Visiting Armenia For The First Time: A Comprehensive Guide

If you are considering visiting Armenia for the first time, I hope that this comprehensive guide will provide a well-rounded perspective from someone who has actually visited Armenia in 2023.  

Nestled in the South Caucasus region of Eurasia, Armenia is a land of rich history and breathtaking landscapes. Situated at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, this small yet vibrant country offers a unique blend of cultural influences, making it an intriguing travel destination. 

From the rugged beauty of its mountains and valleys to the ancient monasteries and churches dotting its terrain, Armenia presents a canvas of historical and natural wonders

What drew me to visit Armenia was not just its historical significance as one of the world’s oldest civilisations but also its reputation for warm hospitality, exquisite cuisine, and the allure of exploring a lesser-known gem on the world travel map. 

This journey into the heart of the Caucasus promised a blend of adventure, cultural immersion, and a chance to witness a nation that has resiliently preserved its rich heritage and traditions.

Visiting Armenia For The First Time: A Comprehensive Guide

Visa Requirements for Armenia

Here’s a map of the different countries and their visa requirement to enter Armenia. 

Visa policy of Armenia.png

It’s important that you check your specific country’s diplomatic relationships with Armenia before planning your trip to Armenia. 

In my case, I am from Romania, a member of the EU. EU countries don’t require a visa to travel to Armenia. 

As you will arrive at the airport, there will be a Visa desk just before the customs office. Again, some countries might need to stop by the visa office on arrival. But for me, that wasn’t the case. I simply walked up to the passport control customs office and got my stamp on the passport. 

Since my readers are from all over the world, I can’t provide instructions for all of you. But this is what you can do. 

The easiest way to verify if you need a visa is to go on the website of your government’s Foreign Affairs Ministery and check the page on “Travel to Armenia”. It should be clearly stated if you need a visa or if you don’t. In case you need a visa, instructions on how to get one should be provided. 

Best time to visit Armenia

I visited Armenia in mid-October, and the weather was great for exploring and walking around. I even wore my sandals during the day when it was up to 25 Celcius. But note that the temperatures might vary each year. 

As with most European countries, the best time to visit Armenia is during shoulder seasons. That is spring (March-May, even June) and fall (September-October, November might get a bit chilly). 

The huge advantage when visiting in fall or spring is that you get fewer crowds in tourist places, and the weather is milder. This makes it perfect for you to enjoy your destination. 

 A rundown of the best seasons to visit Armenia, taking into account weather, local events, and tourist crowds.

Visiting Armenia For The First Time: A Comprehensive Guide

How to get to Armenia

My initial plan was to drive all the way from Romania to Armenia. Because of my personal schedule, that didn’t happen this time, and I chose to catch a flight to get to Armenia. So, the two main options to get to Armenia are:

  • By land from Georgia, using the Guguti BCP and Bagratashen – Sadakhlo Border Crossing (this is the recommended crossing). By air. I flew from Athens with Aegean Airlines. 
  • By land from Iran.
  • Do note that there are no land borders with Turkey or Azerbaijan. 

This land route Georgia – Armenia is popular for many tourists travelling between the two countries. You can even rent a car to pick up from one location and drop off in the other (for a $175 flat fee on top of the rental cost in 2023). 

Most people use the bus to cross the border; there are multiple companies offering such trips.

While you can find some companies online to book tickets, the easiest way is to show up at the central bus station in Tbilisi or Yerevan at 8 AM and ask for a bus to your destination.

As of October 2023, tickets were about $25, but it depended on the bus. Convert that into the local currency (AMD for Armenia and GEL for Georgia and have it cash on you). You pay directly to the driver. 

The last option, and the most comfortable, is to hire a private driver. This is what I did to get from Yerevan, Armenia, to Tbilisi, Georgia. I can assume you can do this the other way around. Note that there will be a lot of tour guides offering this service, and you can negotiate. I can only speak for prices from Armenia, but Georgia shouldn’t be much more expensive. In my case, I ended up paying $100 (and a $10 tip), and we were two people, so it was manageable. 

But the prices for a private car and driver generally start at about $175 for the Yerevan – Tbilisi route. It depends on the car, the availability of the driver and probably the time of the year. If it’s in full tourist season, prices are higher, as there is more demand. Check rental prices on RentalCars.

In October, there was not a lot of demand. Also, our driver stopped a few times along the way to show us some touristic places (Lake Sevan and Sevanavank church and a bit of Dilijan town).

