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> Intorduction to Armenia and Travel Tips (the Starter Kit)
eleoshka
post Jul 19 2009, 11:28 AM
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Hi everyone, I’m from Armenia – a small but very beautiful country in South Caucasus.
Ok, now this should be more than just some advice on what to do when coming to Armenia. I have to give you as much information as possible. So I just divided my Kit into categories to make it easier to read and find information needed. If you have any questions feel free to ask. To know more about Armenia, read my blog, it is updated every week.

Basic Information
Full name: The Republic of Armenia
How we call our country: Hayastan
Territory: 30000 sq.km
Population: 3,5 million
Capital: Yerevan
Religion: Christian – Armenian Apostolic Church (Armenia was the first in the world to adopt Christianity as a state religion, 301A.D.)
Official Language: Armenian
Languages spoken: Russian, English, in some places French as well
Currency: Armenian Dram

Where to stay?
Surely the capital – Yerevan. One of the advantages of Armenia is that Yerevan is situated in reachable distances from all the places in Armenia. So you can take an excursion or a tour for one day, and manage to go there, see the place and in the evening come back to Yerevan to enjoy the nightlife.

Hotels or B&B?
I would recommend you hotels, they are more comfortable.

Where to book?
To book the hotels I suggest using this website: http://www.visavistour.com – it's the easiest and the cheapest way to find accommodation. And not only – they do fantastic tours throughout the country and Yerevan both for groups and individuals.

Where to exchange money?
I wouldn't suggest changing a big sum in the Airport. While walking in the city, you'll notice a lot of exchange points with better exchange rate.

About Armenia
Armenia is one of the most ancient countries in the world. The capital itself – Yerevan – is founded in 782b.c. by king Argishti the Second. Every September – October we celebrate the birthday of our city – at the moment it is 2790 years old.
However it’s impossible to say it looks ancient. New modern buildings, business centers, offices, cafes, restaurants and at the same time – tiny beautiful streets with full of trees, parks, small houses, churches built in the medieval times – all this together makes a wonderful colour, a union of old and new.

Armenia has a lot of descriptions and “nicknames”.
Some people call it a “Holy Land” as the saint mountain Ararat where Noah's ark landed, is situated here, and as Bible says Noah and his family settled here, on Armenian land.
Armenia is considered as one of the world's centers of Christian World. Especially mother cathedral Edjmiadzin – the residence of Surb Katoghikos - the head of Armenian Apostolic Church.
There are some churches in this town, a gimnasium, and a museum. In this museum there are a lot of interesting thing to view, but the most thrilling one is the spear with which Jesus Christ was killed on the Cross so that he won't suffer long. It is a holy destination for all the Christian people around the world. As mentioned, Armenia was the first country in the world to adopt Christianity as a state religion. There is a wonderful legend connected with it, about which I'll write in my blog further.
Armenia is also called a “museum under the sky” – on its territory there are more then 4000 architectural monuments – among them a pagan temple saved from old times, thousands of Christian churches, city fortress, old castles and much more. You can also find hundreds of thousands crosstones, which are also great manifestation of Armenian art and culture. Besides, it has one of the world’s biggest collections of ancient manuscripts dating from the 5th century – all of them are kept in an institute of Matenadaran, where an exhibition with the most precious exhibits is always open for tourists. To completely feel the history of Armenia, you can go to the Armenian History Museum, located in the heart of Yerevan city – the Republic Square.
Art
Art is the inalienable part of Armenian lifestyle.
If you are interested in painting and sculpture, you are welcome to our National Gallery, which has a rich collection of famous painters, and also to our great painters' and sculptors' house-museums. Among them the most interestings are Saryan's, Parajanov's, Qochar's, Isahakyan's and Tumanyan's house-museums. There are also a lot of galleries and exhibitions in Yerevan.
Armenia is also famous for it's handmade carpets.
If you'd like to purchase some interesting paintings or handmade carpets, I suggest you to have a walk through our painting and souvenir market called Vernisaj, or to connect one of the tourism agencies who provides such service, which is much safer if you are willing to buy a real good-quality product. I know higher mentioned Vis-a-vis tour travel agency (www.visavistour.com) is providing such service.
In sphere of music I should say that the best to do here is to go to music clubs and to visit open-air concerts. There are a lot of music clubs here, different kinds of music – rock, alternative, jazz, classic... The best are however the jazz clubs, as Armenian jazz school is very good. The most famous, although a little bit expensive is Malkhaz's Jazz Club. It is a place where you can here pure jazz music on the highest level. The other popular music clubs are Poplavok, Avant-Guard Folk Music Club, which are also very good with lower prices.
For movies: here pass several international film festivals. The most known is The Golden Appricot, which is hold every summer. Films are displayed from all over the world – Canada, USA, France, Italy, Spain, Russia, Turkey, Romania, Japan and of course Armenia. Here the website of this festival: www.gaiff.am During the year «days of ... films» are orgonized. Like there are «Week of English films», «Days of German cinema» etc.
The other description for Armenia is «the artists' inspiration». This is because of: a) the historical «breath» of Armenia; cool.gif the wonderful nature different but in all its ways gorgeous during all the seasons; and c) for its national colour and people.
Sports
Armenia has a well-known ski resort. So if you like to ski or practice other winter sports, you’re welcome here. The town named Tsakhkadzor is a famous ski-resort in this region. You go up to the mountains (2500 meters above sea level) on a ropeway. There are 5 stations of the ropeway to the way up to the mountains.
You can also practice skating in Yerevan. In winter you can enjoy the open-air skating-rink, while the rink in the closed building of Hamalir works all year round!
Relaxing at Lake Sevan.
One of the places of interests in Armenia is Lake Sevan. It is a popular and loved destination in summer. Here you can have a swim, enjoying the hot summer day in a good company and with a gorgeous view at the water surrounded by mountains at with a medieval church by your side. You can also practice some water sports, like driving a canoe.

