Situated at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, tucked in tight between Turkey, Iran and its smaller neighbors of Georgia and Azerbaijan, Armenia has become an increasingly popular travel destination among tourists. Yerevan, the capital and largest city in Armenia, is one of the most rapidly developing cities in Europe. It’s sprawled at the foot of the majestic snow-capped Mount Ararat, dominating the country’s skyline. With its fascinating mix of the ancient Armenian culture and modernity, Yerevan has something to offer to everyone including a thriving entertainment, a trendy art scene and vibrant café culture.
Armenia has the world’s oldest Cathedral, was the first nation to convert to Christianity and figured out the earth was round in 2000 BC by observing other planets. A culturally rich history, beautiful architectural creations and luxurious venues where musicians play jazz and guests relax with a glass of Ararat Brandy, give Yerevan its inimitable flavor. If you are planning a visit to Armenia, don’t miss these travel must-sees in Yerevan.
By: Kinya Claiborne, STYLE & SOCIETY Magazine
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Ararat
The Garni Temple is a pagan Hellenistic temple well known for its unique structure from the pre-Christian Armenian era. Built by the Armenian King Tiridates, the temple was part of the Garni fortress, which defined its people from foreign invaders for over 1,000 years. Dating back to first century AD, the ruins of the ancient fortress and the royal palace can still be seen around the temple.
Whether you’re a history buff or not, you will appreciate visiting the ancient Monastery of Geghard, which is comprised of churches, caves, tombs, amazing architecture, and more, dating back to the medieval times of Armenia. Included on the UNESCO World Heritage List, this unique monastery complex is carved out of the adjacent mountain and situated in the gorge of the Azar River. If you’re lucky, you may get to experience a singer or two taking advantage of the site’s acoustics.
Matenadaran Institute of Ancient Manuscripts
One of the world’s riches repositories of ancient manuscripts and books, the Mesrop Mashtots Institue of Ancient Manuscripts holds over 17,000 precious exhibits and some of the world’s oldest texts. Guests will see unique manuscripts artifacts and work of restorers who revived Armenia’s manuscripts legacy in a specialized workshop. The museum is a must-see for anyone interested in literature, history, philosophy, medine, cosmography and art history. Outside the Matenadaran sits a statue of Mesrop Mashtots, the founder of the Armenian alphabet.
It’s impossible to visit Yeveran without noticing its magnificent natural landmark, Mount Ararat. A dormant volcano, Mount Aragat offers breathtaking views straight off a postcard as the highest peak in the country. The mountain is Armenia’s national symbol despite its peak lying just over the Turkish border and is considered holy due to its mention in The Bible as the location where Noah’s Ark landed. One can see the image of Ararat on almost everything: from postcards to Ararat Brandy labels.
Named after the biblical Mt. Ararat, this multiple award-winning Ararat Brandy represents the rich cultural and historical heritage of Armenia and is now available in California and various other states domestically. Aged exclusively in barrels made of Caucasian oak, the brandy is created using Armenian grapes and crystal clear spring water. While in Yerevan, take a tour of this historic Ararat Brandy factory and taste the splendor of one of the world’s best brandies. Visitors can get a tour of the facility and learn about about the distilling, bottling, and production processes, while tasting a variety of Ararat Brandy. Rumor has it that the alcohol content is so high in the atmosphere that guests may even feel a slight buzz simply from visiting the vicinity.
Because Armenia is a landlocked country, you won’t find classic beaches, but if you find yourself looking for a break from exploring and sightseeing, Lake Sevan can give you a change of scenery with spectacular fresh water views. The picturesque Lake Sevan is located at an altitude of 1,900 meters and is popular in the summer amongst both locals and tourists. Sevanavank Monastery, which comprises two historic churches, Astvatsatsin and Arakelots, stands on one of the nearby hill.
Cascade is a beautiful set of outdoor steps with multiple terraces surrounded by artsy sculptures and statues, fountains, gorgeous flower beds, and some of Yerevan’s top cafes, restaurants, and bars. The area is always bustling with hip locals and artists and is filled with Yerevan’s vibrant energy through the day and night. Visitors can climb up the stairs for breathtaking panorama views of the city or visit the Cafesjian Center for the Arts within the staircase itself.
Tufenkian Historic Yerevan Hotel
Tufenkian Historic Yerevan Hotel opened its doors in September 2012 in the heart of downtown Yervevan near the famous Vernissage outdoor craft and souvenir market. The hotel offers 83 stylish rooms with handcrafted décor, a spacious bar/lounge, conference center and features a traditional Kharpert Restaurant, which offers age-old Western and Eastern Armenian cuisine. The exterior of Tufenkian Historic Yerevan Hotel reflects the Yerevan architecture of 19th-20th century.
Almost every traveler who comes to Yerevan visits the famous Vernissage, an outdoor craft and souvenir market. With unique tents set up in classic market fashion, shoppers can purchase jewelry, paintings, wooden sculptures, purses, antiques, woven rugs, silver ceramics, pottery, and occasionally, ancient artifacts all in this one area. If you want to get acquainted with Armenian tradition carpet weaving, visit Tufenkian Carpets Armenia showroom across the street inside the Tufenkian Historic Yerevan Hotel. The large showroom is somewhat a museum of Armenian carpets and visitors may even get a chance to witness the process of carpet weaving onsite.