Usually, these places are included on day trips from Yerevan and do not cost much. But it was a nice addition to the trip. Overall, the trip from Yerevan to Tbilisi took about 5 hours with a private car. It would take longer with a minibus since the car is bigger, and the border crossing could take longer because you have to wait for all the passengers. 

Roads in Armenia are generally good, but a lot of drivers seem to be in a hurry. It’s nothing too bad, but it’s the local way of driving, which might seem a bit dangerous to Westerners. 

Here is the driver’s phone number (message him on WhatsApp; his English is limited, but he is a great person): +37477054507 and +374700045. All drivers will communicate on WhatsApp and even send voice notes. On our driver’s card, it says, “Tours all over Armenia and Georgia”.

Visiting Armenia For The First Time: A Comprehensive Guide

Taxies in Armenia

Bold and Uber don’t work in Armenia. Instead, they use Yangoo Go and GG apps. Unfortunately, I couldn’t register on either of these apps without an Armenian phone number. 

A lot of flights arrive in Yerevan, Armenia, during the night.

As of October 2023, there was no public transport available. The only option was to get cash from the ATMs in the airport and negotiate with the taxi drivers who were roaming around all over the arrival hall. 

The first driver who approached me asked for 20,000 AMD ($50) to take me and my boyfriend from the airport to the centre of Yerevan. 

I instantly replied, “That’s too much, thanks!” to which another driver asked me how much I wanted to pay. I tried to explain that I didn’t know the prices, so why didn’t they use the meter? 

He kept on insisting, asking, “How much?” Finally, I said, “6,000 AMD” ($15), and he said, “Ok.” He then called another driver, who showed up in front of the airport’s entrance in no more than 2 minutes, and we got dropped off in front of our hotel. Looking back, even 5,000 AMD would have been fine, but you must take into account that it was at about 3 AM, and all you want to do is go to sleep at that hour. 

I have explained all of this to let you know how things work and what to expect. In the end, we were all good, and the service was ok, although the car itself was a bit old. 

Visiting Armenia For The First Time: A Comprehensive Guide

Accommodation in Yerevan

I used Booking.com to find a hotel in Yerevan. There are plenty of options on all price ranges. 

I recommend choosing a hotel closer to the centre. The central part is walkable, and from there, you won’t need to take any kind of transportation. Also, most things you will want to visit in Yerevan are located in the central part, close to the Republic Square. 

I stayed at Tigran Mets Hotel, which is super close to Republic Square, has decent conditions, and has friendly and helpful staff. I would say this is a budget option, but the location is great for the price. Also, I booked an apartment but got a triple room. Not everything is what it seems, but the hotel was ok for 3 nights. 

Other hotel options in Yerevan 

***  – Grand Hotel Yerevan, Golden Palace Hotel Yerevan, Hotel National

**   – Hotel Tigran Mets (I stayed here; it’s an ok budget accommodation really close to the centre of Yerevan), Nova Hotel Yerevan

*    – Old Yerevan Hotel, Capsula hotel

Visiting Armenia For The First Time: A Comprehensive Guide

Must-Visit Attractions in Yerevan

  • Republic Square. Known as the heart of Yerevan, this central square is famous for its stunning architecture and the Dancing Fountains, which are especially enchanting at night.
  • Cascade Complex. A massive staircase with beautiful fountains and sculptures, that offers an incredible view of the city and Mount Ararat from the top.
  • Matenadaran. A unique repository of ancient manuscripts, it houses an extensive collection of medieval Armenian and foreign manuscripts, making it one of the richest depositories of manuscripts and books in the world.
  • Tsitsernakaberd Armenian Genocide Memorial Complex. This solemn and powerful memorial and museum are dedicated to the victims of the Armenian Genocide, offering a profound historical insight.
  • Opera Theater. Officially named the Armenian National Academic Theater of Opera and Ballet, it’s a landmark for classical music and architecture enthusiasts.
  • Vernissage Market. A bustling open-air market full of Armenian art and crafts, perfect for finding unique souvenirs and local artwork.
  • Erebuni Fortress. An ancient Urartian fortified city, offering a glimpse into the rich history of Yerevan, dating back to the 8th century BC.
  • Blue Mosque. The only active mosque in Armenia, known for its stunning blue tilework, reflects the Persian influence in the region.
  • Victory Park and Mother Armenia Statue. A large park featuring the monumental Mother Armenia statue, symbolising peace through strength, and offering panoramic views of Yerevan.
  • Kond. A historic district, one of the oldest parts of Yerevan, known for its narrow winding streets and traditional architecture, offering a glimpse into the old-world charm of the city.
  • Ararat brandy factory tour. I did the “Advanced package” tour, which includes a tour of the museum with an English-speaking guide and a taste of 3 different brandies at the end. The tour was 10,000 AMD (25 USD) and lasted 1 hour. 
Visiting Armenia For The First Time: A Comprehensive Guide

Local Cuisine

What to eat in Armenia?