Ah yes, about the weather, seasons, nature and holidays.
An interesting point is also the weather here. Every season is different. We have a very hot summer, a cool spring, a wonderfully warm autumn, and a very cold winter.
Summer – it is usually very hot in summer, so during the day you can go to the Waterworld or to Lake Sevan to have a swim, and in the evening get out to downtown and enjoy cafés, restaurants, bars, diskos, karaokes, open-air concerts, long promenades and just have fun. And by all means enjoy the fruits and vegetables of summer!!! Especially our apricots, peaches, apples, figs and different berries: strawberry, blackberry, raspberries, currants (red and white), bilberries and the famous “tut» also in two colors – white and black.
There are a few holdays in summer – International Children's Day (1 June), Vardevor (everybody's pouring water at each other). La Fête de la Musique is a new holiday it is celebrated already the 3rd year! It's very fun, this is a day for free concerts. All the country is full with melody that day. Especially it is good to be in Yerevan – you are walking through the town and as you pass different parts of it you listen to totally different music – in one place they perform rock, in other – jazz, in the third – classic, the 4th – Armenian, 5th – French Chanson... and so on!
Winter – as I said Tsakhkadzor is a famous ski resort, so the best thing to do in winter is to stay a week there and practice skiing, snowboarding and other winter sports. There are also competitions held every year. Also try skating in an open rink near Opera house.
By all means try eating Khash – our national soup. There is a special way to eat it, so it'd e better if you have someone next to you who knows how to eat it)))
Among holdays – New Year (December 31-January 1) and Christmas (January 6th), Old New Year(January 12-13) (I know it sounds strange). So actually we are celebrating New Year and Christmas until about 20th of January. Then we celebrate Armenia's Army day (28th January). After which comes Surb Sarkis (February 14th) which is Armenian variant for St. Valentine. Then comes Trndez (February 13th), includes jumping through the fire (don't be afraid it's fun).
Spring – Spring in Armenia is time for flowers, green, blossom, happiness, joy, kindness and holidays! There are plenty of holidays in Spring – Tsakhkazard (Sunday before Easter), (means “decorated with flowers”), Easter, Women’s Day (8 March), The Day of Beauty and Mothers’ Day (7 April), Workers’ Day(1 May), Victory Day (9 May), First Republic Day (28 May), May’s Victories’ Day, Last Bell (children graduate from high-school).
However, in this happy period we have an awful date, on which we remember those indescribable.. I don't know how to call it.. well, actions made by the Ottoman Empire leaders and their army in 1915 we all wished they hadn't made... This is the saddest day during all the year in Armenia, 24th of April. Everybody remembers their family, their family history, how they lost people, how somebody survived and ran away, how they didn't meet their family and died in despair, how they realized they have a family somewhere far and even didn't know about it for dozens of years... This day every Armenian goes to a place called «Tsitsernakaberd» to pay tribute to all the victims of the Great Genocide.
Autumn – Autumn is a very beautiful part of the year. Especially September and October. It is called «Golden Autumn» (in Armenian «Voske Ashun» if you wish) =) In this time of the year the nature is wonderful. The trees change into warm colours – yellow, red, brown, some of them remain green. So you feel like you're in a fairy tale. When you leave Yerevan for the country, and pass by wide valleys and see those beautiful colors – at that very moment you understand why it is called Golden Autumn. Parallel with this the weather is amazingly warm!
Among the holidays – School Day (1 September children go to school after summer holidays), Teachers' Day, Yerevan-Erebuni (Yerevan's birthday) and the most important one - Independence Day (September 21)!


