Official name: Republic of Armenia (RA)
Area: 29.800 sq. km (11.490 sq. miles)
Population: 3.2 million (census of 2003)
Capital: Yerevan, 1.2 million
Official language: Armenian
Religion: Christian (Armenian Apostolic) adopted as state religion in 301 A.D.
Religious center: Etchmiadzin
Political structure: Presidential Republic
Independence day: 21th of September
Currency: Armenian Dram (AMD)
Time: GMT + 4
Weights and measurements: metric
Electricity: 220 volts, 50 Hz
Visa: Visa required
VISA INFO: Armenia: You can apply for a tourist visa from the Armenian Embassy
in your country, or get visa upon your arrival at the airport (some countries are not eligible),
you can also apply online for Armenian E-Visa.
Karabakh: An entry visa is required for Karabakh, which can be obtained at the represetative office of Nagorno Karabakh Republic in Yerevan, on Kochar Str.
Georgia: Georgia requires entry visas for some countries, CIS Countries, European and North American countries, Australia, Japan and a number of others are visa-exempt for entry to Georgia, check Georgian Foreign Ministry for details.
ARMENIA IN BRIEF
“There is no other land in the world so full of wonders as the land of Armenians…
But whatever may have been their destiny, and it has been bitter, whatever it may be in future, their country must ever be one of the most interesting in the world”
Lord Gordon Byron, UK
Legend says that the Armenian patriarch Hayk defeated the evil Assyrian ruler Bel in an epic battle similar to that of David versus Goliath to win his people's freedom. The land Hayk's people occupied came to be known as Hayastan, a name still used by Armenians to this day. This legend is one example of Armenian's rich, storied past, where Armenian heroes fought nefarious invaders and overlords to gain freedom for their people.
Armenians have historically inhabited the "Armenian Highlands", a vast section of mountains and valleys across eastern Anatolia and the Southern Caucasus, and it is the only country remaining from 3,000 year old maps of Anatolia (WikiTravel).
Arminiya as the name of a country and Armina as the name of the nation is mentioned in a cuneiform inscription of Persian king Dareh 1 (522-486 B.C.), and in the 5th century B.C. Armenia for the first time appear on a Babylonian World map.
Armenia (Armenian: Հայաստան, Hayastan), officially the Republic of Armenia, is a landlocked mountainous country in the Southern Caucasus (Transcaucasus), bordered by Turkey to the west, Georgia to the north, Azerbaijan to the east, and Iran and the Nakhichevan exclave of Azerbaijan to the south. A former republic of the Soviet Union, Armenia is one of the oldest and most historic civilizations in the world. It is considered to be the place where Biblical Noah and his descendants first settled, it is on Ararat vally where Noah planted the first grape.
Armenia is a wonderful country to visit, it offers explorations of ancient Christian culture, unique pilgrimage opportunities, miraculous holy sights and inspiring nature of mysterious stone-land. All this is concurrent with safety and comfort.
Armenian vassal states, principalities, kingdoms and empires would rise and fall in different parts of this highland during history. They were only unified once, just before the time of Christ in the empire of Tigran the Great, stretching from the Caspian to the Mediterranean Sea. Much of the history was spent under the domination of the great powers of the region. The western parts of Armenia were for long periods under Byzantine or Ottoman Turkish rule, while the eastern parts were under Persian or Russian rule. These empires often fought their wars on Armenian territory, using Armenian soldiers. It was a rough neighborhood, but Armenians managed to hold on to their language and church, and prosper whenever given a chance. Being located on the Silk Road, Armenians built a network of merchant communities and ties extending from eastern Asia to Venice.
Armenia became the world’s first Christian country adopting Christianity as a state religion in 301 AD, originally introduced in these areas by apostles St. Thaddeus and St. Bartholomew in the first century.
Armenians are Apostolic Christians and have their own Catholicos (religious leader, like the Pope for Catholics). Catholicos resides in Etchmiadzin, 20km from Yerevan, the spiritual center called Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin (like Holy See of Vatican). Etchmiadzin is host to dozens of ancient churches including the Mother Cathedral, originally built in 301-304 A.D., UNESCO Heritage Sites St. Hripsime Church and St. Gayane church.
