Armenia has a ton of things to offer. From quaint little villages, to hikes, local markets and festivals, and so much more. A good 2 weeks are needed to fully enjoy the beauty of the country, but if you’re tight on time, here are some of the best day-trips to do from Yerevan, Armenia’s capital.
Some might say that the best things to see in Armenia are the churches. There is also a ton to do here that is not limited to churches, so get out there and explore it all!
Depending on the size of your group, there are many ways to do these excursions. You can either go through different tour companies and opt for private or group tours. You can rent a car and drive yourself. You can grab a GG in town, asking the driver for a set cost before leaving. You can grab shared taxis or marchutkas to the villages.
Or finally, you can hitchhike. We were told it’s easy to get around this way in Armenia, so you can always try that if you’re feeling adventurous! Just be warned, most of the time, your ride will offer you a meal and drinks at their place before dropping you off at your final destination!
Lake Sevan is Armenia’s largest body of water, and it is beautiful. Head there in the morning to take full advantage of its beauty. The route should take you about 45 minutes to an hour.
Once there, you can climb up the peninsula and visit Sevanavank, the beautiful church at the top of it. Then, head down to the shore and enjoy a walk on the beach. If you love swimming in cold water, jump on in!
You can either prepare your own BBQ khorovats meal on the beach, check out one of the many restaurants on its shores, or head back on the road and stop by Semoi Mot to have the famous fish there.
Dilijan is named the Switzerland of Armenia, and rightfully so. Nestled in the mountains, this city is just beautiful! The trip there should take you 1.5 to 2 hours. If you leave early enough, and depending on what you want to do, you can fit Lake Sevan and Dilijan in one day trip.
Dilijan has many beautiful things to do. If you love hiking, you have many routes there, including the TransCaucausus Trail, the Dilijan National Park and many more. There is a beautiful hike that will take you to the quaint Parz Lake.
You can also visit the Tufenkian hotel, where they have recreated a beautiful village with 19th century architecture. They have even included intricately carved balconies, displaying the region’s historical love for fine woodwork.
For your meal, we recommend Kchuch, a delightful restaurant where you can have an array of wood oven cooked meals. Everything we had was delicious, but the mushroom pizza/flatbread took the cake for us. For your coffee fix, we recommend Caffeine, a beautiful little microroastery.
Garni, Geghard, Tsaghgazor
This trip is an awesome one. This day trip is one of our favourites. Garni is about 30 minutes away from Yerevan, Geghard, another 30 from there, and Tsaghgazor is another 30 from there.
Garni is home to an old pagan temple. It was thought to be built in the first century AD, as a temple dedicated to the sun god Mihr. It’s really a unique site in Armenia, not only because of its structure, but also because of its beautiful setting at the top of a cliff, surrounded by mountains.
Geghard is one of the most spectacular monasteries in Armenia. It’s a true architectural beauty! The name “Geghard” means “spear”, as it is thought that the spear, which had wounded Jesus at the Crucifixion, was allegedly brought to Armenia by Apostle Jude, and stored here amongst many other relics. What makes Geghard even more special is the fact that it is partially carved out of the adjacent mountain and its surrounded by cliffs.
Finally, make sure you stop by Tsaghkadzor, a spa town and one of the most popular health resorts in Armenia. You can either indulge in one of the many different spas there, or make your way up the mountain on the ski lift. Up there, you have beautiful views of the mountains and valleys. A gorgeous spot!
Letters Monument, Amberd & Byurakan Observatory
This little trip will only take you a few hours, but it’s well worth it. If you can, try doing it later in the afternoon so you can finish at the Observatory to see some stars.
First stop is the Letters Monument that was built in 2005, when the Armenian alphabet celebrated its 1600th birthday. To commemorate the important date, a gift of 39 giant Armenian letters carved out of stone were erected near the final resting place of Mesrop Mashtots, who created the alphabet.
The Letters Monument is set against the beautiful backdrop of Mt. Aragats, the highest peak in Armenia. This is a fun little stop to make, that shouldn’t take too long. Make sure you find the letters of your name!
Next, make your way to Amberd, the “cloud fortress” or fortress in the clouds. This is a beautiful 7th century fortress overlooking a gorge on the cliffside of the mountains. There, you will also find the 11th century Vahramashen Church, and a bath house dating between the 10th and 11th centuries.
This whole complex is located on the slopes of Mount Aragats, right where the Arkashen and Amberd rivers run. The setting here is just beautiful, especially in the fall, when the leaves start changing colours.
Finally, check out Byurakan Astrophysical Observatory (or BAO) on a clear night. The observatory was founded in 1946, and located on the slope of the mountain Aragatz. The BAO focused its studies mainly on the instability phenomena taking place in the Universe. You can contact the Observatory and set up a tour. Entrance is just 1,000 dram (roughly $2USD). But make sure you call before to confirm your tour, because it does depend on the weather.
Khor Virap, Areni Caves, Noravank
Get ready to step back in time on this tour. The furthest point of this trip is about 2.5 hours away from Yerevan, so with long stops, this will be a full day of exploration.
Khor Virap is probably the most famous monastery in Armenia. Not only does it offer beautiful views of Mount Ararat, but it’s also the birthplace of christianity in Armenia. They say that Gregory the Illuminator was imprisoned in a pit here for 13 years by King Tiridates III of Armenia.
You can actually visit the pit where he was said to spent these years, surrounded by snakes and rats. He is said to have survived by the grace of God and the help of the king’s sister. When he got out, he became the religious advisor to the king, and in 301, Armenia was the first country in the world to be declared a Christian nation. This is why Khor Virap is one of the most visited pilgrimage sites in Armenia.