Final tips for staying here and getting around:

Best means of transport?
If you want my advice – on foot. It is not a long distance from one point to another, besides while walking you may notice something magnificent, who knows?
If you don't, then a comfortable way of transport is taxi – you can catch one from the street. It is not expensive at all, a drive in the centre from point A to B will cost you just 600 drams, if not less. It is something about 1,5$.

Where to eat?
In any cafe or restaurant you like! All of them have very delicious cuisine, and everything is very tasty, no matter you choose Armenian cuisine, Italian, Chinese or whatever! Bon appétit!

Should I leave tips to the waiters?
Sometimes it is included in the bill, but mostly, people leave them 300-500 drams.

Where to shop?
For clothing you should just have a walk through Abovyan Street, best shops are located here.

What should I try?
The food!
Our special bread – «lavash»
Khash – (it is eaten only and only in winter)
Fruits and Vegetables
Barbeque – called «Xorovats»
Kebabs – especially Crab Kebab, you can find it in any restaurant near Lake Sevan
Fish dishes – again Lake Sevan
Dolma – meet in grape leaves
Also try our ice-creams - they're tasty too))

Some expressions:
Hello – Barev dzez!
How are you? – Vonts eq?
Well – Lav
Bad – Vat
Thank you – Shnorakalutyun but they often say «Merci»
You're welcome – Khndrem
Can you help me? – Karogh ek indz ognel?
Where is...? – Vortegh e...?
Opera house – Opera (just the same) =)
Cinema – Kinotatron
Museum – Tangaran
Street – Poghoc
Avenue – Poghota
Good bye! – Tstesutyun!
Good night! – Bari gisher!

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pietari
post Aug 9 2009, 06:42 PM
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Hi,

I have decided to go to Armenia in September, once I go home from China. Thanks for that starters kit, it was fun to read! I am really exited about my trip. I am planning to stay there for abut three weeks.

I could use some tips, as I really don't know much about the coutry.

1. Which would be the cheapest option to accommodate myself in Yerevan? I am on a budget.
2. How long should I stay in Yerevan and how long in some other cities? I mean, is there a lot to see and do in Yerevan? I'm not picky and just a vibrant citylife is enough for me.
3. Could I stay the whole time in Yerevan and do daytrips around the country? Or is it wiser to spend a few days in a different place?
4. How expensive is the country in general? How much is a pint of beer in a bar, a drink in a club, a dinner in an average restaurant, a pack of cigarettes, a 10min taxidrive etc..?
5. Is it safe, in general? I am travelling alone and just wondering how should I prepare.

I am really really exited. Oldest christian country in the world - here I come!

And please anyone who has been there share your experienses!

Regards,

Aancon
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pietari
post Aug 14 2009, 06:33 AM
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Yay! I have now bought tickets to Armenia. I'll leave Helsinki early in the morning 18.9, spend a day in Riga and finally fly to Yerevan that night. I'll be leaving early morning 7.10, so I'll be there about 18 days. I am so much looking forward to it, it must be great!!

Any tips are very welcome!

I am also thinking of going to Tbilisi for a few days - that should be easy, right? Looking forward to that as well.

Here I come!
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eleoshka
post Aug 15 2009, 04:15 PM
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Hey there!!!
Sorry for the little delay of answers, I just came back home from a trip myself)
By the way you're coming on our Golden Automne season! That's great!

So here are the answers to your questions:

1. Which would be the cheapest option to accommodate myself in Yerevan? I am on a budget.
! - If it is for just 3 weeks, it should be a hotel. Renting an appartment is ok if you're staying here for some 2 or 3 months or longer. Most popular medium rank hotel (3 stars) is Ani Plaza Hotel. It's not expensive and its location is very convenient - just in the heart of the city. I know a lot of people who always stay there whenever they come to Yerevan. Check it out on the internet.

2. How long should I stay in Yerevan and how long in some other cities? I mean, is there a lot to see and do in Yerevan? I'm not picky and just a vibrant citylife is enough for me.
! - You should spend most of your time in Yerevan. This is the center of life in Armenia. All other things you can see with daily trips. You see Armenia is a small country and Yerevan is situated just in the center of it, so it is very easy to travel to any of the sights of Armenia from Yerevan.
If you want to relax a little in nature, away of big city, you can stay some 4-5 days in one of our little town-villages. The best one is Jermuk, as there are also springwaters there, so it's good for health too.


3. Could I stay the whole time in Yerevan and do daytrips around the country? Or is it wiser to spend a few days in a different place?
!- That's what I was saying, stay in Yerevan and take daytrips, and in the evening enjoy Yerevan nightlife.

