11 Top Rated Tourist Attractions in Armenia

Jul 22, 2021

Armenia, with its UNESCO World Heritage sites and outstanding natural beauty, has made quite a name for itself over the past decade as a burgeoning tourism destination. Not only is Armenia a surprisingly affordable country for travelers to visit, but it's a well-planned destination that will impress and delight even the most seasoned globe-trotter. The mountains, woods, lakes, and ancient fortresses of the country provide magnificent outdoor adventure for those who prefer to stay dry. Meanwhile, the historic and cultural sites are a must-see, and Armenia is home to hundreds of these, dating as far back as 2,500 BC.

The beauty of the country and its unexpected adventure locations will make your trip to Armenia unique and unforgettable.

Now, that you're ready to pack your bags for this fantastic journey, make sure to plan your trip with our list of the top attractions in Armenia.

Lake Sevan

Photo of Lake Sevan
Lake Sevan: en.wikipedia.org

Sevan is one of Armenia's most stunning natural wonders. Set against a backdrop of towering cliffs, Sevan's sheer limestone cliffs fall straight to the majestic deep blue Caspian Sea. Dotted with hundreds of caves, Sevan was named the "Armenia of the Caves" by UNESCO. A cruise boat is the best way to tour the more than 200 caves, most of which date back to the Chalcolithic period, some of them reaching depths of 100 meters (300 feet). There are also many Buddhist and Christian sites in the area, including the 7th century Ajdapank monastery, the territory of Kartsak monastery and the 20th century Takht-e Sulayman. Notable Sevan landmarks include the "Monastery of Saint Mesrop", said to be Armenia's oldest monastery. Dating from the 6th century, the monastery was relocated from the Selishan Mount (holy mountain) in 1939, but you can still see it today.

Noravank Monastery

Photo of Noravank
Noravank: en.wikipedia.org

North of the Ararat plain, in the shadow of the bleak peaks of the Ararat range, lies the desert oasis of Noravank Monastery. The monastery, built by Armenian pilgrims in the 6th century, is one of the holiest places in the country. Its citadel, dominated by a 700-year-old bell tower, sits on a steep rock and has breathtaking views. Known as the "Land of Saints," Armenia has produced as many as 90 saints since the 4th century and is home to a number of chapels, abbeys, monasteries, churches and graveyards dedicated to saints and blessed people. Noravank Monastery has a small museum with a collection of manuscripts and ancient sculptures. Getting there from Yerevan is via a direct bus from the main bus station in the city; the bus stop for Noravank Monastery is in the same place. The return journey takes two and a half hours.

Dilijan

Photo of Dilijan
Dilijan: en.wikipedia.org

Dilijan, Armenia's capital, is the archetypal fortress town, dating back at least to the 8th century BC. The citadel's walls encircle the city, where the Dilijan River flows through a channel lined with cypresses and bougainvillea. This handsome village is dominated by a beautiful cathedral, the 15th-century Hri Gevorgyan (Blue Gevorgyan) Monastery and some unusual architecture. The town is best visited from July to September when it is surrounded by orange trees in full bloom. These trees line the roads and streets, and bloom in large clusters. The spectacular views from the town walls are also in full swing, particularly on summer evenings. In the center of the village are remains of the massive Fort Alexander the Great, built by Alexander the Great in 331 BC. It has three enormous towers and a citadel on top of a small island in the river. It contains more than 100 rooms, a Roman theater and a Byzantine fortress. Visitors can spend an enjoyable time wandering about the fort, or check out a large archaeological museum, which includes an Egyptian obelisk from the 19th century. Transportation into Dilijan can be done through Tirotan Armenia airport or Gomkostos town, which is a 50-minute drive away.

Yerevan

Photo of Yerevan
Yerevan: en.wikipedia.org

The capital of the Republic of Armenia, Yerevan is located on the banks of the Hrazdan River. Located close to Lake Sevan, the city is most famous for its spectacular natural scenery and its splendid Baroque and Art Nouveau buildings. After getting your bearings, you may want to visit the Archaeological Museum, which holds treasures from the ancient past, as well as the Arts Gallery, which is considered one of the most important and highly regarded in the country.

Geghard Monastery

Photo of Geghard
Geghard: en.wikipedia.org

Situated in the remote northwestern part of Armenia, Geghard Monastery was built around 400 years ago as a fortress by the Umayyad Caliphate. It is a highly important place of pilgrimage for Armenian Catholics and a burial place for Armenia's first Catholic leader, St. Gregory the Illuminator. There are no public transportation options. The easiest way to get there is to drive to the town of Geghard, about two hours south of the capital of Yerevan. The Monastery has been an important religious, cultural, and military center since the 5th century AD and is one of the most important sites of Armenian Christianity.

