Few countries so regularly elicit the response of “Where’s that?” as Armenia. Couched in between such obscure neighbours as Iran, Georgia, Azerbaijan and several self-declared (and rarely recognised) republics, this little country is hardly positioned as a convenient summer stopover. Yet for many, herein lies its appeal. A country of hauntingly beautiful natural scenery, prevailing political stability, strong ties to the past and exceedingly warm local hospitality, travel in this Caucasus jewel makes for an experience enormously rewarded.
Armenia Tours & Travel
All our Armenia trips
At a glance
|Capital city:||Yerevan (population 1.2 million)|
|Time zone:||(GMT+04:00) Yerevan|
|Electricity:||Type C (European 2-pin) Type F (German 2-pin, side clip earth)|
Best time to visit Armenia
With almost half of the country at over 2,000 metres elevation, a dry, high-altitude climate typifies much of Armenia. May and June or September and October are generally considered the best times to visit, as the weather is warm but mild and the flowers are in bloom.
History and government
Located at the crossroads of Europe, western Asia and the Middle East, Armenia has endured a past that’s proven nothing if not eventful. Alternately divided and conquered by the Romans, Persians, Arabs, Mongols, Ottoman Turks and Russians over the centuries, Armenians have had to work hard at retaining a national identity – the offshoot of which is an avid patriotism that permeates every dimension of national life. The country became the world’s first Christian country back in 301 AD, had developed its own alphabet barely 100 years later and suffered the 20th century’s first genocide (in which it is estimated up to one and a quarter million of its population were killed).
Following a short-lived taste of independence from 1918-1922, the country submitted to Soviet rule under the Bolsheviks. A brief period of stability ended when Stalin started widespread purges of the populace and the persecution of the church. After Stalin’s death, Krushchev brought an era under which the country flourished technologically and economically. But these reforms weren’t enough to placate the Armenian population, who were among the first to let their dissatisfaction be known with the advent of glasnost. Following some demonstrations and violent clashes in 1991, the country became the first non-Baltic republic to declare independence and secede from the Soviet Union.
Today, Armenia is a stable country with a democratically elected leadership and economy that’s on the up. Some tensions still exist with Azerbaijan and massive emigration over the decades has resulted in a diaspora that outnumbers the country’s populace but, considering the history Armenia has emerged from, the country’s future is looking comparatively rosy.
Top 5 Celebrities of Armenian descent
1. Andre Agassi
Born in Las Vegas to a father of Armenian heritage (former Olympic boxer, Emmanuel Agassi), this eight-time Grand Slam champ and Olympic gold medallist is widely regarded as one of the greatest tennis players of all time. With a penchant for boofy mullets, bright pink leggings and ridiculous aviators, he’s certainly one with the most questionable fashion senses.
2. Kim Kardashian
Socialite, fashionista, sex icon and occasional filmmaker, Kim Kardashian is, rather depressingly, one of the world’s most recognisable people. Her father Robert, who incidentally was the lawyer representing OJ Simpson, was the son of Armenian immigrants. In 2010, PETA named Kim one of the year’s five worst people or organisations for animal welfare and she has previously attempted to account for her fame with the analogy: “A bear can juggle and stand on a ball and he's talented, but he's not famous. Do you know what I mean?” Umm… no.
3. System of a Down
Hard prog-rockers Daron Malakian, Serj Tankian, Shavo Odadjian and John Dolmayan, who collectively make up Grammy Award winning American band System of a Down, all claim Armenian heritage. Heavily politicised, the band have regularly campaigned for the American and Turkish Governments’ official recognition of the Armenian Genocide – work for which Tankian received the Armenian Prime Minister’s Award in 2011.
Another musician of American-Armenian heritage is Cherylin Sarkissian, better known as Cher. While sharing little of the System of a Down’s musical sensibilities, she probably wouldn’t have looked terribly out of place in the band’s line-up during her 80s era.
5. Princess Diana
Recent genetic testing as conducted by BritainsDNA has come to suggest that Diana, ‘the People’s Princess’, was partly Armenian. Making up 1/64th of her lineage, it’s unclear what impact this heritage will have on future generations – except that Prince George is now due to be even better looking than was already assured.
