Armenia is a developing country with plenty of sightseeing places and fantastic activities that will make your travel experience one of the best ones in your lifetime. No matter what type of traveler you are, you will definitely find what you are looking for in this sunny country. From popular tourist destinations to hidden gems, from rich cultural routes to breathtaking hiking trails, Armenia is full of surprises even for the most experienced travelers. Below we compiled a list of 20 magical places to visit in Armenia, where you can find both very popular must-visit sites and less explored locations with authentic spirit.
When you plan to travel to Armenia, consider staying and exploring its colorful capital Yerevan. Though Yerevan has centuries-old history, nowadays it is the most modern city of Armenia. A few fascinating places to visit in Yerevan include Mother Armenia monument, Opera house, Republic Square, Erebuni fortress museum, National History Museum, Matenadaran, Cascade, Vernissage, etc. Besides various cultural activities, you will enjoy the local foods and drinks in numerous fascinating restaurants, be part of an active nightlife in many lively cafes and pubs, enjoy jazz and ethnic music in famous clubs.
Being the second largest city in the republic, Gyumri is known as the capital of arts and crafts, which makes it a perfect destination for cultural tours. In 1988 Gyumri went through a devastating earthquake, however, you will be surprised to find the old city center with well-maintained neoclassical architecture and cozy inner yards. You can spend a full day or two in and around Gyumri. Walk in the Vardanants square, explore the old district of Kumayri, visit the Museum of Urban Life and National Architecture, Sergey Merkurov’s unique museum, Gyumri Beer Factory and enjoy delicious local cuisine in many central cafes and restaurants.
3. Lake Sevan
Armenia is a small landlocked country, but the locals claim to have a sea. Lake Sevan is the second largest high elevation sweet-water lake in the world after Lake Titicaca. Four mountain chains surround this blue-eyed beauty, which is fed with 29 rivers. It hosts a population of local trout, whitefish and crayfish. Locals love to spend their hot summer days in many hotels and camping sites around Sevan. Visit the famous peninsula of Sevan to have a breathtaking view over the lake, explore the centuries-old Armenian cross stone culture in Noratus or take a boat trip to the opposite shore.
4. Khosrov Forest State Reserve and the Symphony of Stones
Other fascinating places to visit in Armenia are its natural monuments. Not far from Yerevan, you can hike in the Khosrov Forest State Reserve and explore off-the-beaten track historical sites, such as Havuts Tar, Kakavaberd or the impressive ruins of Aghjots monastery. As you walk down the canyon to the banks of Azat river, take some time to experience one of the most spectacular natural monuments of Armenia – the basalt columns of the Symphony of Stones. These crystalized lava stripes look like natural stone pipe organ, which echo the mighty sound of the Azat river.
5. Garni Pagan Temple and The Rock-Carved Monastery of Geghard
In the area of Khosrov Reserve, you will find Garni and Geghard historical sites, which are one of the most popular tourist destinations in Armenia. The famous pagan temple Garni is the only fully restored Roman era monument in Armenia with its iconic columns, ancient castle watchtowers and a Greek bath. A few kilometers away you will find the Armenian Petra – the rock-carved monastery of Geghard, or the Monastery of the Holy Lance. This important Christian relic, that is said to have pierced the body of the crucified Christ, was brought and kept in Armenia since the 1st century AD. Both in Garni and Geghard you can contemplate the spiritual and folk music performed by local artists. You can also have a specially organized concert in the garden of Garni during your luxury travel.
6. Khor Virap
One of the best cultural destinations in Armenia is the monastery of Khor Virap with its iconic location. Vineyards in the front and the biblical Ararat Mountain in the background, Khor Virap attracts all travelers to learn the story of Christian faith in Armenia. St. Gregory the Illuminator was imprisoned here for preaching Christianity, but later on he was set free, converted Armenia into a Christian faith and became the first catholicos (patriarch) of the Armenian Church. Thus Armenia became the first country who made Christianity its state religion in 301 AD. A chapel was built over the deep pit (in Armenian, khor virap) where St.Gregory stayed for 13 years. You can go down into the cell by metal staircase, or walk up the hill to gaze at the complex and see the Armenian-Turkish border divided by the Araxes river near the slopes of Mount Ararat.
One of the most important historical places to visit in Armenia is the Armenian Vatican city called Etchmiadzin – the place where the holy begotten descended by the vision of St. Gregory. St. Astvatsatsin (St. Mary the Virgin) Mother Cathedral was founded in 301 AD and gained its final appearance in the 5-7th centuries. Next to the cathedral, you will find the Armenian patriarchate and the famous treasury museum. Two other masterpieces of early medieval Armenian architecture are St. Hripsime church inside Etchmiadzin and Zvartnots cathedral on the way to the Holy See.
8. Dilijan National Park
If you are a true nature lover then Dilijan National Park is a must-visit destination for you. With lush forests, noisy streams, crater lakes and hidden waterfalls, Dilijan is a heaven for hikers and adventure lovers. The new Transcaucasian trail and many other shorter routes take you through fantastic forests from a natural monument to a medieval cultural site hidden in the heart of the national park. Around Haghartsin, Goshavank and other historical sites you can find the best picnic places in Armenia. Dilijan town with its experimental restaurants and cafes is also a perfect stop for your gastronomic tours.
