Armenia

After my solo Sri Lanka trip it was time to take my wife on a small vacation. And this time we depended our friend Holiday Factory! This is the second time we are availing their services after Maldives and must admit, it is Value for Money. We picked Armenia this time because recently in March 2017, the Armenia Prime Minister visited UAE and announced that all UAE residents can avail Visa on arrival! My trip planning becomes 50% easier if any country offers visa on arrival….We opted for a 3N/4D package from Dubai and reached Armenia via FlyDubai flight with a block time of 3 hours.

You would be surprised to know Armenia was the first country to adopt Christianity as its official religion. Ideally, we think of Rome or any other country as the first one to adopt. Armenia is a small (29,743 square kilometers) landlocked country tucked in the South Caucasus region of Eurasia. It is bordered by Turkey to the west, Georgia to the north, the de facto independent Nagorno-Karabakh Republic and Azerbaijan to the east, and Iran and Azerbaijan’s exclave of Nakhchivan to the south (source: Wikipedia).

One cannot forget the Armenian Genocide, also known as the Armenian Holocaust which was the Ottoman government’s systematic extermination of 1.5 million Armenians. It is difficult to comprehend such a brutal act which was carried upon the Armenians ruthlessly. My prayers to those innocent souls.

The modern Republic of Armenia became independent in 1991 during the dissolution of the Soviet Union and since then it has made lots of progress and today is one of the major tourist destinations. Armenia is also known for its wine which is home grown abundantly. In fact, Archaeological surveys in 2010 and 2011 have discovered Areni-1 cave complex which was the earliest wine-producing facility.

It was surprising to find a lot of Indians in Yerevan. Apparently Medical education in Armenia is famous and Indian student community find it to be most appealing with its quality, price and friendly people. Yerevan State Medical University (YSMU) happens to be one of the sought-after universities.

I will restrict my talking and let the images do the explanation. Some of the important information is shared at the end and you can always ping me for any further info.

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Cascade Complex
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Cafesjian Museum of Art

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Areni Cave
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Delicious
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Noravank Monestry
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Lavash Baking
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Garni Temple

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Genocide Museum
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Eternal Flame inside Genocide Museum
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Lake Sevan
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Karen our guide (L) and Me (R) with Mount Ararat as backdrop

Climate:

The climate is highland continental, which means that Armenia is subjected to hot summers and cold winters. We visited in the month of April’17 and it was perfect with both cold temperatures and tinge of sunlight occasionally.

Places to See:

Cascade Complex, Republic Square, Garni village, Gheghard Monastery, Noravank Monastery, Areni Cave, Areni Wine village & Tatev  Monestery if time permits

Safety:

Armenia is quite safe and one can walk freely even at midnight. People are friendly and welcoming to most of the tourists. Armenia presently maintains good relations with almost every country in the world, with two major exceptions being its immediate neighbours, Turkey and Azerbaijan. In fact I was informed by my guide that with Azerbaijan they are engaged in a perpetual war but it is safe for tourists to visit the country.

Visa:

All UAE residents are eligible for visa on arrival and the visa fee is 3000 AMD for 14  days. Please visit Armenia visa facilitation page for other country specific visa information.

Currency:

The Armenian Dram is the currency of Armenia. The currency code for Drams is AMD, and the currency symbol is AMD. presently the exchange rate of AMD with USD is 484, i.e 1 USD = 484 AMD. suggest you to carry around $150 per person before you land for expenses. This should be good enough to survive with minimalist expenses.

Language:

Armenian is the only official language. Due to its Soviet past, Russian is still widely used in Armenia and could be considered as a de facto second language. You will find it difficult to hit conversation with English. Very few people speak fluent English and many do not speak.

Stay:

We stayed at Cascade Hotel which is located perfectly in the middle of the Yerevan city. Cascade complex is just 5 min walk from here and you can find many supermarkets, restaurants in and around. The staff are excellent, friendly and the breakfast was delicious.

Alternately you can opt for Congress Hotel or Deluxe Hotel.

Food:

It was difficult for me to find some good food initially. But found that there was a small joint called as Shuwarma Club near Republic Square which offers excellent chicken shawarmas which fill you tummy. In case you prefer to tick the local dishes from your list then try Dolma (chicken wrapped in grape leaves) and Harisa. I would Dolma over Harisa…

Overall the trip to Armenia was wonderful and we did carry some sweet memories of the country. I would recommend that you visit Armenia once to enjoy the beauty of nature and experience some amazing home made wines.

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