With Eid just around the corner, will you be celebrating at home, or will you be jetting off for a mid-summer break? If you’re thinking of traveling, with just 3 days to make the most of it, finding the perfect mini-adventure is no mean feat. So we got to thinking – where can we go to get a little summer sun, get a good dose of culture, have some amazing food and all the while not jetting off too far from home? As luck would have it, our friend in Armenia has been inviting us to come over and visit the historical country for a while now – and when he gave us the insider’s guide to Yerevan and beyond, let’s just say, it didn’t take too much convincing. So, if you need us, we’ll be spending our Eid in Armenia – and if you’re thinking of joining, take a look at the ultimate itinerary for one great trip.
Before visiting any country, there are always a few basic things that are good to know.
- This time of year, Armenia is pretty hot – and if you’re going to go now, just know that it’s even hotter than usual this year. Temperatures can get up to 40C in the afternoon, but you’ll be rewarded with a nice breeze in the evening.
- If you decide to delay your trip until winter – expect snow in most parts of Armenia during December and January.
- The Armenians are walkers! And if you really want to experience the country or the city of Yerevan like a local, then get on your feet and go. Saying that, driving is quite erratic, so make sure you look both ways (twice!) before crossing the street.
- If walking’s not your thing, don’t worry, Yerevan has a reliable metro network, and it’s extremely affordable. It’s even worth checking out the stations if you’re into Soviet-era architecture.
I’m hungry – what shall I have?
You’re in for a culinary treat. Armenian cuisine is a fusion of Caucasian cuisine with strong ties to the Ottoman, Persian and Levantine kitchens. Lamb, eggplant and Lavash bread (a flat bread typical to Armenia) are commonplace on the Armenian table.
Try the Dolma, grape leaves stuffed with rice or bulghur, mince meat and spices, for a light and refreshing meal, or go for a little comfort food and order Harissa – a kind of thick soup made of wheat and meat, slow-cooked to perfection.
I’ve got to walk all this food off – where do I go?
There’s plenty to see just walking the streets of Yerevan. Just a light stroll down Northern Avenue will present you with street artists and performances of all kinds. In a span of 5 minutes, you’ll be entranced with the talents of a 50-year old opera singer, taken by the melodies of an accordion player and amazed by a beat-boxing boy band (who needs concert tickets?). But if your walk down Northern Avenue has left you hungry for more, head to to Republic Square for more street entertainment and stop for a coffee or bite at one of the area’s famous cafés and restaurants. For entertainment of a little more sophisticated nature visit The Opera.
Get a little history in by visiting, The Madenataran. Built in 1957, the museum has great importance to the country as it carries nearly 17,000 manuscripts and over 30,000 documents that cover a wide variety of subjects such geography, philosophy, art history, medicine and science. Some of the manuscripts date back 1600 years.
After the museum, if your boots are still made for walking, how about venturing up the 572 stairs of the cascade? Situated right next to The Opera, climbing the complex will send you to one of the most magnificent views of Yerevan and Mount Ararad. The journey to the top is filled with various statues and works of art to keep you amazed until you reach the summit (where by the way, more art awaits).
If you’re in Yerevan on a weekend, which we plan on doing, then The Vernissage, open mainly between Friday and Sunday, is a must-see. In the city’s official flea market, you’ll find everything from souvenirs and traditional clothing to carpets and works of art. Just make sure you hone those bargaining skills before you go; you’re going to need them!
Yerevan is a very green city. Trees line its large sidewalks and there are parks on every corner. One of its biggest parks is The Monument, where a beautiful statue of Mother Armenia is erected. But going out of town is a nature lover’s dream come true.
Visit Hrazdani Gorge, a 10-minute drive from Yerevan to picnic by the city’s main river: all you need is a guitar, some lavash bread, Armenian cheese, some tomatoes and you’re set!
If you like adventures and nature, then hiking the tallest mountain of the Republic of Armenia, Mount Arakadz, is a good way to spend the day. The view from there is magnificent. It’s an easy- to mid-difficulty hike that takes around 3-4 hours from Lake Kari.
Other places to explore outside the city?
- Garni: The only remaining pagan temple in Armenia
- Khor Virab: An old monastery, on the border with Turkey, where the Armenian Father of Christianity, Krikor Lousavorich was held captive for 13 years. Here you have the best view of Mount Ararad in Armenia.
- The Garden of Alphabet: Visit the 38 letters of the Armenian alphabet, erected on the slopes of Mount Arakadz
The day is done, bring on the night!
Locals start their days late and are usually in the office by 9:30 or 10am. With no early mornings, Armenians enjoy their evenings at leisure. You’ll find the streets are full of people at night; cafes and restaurants bustle with conversations and laughter.
If you want to a taste of some local nightlife fair, visit Calumet on Pushkin Street. The ethnic lounge bar offers great folk music to dance to. And don’t worry about getting dressed up to the nines – going out at night in Armenia is a laid back affair – just bring your sense of adventure.
Now that you’ve gotten just a taste of everything Armenia can offer in just a few days, will you be packing your hiking boots, sunscreen and appetites? We know we are!
See you after the Eid! Fitr Mubarak