The 16 Best Places to Visit in Armenia

Erin Coyle Avatar

View of Mount Ararat in Armenia.
View of Mount Ararat. Photo credit: Erin Coyle

The birthplace of Christianity, various monasteries, beautiful landscapes, architecture, enticing food, a rich history, hot springs, and even heritage sites are all reasons to visit Armenia, located in the Caucasus region, bordering Georgia and Azerbaijan. This safe and welcoming country has a variety of beautiful places and is worth visiting.

I was going to Georgia for a conference in January, so I decided to fly to Armenia’s capital, Yerevan, for a solo visit ahead of the conference. I found it easy to get around using Google Maps and took local transportation called Marshrutka- a minivan, which is a shared taxi, to reach the various cities.

While English is limited in Armenia, I was able to get by. For some of the local markets when asking about the price, the vendors would use a calculator to indicate the cost. The guides on my tours also spoke English. Most of the restaurants I went to had an English menu or pictures.

There are plenty of options and must-see sights to keep one busy. Travelers can hike and ski, visit UNESCO World Heritage sites, shop at local markets, relax in cafes, or indulge in tasty Armenian food.

Below are the 16 best places to visit in Armenia.

Yerevan

The capital city of Armenia is walkable and centrally located for those wanting to go on day trips to see historical sites such as Sevanavank Monastery and other spa towns with ski resorts, like Jermuk. I was not sure if I wanted to book day trips or if I wanted to first assess the city and then decide how long I would stay here before moving on to another place.

Before arriving, I ended up booking a half-day tour to see Gori and Geghard Monastery because I wanted to learn more about these places. There are also tourist attractions within Yerevan, so if you have a day or two, it is possible to see a few other sites.

I booked a tour on a whim that included three visits with the last stop at a home to learn how they make local bread, Lavash, a type of thin flat bread.   

Visit the Garni Temple in Armenia.
The front of Garni Temple. Photo credit: Erin Coyle.

Garni Temple

About a 40-minute drive from Yerevan, one gets a sense of Garni’s presence while approaching, as if telling you to come closer to learn some secrets. Maybe it was the snow in the background or the limited number of tourists, but it had a known presence with its Greek-style architecture.

It is the only Pagan temple in Armenia, and visitors will notice ancient Armenian texts on the walls before entering. Near the temple, look at the Garni Gorge, named the Rock Symphony of Armenia, listed as a UNESCO natural monument. The thunderous water sounds like an organ and is very peaceful, making this a must-see attraction.

There is a coffee stand and some stalls by the temple entrance to buy sweet bread called Gata, made with sugar, butter, and milk.

I enjoyed every moment walking around Garni. I think seeing the ancient texts on the walls was incredible and the fact that there were maybe 20 other people here really allowed me to enjoy the temple and its presence. I bought a small piece of Gata, but this bread was a little too sweet for me.

The Geghard Monastery in Armenia.
Inside Geghard Monastery. Photo credit: Erin Coyle

Geghard Monastery

Geghard was once a house for monks, a place to produce wine and a bakery. Armenians believe the natural spring water here cures illness, so even Armenian tourists come here.  Historians say Saint Gregory the Illuminator started the monastery here in Armenia.

The medieval complex, with its churches cut into rock, still has original 13th-century decor on the walls, including doves and lions. The first church is a maze leading to several rooms, including one with spring water.

Garni and Geghard are good places to visit for day trips outside Yerevan. I booked a five-hour group tour, including a Lavash baking masterclass. Lavash is a traditional bread made with flour, water, salt, and positive emotions. Visitors will go to a family’s home and watch two women bake the bread on an outside stove, and have a chance to prepare it.

There are also tours to other places, such as Lake Sevan, Khor Virap Monastery, and Areni. The company also offers trips to other UNESCO World Heritage sites like Haghpat, Echmiadzin and Zvartnots.

I also found this monastery incredible and had goosebumps when our guide started humming in one of the rooms because she sounded like an angel. We also had about forty minutes to wander around ourselves after the explanations, so it was great that we had plenty of time and were not rushed to explore.

One of the installations at the Cascade Complex in Armenia.
One of the installations at the Cascade Complex. Photo credit: Erin Coyle.

Cascade Complex

The Soviet-style architecture complex in Yerevan is adjacent to the Cafesjian Arts Center, and visitors can walk up 572 steps to view Mount Ararat. Or, head inside the arts center and take the escalator.

There is a chance to go outside on every level of the complex, which is a way to see the unique art sculptures and installations. I chose the escalator and went outside on several levels.

