Armenia – Day4 [11.12.2016]

Last day in Armenia

The city of Yerevan was covered with snow from previous night. I went out to explore the city in the morning before heading to airport.

First, I went to Cascade.

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Cascade

I needed to go up by stirs but it was very slippery and dangerous because of snow. Most likely it takes 5 minutes if there is no snow, but I took approximately 10-15 minutes to go up since I’m not used to walk on snow. I was expecting to see the view of Yerevan with Mt. Ararat. However, it was cloudy, visibility was poor and I could not see the nice view. Then, again I slowly took stirs to go down.

Although I planned to visit Matenadaran which is Armenian’s ancient manuscripts library, it was closed due to Sunday.

I took more time at Cascade than I expected and didn’t have enough time to go to museum or gallery, so I went to Vernissage Market. Vernissage Market is open-air market which selling Armenia’s souvenir, handcraft, painting, etc. It was a nice place to buy souvenir and even just to visit. Hence, the price was reasonable.

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Vernissage Market
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Nice place to buy souvenirs

Then, I went back to hotel, checked out and the driver picked me up to go to the airport. It took 20 mins to the airport by car.

The airport was quite new and duty free shop had many varieties of souvenir and was big enough to do last minutes shopping. I flew back to Dubai with Flydubai again and took off 4.15pm and I landed at Dubai around 7pm.

In general, I enjoyed Armenia and snow but I think I would enjoy more if it were in spring or summer since I don’t like cold weather that much. I recommend travelling in other seasons unless you want to go for ski resort or experience winter weather. Of course there are some benefits by travelling in this season that I could get discount and tourist sites were empty due to off-season.

Thus, I arranged the driver through travel agent to cover all places I would like to visit in limited schedule. Although my driver gave me some information of sites, it would be nicer to have a guide to explain me well. The driver was different from my driver which I experienced in Azerbaijan. I assume the difference came how I arranged it like through agent or by individually. The driver was not bad at all but it was no more or less than driver.

Armenia could be a good destination for someone who likes to visit UNESCO World Heritage Site and is foodie and naturalist.

 

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Armenia – Day3 [10.12.2016]

3rd day in Armenia – visiting Lori Province

I left the hotel in Yerevan at 9 am and headed to Lori Province which is in the northern part of Armenia.

After 1 hour from Yerevan, I passed by the mountains covered with snow on the way. The contrast of white snow and clear sky was very beautiful. After a while, I drove through icy mountain road and then it took 3 hours from Yerevan to reach Sanahin monastery.

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Sanahin monastery

Another half an hour drives, then finally I reached Haghpat monastery. Haghpat monastery is built in 10th century. Fresco drawn on the interior of church was kept in the great condition.

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Fresco
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Haghpat Monastrey

Both Sanahin monastery and Haghpat monastery are listed as UNESCO world heritage site.

After I finished the visit, my driver took me to one of restaurant near Haghpat monastery for late lunch.

Then, I left for Yerevan around 3pm after lunch. I passed by mining plant near Sanahin. It used to work for 100% when Soviet, but currently only 10%..

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This region was developed as mining town. 

Although I took 3 hours to visit Sahahin and Haghpat from Yerevan, this area is closer to Tbilisi, Georgia than Yerevan and it may take 2 hours. The border to Georgia is only 40 km away from this region. First I was thinking to visit two countries at the same time but I decided to visit these countries separately in consideration of my schedule and flight…

So, if you are willing to visit two counties, Armenia and Georgia, I recommend traveling both in once trip. Sahahin and Haghpat could be on the route to go to Yerevan/Tbilisi, you can save time and your trip would be more efficient. You will be able to cover major places within 7 days.

On the way back, I attempted to take a photo of beautiful mountains but the weather had been changed and it started snow. Now I regretted not to take photos in the morning…

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Icy road on the way back to Yerevan

I came back to hotel around 6.30pm and it kept snowing in Yerevan as well.

I got excited about snow like a kid and went out to experience snowing town. The snow made the city more beautiful.

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Beautiful snowing night
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I loved this place which was full of happiness…

 

 

 

Armenia – Day2 [09.12.2016]

2nd day in Armenia

I left my hotel in Yerevan at 10 am and headed to Garni and Geghard.

There was a view spot which can see Mr. Ararat after 20 minutes’ drive from Yerevan.

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Mt. Ararat

I quickly went out from car to take a photo and it was very cold outside like at -4 degrees. It was cold enough for me but I didn’t know at that time I would experience colder weather on that day…

We drove for 50 minutes and reached Garni temple. Garni is only one Hellenism architecture remained in Armenia. The current temple was built in the 19th century and is on the hill surrounded by mountains.

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Garni Temple

Next, we drove through mountain witer road for 15 minutes and reached Geghard monastery.

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View of Geghard
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Geghard monastery

Geghard monastery is one of World Heritage site in Armenia. This is a monastery built in the cave in 13th century.

After I left Geghard, I headed to Lake Sevan. I took 1.5 hours to reach there.

