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The Ultimate 5 Day Armenia Itinerary

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3 weeks ago

At first thought, Armenia might not sound like your first choice of destination. After all, how often do you hear someone telling you they’re going to Armenia? In fact, it’s pretty rare to hear anything about this small, landlocked Caucasian country at all.

It might surprise you to learn that over the last two decades, Armenia has been in the top 20 countries for tourism growth. And that’s because Armenia has so much going for it. From it’s cosmopolitan capital Yerevan to the snowy slopes of Tsaghkadzor, Armenia is a country full of fascinating historical sites and an accessible culture which is waiting to be embraced.

Better still, because there are comparatively fewer tourists, visiting Armenia still gives the air of exploring the unexplored. This is about as off-the-beaten-path as you can get without leaving Europe.

Before You Go: Getting around Armenia

You’re probably thinking: take me from the beginning, how do I get around Armenia? After many years of crafting Armenia travel advice, we’re used to questions like this. To better address getting to and from Armenia, land crossings from Georgia, and the conflict with Azerbaijan, we’ve prepared a comprehensive guide to everything you need to know before visiting Armenia.

Where to stay in Armenia

When visiting on a 5 day travel itinerary, it’s easy to feel a bit overwhelmed with where to base oneself. As Armenia is a fairly small country, most visitors opt to stay in Yerevan throughout their Armenia itinerary and simply take day trips out of the city.

Using Yerevan as your base gives you the best choice of hotels in the country. And if you’re a nightlife person, nowhere in the country can compete with the wine bars and clubs of Yerevan.

Yerevan

Yerevan has plenty of international brand hotels including a Courtyard by Marriott, Doubletree by Hilton and Holiday Inn Express. As comfortable as these are, once you’re inside you could be pretty much anywhere in the world, so we always recommend checking out some of the local boutique hotels.

Our favorite in Yerevan is the Multi Grand Pharaon. It’s a few miles out of the city center so you’ll need a car or taxi to get to the central district of Kentron but it’s worth it for the experience. At an extremely low cost (by Western standards), you can experience elaborate, five-star luxury and some of the best service around.

If you prefer to stay in the city center, check out the Aratta Boutique Hotel, Dave Hotel and Kantar Hotel. If you’re looking to travel on a budget, check out Olive Hotel or the Old Yerevan Hotel where the ‘Royal Suite’ will make you feel like a king at pauper’s prices!

Tsaghkadzor & Lake Sevan

If you’re looking to ski in Armenia, you’ll probably want to stay in Tsaghkadzor, the best ski resort in Armenia.

Skiing in Armenia is serious business. If you are visiting during the winter months, be sure to book as far ahead as possible.

If you’re looking for luxury, the Marriott Tsaghkadzor is our favorite ski resort in Armenia. Other great options include the family-run Marrone Hotel and Hotel Russia.

Tsaghkadzor is also a very convenient base for exploring Lake Sevan. However, if you want to stay lakeside, the Garden Inn Resort Sevan and Etiuni The Forgotten Kingdom are the best options.

The ultimate 5 day Armenia itinerary

Days 1 & 2: The best of Yerevan

Armenia’s bustling capital, Yerevan, is a city full of contrasts. On one street you’ll find brutal Soviet-era office blocks servicing banks and tech start-ups; on the next, nose-to-tail Ladas (a car brand) flanked by grand centuries-old buildings. Stunning mosques go hand in hand with European café culture, and the sprawling city streets blend perfectly into an awe-inspiring mountain backdrop.

Yerevan sightseeing: Top things to see

Genocide Museum

If you only visit one site in Yerevan, it should be the Genocide Museum and the adjacent Armenian Genocide Memorial. This powerful site gives a fascinating, yet harrowing insight into the events of 1915-1917 and is often the most memorable site on any Armenia itinerary. It remains a stark and moving reminder of the Ottoman Empire’s attempt to destroy the Armenian nation.

