As one of the least-visited countries in Europe, Armenia can be viewed as an exotic destination that only the most intrepid of travellers would choose to visit. Because of this, there isn’t a lot of information about this Caucasian nation available online and it can make planning the perfect Armenia itinerary a difficult task.
Because so many of those who do visit Armenia do it by organised tour, it can be very tricky to find the right information for those who want to visit this underrated country independently. Planning a trip to Armenia is one of the best decisions you could make, especially if you’re combining it with a trip through the other Caucasus countries of Georgia and Azerbaijan.
So, if you’re planning on backpacking Armenia or just travelling independently through this small but diverse nation, then this detailed Armenia itinerary is for you!
When to Visit Armenia
Despite its relatively southern geographic location, Armenia very much experiences four proper seasons and, therefore, there are some times of year to visit this Caucasian nation that are better than others.
Winters in Armenia can be very cold, with high temperatures between the months of December-February barely clocking in above freezing. Luckily, however, the cold weather doesn’t tend to last too long as it will usually begin to warm up in the month of March and temperatures will fall into the low 20s Celcius (70s Fahrenheit) by April.
Because of this, travelling in the Springtime is one of the best times of year to plan a trip to Armenia. Besides the tendency for a bit more rain, the temperatures will be mild and pleasant with it rarely getting too hot or too cold.
The Autumn seasons between September-November also see similar temperatures to Spring albeit with less rain, making that the absolute optimal time to visit Armenia.
Summers in Armenia are sunny and hot, with daily high temperatures often clocking in over 40 degrees Celcius (102 degrees Fahrenheit). Though many hotels, guesthouses, and restaurants will be air-conditioned, this becomes less likely the further from big cities or tourist hotspots you venture.
It is also worth noting that public transport (like buses and marshrutkas) rarely are air-conditioned so it can get unbearably hot to travel from point A to B in the summer.
All in all, the best times to visit Armenia would likely be in the shoulder seasons of March-May and Septemeber-November.
How to Get Around Armenia
Armenia isn’t that highly-visited of a country and those who do venture to this underappreciated nation tend to do so on an organised tour, which means that figuring out how to get around independently can be a confusing and albeit daunting task for tourists.
Luckily, locals in Armenia tend to be extremely helpful and eager to lend a hand to confused visitors, so it is likely that you wouldn’t be stranded for too long if you couldn’t figure something out.
If you only plan to visit Yerevan when in Armenia, getting around the city is incredibly easy and manageable as the majority of the city’s main sites can be reached on foot and the city centre is compact and easy to navigate. Anything else that is not within walking distance is easy to get to with either the metro or an affordable taxi ride.
Taxi rides are accessible for most travellers in Yerevan and it can actually be the easiest way to get to some more out-of-the-way attractions within the city. It is worth knowing, however, that taxis throughout Armenia (and the Caucasus in general) don’t tend to have meters, so it is essential to negotiate a price before you get in.
While our experience of taxi drivers in this region has been generally positive and we never felt as if we were going to be ripped off, if you don’t want to bother with a negotiation or don’t have the language skills to be able to pull it off, then finding a cab through the Yandex taxi app is a great option. This operates much in the same way as Uber and will quote you the exact price of the journey before you get in the cab, leaving out any need for stressful negotiations.
If you’re travelling outside of the capital — for example, from Yerevan to Dilijan, Gyumri, or Goris — there are a few options available for independent travellers. The easiest and most common option for inter-city travel in Armenia is by marshrutka, or minibus.
Depending on the popularity of your destination, marshrutkas have a vague schedule and generally depart when full or mostly full. The destination of the bus will be posted in the front window and it will generally be in the Latin or Cyrillic alphabets if they are popular routes amongst tourists. If you can’t already, it can be helpful to learn the Cyrillic alphabet or learn what your destinations look like printed both in Cyrillic and in the Armenian alphabet.
You can find the most up-to-date bus timetables from tourist information centres or from your guesthouse, hostel, or hotel staff. Often, you might need to book a spot on the bus if there are only a finite number that leave per day. The tourist info centre or your accommodation can call and book these for you as well.
