Friends and family recently traveled to Armenia and reported back about their experience.
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Traveling Is Restarting
Regardless of what the media says, travel has restarted. It’s not without changes, of course. Travelers are a little more inclined to purchase travel insurance. There are mask requirements, social distancing, new forms, and plenty of tests to take, but travel is making its comeback.
Armenia is not locked down. It requires a negative COVID-19 test upon entry and failing to supply a negative test result means a traveler must self-isolate and quarantine until they provide a negative test or two weeks.
Armenia is Lovely
Armenia is one of the more than 130 countries Matthew has visited. It’s on my family’s list but we haven’t made it there yet. The country has an amazing history dating back thousands of years. It was the first country to adopt Christianity, is home to the Geghard monastery and Khor Virap monastery on Mount Ararat, and the massive high-altitude Lake Sevan. Dilijan national park is home to famous mineral water resorts (see this hiking guide from Lonely Planet.)
Its rich history still involves disputed territories like Nagorno Karabakh (officially Azerbaijan) and is surrounded by land borders with other caucus and middle-Eastern states. With neighbors like Turkey, Iran, and Georgia, Armenia has a unique location in the world that is a part middle Eastern, and part European.
A friend and a family member flew to Armenia late last week, and have reported back that Yerevan reminded them of the pre-COVID Paris neighborhood, Saint Germain. They found it to be like traveling back in time to 2019. Outdoor cafes were full of people, shops and hotels are open and life is proceeding as though COVID-19 never happened.
Costs are also a factor. Yerevan is one of the least expensive cities in Europe. Here’s an apartment near republic square from Airbnb for $16/night. This stunner will set you back $55/night:
For the truly well-heeled, here’s a three-floor home without outdoor space for $146/night.
It’s no wonder that world nomads have chosen to visit Armenia with reliable public transportation on cable cars, convenient flights from around the world, and even some European discount carriers.
Zvartnots International Airport in Yerevan hosts RyanAir to Berlin, Rome, Bergamo, and Thessaloniki; Wizz Air flies to Abu Dhabi, Lanarca, and Vienna. My contacts flew Air France from Paris but commented that all of the alliances have routes to complete a trip to Armenia from anywhere.
They commented on the local charm from area markets. In one of the photos below a fruit lavosh can be seen the size of an area rug. This giant (simplified) fruit roll-up cost 2,000 dram (about $3.50.)
Why Yerevan, Armenia?
They chose Yerevan for business reasons, one of them had a meeting in the area. But many comments were made that they may want to stay indefinitely. They love the European feel of the city with a cafe culture and fine dining, while maintaining the feel of a smaller city off the beaten path akin to Bratislava.
The incredible history, beautiful scenery, and amazing prices were further draws to this historic country. Monuments, grand boulevards, and friendly people added to their experience.
They also loved that it felt so normal. It was good to be around people again, to feel like things were ok, that the sky wasn’t falling around them.
As travel restarts for the rest of the world, maybe it’s time to see some of those places that haven’t been on the top of the list but should be. Yerevan, Armenia fits that bill.
What do you think? Will you head to Armenia?
One note: Khor Virap is not on Mt. Ararat.
I’m planning to go in a few weeks post-2nd shot given they’ll admit US citizens who have a -ve PCR test (unless you’re willing to test and wait for results). Covid looks to be under control but plan to watch that. The Bradt Guide is very helpful for research and the plan is to spend a few days hiking round Dilijan and then hire a car to explore the rest of the country. Lots of good hiking, history and a wine country worth looking at.
For Americans, http://www.travel.state.gov provides carefully considered travel advice
For citizens of the UK, https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice
For citizens of Canada, https://travel.gc.ca
For Australians, https://www.smartraveller.gov.au/
The consensus? Don’t travel internationally.
My horror vision is being struck sick, coughing, feverish and short of breath facing an ICU stay far from our patient care resources…
If you ignore covid-19 it can’t hurt you, right?