9. Mount Aragats
Mount Aragats is the highest summit in Armenia, with an elevation of 4090 meters and its four peaks around a huge crater. It is safer to hike up the peaks during the summer time, when the snow melts and the weather is stable. In case you just want to enjoy the cool air and mesmerizing sceneries, you can drive up to the small Kari Lake, where usually the climbers start their route. The slopes of the mountain host cultural treasures such as the fortress and the church of Amberd, the hidden monastery of Tegher, the archeological sites of Aghtsk and Agarak. You can as well do stargazing at the Byurakan Observatory.
10. Areni Cave
Armenia is becoming famous for its wine tours, for which the wine making region of Vayots Dzor is one of the most notable places to visit in Armenia. The local grape variety named Areni is largely grown here. Areni village hosts an annual wine festival every first weekend of October, where many winemakers present their wines and offer guests to taste it free of charge. Since 2008, not far from the village, archeologists have been excavating a cave, where the oldest leather shoe (3500 BC) has been found, together with wine jars and petrified seeds of Areni grape.
After Areni, continue your road through the fascinating gorge of Noravank to find yourself in front of the best architectural creation of the late medieval era. Noravank monastery, built with light yellow stone, sits on the top of red cliffs, overlooking the canyon. You will learn about the rich artistic and cultural life of the monks living in this complex in 13-15th centuries, see one of the rarest stone carvings of Father God created much earlier than his depiction in the Sistine Chapel of Vatican. For medieval art lovers Noravank is one of the most memorable places to visit in Armenia.
12. Jermuk Spa Resort
Armenia is rich with springs and mineral waters, some of which are used for medical purposes. Jermuk is the most famous health resort and spa in the south of Armenia. In the heart of this small town, you will find the water gallery, where the hot mineral waters of five different temperatures flow from taps. The famous bottled Jermuk mineral water is produced in this town and is exported to various countries around the world. Besides having a relaxed day-off, you can also take an off-road drive up the mountains to deepen your body in a hot spring.
13. Tatev Monastery and Wings of Tatev
Once the largest scientific and educational center in medieval Armenia, Tatev monastery still maintains a modest monastic life. The complex is located on the edge of a cliff, surrounded by forests and overlooking the deep Vorotan canyon. You can drive up and down the canyon, stop by the Devil’s Bridge to explore its hot springs, or you can take a flight on the longest reversible aerial tramway in the world. Wings of Tatev offers a breathtaking experience one can have while traveling in Armenia. The cable car opens up a picturesque scenery over the canyon and ancient heritage of the gorge.
14. Khndzoresk Cave City
One of the hidden places to visit in Armenia is the Khndzoresk cave city that is located not far from the city of Goris. Volcanic cone-shaped rocks with their natural and manmade caves had served as dwellings for local people since ancient times. In the 19th century, Khndzoresk was the biggest village in the area with developed urban infrastructure. Today the cave-city has no residents but you may still find many houses, springs, barnes and even chapels from the 17th century. Cross over the suspension bridge to the other side of the canyon and get lost in the mystery of Khndzoresk.
15. Zorats Karer
Another mystic place to visit in Armenia is the bronze-age megalithic monument called Zorats Karer, translated as the Army of Stones. This area has been an archeological site for decades, but it still bears secrets about its history. Travel back in time to learn about the rituals and beliefs of the ancient times and feel the extraordinary energy of the site.
16. Vardenyats Mountain Pass
The famous Silk Road had its routes passing throughout Armenia. As you drive next to Arpa river and take the winding roads of the Vardenyats pass, you find yourself in the same track that once the big trading caravans used to take. Stop by the 14th-century Orbelian caravanserai to gaze over an impressive panorama. This pass connecting the southern part of Armenia with Lake Sevan is one of the most extraordinary places to visit in Armenia.
17. Debed Canyon
The north of Armenia fascinates with its picturesque Debed canyon. The mighty Debed river, lush forests, hidden monasteries and beautiful hiking trails make this area a perfect destination for various types of travelers and the best choice for family travel. The canyon hosts two large medieval monasteries, Haghpat and Sanahin, which are UNESCO World Heritage sites. Experience rafting on the river Debet, visit the COAF Smart Center and the Hovhannes Tumanyan house-museum in Dsegh.
If you are more of an extreme-loving type of person who enjoys a retreat high up in the mountains, then the activities around Yenokavan village are for you. Stay in Apaga resort, do horse-riding and off-road tours or hike down the gorge to see the Lastiver waterfall. In Yell Extreme Park fly on the longest zip-line in Armenia and get a big boost of adrenaline.
Tsaghkadzor is the best destination for winter tourism, as it is the biggest ski resort in Armenia. The ropeway takes you up the mountains from where you ski down to the basecamp. In case you want to do some cultural activities, visit Orbeli Brothers’ Museum to learn about the scientific and creative mind of the Armenian people, or light a candle in the medieval monastery of Kecharis.
Are you up for a long and extraordinary adventure? The very south of Armenia is the most hidden part of the country, away from the tourist flows. Drive by the majestic Khustup Mountain near the city of Kapan and spend your days in the sweetest city called Meghri. Stroll around the colorful neighborhoods of the city to explore its unique architecture, enjoy the breathtaking view of the Araxes River near the Armenian-Iranian border and taste the sun-kissed fruits of the area.