With a history that spans over 3,000 years, Armenia stands as one of the most unique holiday destinations in Europe. Though small in size, the country is big on personality, with its landscape featuring everything from mountainous regions, to lunar landscapes, to rain forests and everything in between.
It might not be the first place one thinks off when thinking of a holiday, but there are plenty of reasons to visit the country known fondly as.
The Churches and Ancient Ruins are Stunning
According to some historians, Armenia was the first European country to have take Christianity as its state religion and so some of the first churches were built some 1,700 years ago. Father Time has, of course, taken its toll over the centuries but with some expert restoration, the likes of the Khor Virap Monastery at the foot of Mount Arara, the ancient cave monastery of Gerhard and the almost Disney-like Tatev Monastery stand as magnificent monuments to the Armenian history.
Armenian Cuisine is Unlike Any Other
When it comes to countries that straddle the vague border between Eastern Europe and Asia, their cuisines are often wrongly dismissed as being all a bit samey. In Armenia, though, the cuisine has come to be influenced by all of its neighbours, including the Levantine region. One hallmark of Armenian food is that it relies on freshness and quality of ingredients, rather than spices, for flavour in dishes like Morash (shredded chicken with green peas), Kyufta (handmade beef sausage, with grains and sautéed mushrooms) and the famous khash (pumpkin stew with rice, raisins, apples and cinnamon).
If you’re a caffeine fiend, Armenian coffee will make you rethink what coffee actually is. Similar in preparation to Turkish coffee - in that crushed coffee beans are heated in water until it foams – it’s as common a beverage as tea is in Egypt and is part of every Armenian’s daily doings. The trick is having to adjust back to that strange brown liquid you’ve been drinking in the morning for years.
‘The Pink City’ Really is Pink
The Armenian capital of Yerevan is fondly known as ‘The Pink City’; but this is not some metaphorical nickname – it really is pink. The story goes as thus; in 1920, when the Soviet Regime made its way to Armenia, it was transformed from a small town to a bustling city. Looking to step away from the gray palate of Soviet architecture, stone from the surrounding pretty-in-pink lava-rock-mountains were used for all the buildings. Best seen at sunset and sunrise, the buildings and its mountainous surroundings blend into a stunning pink-and-orange-hued landscape.
Armenians Like to Get Fruity with Their Wine
Armenia is one of the oldest wine-producing countries in the world, so you know you’re guaranteed some of the finest examples of it in Europe, particularly at the Areni-1 winery in the Vayots Dzor province. But what really makes wine culture in Armenia unique is its delicious fruit-flavoured wines – from everything from apricot to pomegranate, there aren’t a lot of fruits that the 6100-year-old Areni-1 winery hasn’t tried.
Tsaghkadzor is a Veritable Winter Wonderland
When you think skiing, Switzerland, France and Austria immediately come to mind. But located just 55km outside of Yerevan, sits the picture perfect ski resort of Tsaghkadzor, where rental of ski equipment is as low as $15, with the peak of the mountain sitting at a dizzying 2819m. With several cafes and restaurants in the area, as well as the medieval Kecharis Monastery, it’s a fun little side adventure not to be missed.
It’s Surprisingly Rich in Culture
Armenia’s eclectic historical architecture can be found on every street corner, but in its theatres and cultural venues, there’s much more to be found. The country has one of the oldest dance heritages in the world, with the traditional Yarkhushta being the most famous. Elsewhere, the National Art Gallery in Yerevan houses over 16,000 works of art that date back as the Middle Ages, but one of the most important elements of the culture is music. The Armenian Philharmonic Orchestra is world-renowned, as are the Komitas Quartet, Hover Chamber Choir, National Chamber Orchestra of Armenia and the Serenade Orchestra, which can be seen across a number of venues including the Yerevan State Musical Conservatory and the Komitas Chamber Music Hall. In terms of contemporary music, jazz has been popular over the last few decades, but has taken a form of its own in its fusion with traditional Armenian folk. If you’ve ever attended one of Egyptian-Armenian musicians Georges Kazazian’s gigs in Cairo, you’ll know exactly what we mean.
Armenian Hospitality is Second to None
Armenians are grand lovers of life – fact. They’re humble, modest and ever-so welcoming, but when it comes to an occasion – any occasion, in fact – they leave their inhibitions at home and love to celebrate with food, drink and general merriment. It stems from an unspoken tradition that is loosely tied to karma – smile to the world and it will smile back at you. Armenian’s have raw passion ingrained in their personalities, but they’re naturally good-natured and welcome foreigners with open arms. They’re incredibly undemanding, but will lay out the proverbial red carpet, motivated by their unfussy approach to life and pride of their heritage.
By Alicia Yassin