The exact number of deaths is unknown, but estimates put the toll as high as 1.5 million. To get the most out of your visit, we strongly recommend joining a guided tour.

Make sure to plan your Yerevan itinerary around the Genocide Museum, which is closed on Mondays.

Museums

One of my favorite things about visiting Armenia is learning about the long history of the Armenian people. Yerevan’s top museum is unquestionably the History Museum of Armenia, located on Republic Square (right behind the quirky musical fountain). Another top stop for history buffs is the Yerevan History Museum, which takes a closer look at the city’s past.

Just along Nalbandyan Street from Republic Square, Doll’s Gallery is a quirky little place which is worth a brief visit – even if just for the novelty. This small gallery is home to hundreds of locally handmade figurines.

The Doll’s Gallery can have funny opening hours, so best to check their Facebook page or enquire with the Tourist Information Centre (Abovyan Street 18). The Doll’s Gallery is truly one of the most unique places to visit in Yerevan.

For art enthusiasts, Charents Museum of Literature and Arts is the best place for classic art. Named after Armenian poet Yeghishe Charents, it houses a collection of literature, film and theatre props and portraits. For fans of modern art, don’t miss the Modern Art Museum for a taste of contemporary Armenian culture.

A short walk away from the center, Ararat Museum is another excellent place to visit and another unique place to visit in Yerevan. This working distillery produces one of Armenia’s most famous export: Ararat Brandy. Tours and, even better, tastings are available daily, with packages starting at 4500 AMD (US$11). There are only two tours available each day (10 am and 3 pm), so make sure to book in advance!

Iconic buildings

If you do an online search of Yerevan, probably the first image you’ll see is the Cascade. Completed in 1980, this peculiar looking construction leads to a viewing platform overlooking the Ararat Valley. Inside, you’ll find art exhibitions.

cascade water yerevan armenia itinerary

Local tip: If you want to see the view from the top but don’t fancy the walk, go inside where a series of escalators go all the way to the top floor.

Within Victory Park which sits at the back of the Cascade, the Mother Armenia statue is a sight to behold. It was designed to provide a female personification of Armenia and sits on the site of a former statue of Stalin.

Across town from the Cascade, Saint Gregory The Illuminator Cathedral is the largest in Armenia. A relatively modern building, it was only consecrated in 2001. Budget travelers to Armenia will be happy to know that visitors can look inside free of charge.

main square in yerevan with modern art installation

In stark contrast, the Blue Mosque, just a couple of kilometers away is one of Yerevan’s oldest buildings. It’s officially named the Persian Mosque, but became known as the Blue Mosque, because, in case you hadn’t guessed, it’s blue.

Parks

A quick glance at a map will tell you that Yerevan has more than its fair share of parks and open spaces. Aside from Victory Park, Circular Park is probably the best known. Despite the name, it’s actually a semi-circle and runs halfway around the outside of downtown Yerevan.

English Park, Lover’s Park and Martiros Saryan Park are some of the other top parks to relax and unwind in around the city.

Eating in Yerevan

Armenian traditional food

Armenian cuisine is meat-centric and has a mix of influences from across the region. Khorovats, a grilled kebab, is generally considered the national dish.

Some of Armenia’s other favorite dishes include Tolma (meat wrapped in grape leaves), Kufta (a kind of meatball, similar to the Syrian kofta) and fried liver known as Tjvjik. Typical accompaniments include egg noodles, called Arishta, sorrel and eggplant.

Unquestionably, the best Armenian desserts are Pakhlava (very similar to Turkish Baklava, but don’t tell anyone that!), Gata (a sweet bread), and Sharots (walnuts coated with sweet candied fruit juice).

Best restaurants in Yerevan

As with most major European capitals, you can find cuisines from around the world across Yerevan. However, if you’re looking for a traditional Armenian restaurant, try Tapastan. They serve all the iconic Armenian dishes and offer vegetarian versions on request.

