Armenia: A country beyond words
Staff Report Published: December 2, 2016
Armenia is a small country located in the Eastern Europe. It is bordered by Turkey to the west, Georgia to the north, Azerbaijan to the east, and Iran to the south. It is just 2 hours and 45 mins away from Sharjah to Yerevan via Air Arabia direct flights and issues visa on arrival for Filipino tourists.
Though this ancient nation is not foreign to Filipinos residing in the UAE because it has become one of the top destinations Pinoys go to for visa runs, but it has still not gained that much popularity when it comes to its tourism opportunities.
With the assistance of the Armenia Development Fund, Air Arabia and Armenia Travels, representatives from the Filipino community in the UAE were invited for a three-day familiarization trip.
Day 1- Cascade Royal Restaurant -Armenian Genocide Memorial -Dalma Garden Mall- Fresh Market- Republic Square- Tospia Restaurant
You know you’ve reached Armenia when you see the Caucasus Mountains. The Caucasus is a region at the border of Europe and Asia making Armenia a Eurasian country. It is however a former state in the Soveit Union and Armenians consider themselves Europeans.
We landed smoothly in Zvartnots International Airport via Air Arabia. It was a smooth landing thanks to the experienced pilots.
Before coming to Dubai, of course I did some research, looked at the photos and was quite excited, of course, who wouldn’t be if your trip would be an all-expense paid trip but I was not enthusiastic enough. But, when the group arrived, we were all amazed because apparently, we all didn’t expect much.
We went straight to our hotel which is the 4-star, Armenian Royal Palace Hotel in Yerevan. It is just a 10-minute drive from the city center and is a perfect combination of unique classic design and comfort. Per night stay starts from Dh 172 to Dh 268.
After dropping our luggages at the hotel, we went straight for brunch at Cascade Royal Restaurant Lounge. Armenians start their day at around 10 am. So eating at past noon is quite normal. This restaurant lounge is located at a hilly area at Yerevan, the city’s capital and serves an authentic Armenian menu and majestic panoramic view of the city.
After the scrumptious late lunch, we went to visit the Armenian Genocide memorial complex located on the hill of Tsitsernakaberd, Yerevan.
To the historians and curious minds, this is dedicated to the memory of the 1.5 million Armenians who perished in the first genocide of the 20th century. This is the reason why a lot of Armenians fled to other countries and leaving their motherland with total population of 3 million. There are 10 million Armenians in the world and few made it big in the Hollywood like the Kadashian- Jenner clan.
We also had some free time to explore the nearby Dalma Garden Mall. It is the first mall opened in Armenia. There’s nothing special about this shopping centre (if we’d compare it to Dubai) but no mall can ever beat the mountainous view outside the mall.
Vehicles in Armenia are not advanced. It is quite amusing to see Mr Bean’s car, British Leyland Mini almost everywhere in the city.
After malling, we went to the fresh market where variety of fresh and dried fruits were sold. You’ll find yourself convinced by the locals to buy their goodies because of their charm and warm hospitality.
Also, your trip to Armenia will never be complete without passing by at the heart of Yerevan, Republic Square.
We wrapped our first day with a lovely dinner at the cozy restaurant at the corner of the street, Tospia.
Armenian cuisine is considered one of the oldest in Asia and the oldest in the Transcaucasus. Its characteristic features were formed during the millennia BC. During dinner, we kind of find the similarities it has with Arabic cuisines like that of Syria. However, their dish is mainly influenced by the Turkish people according to our guide. There’s assorted cheese, fresh veggies, sudzuj, and hot lavash and bread. Dinner in this restaurant costs around AMD 15, 000 (Dh 114) for two. But if you are on a tight budget, there are restaurants where AMD 8000 (Dh 61) would be able to feed two tummies.
