Top 5 Things To Do On Your Armenia Holiday!
The Armenian air promises to fill your soul with its meaningful history, magnificence and substance. Kavita Sarmah writes about the 5 things that you MUST experience while you are in Armenia.
Armenia has one of the most textured, complex and tragic histories, but its rich culture is sure to make you swoon with amazement, exhilaration and wonder! Armenia smells of wine, hope and bittersweet stories. Even though its mountainous landscapes make for rough roads and difficult navigation, it won’t stop you from wanting to explore – that’s the charm of this nation. If you are planning a trip to Armenia anytime soon, here are five things that you absolutely need to experience.
#1 Armenian Genocide Memorial and Museum
Built on the hill of Tsitsernakaberd in Yerevan, the Armenian Genocide Memorial commemorates the victims of the heartbreaking Armenian genocide. The story is told through photographs, newspapers, reports and documents, with a strong focus on preventing similar tragedies in the future. Here, you will be surrounded with nostalgia and a strong sense of unity and hope. From the museum, there is a wide pathway bound by a 100m-long wall engraved with the names of massacred communities, which then leads to the breathtaking memorial. This area has a circle of 12 dark, basalt slabs leaning over and guarding an eternal flame. The 12 slabs represent the twelve lost provinces of Turkey. The Armenian Genocide Museum will make your heart heavy with its history and the hope in the people’s eyes. The museum is closed on Mondays and official holidays, but extends its hours of operation on 24th April, which is Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day. Admission to the museum is free of charge but they accept donations. The easiest way to get here is via taxi, as a local will know best route to drive up the hill. Remember that eating, drinking and smoking are strictly prohibited inside the museum.
#2 Sergei Parajanov Museum
The Sergei Parajanov Museum in Yerevan is a unique experience that you just cannot miss! The museum is a tribute to an experimental filmmaker from the 20th century – Sergei Parajanov. This space is filled with photographs, drawings and collages that successfully manage to bring out the humour, eccentricity and compassion of Parajanov’s personality. Parajanov was born in 1924, Georgia, and then moved to Moscow in 1945 to study filmmaking. In 1948, he was convicted of homosexuality, which was then illegal. Though his friends and supporters thought it was bogus, there are theories that suggest Parajanov was bisexual. If you appreciate art and are fascinated with realism, this is the place for you. A added bonus is being able to trace Sergei Parajanov’s interesting life, which will have you surprised and curious!
#3 Cherkezi Dzor
If you go to Armenia and don’t eat at Cherkezi Dzor, you will seriously be missing out! This quiet little place is located near a Russian military base and is very popular among the locals and tourists. The seating is in open pavilions that are surrounded by little fish ponds. The restaurant will offer you fresh, hot bread and a chance to select your fish, which they will then catch from the pond and cook for you. Make sure you try their excellent trout caviar and dig into their fragrant, barbecued sturgeon! Cherkezi Dzor can be a little hard to find, so it would be easier to have a local with you; you could also get a taxi to take you to and from the restaurant.
#4 Temple of Garni
An ionic-colonnaded temple overlooking the beautiful Azat river, the Garni temple was built by King Tiridates I in 1st century AD and is dedicated to the sun gold Mihr. After being largely destroyed by an earthquake in 1679, the temple was properly reconstructed between 1969 and 1975. Archaeologists have found Urartian cuneiform inscriptions from the 8th century BC around the temple, proving that the area has been inhabited since the Neolithic period. It is one of Armenia’s most popular tourist attractions, with nearby heritage sites that feel magical and will inspire you to wander. Next to the temple are the ruins of a 7th century church and a Roman-era bathhouse. When exploring the ruins of the church, look for the carved dragon stone; some marks from the middle of the stone are said to be the writings of King Argishti from the 8th century BC. Keep aside a day to visit Garni temple and spend the evening at a serene restaurant nearby. Entrance to this site is free for all on the last Saturday of every month.
#5 Areni Wine Factory
Armenia is one the oldest countries to start making wine, some may even say it’s the first ever! This particular winery was founded in 1994 in a village called Areni and makes wine from grapes that are also called Areni, a process that has been followed for thousands of years. You can visit the factory in late September and early October during grape harvest season to get acquainted with the wine-making process and taste beautiful local wines and vintages. Spend a cold afternoon here surrounded by sweet laughter and even sweeter wines, feeling happy-tipsy and well travelled. You could also buy a couple of bottles to take home as souvenirs from the next-door Areni Winery Showroom.
We hope your trip to Armenia is breathtaking and rewarding. The skies, stone walls, warm people and long pathways of Armenia have so much love and life to offer. We hope you make the most out of your stay here!
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Kavita Sarmah is an artist, optimism and a tea person. Life to her is writing in empty cafés, mindlessly strumming the ukulele and starry, cinematic skies. Follow her on Instagram: @kavitasarmah