Next, make your way to Areni, in Vayots Dzor. This region is known for the production of wine, not only today, but centuries ago as well. In 2007, the earliest known winery in the world was said to be found at the Areni-1 cave complex. It was estimated to be 6100-years-old. In 2008, the world’s oldest leather shoe was found. Then in 2011, that the discovery of a straw skirt dating to 3,900 years BCE was reported. It’s quite an impressive site to see.
In the same region, you can go do some wine tastings. We recommend you skip the Areni winery, where the lines are long and the wine is not so great. Instead, head to Momik’s WineCube for some amazing wine in a lovely setting. You can also opt to stop here after you’ve visited all the sites, all depending on what time it is, and how hungry you are… if you’re like us, that’s all the time!
Another awesome monastery to see that’s a few kilometres from the Areni-1 cave is Noravank. This is a 13th-century monastery is known for its two-storey Surb Astvatsatsin church. You can climb up to the second level by the narrow stone-made staircase jutting out from the face of building. Luckily, there is a rope to help you up. The setting of this monastery is gorgeous! It’s in a narrow gorge forged by the Amaghu River. The gorge is known for its tall, sheer, brick-red cliffs. It’s a beautiful place.
There are many ways to get to Gyumri, but the most enjoyable and easy one is to take the new electric train. This train only runs on weekends for now (including Friday). From the main station in Yerevan, grab the 10am train to Gyumri. Tickets cost 2,500 dram, or about $5 USD. You’ll get there around noon.
Gyumri is a beautiful city that is just building itself back after the 1988 earthquake. It used to be the cultural centre of the country and strives to regain that title today. Here, you can walk around Vartanants square, explore the beautiful Holy Saviour’s Church and the black fort. There is also a market street by the church where you can by delicious local fare.
Right off the main square, there are a few beautiful pedestrian streets to stroll on. Lined with bakeries, restaurants and shops, they are perfect to explore on a day trip. And, if you have time to spare, check out Central Park, and the old soviet amusement park. It’s a real trip back in time!
If music or technology are your thing, then you can also check out the Tumo Center for Creative Technologies. It offers free after-school education to local youth in areas such as music, robotics, computer programming, and a variety of other non-classical educational subjects.
Make sure you make it back to the train station before 5pm, to grab the train back to Yerevan. You can also spend a night in Gyumri and take more time to explore the city.
Mount Aragats is Armenia’s highest peak, at 4,090 m. It’s actually a four-peaked volcano massif that you can climb with the help of a tour guide. The best time to hike this peak is between June and October, as the peak gets snowy and difficult.
If hiking is not your thing, you can drive up to Kari Lake and relax at the hotel and restaurant there. During colder months, the restaurant is known for its khash soup. This is a traditional Armenian soup made of cow hoof. It’s eaten with copious amounts of garlic, lemon, lavash bread and vodka!
Etchmiadzin & Zvartnots temple
The route to Etchmiadzin is about 30-45 minutes away from Yerevan. You can stop at Zvartnots on the way there or back.
It’s considered the mother church of the Armenian Apostolic Church. According to many scholars, it’s the first cathedral built in ancient Armenia, in the early 4th century. It’s considered to be the oldest cathedral in the world as well. In 2000, it was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Zvartnots Cathedral, on the other hand, is a 7th-century cathedral. Although it is now in ruins, it is a beautiful site to see. It was only at the start of the 20th century that the ruins of Zvartnots were uncovered. They discovered the foundations of the cathedral as well as the remains of the Catholicos palace and a winery. After more excavations, it was revealed that Zvartnots stood on structures that dated back to 680 BC.
Both sites are quite close by and really beautiful to visit. Make sure you head out on a sunny day.
Some people may include these stops as part of a day trip, but they are quite far, so it makes for a really long day. We’re talking about 12-14 hours. You can do these separately or together, it’s totally up to you. Just know that it is quite a journey!
Located on the route to Tatev, Karahunj, or Zorats Karer, is said to be the oldest astronomical observatory in the world! This place is really magic. Unlike Stonehenge which is blocked off, you can explore Karahunj freely.
The site is made of six different parts, and a total of 223 stones of which 80 have a circular holes. Studies showed that 17 of the stones were for observing sunrises or sunsets at the solstices and equinoxes, and 14 for the lunar extremes.
This place is one of the coolest we’ve seen and you can really feel the energy when you’re there. It’s a magical spot that is well-worth the visit.
The route to Tatev will take about 3-4 hours from Yerevan. Not only is Tatev a beautiful monastery, but it has a really cool mode of transportation to get there. The Wings of Tatev! This is the World’s longest reversible ropeway, measuring a whopping 5,752 m. The views from the tramway are just epic!
The monastery, although under construction, is still a beautiful sight to behold. Set on the edge of a cliff, it’s breathtaking. And if you don’t want to see the church, that’s ok too! You can go hiking in the area, do some wine-tasting, or even go paragliding!
Past Goris, Kndzoresk will take you 4-4.5 hours to get to. Access to this site is not for the faint. The swinging bridge to get here swings and bounces quite a lot. But it’s quite awesome to see what’s on the other side.
Khndzoresk is a village and rural community in the South-East of Armenia, right by Goris. It’s an old village built into the side of the mountains. With caves and ruins for you to explore, it’s such a cool place. Especially since it was inhabited until the 1950’s.
Yerevan is a great place to do these day trips from. If you want to, you can also visit these spots on a continuous route as part of a 2-week Armenia road trip. The possibilities are really endless.
What do you prefer? Long road trips or day trips from a home-base? We like to have the option of doing either, mainly because we love road trips!
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