An Antipodean travel company serving World Travellers since 1983
Sitting astride the Caucasus mountains, Armenia is a country filled with unique sights and sounds. This mountain nation has many hidden sites just waiting to be explored by the mature and senior traveller. With its colourful ancient past and rich in antiquities and cultural traditions, Armenia is not a destination to be seen and investigated.
Odyssey travels by coach and occasionally uses local transport, including trains and ferries. Specifics are always outlined in your tour itinerary. Taxis are widely available, and are inexpensive. Buses serve most major cities and smaller towns, so can make for a decent travel option. Yerevan does have metro system, though train services to elsewhere in Armenia might not be the most convenient option.
In major cities, Odyssey stays in centrally located 4 star hotels in Armenia, with easy access to public transport. In smaller towns or rural areas, we usually stay in family-run hotels or guesthouses. On our long stay tours, during which you spend the length of the tour in a single location, we use serviced apartments.
Odyssey always engages local guides with regional knowledge to ensure an authentic experience during which you can learn as much as possible about the history and culture of places you visit.
Geography environment and weather
Armenia is a landlocked country, covering 29,800 square kilometres. Much of the terrain is mountainous, with about half of Armenia’s total land area having an elevation of at least 2,000 metres. Lake Sevan sits in the eastern half of the country, and is one of the largest freshwater high-altitude lakes in Eurasia.
Armenia has a highland continental climate, with warm summers and cold winters. Depending on the season you intend to travel, check weather reports and dress accordingly.
World Heritage sites
Armenia has 3 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. You can view the official list of the sites here (https://whc.unesco.org/en/statesparties/am).
Monasteries of Haghpat and Sanahin, an outstanding example of Armenian religious architecture
Monastery of Geghard and the Upper Azat Valley, a remarkable monastery complex partially carved out of the rock of the surrounding mountainside
Etchmiadzin Cathedral, the mother church of the Armenian Apostolic Church
Festivals and events
Armenia has many festivals and events throughout the year to honour its past traditions and heritage. Several festivals are dedicated to the foods and produce of Armenia, including Syunik Mulberry Festival, the Dolma Festival and Yerevan Wine Days. The Taraz Festival in August showcases the taraz (traditional dresses) and distinctive clothing styles of Armenia’s people. A notable event to witness is the Vardavar Festival – intiially a pagan festival, Vardavar is now an annual midyear event whereby people splash water on each other in a lighthearted fashion.
- The Armenians, by Elizabeth Redgate
- Tour de Armenia, by Raffi Youredijan
- Armenia: Art, Religion, and Trade in the Middle Ages, by Helen C Evans
- The Spice Box Letter, by Eve Marks
Eating and Drinking
Lamb, eggplant and lavash (bread) all feature prominently in Armenian food.
A mainstay of Armenian cuisine is dolma, which is a mix of vegetables, rice and sometimes meat wrapped up in grape leave.
Numerous dishes are prepared for certain religious occasions, with choereg sweet bread traditionally consumed during Easter, while Ghapama (a stuffed pumpkin filled with boiled rice, fruits and nuts) is a staple of the Christmas season.
Sweets and desserts often take the form of pastries, such as gata (sweet bread) and baklava (a sweet, dessert pastry).
Health and safety
Although much of the country is safe to travel in, however independent travellers should consider avoiding heading to either the Armenia-Azerbaijan border or the Nagorno-Karabakh regions due to underlying local tensions.
Whenever you travel overseas, it’s always wise to take an appropriate travel adaptor. The electricity supply in Armenia runs at 220V and 50Hz. Armenia uses both the Type C and Type F plug types, so make sure you have the right travel adaptor handy.
Armenia has a single time zone, Armenia Standard Time (UTC+4). Armenia does not observe daylight savings.
If you’re on an Odyssey tour, we take care of tipping so you don’t need to give it a second thought. However, in your free time, or if travelling independently, it’s essential that you tip an appropriate amount for services, as is the case throughout much of Europe.
Wifi should be available in most hotels, cafes and restaurants when travelling in Armenia
Check with your cell phone provider to see whether you’re able to make calls and use data while in Armenia. Many providers will allow you to pay a daily fee that allows you to make calls and check the internet while only being charged your regular rates. However, be certain to inform your provider that you’re heading overseas, because just like a bank they can turn off your service as a result of unusual activity.
Responsible travel tips for Armenia
- Learn at least the local greetings to break the ice. Although many locals speak English, the more you know of the native language, the greater your experience of the country will be.
- Carry a business card in your wallet or purse from your local hotel, to assist you with the return journey if you do become lost.
- Always ensure that you are covered by travel insurance. If you need advice on this feel free to contact Odyssey and we’ll be able to help.
- When travelling independently, make sure you check the opening hours of shops and museums so that you don’t miss out! Museums and galleries are often closed on Mondays. Also be certain to check whether your trip coincides with any public holidays, so you can plan accordingly.
- Consider contacting your bank to inform them that you may be making purchases overseas. Otherwise, they may flag any activity on your account as suspicious. Also, check which ATMs and banks are compatible with your cards, to ensure you can withdraw cash with minimal fees.
- Before departing, make sure you have a number of notes in a range of denominations in the local currency. You don’t want to be carrying around enormous amounts of cash, but take enough to make it easy to pay in locations that might not accept credit card. It will also help you avoid card transaction fees, and it makes tipping a breeze.