We are pleased to present a new Solo Travel Destination Post from two Solo Travel Society members from two different countries. Mari lives in Brazil and Janey lives in the United Arab Emirates. They both submitted reports about Armenia, so here you can see two different perspectives on travel to the same country, highlighting the fact that each person's experience will always be unique. Do you have a solo travel destination that you would like to recommend? Submit your description here, along with a few photos, and share it with fellow travelers!
Languages spoken: Armenian, Russian, English
Reasons to Visit Armenia
Solo travel rating: 2 (1 is easiest, 3 is most difficult. Please see chart below)
When you think you've seen everything that's beautiful and mighty in this world, along comes Mount Ararat and says: not until now.
I was taken aback by the first picture I Googled, and the second, and the 100th. I fell in love with the folk music, the colors, and the churches. I fell in love with Armenia. I went on a 20-day backpacking trip through the country in July, 2013–and I want to return soon!
Armenia is like an open-air museum, and really pleases everyone: it has amazing historic places such as monasteries dating back to the 6th century, breathtaking landscapes, and nature – the Holy Mountains, as System of a Down calls them. There is great hiking, great food, and the most welcoming people I have ever met in my life.
The capital, Yerevan, is a big city with great options and an intense cultural life: museums, cafes with live music, movie theatres, opera, bars… you can spend a week there and still not see everything!
Armenia is a destination yet to be discovered, and you won't find a mass tourism structure there. In Yerevan, many people speak English, but in the other cities, bigger or smaller, it'll be more difficult. Not every city has “international standard” hotels, but you can find great guesthouses -and probably eat the best food you'll ever have! Navigation can be a challenge if you don't drive: you'll need to travel by hiring private cars (much cheaper than you might think, though!) or minibuses called “marshrutkas,” but that's what makes it such a special journey. It feels like you're really exploring a new world. Hitchhiking is okay, as well: I tried it once. Roads are very curvy because of the mountains, and not all of them are well paved: the rough winters ruin them.
Here are a few highlights of my trip I believe are essential:
- enjoy the Khor Virap monastery and its mighty view of Mount Ararat
- try the wine from the Areni region
- take the “Wings of Tatev” aerial tramway (the highest in the world) that'll lead you to Tatev monastery – and will present you with views of the Vorotan Canyon, the most beautiful landscape I've ever seen
- try to watch a concert of the folk-rock band The Bambir in a cafe in Yerevan
- eat khorovats (the Armenian barbecue)
- see the precious ancient manuscripts kept at Matenadaran museum
- hike through the Janapar Trail in Artsakh
- visit the Armenian Genocide memorial and take your time in the silence there to think about mankind
- eat pomegranates and apricots, the symbols of Armenia.
Keep all these in your heart!
Solo Travel Destination Rating System
Safety – 2 (1 very safe, 2 safe in most areas, 3 be cautious at all times.)
Language – 3 (1 English is first language, 2 English speakers easy to find, 3 English speakers rare)
Navigation – 2 (1 easy to navigate by transit or car, 2 poor transit, car necessary, 3 not easy to get around)
Culture – 2 (1 Similar to North America or Western Europe, 2 Different from above but relaxed and easy, 3 Challenging)
Average Rating – 2 (1 is easiest, 3 is most difficult)
Solo travel rating: 1 (1 is easiest, 3 is most difficult. Please see chart below)
Armenia was the first country I traveled alone. It was in the month of February. Winter. I was amazed how incredible their history was and how this small country is filled with so many beautiful sights. Being the first country to convert to Christianity, you will be mesmerized by its churches, monasteries, and monuments.
Flying from Dubai, I landed in Yerevan, Armenia's capital city. I stayed at Rafael's Hotel which is very cozy and homey and is within walking distance to museums, parks, and the opera theater. Within 2 minutes, you'll find a good restaurant that serves Georgian and Armenian food, which is called Caucasus Tavern. I loved their beef kharcho, soup made with beef, rice, and chopped walnuts. Superb!
Situated on the main street of Abovyan, you will find Katoghike Church, only one of the churches of Yerevan that survived after the 1679 earthquake. It's near the Opera House, Swan Lake (lake in summer, ice skating rink during winter) and charming Republic Square known for its well-designed tiles and fountains, surrounded by the History Museum and National Art Gallery, shops, and restaurants.
I decided to have a day tour to Khor Virap, which took us (the hotel host and me) less than an hour by car. I would say that it's really a must-visit place in Armenia. It's where St. Gregory the Illuminator was imprisoned for 13 years before curing King Trdat III of a disease that led to its conversion to Christianity. It offers a spectacular view of Mount Ararat.
I also visited Garni temple (a pagan temple built in the 1st century AD) and Geghard (a monastery partially carved in the mountain, surrounded by cliffs). It's a serene place to visit with candles illuminating the inside of the cave churches. It was covered with snow that time which made it more beautiful and memorable for me since it was my first time to experience snow (and it was my birthday).
Solo Travel Destination Rating System
Safety – 1 (1 very safe, 2 safe in most areas, 3 be cautious at all times.)
Language – 2 (1 English is first language, 2 English speakers easy to find, 3 English speakers rare)
Navigation – 1 (1 easy to navigate by transit or car, 2 poor transit, car necessary, 3 not easy to get around)
Culture – 1 (1 Similar to North America or Western Europe, 2 Different from above but relaxed and easy, 3 Challenging)
Average Rating – 1 (1 is easiest, 3 is most difficult)