Armenia is located in the South Caucasus, in the north-western part of the Armenian Highland and has no access to the sea. It shares borders with Georgia, Azerbaijan, Iran and Turkey. The country area is 29,800 square kilometers, of which 90% are located at an altitude of 1000 m above sea level. The highest point is Mount Aragats (4090 m), and the lowest – Canyon of the River Debet (400 m). The relief is mountainous, with fast flowing rivers and few forests. Mountain ranges occupy 47% of the total area, which greatly complicates the agriculture.
The nature in Armenia is picturesque and diverse. More than 3000 species of plants are growing here, which is considered the half of the species composition of the Caucasus. All this is explained by the complex and diverse relief, soil and climate as well as an interesting location at the crossroads of different floristic provinces: Caucasian wet and drier Central-Atlantic and Armeno-Iranian.
Forests cover only 13% of the country. Here you can find the following types of trees: oak, beech, pine, linden, maple, ash, hornbeam and others.
The country is also rich in fauna. There are 76 species of mammals, 44 species of reptiles, 24 species of fish and over 300 species of birds, many of which have purely Armenian origin. The national symbol of the country is a crane (in Armenian – “krunk”).
Armenia is also known for its water resources, among which the most famous is Lake Sevan – one of the largest freshwater lakes in the world. Due to its exquisite beauty, the lake is called “the pearl” of Armenia and attracts tourists from all over the world. It is located at an altitude of 1900 m above sea level. Various fish species are bred there, among which the main place is taken by Sevan trout (in Armenian – “ishxan”).
For the protection of flora and fauna, there are following reserves in Armenia: Dilijan, Khosrov, Shikahogsky, Erebuni Reserve, Sevlich Reserve, Sevan National Park.
History of Armenia extends to 3000 years ago. The name of the country- “Arminiya” was firstly mentioned in the cuneiform inscription belonging to the Persian king Darius (522-486. BC. E.) The historical territory of the Armenians was the Armenian Highland – a vast territory that stretched from eastern Anatolia to the South Caucasus. The first information about the Armenian Highland belongs to the 14th century BC.
Armenia was consistently ruled by Parthians, Arabs, Byzantines, Persians, and Asma. And in 1920 it was ruled by the Soviet Union. However, in 1991, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Armenia gained its independence.
The most important event in the history of Armenia was the adoption of Christianity. Armenia is considered the first country in the world that adopted Christianity as a state religion. This event took place in 301 AD, where the primary role was played by Gregory the Illuminator, who became the first Catholicos of the Armenian Church (302-326), and the king of Armenia Tiridates III (287-330).
One of the most tragic events in the Armenian history was the genocide of 1915. It marked the beginning of the emergence of the Armenian diaspora. When the Ottoman Empire during the World War I was broken up, the movement of the Young Turks carried out the expulsion and the genocide of 1.5 million Armenians, accusing them of alliance with Russia, with which they were in hostile relations.
Another tragic event was the war with Azerbaijan in the early 90s, which took away the life of 80 thousand people. The war has been associated with the eastern region of Nagorno-Karabakh.
Due to the location in the subtropical zone, the climate of Armenia is continental. High altitude above sea level, as well as highly dissected terrain, explains the difference of weather in different regions of Armenia. Precipitation is distributed unevenly, depending on the altitude and on the season. Most of the precipitation comes in spring. In winter in the mountainous areas and ski resorts there are lots of snow, which stays on the slopes until mid-spring.
The summer is hot and dry. It begins in June and lasts till mid-September. In the capital and in the territory of Ararat Valley the daytime temperature reaches + 25/ 35 °C. The maximum temperature in summer is +42 °C. In the regions, the weather is rather mild; the difference between the regions and Yerevan is usually 7-10 degrees.
The autumn, especially its beginning, is considered the most pleasant time for visiting Armenia. The weather is mild, warm and sunny. The nature pleases with bright colors and lots of fruits and vegetables. The temperature varies from + 20 to + 30 °C
The winter in the capital is short and sometimes snowy. The temperature ranges from +2 to -10 °C. In mountain regions and ski resorts, it is always colder than in Yerevan and in the mid-December there is much snow which stays till the end of February.
The spring here is short. It begins in mid-Mart and lasts till mid-May. The temperature ranges from +12 to + 25 °C. In the regions, it is always a few degrees cooler than in the capital.