Armenian cuisine is a delightful experience, characterized by its unique flavours and diverse dishes. Here’s a list of must-try foods when in Armenia:

  • Lavash: A traditional thin, soft flatbread. It’s a staple in Armenian meals and is often used as a wrap for kebabs and other dishes.
  • Dolma: Grape leaves or vegetables stuffed with a mix of minced meats, rice, herbs, and spices. It’s a classic Armenian dish with a rich, savoury flavour.
  • Khorovats: Armenian-style barbecue, typically made with marinated pork, lamb, or chicken. It’s a social food, often cooked outdoors over an open flame.
  • Ghapama: A stuffed pumpkin dish, traditionally prepared by filling the pumpkin with cooked rice, dried fruits, nuts, and honey, then baking it until tender.
  • Harissa: A comforting porridge made from korkot (dried or roasted cracked wheat) and meat, usually chicken or lamb. It’s a hearty and warming dish.
  • Basturma: Cured beef with a coating of garlic paste and a unique spice blend called chaman. It’s often sliced thin and served as part of a mezze platter.
  • Manti: Small dumplings filled with spiced meat (usually lamb or beef), often topped with garlic yogurt and sumac. They are typically steamed or baked.
  • Gata: A sweet pastry, which comes in various shapes and sizes, often filled with a sugary, buttery filling known as khoriz.
  • Zhingyalov hats: A flatbread stuffed with a mix of finely chopped herbs and green vegetables. It’s a specialty of the Nagorno-Karabakh region.
  • Spas: A yogurt-based soup, often made with barley or wheat and seasoned with herbs. It’s similar to the Russian okroshka or the Middle Eastern laban.

These dishes offer a glimpse into the rich culinary traditions of Armenia, reflecting the country’s history and the various cultural influences it has absorbed over the centuries. Each dish tells a story of the land and its people, making them an integral part of the Armenian experience.

What to eat in Armenia if you are a vegetarian

I do not eat meat but trust me that you will find plenty of vegetarian options in Armenian cuisine. Also, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that some of the Armenian dishes are inspired by Turkish cuisine, which I absolutely adore. 

Visiting Armenia For The First Time: A Comprehensive Guide

Safety Tips in Armenia

Armenia is a very safe country, even for solo female travellers. From my personal experience, locals are very friendly and always eager to help. Some may even offer small gifts, such as food or sweets. 

Walking on the streets of Yerevan felt extremely safe, even late in the evenings. As always, be aware of your surroundings, and watch your pockets. But from my experience, I never felt any danger at all, not even pickpockets or people watching me because I was a foreigner. I can say that Armenia is one of the safest countries in Europe

However, if you have any emergency, you can call the following emergency services:

  • Firefighters 101 
  • Police 102 
  • Ambulance 103

Budget

Armenia is a very budget-friendly country. I would recommend planning a trip to Armenia if you want to travel on a budget and stretch your Euros or dollars for longer. 

I visited Armenia in October 2023, and here are some prices:

  • Hotel – about 45 USD per night (centre hotel)
  • Meal – 25 USD per person in a high-end restaurant
  • Attractions – 5-25 USD, depending on the attraction

For day trips, you can either join a tour or book a private driver to take you around. The prices for tours are pre-set, but you can negotiate the price for private tours. 

Visiting Armenia For The First Time: A Comprehensive Guide

Packing List for Armenia

It depends on your planned activities. In general, the weather is fairly similar to what you would experience in Central European countries, so pack according to the season. 

However, note that most tourist activities in Armenia are outdoors. So, if you plan on doing any hikes or road trips, pack accordingly. The weather is generally mild, but it can get chilly in the mountains, 

Should you visit Armenia?

Absolutely, Armenia is a must-visit country in Europe. 

I love the local culture, the hospitality of locals and the diversity of activities in Armenia. You can easily spend one week in Armenia, and you won’t get bored. If you’re into nature, culture and history, Armenia should be on your travel bucket list.

Iulia Vasile

Iulia is a travel expert, blogger, engineer, freelance copywriter, and a curiosity-driven personality. She sees travel as the ultimate tool for self-improvement and personal growth, and that's the main topic of her blog, Juliasomething.com.

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