A trip to Armenia - A Joyous Jaunt

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Have just returned from a refreshing trip to Armenia. Posted a few breath taking pictures of Armenia on the social media and was flooded with innumerable queries from all corners (friends, relatives and friend’s fiends) as to where on earth is this beautiful place: Where, How, Where, When, Which, etc. I was overwhelmed and felt duty-bound to answer all of them via a travelogue. So here I go…

Where is Armenia ?
Armenia is situated at the crossroads between Europe and Asia, in the southern Transcaucasia. The country is bounded by Georgia on the north, Azerbaijan on the east, Iran on the south, and Turkey on the west.



How did you travel?



We took Air Arabia flight from Kuwait. Flew to Sharjah and took an immediate connecting flight to Armenia (Air Arabia flies daily to Armenia with plan to increase flights from June onward ) .We Landed at Zvartnots International Airport and were greeted by two beautiful girls dressed in traditional Armenian attire (courtesy our travel agents). They served us bread and salt which is a traditional way of receiving the guest and making them feel at home, which we did. FYI the visa for Indians is on arrival and procedure is simple and quick.

What is so special about Armenia?
Armenia is one of the world’s oldest civilizations, Armenia once included Mount Ararat, which according to the Biblical tradition, is the mountain that Noha’s Ark rested on after the flood. Armenia was the first county in the world to officially adopt Christianity as its state religion.

How is the weather?
We visited in April 2nd week and the temperature ranged from 6 degree to 18 degree centigrade. Armenia’s different varieties of climates depend on the absolute height of Land. They vary from the dry subtropical to the mountain tundra climate. The winter temperature of Armenia highland varies around the freezing point. Summertime is soothing in the Armenian Plateau with an average temperature of 25 degree centigrade.

Was language a problem?
Armenian is the official language of the Republic of Armenia. Our English speaking Armenian guide told us that Armenians have their own unique alphabet which was invented by educator and scholar Mesrop Mashtots in 405 AD. But we had no issue with language (even when we ventured out without the guide) as the Amerian’s by nature are very hospitable and are more then happy to help you with whatever little English they could speak. The hotels and tourist places always had assistance in English staff who were ready to guide us. All the road signs also carried English names and so there was no difficulty in identifying places. Only problem was remembering the names and pronouncing them as most of the names were like tongue-twisters for us.

How is the food in Armenia?
The Armenian cuisine is enriched with more than two thousand years of history and is thus a perfect example of how history influences the culinary traditions of any land. A gourmet non-veg food lover has a wide variety to choose from. The veggie food is available everywhere but the choices are limited.
The platter of bread and different variety of cheese was part of every meal we had in Armenia. Armenians cannot imagine having their meals without bread! Armenians love to eat lavash which is this thin layer of flat chewy bread that’s made from flour, salt and water and baked in a tonir. A tonir basically refers to an underground earth oven.

One of our unforgettable dining experience was at ‘Yerevan Tavern’ restaurant, during which we were not only served delicious traditional Armenian food, but also enjoyed an amazing show with national dances and music. Within 3 hours almost the whole Armenian culture and history was presented to us.





Is it a Expensive country?
Yerevan, the place we stayed, resembled, typically a European country but cost wise it was very reasonable compared to Europe. Eating and drinking in a fine dine restaurant was not at all burden on our wallets. Yerevan is a shoppers delight with all international brands and quality products available in shopping malls and local markets. The guide told us that the Armenians do not differentiate between the locals and tourist and charge the same entry fees for any touristic place.

Which are the interesting places you visited?
Armenia’s landscapes offer boundless beauty, which I can bet on. Its geography varies from high mountain peaks, fertile valleys, picturesque land formations, basalt columns, rock sculptures, rivers and waterfalls. It was not possible to cover everything in a 5 days trip so we restricted ourselves to explore some important places on this trip. We stayed in the Capital city of Yerevan, which is 12 kilometers drive from the airport. Our accommodation was in a Beautiful Tufenkian Historic Hotel. This was situated near the Republic Square and so we started exploring that place first.
1)Republican Square

Republic Square is one of the most happening place in Yerevan and a must visit for any tourist. Also called the ‘Heat of Yerevan’, it is located in the center of Yerevan and is considered one of the most amazing and famous places of the capital.
This area is formed by five famous buildings:
•The National Art Gallery and History Museum of Armenia
•The Government House of the Republic of Armenia,
•The Central post office of the Republic of Armenia,
•The “Mariott Armenia” hotel
•The Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources.