The population of Armenia is 3.219.400 people, where 90 % are Armenians and 10% ethnic minorities: Russian, Kurds, Jews, Persians, Georgians and others. The Armenian diaspora is much bigger than the population of Armenia and is 10 million people.
The official language is Armenian. It is considered a separate branch of the Indo-European family of languages. The Armenian alphabet was created by Mesrop Mashtots in 405 and consists of 39 letters.
At this time, the Armenian language is divided into two branches: Eastern and Western. Eastern Armenian is spoken by Armenians living in Armenia, Nagorno-Karabakh, Georgia, and Iran. Western is the language of the diaspora living mainly in Europe and the United States.
Armenian culture is rich and diverse. It has developed over the centuries, and because of its location has been subject of the influence of the West and the East. One of the most important events that influenced the process of cultural development was the adoption of Christianity in 301 AD and the invention of the Armenian alphabet in 405 AD. Christianity gave birth to new forms of architecture, visual art, and music.
Armenian architecture is one of the most important branches in the culture. It is considered one of the oldest and most valuable in the world and has a history of centuries. Here are preserved ancient architectural monuments which testify that talented architects have lived in Armenia at all times. Nowadays, there are about 14,000 architecture monuments, including the ancient chapels, castles, churches, monasteries and historic fortresses. No coincidence that Armenia is considered “an open-air museum.”
One of the unique symbols of the culture here are khachkars – cross-stones. On all the territory of Armenia there are several thousands of khachkars, each of which has its own unique pattern. Khachkars are made of basalt or tuff and represent the cross – the symbol of the crucifixion of Christ. In Noraduz village, the largest khachkar cemetery in the world is located.
Armenian music is unique and not similar to the motives of other countries and peoples. Since ancient times, people have composed songs, which later were passed on from generation to generation. The indelible mark was left by Armenian composers Komitas (1869 -1935) and Aram Khachaturyan (1903 – 1978). And of course it is difficult to imagine Armenian national music without “duduk” – the national instrument. The most well-known and recognized musician and composer is Jivan Gasparyan.
Armenia is the first country in the world that adopted Christianity. It was adopted in 301 by King Trdat III. At this time 98.7% of the population are Christians, of which 94.7% belong to the Armenian Apostolic Church, and 4% are followers of other denominations of Christianity.
Armenian cuisine is considered one of the most ancient in the Caucasus. Due to the early emergence of stock raising and well-developed agriculture, Armenians have used a lot of grains, vegetables, meat, and dairy products. Also, according to the historical sources, it became known that it is already 2500 years that Armenians have an idea about the processes of fermentation and bread baking.
One of the most important places in the national cuisine is occupied by meat dishes. The most popular are khorovats (Armenian barbecue), dolma, harisa, tjvjik, bozbash, basturma, hash and some others.
Among dairy products Armenia is known for its white cheese and fermented yogurt – matsun.
A national bread of all Armenians is lavash, which is known not only in the country but also abroad.
Due to warm and favorable climate, every year Armenian nature pleases its residents with a wide range of fruits and vegetables, without which it is impossible to imagine the Armenian traditional table. The vegetables are consumed in any variant: raw, boiled, steamed, they are also added to different soups and hot dishes. Fruits Armenians dry, add to various desserts and prepare all sort off delicious jams. The real living symbol of Armenia is an apricot, which absorbs all the warm rays of the Armenian sun.
More information about the Armenian national cuisine, you can find here.
The transport in the country is quite diverse. One of the most common types of it is a mini bus, where the fare is only 100 AMD (US $ 0.20). Those who want to save can take the trolleybus where the fare is only 50 AMD (US $ 0.11). There is also a subway in Yerevan, which has 2 lines and 10 stations. This type of transport is considered the most comfortable, especially during the numerous traffic jams. For using it, you should buy a jetton, which cost 100 AMD (US$ 0.20) per one. There are also lots of taxi services, where the fare is quite inexpensive when compared with other countries. The starting price is 600 AMD (US$ 1.25) and each next kilometer will add 100 AMD (US$ 0.20). For more information about the transport in the capital click here.
There is also a railway in Armenia, which belongs to the South Caucasus Railway. It transports freight and passengers in interstate and commuter trains. The stations operate in Yerevan, Gyumri and Vanadzor.