A traveller interested in exploring different cultures, their history and art should visit this tiny country. Armenia frequently is called an open-air museum. Over 5,000 monuments, all the way from prehistoric cave paintings, stonehenges (karahunj in Armenian), irrigational systems and fortresses to Medieval monasteries and secular buildings and khachkars which survived to our days are scattered all over modern Armenia.
The English poet Byron wrote “there is no other land in the world so full of wonders as the land of Armenians…”
For the admirers of antiquity and art it is difficult to find a better treasury of rarities, than Armenia. The pagan sanctuaries and Urartu strongholds, cave cities and castles, hidden on high mountains, gorges-galleries, guarding collections of bas-reliefs, and unique frescos in the deserted and acting monasteries - it is difficult to enumerate everything, that a tourist can see here.
Generously scattered on the ancient land of Armenia there are thousands of ancient monuments - surprisingly manifold and not similar to anything ever seen before. Hundreds of thousands of people come to Armenia annually to feel the mystique of an ancient culture, the magic of breathtaking sceneries, magnificent historical sites, warm, friendly and welcoming people!
Everyone would like to see the famous Zvartnots temple, touch the stones of Garni, heated by the sun, whose history counts not one millennium, try waters from springs and mineral sources. But most important is an acquaintance to the masters of this land, meeting Armenian hospitality. Visiting Armenia once would be a reason of choosing our country as a returning point.
To mention just a few of these wonders: Garni temple of the Hellenistic period (1st century A.D), Edjmiadzin monastery built after the adoption of Christianity in 301, St. Hripsime church (7th century), Zvartnots (7th century), Geghard monastery carved in rock (13th century), etc…
The Armenian language has two major branches: Eastern and Western. It belongs to the Indo-European family of languages and forms a separate group in it. Its unique modern alphabet was invented by Mesrop Mashtots in 405 A.D.
Eastern Armenian is the official language of the country and is considered as native by 96% of its population.
Western Armenian is spoken by approximately 50% of over 10 million Armenians worldwide. In Armenia second most spoken language is Russian.
Armenia has a large Diaspora all over the world, with major communities in Russia, U.S, France, Iran, Georgia.
As a former Soviet republic lying in the Caucasus region, straddling Asia and Europe, Armenia has an ancient and rich culture. The country has Islamic and Christian neighbors and is one of the most homogeneous populations in the world. Armenia is very easy to experience, thanks to very hospitable people.
Hospitality is well-known in Armenia and stems from ancient tradition. Social gatherings focused around superb presentations of course after course of elaborately prepared and well-seasoned food. The hosts will often put morsels on a guest's plate whenever it is empty or fill his or her glass when it gets low. After a helping or two it is acceptable to refuse politely or, more simply, just leave a little uneaten food. Alcohol such as cognac, vodka, and red wine are usually served during meals and gatherings. It is rare and unusual for one to go inside an Armenian household and not be offered coffee, pastry, food, or at least water.
Many of hundreds of ancient monasteries are built in places of incredible natural beauty, making the sites of monasteries like Tatev, Noravank, Haghartsin, Haghpat and Geghard well worth a visit.
Since 2001, when Armenia celebrated the 1,700th anniversary of the nation’s conversion to Christianity, the growth in the number of tourists has grown by about 25% every year. Straddling Europe and Asia in the lesser Caucasus Mountains, an ex-Soviet state, with a culture over 3,000 years old and examples of ancient architecture and art all over the countryside, this McDonald's-free country offers something exotic for many tourists (WikiTravel).
Nagorno-Karabakh is de facto independent state, comprised mostly by ethnic Armenians and only accessible via Armenia. Aside from the rolling green hills, high mountains, hiking trails and excellent monasteries, tourists are drawn to the vast ruined city of Aghdam, and the partially repopulated city of Shushi - both ruined during and after the Karabakh war. Its capital is Stepanakert, home to approximately 40,000 of the region's 140,000 residents.
Soviet period was a relatively relaxed one for Armenians compared to ther stages of history, as it was war-free, relatively safe and developing. The price paid for it was extraordinarily high though, with arbitrary borders being drawn between Armenia and Azerbaijan (setting the stage for future conflict), with hundreds of thousands dying in WWII, defending Russia. Economically however, the country boomed, and culturally, within the strict limits, there were heavily subsidized cultural education and activities.
