To enter Armenia, all citizens are required to have a visa. The only exceptions to this are citizens of the former Soviet Union, who may use their CCCP or CIS passports for entry. Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania citizens are not included in this agreement, and must obtain a visa first. There is an option to obtain a visa on arrival to Armenia, but take into account, that there are two points only, where visas available : Zvartnotz international aiport in Erevan and the land border with Georgia at Bavra. Visa which was obtained at arrival is much more expensive, that those at the embassy. The usual price for the tourist visa in the embassy is between 40-50 USD, the samething in the border will cost 85-100 USD. Another option is to get the transit one visa, for three days, which costs 20 USD in the embassy, and the same sum on the border. Know, that in according to the agreement between the countries - members of CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States), all holders of valid visa for one of the CIS countries (Russia, Ukraine, Belorus, Georgia, Armenia, Aizerbajan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan) - you will be granted an automatic three day transit visa when you pass the border. This rule works in every CIS country exept Russia, which is not honored visas issued from another members, what means, that if you have, for example Armenian visa, you can travel through all the CIS countries, exept Russia. The best way to travel through former USSR is with Russian tourist visa. It's possible to obtain the visa online, but at the moment not all the visas types can be obtained through the internet
Getting to Armenia
An international airport in Erevan serve many flights to/from Europe, Russia, USA, Iran, Turkey, Cyprus, UAE. There are no discounted tickets to Armenia, sometimes you can find cheap flights via Moscow by "Aeroflot". Land borders with Turkey and Azerbajan are currently closed, so the only option to get to Armenia by land is via Georgia. There are several border crossings between two countries. Daily trains run between Erevan and Tbilisi (20 hours), many regular express buses and service taxis connect two capitals tens of times daily. If you arrived to Georgian port of Batumi, and do not intend to stay in Georgia, you can find there direct buses to Erevan and daily trains, which run via Tbilisi. An average price for the one-way train ticket Tbilisi - Erevan is 12-15 USD. Erevan is known as good place to get Iranian visa. The embassy of Iran obtains transit visas (five days) without a problems in 3-5 days for 30 USD. There are three daily buses to Tehran departure from the square in front of "Erebuni Hotel".
Traveling in Armenia
Buses are the most reliable form of transport, and will get you to most places in the republic, as well as the places the trains don't go. Fuel is expensive, though, thanks to the Azeri blockade, so transport is not good value for what you get. You can also hire cars, which is an excellent way to see the country, as long as you watch out for children and livestock on the roads, which are in a poor state. Local electrified trains run around Erevan to Artashat, Ararat, Artashat. There are trains between Erevan and Vanadzor via Gumri. The conflict with Azerbaijan is not active at this writing, so the visitor can feel free to travel throughout the country. Nagorno-Karabakh: There is no active conflict, but due to the existence of land-mines in the areas outside of Stepanakert, it is not safe for the tourist traveler.
Yerevan, which is nestled in the shadow of the snow-capped heights of the mount Ararat, where the Biblical Noah's Ark first landed escaping the Great Flood, is the capital city of Armenia. With a population numbering over 1.2 million, Yerevan is a bustling city. The central plaza, Republic Square, is designed in the Armenian national style and houses the Government House, the Cabinet and other governmental offices as well as the Erebuni and Armenia hotels. Also situated on Republic Square are the Armenian History Museum and the Art Gallery of Armenia. Here, one finds informative and interesting models and artifacts of ancient Urartu and Armenia. The Matenadaran - the Institute of Ancient Manuscripts. Matenadaran boasts the world's largest collection of ancient manuscripts (over 16,000). The collection includes many valuable works of foreign philosophers, some of which have survived only in their Armenian translation. The Memorial Monument of Armenian Genocide, dedicated to the 1.5 million victims of the Turkish genocidal campaign of 1915. The splendid Opera House received the Grande Prix award of architectural design in 1937, and today it houses Khachaturian Hall, home to the Armenian Philharmonic Orchestra. In the evening you can relax at the Parisian style cafes of the city or stroll by the singing fountains of the Republic Square.
