This landlocked country in the Caucasus in Western Asia has an impressive cultural history. It was one of the first to adopt Christianity as its official language and its churches are one of the highlights in visiting the country. It spent time under both the Persian and Ottoman Empires while the eastern part as ruled by the Russian Empire from the 19th century. Subsequently it was absorbed into the USSR until that broke up and independence was declared in 1991. Despite being geographically in Asia, Armenia very much aligns itself with Europe and is a member of a number of European organisations such as the Council of Europe and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.
The national population is just short of 3 million though there are significant numbers of people of Armenian origin living elsewhere in the world. The capital, Yerevan, has just over a million inhabitants within that number and is famous for its architecture. There are settlements of varying sizes including some fairly small but important as resort/spa towns. The population in several of the places described below has fallen in recent times as Yerevan has grown with employment opportunities obviously a factor. While the economy relies on industry, Armenia is known for two fruits as well, pomegranate and apricot. The cuisine combines the Mediterranean with the east and any visitors will enjoy sitting down to enjoy its flavours.
Also read: 20 Things To Do In Armenia
20 Cities In Armenia
Yerevan is among the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world.
It is the dominant settlement in Armenia and has been capital since the end of the First World War.
It sits on the Hrazdan River and has grown rapidly during the last century, precipitated by the Armenian genocide at the end of the Ottoman Empire when tens of thousands headed east.
Growth continued after independence with the infrastructure of shops, restaurants and cafes expanding.
There are several interesting landmarks including the Erebuni Fortress, the Katoghike Church and St. Gregory Cathedral.
The National Gallery, the History Museum and Opera Theatre are other places to visit.
Recommended tour: Yerevan: City Highlights, Erebuni Museum & Fortress
Gyumri is Armenia’s second city and is found in the north west of the country.
In the 19th Century, it was the most important city in Eastern Armenia when the Russians were in control and at the time had a larger population than Yerevan.
The population grew during the Armenian Genocide when refugees arrived with industry, especially textiles, important to the economy.
An earthquake caused devastation in 1988 and the population has yet to reach the 200,000 that lived there before that.
It is an important cultural hub with many artists and craftsmen living there.
The Kumayri Historic District generally survived the earthquake and it is a great place to see original Armenian architecture.
Recommended tour: From Yerevan: Gyumri City and Harichavank Day Trip
Vanadzor is the capital of Lori Province in the north, 128 kilometres (80 miles) north of Yerevan.
Its population reached a peak of almost 150,000 at one time but is now only around 80,000.
There are several archaeological sites of importance, some of which go back to the 4th Century BC.
A good place to learn more is the Lori-Pambak Museum which has 34,000 different items although not all are on display.
The House of Culture takes the name of the entertainer Charles Aznavour whose heritage was Armenian.
There are important museums here and several theatres.
It is also home to some of Armenia’s best known hard rock bands.
Recommended tour: From Vanadzor: Hiking & Riverside Sauna Therapy
Jermuk in the south of Armenia has built up a reputation for medical tourism with its hot springs and mineral waters a major attraction.
It is at an altitude of over 2,000 metres (6560 feet) with its beautiful waterfall well worth a visit.
It is 70 metres (230 feet) high incidentally.
Visitors will love the fresh air, walking trails, the lakes that are actually artificial, and the forests that surround the place.
Its permanent population is just small but it continues to develop for tourism.
The aim is to also establish a chess centre and the future calendar has many events pencilled in.
Recommended tour: From Yerevan: Khor Virap, Kechut, Jermuk, and Noravank Tour
Dilijan is another popular resort and is situated within the National Park of the same name in Tavush Province.
It is also known for its architecture and has attracted many artists, composers and filmmakers.
Some people have given it the nickname “Little Switzerland.”
The Old Town is well-preserved with a gallery, museum and workshops.
It is an ideal place for those enjoying hiking, mountain biking and picnics.
Popular legend has it that it was named after a shepherd called Dill who was in love with his master’s daughter.
Dill was murdered and for a long time, his mother used to call out “Dill-jan” (jan being a short word for endearment) as she searched for him.
Recommended tour: From Yerevan: Lake Sevan and Dilijan Full-Day Tour
Goris in the south of Armenia is found in the Goris River Valley, 254 kilometres (152 miles) from Yerevan.
