A Backpacking Guide to Lake Sevan, Armenia  - First Time Sleeping in a 9th Century Old Monastery

A Backpacking Guide to Lake Sevan, Armenia

First Time Sleeping in a 9th Century Old Monastery

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Lake Sevan, located just northeast of Yerevan, is a popular tourist attraction among Armenians and Russians. Due to its vast size (covering 5% of the country) and pristine nature, people often come here to relax and enjoy their slow life by the lake. That was not exactly how it panned out for me though. Somehow, adventure found me even in this peaceful place.

The first day I arrived, I slept in a 9th Century Armenian Church. This is possibly one of the weirdest places I have ever slept in and boy was it uncomfortable, but well worth the experience. How did it happen? Well, I and a few travel friends were a little too adventurous as we were hitchhiking from one town to another all day. Before we knew it, we found ourselves in the middle of nowhere and without a place to sleep. We begged a few locals to host us but they were going to charge us a ridiculous price. As we were about to give up, we stumbled upon this Israeli millionaire (Yes, really!) who was on a vacation with his Armenian wife in Lake Sevan. He tipped us that we can sneak in and sleep in a church by the lake. I said yes immediately because.. who wouldn't? The guy offered to drop us at the church and taught us how to sneak in unnoticed. It was one of the most random encounters I have ever experienced!

It was all fun and games until we realize what this monastery was. It was the famous Hayravank monastery, one of the most popular attractions in the area. We couldn't have woken up and packed our things fast enough when we realized that in the morning!

At the end, it all went well and I would not trade that experience for anything.

Armenia Travel Video

Armenia: 100 Years Later from Pete R. on Vimeo

How to Get to Lake Sevan

The best way to get here is to fly into Yerevan. I would recommend you browse through Skyscanner or Momondo to find all the cheap flights from where you live to Armenia and compare them so that you can find the one best fit for your itinerary.

From Yerevan, you can take a direct minivan to Sevan which goes out a few times a day. If you somehow miss those direct connections, you can try hopping on a van that is heading for Vardenis, Dilijan, Ijevan or Noyemberian and hop off part way. Getting to town with the last option is a little harder though so I recommend you to catch the direct van instead.

Where to Stay in Lake Sevan

If you are looking to do this the normal way, there are several hotels in cities like Sevan and Gavar where you can stay overnight. I did not do it the normal way so I can not recommend any hotel in these areas.

If you want to do it the adventurous way then, you can either camp nearby or sleep inside the Hayravank Monastery. Be warned that this is possibly illegal so do it as your own risk.

How to sleep in the Hayravank monastery

How to sleep in the Hayravank monastery

To get here: The only viable way I could find is to hitchhike my way from Sevan city. It is quite easy if you stand on the main road heading south to the monastery. I heard some people are able to get a bus to this place, but I have no idea how. It might be best if you ask the Tourist Information once you get here.

To sleep here: In the parking lot, you will see an old lady selling trinkets. The story goes that she sometimes ask for money if she finds out you are sleeping in the church so what we did was we waited until dusk, walked around the church and enter from the side doors, hid our backpacks and went out like nothing happens. Waited until she left and snuck back in, locked the side doors and enjoyed our weird night in the church.

Be warned, it gets really cold at night since Lake Sevan is 2000m above sea level so prepare accordingly. Also, when I was sleeping, we occasionally heard bats flying around us so... yeah, that's what you will experience when you are sleeping in a thousand years old church.

Daily Budget

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This place is very cheap compare to all the other countries and you can expect to pay around 20 - 30 USD per day per person and including accommodation and food.

Keep in mind that this is just a suggested daily budget based on my style of traveling, which is leaning more toward the budget side of things. If you want to stick to this budget, expect to sleep in dorms, eat out only a few times, and be comfortable using the cheapest and most convenient way of transportation, which often times involves walking.

Travel Insurance

If you are looking for a travel insurance to go along with your trip to Armenia, I would recommend WorldNomads.com, which is what I use to look for a travel insurance that fits my kind of adventure. They have a simple and flexible search system that allowed me to find the right insurance for the right amount of time at an affordable price in seconds. If you need a travel insurance, give WorldNomads.com a try.

Get a Quote from World Nomads

Things to Do around Lake Sevan

Visit Hayravank monastery during the day

Visit Hayravank monastery during the day

The monastery is situated along the southwest shores on a quiet part of Lake Sevan. There were rarely people when I was there, probably due to the distance ones required to travel from the cities. This is a good place to lay back and immerse yourself with the view of the lake and the surrounding mountains.

Gaze at the Milky Way at the Hayravank monastery

Gaze at the Milky Way at the Hayravank monastery

Due to its remote location, the monastery is also a good place to go star gazing without having light pollution blinding you from the flickering light of stars that travels millions of kilometers for you to see.

Visit the Largest Khachkar Cemetery in the World

Visit the Largest Khachkar Cemetery in the World

This is the oldest and largest khachkar cemetery in the world date back to the late 10th century. It is located in Noratus, a small village south east of Sevan. The cemetery is spread over a seven hectare field holding almost a thousand khachkars all of which have its own unique ornamentation. It was quite a sight to behold.

Visit the Sevanavank Monastery

Visit the Sevanavank Monastery

Another monastery which is located near Sevan city. This is a more popular monastery to visit than Hayravank due to its close proximity to the city. You can easily get a taxi from Sevan city to the monastery and hike up to the top of the peninsula where the church is located. The church also offers a great view of the lake.

Swim in the Lake

Swim in the Lake

Even though, Lake Sevan is one of the highest lake of this size in the world and the water can be cold at times, during the summer, the lake is an awesome paradise for water sports like swimming and windsurfing. If you are there during July or August, don't forget to swim in the lake.

Further Reading for Armenia and the Caucasus

If you are looking for more articles about Armenia and its neighbors, here are a few articles that might help plan your trip:

The Solo Traveler’s Journal is a series of posts by Pete Rojwongsuriya, the founder of BucketListly Blog where we will follow his solo journey around the world as he experiences different cultures, people, and historical locations one country at a time.

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Categories: armeniadestinationsasiacaucasus

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