The tiny nations of Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan are the bridge between Asia and Europe. These three countries offer some offbeat destinations that are still unspoiled by mass tourism. Even though all the three countries have similar culture and cuisine, there are various factors that make them stand apart. The landlocked country of Armenia is defined by its rich history, surreal landscapes and numerous monuments and monasteries.
Capital Yerevan is a historic city with Soviet-era buildings and a few great museums, including the History Museum of Armenia, Armenian Genocide Museum (also known as Tsistsernakaberd), and Erebuni Museum. The city’s other notable sites are the Republic Square – the main square of the city and the Matenandaran library – which contains ancient Greek and Armenian manuscripts. Here, you will find numerous old age tea houses and European style wine bars. From Yerevan, you can plan a day-trip to the city of Vagharshapat, which is home to the Holy Echmiadzin (also known as Holy Etchmiadzin) – often referred to as the oldest cathedral in the world, and one of the most revered Christian sites in the country.
Armenia’s main claim to fame are its numerous monasteries and the UNESCO world heritage listed Geghard Monastery tops the list. The medieval monastery is ringed by mountains and considered as the best place to start your monastery exploration in Armenia. Located a few kilometres away, Khor Virap Monastery offers striking views of Mount Ararat. Keep in mind that although the history of the monastery complex dates back to the 6th century, the buildings standing now have been repaired multiple times. Noravank, a 12th-century monastery, also offers some great views and is located in a picturesque gorge, whereas the 9th-century Tatev Monastery – located at its namesake village in the country’s southern region, is known for its beautiful frescoed interiors and verdant landscape. Tatev village itself is a picturesque location with various hiking trails.
Armenia’s wealth is far more diverse and offers more than just monasteries. To enjoy the country’s most striking natural beauty, visit the picturesque Lake Sevan. Located only 60km from Yerevan, the vast lake covers almost five-percent of the country’s total area. This high-altitude lake features numerous beaches around its shore – a welcome respite for landlocked Armenians who have no other beach destination to go to. To experience more of Armenia’s natural charm, don’t miss the forest-covered town of Dilijan. Nicknamed ‘Switzerland of Armenia’, this town is popular with tourists and has pleasant weather throughout the year. Yeghegis Valley, on the other hand, offers stunning mountain-ringed picturesque villages and historic churches.
While many young people can speak and understand English, a large number of Armenians still have a hard time understanding any language other than their mother tongue Armenian. Like Georgian, Armenian is one of the hardest languages in the world to understand and learn but learning a few necessary words will come in handy when exploring the country’s rural regions. One of the least explored destinations in the world, Armenia offers an offbeat adventure with striking historical, natural and religious elements.
Holy Echmiadzin is often referred to as the oldest cathedral in the world.