Armenia travel guide
It might be a small nation, but Armenia is big on character. Its 20th century history was troubled and relations with neighbouring Turkey are still fractious to put it mildly – although a visit to the country today is more likely to be dominated by its medieval treasures than its more recent past.
The welcome is rarely anything less than warm – and usually accompanied by brandy – and the countryside itself is often breathtakingly beautiful. Tourist numbers are generally low, but you’ll find yourself wondering why.
This is a country with serious historical legacy. Christianity arrived in AD 301 and Armenia proudly calls itself the world’s oldest Christian nation. Religion still tends to play a large part in visitor itineraries – from the centuries-old monasteries that stud the hilly Lori region to the mists-of-time bibles at the wonderful Museum of Ancient Manuscripts – but Armenia is changing.
Since the break-up of the Soviet Union, the country has re-embraced its traditions while moving on. Much of this progress is focused on the capital city of Yerevan. Loomed over on clear days by Mount Ararat across the border, it is the nation’s hub of cultural activity and progressive thought, with a lively modern arts scene and plenty of large-scale redevelopment.
Armenia has a large diaspora population – there are thousands of Armenian Americans – and a lot of wealth has been brought back into the country as a result. But the passions that underpin life here, from patriotism to religion, chess to cognac, aren’t the sort that cost millions. Cafe culture has been perfected and it’s de rigueur to spend inordinate amounts of time lingering over a conversation. Armenian food is another treat – expect mounds of grilled meats and vegetables straight from the nearest garden.
Around the country, travel highlights include the charming little town of Goris and the arty mountain settlement of Dilijan, but exploration anywhere in Armenia is likely to reap rewards.
29,743 sq km (11,484 sq miles).
3,026,048 (UN estimate 2016).
102.8 per sq km.
President Serzh Sargsyan since 2008.
Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamyan since 2014.
220 volts AC, 50Hz. European plugs with two round pins are used.
Last updated: 13 March 2017
The travel advice summary below is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. ‘We’ refers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For their full travel advice, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.
Crime levels are low. But there are incidents of pick pocketing, bag snatching, theft from cars and burglary involving British or other foreign nationals. There have been occasional shooting incidents, chiefly related to organised crime. Although tourists and foreigners have not been targeted, there is a risk of being caught up in such events and you should remain vigilant at all times.
Don’t carry your passport, credit card, travel tickets and money together. Leave spare cash, passports and valuables in a safe place. Take the same personal safety precautions on the street and when using ATMs as you would in the UK. Take particular care if using an ATM after dark, especially if you are alone. Check no one has followed you after conducting your business.
The police in Armenia have discovered and closed an internet ring targeting British and Europeans through on-line dating agencies. Never part with money or share personal information including date of birth, address or financial information to someone that you have never met.
The border between Armenia and Azerbaijan is closed. There are frequent violations of the 1994 ceasefire between these countries from military emplacements along the border. The FCO advise against all but essential travel to parts of the regions of Tavush and Gegharkunik that border Azerbaijan.
Due to increased tension in the security situation along the border in the Tavush region in July and August 2014, the FCO continue to advise against all travel on the M16/H26 road between the towns of Ijevan and Noyemberyan, which in places passes close to the border and military emplacements. Take extra care in villages and connecting roads between the main M16/H26 artery and the border to its east. Visitors travelling from Yerevan into Georgia should do so via the towns of Vanadzor/Alaverdi or Gyumri.
In the region of Geghargunik, the FCO advise against all travel to villages to the east of the main M14 artery which are located close the border.
The land border with Turkey is also closed, although there are occasional direct flights between Yerevan and Istanbul.
The main alternative route to Georgia (Yerevan-Vanadzor-Alaverdi-Bagratashen) will be closed for maintenance work for an estimated 32 months from September 2016. If you’re travelling by road between Yerevan and Tbilisi, use the route: Yerevan – Spitak –Stepanavan (M3) – Tashir – Georgian Border (Gogavan) – Bolnisi – Marneuli – Tbilisi.
Travelling in the South Caucasus can be unpredictable and infrastructure is sometimes in a poor state of repair. You should plan your travel carefully.
You can drive in Armenia on an International Driving Permit. The local standard of driving is poor. Be prepared for drivers who drive recklessly and flout traffic laws. Roads are in a poor state, particularly in the coldest months (November to February). If you are walking, be careful when crossing roads and use subways where available.
Public transport is often overcrowded and poorly maintained. If you have to travel by train, secure your valuables, do not leave the compartment unattended, and lock the door from the inside.
A list of incidents and accidents in Armenia can be found on the website of the Aviation Safety network.
In 2007, an International Civil Aviation Organisation audit of aviation safety oversight found that the level of implementation of the critical elements of safety oversight in Armenia was above the global average.
You can see a list of airlines banned from operating within the EU on the European Commission website. The list is based on random inspections on aircraft of airlines that operate flights to and from EU airports. The fact that an airline is not included in the list does not automatically mean that it meets the applicable safety standards.
The FCO can’t offer advice on the safety of individual airlines. However, the International Air Transport Association publishes a list of registered airlines that have been audited and found to meet a number of operational safety standards and recommended practices. This list is not exhaustive and the absence of an airline from this list doesn’t necessarily mean that it is unsafe.
The dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh remains unresolved. The British Embassy can’t provide advice or consular assistance to visitors to the Nagorno-Karabakh region. Although a ceasefire has been in place since May 1994, the borders between Armenia and Azerbaijan and Azerbaijani territory occupied by Armenian forces are closed.
There are no peacekeeping forces separating the two sides. There are regular exchanges of sniper fire and some skirmishes. The border areas also contain mines and unexploded ordnance. Any foreigners venturing within 5km of these borders are liable to be stopped by the police or the military.
Telephone and internet communications
Communication by telephone and e-mail can sometimes be difficult especially in the regions. Not all British mobile phones work in Armenia; check for coverage before leaving the UK if you intend to rely on it.
There are a growing number of internet cafes but access can still be slow and unreliable. Make sure family and friends who expect regular contact are aware of this to avoid unnecessary worry.