By T N Shaji
Republic of Armenia is a country of ancient monasteries, and former Soviet Union, in the Caucasus region between Asia and Europe. With beautiful mountains, especially the Mount Ararat, relaxed pace of life and welcoming residents, stable weather and lower crime rate, Armenia is a perfect tourist destination. The cheapest flights to Armenia provided by some leading airlines include Qatar Airways, Air Arabia, Fly Dubai, Atlasglobal and MEA.
One of the reasons why tourists prefer to spend their holiday in Armenia is very affordable prices. The national currency in Armenia is dram (AMD), which exists in the form of banknotes and coins. Most often during the daily expenses, Armenians use banknotes of 1,000 or 5,000 dram and coins of 200 and 500 dram.
There is a wide range of both luxury restaurant cafes offering fast food. In fast food chains, visitors can have a full meal and pay only 1,500-2,000 AMD ($3-4), in the national restaurants the dinner will cost from 5,000 to 15,000 AMD ($10-30) or higher that depends on the prestige and selected dishes.
The cuisine reflects the history and geography where Armenians have lived as well as incorporating outside influences. In Armenia, there is a restaurant for each taste like Armenian national cuisine, Lebanese cuisine, Middle Eastern cuisine, Indian cuisine, Georgian cuisine, Special Halal menu, homemade food, European, continental and snack menu.
Visa procedures are also simplified as part of promoting tourism in Armenia. The citizens of the UAE with all types of passports are exempt from the requirement to obtain a visa to enter the Republic of Armenia up to 180 days per year. The citizens of Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait and Oman can obtain Armenian entry visa.
Citizens of India, who have residence permit in Qatar, the UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait and Oman can obtain Armenian entry visa also on the border of the Republic of Armenia.
If the tourists do not want to use roaming during their stay in Armenia, Armenian operators’ SIM cards can be purchased in any book stall for 1,000 drams ($2). Rates operators (Beeline, Orange, VivaCell -MTC) are different, but on average we can say that one minute of talk within Armenia will cost 20-30 drams ($0.04 – 0.06).
Climate of Armenia is markedly continental. Summer is dry and sunny, lasting from June to mid-September. Winter is short and quite cold with plenty of snow. In the mountains, the average summer temperature ranges between +10 and +22C, and in the winter temperatures range between +2 and -14C. In plain lands the average January temperature is -5C, and July temperature is +25C.
Armenia boasts some of Europe’s most stunning views, with the peak of Mount Ararat dominating the country’s skyline. The mountain is Armenia’s national symbol despite its peak lying just over the Turkish border. Armenia is home to countless beautiful monasteries and they are often found in areas of truly outstanding natural beauty. Armenia’s capital, Yerevan, is one of the most rapidly developing cities in the whole of Europe as the nation continues to embrace tourism.
The following are some of the key attractions in Armenia.
By far the largest city in Armenia, the capital Yerevan is a great place to start for anyone wishing to explore Armenia. The city is home to the grand Republic Square, while climbing the Cascade to see the city’s monument to Soviet victory in the Second World War is a must. Yerevan is a deeply historic city and visiting the Armenian Genocide Memorial is a must to learn more about the nation’s troubled past. Vernissage flea market is worth visiting too – it is open at the weekend – while a walk through the Hrazdan gorge is also very attractive. Much of what Armenia has to offer can be explored during day trips from Yerevan, which is known as the City of Cafes. Yerevan is also home to Blue Mosque, which is the only mosque in the whole of the country, as well as Levon’s Amazing Underground World, which is one of Europe’s most unusual attractions.
Shikahogh State Reserve
The second largest forest reserve in Armenia, Shikahogh State Reserve is so unspoiled that large parts of it remain unexplored to this day. The forest is believed to be home to animals including leopards, bears, wild goats and vipers and it is also thought that Shikahogh State Reserve has about 1,100 species of plants, although its fauna has not yet been fully explored. The reserve also has a number of very beautiful waterfalls to enjoy.
Lake Sevan, found in the heart of Armenia, is the country’s largest lake and a beautiful place to visit. The lake is surrounded by some stunning monasteries – the most impressive of them being arguably the Sevanavank Monastery – providing a glorious scenic backdrop to a relaxing trip. Windsurfing is among the recreation activities available at the lake, which also has a wide choice of excellent seafood restaurants along its shore. Lake Sevan has a number of popular beaches and, as the country has no coastline, this is the best place in Armenia to sunbathe, with Sevan Bay and its surrounding mountains providing spectacular scenery.
The lake is considered to be one of the largest fresh water lakes in the world at an altitude of 1,897 metres above sea level.
Dilijan national park
Armenia has four national parks and Dilijan national park may be the most beautiful of the lovely quartet. The park, which was only established in 2002, is famous for its medicinal mineral water springs, as well as its natural monuments. Many of Armenia’s more important cultural locations can be found within the grounds of the park, such as Haghartsin Monastery, Goshavank Monastery and Jukhtak Vank, as well as Matosavank Monastery. The Aghestev and Getik river basins are also both within the boundaries of Dilijan national park.
Dilijan is also a resort town with mild climate, fresh air in the northeast of Yerevan. It is famous for its amazing surroundings, called the “Armenian Switzerland” by the locals, due to the densely forested valleys and mountains with alpine meadows around. It is an excellent centre for walking.
Monasteries are one of Armenia’s defining characteristics and the example at Noravank is one of the most beautiful in the whole country. Sheer brick-red cliffs shield the monastery, which was built in the 13th century. Noravank is famous for its Astvatsatsin (Holy Mother of God) church; while the story goes that the monastery was saved by God himself when Armenia was conquered by the Mongols hundreds of years ago. Noravank would be an extremely good tourist location in Armenia where thousands of people visit every year.
Armenia’s mountainous scenery makes it ideal for winter sports and the country’s best ski resort can be found at Tsaghkadzor in the heart of the country. Ski lifts are paid for by the ride and are among the most affordable in Europe. Tsaghkadzor boasts some of the finest hotels in the country, while the resort also has one of the nation’s biggest entertainment centres in the form of the Senator Royale casino complex. Tsaghkadzor also has the Kecharis Monastery, which is one of Armenia’s most important religious complexes, dating back to the start of the 11th century.
Upper Azat Valley
The Upper Azat Valley is one of Armenia’s World Heritage Sites, partly due to the incredible Geghard Monastery for which the region is most famous. The main chapel was built 800 years ago but the history of the monastery goes all the way back to the fourth century, when it was founded by Gregory the Illuminator.
It is a monastery which is hewn out from a cave. The monastery had been originally named Ayrivank meaning the “the Monastery of the Cave”. The monastery is included in the Unesco World Heritage list. The name commonly used for the monastery today, Geghard, or more fully Geghardavank meaning the Monastery of the Spear.
Garni Pagan Temple
The temple was built by Armenian King Tiridates and was dedicated to the God of Sun Mithra. Garni is the only Hellenistic temple existing nowadays in Armenia. The stairs of the temple are made huge and high which means that every human being climbing up the stairs is condescending to the God. The place is attractive for the wonderful natural rocks, formed of regular cylinders. This composition is called “Symphony of Stones” which one can find anywhere else in the world.
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