Armenia is your quintessential travel destination- beautiful landscapes, contrasting topography, changing microclimates, did we also mention extremely budget friendly? Straddling between Asia & Europe, Armenia is considered one of the oldest countries in the world with recorded history dating back 3500 years.
To love Armenia means to love its love for monasteries. They are in abundance and the locals would urge you to visit them all, what with all the fascinating folklores associated to each of one of them.
WHY YOU SHOULD BASE YOURSELF IN YEREVAN
It is a good option to base yourself and do day trips from Yerevan as most hotels are located within Yerevan, with lesser options as you venture deep into the countryside. Something that will definitely change in the near future, thanks to the influx of tourists.
Also, most attractions are under 2 hours from the city. And night life exists only in the capital. So if you want to experience the best of the countryside and the city everyday of your stay, its best to be in Yerevan.
Also Read: 10 Fun Facts About Armenia
HOW TO PLAN DAY TRIPS FROM YEREVAN
If you are in Armenia for a short break, it is best to visit all these places through private tours. Another option is to check with your hotel for a private car with driver. These are locals who earn side income from private tours. They are very knowledgeable and can give you good deals as compared to tour companies. As they come recommended by your hotel, they can be trusted.
Alternatively, we have included public transport options wherever possible. We wouldn’t recommend self driving, specially on the mountain roads.
THE BEST DAY TRIPS FROM YEREVAN
KHOR VIRAP MONASTERY
A prison in the times of Christian persecution, Khor Virap is now the most sought after day trip from Yerevan. Khor Virap casts a grand silhouette against the backdrop of the magnificent peak of Mt. Ararat.
Did you know that Mt. Ararat, the country’s national monument is not located in Armenia but in Eastern Turkey? Despite this fact, the symbol of Mt.Ararat is widely used and Armenians consider this mountain a savior for protecting the country from a strong earthquake in the past.
It is also believed that the biblical reference to Ararat where Noah’s ark landed is here.
How to get to Khor Virap Monastery from Yerevan
The monastery is 45 minutes by road from Yerevan and there are no direct buses. The best and the cheapest way is to hop on a Marshrutka/mini-bus from Sasuntsi David Metro Station and get down at Pokr Vedi and walk up to the monastery. You can also find taxis at Pokr Vedi to do the short trip to the monastery.
THE PEAKS OF MT ARAGATS AND LAKE KARI
When in Armenia, it is a must to visit its highest point. The mountain route of Mt. Aragats is home to one of the most fascinating legends. There is an upward slope along this route, where a car can climb on its own without even a driver. That’s not all! The stream along this route flows upwards defying the fundamentals of gravity. You can find various videos on this phenomenon on the internet.
How to get to Mt Aragats from Yerevan
Snow covers the peak almost all year round. It is possible to take day trips from Yerevan to both these spots. Just an 1.5 hour drive away, the roads are winding and extremely steep with plenty of hairpin curves. This very road is considered most dangerous during winters with frequent avalanches and temperatures dropping to -15 degrees Celsius. So it is best to hire a local guide to take you there. Lake Kari, a high altitude mountain lake here is a favorite campsite for alpinists climbing Aragats.
Located on the slopes of Mt. Aragats, 50 km from Yerevan, Amberd fortress served as an outpost in the 7th century until it was invaded and destroyed by the Persians and later the Mongols with only its ruins standing tall, reflecting its turbulent past. The monastery near the fortress is well preserved. A single lane mountain road leads to the fortress making it impossible to visit during winter.
How to get from to Amberd Fortress from Yerevan
Unfortunately, there are no public buses directly to the fortress. You can take a bus to the nearest towns of Ashtarak or Byurakan and hike up to the fortress or hire a cab.
Geghard Monastery predates Armenia’s conversion to Christianity. Dedicated to the sun god Helios, this pagan temple is carved out of the mountain and has a freshwater spring within. No matter how near or far you stand from religion or religious beliefs, you will definitely feel an energy in the air here.
GARNI: A GREEK PAGAN TEMPLE
Garni is a Greek temple dedicated to the sun goddess Mythra. This temple still stands tall after years of disrepair and calamities. Its construction follows the Pythagorean and Platonic theories and the magnificence of the structure speaks volumes of people who built it.
How to get to Garni & Geghard from Yerevan
Located 30 km from Yerevan, there are frequent minibuses from the city center to Garni. The cheapest way to reach is to take a minibus to Geghard and then a taxi to Garni which is just 10 kilometers away.
LAKE SEVAN & SEVANAVANK MONASTERY
Lake Sevan is one of the largest high-altitude freshwater lakes in the world. It has 30 rivers pouring into it and only 1 flowing out. Cooler and windier than other parts of Armenia, the best time to visit Lake Sevan is July & August. There are many hotels along the lake offering spectacular views.
Located on the northwestern shore of Lake Seven, Sevanavank Monastery offers spectacular panoramic views of the lake. There are benches outside the monastery to sit and take in the view.
How to get to Lake Sevan from Yerevan
Lake Sevan is located 67 kilometers away from Yerevan and is well connected by public transport. There are minibuses or Marshrutka leaving the North bus station every 20 minutes. These mini-buses will take you to the town of Sevan. From there, you can hire a taxi to the lake.