Armenia is one of the most fascinating yet underrated countries I’ve ever visited. It might be landlocked but there are so many Armenia tourist attractions that when you visit Armenia you will not be disappointed.
In the past few years, I was lucky to travel to Armenia some 10 times and I know I will be returning there frequently in the future too. In fact, I’m writing this article from the cafe in Yerevan during my yet another trip to Armenia – this is how much I value this place.
And while Yerevan is one of my favorite cities in the whole world, there are so many other places to visit in Armenia. Below you can find a little overview of what to see in Armenia so you can plan your trip here properly and enjoy the country to the fullest.
Prepare yourself to see a lot of monasteries when you travel to Armenia – these are in fact the biggest Armenia tourist attractions. But during your Armenia sightseeing, you will see more than that!
Table of contents
- 1 Best places to visit in Armenia
- 1.1 Yerevan
- 1.2 Lake Sevan
- 1.3 Dilijan
- 1.4 Gyumri
- 1.5 Garni Temple
- 1.6 Geghard Monastery
- 1.7 Haghpat Monastery
- 1.8 Sanahin Monastery
- 1.9 Amberd Fortress
- 1.10 Saghmosavank Monastery
- 1.11 The Alphabet Monument
- 1.12 Etchmiadzin
- 1.13 Zvartnots Cathedral
- 1.14 Khor Virap Monastery
- 1.15 Noravank Monastery
- 1.16 Areni
- 1.17 Tatev Monastery
- 1.18 Zorats Karer / Carahunge
- 2 Visiting Armenia – practical information
- 3 Travel resources
Best places to visit in Armenia
The capital and the biggest city in Armenia is where you will most likely start your trip to Armenia.
Even if Yerevan is older than Rome and recently celebrated its 2800th birthday you won’t find a classical old town with pretty buildings and charming corners. But Yerevan is such a fascinating place to visit!
Yerevan is often called “the pink city” thanks to the volcanic tuff that was used when building the place – it gives a pinkish color to the buildings.
The modern look of Yerevan was designed by Alexander Tumanyan at the beginning of the 20th century – he carefully planned the center of the city, with wide avenues, squares and green spaces. You can see it all still today.
When visiting Yerevan you can’t miss the Republic Square (with the singing fountains), the Cascade complex and Tsitsernakaberd – the Armenian Genocide memorial complex.
But the best things to do in Yerevan are to just wander around, visit a cafe or five and enjoy the vibrant atmosphere of the city.
Yerevan is one of my very favorite places ever and every time I visit Yerevan I fall for the city harder and harder. That’s why I’m here on my yet another Yerevan trip and that’s why I’m already thinking when I can visit Yerevan again.
The biggest lake in the Caucasus, located at 1899 meters above the sea level is one of the highest located lakes in the world. It’s part of the Sevan National Park, one of the four protected areas in Armenia.
Lake Sevan takes 3% of the country, 28 rivers flow into the lake but only one, Hrazdan, flows out. The lake is known for the variety of flora and fauna, including the most famous Sevan trout.
But the beautiful nature and views aren’t the only reason to visit Lake Sevan, you can find some amazing monuments here too.
Don’t miss Noratus cemetery from the medieval times. You will find there some of the most beautiful khachkars – the Armenian carved cross-stones, each of them saying the story of the person who is buried there. This is actually the largest cemetery with khachkars in the world and a truly fascinating place.
Around Lake Sevan, you should also visit beautiful monasteries, especially Hayravank and Sevanavank. They both are located beautifully above the lake, offering amazing views of Lake Sevan.
Hayravank was built between 9th and 12th century and Sevanavank complex (there are two monasteries and the third ruined one) was founded in the year 874.
Near Sevanavank you can also find one of the best examples of brutalist architecture in Armenia – the Writer’s House.
Located around 100 km north from Yerevan, in the heart of Dilijan National Park, Dilijan is often called “Armenian Switzerland”. This famous and important spa town was founded in 1544, however, the area was inhabited already in the Late Bronze and early Iron ages.
Dilijan is known for lush forests surrounding the city, perfect for the relaxation and long walks, but there are also a few other attractions.
From the town, you can go for a short hike to Jukhtak Vank, the semi-abandoned monastery from the 11th century, hidden in the forests surrounding the city. Not far from it there are ruins of another monastery, Matosavank from the 13th century, but this one is more difficult to find.
