Have you ever thought to visit small countries? Yes, a lot of people don’t even consider them, and alas they lose their chance to discover secret gems of these countries…
I decided to visit this small country in the South of the Caucasus with the name of Armenia in October 2018. I had some days leave, so got packed and went for new adventures, discoveries, and new findings.
Every journey starts with the airport and so I landed at Zvartnots International Airport late at night… I have landed in this airport a lot of times as a pilot but had never had that opportunity to go out of the cockpit and explore Yerevan, the capital. Anyway, from this airport which is not as big as expected but designed very beautifully, the journey started. I was met by Marta and Zara who were my guides for my 4 days vacation and dropped me to the hotel which was in downtown. The whole road from the airport to the city center where my hotel was located took 30 minutes and these 30 minutes give you the feeling of the spirit of Soviet Era that Armenia was part of almost 70 years. However, as we approached the city, the mix of culture and modern times became evident.
Yerevan – Older Than Rome?
My first morning in the modern and comfortable hotel with a fantastic view of the “Theater of Opera and Ballet “ was beautiful. After breakfast I met Zara and Marta, and we went to sightseeing. The falls in Armenia is astounding. October is one of the best months to visit Yerevan, the weather is hot (about +25-27 at day times and milder at nights). The first thing you notice about Yerevan is the ‘Armenian people.’ They were so friendly, and they showed a lot of hospitality which is unique.
Armenians love to talk about their city and history and what is the first thing that you have to know is that Yerevan is 29 years older than Rome, they say it in such a proud way that you cannot argue with them 🙂 We start our journey from Cascade Monumental Complex. This city is an excellent example of the Soviet capital, its center resembling the Sun is designed by Alexander Tamanyan during the Soviet times and whose statue is standing proudly in the city center near the Cascade monument.
Yerevan is alive! The city is very lively with people of different ages. This is a city of walking and exploring, sitting in the parks, wandering in its streets and avenues. The cafe culture is fantastic. The city is full of cafes: every street, every square, every park have cafes and no matter what time of the day, they were always full of people. I liked to bite something in cafes near Cascade monument.
On the end of the day, I recognized Yerevan as a city of lights and sound with the dancing fountains at Republican Square… although it was a little bit raining the day ended perfectly.
Food: I Felt Home!
Well, Armenian recipes were similar to Middle Eastern recipes, the same kebabs, kefta, hummus… these dishes made me feel home…
Pagan Temple, Old Churches, Mount Ararat, Canyon Resembling Grand Canyon
Due to its perfect location, Yerevan also makes an ideal base for numerous day trips in Armenia. So I was offered to go and explore more besides the capital. One of the biggest attractions in Armenia is Garni Pagan Temple, a Greco-Roman style temple overlooking a broad valley and dated back to 1st century AD.
Though the history of this temple is exciting the views over the valley and the gorge was spectacular.
Just 15 minutes drive from Garni Temple, and there is a UNESCO Heritage SIte: Geghard Monastery. This monastery is carved into the rock in 4th century AD and has fantastic views from the outside and a real drawcard interior. I enjoyed my time at these 2 sites and overall it took 3 hours to discover these two.
I couldn’t miss the chance to watch Mount Ararat from Armenian land as I was spotting it many times from the cockpit during my flights before, so the next day we went to see it together with a Khor Virap Monastery. This picture-perfect monastery is a postcard of Armenia. It is one of the oldest churches in Armenia which carries beautiful legends mixed with history. Oh, did you know Armenia is the first country that adopted Christianity in 301 AD? But what makes this monastery so unique is the view: the snow-capped Mount Ararat in the background is breathtaking.
Overall Armenia is full of churches, monasteries, historical places. But what amazed me most was the Canyon, which became the Highlight of my trip. I didn’t expect THAT to be so spectacular: Saghmosavank or Kasakh Gorge resembling the Grand Canyon (USA) was magnificent, but if you want a spectacular natural show you have to go there at sunset. Nature does its job…
As I mentioned above Yerevan is full of cafes, and these cafes, bars, pubs make Yerevan nightlife a perfect experience. You can find anything… depends on the taste. Due to lack of time, I couldn’t afford myself to enjoy all these cozy places, but I did enjoy 2 sites, which provided a ‘cool’ atmosphere full of young people who enjoyed their night-outs. I can not mention the Sky Bar which offers beautiful scenery of Yerevan from top of the rough. The music, the people, the view were amazing.
During my stay in Armenia, I understood that this is a small nation with a big heart. It has an atmosphere of keeping you to come again and explore more.
- Almost all Armenians speak very well Russian, English is the third language spoken
- Armenia is a very cheap country; it won’t ruin your budget
- Yerevan is one of the safest cities in the world; you can walk around even late at night
- Tap water can be safely consumed.