ARMENIA: From the soul-stirring smell of the freshly baked “Ponchik” wafting through the crisp air to the Christmas spirit — festivals, dinning , decorations, entertainment, and shopping — scattered all over the historic capital, Yerevan in December is definitely a sight for travelers.
Despite the common belief that the best time to visit Armenia is when the summer sun is shining (that is, between late May and early October), wintertime in this vibrant country offers an ambiance on a different level.
“I’ve been spending two weeks in Yerevan in December for about three-years now- it has become a personal ritual of mine,” said Samara Dagher, a Lebanese tourist on the Beirut-Yerevan flight.
“They say Armenia is an open-air museum, and I can honestly say it is an open-air everything. You can literally find every type of pastime there is- nature, history, arts, food, everything!”
Rania Dagher excitedly added to her sister’s words: “We’ve been told it’s a ‘New Armenia’ after the velvet revolution of 2018, and we are so excited to see the positive change for ourselves.”
Armenia in itself is a dynamic country, and choosing it as your next travel destination will definitely not be a disappointing decision. Its capital city Yerevan, referred historically to as “Erebuni,” has been historically recorded to have been founded in 782 BC, 29 years earlier than Rome.
If you’re visiting Yerevan in winter, make sure to stuff your suitcase with warm clothes and comfy winter boots, because walking around in the streets featuring beautiful architecture and falling snow calls for that extra layer.
As you make your way through the ancient city, make sure to pay attention to the way the color pink soothes your visual sense. Yerevan is described as “The Pink City of the Caucasus," since many of its buildings have been constructed with naturally pink “tufa” rocks that have been the byproduct of its ancient volcanic surroundings. You can imagine how pretty sunsets in Yerevan are!
The great history of the capital city feed the rich cultural life it shelters. There is the History Museum of Armenia, founded in 1919, located in the Republic Square. The museum contains over 400,000 national objects. It even holds the world’s oldest shoe which was found in a cave in Armenia back in 2008. The museum is inside a huge landmark neoclassical building in front of which there are the dancing musical fountains and also the gigantic main Christmas tree of Yerevan which will entrance you if you visit during the festive season! When the Christmas tree is officially being lit up, everyone gathers around in the square, sharing food and warm beverages, to witness the illumination of their beloved city with colors.
There are endless things to do in Yerevan, and getting bored is not an option. After all, it is one of the oldest inhabited cities of the world, so it has lots of tales engraved in its essence!
If you’re a history and literature fanatic, yet another important museum to visit is the “Matenadaran” which is not far from the History museum. Its name means “book depository” in old Armenian, which is no surprise since this awesome place is the world’s largest storage of ancient manuscripts, holding more than 100,000 archival documents and 17,000 classical scripts. The art museum also has an exclusive collection of books, paintings, and ancient crafts for handmade books such as fabrics, leather, and jewelry.
Also a few minutes away from the Republic Square is the open-air “Vernissage” flea market where you’ll stumble upon antique Armenian folk art, handmade jewelry, souvenirs and many more items. Leaving “Vernissage” empty-handed is impossible. It’s the ultimate place for a unique Christmas shopping experience!
If you’re into good food, coffee and even more shopping, you can walk on over to the Northern Avenue where you’ll find boutique shops, coffeehouses, restaurants and also a cozy Christmas market. The Northern Avenue will carry you to the majestic Yerevan Opera and Ballet House which has been open since the 1930s. There you can find tickets to professional performances which take place almost every night for very reasonable prices. In the wintertime, an ice-skating rink is set up on the Swan Lake beside the Opera house.
If you have enough time, take a taxi to the “Khor Virap” monastery, preferably during sunset hours, and watch the sky change color over the glorious Mount Ararat from over there.
“Khor Virap” was a former prison site where a man, who later became Saint Gregory the Illuminator, was held in a pit for 13 years. Saint Gregory played a pivotal role in turning Armenia into the first Christian nation on Earth.
Also about four hours from the capital is the World’s Longest Ropeway called “Wings of Tatev,” which operates all year round. The view from the 12-minute-long tram flight is beyond words.
While visiting the infinite historical sites in Armenia (One article is not enough to cover them all!), it’s always better to have a well-spoken guide with you in order to fully understand the historical significance of the places. The stories this ancient country carries will astound most visitors.
Visiting Armenia when its temperatures are only a few numbers above or below 0 degrees will revive your senses in a way that will send you back home with a refreshed soul. Witnessing snow covering the beautiful city and its surrounding areas turns it into a winter wonderland.
The easy and affordable transportation methods will also facilitate your trip. There is an availability of electric trolleybuses, regular buses, vans, taxis, and also a metro station to help carry you to and from your planned destinations. If you want to spice things even more up, you can even take a 9-hour train to Tbilisi, Georgia from Yerevan for only 16 to 30$!
The Armenian visa is given to Lebanese passport holders at the Yerevan Airport hassle free.
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