Not far from Dilijan there is another monastery worth visiting, Haghartsin, dating to the 13th century. This is actually the complex of three monasteries, the architecture is simple, a bit raw inside but still very impressive. From the monastery, you can admire a beautiful view of the surroundings.
But the main reason to visit Dilijan is to inhale clean, fresh air and enjoy beautiful nature around.
The second-largest city in Armenia, Gyumri, was badly devastated during the 1988 earthquake and even today you can still see how badly the city was destroyed then. But despite the tragedy that the city still suffers from, Gyumri is so worth a visit.
In 1837 Russians built the fortress here, called Alexanropol (named after the tsar), soon after the city was built nearby.
Before the earthquake, Gyumri was known as the most beautiful city in Armenia, today you can see the remnants of the former glory when walking around the pleasant center, with its main square – Vartanants Square. While Yerevan is known for the pink tuff the city was built from, in Gyumri, most of the buildings are black thanks to the volcanic tuff that was used here.
You will find here another one, after Yerevan, Mother Armenia statue – this one has a more friendly look than the one in the capital. Gyumri is also home to some interesting museums, churches, bazaar and some cool Soviet sculptures, such as the iconic metal fountain.
Located not far from the capital, this is probably one of the easiest day trips from Yerevan. The pagan temple dedicated to the sun god Mihr, this is the best example of the pre-Christian Armenia monuments and the only building in the Classical style in the country and the former Soviet Union.
Some sources say the temple was built in the 1st century AD, after Armenia’s conversion to Christianity in the early 4th century the temple was used as a summer house of the royal families. Other sources say this is not the temple but a tomb and therefore it survived the transformation to Christianity period.
Garni Temple was destroyed during the earthquake in the 17th century but the original stones were used when rebuilding. This is the main center of neopaganism in Armenia and one of the country’s main tourist attractions.
The monastery complex from the 4th century is one of the Armenian sights that made it to the UNESCO World Heritage List. What makes it special is the fact that many of the churches and tombs were cut into the rock, showing the Armenian medieval architecture at its best.
Since the 12th century, when the relicts of Apostles Andrew and John were donated to the monastery, the place became a popular pilgrim destination. The main church – The Katoghike Chapel – was built in 1215 on the shape of a cross. It is covered by the dome with the hole in the middle – its purpose is to give the light to the interior.
The Geghard Monastery complex has a beautiful location, surrounded by the breathtaking cliffs that are part of the Azat River Gorge. Getting to the monastery is interesting itself as the road leading to the complex is stunning too, going through the gorge.
You can combine visiting Geghard Monastery with Garni Temple as these sights are not too far from each other.
The beautiful monastery, located near the city Alaverdi in Lori Province, close to the Georgian border, was built between the 10th and 13th centuries during the rule of the Bagratid’s dynasty. In the Middle Ages, it used to play an important role as the religious, spiritual, educational, cultural and scientific center.
Some sources say that the first monastery in this place was built in the 4th century, on the ruins of the pagan temple. The monastery complex is surrounded by medieval walls. Inside you can find four churches, the library, the bell tower, the tomb, and numerous khachkars.
The main church, the Cathedral of Surb Nishan, was completed at the very end of the 10th century and shows the typical Armenian architecture from that period.
The location of the Haghpat complex was chosen on purpose, halfway on the hillside, overlooking Debed River. Haghpat Monastery is another site in Armenia that is part of the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Sanahin Monastery complex is located not far from Haghpat Monastery and shares with it the inscription to the UNESCO World Heritage List. It was built in a similar time and for a similar purpose as Haghpat and is yet another architectural masterpiece in Armenia.
The name of the monastery, Sanahin, translates as “this one is older than that one”, probably to emphasize that it was created before Haghpat. In the monastery complex, there are 16 buildings and objects, including St. Gregory and St. Harutyun chapels as well as numerous khachkars decorated mostly in plants’ motives.
The name of the fortress means “fortress in the clouds” in Armenian language and that is very accurate as the site is located 2.300 meters above the sea level, on the slopes of Mount Aragats, the highest mountain in the country.
The citadel was built between the 10th and 13th century and used to be one of the most important defense points on the Armenian territory.
Today you can still admire the remnants of the fortress as well as Vahramashen Church from the 11th century, the bathhouse and the hidden passage to the river Arkashen.
