Armenia is a land of the old and the new. As the first Christian country in Europe and after more than 600 years of slavery to foreign powers, it is indeed one of the most exciting places to be, as well as being one of the historically richest countries in Europe. So if you want a vacation filled with culture, history, relaxation, and fun, here are the top ten essential things to do in Armenia:
How to get to this ancient fortress is even more daunting than its name, as only a 4×4 combined with the summer weather can take tourists across the top of the mountainous plateau where it is located. Upon reaching the site, you will see more than 2000 petroglyphs left behind by ancient people depicting hunting scenes, ancient rituals, and culture. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the view from this site is also excellent.
2.) Erebuni Fortress
The Erebuni Fortress also houses a treasure trove of artifacts. These artifacts date back to the millennium BC. The fortress has been turned into a museum and here you will find around 12,000 items belonging to the ancient civilization that thrived on the land.
3.) Temple of Zvartnots
This temple is a testimony that Armenia has the oldest national church in the world. This temple dates back more than 1700 years and has only recently been excavated by a team of archaeologists. On the grounds, you will see not only the old church, but also a museum, a cathedral, and a seminary. This place serves as the center of the Armenian Apostolic Church.
4.) National Gallery
The national gallery serves to store national treasures such as art from classical to modern times. It contains not only Armenian art, but also Western art. It was founded in 1919 and since then it has served as a repository for the country’s cultural elements.
5.) Old Dilijan
This picturesque rural town is located in the heart of the forest of northern Armenia. The city boasts of having been the home of many famous artists, musicians, composers and other celebrities. This popular destination attracts tourists due to its early 20th century architecture and displays of musical instruments and handicrafts.
6.) Ararat Cognac Factory
This serves as the base of operations for the producer of the most famous brandy maker in the country. The brandy made here has become a favorite of people around the world, including the famous Winston Churchill. It is a must see.
7.) Matenadaran Institute
It is located in the heart of Yerevan. The Matenadaran Institute houses an impressive collection of handwritten books. It is an imposing building guarded by the silent statues of famous Armenian intellectuals such as Mesrp Mashtots, Mkhitar Gosh, Anania Shirakatsi, Toros Roslin, etc.
8.) Gaghard Cathedral
A church made famous by the fact that it is literally carved out of solid rock, Gaghard Cathedral is indeed an example of the exemplary architecture of this country. The name Geghard literally translates to spear. It is because of the fact that it has housed the spear that pierced the body of Jesus during his crucifixion.
9.) Haghpat and Sanahin Monasteries
Located in the Lori region and on the banks of the Debed River, these two famous monasteries are among the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. These two sites serve to remember not only tourists, but also the people of the country, its rich cultural heritage and intellectual achievements. The two sites were built during the 10th century and have taken hundreds of years to complete.
10.) The Garni Temple
Adorned by two dozen Ionic columns, this temple stands as a reminder of the country’s Hellenistic past. It was built as part of a fortress during the 3rd century BC. Naturally protected on three sides by rocky cliffs and a deep canyon, but destroyed several times during the course of history, yet it is compared to the national spirit of Armenia that inspires all its people to rebuild.