When we decided to travel to Armenia, we honestly didn’t know what to expect.
As a fan of big cities, I was especially curious about Yerevan, Armenia’s capital and largest city.
Would Yerevan be similar to Tbilisi, the capital of the nearby Georgia, which is a nice and vibrant city…
Or would it be a no name dusty city like some third tier city in the southern Caucus?
Sure, we wanted to revisit Georgia and it’s beautiful capital of Tbilisi, but a part of me wanted to visit somewhere new and interesting.
So, Armenia it was, We bought tickets, got on a plane and landed at Yerevan’s airport. After hailing a cab, we arrived at the center of Yerevan.
It was late evening, so we wouldn’t get a good feel of the city, but immediately I realized that we had arrived somewhere special.
In the following ten days, we explored a good chunk of the country, visiting several recommended cities, and were overwhelmed by the country’s gorgeous landscapes, super friendly hospitality and delicious food.
We enjoyed Armenia so much that we ended up extending our trip, something that we’ve never done before on any other trip.
And when it was finally time to leave, we dreaded going to the airport and getting on the plane back to Ukraine.
Armenia is one of the world’s oldest continuously inhabited countries. It’s located in the southern Caucasus bordering Georgia to the north, Turkey to the west, Azerbaijan to the east and Iran to the south.
Its official population is around 3M, which is surprisingly about the same as the city of Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, although it feels a lot larger than that.
And Armenian people are very proud of their country’s unique history and heritage. On more than one occasion, we had random people approach us and tell us about the country’s history and how Armenia came to be.
And, with that said, let’s talk about the 7 reasons why you should visit Armenia in 2021 and beyond.
THE CLEAN AND ORGANIZED CITIES AND INFRASTRUCTURE
The first thing I realized when we arrived in Yerevan is just how clean and organized the city is. The sidewalks were wide, spacious and free of cars, which isn’t something you can say for just about any eastern European city big or small, especially Kiev, where I’m currently living.
The city seemed to be built for walking, exploring and enjoying some more.
There are lots of trees, and the city just feels very green, and while I was exploring it, if I had gotten a dime every time I said “greenery” or “green,” I would’ve been a very rich man.
Having gotten used to Eastern European cities that are made for cars instead of pedestrians, Yerevan was a truly welcome surprise.
But it wasn’t just Yerevan that was so clean and organized, so were the other cities that we visited on our trip including Gyumri, Dilijan, and even the villages that we passed on our travels. The roads, for the most part, were excellent, something that we didn’t expect from a seemingly “third world country,” which made traveling and exploring this country all the more interesting and worthwhile.
Now we’re getting to the people. You knew this would be on the list somewhere. Now, this is an interesting one because honestly I’ve never met friendlier people than Armenians, at least not here in Europe, and certainly not here in eastern europe where I’m based at the moment.
We also didn’t need to wait too long to experience this [majestic] Armenian hospitality. On our first day in Yerevan, just after we arrived at the center from the airport, we couldn’t find the hotel room. We came to the hotel’s address, but there was no address in sight. Right away, a man who was walking, immediately approached us and asked if we needed help. He then quickly proceeded to guide us to the hotel, which ended up behind the main building on the street.
But that wasn’t the only experience. We were visiting a famous outdoor market, and then began thinking about our next destination. So we pulled up our phones and began wondering how to get there. A man who was standing nearby asked us if we needed help finding anything.
Armenians are genuinely friendly and welcoming of foreigners. Not once did we feel that we were not welcome in any place or setting, even given the fact that we were speaking Russian everywhere, which unfortunately is not the case in many other post-Soviet Union countries.
We can’t talk about Armenia, and not once mention the food. And, as expected, the food is absolutely delicious.
Look, I’m a food buff, I love to eat. And I love to eat great food. Unfortunately, here in Ukraine, the food is pretty bland — there are only so many ways you can eat your borsch, pelmeni or something else.
On the other hand in Armenia, the food is very diverse. First, you have your kebabs, but not just any kebabs, we actually had different kebabs as well. The kebabs were better than any kebab I’ve had before.
But when it came to the “regular” food, Armenia continued to pleasantly surprise, too.
The most interesting thing is the variety of food that you experience. In every single restaurant we went to, we enjoyed completely different types of food. And, so, on our quest to try different food every time we went to a different restaurant, we easily succeeded. And we definitely weren’t disappointed.
THE SAFETY AND SECURITY
Whenever I visit a new country, my first instinct is to figure out how safe and predictable it is. That’s probably because I grew up in a big city with its fair share of crime (New York).
I knew from experience that the Caucasus region is fairly safe and predictable, so if you’re not looking for any trouble, trouble won’t be coming from me, sort of like Eastern Europe.
But, what I didn’t know is that Armenia is super safe, in fact one of the safest countries I’ve ever visited, at least outside Asia.
Everyone that we met told us that in Armenia you can walk alone at 3am in the morning and nothing will happen to you. That’s certainly not something you can do in New York city and even in a relatively safe country like Ukraine, walking around alone at night isn’t a bulletproof strategy.
Armenia indeed felt very safe, as we immediately got the feeling that everyone kinda keeps to themselves, and so if you’re not looking for trouble, trouble won’t come to you.
I hate cold weather, so it was nice to go to a country with beautiful sunny and hot weather. Every single day was sunny, maybe except one, but even when the temperatures soared close to 30C, it never felt unbearable because of the low humidity.
THE RELAXED “SOUTHERN” FEEL
The weather coupled with the One thing that we immediately felt upon arriving in Yerevan the day we landed was this “relaxed southern” feel. This is a little hard to put into words, but the wide streets filled with outdoor bars and restaurants immediately reminded me of a country like Mexico, Colombia or Brazil, with a mix of Miami Beach.
Coming from Kiev, Ukraine, I found the prices for food and accommodation to be more or less similar, but if you’re someone coming from Western Europe or North America, you will find almost everything very affordable.
Ultimately, the way I described Armenia to my friends and family is that you’re essentially visiting an exotic country that is distinctly different from Europe, America and even Eastern Europe, but yet people speak Russian and remind me of my eastern European friends and relatives, and speak excellent Russian to boot.
That is something you won’t be able to do, say, in a country like Iran—an exotic country in all senses of the word.