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Holidays in Armenia

Understanding Armenia


Armenian history extends for over 3,000 years Armenians have historically inhabited the "Armenian Highlands", a vast section of mountains and valleys across eastern Anatolia and the Southern Caucasus Armenian vassal states, principalities, kingdoms and empires would rise and fall in different parts of this highland during history They were only unified once, just before the time of Christ in the empire of Tigran the Great, stretching from the Caspian to the Mediterranean Sea Much of the history was spent under the domination of the great powers of the region The western parts of Armenia were for long periods under Byzantine or Ottoman Turkish rule, while the eastern parts were under Persian or Russian rule These empires often fought their wars on Armenian territory, using Armenian soldiers It was a rough neighborhood, but Armenians managed to hold on to their language and church, and prosper whenever given a chance Being located on the silk road, Armenians built a network of merchant communities and ties extending from eastern Asia to Venice Eventually, with the onslaught of nationalism, Armenians paid a heavy price for their religion and their envy-inducing wealth

Armenian Genocide

After a number of protests by Western powers over their poor treatment of Armenians, Ottoman Turkey decided they did not want Armenians in Anatolia any longer, seeing the risk of foreign intervention or an independent nation rising in the middle of Anatolia Their decision to kill and deport the entire Armenian population created the huge Armenian Diaspora community that exists all over the world today, and since that time has locked Turks and Armenians in conflict as one seeks to deny the crimes for which the other demands international recognition To this day Turkey refuses to establish diplomatic relations with its neighbor over this, and the Karabakh Conflict see below

Soviet Armenia

In many ways, the Soviet period was a golden one for Armenians The price they paid for it was extraordinarily high, with arbitrary borders being drawn between Armenia and Azerbaijan setting the stage for future conflict, with hundreds of thousands dying in WWII, defending Russia and with countless Armenians lost to the gulag and KGB Economically however, the country boomed, and culturally, within the strict limits, there were heavily subsidized cultural education and activities Those who did not toe the government line however were often victims of car crashes or worse Yerevan mushroomed from a dusty garrison town of 20,000 to a metropolis of 1 million

Karabakh Conflict

In the early 1990s Armenians in Karabakh fought for independence from Azerbaijan with support from Armenia, and the Armenian Diaspora The war was won militarily, but with no diplomatic solution reached A ceasefire has been held since 1994, with minor exceptions The two countries are still technically at war This should not affect the average traveler who should avoid contact lines obviously! The only way to reach Karabakh is via Armenia, but if you plan to travel on to Azerbaijan after a visit to Karabakh, get the Karabakh visa on a separate piece of paper The Armenian/Karabakh borders with Azerbaijan are closed, and Turkey has closed its land border with Armenia in support of its Turkic-Azeri neighbors and both countries have imposed a strict economic embargo against Armenia


As Armenia straddles Europe and Asia, East and West, so does the culture Many Armenians refer to Armenia as a European nation, but their social conservatism in some realms hasn't been seen in Europe proper for a few decades The collapse of the Soviet Union has opened up many of these channels again, and change is coming rapidly, but much more so in Yerevan than in the rest of the country The small and very homogeneous about 99% Armenian population is strongly family oriented The people are across the land 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


Many visitors will be surprised to know that Armenia is not just a Christian nation but it is the first country in the world to adopt Christianity as a state religion It took place in 301 AD One can find thousands of churches and monasteries in Armenia Armenians are Apostolic Christians and have their own Catholicos religious leader, like the Pope for Catholics


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 in sight when you're on the southern shores With all of the geographic variation, the climate varies a great deal as well - be ready for everything from barren lunar landscapes to rain forests to snow-capped peaks and a vast alpine lake There are places where a few of these are visible at once

Talking in Armenia

Armenian is the only official language in Armenia, which is one of the most unique languages in the world However, the vast majority of Armenians are conversational in Russian, due to Armenia formerly being part of the Soviet Union English is becoming more widely spoken, particularly in Yerevan, however, most people will still not speak much or any English

What to do in Armenia

  • Hiking
  • Rock Climbing
  • Wind Surfing
  • Sun Baking
  • Camping
  • Skiing
  • Monastery hopping

Buying stuff in Armenia

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


The Armenian currency is known as the ‘’dram’’, and the currency is abbreviated as AMD Armenian Dram The dram is accepted everywhere, and often the dollar will be accepted for larger purchases - though the dram is the only legal currency for commerce Dollars, Euros and Rubles can be exchanged almost anywhere in the country, with other major currencies also easy to exchange Exchange booths 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 Electron on your card for it to work