Generally speaking, you pay the driver for the ride, however, there are some routes where you buy a ticket at a counter instead. Don’t worry, they will let you know for your specific route.
Train travel does exist in Armenia, however, it isn’t all that well-developed and not every route is available. While the trains are not the most comfortable mode of transportation in Armenia, they tend to be more comfortable than a marshrutka and can be preferable if there the option for your route. Ticket prices vary, but they are quite affordable.
Another easy way to get around Armenia, especially if you’re on a tight schedule and not travelling on a tight budget, is to rent a car. Though the road quality may not be the best in some areas of the country, having your own car makes it easy to travel independently and to see some out-of-the-way attractions without having to rely on organised tours or being beholden to erratic bus schedules.
If you want to find the best prices on car hire, we recommend using RentalCars.com, which aggregates the best deal across multiple major companies. You can also rent private cars directly from locals through Myrentacar.
It is also a good idea to take out a third-party insurance policy with iCarHireInsurance to make sure you’re covered for any excess without having to pay the inflated prices of the rental company.
5-Day Armenia Itinerary
If you’re wondering how many days in Armenia is sufficient to get a good feel for the country but you’re strapped for time, we would recommend spending five days in this southern Caucasian nation. This will give you time to explore the lively capital of Yerevan, take a day trip into the surrounding area, and spend a couple of nights in a smaller city as well.
Spending 5 days in Armenia will allow you to get beyond the capital and experience the culture of this underrated travel destination without being too exhausting or taking too much time.
Days 1-3: Yerevan
Armenia’s dynamic capital city has been continuously inhabited for more than 2,800 years, however, it retains a modern and hip edge that cements itself firmly in the 21st century. With an easy-to-navigate city centre and a streetside cafe culture to rival Paris, Yerevan is one of the most logical places to begin your Armenia itinerary.
Because it doesn’t have as much information written about as neighbouring capitals like Tbilisi or Baku, many people will ask themselves “is Yerevan worth visiting?” And the answer to this is a resounding “yes,” especially if you are planning a larger Caucasus itinerary and want to see how all three capitals differ.
If you trying to figure out how many days in Yerevan is best to get to know the city, then we would say three. Spend your first day in Yerevan in the city centre, enjoying the main sites and getting the lay of the land. The current centre of Yerevan was designed in the 1920s by Armenian architect Alexander Tamanian and, as a planned city, it is much easier to navigate than the other two Caucasus capitals, with wide avenues and a logical setup to the streets.
Day 1 in Yerevan Itinerary
Begin your morning at the impressive Cascade complex, a series of steps spanning seven floors where, from the top on a clear day, you can see spectacular views of Yerevan and Mt Ararat in the distance. If the 572 steps of the complex seem daunting to you, there are a series of escalators inside that you can take to the top instead. These are free to use and are open from 8AM-8PM every day. There are also some interesting art exhibitions inside to enjoy while you’re riding up.
After enjoying the Cascade, walk a few hundred metres to see the imposing Armenian Opera building, also designed by Alexander Tamanian. While the building isn’t as impressive as the one you might find in Tbilisi, it is still a great example of Armenian neoclassical architecture. The building consists of two concert halls: the Alexander Spendiaryan Opera and Ballet National Theatre and the Aram Khachaturian concert hall which is home to the Armenian Philharmonic.
You can purchase tickets to the opera, ballet, and symphony from ticket offices nearby for very affordable prices and it is a great way to support the arts and culture of Yerevan. Michael and I were able to get very good seats for the ballet for 6000 AMD (about $12 USD) per person.
Armenia is an incredibly Christian nation and it is an important part of the country’s identity, however, one of the most beautiful sites to see is the Blue Mosque, which isn’t a far walk from the Opera building. This Shia mosque is the only functioning mosque in the city and the courtyard and colourful dome are very much worth seeing.
After admiring the mosque, head to Republic Square, the main square in Yerevan. There is a beautiful fountain situated in front of the Armenian History Museum that, during summer evenings, is lit in different colours. The square is also surrounded by beautiful examples of Armenian neoclassical buildings in Yerevan’s iconic rose-hued stone, making it obvious as to why it is known as the “pink city.”