The Cafesjian Art Center has different exhibitions. However, those are only open on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, but the escalator is open daily.

I found these installations unique and fresh because some of the pieces allow you to use your imagination to determine what it might be. On one level, some of the decor on the wall reminded me of large wine corks.

Buy some paintings, chess sets and more at the Vernissage Market in Armenia.
Vernissage Market sells paintings, chess sets, and more. Photo credit: Erin Coyle.

Vernissage Market

This outdoor market in Yerevan is a good spot for Armenian souvenirs, including chess sets, paintings, jewelry, clothing, and pottery. I learned that the pomegranate symbolizes wealth in Armenia, so there are also paintings of this fruit.

Bring cash when coming to the market. It was not busy when I went because it was off-season in January. The market is about a 25-minute walk from the popular tourist attraction, Republic Square.

While I was not buying anything, I still liked walking around to see what kind of souvenirs they were selling. I only spent about twenty minutes here and did a quick loop around the area.

Kond House in Armenia sells drinks, paintings, and bracelets.
Kond sells drinks, paintings, and bracelets. Photo credit: Erin Coyle

Kond Neighborhood

This is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Yerevan and I liked walking around here because of the art murals and walking through the small alleys. Make sure to stop by Kond House for a coffee or other drinks. The owner, Anoushik, also sells her daughter’s painted artwork.

Make sure to have small notes of Armenian dram if planning to visit Kond House because credit cards are not accepted for payment. Anoushik is very friendly and will happily welcome visitors.

Dilijan

As soon as I arrived in Dilijan, the 19th largest city in Armenia, according to World Atlas, I immediately felt relaxed. Maybe it was that it was known as a resting town or was smaller and quieter, but it had a laid-back vibe, and I knew I had made the right choice coming here. I wanted a less touristy place to visit and in the winter, I accomplished this. The tourist attractions include monasteries, hiking trails, Dilijan National Park, and a museum.

While walking around the town, I noticed there was a tourist information center. They had information about tours that Go To Dili offers, so I decided to book one which included places such as Goshavank and Haghartsin Monasteries, a Gata-making masterclass, and Lake Parz. It is also possible to hire a taxi to take travelers to these sites, but I wanted to have a guide explain these places to me.

The Goshavank Monastery in Armenia.
The outside of Goshavank Monastery. Photo credit: Erin Coyle

Goshavank Monastery

Located about 15 minutes from Dilijan, Goshavank Monastery was once an educational center. The stone medieval complex basilic style has one service at the Mother of God church.

While walking around the complex, I was fascinated with this decorative stone cross, khachkar, on the outside walls. The cross looked like an embroidered stone-laced flower woven together, and I stayed here admiring this detailed work, thinking about the talent, time, and patience it took to create this beautiful piece.

I also liked this monastery because there were only a few people here and I felt like I had the place to myself. It was also a good place to reflect and admire the architecture.

The refectory at Haghartsin Monastery in Armenia.
The refectory at Haghartsin Monastery. Photo credit: Erin Coyle.

Haghartsin Monastery

Built between the 10th and 13th centuries, this monastery has a certain beauty. Driving up the monastery reminded me of a castle with hints of pink and gray tuff stone. Because of the trees in the background and the stillness of the monastery, it looked like it belonged in a fairytale.

I also learned that this fascinating place in Armenia was the first musical school at Haghartsin Monastery. I liked the basic style of this complex, the medieval architecture, and the domed ceilings. I appreciated the quietness and having time to imagine life in ancient Armenia.

While in Armenia, enjoy Gata takes seven minutes to bake.
Gata takes seven minutes to bake. Photo credit: Erin Coyle.

Gata Masterclass

Another highlight of this tour with Go to Dili was learning to make Gata. Locals will eat this Armenian sweet at weddings, festivals and in the New Year in Armenia. The shop is outside the Haghartsin Monastery, and visitors can choose between five fillings, such as blueberry and lemon, which I picked, or apricot and thyme.

Two ladies will take visitors through the bread-making process, and once it is ready after seven minutes in the oven, you can sit and drink coffee or tea while enjoying this soft and slightly crispy bread. I tried the original Gata outside Garni Temple, which I found too sweet, but with the blueberry, it tones down the sweetness, so I prefer the flavored one.

I recommend booking a class before coming; if you’re not going on a tour, ask your hotel to arrange it because the shop prefers visitors make a reservation. The shop also sells Gata so you do not have to take the class to enjoy this bread.