Credit cards are not widely accepted yet, though they will get you pretty far in Yerevan

Exchange rates

Exchange rates approximate, January 2010:

  • €1 = 533 dram
  • US$1 = 377 dram
  • CAN$1 = 361 dram
  • £1 = 615 dram
  • RUB 1 = 1268 dram


Trading hours

Most shops/restaurants are open every day and offices and schools are open Monday to Saturday Mornings usually are slow, and places don't tend to open early, or even on time


Included in prices except sometimes hotels

Purchasing customs

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 ten percent “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


Vernissage - every Saturday near Republic Square there is an open market with great shopping for tourists and locals alike You can buy everything from a 300-year-old carpet to a 1970s Soviet phone to Russian nesting dolls

The "covered market" on Mashtots Street has fresh fruits and vegetables along with great dried fruits

For Armenian- and Russian-speaking visitors, a visit to the underground book market can be quite interesting Located in an underground passageway under Abovyan Street, close to the medical school and the Yeritasardakan Metro Station, vendors sell thousands upon thousands of books Bargaining is a must!

Food and eating in Armenia

Khorovats BBQ which can be pork, lamb, chicken or beef Usually it is flavored with onions and other Armenian spices Tomatoes, eggplant and bell peppers are also part of the khorovats meal

Borscht is a 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 is 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

Dolma stuffed grape leaves; a variety with stuffed cabbage leaves, bell peppers and eggplants also exists

Armenian fruits and vegetables are special One should definitely try them and will never forget the taste of Armenian apricot, peach, grapes, pomegranate, etc

Armenian bread is very tasty as well There is a vide range of different types of bread, starting from black and white till lavash a soft, thin flatbread and matnaqash

Don’t 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 Okroshka - cold soup with kefir and cucumber and dill It is a healthy and refreshing dairy product Spas is really tasty hot kefir 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

Drinking in Armenia

Alcoholic: Vodka, tutti oghi mulberry vodka, honi oghi cornelian cherry vodka, Tsirani oghi apricot vodka, local beer Kilikia, Kotayk, Gumri, wine can also be made of pomegranate, brandy

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, herbal teas

Accommodation in Armenia

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 The best way to access the true Armenia, away from the westernized hotels and "Armenian branded" hotels is to find a reliable travel agent based in Armenia Sidon Travel & Tourism is a reputable organization, located in The Ani Plaza Hotel As well as many others in Yerevan Other local agents such as Menua Tours, Hyur Service and 7Days can arrange serviced apartment stays

In Yerevan, there is a hostel called Envoy which offers reasonably cheap accommodation

Outside Yerevan, there are a few main recreational areas that offer very reasonable accommodations but you will be required to live without some western conveniences At the high end are the Tufenkian Heritage Hotels on Lake Sevan and in Northern Lori Marz 50 kilometers 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 $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 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 $20 a day Take another $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 Stepanavan area is great for hiking, tasting fresh diary products, etc Small hotels, B&Bs are available in the area of Stepanavan wwwstepanavannet, Odzun, Tumanian, etc

Tzaghkadzor 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 expectations behind