At Travel Insighter we’re all about getting under the skin of local cultures, and we all know the Armenians take wine very seriously. Right next door to Tapastan, in Vino is one of Yerevan’s best wine bars and perfect for an after dinner tipple.

If you’re looking for a more fine-dining experience, check out Sherep on Amiryan Street 1. Modern twists on Armenian classics are created by Michelin-star chefs in their open kitchen with live music in the evenings.

There’s plenty of places to grab some inexpensive, yet delicious, Armenian street food too. Sample gyros from Mr Gyros, German hot dogs from Berliner Hot Dog, lahmajoon from Mer Tagh and, if you’re feeling like McDonald’s, check out Karas, Armenia’s answer to fast food where you can get burgers, pies, hot dogs and pizzas at amazingly low prices.

Day 3: Lake Sevan

To see Armenia in all its beauty, you’ll want to escape Yerevan and ensure your Armenia itinerary includes the gorgeous Armenian countryside. Everywhere mentioned in days 3-5 are accessible as day trips from Yerevan, but you could decide to do a multi-centre trip and stop off in hotels around the country.

If you decide to opt for the latter, consider a circular route starting and finishing in Yerevan. Head north to Gyumri, then make your way down to Lake Sevan to do a loop of the lake. Cut across to Yeghegnadzor before making tracks back to Yerevan via Ararat and Garni.

lake sevan armenia itinerary - one of the top day trips from yerevan

The largest lake in Armenia and the entire Caucasus region, Lake Sevan is a freshwater alpine lake just sixty kilometers north east of Yerevan. With over 1200 sqm of lake to explore, Lake Sevan is a must on any Armenia itinerary.

If you’re driving, I recommend doing a loop of the lake, pausing at some of the hidden beaches and coves for the most breath-taking views of the shimmering water. The best beaches are on the northern shores of the lake with Gold Beach and Drakhtik Beach taking the top spots. A little further down the road, the small local beach bar on the sand at Wishup Shore is an excellent place to stop for lunch.

If you’re traveling by public transport, the easiest place to reach is Sevan. This is where the summer train from Yerevan stops and you’ll find plenty of bus connections to the city. From Sevan town, take a taxi to Sevanavank to discover the ruins of the lakeside monastery. You’ll find ruins dating from 305 AD but, before that, a Pagan temple occupied the site.

Getting to Lake Sevan

In the summer months, a train runs from Yerevan to Sevan, going around the shores of Lake Sevan. The journey takes around three hours, making it far longer than going by road, but equally more relaxing. There’s one train trip a day, leaving Yerevan at 8:30 am and returning at 5 pm. In case it wasn’t clear, this makes Lake Sevan one of the best day trips from Yerevan. Alternatively, marshrutkas (minibuses) leave Yerevan hourly to Sevan with a journey time of around an hour.

If you do decide to travel from Yerevan without hiring a car, although you can reach Sevan fairly easily, there’s a limit to how much of the lake you’ll be able to see. A better option is to consider taking a day tour. Many of these include visits to the ski resort of Dilijan or Tsaghkadzor.

Day 4: Garni & Geghard

Day 4 of your Armenia itinerary covers two of Armenia’s most iconic sites. Just an hour’s drive from Yerevan, Garni and Geghard tie in well to make the ultimate day trip from Yerevan.

As you travel out of the city, look to your left as you pass the village of Voghjaberd. You’ll soon see an impressive collection of manmade caves built into the cliffside. They were built in the 12th century as subterranean dwellings, similar to the famous examples in Cappadocia. Although it’s possible to park and walk to the caves, the path and the caves themselves aren’t managed and are not considered safe.

Garni Temple

The first of today’s stops is Garni Temple, located in the village of the same name. This stunning temple looks very much like the Parthenon and was originally built in the 1st century by King Tiridates the First. It is believed to have been devoted to Mihr who, in Armenian mythology, was the God of the Sun.