A major role in the international passenger transportation is played by the aviation. In Armenia, there are only two airports – “Zvartnots” in Yerevan and “Shirak” in Gyumri.
Due to the fact that Armenia has not an access to the sea, water transport is not in demand. There are only some amateur yachts and boats at Lake Sevan and other bodies of water.
In the capital as well as in some major tourist resorts, rope ways were constructed which correspond to high standards. Tatev ropeway (“The Rings of Tatev”) built in 2009 in Syunik Province is the longest in the world. It leads to the famous Tatev Monastery – a masterpiece of medieval architecture.
For the entrance to Armenia the visa is not required for the citizens of Russia, the CIS countries (except the Baltic States), as well as the citizens of the European Union. On the 1st of January, 2015 the law was signed, according to which US citizens can also cross the border without a visa. Citizens of other countries must obtain a visa immediately after the arrival at Yerevan’s airport. Visa for 21/120 days costs 3000/15000 AMD (US $ 6.25 / 31.25). After the expiry of the visa, it can be extended. For more information about obtaining a visa, you can visit the site: http://www.mfa.am/ru/visa/
Currency in Armenia is known as “dram” and the currency code often used in exchange rate terminology is AMD. Dollars, Euros and Rubles can be exchanged almost anywhere in the country, with other major currencies also easy to exchange.
According to 03.15, the exchange rate in Armenia is:
- €1 = 553 dram
- US$1 = 472 dram
- £1 = 518 dram
- RUB 1 = 8.32 dram
For exchange rates you can click here.
There are 3 mobile operators in the country: Beeline, VivaCell-MTS, and Orange. SIM-cards can be purchased straight at the airport or in any shop or kiosk of the country. You can top-up your balance whenever you want without any problem, just buy a special card in any grocery shop and follow the necessary instructions written on it.
VivaCell is one of the leading operators in the country that offers good service and reasonable prices. SIM – card (“ALO” card) costs for about 1000-7000 drams ($ 2 – 14.5), that depends on what start-up credit you want. This operator offers quite low rates via VoIP for international calls (77001 + country code + phone number). Calls to the US and Canada will cost 13 drams per minute, and to Russia – 30 drams.
Orange operator is operating since 2009 and offers fairly competitive rates. Calls within the network cost 8 AMD per minute, to numbers of other operators – 35 drams, to Russia – 30 AMD and to the US and Canada – 15 drams.
The international dialing code of Armenia is + 374. Internet country domain: am
In recent years, lots of shops, supermarkets, and trading centers have been opened in Armenia, where anyone can buy food, clothes, souvenirs and other commodities for any taste and possibilities. Most of the shops are open every day in a week from about 8:00 am to 9:00 pm; there are also supermarkets that work 24 hours a day. Bargaining is uncommon in Armenian stores, however, in markets it is a must.
Armenian carpets, cognac, fruits, duduk (musical instrument) and national handmade souvenirs are some of the most popular things tourists take home from Armenia. The greatest range of different national souvenirs is offered in “Vernissage” fair, which is located in the center of Yerevan near The Republic Square.
For the purchase of fresh fruits, vegetables and dried fruits we advise visiting Armenian markets, among which the most popular is “GUM”, which is located at the intersection of Mashtots and Khorenatsi streets. In addition to fruits and vegetables you can find there a variety of delicacies and sweets: halva, rahat-lukum, chuchhela, honey, traditional pastries etc.
For those who want to buy clothes, shoes and accessories of various well-known brands we advise visiting Armenian huge trading centers – Dalma Garden Mall and Yerevan Mall.
For more detailed information about shopping in Armenia you can click here.
Safety in Armenia
According to statistics, Armenia is one of the few countries with low crime rate. Tourists can easily move around the city and go to public places, without any fear for their safety. It is important to note that even late at night, you can walk with absolute tranquility.
The situation on roads is quite stable. Surveillance cameras, which record traffic violations, have been recently set on the roads.
Food industry provides the population with quality and safe food. Shops and supermarkets are full of fresh products, which meet all the necessary requirements. Water in Armenia is clean, it comes from mountain springs, and you can drink it straight from the tap without fear for your health.
For complete information about the safety of tourists in Armenia you can click here.