The famous singing fountains are also situated on the Republic Square right next to the History Museum and Art Gallery. It is amazing to watch both the fountains and their colours change according to the rhythm of the song or music played. Just in front of the Square there are shops lined up with clothing stores, souvenirs shops and other outlets. This place is a crowd puller and we spent most of the nights around this place. Yerevan is also known for her night life where pubs, cafes and restaurants are open till the wee hours of the morning.

2)Yerevan City Tour

Yerevan is also called the “pink city’ as its buildings were all made of naturally coloured volcanic rocks of varying shades of pink, giving its city a vibrant and lively atmosphere!

The rich history of Yerevan, dating back almost three thousand years, provides for a number of interesting and historically significant things to do and see in the city. Numerous museums and art galleries serve as a proof of it. Starting with the visit to Matenadaran, a book repository and one of the world’s earliest libraries, one can find evidence of what an ancient history and uniquely rich culture Armenia has.

Matenadarn

Matenadarn means a "book-depository" in ancient Armenian. It is a national museum built in 1945, houses more than 17,000 manuscripts depicting the history of Christianity in Armenia, ancient medicinal herbs and plants, literature and so much more. Since Armenia is such an old country, these manuscripts were extremely important in understanding the history of Armenia and its well preserved culture. We went on a guided tour where we had very interesting information about the different manuscripts and its origins.



Mother Armenia Monument

This statue is actually a female personification of Armenia, from here, it’ll be like she’s watching over the whole of Yerevan city, making her the guardian of Armenia.

The Cascade

The cascade is a 5 storey complex which has a large stairway that brings you right to the top where you can enjoy a breathtaking panorama view of Yerevan. We get clear view of the magnificent Mt. Ararat from the top. Inside this complex, there’s also an art exhibit which houses some very interesting contemporary art pieces.



Ararat Brandy factory

Our visit to the Brandy factory was an amazing learning experience. We learnt that Brandy is actually made from wine that has been kept in an oak barrel for a minimum of 3 years to form spirit, which was then blended together with different ages of spirit to form Brandy. So it’s wine, then spirit and then Brandy. There are 3 ways to tell the quality of Brandy, 1. viscosity – the thicker the better, 2. colour – the darker the better, 3. taste – the stronger the taste, the better.



Vernissage art market

We were lucky as the Vernissage market was located just outside our hotel and we picked up most of our souvenirs and Armenian iconic relics from this place. There were so many different handicrafts, semi-precious stones, knives and carpets. Some were selling beautiful painting of the different famous landmarks of Armenia, bags made from carpets, wooden sculptures and many more!

St. Gregory Church
Armenia has one of the most beautiful churches in the world and I had the opportunity to visit one of the largest cathedral of Armenia Apostolic Church in the world, the Saint Gregory the Illuminator Cathedral which was within walking distance of our Hotel.



3)Sevan lake

Lake Sevan is highly popular touristic destination which we visited. The word “se” means black in Armenian (referring to the black minerals) and “van” means lake. Hence, “Sevan” actually means black lake. This enormous lake covers 5% of the entire Armenia and it’s the most important lake for the Armenians. It’s also the second largest freshwater high-altitude lakes in the world where it’s situated 2,000m above sea level. Lake Sevan is a lot cooler than Yerevan being almost twice as high in elevation.
There are a number of water based activities happening around Lake Sevan. You can swim in the cool blue waters of the lake, worship the sun on the public beaches or jet-ski and wind-surf along the lake. Boat rides on the lake are also available if you would like to experience different parts of it.



4)Dilijan

Dilijan enticed us with its unforgettable beauty and mild climate. The city stretches on the banks of Aghstev river, surrounded with mountains and forests. Dilijan has the fame of a health resort. The warm sun, fresh air and natural spas have great healing influence on people. Dilijan is also rich in interesting architectural monuments.
5)Garni Gorge

The beautiful eye catching Garni Gorge is situated 23 km of Yerevan just below the village with the same name. To get to the bottom of the gorge’s breathtaking vertical cliffs we had to take a SUV car. The cliffs themselves are extremely beautiful, consisting mainly of well preserved basalt Columns carved out by the Goght River. This portion of the Garni Gorge is typically referred to as the "Symphony of the Stones."
On a prominent part of the gorge, an old temple, known as the Garni Temple, can be seen. Along the gorge, one can also find an 11th century bridge built over what is today a small stream.



