We (my family and I) spent a long weekend in Armenia in early December. It was a fantastic and eye opening trip. Armenia has a lot to offer and I hope to return again, maybe to chase down the elusive Persian leopard? ;)

Armenia, a historical countRy of contrast

Armenia is a an ancient country, with its capital, Yerevan, dating back to the 8th century BC, making it among the oldest inhabited cities in the world. It overlooks mount Ararat, a sacred mountain to Armenians, featuring on their coat of arms, but due to its much fought over place at the boundary between neighbouring Armenia, Azerbaijan, Iran, and Turkey, it is currently located in Turkey. Yerevan is 990 m above sea level and surrounded by mountains on three sides.

It is the oldest Christian country in the world, adopting it as their national religion in the 4th century, and as such it has some of the most impressive old churches I have ever seen. The Geghard Monastery is even carved out of the mountain rock!

The Temple of Garni (assumed to be for the sun god Mihr) is a fantastic maintained pre-Christian remnant of ancient Armenia dating back to the 1st century AD. Sitting on an outcrop of basalt it provides a fantastic panorama of the rocky Armenian landscape.

From 1920 to 1991 Armenia was part of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). The concrete relics of this era are still present in modern day Armenia, juxtaposed to the ancient churches and modern buildings. Despite now being a modernised city, its setting in a bleak, bare winter landscape really invokes a strong ex-soviet feeling. Since becoming a republic, a large class divide has emerged in Armenia, with the majority of people considered poor, a small middle class, and the rich at the other end of the scale.  Our guide explained that her parents miss the soviet days "... there was less choice, but we could always afford what there was".

Zoravor S. Astvatsatsin Church sits hidden amongst its significantly younger and ugly concrete 'friends'

Lake Sevan, a fresh water lake that takes up nearly 5% of the entire area of Armenia, is one of the largest high altitude lakes in the world at 1900m above sea level. It is home to the Sevanakvank monastery sitting atop a peninsular (that used to be an island) protruding into the lake. With stunning views and scenery, you can see why the monks built it here for its solitude, protection and magnificence. In recent years it has become a holiday destination, in driving distance of Yerevan.

Have you ever been to Armenia? What do you think of my view of the country? Let me know in the comments below.


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