Solo Female Travel in Armenia
A travel guide for females.

Armenia is a tiny landlocked country in South Caucasus, where I’ve happened to reside since last summer. It’s not the easiest place to be, but it definitely is fascinating and mind-blowingly beautiful. If something is difficult and amazing at the same time, you should pursue it – this is the rule number 1! Of course, I’m not trying to convince you to buy a one-way ticket and move to Yerevan as I did. I will keep trying to convince you to come visit though.

South Caucasus is slowly becoming more and more touristy. Georgia(the country, not the state) is one of the newly discovered destinations for European backpackers. Armenia, so near yet so different, is still struggling to attract enough visitors. I strongly believe you should pay Armenia a visit.

I’m here to give you a piece of advice on female solo travel in Armenia. Why? Because I’m a girl who very often travels solo and truly enjoys it. I’m a girl who is bold enough to try to convince other girls that solo female travel is fantastic. Last but not least, so many female friends told me they would love to visit Armenia but they heard it’s not a comfortable place to be for a solo female traveler. Obviously, after hearing this 1001 times I have to speak up.

 1 I came to Armenia for the very first time in July 2012 for a two-month long volunteering stint with Armenian Volunteer Corps. I had a lot of curiosity, a few books read and no expectations. Thanks to AVC, I had an opportunity to explore the country with my fellow volunteers during our perfectly organised Saturday excursions.  On Sundays and when I was free I had time to wander on my own. I did a lot of hiking, saw all the world heritage sites of Armenia, swam in Sevan Lake, hiked Mount Aragats, tried delicious foods and stayed overnight with a local family in the village next to the closed border with Azerbaijan. I loved this place so much that I moved here. 

The big day happened to be exactly a year after I first stepped on Armenian soil. 

As I already mentioned Armenia is stunnigly beautiful. It’s unbelievable how diverse such a tiny country could possibly be. Mountains, lakes, meadows, hills, different rock formations, caves, forests, you name it. Also, it’s a country with ridiculously long and rich past. There arecultural and historical monuments on every step. Old, picturesquemonasteries, ancient fortresses and ruins hidden in nature. All of the most beautiful sights you’ve ever encountered, I bet. Don’t give up on it just because you don’t have a male travel companion and you heard Armenia is not ready for you visiting on your own.  Because, simply, this isn’t true.

Firstly, Armenia is incredibly safeand local people are truly warm and helpful. You are never lonely here unless you choose to be. It is true thought that it’s quite a conservative place and there are issues a solo female visitor should be aware of.  Every single person you meet is gonna ask you if you are married and when are you planning to finally do it and accomplish your mission of bringing babies to the Planet Earth. Lack of your enthusiasm may cause a slight smell of dissappointment. Some people may try to marry you off to their sons, relatives or neighbours. Don’t pay too much attention to it. It isn’t dangerous or anything. It’s just something people around these parts love to rabbit on.  2 

For the smokers: women here don’t smoke openly in the streets. Try not to do it either and don’t ask me why it’s not OK to smoke on the main square but it’s acceptable to have a puff in a cafe. Armenia isn’t always logical. You will stand out as a polar bear on a penguin party. Stay cool.

People will talk to you in Russian. Usually it’s the one and only foreign language they are fluent in and they use it when they assume the stranger they just met is a foreigner. Especially if, by any chance, you are light haired/you have green or blue eyes/you have pale skin. Explaining that you are originally from New Zealand and you have no idea of how Russian actually sounds don’t really help. It will be more efficient to just learn a few basic phrases instead.

People in Armenia are the most hospitable nation I’ve ever met. The most delicious apricots in the world grow in Armenia. Don’t forget pomegranates while stuffing yourself with apricots. OK, I’m starting to disgress.

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Let’s get to the logistics.

The easiest way to come to Armenia is by plane but this might be a bit pricey. Usually flights to Tbilisi have far more reasonable fares so it might be a good idea to fly to Tbilisi and then take a minibus(marshrutkato Yerevan. They are leaving daily, the journey takes 6 hours and it’s very easy to organize. If you don’t like bus rides on the bumpy roads in the mountains (yay), there is also a night train.

Unfortunately, getting around the country might be a bit complicated. The public transport system isn’t very developed and there are very few intercity trains. Usually people travel by the marshrutkas. They are cheap and this is probably one of their very few advantages. The biggest issue is that they don’t really have any timetables. For someone with time limits and fixed plans the most convenient way of travel will be ashared taxi. Taking a taxi on your own is also possible but it might be a bit beyond the average backpacker budget. Always negotiate the price before the journey starts. Don’t be scared and bargain with the driver.

 4  It will be probably wise if you makeYerevan a base camp for your Armenian adventure. It’s a big, lively city, where the girl traveling alone shouldn’t experience any hassle. Also, there is the best tourism infrastucture in the country. You will find backpackers hostels, traveler friendly bars and a huge variety of places to eat out. Also, thanks to its geographical location, it’s pretty easy to make a trip to any chosen part of the country from here. If you are in Yerevan already, make sure you climb up the Cascade by night, visit Erebuni Fortress, walk around the center, pay Genocide Museum a visit and try Armenian food. I bet this will make you eager to explore some more.

Here are my 5 favorite places I would recommend you to wander around:

  1. Lake Sevan: one of the biggest fresh water basins in the world, a beautiful lake surrounded by the mountains.
  2. Tatev Monastery and Khndzoresk: a stunning monastery complex where you can get by the longest cable car in the world and a canyon with very unique rock formations and ancient cave settlement
  3. Haghpat&Sanahin: beautiful monastery complexes dated back to 11th century, situated in the Lori region in the northern part of Armenia
  4. Garni&Geghard: one of the most common day trips from Yerevan. Geghard is, guess what, a  monastery complex, partially carved in the rocks. Garni is a something very unique around these parts though. It’s a Hellenic style temple!
  5. Gyumri: second biggest city of Armenia. The city suffered from a terrible earthquake back in 1988 and it’s been recovering since then. Very scarced yet a very fascinating place.

Armenia is an underrated destination. Let’s spill the beans and tell everyone how great it is. Who’s with me?

 

Written by Zofia Baldyga.
Follow Zofia on her blog www.thepicktures.net.

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