Rent paddle boats on Lake Parz in warmer months while in Armenia.
It’s possible to rent paddle boats on Lake Parz in warmer months. Photo credit: Erin Coyle

Lake Parz

The lake is inside Dilijan National Park. Expect to find a zipline and paddle boats for rent. I was here in January, so parts of the lake were frozen, making boating impossible.

I only walked around here for 15 minutes because I was cold.

Some hiking trails are inside the park, with one leading to Haghartsin Monastery. For those looking to hike, download the Hike Armenia app or go to hikearmenia.org. Go to Dili offers a group walking tour on Saturdays and a day trip on Sundays in the winter.

While the lake was a good spot to come to, for the sake of seeing something new, I would have skipped this one and would have gone in the spring when it was warmer and flowers were in bloom.

I had to take a private tour to the above places in Dilijan because the only group tour was in Russian, but there will be English-speaking tours during tourist season. Head to the tourist information center in Dilijan for more information.

Check out amazing artefacts and artwork in the Local Lore Museum and Art Gallery while in Armenia.
The robot chair inside the Local Lore Museum and Art Gallery, which has artwork from the 16th to 18th century and a unique collection of chairs. Photo credit: Erin Coyle.

Local Lore Museum and Art Gallery

While walking around Dilijan, I decided to go to the museum partly to warm up and also something to see. It has artwork from the 16th to 18th century, Dilijan history, and a unique collection of chairs.

The unique chairs were my favorites, such as the rocket chair in the picture. I do not think I have seen a chair with this many gadgets on it.

Gyumri

Gyumri, the second largest city in Armenia, is a town with square homes with some having black tuff stone, and plenty of culture with its museums, churches, and cafes. When walking around, some streets feel like you’re in Europe, while other streets look like time has stood still. I enjoyed exploring this walkable city and could not get enough of the black and pink tuff stone-colored buildings. This was one of my favorite cities in Armenia because I liked the relaxed atmosphere.

Check out some of the examples of craftsmen's houses when you visit Armenia.
An example of a room inside a craftsman’s home. Photo credit: Erin Coyle.

Museum of National Architecture and Urban Life

There are some English descriptions here, but I highly recommend this museum because of its architecture. I immediately loved the red and black brick wall at the inside entrance.

One room has hanging embroidered red carpets, while another displays craftsman’s tools, like hat making. I also enjoyed taking pictures of the red doors outside, which stood out against the red and black tuff stone walls.

A school in Krashen in Armenia.
Erin outside of the school in Krashen. Photo credit: Ann Rafayelyan

Krashen

I had a great time cross-country skiing for a few hours in this village, about 15 minutes from Gyumri. My hotel, Berlin Art Hotel, has a partnership with Tui Tui Ecolodge in Krashen, and they offer tours here. Three boys from the village joined my guide, Ann Rafayelyan, and me for skiing. I wanted to see the local school to see what it looked like, so the boys led us here.

The visit to Krashen also included food after skiing. We had Parkash, which is lavash, butter, onion, hot water, and a local shredded cheese called Chechill. The cheese resembled a mild mozzarella. Lavash is traditional bread consisting of flour, salt, water, and positive emotions.  It is a thin flat bread.

The boys and our host from the lodge, Armine, were very welcoming and I am grateful that Ann suggested coming here. When I mentioned to her at the hotel that I like visiting local villages to gain another perspective, Krashen was recommended first. I also had the chance to ski, something I had not done in over twenty years.

Aslan is the most famous dog in Gyumri in Armenia.
Aslan is the most famous dog in Gyumri. Photo credit: Erin Coyle

Gyumri Walking Tour

I saw a lot on this two-plus-hour tour. Expect to see sights such as the Mother of Armenia statue, looking grand and strong while protecting the city. The backside of her statue faces the Ardahan region of Turkey, about seven miles away from Gyumri. According to my guide, the statue was placed here next to the Black Fortress because the view on top of this hill was better, and it happened to also have views of Turkey.

While inside Varem Marem Art Studio, you may get lucky and meet the most famous dog in Gyumri, Aslan, who has mugs and postcards. Chat with the owner for a bit before continuing the walk.

The rest of the places include visiting a few firsts, such as a barbershop and pharmacy, along with a fortress and churches with beautiful architecture with black and orange tuff stone. The excursion is a wonderful way to learn about Armenia and the city. I would say it is another must-see or must-do while visiting.

Visit one of or all the four churches at Marmashen Monastery in Armenia.
There are four churches at Marmashen Monastery. Photo credit: Erin Coyle

Marmashen Monastery

The monastery is about 20 minutes from Gyumri. I immediately loved the red-tuff volcanic stone walls. The complex has four churches built in the 10th to 13th centuries. Maybe it was because of the snow and wind, but it felt isolated, waiting for visitors.

