Ski slopes, ancient history and delicious cuisine: all the reasons to try Armenia

Want to travel worry-free? Head to culturally rich Armenia, one of the safest countries in the world

Armenia ranks among the 10 safest destinations in the world, according to the Numbeo Safety Index for 2024.

The Caucasus country came eighth out of 146 countries, according to responses to a survey covering topics such as violent crime, property crime and perceived safety.

Armenia's historic capital, Yerevan, also performed well, ranking 19th out of 333 cities.

This is an attractive proposition for vacationers, but there are other reasons than peace of mind to visit Armenia. Ancient religious sites, delicious cuisine, and vibrant culture are abundant in Armenia, and it's easy to experience them all, thanks to Armenia's small size (the landlocked country is less than 30,000 km2).

Susanna Hakobyan, deputy director of the Tourism Committee of Armenia, recommends traveling to rural Armenia to experience the best of the country. “It’s better to get out of the capital because in the regions, we have this authentic atmosphere,” she explains. “We have authentic cuisine and culture and exploring these things will help visitors delve deep into true Armenian tradition, history and way of life. »

Here are some reasons to try Armenia in 2024.

Local Armenian cuisine might surprise you

The country's complex history of kingdoms and conquerors has shaped Armenian cuisine over the years. But the rich soil has always yielded lentils, wheat, figs and apricots.

Bread is important here and the traditional “lavash” is considered an important cultural icon, which is why its creation is included in the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

The thin flatbread can be made leavened or unleavened and is often infused with poppy seeds. It is used prolifically for wraps, especially around the different meats of “khorovats”, the Armenian barbecue. It dries quickly, but is sometimes stacked dry and then softened with water for later use.

Other traditional foods include “dolma”: a grape or cabbage leaf wrapped around ground beef or lamb mixed with rice, herbs and spices. This dish is celebrated every year during a festival called Uduli in the town of Armavir, which features a wide range of dolma as well as cooking classes and competitions.

Those lucky enough to attend a festive Armenian event such as a wedding or Christmas party could taste “ghapama”. Pumpkin stuffed with rice and dried fruits like apricots, figs and raisins, this traditional dish is delivered to the table whole, then opened by cutting its sides.

Armenia's ski slopes are underrated

Armenia isn't a destination many skiers likely consider when planning a snowy getaway, but with peaks higher than the Alps and long sunny days in winter, it's well set up for slope lovers.

Myler Resort, located in the Aparan region of Armenia, is new to the ski scene in the country. Here, skiers, snowboarders, snowshoers and skateboarders can discover 100 marked trails, a skiable altitude difference of 972 meters and three resort villages. Bars and restaurants abound, offering guests great afternoon options and exciting skiing.

Another popular ski resort is Tsakhkadzor, the largest ski area in the country, located just a 40-minute drive from Yerevan. Thirty kilometers of slopes await you (60% of which are black), the highest of which starts at 2,819 meters.

Skiing in Armenia is best enjoyed between December and March, when temperatures are cold enough to ensure ideal slope conditions.

Immerse yourself in an Armenian festival

Festivals are a great way to get a sense of a country's cultural traditions and history, and Armenia has a plethora of them. There are festivities all year round, from food and wine celebrations to hot air balloon and jazz festivals if you know where to look.

Yerevan Wine Days are one of the most popular. Attracting more than 160,000 visitors and offering 17,000 bottles of wine last year, this lively festival takes place in early June and is designed to celebrate Armenia's more than 6,000 years of history with this drink.

Saryan Street is the center of the event, with wine producers from across the country offering samples of their libations. A stage hosts continuous live music while street food vendors offer visitors a taste of their delicious local cuisine.

Yerevan Jazz Day, Vardavar Festival Community Water Splashes, Honey and Berry Festival and an International Film Festival are just some of the other many and varied events offered throughout the year. 'year.

Armenian UNESCO heritage sites will impress

As the world's first Christian nation, Armenia has significant historical significance; much of it is written through its landscapes. UNESCO has listed three culturally significant sites, and the country has five more on its “indicative” list.

All are worth visiting, but one of the highlights is the Etchmiadzin Cathedral. Considered the mother of the Armenian Apostolic Church and claimed by some to be the oldest cathedral in the world, this magnificent building has attracted the attention of UNESCO as an excellent example of the central domed and crossed church style , which defined architecture in many fields. of the region.

Closer to the northern border of Armenia, in the Lari province, are the monasteries of Haghpat and Sanahin. Byzantine monasteries dating from the 10th century, these mostly intact historic monuments demonstrate the harmonious blend of Armenian and Byzantine architecture. They are 16 kilometers apart, so it is often easier to visit them via a guided tour.

Another notable monastery (and Armenia's third UNESCO site) is a collection of rock-hewn tombs and churches in the upper Azat Valley. Just an hour east of Yerevan, medieval buildings strike a striking pose against their sheer cliffs. As you enter, take a minute to throw a stone at the edge of a cliff wall and make a wish. Locals believe that if the wall stays on the ledge, your wish might just come true.

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