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Where to Play, Eat, and Stay in Armenia, From City Life to Magic Monasteries

Armenia Insider Guides
by Ash Jurberg Jul 8, 2024

Landlocked Armenia occupies a special spot in the South Caucasus, one half of a larger region that’s known for being straddled by the Black and Caspian Seas. Geographically, it belongs to Asia. Geopolitically, it’s considered European. And as European destinations go, it most certainly qualifies as a hidden gem.

Free from the crowds that swarm many European nations, Armenia is a compact country whose size makes it easy to cover the main attractions, plus more than 300 sunny days a year for sightseeing. It’s full of history, spectacular landscapes, and fantastic food, all of which you can experience at a pleasantly affordable price point.

Ease of travel from continental hubs is another boon for travelers to Armenia. Flights from cities like Paris and Frankfurt take around four hours, while flying from Dubai, as I did, takes just over two. However you get there, these are some of the best things to do, places to eat and drink, and accommodations in Armenia.

Things to do in Armenia

Explore the capital city


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Armenia’s capital city, Yerevan, is a great base for exploring the country — it’s within a two-hour drive of most major attractions, and the city itself is very walkable for local sightseeing. I stayed in Yerevan for the majority of my trip and often found myself ducking down alleys and coming across small art galleries or cozy coffee houses. Armenia is also home to some of the purest water in the world, and there are free water fountains to ensure everyone is always hydrated.

One of the city’s foremost attractions is the Cascade Complex, an architectural stunner that seamlessly blends lush greenery with captivating art pieces at the Cafesjian Center for the Arts. But even from the outside, the Cascade Complex provides much to delight the eye — the site’s 572 steps lead to a panoramic view of Yerevan and the iconic Mount Ararat across the Turkish border. Hidden within the complex is a series of escalators if, like me, you prefer an easier route to the top.


Photo: Geofox/Shutterstock

Several other attractions are centralized in Republic Square, formerly Lenin Square, which surrounds the Government House, the History Museum, and the National Gallery. This is also one of the best spots in the city to get a feel for Yerevan’s pace and enjoy a bit of people-watching. At night, the square’s fountains light up, and there’s music and light show. I watched the show on two different nights — the music varied, but the experience was fantastic both times.

Embrace the magic of Armenia’s monasteries


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Armenia was the first country in the world to adopt Christianity in 301 AD, and this long history can be found in the more than 4,000 monasteries across the country. Not wanting to suffer from monastery fatigue, I asked my guide to select his favorite few for us to visit — a task he found difficult. While I could list several here, the two below were my favorites, and both easy drives from the capital city.

Built in 642, Khor Virap is a monastery located a little under an hour south of Yerevan by car, near the Turkish border. It’s backdropped by the majestic Mount Ararat, which archeologists believe to be the final location of Noah’s Ark. St. Gregory the Illuminator, a fourth-century Christian apostle and the first bishop of the Armenian Apostolic Church, was imprisoned in a small dungeon here for 12 years — if you’re brave and don’t mind small spaces, you can descend steps to see his cramped cell.


Photo: Vladimir Zhoga/Shutterstock

Continuing southeast for another 50 miles, or a 1.5-mile drive, Noravank is a 13th-century monastery built in a narrow gorge among tall, brick-red cliffs. Several historic structures comprise the site, the most famous being Surp Astvatsatsin Church — you’ll know you’re looking at it when you spot a collection of intricate interior and exterior carvings. The church also houses the mausoleum of Prince Burtel Orbelian, who funded its construction, and his family.

You can visit both sites in a single excursion as a day trip from Yerevan, with several operators offering tours from the capital. I was glad to be accompanied by a guide to these monasteries, which made the visit far more enjoyable and educational and added context to what I saw rather than just walking around.

Go wine tasting


Photo: Ash Jurberg

Visiting monasteries can be thirsty work, so I’d recommend visiting one of the country’s many wineries for a tour and tasting after sightseeing. Frankly, wine tasting in Armenia is a history lesson in its own right — the world’s first wine was produced here over 6,000 years ago, so there’s a long winemaking tradition.

I enjoyed visiting Van Ardi, a family-owned, award-winning winery in the wine-making region of Aragatsotn, a 30-minute drive from Yerevan. The rocky volcanic soils and dry, windy microclimate are perfect for growing grapes.

