Armenia map & highlights

Perhaps because it is borderd on all sides by larger countries, Armenia seems to puff out its chest for visitors. And why not indeed, when you have such an armoury at your disposal? Beguiling variety in your landscapes; a thriving religious heritage; and, in Yerevan, a cosmopolitan capital that feels decidedly youthful despite being one of the world’s oldest cities. Armenia isn’t great for independent travel: English is not widely spoken, roads are often ill maintained and public transport unreliable. But small group and tailor made tours are ideal to uncover this Caucasian gem’s rich history and culture, escorting you through what feels like an endless roster of monasteries, vineyards and spectacular alpine viewpoints. Armenia can also be easily folded into multicountry Caucasus tours that span Georgia and Azerbaijan, too.
Etchmiadzin Cathedral

1. Etchmiadzin Cathedral

Church and religion are integral to Armenian culture, and the UNESCO site of Etchmiadzin Cathedral, not far from Yerevan, holds regular Orthodox services that can get pretty full on. Even though the exterior isn’t overly extravagant, Etchmiadzin is nonetheless impressive and as the world’s oldest cathedral it fully deserves a visit alongside several other medieval churches that you’ll find nearby.
Garni Gorge

2. Garni Gorge

Just east of Yerevan, Garni Gorge is notable for a striking stretch of tall basalt columns known as the ‘Symphony of the Stones.’ Overlooking this dramatic setting is one of Armenia’s most distinctive religious sites: a 1st century Pagan temple said to have been funded by the Emperor Nero, and rebuilt to a remarkable standard after being devastated by an earthquake.
Geghard Monastery

3. Geghard Monastery

This UNESCO site was built amongst the towering cliffs of the Azat River gorge on top of a sacred freshwater spring within a cave, and features several notable khachkars (carved stone towers) as well as churches carved from the surrounding rock face. Combine this with a visit to the nearby colonnaded Temple of Garni.
Haghpat Monastery

4. Haghpat Monastery

Weathered by age, damaged by earthquake and scarred by siege, the medieval Haghpat Monastery complex has survived almost intact since the 10th century, and remains a superb example of Armenian religious architecture. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the monastery sits half concealed on a hillside, surrounded by picturesque villages.

5. Jermuk

This alpine spa town is a very tranquil and scenic spot to visit, popular for medical tourism during Soviet times and surrounded by pristine forest. Jermuk is most famous for its hot springs and mineral rich waters, but it also has a growing reputation as a ski resort, and for hosting international chess competitions.
Khndzoresk Cave Village

6. Khndzoresk Cave Village

Somewhat astonishingly, this network of caves dug into the cliffs was until the 20th century the largest village in eastern Armenia, and inhabited right up to the 1950s. Residents would sometimes need to use a system of ropes and ladders to visit distant neighbours. A suspension bridge spans the yawning gorge that links the old and new villages.
Khor Virap Monastery

7. Khor Virap Monastery

On the fenced border with Turkey, Khor Virap was where Armenia’s patron saint, Gregory, was imprisoned for trying to preach Christianity, and has become one of the country’s more sought after pilgrimage sites, with regular church services still held to this day. Views over the green fields and vineyards of the Ararat plain ascending the snow capped Mount Ararat are some of the country’s most endearing.
Lake Sevan

8. Lake Sevan

Lake Sevan has Armenia’s only beaches, and consequently is one of the most desirable holiday locations in the country. Residents traditionally hold summer picnics or take a boat ride on the lake. Sevanavank and Hayravank monasteries, located on the lake’s western shore, make great alternatives to sunbathing, with the country’s largest collection of khachkars to be found nearby in the medieval cemetery of Noratus.
Mount Aragats

9. Mount Aragats

‘Sister mountain’ to Mt. Ararat over the border in Turkey, volcanic Mt. Aragats also holds an important role in Armenian heritage. Hiking is popular on the mountain in summer, the route to the northern peak more arduous than that to the southern. On the way up you can visit the ruins of 7th century Amberd Fortress, and Alphabet Park, an artistic monument to the man who 16 centuries ago created the Armenian alphabet.
Tatev Monastery

10. Tatev Monastery

Regarded as one of the bastions of Armenian culture as well as a stopping point on a world record breaking double track cable car, the 9th century Tatev Monastery features three churches as well as stunning views from the top of the Vorotan River Gorge. A visit to Tatev is a fantastic opportunity to take in the surrounding scenery and if you’re feeling fit there’s a further 2km walk to view Tatev from above.

11. Tavush

A northeastern province bordering Georgia, and still relatively undeveloped, Tavush is a hotspot for ecotourism in Armenia. Dilijan is a medicinal spa town located inside a gorgeous national park, and a good base for hiking and bathing in mineral springs. The forests and lakes in this area are dreamy to explore in the summer and autumn months.

12. Yerevan

Despite being one of the oldest inhabited cities on the planet, Armenia’s capital, Yerevan, is pretty darn cosmopolitan with a charming blend of historic memorials, flower filled parks and aesthetically beautiful buildings, especially those surrounding the Republic Square. Monuments and statues are everywhere, a fine example being a 22m-high Mother Armenia who gazes down from a position once occupied by Stalin.
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Armenia or need help finding a holiday to suit you we're very happy to help.
Written by Rob Perkins
Photo credits: [Page banner: ReflectedSerendipity] [Map introduction: Ivars Utinsns] [Etchmiadzin Cathedral: Rita Willaert ] [Garni Gorge: Diego Delso] [Geghard Monastery: Diego Delso] [Haghpat Monastery: Kris Duda] [Jermuk: Armineaghayan ] [Khndzoresk Cave Village: David Stanley] [Khor Viap Monastery: Diego Delso] [Lake Sevan: Pargev Y] [Mount Aragats: Alexander Mkhitaryan B ] [Tatev Monastery: Alexander Naumov ] [Tavush: Rootbeerinacan] [Yerevan: Serouj Ourishian]