FAQs on Armenia
0.5 litre bottle of beer from a supermarket = 380 Dram
Meal in a fast food restaurant = 1,800 Dram
Restaurant meal in the CBD = 3,000 Dram
6 Jan Armenian Orthodox Christmas
8 Mar International Women’s Day
7 Apr Motherhood and Beauty Day
18 Apr Good Friday
24 Apr Genocide Remembrance Day
9 May Victory and Peace Day
28 May First Republic Day
5 Jul Constitution Day
21 Sep Independence Day
7 Dec Earthquake Memorial Day
31 Dec New Year’s Eve
Please note these dates are for 2014. For a current list of public holidays go to: http://www.worldtravelguide.net/Austria/public-holidays
Canada: : YES
New Zealand: YES
South Africa: YES
United Kingdom: NO
VISA ON ARRIVAL/ENROUTE:
It is not possible to obtain a visa on arrival or enroute for Armenia. All travellers must begin their tour with a Single Entry Tourist Visa in their passports.
APPLYING FOR AN E-VISA:
Due to limited consular representation, we recommend that nationalities that require a visa obtain an e-visa. This is a process by which the visa is emailed to you as a PDF attachment that you will need to print out and present at immigration on arrival. This visa enables entry to Armenia at land or air borders. At time of writing the e-visa costs US$10 and takes on average between 15-21 days to be processed. You should apply for your Armenian visa no more than 55 days before arriving in the country.
To apply for your e-visa, visit: http://www.mfa.am/eVisa/ and follow these instructions:
1. Select your Country of Residence
2. Choose the 21 day visa duration option
3. Select the 1st option on the list (Ա/V-1/Կ (visitor visa for visiting relatives (friends) or tourist (for a rest) v-1/sh)
4. Proceed through the next step
5. Read the Privacy Statement and click Accept
6. Complete the payment section
7. Follow the instructions for tracking the progress of your visa application
Health and Safety
Intrepid takes the health and safety of its travellers seriously, and takes every measure to ensure that trips are safe, fun and enjoyable for everyone. We recommend that all travellers check with their government or national travel advisory organisation for the latest information before departure:
From New Zealand?
Go to: http://www.voyage.gc.ca/
Go to: http://travel.state.gov/
Go to: http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/
The World Health Organisation
also provides useful health information:
Go to: http://www.who.int/en/
Armenia Travel Tips
Intrepid is committed to travelling in a way that is respectful of local people, their culture, local economies and the environment. It's important to remember that what may be acceptable behaviour, dress and language in your own country, may not be appropriate in another. Please keep this in mind while travelling.
Top responsible travel tips for Armenia
1. Be considerate of Armenia’s customs, traditions, religion and culture.
2. Armenians are big on hospitality – and that’s putting it mildly. If invited to a local’s place for a meal, bring a big appetite and your drinking hat: spreads will be huge, you’ll be lavished with food and expected to participate in endless rounds of toasts. As a guest, it’s customary to bring some kind of small gift for your host, such as flowers, chocolates or (preferably imported) alcohol.
3. Armenians love talking politics, but there are certainly some sensitive topics – so be cautious in expressing strong opinions. Most Armenians revere Russia and Slavic culture, so asking about life under the Soviets is usually fine. The same cannot be said for Azerbaijan (due to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict) or Turkey, however, so exercise great sensitivity if engaging in these topics.
4. Dress modestly and respectfully when visiting monasteries and churches. Shoulders to knees should be covered and shoes removed when entering places of worship.
5. Try to avoid buying bottled water. Tap water in Armenia is generally safe to drink, so use a reusable water bottle or canteen to minimise unnecessary waste.
6. Always dispose of litter thoughtfully, including cigarette butts.
7. When bargaining at markets, stay calm, be reasonable and keep a smile on your face. It's meant to be fun!
8. Learn some of the local language and don't be afraid to use it - simple greetings will help break the ice.
9. Shop for locally made products. Supporting local artisans helps keep traditional crafts alive and supports the local community.
10. Refrain from supporting businesses that exploit or abuse endangered animals.
11. Please ask and receive permission before taking photos of people, including children.
|The Burning Tigris: The Armenian Genocide and America’s Response||Peter Balakian|
|The Crossing Place: A Journey Among the Armenians||Philip Marsden|
|The Forty Days of Musa Dagh||Franz Werfel|