They say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but the proverb somehow takes a different approach in the naturally beautiful country of Armenia. From cultural to archival significance, the list of activities are never ending, but here is a list of our top things to take on during your first thirty days in Armenia to get acquainted.
Visit Armenia’s beautiful old monasteries, especially St. Hripsime in Echmiadzin
No trip to Armenia would be complete without visiting some of the old churches that dot the country. Not only are they utterly beautiful and surrounded by the awe-inspiring Armenian landscape, but they are also incredibly old, with some being more than 1700 years old and founded by St. Gregory the Illuminator. Due to damage from various earthquakes, a number of them have had to be rebuilt or repaired, but the history in these wonderful buildings is palpable. The cathedral in Echmiadzin is also said to be the oldest in the world, so make sure that’s on your list of churches to look out for!
Saint Hripsime Church during daytime hours in September 2017. Credit: Nanor Quzian
Explore Yerevan on foot, with no specific destination in mind
Especially when you first arrive in a new place, it’s really easy to just stay on the beaten path, not deviating from the routes you know for fear of ending up terribly lost. But you find some of the best places when you’re lost, or at least when you don’t know where you’re going, and if you’re too careful it would be far too easy to miss out on some things you would know you were missing.
With this in mind, I would highly recommend taking an afternoon to just wander Yerevan on foot without having anywhere in particular that you’d like to end up. Turn down that side street you were curious about. Choose an interesting looking building that’s poking its head up above its neighbors and see if you can find it. Turn left where you’ve always turned right and see what you find. PS: It’s not cheating to take a map, just in case.
Spend an afternoon just sitting in one of the city’s many parks
Yerevan is chock-full of parks. If you’ve got an afternoon with nothing to do and nowhere to be and just want to take it easy, I’d recommend finding one that piques your interest and just sitting, maybe with a book, maybe just enjoying the peace of it. I particularly like the one right next to the Republic Square metro station. There’s an abundance of park benches, a decent amount of shade, and the fountains and the khachkars that dot the park are lovely.
Spring has sprung at Republic Square Park. Credit: Twitter account - @100YearsDenied
Enjoy the amazing food
When you think of Armenia, one of the first thoughts is usually centered around the barbeque which we call, khorovats. It’s considered an art of its kind. Almost always served with sides of different types of greenery, tomatoes and cucumbers. About 99.9% of restaurants in the country serve khorovats to your liking due to its high demand. Let’s not forget about our meat and rice wrapped in grape leaves which some of us call tolma while others call dolma. The meat and rice is often times also wrapped in cabbage, peppers, and tomatoes. Watch Buzzfeed’s video called “People Try Armenian Food For The First Time” to learn of more of our specialties!
Ride a marshrutka/the metro
You can learn a lot about a city by riding its public transportation, and Yerevan is no different. It may be silly, but I legitimately enjoy Yerevan’s metro in particular. While there are a limited numbers of places the metro can take you, getting to the places it does run is quick and easy, and inexpensive. The marshrutkas can get you pretty much anywhere else you want to go--and that’s not limited to the city of Yerevan. These passenger vans can be something of an adventure, for sure, and if you’re going somewhere at any of the peak hours, you’ll probably end up wedged in and standing, but it’s an experience that no trip to Armenia would be complete without!
A winter afternoon in Yerevan. Credit: Photolure.
Watch the fountain show in front of the History Museum
If you’re looking for something fun and simple to do at night, you should stop by the Dancing Fountains in Republic Square. They usually turn on around 9pm. The light and water show is synced with music, and it’s a great time to spend a little time out in the community, just enjoying the sights, sounds, and dodging the little flashing spinners that all the kids are launching into the air.
Water fountain dance at 10:10pm. Credit: Nanor Quzian
Strike up a conversation with a stranger
Armenians are renowned for their friendliness, and one of the best ways to encounter that for yourself is to talk with someone you meet on the street or waiting for the metro. It might be a little difficult if you don’t speak much Armenian-- but there’s also no better way to practice than by speaking! You never know what you’ll learn or what kind of new friend you might make.
Just smelling the beans of Armenian coffee can wake you up better than the coffee itself. Partially joking, but you get the idea. This drink that we refer to as soorj, is also a way for our grandparents tell our future. After a cup of coffee, you’re supposed to turn the cup over into the cup’s plate, and a few minutes later, the muddy texture left inside depicts a scene that only the wise experts can interpret. ;)
The aftermath of a delicious cup of soorj. Credit: TravelingEv.com.
Witness the talked about theater scene
Yerevan’s National Academic Opera & Ballet Theater has highlighted amazing performances for more than 80 years, so the theater scene is definitely highly desired. With musical productions introduced from it’s opening in the 1930’s, the opera history has proved to be well beyond its years.
Aram Khachatryan ft. Gayane Ballet at Yerevan’s Opera & Ballet in September 2017. Credit: Nanor Quzian
Pay homage to the Genocide Memorial at Tsitsernakaberd
Dedicated to the Armenian Genocide victims from the beginning of the 20th century, 1915-1923, the memorial hopes to convey the message of the unacceptable tragedy that has occurred for future similar events to be prevented. With over 1.5 million lives lost during the horrendous period in Armenian history, the 1967 memorial was built with a sense of purpose pursuing the revival of our nation.
Yearly commemoration on Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day on the 24th of April. Credit: genocide-museum.am.
Discover different museums
Selections such as the Matenadaran--the Mesrop Mashtots Institute of Ancient Manuscripts, Parajanov Museum, Hovhannes Aivazovsky, are only a few among the many historical and cultural exhibitions. With findings from the 5th century, the Matenadaran first and foremost will blow your mind. From learning about the biggest AND smallest manuscripts in the world to the method of how the manuscripts were created, it’s all an experience that you’ll never want to forget.
Hovhannes Aivazovsky art piece at the History Museum of Armenia. Credit: Nanor Quzian
Climb to the top of Cascade…
...and look back down at the town that still relatively resembles Soviet Armenia. The pink city shines ever so brightly from up above. It definitely requires a moment to take in the beauty of the view. In the early 2000’s, contemporary artwork was introduced by Gerard Cafesjian through the Cafesjian Museum Foundation which invested in a variety of programs for adults and children. So take a book, maybe pack a picnic basket, and enjoy your day away.
The stairs that you cannot miss even if you tried! Credit: Design Pics Inc, Alamy
Get acquainted with the night-life scene
This usually happens once you’ve made enough friends near the end of your month to attend such gatherings, but there’s a variety of spaces that open every year. We have wine bars and dance clubs with views that leave you speechless. Our wine is made on our own soil, and it’s a taste unlike any other alongside a feeling of pride. To cover the array of night time activities, you’ll need a good 2 weeks so that’s up to you to prioritize, but any of your selections will be more than satisfactory.