After a short walking tour, I tried numerous wines made from grape varieties I’d never heard of, let alone tried, including Areni, Milagh, and Haghtanak. I’m far from a wine connoisseur, but with expert guidance, I learned a lot about Armenian winemaking — all accompanied by local cheeses and freshly baked bread.

Get a glimpse at the Symphony of Stones


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Over 40 million years ago, lava from surrounding mountains fell down the Garni Gorge, creating an unusual formation called the Symphony of Stones, located about 45 minutes southeast of Yerevan. I walked half a mile along this natural monument, admiring nature’s wonders. In many other countries, a site like this would be full of influencers looking for the perfect Instagram photo, but this one was refreshingly free of them. The Symphony of Stones was well worth a visit and can be combined with a visit to the nearby Garni Temple, built by pagans in the first century AD.

Where to eat and drink in Armenia

The first thing I noticed about Armenian food during my trip was its incredible quality, color, and freshness. The cuisine was more akin to Mediterranean fare than I expected. Most meals started with a simple but tasty salad, fresh bread, rolled eggplant with yogurt, and local cheese. I was usually full after these dishes but would find room for a main … and sometimes dessert. I didn’t have a bad meal in Armenia, but a couple of my favorite restaurants are below.



Photo: Ash Jurberg

Dolma is a traditional Armenian dish that consists of minced meat or vegetables wrapped in grape leaves. The best I had was at Dolmama in Yerevan, where, in addition to the traditional varieties, I tried a raw lamb dolma and a quail dolma. This restaurant has a long list of celebs who have eaten there, including King Charles, Hilary Clinton, Kim Kardashian, and Vladimir Putin.

Dolmama: 10 Pushkin St, Yerevan 0010, Armenia

Vostan and Sherep

Also in Yerevan, I’d recommend Vostan and Sherep as two traditional Armenian restaurants that are within walking distance of Republic Square. Vostan is housed in a beautifully restored and ornamented 19th-century building, with courtyard seating that’s as pleasing as the meal itself — if you’re looking for souvenirs, the restaurant also sells a handful of tinned Vostar products that you can bring home.

Vostan: 8 Abovyan St, Yerevan 0010, Armenia

Sherep is a few minutes away from Vostan on foot. In addition to a mixed menu of classic Armenian dishes and more inventive fare, the restaurant also hosts exciting culinary events throughout the year. Be sure to leave room for dessert dine here (and at Vostan, too, for that matter) as there are many sweet sensations on offer.

Sherep: 1 Amiryan St, Yerevan 0010, Armenia



Photo: Ash Jurberg

I had to include this restaurant due to its stunning view over the Garni Canyon, the pagan temple of Garni, and the Symphony of Stones. Plus, after I walked along the Symphony of Stones, I was hungry for some barbecue. Armenian barbecue, often called khorovats, comes in the form of both shish kebabs (skewers) and losh kebabs (patties) typically made from either lamb or beef. It’s often enjoyed during celebrations, which your trip to Armenia (and meal at 7Qar) might as well be considered. Best of all, the restaurant has both indoor and outdoor seating, both of which showcase the stellar views.

7Qar: Grigor Zohrap 30, Garni 2215, Armenia

Where to stay in Armenia

Holiday Inn Republic Square

It’s rare to find an affordable option so centrally located in a city. The Holiday Inn is on the edge of Republic Square, the city’s focal point. You can walk pretty much anywhere within the city from the hotel, and there’s a wide range of food and shopping options within a few blocks. Many rooms have views of the square, so you feel like you’re in the thick of the action. One perk of staying at the Holiday Inn: the on-site restaurant offers a great breakfast buffet.

Holiday Inn Republic Square: 2 Amiryan St, Yerevan 0010, Armenia

Dilitown Resort and Spa


Photo: Ash Jurberg

If you plan on staying outside of Yerevan, look to the Dilitown Resort and Spa. I was fortunate to spend a night there, in the town of Dilijan, a few hours’ the capital city. This health and wellness resort is nestled within a national park and is the perfect place to rejuvenate. It has a wide range of treatments available to guests. I spent a few relaxing hours testing its ice baths, salt rooms, dry saunas, and more — because sometimes you need to treat yourself when on a holiday, and Dilitown Resort and Spa is nothing if not a treat.

Dilitown Resort and Spa: Andranik Street, 11 3rd lane, Dilijan 3903, Armenia

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