Armenia is a small country that doesn’t find itself on the list of popular tourist destinations. But for tourists who like to explore nature, learn about history, drink and eat delicious food, Armenia is the right choice. It’s a rustic ancient land with amazing countryside where people take great pride in their traditions, culture, religion and cuisine.
Armenia is getting more attention since Kim Kardashian’s recent visit. She came to visit her ancestral homeland and pay respect to the Armenian genocide.
There are many popular places to visit in Armenia, but as always, there are some hidden beauties not many people know about.
Follow us through this wonderful journey and discover the 15 best-kept secrets in Armenia.
1 – KarahungeThis temple was built a few thousand years ago to honor the sun god- Ari. It is the world’s oldest astronomical observatory and is older than Stonehenge in England and Egyptian pyramids. It consists of 223 stones, many of which have small holes pointing at a different direction in space. Surprisingly, not many people have heard of this ancient place, making it a real hidden gem of Armenia.
2 – The Gök (Blue) MosqueThe blue mosque is the only remaining mosque in Yerevan, Armenia’s capital. The name blue came from blue tiles at the entrance and the exterior of the mosque. Evan though it covers more than 70,000 sq ft of land in the center of Yerevan and has a big inner courtyard, this place is pretty much hidden by the surrounding buildings.
3 – Areni-1 Cave ComplexIf you find yourself in Armenia, you must take a tour in the Areni Cave Complex that lies along the Arpa River. What makes this place special are the Copper Age artifacts found there, such as the oldest shoe, brain, and wine press in the world! This wine press is the earliest proof of wine-making ever found. Since they were discovered in 2010, they really make this place one of the best-kept secrets.
4 – Alphabet monumentThese giant stone letters are dedicated to Mesrop Mashtots, the creator of the Armenian alphabet. They were set near his resting place in 2005 when the alphabet celebrated its 1600th birthday. His system has been used ever since, and each of 39 letters has its own free-standing statue in a large field near the village of Artashavan.
5 – Garni GorgeGarni Temple is a famous place to visit in Armenia, but along the sides of the gorge are lesser-known cliff walls with hexagonal basalt columns. This part of the gorge is called the Symphony of the Stones because they look just like organ piano pipes. They were formed over the years by the river below. This place is a heaven for cliff climbers.
6 – Umbrella waterfallsNot many people know about Hunot Gorge, an amazing natural beauty where you can find caves, forests and umbrella waterfalls. The hike down to the waterfalls is a long one, up to 2 hours, but you can always make a stop and rest at the villages along the road.
7 – Armenian illuminated manuscriptsThey are a form of medieval art and Byzantine tradition. Around 2.500 of these manuscripts are preserved at the Matenadaran, Armenian institute of ancient manuscripts. The building itself is quite recognizable in Yerevan, but not many people are aware of what lies inside.
8 – Vernissage Flea MarketVernissage Flea Market in Yerevan is one of the best open markets in the world. This is the place where you can find basically everything. From ceramics, carved wood, paintings, jewelry to other things such as carpets, dolls, books. This place is a heaven for bargain hunters. Colorful Vernissage market is open just on weekends, so if you stay in Yerevan, make sure to visit this diverse market.
9 – Wine RepublicLocated on 2 Tamanyan Street in Yerevan, as the name says, this place has an incredible wine offer, comfortable and warm atmosphere, and delicious food. You don’t have to order your wine from the menu, you can browse the bottles yourself and choose what to drink. You can try some of the best Armenian dessert wines here.
10 – Crystals of RefrainKcymaerxthaere is the name of the project made by a geographer Eames Demetrios. It is basically a parallel universe the author has created and this installation is home to one of the key stories. The story is carved on 12 different stones, and even it can be found in other countries, the installation in Armenia stands as the most elaborate one.
11 – Lovers parkLovers park is a beautiful, quiet and charming place in Yerevan. If you want to enjoy nature, this is always a good place to wander in. You can take a hot cup of coffee and read the morning paper sitting on a bench in this calm and peaceful place. This park is a quiet and romantic getaway.
12 – Jean-Paul existential caféInspired by Jean-Paul Sartre’s words “Man is condemned to be free”, this place in Yerevan gives its visitors the opportunity to express their opinion, drink, get noisy, and have fun. It is a combination of art-café and a pub. It’s a place for friendly gatherings accompanied with good wine.
13 – Levon’s Devine UndergroundLevon was a builder who dug a series of caves under his house in Arinj, using nothing but hand tools. The idea started when his wife asked him to make a potato cellar. He worked every day and made stunning stairs, halls, and rooms. After his death, his wife opened a small museum to honor the work of her husband.
14 – Sergei Paradjanov museumThis museum is a tribute to world renown Armenian filmmaker of the 20th century. Persecuted by the Soviets, he made many screenplays and librettos in prison, all of which you can see in the museum. There are also many collages and artworks he made when he was banned from filmmaking for 15 years. There is also a recreated room of his flat in Tbilisi.
15 – Wines and CognacArmenia produces some of the best dessert and cherry wines in the world, like red dry Areni wine and Karasi wine. You probably didn’t know that, did you? Also, in the 1900 Yerevan Wine & Brandy Factory got an official permission to use the word cognac and since then Armenia is home to some of the finest brands like “Ararat”, “Great Valley”, “Mané” and “Armenika”.
The most popular tourist destinations in Armenia
If you decide to visit Armenia, these are the places you should definitely see as well, as suggested on WaveUpTravel.
1 – Khor Virap Monastery
Near Mount Ararat, is one of the most popular destinations in Armenia. This is the place where Centuries back St. Gregory the Illuminator, the Baptist of Armenia, was imprisoned for 13 years. He restored sanity to King Tiridates III which caused both the king and the entire country to convert to Christianity, making Armenia the first country in the world to be declared a Christian nation. You can see the church and the pit where Gregory was imprisoned and witness many cultural events, performances, weddings.
2 – Tatev monastery
Dates back to 9th-century and it is fortified among Armenian cliffs. It was built on an ancient pagan worship site and later turned into the most important Armenian medieval university that played the notable role in preserving Armenia’s culture. Apart from centuries-old structures you can also see a pear tree planted in the churchyard around 110 years ago. To get there, you can enjoy the unique beautiful landscape riding in the world’s longest cable car.
3 – The complex of Geghard monastery
The monastery founded in the 4th century and was carved into the side of the mountain. This complex has significant historical and cultural value and was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Inside the complex, you can see many small caves, chapels, carvings and enjoy in the peace and tranquillity of a beautiful rocky mountain landscape.
4 – Temple of Garni
Garni was a pagan temple dedicated to the sun goddess Mithra. It was built in a classical Hellenistic style, and it resembles the Greek Parthenon. The entire temple is a reflection of sacred geometry with symbolic meanings behind its structure. The altar, the ornaments, the stairs and columns were made according to geometrical laws. You can see famous Roman Baths with mosaic floor and witness the amazing natural setting of this ancient temple.
5 – Lake Sevan
Sevan is the largest lake in Armenia and one of the largest freshwater mountain lakes in the world. The name Sevan actually means black. There is a medieval monastery located in what used to be an island, and now is a part of Sevan peninsula. The area includes many beaches, campgrounds and picnic areas where you can go skiing, windsurfing, and sailing.
Subscribe to Jebiga for a dose of the best in gear, design, rides, tech and adventure.