Armenia is a country with a troubled history. The Armenian genocide happened 100 years ago and the scars that the Ottoman empire inflicted upon the Armenian people still existed today. That said, a hundred years have passed and they have rebuilt their country and created one of the most attractive capital city in the Caucasus. Yerevan and its people have that indescribable charms that beg for your attention. From the Soviet-inspired architecture to the friendly locals, Armenia is one of those destinations that will surprise you at every turn.
Initially, I did not plan to go to Armenia but after traveling in Georgia for 2 weeks, and realizing how easy it was to go from Tbilisi, I decided to give it a go. I did not expect much but as it turned out, my experience there was one of the most memorable experiences of all.
How to Get Here
The best way to get here is to fly into Tbilisi and take a marshrutka from there. I would recommend you browse through Skyscanner or Momondo to find all the cheap flights from where you live to Georgia and compare them so that you can find the one best fit for your itinerary.
From Tbilisi, the cheapest option is to go by bus or marshrutka (minivan). You have to take a bus to the Ortachala international autobus station. From here you can either buy a bus ticket to Yerevan which will cost you 15GEL and 12 hours or go with the marshrutka which will cost you 35 - 50GEL for a 5 - 6 hours drive. I went with the marshrutka as I prefer to settle into new cities before it gets dark so I can exchange money, but a SIM card etc. I paid an overpriced fee of 50 GEL for the ride.
Transportation in and around
Transportation in Yerevan is very straight forward. In the city, you can go with the Metro which will cost you only 100 AMD (20 cents USD) for a single ride.
If you want to go outside of Yerevan to say, Khor Virap. You will have to get the local bus. There is no bus schedule you can obtain online so your best bet is to ask at the reception at your hostel.
Hitchhiking is very common in Armenia. Heck, even locals hitchhiked with us sometime. The locals are extremely friendly and even though, most don't speak a word of English, they will go out of their ways to help you. If you know a little bit of Russian, you will be fine hitchhiking in Armenia. I do not though but I was with a group and there was a polish girl who speaks a bit of Russian and that helped us a lot in communicating where we want to go.
The Theatre hostel is a small hostel with friendly staff and a pretty good location. It is only 20 minutes walk away from the city centre (Republic Square). The air-conditioned dorm room is cheap given how comfortable the bed was. The staff were friendly and will go out of their ways to help you out. They treated me like friends which was awesome. A few things to note though, the hostel itself is not spacious. There were barely rooms for my big backpack. Imagine a room with 8 people and 8 backpacks. Other than that, it was a present stay.
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.
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.
What to Do
See the Saint Gregory, the Illuminator Cathedral
This is the largest religious building in the South Caucasus along with the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Tbilisi. Its block-like architecture made it stood out from all the other cathedral in the region. Some people said it is ugly (like my friend Anders) but I like it. It's unique and kind of go well with all the other soviet-era buildings that scattered around Yerevan.
If you are staying at the Theatre hostel, the cathedral is only 2 minutes walk away. I went there early in the morning as I made my way to the Republic Square on foot.
Hang out at the Republic Square
They don't call Yerevan the Pink city for nothing. As you stood at the center of the Republic Square, you will notice that the majority of the buildings are made from volcanic bricks of varying shades of pink. I think the color reflects the fun and vibrant vibe of the city very well.
This is where the cool kids hang out. Around the area, there are several high-end restaurants, shopping streets and hipster-worthy souvenior shops. When in doubt, go to the Republic Square.
People Watching at the Republic Square at Night
At night, the Republic Square turned into a dancing musical fountain where locals come and enjoy the light and fountain shows for free. Watch the locals mingled while classical music played in the background and water shooting out in synchronization.
Immerse yourself at the Cascade
The Cascade is a giant stairway showcasing different fountains and sculptures on each level. You need to see for yourself to know the true scale of the cascade. It is massive.
With the Armenian architectural prowess, you will never get bored hiking up the cascade. You will be surprised at the beauty of these "micro parks" you can find at every corner on the Cascade.
At the top, you will be able to get an unobstructed view of Yerevan and Mt Ararat.
Drop by at the Swarovski Cyrstal Palace
The Swarovski Cyrstal Palace is at the top of the Cascade so you can drop by there after. The installation is quite photogenic. As you go in, you will see multiple meshed bags filled with Swarovski crystals suspended from the ceiling
Admire the Matenadaran architecture
This intimidating-looking soviet era structure is a repository of ancient manuscripts. Cut deep in the hillside behind, and shielded by double steel blast doors, this place is built to withstand a nuclear blast in order to preserve the ancient manuscripts.
I personally did not go inside but if you are interested in the Armenian history than do check out the ancient manuscripts museum.
A little stop at the Karen Demirtchian Sport Complex
If you are planning to go to the Genocide Museum, you will have to walk pass through this somewhat-abandoned sport complex. Stare and wander at these soviet-era "In Your Face" kinda structure as you make your way to the Genocide Museum. As the saying goes, there's beauty in decay.
Pay respect to the victim at the Genocide Memorial
From the sport complex, walk a little bit east and you will see a monument stood boldly up on a hill. Buy some flowers and pay respect to the victim of the Armenian Genocide by placing the flowers at the eternal flame at the center of the memorial.
Learn the history at the Armenian Genocide Museum
Since I grew up in Bangkok, we were not taught about the Armenian Genocide. It was both an eye-opener and a surprise as I walked through the museum and learned about the atrocities commited by the Ottoman Empire. The museum is very well laid-out with clear directions and information in English. Spend an hour or two there and you will understand the people more.
Once you are done walking in the museum, walk outside and enjoy the sunset over Mt Ararat from the balcony.
Climb down the pit in Khor Virap
If you have a day to spare, go to Khor Virap. It is a monastery located in the Ararat plain near the border with Turkey. The monastery has a significant historical value as the place where Gregory, the Illuminator was initially imprisoned for 14 years. Gregory was the person who kickstarted the declaration of Armenia as a christian nation making it the first country in the world to do so.
If you are not claustrophobic, climb down the pit where Gregory was imprisoned. It was surprisingly spacious inside, although I could not see myself staying alive here for long. The humidity will drive me crazy in no time.
Don't forget to enjoy the view of the surrounding areas!
Digital Nomad friendly cafe
Caffè Vergnano located near the Republic Square is an awesome place to work from. It was so good I went there twice to get some work done when I was in Yerevan. The location is tugged away in a small street, so the cafe is not too crowded. The coffee and sandwiches were awesome. The tables are plenty with a few plug outlets for you to charge your electronic. The wifi is ligtning fast. It is faster than my internet in Bangkok!
The Solo Traveler’s Journal is a series of posts by BucketListly where we will follow our founder, Pete Rojwongsuriya around the world as he singlehandedly travel alone and experience different cultures, people, and historical locations one country at a time.
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