkas and its great to experience this as a tourist. For 100AMD a ride (paid to the driver when disembarking) regardless of how far you go, it is the most efficient way to get around town (and even out of town but for a higher cost). The minibuses display a number on them, signifying the specific travel route they follow. To get off at a stop call out ‘kangar’ meaning station/ stop when you get close to your destination. For route information please ask our friendly reception staff.
Taxi | Typically costing 100AMD per km it is a fast way of getting around town. Note that hailing a cab on the street can cost more than ordering a taxi by phone. When hailing a cab in the street always negotiate the rate based on the destination before getting in the cab. By law, all taxis should display clearly what company they belong in and have a meter to calculate the fare. You can also hire a taxi for out of town destinations at agreed rates.
Metro | There is a short metro track which extends from the 3rd district up to Barekamootiun. Dating back to the Soviet era, this mode of transport is also an experience complete with crystal chandeliers and marble floors in the some of the stations. Tickets are purchased as you enter the metro station at 50AMD.
Matenadaran | is the museum housing sample manuscripts and early translations, dedicated to Mesrop Mashtots who created the Armenian alphabet in 405 A.D. Some interesting facts to note is that the Armenian alphabet:
- initially had 36 letters (2 more letters were added much later to make the alphabet one of the most complete in the world),
- was created as a prayer with each of the letters starting a word in the prayer (apart from the letter “r” where the word ended in it)
The museum is situated at the end of the main artery Mashtots Ave (also known as Prospect Ave during the soviet era). There is a giant statue of Mesrop Mashtots in the front of the building.
Operates Tue – Sat 10:00am till 4:00pm
National Art Gallery | is the main gallery and displays a large variety of International and local artwork within its seven floors. It is located right on Republic Square, close to the fountains.
Operates Tue – Sun 11:00am till 5:30pm
Martiros Saryan Museum | is only 2 minutes walk away from Envoy Hostel on the corner of Saryan and Tumanyan streets. Saryan is a popular 20th century artist with his colourful paintings, some with an oriental influence but mostly Armenian landscape themes.
Operates Fri – Tue 10:30am till 4:30pm
Click here for the website.
Parajanov Museum | houses a great collection of Sergei Paradjanov’s work of arts. The artist is famous for his quirky and eccentric artwork as well as his infamous cinematography for instance “The Colour of Pomegranates” is one of his creations.
15/16 Dzoragyugh Poghots, Yerevan
The museum is open 7 days 10:30am till 5:00pm
For more info check their website.
Cafesjian Centre for Arts | is one of the newest additions to Yerevan, is a superb collection of contemporary art. Situated at the top of the Cascade steps, its worth going there even if it is just to see the outdoor artwork on the steps and admire the view of Yerevan from the top of the steps.
The centre also presents special exhibitions and frequently has events such as concerts. For up to date information on events check their website.
Operates Tue – Thur: 10:00am – 5:00pm | Fri – Sun: 10:00am – 8:00pm
So much to see and do in Yerevan! But as far as major sights go these are the ones you cant miss out on:
Republic Square | is the main square in Yerevan and is by far the grandest. It is surrounded by majestic buildings that light up at night to an even grander view. You will find the Marriott Hotel, Main Post Office, the History Museum and governmental buildings around the square. The History Museum faces a group of fountains that operate throughout the warmer seasons as the water ‘dances’ to music and light providing entertainment for all. In the centre of the square is a round-about that has been constructed in 2003/ 2004 and it displays a ‘rug’ using all the different types of rocks known to be found in Armenia. Further across where a giant advertisement screen stands is the ex-location of the statue of Lenin once overlooking the square in Soviet times.
Genocide Memorial | in Tsitsernakaberd (close to the Hrazdan Stadium) in Yerevan holds the eternal flame in memory of the 1.5 million who were victims of the Genocide in 1915 by the Ottoman Turks. This memorial site is visited by Armenians every year on the 24th April, where the masses pay their respect and lay flowers around the flame. Indeed a somber occasion that shouldn’t be missed if in Armenia at that date. There is also a dedicated museum close by.
Opera House | occupying an entire block off Mashtots and between Tumanyan, Teryan and Sayat Nova streets, it is not only the centre for most cultural events but also a popular hang out due to the numerous cafés surrounding the building. While in Yerevan a cultural event is indeed an experience that should not be missed. Enjoy an opera (e.g. Anush or Guyaneh are well known operas) or a folk dance recital where maximum ticket prices are typically 3000 AMD for the best seats in town. Or if in town in summer, stroll up in the evening and you are likely to catch a free open air cultural show. And if none of this is your cup of tea then why not settle for a pomegranate tea or an Armenian soorj (coffee) at one of the cafes instead, and soak up the atmosphere.
Cascade | is a project started in the Soviet era, and only finished around 2004 thanks to the assistance and support of the Cafesjian Foundation. It boasts a series of steps to the top of the hill known as the ‘Monument’. At the top of the steps a modern art museum known as the Cafesjian Centre for Arts. Scattered around the Cascade, you will also notice many other artworks as you climb to the top including a giant cat at the foot of the stairs (where there is an entrance to the escalator nearby). There are cubic people statues at the first level exit and playful rabbits at a further level up. In summer the stairs are even more impressive with flower beds in full bloom surrounding the entire climb. Also a nice experience is to go close to the fountain area and sit at the base of the stairs and simply enjoy the sound of the water gushing down.
In the warmer seasons you will also find regular open air entertainment provided by the Cafesjian Foundation enjoyed by the public.
Mother Armenia & Victory Park | are up on the hill and outside of the main Yerevan “kendron” (central) area. Victory park, once a Soviet era park housing war memorabilia is now an amusement park/ entertainment venue. The Mother Armenia statue stands on a war museum.
Surp Grigor Lusavorich Cathedral | is the newest built cathedral in Yerevan. It was built to mark the 1700 anniversary of the acceptance of Christianity as Armenia’s national religion in 301 A.D. The enormous cathedral is quite impressive as you will note that there are no internal support columns. It is situated on Tigran Mets Street (close to Khanjian St.).