It is one of the Armenia’s most important historical and cultural sites.
Its popularity with local and overseas travellers is well catered for by the amount of accommodation available.
The stone pyramids of Old Kores to the east of the town are probably the highlights of any visit.
The 4th Century St. Hripsime Basilica of Saint Hripsime was closed during Soviet Times but after renovation, it opened in 2013 to the public.
It has a cultural palace, a public library, an archaeological museum and a dramatic theatre.
Goris is also known for its carpets and music.
Recommended tour: Khor Virap, Noravank, Goris (overnight), Tatev, Karahunj
Sevan is on the north west shore of the lake of the same name located at an altitude of 1,925 metres (6320 feet) and is within an hour’s drive north east of the capital, Yerevan.
Sevan National Park surrounds Sevan while the lake is its eastern border.
It was first developed by Russian settlers in the middle of the 19th Century.
The permanent population is just short of 20,000 but that swells at weekends and summer months.
Fishing is popular and licensed while there are numerous animal species to look out for including wolves and jackals.
While these predators are elusive, you will have a good chance of seeing foxes, hares and martens.
Recommended tour: From Tbilisi: Dilijan & Sevan Lake Full-Day Tour to Armenia
Garni in Kotayk Province is famous for its classical temple dating back to the Greek Empire.
It is the easternmost building from Greco-Roman Times.
The location has many defensive advantages on a bend in the Azat River, hence it was settled back in those days.
The estimate of when the fortifications were built dates them as 3rd Century BC for use as a summer residence for Armenian monarchy.
In the 1st century AD, it acted as a shelter for King Mithridates.
It was sacked in the 14th century and devastated by the 1679 earthquake yet remains a site worth a visit.
Recommended tour: From Yerevan: Garni Temple & Geghard Tour with Lavash Baking
This spa town is a popular resort in Armenia just to the north of Yerevan.
It is just small but tourists swell the numbers during holiday times.
There is plenty of accommodation available with skiers attracted to the typical winter conditions.
The Kecharis Monastery is well preserved, dating back to the 11th Century.
There were 4 churches with the main one, St. Gregory built in 1033, Surp Nshan followed in 1051 and Katoghike at the start of the 13th Century.
The fourth followed soon after, Surp Harutyun.
The famous US scientists, the Orbelis were born here and their home is now a museum.
Recommended tour: From Yerevan: Tsaghkadzor & Lake Sevan Guided Tour
Armavir is the capital city of the province of the same name in Western Armenia.
Its origins date back almost a century when it was called Sardarabad, and then Hoktenberyan until 1995.
However, there is a nearby ancient settlement of the same name whose origins go back to the 6th Century BC.
Its population has risen to around 65,000 and its appeal includes nearby archaeological examples of Ancient Armenia.
Armavir is an important cultural centre in itself with a music school, an arts school, several libraries and a theatre group.
In the north east of Armavir, it is worth visiting the zoological and botanical gardens.
Odzun sits above the Debed River Gorge on a plateau area in Lori Province.
The Yerevan highway to Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, runs below.
Its most famous landmark is its church which dates back to 5th Century, a fine example of a basilica.
Thomas the Apostle, one of Jesus’ 12 disciples came to Odzun in the 1st Century to ordain bishops and priests.
He then headed to India but not before he buried Christ’s swaddling clothes beneath the altar in the church.
In the 6th Century, an inscription describing this event was written above the church’s southern entrance.
Not surprisingly, Odzun is an important place for those interested in religion.
Recommended tour: Haghpat, Sanahin & Odzun, Mendz Er or Zarni – Parni Caves
This city is the largest in Armavir and lies just to the west of Yerevan and very close to the border with Turkey.
That border has been closed for some time but it is hoped it will reopen in the coming years.
It is commonly called Ejmiatsin which was its name from the end of World War II until 1995.
Its cathedral is the main landmark that visitors should seek out.
Armenians often describe Vagharshabat as the country’s spiritual capital.”
It was small at the start of the 20th Century but grew while part of the USSR.
It was effectively a suburb of Yerevan, hence its popularity with commuters.
Today’s population is around 37,000.