Diagnosing death due to covid-19 just leads to closures, better call it flu.
If overall mortality rises just don’t publish it until 2025.
Meanwhile the country is beautiful, good is cheap, and without masks and social distancing everybody can forget about the pandemic and feel safe.
Armenia publishes new confirmed COVID-19 cases and new deaths daily. You can find them here: https://moh.am/#3/3758
Social distancing, constant hand washing and the wearing of masks in public is mandatory across Armenia (except for eating & drinking), and I recommend that anyone visiting continue to observe these rules. Since new case rates dropped considerably in January and February, many people started ignoring those rules here, and the police has been a lax in enforcing them.
So please come and visit Armenia, you’ll love it here, just remember to be safe and respect guidelines (even if not all locals do).
If you’re considering hiking in Armenia, right now is a great time. April-June has some of the best weather in Armenia: it’s warm, but not too hot, the country side is still lush and green, and there aren’t any bugs (in fact, since Armenia has a continental climate, there aren’t really any bugs throughout the year).
For hiking, I’d recommend downloading the HikeArmenia app, which is available on both the AppStore and Google Play. It provides GPS-corrected maps of hiking trails across the country (ranked easy to hard) and allows you to hire local guides and book accommodations directly from the app.
Armenia is in the Caucasus* region.
I’m actually quite surprised that it hasn’t become a more popular international travel destination. Most Americans on the Coasts are at least somewhat familiar with Armenian culture. Unlike neighboring Georgia, Armenia maintains good relations with Russia, and from my perspective that makes the location all the more interesting from a traveler’s standpoint.
There’s a nice Marriott in the heart of Yerevan that treated me GREAT back in 2015. Homestays in Alaverdi are a great local experience, and you can even rent your own Lada and drive there.
I’ve been fortunate to live in Yerevan twice – once 1999-2002 (I was there for Y2K) and again 2014-2015. It really is a hidden gem, under appreciated. I loved it.
To anyone planning to go, yes Khor Virap is interesting. Do also see cathedral at Echmiadzin, try to get to see the museum at the back. The museum on Republic Square has much of interest. And a tour of the Brandy factory is a must, sampling some 10, 20 and 30 year old brandies.
Vernisage market is good for browsing, and there are so many great restaurants. There’s also a great live music scene – jazz at Malkhas at the underground rock bands at Venue.
Don’t believe them. It’s fake news. Armenia is in terrible situation. As CIVID as Political as finance. Nothing interesting there. In addition to that Karabach was has just stopped. And Armenia has lost that because of there agressive action in addition to therneighbor Azərbaycan
100% you are from AZ.
in Armenia no any problem.
I was born and raised in Yerevan. I am 62. When I think of the most wonderful days in my life, the fantastic days and weeks of hiking, camping all over the mountains and valleys of Armenia comes to my mind first. Dilijan, Haghartsin, Sanayin, Mt Aragats (climbed its 4009 meter northern summit), Goris, Tatev, Ijevan, Garni, Gekhard, Byurakan, Amberd. The nature itself is amazing, but when you add to it also all the ancient sites, churches, khachkars AND very friendly locals (the higher in the mountains the friendlier) oh my God… I am so lucky I have had it in my life!!! God bless my Armenia, the small piece of historic Armenia.
The thing is that Armenia is wonderful even when it is in “terrible situation”.
Folks, don’t you think this guy has misspelled his name?
Armenia is wonderful country with is warm open people for every tourist. Very nice people. Everyone would help you if you needed. Armenia is on the border of the East and West.
After the war started by Azerbajan dictatorship country regime in November 2020 Armenia and Artsakh (Karabakh) getting stronger and stronger now. For the tourists this is ideal country.
Switzerland of this region is Armenia.
That’s for sure.
You will never regret to visit Armenia.
Make sure you visit Vernissage (the market of hand made goods) too, next to the central square
Armenia IS NOT in Europe.