Eco Tourism in Armenia: A Sustainable Journey Through Nature's
Are you an eco-tourist? Then Armenia’s for you. Some people like to define ecotourism simply as “travelling responsibly.” That’s a combination of proactively working to minimise your negative impact on the environment and maximise benefits to local communities. Eco-tourists seek out destinations that prioritise the preservation of natural ecosystems, wildlife, and cultural heritage. Here, we’ll offer a few ways that Armenia shines as a destination for eco-tourists!
Immerse yourself in nature
Nearly half of Armenia’s landmass is mountainous. In addition to its peaks, the country has beautiful waterfalls, lakes, forests, meadows and canyons! With so much untouched nature, there are plentiful opportunities for hiking, camping and water activities that respect the local environment.
For those seeking active engagement with the environment, organised hiking groups abound. You can travel by organised carpool to the destination – a hidden gem or famous nature spot such as Dilijan National Park, the Khosrov Forest State Reserve, or the dramatic Zangezur Mountains. Camp in the pine forests next to Lake Sevan, paraglide near the cliffs of the Ijevan mountains, stand-up paddleboard (SUP) on the Azat Reservoir or cross-country ski in the rolling hills of Ashotsk. These excursions not only promote physical well-being but also foster a sense of community – especially appreciated if you’re a solo traveller looking for like-minded individuals. Some of these groups actively engage in trash pick-up to ensure that they leave the environment even better than they found it.
For a more mindful connection, the inclusion of yoga in natural settings provides a harmonious blend of physical exercise and spiritual rejuvenation. Some groups also offer mountain therapy: an opportunity to simply sit and absorb the tranquillity of nature in sun or snow, with a glass of wine in hand.
Lovers of fauna have lots of opportunities to be inspired by the animals of Armenia. They can visit the Vayots Dzor region to watch for mountain goats, observe the endangered caucasian red deer in Dilijan National Park, or visit the northern Shirak region to bird-watch.
Local guest houses in Yeghegis provide binoculars so guests can spot the lithe goats that prance on the precarious rocks of the red cliffs of the region. Ecotourists can also spend time in the nature-observatory hut run by the World Wildlife Fund in Artavan. Next door, they can enjoy local guest houses’ cosy rooms and homemade breakfasts made by villagers from their local eggs, dairy products, and fresh jams. You’ll find such bed and breakfasts across the country, and it’s a great way to support locals and invest in village communities!
Arpi Lake and Lake Sevan serve as crucial stopovers for migratory birds, providing a unique opportunity for ornithologists and nature enthusiasts to observe various species. Guided bird-watching tours, led by local experts, enhance the experience while promoting responsible and sustainable practices.
Armenia’s rural regions boast a vibrant agricultural landscape. As you travel throughout the country, you’ll see small road-side kiosks with produce from local farms, alcohol from small-batch wineries or distilleries, fresh cheeses and pickled vegetables. Eco-conscious travellers can purchase these delights, supporting local farmers and exploring the authentic flavours of the region. Plus, these stands make for great pit stops on a road trip!
In Armenia, people savour their produce seasonally, eagerly anticipating the months when specific fruits and vegetables are at their peak ripeness and flavour. This practice reflects a widespread appreciation for the natural rhythm of harvest and the enhanced taste of fruits during their designated seasons. You’ll find wild asparagus in Vayots Dzor and strawberries in Ararat in the spring months. In the summer, try peaches from Tavush and check out the mulberry festival in Syunik. You’ll see apples and mushrooms in Dilijan in the autumn. Taste unique and distinctive pinecone jam on a visit to the forests of Lori, fresh baked gata near Geghard, a variety of homemade fruit vodkas in the Aragatsotn region, and the list goes on…
Eco-conscious travellers have the opportunity to actively contribute to local communities by participating in harvest activities too. Whether it's picking grapes for wine production, harvesting apples, or digging up potatoes, this hands-on engagement not only provides insight into traditional practices but also fosters a sense of connection to the land and its people.
Work with local artisans
Armenia is well known for its artisans who make khachkars, unique-to-Armenia carved cross-stone steles, silver and copper jewellery, folk dolls, pottery, carpet-weaving and much, much more! Instead of purchasing mass-produced souvenirs, support local craftsmen and even get your hands dirty in the workshop alongside them!
The Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C. has put together a curated starter list of unique experiences to check out in various parts of Armenia alongside local masters.
The item you bring home from this sort of immersive experience will mean so much more to you than something you simply bought. You’ll have a story to tell about it!
Here’s our last word of advice. If you’re an ecotourist, be open to the unexpected in Armenia! The more you engage with locals, and the more time you spend outside of Yerevan in the regions and villages, the more memorable and meaningful your experience will be.
Published on February 22, 2024