4. How expensive is the country in general? How much is a pint of beer in a bar, a drink in a club, a dinner in an average restaurant, a pack of cigarettes, a 10min taxidrive etc..?
! - It's not expensive at all. Cafes and restaurants are the biggest business here so food and eating out is a lot cheaper here then in any other country. Jewelry and especially gold are not expensive if compared to Europe. Taxi from one place to another through Yerevan costs from 500 to 1000 AMD that comes about from 1 to 2 euros. And it doesn't count by the time it counts by kilometres. Cigarettes - i don't smoke but if I'm not mistaken a pack is less than a euro. There is a cigarette and tabacco industry in Yerevan, so if you're a smoker, why not to try Armenian cigarettes, who knows maybe you'll like it.
The only thing I won't recommend buying is clothes of famous brands. You see they import them all from Europe and other countries, so it is a bit more expensive here.


5. Is it safe, in general? I am travelling alone and just wondering how should I prepare.
! - Yes, there's nothing to worry about, it is safe to travel alone here, it's ok.

6. I am also thinking of going to Tbilisi for a few days - that should be easy, right? Looking forward to that as well.
! - Yes, absolutely, it's a good idea! There is no problem about going to Georgia from here. You can do it by car - it will take 5 hours to Tbilisi all in all, some people stay in a town on the border for 1 night and continue their way next morning. From border to Tbilisi is 2 hours drive. Or you can go there by plane, much faster. There are agencies who organize trips from here to Tbilisi. They can also organize a 2 or 3 day trip in Georgia, even going to the sea, I know the agency I mentioned in the started kit does stuff like that.
I'm sorry but I can't give you any good and useful advice connected with Georgia it's not my country, I know little about it.. I know they have wonderful seaside towns, like Batumi or Ureki, but I don't know what will the weather be like there in the end of September...


Well I hope my pieces of advice helped you a little bit, if there are any more questions, I'd be happy to answer them!
So Armenia's waiting for you!
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crazycoke
post Mar 28 2010, 11:22 AM
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we are two italian families, planning a trip to georgia driving our camping cars (campers), We would like to have some informations about the security of places, also regarding our spending the night inside our campers. Is there any place where it is better not to go? here in italy it's quite difficult to get such kind of informations. .
thanks for your help
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pietari
post May 8 2010, 10:00 PM
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Hello everyone!

Just to let you know, I did a WONDERFUL trip to Armenia and Georgia in last September, and now I am writing entries with pictures about it (thank god I have my notes!). You can read about the trip here if you are interested: http://www.travelpod.com/travel-blog/pietari/16/tpod.html. There are yet only four entries, but I am writing the rest of them as soon as possible!;) Nice pictures!

Armenia is by far one of my favourite countries, great decision to go there!
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eleoshka
post May 19 2010, 06:48 AM
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Hey Pietari! Great you liked it here)) I'm now reading your blog) Cool pictures!
Just interesting to know - which was your favorite place in Yerevan?
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eleoshka
post May 19 2010, 06:55 AM
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angeltim77 Here's the phone number of Hamalir ice ring ` 0037410390028
Hope this helps))
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eleoshka
post May 19 2010, 07:10 AM
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crazycoke let me just understand your route.. Are you driving to Turkey, then to Armenia and then to Georgia? As to Armenia, all in all there are no unsecure places, especially in summer. In Yerevan particularly it's like day at night, everyone's out. The police is out too, they're walking in the town, it's their job, so everyone feels safe here.
Unfortunately I can't answer your qustion concerning Georgia, you should ask their Local Expert.
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pietari
post May 20 2010, 03:56 AM
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My blog is all done now! Please feel free to comment!

Eleoshka, glad to hear you are enjoying the pictures. Your question is a tough one, though. Architecturally my favourite place in Yerevan was Kond district, because I am crazy about old towns. I think with a little bit of restauration I could be made a wonderful place. I liked how it wasnt touristy, it was really like going back in time. Very interesting to walk around the narrow streets of Kond!

My favourite single building in the city is Katoghike church. Simply beautiful, totally out of place (which I like) and amazing atmosphere. One of my favourite churches ever! It's not the size that matters wink.gif

My favourite place to hang out was by far the Opera Square with its vibrant cafe / bar life in the evenings. I sat there many evenings and enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere.

Outside Yerevan, my favourite place was Hayravank (although in my blog I said Noravank). Simply amazing, it was only us, the old, empty church and the magificent views. I can't explain the feeling I got there. Loved it!

Anyway, great country and great city, I will definitely come back!

And I am happy to answer more your questions!;)
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