Garni temple

Garni temple which towers over a three-cornered cape is the only survived example of pagan culture in Armenia. It is a blend of Greco-Roman and Armenian styles. King Trdat the First began building the temple in the first century A.D. and dedicated it to the God of Sun, after adopting Christianity in 301 the pagan temple lost its significance and the fortress of Garni became the summer residence of the kings. Nowadays the ruins of the royal palace and the bathroom with a stunning mosaic work can be found near the temple.



6)Yenokavan

Yenokavan is a village and summer resort in the Tavush. We visited the "Apaga Gomer" Active Leisure Club which is a rare place in Armenia with perfect conditions for equestrian tourism. Club provides a unique opportunity for relaxation in the mountains of Armenia situated at 1390 meters above sea level. The comfortable cottages and cozy houses of the resort combine the traditional style of Armenian houses with all modern amenities. The resort provides an excellent opportunity for relaxation in the mountains, offering horseback riding, ziplining and other active adventures.

All the lovers of the air extreme are offered to go for an amazing adventure “Zip line”. Ziplining is a unique type of summer sports vacation providing an opportunity to get tons of extreme by going down from a high platform on a hanging cable rope of several hundred meters in length. Those on a vacation will get a full tank of adrenaline by choosing any of the 5 routes for themselves differentiated by the length of the rope (135 to 750 meters) and the level of complexity.
We were told that they, are planning to install the longest zip-line in Yenokavan at the Yell Extreme Park.



7)Tatev

The Monastery of Tatev is situated high on the edge of the cliff, over the Canyon of Vorotan River, in Syunik Province of Armenia. The drive from the capital city of Yerevan to the village of Halidzor, took us around 3.5 to 4 hours. From there we took the “Wings of Tatev”(cable car) to reach the secluded pearl of Syunik Province, the Monastry of Tatev. The Wings of Tatev is the world’s longest non-stop reversible aerial cable car (5,752 m/18,871 ft) is recorded in the Guinness World Records Book.



Monastery of Tatev

Tatev monastery was built during the 9-13th centuries as an Armenian intellectual center where philosophers, musicians, painters, calligraphers, and monks lived. This monastery’s teachers produced manuscripts for the whole Armenian world. The earthquake of 1931 caused considerable destruction, but the parts that survived enable us to judge about the artistic merits of the complex. The main monument is the Church of Poghos and Petros (Peter and Paul) built in 895-906. It reproduces the type of domed basilicas of the 7th century, but has new features. Tatev ensemble fits in perfectly with the mountainous landscape around it. A large church, dominating the surrounding structures and visible from afar, is the architectural and artistic center of the ensemble. The residential and service premises, arranged in a single row on the perimeter, set off the polyhedral rock foundation and seem to be an extension of it. This gives the ensemble an original and majestic appearance

The Oil Mill of the Monastery is one of the well preserved and valuable medieval structures of the kind in Armenia.

According to a local legend Tatev should be interpreted from Liturgical as “Let the Holy Spirit give me the wings”.



University of Tatev

One of the first universities in Armenia was founded at the end of the 14th century in Tatev. Nowadays, it is relatively well preserved with auditoriums, the auxiliary rooms and the cells of the students-monks who were studying at the University of Tatev. Unfortunately it was under renovation during our visit.

Would you recommend a trip to Armenia?
This sojourn made us realize that few nations have a history as ancient and interesting as Armenia. And even fewer have a culture that is as rich and resilient. This is a destination where you will be intrigued by history, awed by monuments, amazed by the landscape and charmed by down-to-earth locals. if this is to your liking then go ahead and explore!!!

All Journeys have secret destinations of which the traveller is unaware.
-Martin Buber

Express your comment on this article

 
carlos silva
Tuesday, July 17, 2018
Iam working in kuwait
i wish to visit this country
how much the ticket cost?
which flight to take
how much Hotel charges and about visa
Planing from 21 august to 24th august return
please send me all the details

Aditya
Monday, May 7, 2018
well briefed. can you please advise on visa process and charges. i''ll be traveling in August.

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