Working in Armenia

Career Center 4 has job listings For volunteer work see these links: 5, 6, 7

Cities in Armenia

abovyan  abovyan  agarakadzor  agarak  agarak  agarak  aghavnadzor  aghavnadzor  aghavnatun  akhuryan  aknalich  aknashen  alaverdi  amasia  amberd  anushavan  apaga  aparan  aragats  aragats  aragyukh  aramus  arapi  ararat  arazap  archis  areni  arevabuyr  arevashat  arevashogh  arevik  arevik  arevshat  arevshat  argavand  argavand  argel  armash  armavir  arshaluys  artashat  arteni  artimet  artsvaberd  artsvanist  arzakan  arzni  ashnak  ashtarak  astghadzor  avshar  aygavan  aygedzor  aygehovit  aygek  aygepat  aygeshat  aygeshat  aygestan  aygezard  aygut  ayrum  ayrum  azatamut  azatan  azatavan  azatavan  baghramyan  bagratashen  balahovit  bambakashat  bardzrashen  bazum  berdavan  berd  brnakot  brun  buzhakan  byurakan  byuravan  byureghavan  chambarak  chochkan  dalar  dalarik  darakert  darpas  dashtavan  ddmashen  dilijan  dimitrov  doghs  drakhtik  dsegh  dvin  dzitankov  dzoraghbyur  dzoragyukh  fantan  fioletovo  gagarin  gandzak  garni  gavar  gay  geghamasar  geghamavan  geghanist  getahovit  getashen  getazat  ghukasavan  gladzor  gogaran  goris  gosh  griboyedov  gyulagarak  gyumri  haghartsin  hayanist  haykashen  haykavan  hnaberd  hoktember  horom  hovtashat  hovtashen  hrazdan  ijevan  janfida  jermuk  jrahovit  jrashen  jrashen  kamaris  kamo  kanakeravan  kapan  kaputan  karbi  karchaghbyur  kasakh  khashtarak  khndzoresk  kosh  lanjaghbyur  lchashen  lenughi  lernakert  lernanist  lernantsk  lernapat  lernavan  lorut  lukashin  madina  maisyan  malishka  maralik  margahovit  margara  marmarashen  marmashen  martuni  masis  mayakovski  meghradzor  meghrashen  meghri  merdzavan  metsamor  metsavan  mets masrik  mets parni  mosesgegh  mrganush  mrgashat  mrgashen  mrgavan  mrgavet  musaler  musayelyan  myasnikyan  nalbandyan  navur  nizami  norakert  noramarg  nor armavir  norashen  norashen  noratus  nor geghi  nor gyukh  nor yerznka  noyakert  noyemberyan  nshavan  odzun  oshakan  paravakar  pemzashen  pokr mantash  proshyan  pshatavan  ptghni  ranchpar  rind  samaghar  saramech  saratak  sarigyukh  sarukhan  sasunik  sevan  shaghat  shahumyan  shahumyan  shatin  shenavan  shenavan  shinuhayr  shirakamut  shirak  shnogh  sisavan  sisian  sis  solak  sovetakan  spandaryan  spitak  surenavan  talin  tandzut  taronik  tashir  tazagyukh  tegh  tsaghkaber  tsaghkadzor  tsaghkahovit  tsiatsan  tsovagyugh  tsovak  tsovazard  tsovinar  tumanyan  urut  ushi  vagharshapat  vaghashen  vahagni  vahan  vanadzor  vardablur  vardadzor  vardenik  vardenis  varser  vedi  verin artashat  verin dvin  verin getashen  verishen  vernashen  voskehask  voskehat  voskevan  voskevaz  vostan  yeghegnavan  yeghegnut  yeghegnut  yeghvard  yeraskhahun  yerazgavors  yerevan  zangakatun  zaritap  zar  zhdanov  zorak  zoravan  zovaber  zovuni  

What do you think about Armenia?

How expensive is Armenia?
(1 AMD = 0 USD)
Meal in inexpensive restaurant3.31 AMD
3-course meal in restaurant (for 2)12.2 AMD
McDonalds meal1.1 AMD
Local beer (0.5 draft)522.98 AMD
Foreign beer (0.33 bottle) 747.9 AMD
Cappuccino868.18 AMD
Pepsi/Coke (0.33 bottle)245.33 AMD
Water (0.33 bottle)190.54 AMD
Milk (1l)402.02 AMD
Fresh bread (500g)261.56 AMD
White Rice (1kg)593.32 AMD
Eggs (12) 808.44 AMD
Local Cheese (1kg) 2.2 AMD
Chicken Breast (1kg) 2.2 AMD
Apples (1kg) 475.71 AMD
Oranges (1kg) 860.95 AMD
Tomato (1kg) 493.33 AMD
Potato (1kg) 234.13 AMD
Lettuce (1 head) 271.4 AMD
Water (1.5l)251.76 AMD
Bottle of Wine (Mid-Range) 0.92 AMD
Domestic Beer (0.5 bottle)375.26 AMD
Foreign beer (0.33 bottle) 561.14 AMD
Cigarettes586.85 AMD
One way local bus ticket110.7 AMD
Monthly pass for bus4.42 AMD
Taxi start582 AMD
Taxi 1km110.6 AMD
Taxi 1hour waiting1.11 AMD
Gasoline (1 liter) 536.41 AMD
Utilities for a "normal" apartment44.1 AMD
Tennis Court Rent (1 Hour on Weekend) 8.82 AMD
Apartment (1 bedroom) in City Centre 158.83 AMD
Apartment (1 bedroom) Outside of Centre 58.28 AMD
Apartment (3 bedrooms) in City Centre 285.95 AMD
Apartment (3 bedrooms) Outside of Centre 108.81 AMD, your travel companion

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