48 Hour Tour in Armenia
In this day and age we’re all rushed for time, and whether you can only allow yourself a short weekend trip to Armenia, are here on business, or have a few days left over after visiting the stunning landscapes of this mountainous country on one of the longer tours, this 48-hour compilation offers an array of options that you can mix and match to make your own two-day stay in Yerevan a knowledge- and fun-packed experience!
The Ideal Morning Walk
Start the morning with a walk and a coffee in the Old Abovyan Quarter, passing museums, Belle Époque houses, cafes, restaurants and shops. Have a glass of fresh juice while you walk, at one of the many street-stands, and munch on a basturma sandwich (a very seasoned, air-dried, cured beef of Armenian origin) or a lahmajoun (a famous Armenian minimalist pizza).
Arriving at Moscow Cinema, you might notice a big outdoor chess set, free for everyone to play. There are also a range of Carpet Weaving stores along Abovyan Street and interested visitors are welcomed to the stores to explore the woven tapestries and be acquainted with the process of traditional carpet weaving in Armenia.
Get a Free Haircut
If you need to get a new haircut, you can actually get a professional one for free. The students of the Zverev Hairdressing Academy located in the center of Yerevan offer free hairdressing services to anyone who is brave enough to trust his head to the newbies of the hairdressing world! A win-win scenario for everyone, the students get a chance to practice their skills, while visitors get free haircuts. Oh, and don’t be nervous, the more experienced masters are always there to observe the process, and if anything goes wrong, they will fix it.
If you are lucky enough to be in Yerevan on Saturday or Sunday, you have the opportunity to wander around the centrally located Vernissage Market. Besides being an affordable marketplace, it offers a view into the ancient local marketplace, with vendors playing their instruments or carving their woodwork, haggling and antiques galore. Discover Armenian Culture through its variety of handmade masterpieces, paintings, carpets, and custom-made souvenirs.
In the evening the enticing sound of music calls from the Republic Square, attracting crowds of locals and tourists daily, to watch the Singing and Dancing Fountains show. Operating between spring and fall, the fountains include a colorful light show and a variety of classical music, pop, rock and jazz. The show begins at 9 PM.
If the weather is good, head straight to the Cascade. A straight line up from Northern Avenue towards and past the Opera Square takes you to the complex of staircases of white marble. You can use an escalator to get to the top of the Cascade or climb the stairs on foot and admire each sculpture on the way up. From the top of the Cascade, an excellent view opens towards Yerevan and Mount Ararat. However, you should know that Ararat is generally only visible on mornings with good weather.
Visit the Cafesjian Center for the Arts, underneath the stairs, dedicated to bringing the best of contemporary art to Armenia and presenting the best of Armenian culture to the world. You can visit its year-round, open-air exhibition of sculptures in front of and on the stairs of the Cascade, as well as visit the galleries inside. The galleries on the first two floors are free, one containing a monumental sculpture and the other, a monumental painting.
Every year, between the months of May and September, the Karin Folk Dance Group organizes a series of mass dancing events at the Cafesjian Sculpture Garden in front of the Cascade. Known as “Our Dances and Us,” the events are open to everyone willing to learn traditional Armenian dances. The dances take place on the last Friday or Saturday of every month, around 7 PM.
If you are after a hearty snack or prime retail, turn your steps towards the new skyscrapers of Northern Avenue, a grand, fashionable pedestrian area, where locals and tourists alike take leisurely strolls, shop and eat refreshingly delicious ice cream.
Matenadaran. Ancient Manuscripts
If the first thing you look for in a city is the oldest library, then you will definitely love the Matenadaran. Even if the written language does not generally draw you, the bulk of the collection consists of ancient and medieval Armenian manuscripts and books that will fascinate everyone. Matenadaran is not just a museum, it is also a working research institute, where specialists study and restore rare collections of decaying glimpses into the past.
Yerevan Grand Bazaar
The Gumi Shuka or Farmers‘ Market offers a bustling and unique atmosphere around its edible souvenirs. This is not your typical supermarket from home, so learn the ways of the Armenian markets by walking around, tasting samples and bargaining, a lot! Though some sellers may act offended if in the end you choose the same product from one of their competitors, be polite, but forget about sentiments if your goal is to buy the best dried fruit, jerky, or homemade cheese. The walnut jams and sweet sujukhs are excellent souvenirs to take back from Armenia, apart from cognac, of course!
Other Things to Do
Be sure to visit one of the Armenian cognac or wine factories in the city, whose tours offer the opportunity to learn the traditional ways of preparing wine and cognac and taste them as well.
Enjoy a dinner at an Armenian restaurant, where you can taste dishes of Armenia’s traditional cuisine, and if you are lucky to attend the right restaurant at the right time you will have the amazing opportunity to enjoy the beautiful Armenian music and dance performances held for the guests.
If you are looking for something to do after dinner, there are many nightclubs, jazz bars and cafes to relax and party before going to bed.
Yerevan usually has concerts and operas opening at the Opera, Ballet and National Academic Theater. Entrances are extremely cheap, and an ever-changing international lineup probably means you will never see the same performance twice!
Just Outside of Yerevan
Temple of Garni & Monastery of Geghard
Take a short drive to the 1st century Temple of Garni, one of the finest examples of Greco-Roman temples in the Near East, and the only one remaining in the post-Soviet region! The temple overlooks the dramatic Garni Gorge, a natural wonder with spectacular rock formations; and the Khosrov Nature Preserve, the largest protected forest in Armenia, home to a wide variety of endangered plants and animals.
Further on is the Monastery of Geghard, part of a breathtaking landscape of mountain forests and jutting gorges, its 4th-12th century churches carved out of the solid rock of the cliffs. Home to a powerful ascetic community, the monastery once held the Geghard (Holy Lance) believed to have pierced Christ’s flesh. Geghard Monastery was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000.
Throughout the entire journey to Garni and Geghard you are sure to encounter villagers selling Armenian dried fruit, lavash, sujukh and gatas prepared in their houses with great care and pleasure specifically for you. If you are lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of the traditional lavash (traditional Armenian flatbread) making process either on the way to Garni/Geghard. Have lunch at a garden restaurant in Garni before returning to Yerevan.
Etchmiadzin is the seat of the Catholicos of the Armenian Apostolic Church and one of Armenia’s most revered religious sites. The main church was built in 301-303, and is one of the world’s oldest cathedrals. Take a tour of the church treasury to view the priceless reliquaries of the Armenian Church, including a piece of the True Cross, a fragment of Noah’s Ark and the Holy Lance that pierced Christ’s side on the Cross. Nearby are the 7th century St. Gayane and St. Hripsime Churches, both of which house relics of the 4th century martyrs that played a crucial part in the conversion of Armenia to Christianity; Zvartnots Cathedral, and the burial shrine of Mesrop Mashtots, the author of the Armenian Alphabet.
Enjoy a kyufta for lunch in Etchmiadzin before heading back to Yerevan.
There is Wi-Fi almost everywhere in the city center (even on the subway!). The cheap phone plans also offer affordable internet packages, but even if they run out, don’t worry, you will definitely not be left without an internet connection – even the parks free Wi-Fi!
Tips in cafes or restaurants are included in the check and constitute 10% of the amount. Feel free to leave more if you were pleased with the service.
Yerevan is one of the safest cities in the world, but as always when travelling: use your common sense, be aware of your surroundings, and keep your valuables close.
The locals cross the road wherever they want, and usually do not even look at the traffic lights. Don’t follow their lead!
If you run into any problems, talk to the police. They are everywhere, and they will promptly guide you towards a solution and if needs be, help you out.