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This week's question:My partner and I will be spending Easter in Armenia. We are planning to stay there for nine days, hire a car and drive around to see as many things as possible (given the country is quite small). We have only booked flights via Moscow so far. Does anyone have any suggestion for places to stay or itineraries to follow? We would be particularly keen to hear about good B&B accommodation and peculiar places that are usually not on tourist guides.Marco
Marco, having lived in rural Armenia for four years, I can tell you it is a wonderful country. I too will be spending Easter in Armenia, although I am travelling via Paris as I find Moscow to be a bit unpleasant and not worth the £30 savings on the ticket.
I know many of the tour guides and tour operators because I helped in development of the sector. The best value and most interesting tour is from Envoy Hostel
- quaint, bespoke and very insightful into Armenian life. Gevorg, the guide, is a fun young man full of passion to share the Armenian culture.
I would highly recommend going to Sevan Lake (an hour north out of the capital Yerevan) and eating at the Bashinjaryan Tea House. The staff do not speak English, but the experience will be wonderful. I do believe they have English menus, but if not they will provide a mobile phone to call the owner who will gladly relay your order to the staff. You will find the Tea House 5km south of Sevan City going towards Gavar.
I would spend at least a day in Dillijan, an hour down the mountain from Sevan. I recommend Nina B&B
. Also, you need to have a full meal at the Georgian Restaurant which is the best in the country. There is no sign and finding it will require asking people but it is next to the new hotel complex at the top of the main street in Dillijan. Just ask for "Veratsakan Restanant" (ver-ats-a-kan). Do not be fooled by the Soviet exterior - the food is out of this world. You will not have any menu so just order "saladt", "kievski cutlet", khnkali (kh-kal-lee [with kh at the back of the throat]) and of course Georgian wine (prounouned ghin-ee).
I would then continue to Vandzor. It is a lovely city with a large English speaking population and numerous B&Bs so simply ask around for a place to stay - but go and see it before you agree to stay the night. A B&B in Armenia is code for "my extra bedroom", so most B&Bs when they do not have guests are simply a family home. Sometimes it can be a bit uncomfortable for a Westerner, but if you allow yourself to enter into this culture it is wonderfully welcoming.
I could continue and write a whole itinerary to see the south of Armenia which is very different to the north. Do know that in every town there is a significant British and American population. Just ask for the "Angliasti" [angli-ats-ee] and soon you will be pointed to an American or Brit who speaks Armenian or Russian. I've met over a hundred of these people in Armenia and they are easy to find as the Armenian culture is known for keeping a watchful eye out over its guests.
As for me, I will be spending my Easter volunteering in Gavar Armenia where I am on a not-for-profit board for Gavar Special School
. We hope to educate and provide medical services to the over 700 special needs children who have never received a day of education. Look at the website as I and others will be in Gavar and there is always room for more people to help.
If I can help provide more information about Armenia, do let me know. It is a land I love and miss everyday.
Best wishes,Jason Sprague
For those thinking of travelling to Armenia I would suggest to contact Sati Armenia
tour and travel company.Varooj
You have to visit Khor Virap, where Saint Gregor was imprisoned for 13 years in a hole in the ground. When I say hole I mean a big, deep hole - you can get down into it and it is well worth the visit. As essentially the birthplace of adopted Christianity it is a must see. Also Garni - a Greek style temple overlooking a gorge in excellent condition. Seriously you can't miss this. And the Genocide Museum - just go.
Off the usual track are the Areni Vinyards. Take a drive out to the wine region of Areni, as you get there you'll see on the left a stone fronted winery which you will find to be most welcoming. Go down into their cellars and appreciate tasting the reds. It is well worth it. Get a few bottles of the Areni 91 if they have any left. It is surprisingly cheap and tastes great.
My uncle has a fruit farm in Artashat, 30 minutes south of Yerevan. He'll be happy to let you help out on the farm for the day and won't charge you a penny for the pleasure. He is a great guy with a wonderful smile and if you know how to play backgammon he will treat you to a game over a BBQ of the most gorgeous pork kebabs. The paper have my details if you want to know how to contact him.
