We do not know much about Armenia – obviously less than in Armenia they know about us. Meanwhile, as soon as a Russian person visits this Transcaucasian country, he will not get rid of the desire to come there one more time. The country organically combines the features of an open-air museum, a chic giant restaurant and a cozy hospitable home, where you are always welcome – and all this on the scale of the whole country.
The absence of any language barriers makes your stay in Armenia even more comfortable. And this is not to mention the prices, which are especially pleasing.
And if you are still going to visit this country and its glorious capital Yerevan, then here is a small list of 10 things that you must do when you find yourself in Armenia.
Climb the Cascade
It is best to start a walk around Yerevan from the Cascade – a large-scale architectural structure in the very center of the capital. In fact, it is a huge staircase with several tiers that connects the lower and upper parts of the city.
Five hundred meters of ascent and more than 600 steps on the way to the upper observation deck – not every traveler can do this! Although you can cheat: escalators are installed inside the Cascade
But you can gather your strength at the foot of the Cascade, in the modern art park, at the entrance to which there is a sculpture of the city architect Tamanyan, and in the park itself there are works of eminent sculptors from all over the world. As, however, you can enjoy the works of art in the process of ascent – on each tier of the Cascade.
On weekends, you can meet many artists on the stairs, and inside the Cascade, various museums are organized where you can buy your favorite works. And if you do decide to climb to the very top of the stairs, we strongly recommend that you do not do this immediately after eating – do not repeat our mistakes.
Swim in Sevan and warm up with a whitefish barbecue
Lake Sevan is often called the Armenian Sea, and for good reason, because it is really huge. It is also one of the highest mountain lakes in the world, which is filled only due to the melting of glaciers, so the water here is theoretically drinkable. But this is theoretically.
But you can swim in practice. The water is not much colder than ours in the summer in any lake. Compared to Epiphany bathing – like taking a bath.
Sevan is also famous for its fish farms for breeding whitefish, which grows here to a very solid size. And whitefish shashlik is generally an obligatory item on the program of your stay at the Armenian Sea. After that, you will look down on salmon kebabs. But the most chic is the crab kebab. By the way, crayfish are also grown in Sevan, and thanks to the very clean water it is especially tasty here.
Taste cognac at the “Ararat” factory
In total, there are about six brandy factories in Armenia, but the most famous of them is, of course, “Ararat”, without whose products not a single feast in Armenia can do.
And the most pleasant news: excursions are regularly held at this plant, followed by a feast, without which nothing is done in Armenia at all.
These excursions are paid (from 500 rubles for a standard and 1000 rubles for an excursion with an extended tasting), you can arrange an excursion by calling the phone number indicated on the official website. They will tell you about all the stages of the production of the famous drink, show you how it is stored, and even take a short tour of the museum, where one of the first bottles of brandy produced at this plant is kept.
The tasting is carried out according to several programs, which even include elite varieties.
Buy something at Vernissage
For souvenirs we go to Vernissage – this is the name of a rather large market, which starts near the lobby of the Republic Square metro station and stretches for about a kilometer along the alley between Aram and Buzand streets.
There you will find everything your heart desires – from magnets and souvenir dishes, obligatory on every trip, to national musical instruments, paintings by local artists, handicrafts made of tuff (a stone very common in Armenia), books, antiques and much more.
In other words, there is simply no better place to look for a souvenir as a keepsake. We advise you to go to Vernissage on the weekend, when it is working in full force!
What will definitely not be any problem in Armenia is food. Food will be pursued you everywhere, delicious kebabs are prepared here at every corner and even in pedestrian crossings, and you can eat them without fear of consequences.
But what you should definitely try if you happen to be in Yerevan is lamajo. The dish moved to Armenia from Arab cuisine and is a thin flat cake with meat filling inside.
They cook it in small kiosks right on the street. The technology is very simple: the cook rolls out two very thin dough cakes, greases one of them with rather thin minced meat with the addition of onions and spices, and then covers with another cake. Lamajo is baked at a very high temperature for only one and a half minutes – like a pizza. The result is a very crispy tortilla with a juicy filling.
You can stop yourself only in the second ten. It is incredibly tasty, especially when washed down with a cold tan.
Visit at least one Armenian church
Not everyone knows that Armenia is the first Christian state in the world, and Christian traditions are an integral part of Armenian culture.
Armenian churches are unique. Most of them have been standing since 10-11 centuries, and they look almost the same as a thousand years ago: very ascetic in the interior decoration and with an indescribable atmosphere. There are no usual pulpits and iconostases here – only very modest altars and khachkars – Christian crosses carved on stone slabs.
The spiritual center of Armenia is the small town of Etchmiadzin, about 20 kilometers from Yerevan. There are two fairly large churches and one large monastery built on the site of an even more ancient temple.
Well, if you nevertheless decided to visit Lake Sevan, then an hour’s drive away from it there is a large monastery complex Haghartsin. The complex includes several large churches, as well as the royal tomb (the floor in it is made of real tombstones) and a unique refectory.
And on the territory of the complex there is a very old tree, or rather not even the tree itself, but its bark with branches – it is believed that if you crawl through a hole in the roots of a tree, you can either make a wish or cleanse yourself of sins – the versions are different.
And all this is surrounded by stunning views of mountain nature – a gorge, mountains, dense forest and a river.
Drink water in Dilijan
Everything is as Ruben bequeathed from the comedy “Mimino”: Dilijan has the second purest water in the world, after San Francisco.
You can get to Dilijan on the way to the Haghartsin monastery complex, although it also makes sense to go here separately, since this is a very picturesque place in a beautiful green valley. Almost as beautiful as in Switzerland. A monument in honor of the heroes of the film “Mimino” was erected in the city, and a faucet with the same Dilijan water was installed in it.
View the singing fountains in Republic Square
Republic Square is the central square of Yerevan, around which, in fact, the whole city is built. Several government buildings, the History Museum of Armenia and the National Art Gallery are concentrated here. By the way, they are also worth a visit if you have at least half a day free.
And in the very center of the Republic Square there are the famous singing fountains. Every evening, accompanied by classical music performed by the orchestra, the fountains shimmer with all the colors of the rainbow. Very romantic and completely free.
Drink coffee from cezve
Other coffee is prepared extremely rarely in Armenia: espresso and cappuccino can be found only in a couple of places, but coffee in cezve is practically a national Armenian drink (a method of preparation, to be more precise). There is a feeling that Armenians have been taught to brew coffee in this way since childhood.
Dzhezva is what we usually call “Turk”, but in Armenia, for obvious reasons, it is better not to use such a term.
Where is the best place to try cezve coffee? A large sculpture in the shape of a coffee pot near the Opera House clearly hints that it is better to do this here. Moreover, you will definitely find yourself near this theater on Freedom Square, because this is the very center of the city and a wide pedestrian street leads to it. And this is not far from the Cascade – you definitely will not pass by.
View on Ararat
The most common misconception about Armenia is that Mount Ararat is located on its territory. In fact, the main Armenian shrine and natural landmark is located in Turkey, and there is no Armenian in the world who would not be outraged by this to the core.
And in order to pay tribute to this historical injustice, you should definitely look at the two Ararat peaks (Sis and Masis, as the Armenians call them). In clear weather, the mountain is visible from almost anywhere in Yerevan, and is best viewed from the observation deck of the Cascade.
But if you want to get as close to the mountain as possible, take an excursion to Khor Virap Monastery on the Turkish border. This is the closest point to Ararat in Armenia. In addition, this place is also famous for the fact that the main Armenian saint, Gregory the Illuminator, was imprisoned here for several years.