Tragedy struck Garni in 1679 when an earthquake leveled the temple, bringing it to the ground. Despite looking extremely old, visitors are often surprised that the temple was only rebuilt in the Soviet era.

Once you’ve experienced the temple, there are plenty of traditional restaurants to grab a late breakfast or Armenian-style lunch in Garni. Sergei Mot is one of our favorite restaurants for fresh, home-cooked delights. Their food tastes even better when eaten in the garden on a warm day.

Slightly further from the temple, but well worth the walk or drive, My Garden is another Garni hotspot where you’ll instantly feel like you’re part of the owner’s family.

Geghard Monastery

Around a ten-minute drive from Garni you’ll reach the end of the road and our second stop of day 4 on your 5-day Armenia itinerary. Geghard Monastery was first founded by Gregory the Illuminator in the 4th century and was eventually completed in 1215. Outside the church, take the steps which lead uphill to a narrow passageway which houses the burial vault.

To the rear of the church, more steps lead up to some awe-inspiring monastic cells carved into the rockface.

Getting to Garni & Geghard

If you’re not driving for your visit to Garni and Geghard, you can take a marshrutkas from Yerevan which leave roughly every 30 minutes. However, there are no set schedules for marshrutkas so you may need to wait longer. In our opinion, the best way to explore Garni and Geghard is with a day tour, which, whilst more expensive than a marshrutka, are generally very reasonably priced.

Day 5: Mount Ararat & Khor Virap

No matter where you are in and around Yerevan, you’ll be able to see the towering peaks of Mount Ararat. Some 65 kilometers from the city, Mount Ararat is actually just over the border in Türkiye. Despite contemporary international borders and the difficult heritage of Turkish-Armenian relations, Mount Ararat remains the primary symbol of Armenian culture and peoplehood.

Climbing the mountain is (almost) out of the question. Doing so involves getting past an awful lot of bureaucratic red tape, a special Turkish visa and an official guide. However, a day trip from Yerevan to Khor Virap not only gives you some of the best views of the mountain, but a chance to visit another iconic Armenian monastery.

Khor Virap is intimately tied to the legend surrounding Armenia becoming the first Christian nation in the world. According to Armenian history, Gregory the Illuminator was imprisoned here in the 4th century by King Tiridates the Third. Gregory was a Christian, whilst Tiridates was Pagan. However, following Gregory’s release, Tiridates appointed Gregory as his religious advisor. It was Gregory’s advice which led Tiridates to convert to Christianity. Subsequently, Tiridates declared Armenia the first Christian nation in the world.

Understandably, Khor Virap has become one of the most important sites for Christian pilgrims in the world. If you’re feeling adventurous, it’s possible to climb a ladder down to the bottom of the well where Gregory was incarcerated.

Getting to Khor Virap

If relying on public transport, the only way to reach the monastery from Yerevan is by marshrutka. At the time of writing, there are three daily departures from Yerevan at 9 am, 11 am and 2 pm, and the journey takes 40 minutes.

In our opinion, the best option is to take a day trip. Many combine visits to nearby wineries or, if you’re up for a long day, you can take a tour which covers Khor Virap, Garni and Geghard in one day.

If you have a little longer…

If you do have the benefit of having a day or so to extra in your Armenia itinerary, there’s enough in Armenia to keep you busy for weeks!

Just north of Lake Sevan, the idyllic town of Dilijan feels like it’s stuck a hundred years behind the rest of the Armenia. Cobbled stone and wooden buildings line the riverfront, with many housing workshops for traditional handicraft.

A couple of hours south of Yerevan, Norovank’s 13th-century monastery is one of the best preserved in the Caucasus. The chapel and ruins themselves should probably be the main draw, but, in my opinion, watching the sunset over the red sandstone cliffs is one of the most beautiful experiences in Armenia.

Getting here is a bit trickier as there is no public transport from Yerevan. You can drive or take a day tour, some of which include visits to Khor Virap.


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