• Armenia,
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  • Armenia
    © iStockphoto.com / Saiko3p
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Armenia

By Dmitry Petrounin Dmitry Petrounin Section editor Profile

A small Caucasian country surrounded by Georgia to the north, Turkey to the west, Iran to the south and Azerbaijan to the east and south-west, Armenia has superb mountain landscapes, dominated by the silhouette of Mount Ararat, a national symbol, which is 16,945 feet high. Geographically located in Turkey, it can be admired from a large part of the south-western area of the country.

Aside from this rocky terrain, Armenia also boasts plush green forests rich in biodiversity and breathtaking lake districts - such as the one holding the beautiful Lake Sevan. For those who want to travel to Armenia should know that the capital, Yerevan, provides something to do for tourists wanting to keep busy, whilst the endless canyons and countryside are rich in history and still house some of Armenia's traditional craftsmen.

Our Editorial team's advice

Armenia is worth the journey, as long as you entrust the organization of your trip to a specialised travel agency. Single travellers risk coming up against insurmountable problems. In this country that is hardly open to tourism at all, moving around, eating and communicating become complicated activities very quickly. It is recommended that travellers take individual taxis, which are cheaper and safer than collective taxis. You therefore need a lot of willpower. The most interesting itinerary begins with the discovery of the history of Yerevan, which is three thousand years old. You can then go east and stop at Etchmiadzine, the Armenian Rome, at Ghegand, to see its monastery sculpted in the rock, and the village of Tsakhkadzor. Finally, you will reach the magnificent lake Sevan, which is surrounded by mountains.

pros

  • +The cultural and eco-tourist potential is huge (4,000 monuments).
  • +The hospitality of the Armenian people.
  • +There are still vast expanses of untouched landscapes - perfect for the adventurous traveller.

cons

  • -It is very difficult to move around due to poor road conditions and transport links.
  • -Relationships with neighbouring countries are tense, and most of the borders should be avoided.
  • -The medical situation can be dangerous. Make sure you have any necessary vaccinations before travelling.
  • -The hotel infrastructures are spartan and basic.

Traditions

A very old custom dictated that you receive the visitor with bread and salt. Armenia has an extremely rich folklore, and as many dances as regions. You will perhaps find "achoughs", the equivalent of bards, minstrels and other troubadours of the Middle Ages, who are popular storytellers going from village to village, to carry the word inherited from elders there, with or without musical accompaniment.

Food

Armenian cuisine consists of lamb that has been grilled or put in a type of soup. Bozbash is the national dish. It is made in various ways, often with meat, fruits, nuts, and a lot of herbs. Salmon from the Sevan lake is particularly good, but rare. You will find a lot of spiced vegetables as hors-d'oeuvres, together with smoked meat. Desserts are often based on dried fruit. The coffee is extremely strong. The local brandy rivals the likes of French cognac.

Souvenirs

Armenians are very skilled at stone- and woodwork, and you will find many objects sculpted in these two materials, as well as pieces of fine pottery. Armenian blankets, travelling rugs and carpets are internationally renowned. Before making any purchases, make sure that it is not a work of art, as customs checks are very strict. You should declare any cultural items. Should you not, they will be confiscated or very heavily taxed. Shops are open in the week (including Saturday) from 9.00am to 6.00pm.