Most people go to Lake Sevan (not my cup of tea in truth), but not many continue the 30 minutes to a tiny hard-to-find lake in the mountains beyond. Well worth the visit, but likely you'd need a guide to point the way. It's so off the track I don't know its name, nor how to give you a good idea of how to find it, except it is on the right, off the main road!
There is a Georgian restaurant in Yerevan down the end of Saya Nova Avenue on the other side of the park there. Walk away from the cascade past the Ani Plaza hotel (have it on your left) and it is 15 minutes down there and well worth the visit.
I've lived in Armenia for years, and prepared this nine day itinerary for anyone that wanted to visit to use as a starting point in planning their trip. It can be adjusted as much as necessary, or used pretty much as is.
Bari Janapar! (Bon Voyage in Armenian)Raffi Kojian
* Arrive in Yerevan and visit tourist information office (Nalbandyan 3).
* Visit the Parajanov Museum
(surrealist director able to make art out of all manner of junk).
* Half-day trip to Echmiadzin Cathedral (Mother Church), Zvartnots Cathedral ruins.
* Dinner at the Club (Agump
), drink at Melody Cafe in the Opera Square.
* Breakfast in Artbridge before heading to Central Armenia.
* Take a day trip to Garni Temple and Geghard Monastery (UNESCO).
* Hike to Aghjots Vank from Garni. Continue to explore Khosrov Reserve
if you wish - visit Saint Stepanos Monastery, the fortress, canyons and old inhabited caves (might need car/guide).
* Dinner at Amrots, then stroll the Northern Avenue and check out the fancy fountains of Republic Square.
* Quick breakfast sandwich at Yum Yum (try the basturma!)
* Head north to Lori, visit Saghmosavank en route.
* Visit Akhtala and Odzun before spending the night at Tufenkian Avan Dzoraget.
* Breakfast at Tufenkian hotel.
* Head to UNESCO of Haghpat and Sanahin.
* Hike to Kobayr Monastery (15 min).
* Hike to Horomayri Monastery (45 min) or Surp Grigori Monastery (35 min).
* Head back to Yerevan, spend the night.
* Visit Matenadaran
(Illuminated Manuscripts Collection).
* Visit Armenian Genocide Memorial and Museum
* Explore the city (and the outdoor market in Vernissage if it's the weekend).
* Have dinner at Central Cafe and stay the night in Yerevan.
* Get an early start and head to Southern Armenia.
* Visit Khor Virap Monastery and the views of Mt. Ararat en route.
* Visit Noravank Monastery's double decker church and brick red cliffs.
* Visit some other sites of your choice in the area. Choose from Selim Caravanseray, Smbataberd Fortress, Mozrov or Arjeri Caverns (requires guide), Tsakhats Kar Monastery, Areni wineries.
* Spend the night in Jermuk.
* Soak in one of the spas in Jermuk, take a bath, and hit the long road to...
* Zorats Karer - Armenia's cruder and much older roadside "Stonehenge".
* Tatev Monastery.
* Satan's Bridge spring fed pools (risk a treacherous climb down to the cavern and underground river below if you like).
* Spend the night in Goris at Mrhav B&B.
* Return to Yerevan or take a side trip to nearby Nagorno-Karabakh (see separate section on page).
* Head north to Yeghegnadzor where you can take the highway directly to Lake Sevan (Martuni). Head northwest along the shores.
* Visit Noratus, Armenia's largest khachkar cemetary.
* Visit Hayravank Monastery, overlooking the lake.
* Visit "Kghzi", the peninsula with Sevanavank and the more popular beaches. Eat fish and crayfish on the shores of the lake!
* Head to Dilijan and spend the night.
* Explore Dilijan.
* Visit Haghartsin and/or Goshavank Monastery.
* Have fish by the river - try Getap Restaurant.
* Visit a Molokan (Russian Amish type sect) Village.
* Head back to Yerevan to depart the following day, or on to Georgia.See previous questions and answers