Abovyan in Kotayk Province is just a short distance north east of Yerevan.
Its population of 44,000 is a drop from the census back in 1989, perhaps as a result of people moving into Yerevan itself where there are more job opportunities?
There are good rail and road transport links both into the capital and up to the north east of the country.
Features of Abovyan include a cultural palace, a library, a recently renovated theatre and a creative centre for children including teenagers.
Its museum highlighted the brotherhood and friendship between the Armenia and Russia.
Another place north east of Yerevan is the capital of Kotayk Province, Hrazdan.
Once again, the recent census identifying 42,000 inhabitants shows quite a drop since 1989.
It was an important industrial centre in Soviet Times when plants were opened for machine tools, cement and concrete.
There were plans for even more expansion and then the USSR collapsed.
There is a theatre in town, a branch of the National Gallery and a Geological Museum.
You should head to the History Museum founded by Armen Aivazyan which contains some 4,000 exhibits.
Alaverdi in north east Armenia is close to the border with Georgia and the rail link to its neighbour runs through the town.
It is an important industrial centre but once again its population has fallen in recent years.
The Mikoyan brothers were born close by in Sanahin and its museum tells their story.
Anastas was a Russian diplomat who survived a number of regimes, including Stalin’s, over several decades.
His brother, Artem, designed the famous MIG fighter jet and there is one there to examine.
The local theatre facilitates performances and there is a great musical tradition here.
You should also go to the branch of the National Gallery while you are there.
Artik is famous for its tufa stone, a form of limestone usually pink or rosy in colour.
Travertine is a second stone found here and Artik is the main Armenian centre for both.
Artik is in Shirak Province and currently boasts a population of 18,000.
It has a celebrated history with the old cemeteries dating back to the Bronze Age.
In the middle of Artik you will see churches, partly-ruined sadly, dating back to the 5th Century (Saint Mariné) and the 7th Century (St. Gregory).
Renovation has taken place after decay during Soviet Times.
St. Stephen Monastery is another landmark and the cemeteries are back to the Bronze Age.
The cultural palace remembers the famous local composer Tigran Mansurian while there is a memorial to the dead from World War II in Liberty Square.
Ashtarak, north west of Yerevan, is located on the Kasagh River.
It is important both for its industry but also its cultural contribution to Armenian life.
The economy is based upon dairy produce, beverages and food processing.
While there you should try its chocolate and ice cream.
There are also a number of religious landmarks, notably the 13th Century St.
Marianeh Church and Karmravor Church, one of three originally built according to the legend of three sisters whose love for the same man led to them all ultimately jumping into the gorge to commit suicide.
Ashtarak is close enough to the capital to be regarded as a satellite town with its population a little below 20,000.
This town in Kotayk Province was only developed after the Second World War as Lusavan, changing its name two decades later to Charentsavan after the famous poet, Yeghishe Charents.
A decade ago, a statue of the poet was erected in front of the palace of culture in the heart of the town.
It is a town of 18,500, located less than an hour north of Yerevan.
Its original intention was to house workers from the nearby power plant and other industries grew as a result, many mechanically-based.
While 70% of the land remains industrial, there is a large public park as well as a residential area.
Gavar is the capital of a province of Gegharkunik, a mountainous province west of Lake Sevan.
The average height of the mountains is not far short of 2,000 metres (6560 feet).
Gavar is east of Yerevan and has a population around 20,000.
Facilities you will find in the town include a history museum, cultural centre, drama theatre and libraries.
There was a settlement here in very ancient times and there are tombs that have been dated in the centuries BC.
You will also see the remains of fortifications originally built during the Iron Age.
Today’s most notable landmarks are religious; monasteries and churches.
Kapan is the largest city by population in Southern Armenia, some 43,000.
It is the capital of Syunik Province and is located in the Voghil River Valley on the slopes of Mount Khustup.
The historic part of Kapan is to the west of the modern centre.
There are a number of landmarks to enjoy including Davit Bek, a 4th Century fortress, the 9th Century bridge, two monasteries from the 9th and 11th Centuries and a 17th Century fortress.
In its time, it has lived under Ottoman and Persian rule before becoming part of Russia.
You will also note its statues to local patriots, a war memorial and another remembering the Armenian Genocide.
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