Vardenis Monastery

Photo of Vardenis
Vardenis: en.wikipedia.org

Vardenis Monastery (Վառնադարին Նորմին) is situated on the slopes of Mount Mataghis in Vardenis region. For most of the time since its foundation in the 11th century it has served as a monastery of the Armenian Apostolic Church. A big part of the interior has been preserved as the Armenian Museum. The monastery is an important historical and cultural landmark of Armenia and one of its first monasteries. When Christianity was introduced to Armenia in 301 AD, the first monastery was founded by St. Gregory the Illuminator. A third monastic house was built in 886. To get there you can take a bus or hire a taxi from Yerevan. Taxi is more expensive than bus.

Aragats Monastery

Photo of Mount Aragats
Mount Aragats: en.wikipedia.org

Aragats Monastery (Հայագայություն) is one of the few monasteries that exist in Armenia today, and is located around 33 kilometers south of Yerevan. The history of Aragats dates back to the fifth century, when a Cappadocian monk named Gregory built a church on the current site. Gregory then founded the monastery and named it Aragats, meaning "the blue eagle." During the 7th century, the monastery was occupied by Byzantine Christians, and after the Arab invasion of Armenia, the monastery fell under Muslim rule. Aragats Monastery was reconstructed in the 14th century by King Tigranes the Great and his son, King Artavazd the Great. In the 14th and 15th centuries, Aragats suffered severe damage as a result of the invasions of the Mongols and the Turks. The monastery has been destroyed by fire multiple times throughout its history, and in the 1980s it was restored to its original glory. It now remains one of the holiest destinations for Armenian Christians. Tourist options include visiting the beautiful gardens, or learning more about the history of the monastery. The gardens are located by the entrance to the monastery, and include ornamental trees, ponds, and flowers, including magnolia, pomegranates, palms, and more.

Vagharshapat Monastery

Photo of Vagharshapat
Vagharshapat: en.wikipedia.org

This famous monastery is at the center of Armenia's wine-growing region of the same name and can be reached by trolley. It's home to a collection of 9th century murals and carvings, many of which are now in the Treasury of Art Collection of the National Center of Visual Arts in Yerevan. Monks are invited to dine with visitors and wine is served along with dinner.

Charentsavan Monastery

Photo of Charentsavan
Charentsavan: en.wikipedia.org

This former monastery of the Armenian Apostolic Church lies in the town of Charentsavan, in the heart of the lowland plains in the Ararat Valley on the border between Turkey and Armenia. It's easily visited from Yerevan, a town of just over a million people. The monastery was founded in the early 15th century and restored in the 1960s after being destroyed in the Khachatur Abovian affair, in which the monks had taken a leading role against the Iranian-led Turkmen revolution of 1906. Some of the monastery's finest works are its two old brick cells, the two-hundred year-old chamber of Christ, and the gigantic marble library in the 16th-century cellar, which is filled with ancient manuscripts. Most remarkable of all is the Treasure of Patriarch Zakare, a long narrow cabinet whose beautifully illustrated manuscript, the 'Bestiary' dates from the 11th century. The monastery itself contains a wide range of sculptures, paintings, frescoes, and buildings, and in addition to being a memorial to the monks, it's also a museum, showcasing traditional Armenian culture.

Echmiadzin Cathedral

Photo of Etchmiadzin Cathedral
Etchmiadzin Cathedral: en.wikipedia.org

Built on a rock in the middle of the Ararat plain, the first cathedral of Echmiadzin was built in 885 by St. Gregory the Illuminator, but the present building dates back to the 17th century. Designed as a circular structure in the traditional Armenian style, with an inner sanctum for the small, ancient Holy Ark, this monastery is the holiest of all Armenian sites and home to the tomb of St. Grigoris, or Gregory the Illuminator. The cathedral is not open to visitors, but you can see the inside from the outside. It's a must for any traveler passing through Armenia's capital, Yerevan, and for visitors who want a unique experience of the Holy Land. The best time to visit is on Tuesday or Thursday for the Orthodox service (Chakmalyan Vardan) that is held at 1:00 pm (Sat & Sun at 10:00 am).

Geghard

Photo of Geghard, Armenia
Geghard, Armenia: en.wikipedia.org

Armenia's famous Geghard monastery lies on a hilltop in an isolated area of the country, near the village of Geghard, in the Syunik province, a mountainous region to the northwest of the capital Yerevan. In spite of its remote location, it's one of Armenia's most popular tourist attractions, visited by more than a half-million people every year. There are three other major churches and monasteries in Geghard, each with its own location and architecture: Abaszat (821 AD), Mgini (814 AD) and Tatev (12th century). The best-known Geghard monastery, Abaszat, was established at the beginning of the 8th century. Located on a 727-meter-high hill overlooking the gorge of the river Askeran, this monastery is an architectural treasure, built mainly of pomegranate and cherry wood, and adorned with wood carvings, colorful murals and paintings. There is a panorama of ravishing beauty from this monastery, where there are also gardens, olive groves, orchards, streams and forests, where animals are kept, and where it is believed that St. Gregory the Illuminator stayed during the 9th century, during his pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Abaszat can be reached by a shaded route of about an hour and a half.