Sanahin is a monastic complex of great architectural interest in beautiful natural surroundings above the village of the same name, on the wooded slopes of Mount Tchantinler, at the far end of the wide, deep valley through which the river Debet flows. Between the 10th and the 13th, centuries Sanahin became one of the main religious and cultural centers of Armenia. In 979 with the establishment of the kingdom of Tashir-Tzoraguet and with the elevation of Sanahin to the position of a bishopric, the monastery developed considerably. In mediaeval manuscripts Sanahin is mentioned since the beginning of the 10th century.
The monastery of Haghartzin is situated in the vicinity (18 kilometers) of the city of Dilijan, in a glade on the northern slopes of the Pambak mountains. Tradition has it that that this territory was already a place of worship before the monastery was build. As with other monastery settlements, the date when Haghartzin was foundated is unknown. The only information available comes from the historian Kirakos Gandzakertsi, who, when describing the consacration ceremony for the Church of St. Astvatsatzin at Nor Getik held by Mkhitar Gosh in 1191, says that Khachatur Tarontsi, the abbot of Haghartzin, was present. From this, one can deduce that the Haghartzin monastery must have existed before Nor Getik, and, consequently, the foundation date can be said to be 1071, the year when the first church at Haghartzin, St. Astvatsatzin's, was consacrated. Haghartzin's spatial theme is conceived and realized ad modum crucis, based on a khatchkar pattern. The monastery, still the object of pilgrimages, is however, to be evaluated exclusively from an artistic point of view. The structures of Haghartzin could, if examined carefully, reveal the symbolic significance of the medieval "cultural model." The model effectively influenced the groud plan solution, affecting construction work right until the end, over a period of 130 years.
An impressive fortress was built on a rocky promontory at the joining of two rivers or a precipitous rock was usually chosen so that walls only had to be built in the most vulnerable points of approach and where the rocks had fallen away.
The mountainous terrain of Armenia is rich in mineral water sources, renowned for their healing powers. Although Armenian mineral water from such sources as Jermouk, Arzni, Bejni, Hankavan, and Dilijan is bottled and widely available throughout the country, it is advisable to make the most of their healing powers by visiting the sources themselves, all of them being picturesque and popular resorts. For instance, Dilijan, with its rolling hills and lush forests is ideal for hiking, back-packing and camping. Its beauty has inspired many famous composers and musicians. such as Benjamin Britten, Aram Khachaturian, Dimitri Shostakovich, Mstislav Rostropovich, and many others who stayed here at a vacation resort for musicians. You can also tour the ruins of two 13th-century monasteries (Matosavank and Djukhtakvank) facing each other on opposite sides of a ravine. Dilizhan lies beyond the 2114m (6934ft) Sevan Pass, and is 120km (74.4mi) north-east by bus from Yerevan.
Three more ancient Christian sites are grouped around Alaverdi, a copper mining town in the Debed Valley in north-eastern Armenia. The centrepiece of Sanain Monastery (10th to 13th centuries), a few km south-west, is the squat Amenaprkich (Saviour) Church. The 6th century Odzun Church and medieval cemeteries are just west of Sanain, 17km (10.5mi) from Alaverdi. Akhpat Monastery, built between the 10th and 13th centuries, is 11km (6.8mi) east of Alaverdi on a beautiful mountain ridge. The best way to get to Alaverdi is from Tbilisi in Georgia, 113km (70mi) by road (it's nearly twice as far from Yerevan). Train departure times from Tbilisi make day trips impossible.
Etchmiadzin is the religious center of Armenia. It is the Holy Seat of the Armenian Apostolic Church. He had ordered a Christian virgin to be stoned to death, and subsequently went mad. Echmiadzin today is the site of the most important Orthodox cathedral, founded by the prisoner Gregory, on the site of a former pagan site of worship. It is also the spiritual home of the head of the Armenian Orthodox Church, the Supreme Catholicos. St Hripsime Church is a fine restored church built in 618, replacing an earlier chapel on the site where Saint Hripsime died. Reputedly one of the most beautiful buildings in its day, the Church of St Gregory (Tserkov Sv Grigoria) was built in 641-61, but it was destroyed during an earthquake in the 10th century and only excavated ruins remain on the site today. Frequent buses to/from Erevan (20 km).
Sent by Sela, Israel