As Tbilisi, Georgia is only about an hour and a half from the Armenian border and I thought it might be interesting to spend a day seeing what there is to see in Armenia.
For ease and convenience, I booked a full-day private tour via Get Your Guide. I was picked up and dropped off at my hotel, which was quite handy.
As an American, an entrance visa is not required for Armenia, but it's worth researching your nationality's visa requirements ahead of time, so you have the correct paperwork and aren't held up at the border..
Border crossing process: Bagratashen-Sadakhlo is the most popular and busiest border control point between Georgia and Armenia. The immigration process is pretty straightforward, and your driver/guide will chaperone you through. When you arrive at the border, you’ll have to get out of the car and exit Georgia by foot. You'll then get back in the car and drive across the river to the Armenian checkpoint, where you again cross by foot. The driver will clear customs with the car then pick you up on the other side, ready to drive into Armenia.
Currency exchange: Armenia uses the Armenian dram (AMD), a different currency to their neighbors using the Georgian lari (GEL). You'll want to have some cash on you for lunch, a possible boat trip, souvenirs and tips. The restaurant we went to did accept credit cards, but I don't know if that's common or not. I suggest exchanging 30-50 GEL. After the border crossing, our driver stopped at a supermarket/currency exchange desk where you can buy dram. ATM's are very hard to come by and if you do find one, its likely to be out of order, so get money when you can.
Language: I did not find English to be widely used in Armenia. People obviously speak Armenian, but also, Russian is common. It was helpful to have a guide with us who could speak English and Russian and could communicate on our behalf.
Our first stop, after driving several hours, was lunch. We ate Sevan trout, a fish species endemic to Lake Sevan, whilst overlooking Lake Sevan. You can't really get fresher than that!
After lunch, we started our tour of Lake Sevan - the Jewel of Armenia. It is one of the largest high-mountainous freshwater lakes in the world.
In the northwest part of Sevan Lake, on a narrow rocky peninsula, there stands one of the most prominent examples of medieval Armenian architecture – Sevanavank Monastery.
If the weather is nice and you get the opportunity, make sure to enjoy a water cruise on Lake Sevan.
Looking back at the shore, from the water, is a nice perspective!
After Lake Sevan, we visited Lake Parz - a small lake located in Dilijan National Park. The lake was formed by natural climatic changes.
Our final stop was at a vantage point where we could see the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan (that strip of land in the middle of the reservoir).
I found this particularly interesting because Armenia and Azerbaijan do not have a friendly past. They have fought each other in two wars since the Soviet Union collapsed: First from 1988-1994 and then in 2020, when more than 6,500 people died in six weeks of fighting. The most recent conflict ended with Russia brokering a ceasefire agreement under which Armenia ceded large parts of Nagorno-Karabakh -- a territory nestled between the two countries.
On the same day I visited Armenia, 16th July 2022, Foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan met for the first time in 2020, in neutral Tbilisi, to "advance discussions" on a peace treaty. On our way back toward the Georgian border, we passed a convoy of black vehicles transporting the Armenian Foreign minister home, which was pretty cool.
It's impossible to get a good feel for Armenia in such a short period of time, covering such a small part of the country, but I think a day trip to Armenia, from Tbilisi, is worthwhile, as long as you do the day trip with a private guide and arrive with realistic expectations.
#armenia #lakesevan #lakeparz #georgia #tbilisi #azerbaijan #sevanavankmonastery