A small and mountainous, landlocked country, Armenia almost never fails to surprise visitors. The mountain passes, valleys and canyons make it feel much larger, and Lake Sevan provides a welcome sight, with endless water in sight when you're on the southern shores. With all of the geographic variation, the climate varies a great deal as well - be ready for everything from barren lunar landscapes to rain forests to snow-capped peaks and a vast alpine lake. There are places where a few of these are visible at once.
ATMs (Bankomats) are widely available in larger towns, though outside of Yerevan you should have a major system such as Visa Electron on your card for it to work.
Credit cards are not widely accepted yet, though they will get you pretty far in Yerevan.
Most shops/restaurants are open every day and offices and schools are open Monday to Saturday. Mornings usually are slow, and places don't tend to open early, or even on time.
Vernissage - every Saturday near Republic Square there is an open market with great shopping for tourists and locals alike. You can buy everything from a 300-year-old carpet to a 1970s Soviet phone to Russian nesting dolls.
The "covered market" on Mashtots Street has fresh fruits and vegetables along with great dried fruits.
Khorovats (BBQ) which can be pork, lamb, chicken or beef. Usually it is flavored with onions and other Armenian spices. Tomatoes, eggplant and bell peppers are also part of the khorovats meal.
Khash is a traditional dish, originating in the Shirak region. Formerly a nutritious winter food for the rural poor, it is now considered a delicacy, and is enjoyed as a festive winter meal.
Dolma (stuffed grape leaves; a variety with stuffed cabbage leaves, bell peppers and eggplants also exists).
Armenian fruits and vegetables are special. One should definitely try them and will never forget the taste of Armenian apricot, peach, grapes, pomegranate, etc.
Armenian bread is very tasty as well. There is a vide range of different types of bread, starting from black and white till lavash (a soft, thin flatbread) and matnaqash.
Don’t miss trying milk products! Along with ordinary milk products, there are some traditional and really tasty and refreshing ones. Matsun (yogurt) is a traditional Armenian dairy product that has centuries of history. It contains a number of natural microelements which have high biochemical activity. It’s really refreshing, especially when you try it cold during hot summers. Okroshka - cold soup with kefir and cucumber and dill. It is a healthy and refreshing dairy product. Spas is really tasty hot kefir soup with grains in it.
Café culture rules in Armenia, and the best places to have a cup of coffee and people-watch are sidewalk cafés. Any place near the Opera is certain to be jumping late into the summer nights.
Alcoholic: Vodka, tutti oghi (mulberry vodka), honi oghi (cornelian cherry vodka), Tsirani oghi (apricot vodka), local beer (Kilikia, Kotayk, Gumri), wine (can also be made of pomegranate), brandy.
Smoking is illegal in many public places. But bear that in mind that Armenia has the highest rate of cigarette smoking in Europe.
Tzaghkadzor is a well-known winter retreat. It has many lovely hotels and is popular year round. Jermuk, made famous by the bottled water of the same name, is a wonderful get away but will again require you to leave your western expectations behind.
Overall, Yerevan is not a particularly dangerous city. Theft and pickpocketing are on the increase, utmost care is essential. Use common sense when walking on the street at night, especially after drinking. There are well knows scams operating on some ATM machines, particularly those accepting VISA cards, where no money is issued but the cash is nonetheless withdrawn from the account.
As with any traveling experience, eat well but do not overeat. If you are dining with Armenians, they will feed you until you cannot eat any more. The food is generally safe even from the roadside khorovats stands. There is little worry about food safety in Armenia.
The tap water is generally safe but you may also purchase bottled water. You can get both mineral water with gas and normal spring water on almost every street corner. This water is available in both the rural areas and the capital.
Armenians are much like any other Europeans in their manners and lifestyle.
Yerevan is full of internet cafes and internet phone offices. These are beginning to pop up in a number of towns outside of Yerevan as well. International calling is available through prepaid mobile phone cards. Short-term mobile phone rental is also possible. There are 2 Mobile Operators: Viva Cell(dominant in this field) and BeeLine (former ArmenTel), also video call is available. The third operator Orange is the key brand of France Telecom, one of the world's leading telecommunications operators, is coming soon. Armenia uses GSM 900/1800, UMTS(video call) GSM Coverage Maps for Armenia.
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