Unique Places to Visit and Exciting Things to do in the Biblical Land of Armenia
Unique Places to Visit and Exciting Things to do in the Biblical Land of Armenia
“If I were to be asked where on the planet Earth one can see the most incredible wonders, I would first of all say – Armenia… Armenia is a land of miracles.” These are the words of American painter and writer, Rockwell Kent, in describing the beauty of this country. Armenia is the oldest Christian state in the world - a land of smiles, humor, friendly faces, big hearts, art, crafts and unique traditions which are all very alluring to tourists - especially those traveling with children.
There is so much to see and do here in this magical country. Take a step back in time and soak up the ancient culture and beautiful architecture, feast on tasty barbecues and try some new herbs.
I want to share some of the secrets of this beautiful land. Here’s my top 10 list of things to do in Armenia:
Go on an Excursion to Armenian Churches and Monasteries
In 301 A.D, Armenia was the first state to adopt Christianity as an official religion. Many of the churches and monasteries found here are absolute architectural wonders. Geghard Monastery is one of them – with its cave church, stunning architecture and local choirs - this place should definitely be on your list of places to see.
You will notice that the trees and shrubs found outside the churches here have many scraps of cloth tied to them; put here by someone who has come to pray. You’ll see this common occurrence at nearly all the churches you visit in Armenia. You can tie one of your of your own for good luck and success!
When visiting any Armenian church, it is normal on entry to buy candles and then light them while making prayers and then placing them upright in the trays of sand. One other fact about visiting churches in Armenia is that it is correct to leave a church walking backwards so that not to turn ones back to God.
Khor Virhap (deep dungeon) is another place you should visit. It is the place, where St. Gregory the Illuminator was imprisoned for 13 years before curing King Trdat III of a disease. This caused the conversion of the king and Armenia into the first officially Christian nation in the world in the year 301. To this day you can visit the underground chamber he was imprisoned in, located in the St. Gevorg Chapel.
Pick up as many souvenir cross-stones as possible - your friends at home will be delighted!
Take a Tour to Jermuk
Take a tour to Jermuk town, the most beautiful health resort, which is famous for its mineral water. Once you’re here, you should visit the Gorge of Jermuk and enjoy marvelous views of the waterfall and have your
picture taken by the gorge. You’ll also enjoy a drive through the mountains near Jermuk where you can visit real herdsmen, watching the milking of cows, sheep and goats and the making of cheese and butter. You’ll never forget the feeling you experience while taking a natural mineral water bath here. You’ll also enjoy the landscape surrounding the Fortress of Amberd, which has been standing since the tenth century. Your children will be delighted to pick some of the alpine flowers, dog rose, wild pear, plum and juniper plants, oak and horn beam trees.
In the month of August, the town hosts the FIDE Grand Prix Jermuk Chess tournament.
Have Fun on the Tsaghkadzor Ropeway
Tsaghkadzor is full of family adventure and cannot be missed during your visit to Armenia. You can take in great views of the Armenian Highlands from the Funicular roadway. In both summer and winter, the whole family will enjoy the mountains, the waterfalls and the alpine sports facilities where in winter you can ski, snowboard and play ice hockey.
Ropeway fans should also visit Tatever-Tatev’s Ropeway, which is the longest in the world! A great place for adventure seekers!
Go Boating and Fishing in Sevan
Not far from Tsaghkadzor you will find Blue Sevan. This lake attracts tourists with its natural beauty and is a great place to go boating and fishing - there is even a cathedral. Here, you can catch a delicious fish called ishkhan, which only lives in these waters. Come and taste it!
You can also take a piece of Sevan home with you – there are handicraft wares of clay and stone, carpets and jewellery.
Volunteering in Villages
I advise you to visit this wonderful land in autumn in order to take part in fall harvesting, or in spring to take part in tree planting with locals. You’ll like the exquisite taste of Armenian symbolic fruits - apricot, peach and grape. You can travel through several north Armenian villages and experience the hospitality of the local population, stay in one of houses for a night, taste Armenian dishes and enjoy the surrounding nature rich in mountainous forests.
While volunteering in an Armenian village, you’ll get to witness some of the odd habits of villagers and their kids. They will show you how to play havala, duck seekers and many other interesting games that you’ll be glad to share with your friends in your hometown. You can also take part in tree planting with local kids.
You’ll get to taste Armenian dolma - barbecue that is so delicious and an important part of Armenia’s cuisine. It is made of different kinds of meat, which is pre-pickled in wine. You can follow the process of baking Lavash and gata (Armenian cake) with a sweet filling made of flour, butter and sugar in a tonir (a large jar dug in the earth with fire, used for baking bread). You’ll see this nowhere else.
Camping in Dilijan Forests
Dilijan, compared by many to that of Switzerland, is a place you don’t want to miss. The camping and hiking in Dilijan National Park is a great family adventure without TV or video games!
Instead of their favorite video games and cartoons, the kids will be entertained watching the animals in the wild, listening to the rustle of trees and the music of nature. You’ll find all sorts of plants and flowers and see flamingos, mountain eagles, crested larks and even woodpeckers.
After a night spent in the wild, go on a hike up the mountain to Goshavanq Monastery Ensembles, situated in dense oak woods, in the gorge of the Agstev River, not far away from the gorgeous Gosh Lake. Here,you can go rafting and river crossing with the help of professional local instructors.
Visit to the Children’s Art Gallery in Yerevan
Kids who are interested in arts and crafts, will definitely like Armenia where the very first Museum of Children’s Art was found in 1970. The Children’s Art Gallery consists of a permanent exhibit and a showroom and accepts children’s artwork from all over the world and exchanges some of its own with galleries and museums abroad. So, all kids are welcome to share their masterpieces – it’s a great opportunity to become a ‘famous artist’.
Have an Unforgettable Trip on the Children’s Railway
The whole family will have lots of fun at the Children’s Railway in the Hrazdan Gorge. Kids are thrilled as they get to pass through a 45-metre tunnel – like something only heroes of fantastic fiction get to experience.
Go Swimming with the Sea Inhabitants at the Dolphinarium
Here you’ll get to watch dolphins and fur seals dancing and even have the opportunity to swim with the sea creatures! Something referred to around here as, ‘Dolphin Therapy’.
Have an Excursion through Stepanavan Botanical Garden
These gardens are charming throughout all seasons. In autumn, for example, you will see the beautiful harmony of fall colours. In winter, the garden is filled with snow. In spring and summer you’ll get to see a variety of beautiful flowers.
You can go on a bicycle tour around the surrounding towns and villages and maybe be lucky to run into some local kids who are always excited to see a foreigner in their town or village and teach them a word or two in their language.
There are so many other great places worth visiting in Armenia - St. Mount Ararat, Matenadaran, Yerevan’s Victory Park, the monument to famous architect Alexander Tamanyan, Opera House, Monastery of Haghartsin, Gandzasar, Kobayr, Zvartnots and Garni Temple.
If given the chance, you should definitely consider visiting this biblical land to discover all the wonderful treasures this old country has to offer.