At the moment, Tbilisi, Georgia is the hot destination in the Caucasus Mountain region of Europe and its nearby neighbor Yerevan is often left as an afterthought.
This is a shame, as the beautiful historic city of Yerevan has a lot to offer visitors. This city has a thriving cafe culture and as you walk through the wide marbled streets, you’ll see many people gathered in outdoor patios sipping coffee and chatting in the sunshine.
Yerevan has a vibrant nightlife, a great restaurant scene, plenty of art galleries and museums and intriguing historic architecture. With many large public squares and spacious boulevards that come to life with lights and music in the evenings, the city is buzzing.
Here are just a few reasons why Yerevan should be on your European travel bucket list.
You Can Walk Along the Cascade
The Cascade is a huge open air museum, located right in the heart of Yerevan. The giant stairway connects the city center with the residential center and has 572 steps in total. At all levels of this complex, there are works of art on display.
There’s a huge variety of artwork to enjoy as you explore the Cascade. You’ll see a huge cat designed by Fernado Botero, a Colombian artist and bronze hares by British artist Barry Flanagan.
On a sunny day this open air art space will be teeming with people and it is a great place to relax, people watch and enjoy the funky vibe of Yerevan. When you climb all the way to the top, you’ll be rewarded by stunning views of Mount Ararat.
The Food Is Fresh and Delicious
Another reason why you must visit Yerevan is the food. The rich traditions of Armenian cooking date back more than 1,500 years and traditional cooking techniques are still used today.
Made with ingredients from the local countryside, the flavor of the cuisine often relies on the quality and freshness of the ingredients. Most dishes use spices sparingly and instead rely on fresh herbs such as tarragon, basil, wild oregano and thyme.
Try basturma, which is a dried and seasoned beef made with black pepper, garlic, cumin and paprika and often served at parties. Or lavash, which is a traditional flatbread that is baked in a unique Armenian clay oven. You’ll also want to try ikra, which is a savory eggplant dip that is made with green and red peppers, garlic, onions, tomato paste and other spices.
Of course, you can finish off any meal with a delicious drink of Armenian brandy – which was said to be the favorite drink of Winston Churchill. If wine is more your thing, you’ll be fascinated by the history here. One of the oldest wineries in the world was discovered in Armenia and the wine here is made not only from grapes but from other fruits as well including pomegranate, apricot and quince.
Learn About Christian History
Did you know that Armenia was the first officially Christian country in the world? This ancient religion has been practiced here since 301 AD. According to local legend, the first head of the Armenian Apostolic Church was Gregory the Illuminator, who was the son of a nobleman named Anag and assassinated Armenia’s King Khosrov II.
Today, approximately 95% of the Armenian population are Christian and the religious history can be traced back through some of the stunning ancient site and monuments here. For example, you can visit the stunning St. Gayane Church, which was built in 630 and is now UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Ride The Longest Cable Car in the World
If you aren’t afraid of heights, you’ll get a thrill from riding the Wings of Tatev – the longest cable car in the world (verified by the Guinness Book of Records). The cable car will take you soaring over the Vorotan Gorge for a total of 5 km, lifting you up from Halidzor village to the inaccessible rocky perch of Tatev Monastery.
It takes 15 minutes to travel a distance that takes 40 minutes by car, winding up through the steep, zig-zagging mountainside road. Once you get to the top, take the time to explore this ancient Christian site. Tatev Monastery is a stunning religious structure with towering ramparts surrounding a courtyard that contains three churches. The oldest dates back to 900 AD and is dedicated to Saints Peter and Paul.
Take a Day Trip to Lake Sevan
Peaceful. Pure. Shimmering Blue. Lake Sevan is one of the highest freshwater lakes in the world and is known as the “Pearl of Armenia.” It’s also known as the “Armenian Sea” because it is so incredibly huge.
On the banks of the lake you’ll find Sevanavank Monastery. Founded in 874 AD, this humble church isn’t the most impressive architecture you’ll see in Armenia – but it has one of the best views.
Be sure to taste the fresh local Armenian trout from the clean, clear waters of Lake Sevan. It’s served with lavash (Armenian bread) and baked vegetables and it is delicate, flaky and delicious.
Enjoy Armenian Hospitality
One of the main reasons why this destination should be on your list isn’t an attraction – it’s the people you will meet there.
Armenians are known for their hospitality and making guests feel at home is a point of pride in their culture. After all, there is an ancient Armenian proverb that says, “A Guest is the messenger of God.”
If you are lucky, you’ll find yourself in the midst of a celebration (and any reason could be an excuse for a celebration!). The music will be playing and there will be endless courses of food, drinks and wine offered. Life is good!
Why not visit Yerevan?
Would you add this city to your travel bucket list? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.