The beautiful monastery complex from the 13th century, located in the village of the same name, Saghmosavan in Aragatsotn Region, is worth a visit not only for its interesting architecture but also for the stunning location on the cliff above the deep gorge of Kasagh river.
The interior is rather austere and delicate, with bare walls and only a few low-key decorations. What makes it unique is the cross-winged domed structure with two-floor annexes in all the corners of the building, a similar one to the nearby monastery Hovhannavank.
If the weather is good you can see the highest mountain of Armenia, Aragats, from the monastery complex.
The Alphabet Monument
This has to be one of the quirkiest monuments I’ve ever seen! Located on the side of the road north of Yerevan, near the village Saghmosavan, you can find here 39 giant Armenian letters carved of the stone and decorated in the local motifs.
The Armenian alphabet was created by Mesrop Mashtots at the beginning of the 5th century and consist of one of the most unique and beautiful letters you will ever see.
At the monument, the letters are strewn around and are such fun things to see and admire. In the back, you will see the statue of Mesrop Mashtots carefully looking after his work.
The monument was created in 2005, to commemorate the 1600th birthday of the Armenian alphabet. The location might seem to be random but the final resting place of Mesrop Mashtots isn’t far away from the place.
The official name of the city is Vagharshapat but everyone still uses Etchmiadzin as that’s how the place was called between 1945 and 1995.
The city is known as the spiritual capital of Armenia and is connected with Saint Gregory the Illuminator who built between 301-303 the Etchmiadzin Cathedral, one of the oldest churches in the world (back then it was a vaulted basilica). Over the centuries the church was rebuilt and enlargened but the altar still stands in the same place, where Saint Gregory the Illuminator saw the sunray that he read as a sign.
Other important places you can’t miss in Etchmiadzin are the Churches of Saint Hripsimé, Saint Gayane, and Saint Shoghakat, as well as the archaeological site of Zvartnots. They all are of a huge religious, historical and cultural importance and together with Etchmiadzin Cathedral, they all made it to the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Located at the edge of Etchmiadzin, near the Yerevan airport, this is a wonderful archeological site, discovered at the very beginning of the 20th century.
The cathedral, dedicated to Saint George, was built here between 641 and 653, to commemorate the meeting of king Tiridates III and Saint Gregory the Illuminator that supposedly took place in this very location.
The cathedral was destroyed and buried during the earthquake in 930, these days you can only admire excavated ruins that are very picturesque, especially on a sunny day, with Mount Ararat in the background.
Khor Virap Monastery
This is probably the best known Armenian monastery, located on the plain near the closed border with Turkey and iconic Mount Ararat. The view of the monastery with Ararat in the background is probably the most pictured place in Armenia.
Khor Virap is a popular pilgrimage site due to the fact that Gregory the Illuminator was imprisoned here by King Tiridates III of Armenia. Today you can go down the ladder to the dungeons where the Saint spent 14 years, the way down is a bit narrow and slippery so keep that in mind.
Besides the pit, you can also see here the Surp Astvatsatsin Church from the 17th century.
This is one of my favorite places to visit in Armenia (besides Yerevan and the monasteries in the north), impressing me every single time. Noravank monastery complex is located at the end of the long and narrow gorge and is surrounded by high cliffs of beautiful orange and red colors.
The complex itself dates to the 13th century and shortly after became the seat of Syunik’s bishops and the important religious and cultural center of the country.
In the complex, you can visit twelve different objects, including two-floors Surb Astvatsatsin Church, Surb Karapet Church, and Surb Grigor Chapel as well as numerous khachkars. The monastery was partially destroyed by the earthquake in 1840 but was rebuilt still in the 19th century.
The village Areni is located not far from Noravank Monastery and you can find there yet another interesting Armenian church – of S. Astvatsatsin from the 14th century. But the main reason to visit Areni is to try its delicious wine.
Armenia is a country with one of the oldest wine traditions in the world and the majority of production comes from Areni. You can try the variety of wines in the local wineries as well as do some wine shopping here.
Besides the traditional wine, you can also taste here wine from different fruits, such as pomegranate, apricot, cherries or blackberries.
Yet another one of Armenian monasteries with a spectacular location in Southern Armenia, the fortified Tatev Monastery was built in the early 9th century at the edge of the deep gorge in the southern part of the country. It always played an important role in the spiritual, cultural and educational life of the country.