Now is a great time to stop for lunch, and we would recommend popping into Ani Pandok, especially if you’re looking for some very traditional Armenian cuisine. They have attentive and friendly service and delicious food from an extensive menu.
From lunch, wander over to the Vernissage Market, a large open-air souvenir market that is the perfect place to find something unique to bring home to your friends and family. Contrary to what you might find in tacky souvenir shops full of mass-produced magnets and pomegranate tchotchkes, here you can get local handicrafts like beautiful chess and backgammon boards, intricate silver jewellery, and much more. You will also be supporting local artisans by keeping traditional practices alive.
Your last stop for your first day in Yerevan should be at the St Gregory the Illuminator Cathedral. Opened in 2001 to mark the 1700th anniversary of Christianity in Armenia (which is believed to be the first nation to adopt Christianity as a state religion), this is the largest Armenian Apostolic church in the world and is truly spectacular to see.
Round out your sightseeing at Yerevan’s GUM Market, the central market hall of the Armenian capital. Though it isn’t as lively and chaotic as, say, the Green Bazaar in Kutaisi, Georgia, it is still a great way to see what locals eat and to sample some regionally sourced and produced treats while staying away from multinational supermarket chains.
End your first day in one of the great restaurants, cafes, or wine bars on Saryan Street. In Vino is a good choice if you want to choose from an extensive list of both local and international vintages paired with local meats and cheeses.
If you want something a bit more substantial, Tapastan is a great Armenian fusion restaurant and Gouroo serves delicious meals from sustainable sources. Alternatively, head over to the Cascade and enjoy some surprisingly delicious Thai food from Wine Republic, which was one of our favourite haunts in Yerevan.
Day 2 in Yerevan Itinerary
Your second day in Yerevan may be a bit more sombre and not quite as busy as the first, but will still give you a great insight into the history of the city and Armenia as a whole.
Begin your day by hopping in a taxi to the Armenian Genocide Memorial and Museum, which is located a bit outside of the city centre. It will take about 10-15 minutes to get there and a cab from the centre shouldn’t cost you more than about 400-700 AMD (approx. $0.80-1.50 USD).
The memorial and museum are free to enter and it is extremely well-curated and an incredibly powerful place to visit. When visiting Armenia, it is important to learn about the darkest part of its history where up to 1.5 million people were murdered.
There is also a garden in front of the museum with a tree planted for each foreign official who has officially recognised the atrocities carried out by the Ottomans in 1915-1923 as a genocide. There is also a plaque honouring the 31 countries and the European Union that have officially recognised the Armenian Genocide.
After visiting the memorial and museum, it is likely you will need a drink and it isn’t an easy place to spend time in. Therefore, take a taxi to Dargett Brewpub, Armenia’s only microbrewery which serves up some fantastic craft beers along with some fantastic western-style bar food. If you can’t decide which kind of beer to order, we recommend ordering a tasting flight. Our favourites included the American Pale Ale, the Vertigo IPA, and the Belgian Tripel.
After a beer and some lunch, head to the Armenian History Museum at Republic Square. Though, as of May 2019, parts of this museum are under construction, it is still a great place to stop by to learn more about the history of Armenia beyond that genocide. The museum is famous for being home to the world’s oldest shoe, which was found in a cave in the south of the country called Areni-2, or the “bird’s cave.”
After the history museum, if you’re keen to learn more about Yerevan from a local’s perspective, we recommend going on the Yerevan Free Walking Tour, which meets every day at 5 PM in front of the museum. The tour is about 3 hours long and advance booking is required, however, it is an excellent way to learn about Yerevan’s history and culture from a friendly and knowledgeable local.
Finish your day with dinner at one of the restaurants recommended on Day 1.
Day 3 in Yerevan Itinerary
On your third day, it is time to get out of Yerevan and see some of the surrounding area. There are a number of day trip options from Yerevan that are all fairly easy to organise, whether independently or via organised tour.