Day 2- Dilijan- Haghartsin Monastery-Lake Sevan- Sevanavank Monastery Ruins- Tea House Restaurant
The second day started with a drive to the museum-street town of Dilijan which still preserves 19th century houses. It is also called Armenian Switzerland or Little Switzerland by the locals. It is also best to visit during summer around June to August where the whole place will be surrounded by lush greens. During the winter season like end of November, locals staying in the mountains opt to stay and keep warm at home.
One of the oldest monasteries in Armenian history, Haghartsin Monastery is located at Dilijan. It is built during the 13-14th century and according to history, the apostles Bartholomew and Thaddeus traveled to the region bringing the Christian faith making it the first nation to adopt Christianity as its state religion.
It is currently undergoing major renovation by Armenia Fund with the donation from HH Dr. Sheikh Sultan bin Mohamed Al-Qasimi, Ruler of Sharjah. It is listed as one of Unesco’s world heritage sites.
There are shops, restaurants, hotel inns below the mountain where travelers can stroll and stay. You can arrange overnight stay in Dilijan and hotel prices starts at AMD 1568 (Dh 120).
After getting in awe with Dilijan’s Alpine climate and spectacular beauty, we passed by Dilijan tunnel that connects Yerevan and Central Armenia. During this time, we have witnessed a huge transformation of the country’s landscape and moved on from a fogging climate to a more sunny side of Armenia.
We went straight to Lake Sevan or so called Pearl of Armenia. It is one of the biggest high altitude lakes in the world. In this area, we saw the panoramic view of the Sevan Peninsula. After, we had a scrumptious lunch beside the scenic Lake Sevan. The food served at Tea House are fresh caught from the lake so its guaranteed fresh and tasty.
We had a quick stroll at the lake and tried dipping my index finger in the water. It froze for a bit. During day time, Armenia has negative degrees temperature so it is smart to wear layers and layers of thick clothes. After lunch, we stopped by a road where we had an opportunity to touch and play with the snow. For Filipinos who’d like to do the same but is on the budget, Armenia is the place to be.
Day 3- Geghard Monastery- Garni Pagan Temple- Symphony of Stones- In Seguis’ House Restaurant- Open Market
On the third day, we visited one of the main sights of pilgrimage in Armenia, the Geghard Monastery. This is listed as a Unesco Heritage Site like Haghartsin Monastery. It was built during the 1st century. What makes the monasteries and churches special is it is located on top of the mountains and on the edge of the cliffs.
After visiting Geghard Monastery, we went to the famous Garni Pagan Temple. The Temple of Garni is the only pagan and Hellenistic structure to have survived the widespread destruction of pagan temples when Armenia converted to Christianity. It was then converted into a royal summer house and now one of the most visited destinations in the country.
After that, we went to Garni Gorge where we saw the Symphony of Stones. It is actually the highlight of our Armenia trip and would likely be yours as well. Symphony of the Stones are basalt column formations along the cliff side. It is registered in the list of natural monuments and protected by the law and is like the Grand Canyons in the USA which is created and formed by nature through the years.
After visiting the amazing basalt rock wonder, we had lunch at Seguis’ House Restaurant. It is a cozy traditional eatery offering Armenian food. Kim Kardashian ate in this place when she visited Armenia. Then we had enough time to explore the open market (Vernisaj) where we found attractive handmade items, carpets, and other souvenirs. The open market is open from 10 am till 6 pm.
Additional fact about Armenia is it is one of the oldest civilizations in the world; it is the so-called “The Land of Noah” having Mount Ararat as Noah’s ark’s final resting place after the great flood. That’s the reason why they use Noah’s Ark silver coins until today but they mainly use Armenian Dram.
Being an ancient nation, history enthusiasts and explorers will surely have their eyes and mind feasted with information you only learned from your ancient history classes.
To those who are not aware, first country in the world to officially embrace Christianity as its state religion in A.D.300 is Armenia. In fact, Holy Etchimiadzin was the first state church built in the world back in the early 4th century.
So if you are planning to have a winter wonderland holiday vacation, book a flight at Air Arabia today. Flights start at Dh 788 and flights are 4 times a week from Sharjah to Yerevan. Check their website here airarabia.com.