Tatev Monastery used to be the seat of a bishop, that’s also where at the end of the 14th century the biggest university in Southern Caucasus was established, teaching students numerous sciences. In the monastery complex, you can visit three churches (Saints Paul and Peter, Saint Gregory the Illuminator, and Holy Mother of God), a library, refectory, bell tower, mausoleum.
Getting to the monastery is quite an adventure itself! You can take windy roads on the edge of precipices or you can take the so-called “Wings of Tatev” cable car.
It was opened in 2010 and was included in the Guinness World Records as the world’s longest non-stop double track cable car. The cable car takes around 15 minutes to get from the Halidzor village to Tatev monastery, it’s a distance of 5.752 meters.
Zorats Karer / Carahunge
The prehistoric archaeological site, often called “the Armenian Stonehenge”, consists of 223 massive stones (84 of them have a circle hole drilled in the upper part) and is one of the most mysterious places in the country. The name Carahunge means “speaking stones” in Armenian – on a windy day, it seems like the stones give a sound.
40 stones create a circle that is believed to be the remnant of the temple dedicated to the pagan god of the sun. Other sources claim this is the ancient observatory or the cemetery. Numerous investigations took place at Zorats Karer but no one really knows what was the purpose of the stones.
These are only a few places to visit in Armenia but this underrated country in the Caucasus offers much more: Jermuk, Goris, Tsaghkadzor, Khndzoresk, Ashtarak, Meghri and many more! Armenia really had a lot to offer!
Visiting Armenia – practical information
Best time to visit Armenia
I would avoid summer months – it’s way too hot, even around 40 C degrees and more, and sightseeing can be a huge challenge that most likely you would not enjoy. I would also avoid New Year’s period – that’s when I’m in Yerevan when writing this article and almost everything was closed.
For me the best time to visit Armenia is either in spring (mid-April to mid-June) or autumn (September-October). The days should be warm and sunny, and long enough for you to see all the best attractions.
How many days to spend in Armenia
I think the minimum is 4 days in Armenia. This way you can see and enjoy Yerevan properly and go for two day trips around (I would recommend Lake Sevan, Garni + Geghard, Noravank and Khor Virap Monasteries). But of course, more is better!
How to get to Armenia
Ryanair and Wizzair are about to fly to Armenia, serving Yerevan and Gyumri airports. This will make traveling to Armenia so much easier!
I usually use LOT Polish Airlines and their direct flights from Warsaw to Yerevan – the downside is they land in the middle of the night and they are usually a bit pricey.
You can also easily travel to from Tbilisi, Georgia to Yerevan – there are comfortable transfers, not so comfortable marshrutkas and a night train available (I’ve done all of them, I would just avoid marshrutkas, for so many reasons).
How to travel around Armenia
Unfortunately, traveling around Armenia is a bit challenging. I visited all the places mentioned above and I only went to Gyumri and Dilijan using public transport, all the other sites were with organized tours.
And these are actually a pretty decent option if you want to see all these amazing places to visit in Armenia but don’t want to rent a car. You can base yourself in the capital and do all the day trips from Yerevan (that’s exactly what I always do).
Here are some of the recommended ones:
- Day trip to Khor Virap, Areni Winery and Noravank Monastery
- From Yerevan: 4.5-Hour Garni-Geghard Tour
- Yerevan: Private Garni, Geghard, Lake Sevan, & Dilijan Tour
- Yerevan: Private Wings of Tatev and Jermuk Waterfall Tour
- Yerevan: Echmiadzin, Zvartnots, Lake Sevan, and Dilijan Tour
- Armenia: Private Tour to Amberd, Hovhannavank & Saghmosavank
- From Yerevan: Full-Day Tatev Monastery Complex Tour
- Armenia: Private Tour to Haghpat and Sanahin Monasteries
Where to stay in Yerevan
I personally think the best way to visit Armenia is to use Yerevan as your base and do day trips around. This way you can see all the Armenia tourist attractions and enjoy the amazing vibe of Yerevan and its great cafe and culinary scene.
Here are some of the best options for Yerevan accommodation:
- R&R Hotel (9.2/10 on Booking)
- Unique hotel (9.1/10 on Booking)
- Paris Hotel Yerevan (9.2/10 on Booking)
- and many more
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