The church was locked, so I could not go inside. My tour included tea and coffee by a warm fire and hot dog sandwiches with lavash.

I booked the above three places with Shirak Tours, who are located in the Berlin Art Hotel. I liked this monastery because it does not seem to be as well known as the other ones and I found the simplicity appealing.

Buy and enjoy some sujuk which contains walnuts dipped into a flavored juice while in Armenia.
The hanging sweet sujuk contains walnuts dipped into a flavored juice. Photo credit: Erin Coyle

Gyumri Shuka Market

Expect to find produce, fish, freshly ground coffee, spices, bread, and sweets at this mostly outside market.

I had no intention of buying anything. However, this sweet-like round jelly ball reminding me of a glutinous jelly, with a stuffed almond caught my eye, and before I knew it, I bought this and maybe a fistful of dried apricots, which cost around $3 total. There are also clothing, shoes, and purses in one market section.

Bring some small notes of dram as most places only accept cash. The freshly ground coffee smelled so good and I liked watching the interactions of people buying items.

Enjoy the Armenian Rolled eggplant.
Rolled eggplant. Photo credit: Erin Coyle
While in Armenia, enjoy the Harissa which is a porridge with meat.
Harissa is a porridge with meat. Photo credit: Erin Coyle

Eat Armenian Food

While traveling in Armenia, there will be plenty of delicious food to try, like eggplant rolls, khurjin, harissa, and beef kufta. Armenian dolma or tolma is also a nice option. My eggplant rolls were a cold appetizer stuffed with cheese with walnuts and pomegranate on top. I can’t remember the name of the cheese but it had a creamy flavor.

Khurjin is lamb with bell pepper, tomato sauce, and onions. The khurjin was covered with a crispy pita-like bread and the server cut the top open and cut the dish into four pieces.

My beef kufta came with five beef patties with shredded butter and orange slices, which goes on top of the patties. The butter and the orange are actually a good combination, bringing out the mild flavor of the beef.

Don’t miss Gwoog Gastrohouse in Gyumri for local, authentic Armenian food, or Toon Armeni and Maestro in Dilijan.

Visit Armenia

Armenia no doubt has dozens of beautiful places to see. While I did not have a chance to go to rich history sites such as Lake Sevan, Goris or Tatev Monastery, I still visited some fascinating places like Garni and Haghartsin. If you miss visiting Jermuk, you can buy bottled Jermuk mineral water at the supermarkets.

Practical Information for Visiting Armenia

Best time to visit Armenia

This depends on what you’re planning to do. For hiking or to see some beautiful landscape colors at the monasteries, visit in the spring or fall.  For those who like skiing, it is good to come in January or February. Plus, there are fewer tourists in the winter months.

How many days to spend in Armenia?

Depending on the tourist attractions you want to see and how much time you have. It is possible to spend three to four days in Yerevan, making this a base for day trips to historical sites like Tatev Monastery, Noravank, and Lake Seven.

One could easily spend 10 or more days visiting other places like Noravank Monastery, Goris, Khndzoresk or Karahunj. The company I went with for my tour from Yerevan also has trips to Tatev and Areni. 

I spent two days in Yerevan, three days in Dilijan, five days in Gyumri, and one day in Vanadzor which gave me an excellent overview of the country.

Getting to Armenia

I flew Wizz Air from Oman via Abu Dhabi to reach Yerevan. I took the local marshrutka, or minivan, to Dilijan, taking an hour and a half. I took a taxi to Vanadzor and then changed taxis to reach Gyumri. I planned to take the marshrutka; however, because of the snow and roads, the van was not running.

For those looking to go to Tbilisi, Georgia, it is a three-and-a-half-hour drive from Vanadzor. There is also a train leaving from Gyumri, but it leaves at midnight every other day in the winter and takes seven hours.

Is it safe in Armenia?

Armenia is a safe country and I had no issues walking around or taking local transportation.

Getting around Armenia

An e-sim is easy to install using Airalo. Download the taxi app, Yandex, before arrival because they will ask for a local number when signing up. Walking is manageable, and taking local transportation is also an option. Have your hotel verify the bus times because they may change in the winter.

Erin Coyle Avatar
Traveling with friends, solo, and in group tours, Erin has explored Southeast and South Asia, Oceania, Europe, the Middle East, and East and South Africa. She is currently a freelance travel writer and ESL teacher living in Sur, Oman. Before this, she taught English at a university in Nanchang, China, for five years.
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