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Sevanavank monastery

This lake is located at 1,900m above sea level. When I visited Sevanavank monastery, the temperature was -6.5 degrees with strong wind but I felt it’s much colder than the actual. Although I was almost full covered, wearing thick coat, scarf around my neck, far hat for ears, my uncovered body parts like face was so painful because of coldness.

I heard this place is a resort such many people like Iranians come for their holiday, but there was nobody when I went there.

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Lake Sevan

This could be a good place to visit if the weather is good… I don’t recommend visiting there in winter. If you will go in winter, my tips are to cover all body parts properly and keep yourself warm.

Next, I went to the restaurant beside the lake. I ordered fish kebab with Armenian bread, lavash and fried potato for my lunch.

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Lunch

After lunch break, I left Sevan for Yerevan. I noticed a change on the way back to Yerevan that it was getting less snow when I was going further from Sevan. My driver told me that there are good ski resorts around this area.

It took an hour to reach Yerevan by car.

At night, I decided to go to Armenian restaurant to try local food and asked the receptionists of my hotel. They recommended one of restaurant, Tevern Yerevan which is near hotel, 1 minute walk and also told me to book a table in advance. So, I asked them to check availability around 7 pm but it was full and needed to wait. I was waiting in my room and the receptionists led me know once they got a call from the restaurant.

Finally I could go to the restaurant around 9pm, I ordered soup and tolma and both are tasted good…

The temperature in the evening in Yerevan was around 0 degrees or below. It was quite low but I felt much warmer since I’ve experienced worse weather in Sevan…

 

Armenia – Day1 [08.12.2016]

Going to Armenia

I flew to Yerevan, Armenia with Flydubai and I took off at 2:50 am from Terminal 2, Dubai international airport. I booked it one month prior, in November and the fare was AED 830. Since Flydubai is LCC, they usually require to pay for check-in baggage but 20kg of check-in baggage was inclusive in case of the flight to Yerevan at that time. The flight duration was approx. 3 hours and I landed at Zvartnots International Airport at 5:50 am. There is no time difference between UAE and Armenia.

Arriving at Zvartnots International Airport

I, citizen of Japan was required to get a visa on arrival. Once arrived, I changed USD 20 for visa fee at the exchange which was located just next to visa counter as they only accept local currency by cash for visa fee. There was long ques for currency exchange and visa and I took almost one hour to pass through immigration. Single entry visa for 21 days was AMD 3,000 (USD 6). 

At the immigration, the officer found Azerbaijan visa in my passport. Then, he took me to small room. He asked me about my trip to Armenia like the purpose of visit here, where to stay, afterwards, he also asked me the purpose of visit to Azerbaijan. He took a photo copy of my passport and visa. It just took 10 minutes and I wasn’t scared since I knew this could happen and have had this kind of experience in Qatar. I’ve visited Armenia after Azerbaijan because I need to consider the order to visit these countries. I’ve heard that it would be difficult to enter Azerbaijan if I’ve visa of Armenia since Armenia and Azerbaijan are neighbours but they don’t have diplomatic relations. 

Beginning of Armenia tour

Once I reached arrival area, it was already around 7:30 am I met my driver. I arranged all transportation including airport transfer with Hyur Service which my friend advised me. I decided to have private tour since I was travelling alone and I could not join in group tour due to off-season before Christmas. So, I contacted the company via their website and informed what I want: tour, driver, airport transfer and places where I want to visit. Then, they gave me a quotation, AMD 129,600 (USD 270) for entire journey. Also I withdrew AMN 160,000 (AED 1,239.56) with my debit card at ATM there. 

First, I headed to Noravank monastery.

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Mt. Ararat

We drove for nearly 2 hours and stopped by small shop beside the road near Noravank Monastery. I had sandwich for my breakfast with home-made wine which the lady gave me for tasting.

After a short break, I reached Noravank Monastery around 10 am. It was very cold outside that the temperature was -2 degrees Celsius but it was beautiful sunny day. 

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Noravank Monastery

Then, we drove for approx. 1.5 hours and visited Khor Virap monastery. The combination view of monastery and Mt. Ararat was amazing and this is the reason I wanted to visit this place.

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Khor Virap Monastery

We drove back for one hour and stopped by Echmiadzin which is a place like Vatican for the Armenians. There are many churches in Echmiadzin such as St. Gayane Church, Mother Cathedral, St. Hripsime Church. 

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Mother Cathedral
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St. Gayane Church
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St. Hripsime Church

The admission for all the churches are free but if you want to visit the museum in Mother Cathedral displays lance of Longius, a fragment of Noah’s Ark, etc., you need to buy a ticket (AMD 1,500 = USD 3) in the building which is just opposite side of the Cathedral.

After that, I drove for 15 minutes from Echimiadzin, I visited Zvartnots.

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Zvartnots

I finished all sightseeing in Day1 and drove to Yerevan for half an hour. I arrived at my hotel around 3 p.m. I booked 3 nights including breakfast at Paris Hotel Yerevan at AMD 105,800 (AED 829.55). The hotel was located in city centre and walking distance to everywhere. 

After check-in, I went out to explore the city. It was before Christmas so that there was a small Christmas market on Northern Ave.

I walked around for an hour and came back to hotel.