Two of the most popular day trips from Yerevan include heading to the nearby town of Garni, home to an ancient temple, bizarre rock formations known as the Symphony of Stones, and a beautiful monastery nearby. Marshrutky to Garni depart every 30 minutes from Gai bus station and cost 250 AMD per person. It takes about 30 minutes to get there.
The city of Etchmiadzin (Vagharshapat) is also an easy-to-do independent day trip from Yerevan. This town is known as the “Vatican of Armenia” and is the home of the Armenian Apostolic Church, which is a separate church from the Catholic, Orthodox, or Anglican church. It is also home to the Etchmiadzin Cathedral, which is believed to be the oldest cathedral not just in Armenia, but in the entire world. Bus 203 from the Central Bus Station will get you there and back with limited expense and hassle.
If you’re keen to explore more of Armenia beyond just the areas near to Yerevan, then the easiest way to do this is by organised tour. Some popular places to visit as day trips from Yerevan include the Khor Virap Monastery, the Noravank Monastery, Lake Sevan, the Hin Areni Winery, or even Tatev Monastery. There are numerous tour companies available, but the three most popular are Envoy Tours, Hyur Service, and One Way Tours.
Envoy is the most expensive, but have smaller groups and lunch is included in the total tour price. One Way tours have the most budget-friendly experience, by far. A good mid-range option is Hyur Service, which is what we chose and we were altogether happy with our day tour to Khor Virap, Noravank, Areni, and the Bird’s Cave. Different tours depart on different days, so make sure to shop around and see what suits your schedule if you’re keen to take a tour.
Where to Stay in Yerevan
Yerevan is growing in popularity amongst foreign tourists and, with that, there are a number of great accommodation options to choose from in the city, no matter what your budget is. If you’re wondering where to stay in Yerevan, here are some of our top suggestions:
Envoy Hostel — This hostel is one of the best places to stay in Yerevan for backpackers, budget and solo travellers alike. They have a range of dorm beds and private rooms available, helpful staff, clean facilities, and good common areas. They also provide day tours to other areas in Armenia at a discounted rate to their hostel guests. Click here to see their latest prices
The Yard — If you’re looking for a well-located hotel to stay at in Yerevan, then this is a good option for you. This locally-run hotel has a range of clean and comfortable rooms available, is located within walking distance of most of Yerevan’s top attractions, and there is an option to add breakfast to your nightly rate. Click here to see their latest prices
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other options in Yerevan!
Days 4-5: Dilijan
After spending a busy three days in Yerevan, it’s time to head to the next destination on your Armenia itinerary: Dilijan.
Known as the “Switzerland of Armenia,” Dilijan is located just a 90-minute marshrutka ride from Yerevan, however, it feels like a different world. Dilijan is a great escape from the city and a fantastic place to spend a couple of days enjoying the laid-back mountain atmosphere, going for a few hikes, or taking a trip to some nearby monasteries.
While there aren’t a lot of traditional sites to see or things to do in Dilijan, it is still a great place to visit to see a different side to Armenia and to enjoy the pastoral side of the country. Two days here is more than enough to go for a hike or two, relax in a cafe or by the lake, and visit some surrounding monasteries or maybe even the gorgeous Lake Sevan.
Where to Stay in Dilijan
Dilijan is a popular weekend getaway amongst Armenians and a popular destination amongst international as well. While many visitors come only as a day trip, many others still decide to take advantage of all of the wonderful nature of Dilijan National Park and stay the night. If you’re wondering where to stay in Dilijan, have a look at these suggestions:
Green Dilijan B&B — This family-run guesthouse is an excellent choice for budget travellers. They have a few rooms available, a cosy common area for guests, and a lovely balcony with views of the mountains. It is kept very clean and the extremely friendly and helpful owners also offer an excellent breakfast for an additional charge. Click here to check their availability
Chalet Dilijan Hotel — This hotel is a great option if your budget accounts for a bit more than a family-run guesthouse. They have a number of clean and comfortable rooms available for all types of travellers and breakfast is also included in the nightly rate. Click here to check their availability
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other places in Dilijan!
7-Day Armenia Itinerary
If you have longer, spending one week in Armenia is ideal to get a really good grasp of the country and a more well-rounded view of the culture and history of this beautiful nation.
Days 1-2: Gyumri
If you’re travelling to Armenia from Georgia, then beginning your Armenia itinerary in the second-largest of Gyumri is a logical option.
In the past, Gyumri has been known as both Alexandropol (when it was part of the Russian Empire) and Leninakan (during Soviet times) and was once the largest city in Armenia — at its peak being home to over 500,000 people. However, the city was absolutely devastated by the Spitak Earthquake in 1988, which killed at least 25,000 people.
More than 30 years later, Gyumri is still recovering and rebuilding from the devastation and can seem a bit “rough around the edges,” meaning it isn’t the most popular tourist attraction in Armenia. However, if you want to see how people live in Armenia and venture where few tourists tend to go, then spend two nights in Gyumri is an excellent addition to your Armenia itinerary.
Though it is lacking in traditional tourist sites, it is still worth strolling to the Black Fortress, through the Central Park, and enjoying one of the wonderful cafes on Pushkin Street (we recommend Herbs & Honey).
Because it is Armenia’s second-largest city, it is well-connected in the country and it is easy to get to Yerevan from Gyumri. There is an affordable train that connects the two cities a couple of times per day and numerous marshrutky that leave throughout the day.
Where to Stay in Gyumri
Though it’s the second-largest city in Armenia, Gyumri doesn’t see nearly the amount of tourists as some other destinations in the country. That doesn’t, however, mean there is a shortage of great places to stay. If you are looking for the best places to rest your head in Gyumri, have a look at these suggestions:
Lind Hostel & Guesthouse — This family-run guesthouse is one of the best places to stay in Gyumri if you’re travelling on a budget. They have a range of comfortable rooms available, a fully equipped kitchen for guests to use, and impeccably clean facilities. It is located an easy walk from the city centre and breakfast is available and an affordable additional cost. The owners are also incredibly friendly and ready to help. Click here to see their latest prices
Tomu’s Hotel — If you’re looking for a more traditional hotel rather than a guesthouse, then this is an excellent option for you. Centrally located, this hotel has a range of rooms available, helpful staff with 24-hour reception, and a restaurant and bar on site. Click here to see their latest prices
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other options in Gyumri!
Days 3-5: Yerevan
Follow the suggestions in the 5-day Armenia itinerary as how to best spend 3 days in Yerevan.
Days 6-7: Dilijan or Goris
Round off your 7 days in Armenia enjoying the laid back mountain scenery of Dilijan. Follow the suggestions in the 5-day itinerary above for an idea of what to do and where to stay.
Alternatively, it is possible to spend two days in the southern town of Goris, which is a popular spot for those who are looking to visit the iconic Tatev Monastery and take the world’s longest cable car ride to the church. We didn’t make it here during our time in Armenia as it is quite out of the way, so cannot speak from experience, but many travellers and local Armenians have spoken highly about the town.
It is most logical to end your Armenia itinerary here if you plan to continue your travels into Iran, however, it is possible to head back to Yerevan and travel further from there, as well.
Have More Time?
If you have more than five or seven days in Armenia, there are numerous places that you could add to your itinerary. For one, if you’re keen to spend maybe 10 days in Armenia, it is logical to add the town of Goris and Tatev Monastery to your itinerary.
You could also opt to spend longer in Yerevan, explore more of the city or go on a couple more day trips or tours from there. If you want to do more hiking in Armenia, then spending longer will allow you to do that as well without sacrificing any of the cultural and historical sites on this itinerary as well.
As an independent traveller, planning a trip to Armenia doesn’t have to be a difficult task. With enough prior research and planning, you are sure to piece together the optimal Armenia itinerary for your own travel style!
When travelling in Armenia, it’s always a good idea to make sure you have a travel insurance policy so you’re covered for any unfortunate events! We like WorldNomads and always use them for our trips – click here to get a quote from WorldNomads
Are you planning an Armenia itinerary? Have you been? Let us know in the comments!