This post is about the highlights of Armenia and my experience visiting them with One way tours.
Armenia is a small country in the Caucasus bordering Georgia and Azerbaijan. In my opinion, Armenia is the most underrated country in Europe and the highlights of Armenia don’t get the attention they deserve. In the days of overtourism I don’t believe in descriptions like hidden gems and unexplored secrets anymore, but for Armenia it still holds a bit of truth.
The highlights of Armenia
The highlights of Armenia are plentiful and the country is incredibly beautiful with its green hills and mountains. Armenia has lakes, mineral water springs and spa resorts, but also a rich culture.
Armenians are some of the friendliest people in the Caucasus and their culture is old. They were the first state to adopt Christianity and throughout the years they managed to stick to their unique identity that sets them apart from other ethnic groups in the Caucasus.
The Armenian Apostolic church is one of the oldest christian communities and the Armenian language has its own alphabet with no less than 36 letters. Armenian food is also definetly among the highlights of Armenia. With a lot of influences from its neighbouring countries, Armenian cuisine is varied and rich in flavours.
Why travel with One way Tours?
Armenia is full of ancient monasteries in the most beautiful and remote locations. Unfortunately these beautiful locations are difficult to get to by public transport. As an independent backpacker I had to make some tough decisions.
Either travel by public transport, but missing out on some of the highlights of Armenia or saving myself a lot of time and effort by going on a tour. Luckily there are plenty of companies offering cheap tours. I choose One Way Tour, because they were one of the few that offered tours to the Byurakan Astronomical Observatory.
Highlights of Armenia with One Way Tour
I was still a bit hesitant about the tours. For me travelling by public transport is the best way to get to know a country and get into contact with the local population. I felt I might miss out on that by going on tours where I will likely meet more other tourists from my own country than Armenians.
In this case, I was very wrong. First of all, One Way Tour is not only for foreign travellers, but also for Armenians themselves who would like to see more of their own country. People from Yerevan love to go out of the city and see their monasteries, and with limited public transport available, they also make use of tour companies like One Way Tour.
Second, the tours would not only visit the famous highlights of Armenia, but also other less known places. Local secrets that I would never have known about.
In the end, One Way Tour offered me a much better insight into Armenia than if I would have travelled by myself. The guides were all excellent and enthusiastic about sharing the stories of Armenia’s history with us. It was also very easy to meet other Armenians who were happy to explain even more about their rich culture.
Of course I wanted to see Armenia’s most fabled monasteries and with One Way Tour I saw more then I could ever imagine, but they also showed me Armenia’s hospitality and friendliness.
Khor Virap, Noravank & Jermuk
My first tour was to the monasteries of Khor Virap and Noravank with an additional stop in Jermuk. Jermuk is a town in the hills surrounded with forests and mostly known for its healthy mineral waters. We had a small group of people and I was the only foreigner that day.
The Armenian people included a couple that celebrated their 35th wedding anniversary. During lunch my fellow travellers shared their homemade snacks with me. At the end of the day I wasn’t sure whether it was Armenia’s friendy people that were more impressive or the monasteries.
Tatev Monastery & Sheki waterfalls
The next tour was to Tatev monastery, the Sheki waterfalls and a sheep shearing festival with traditional music. As the day progressed and more beer and vodka was consumed, the emphasis was more on dancing than on shearing the sheeps. The best performance was maybe the drunk farmers who tried to gather their sheeps back in the truck.
It was a long day, but this was the most beautiful part of Armenia. Tatev monastery is on a hilltop surrounded by mountains and the best way to get there is by a ropeway that is now the longest ropeway in the world. The 4 hour drive from Yerevan is through green rolling hills with yellow wildflowers and patches of snow in the distance. I enjoyed every minute of the journey looking outside to the scenery.
Garni, Geghard & Tsaghkadzor
Garni is the only pagan temple that is still left in Armenia from the time before Christianity. It is not far from Yerevan and close to the Geghard monastery. Despite having seen so many monasteries already I was still impressed by both. Garni looked more like a Greek temple to me and Geghard’s location in the mountains was stunning.
After a delicious lunch of Armenian dolma we would visit Tsaghkadzor. Like Jermuk, another town with health spa’s, but in winter also a busy ski resort. For now, our main aim was to visit the Kecharis monastery and enjoy the fresh air in the mountains.
Lake Sevan & Dilijan
My last tour was to Lake Sevan and Dilijan. Both known for their natural beauty. Lake Sevan is one of the largest fresh water alpine lakes in Eurasia. There is of course another monastery here with a beautiful view over the lake. Once we passed the Sevan Pass the road became very scenic with high mountains. People were selling fish, mushrooms and corn on the side of the road.
Around Dilijan we visited two more beautiful monasteries called Goshavank and Haghartsin. Again the location was as stunning as the monasteries itself. The trip ended at Parz lake. A popular picknick spot for Armenians, with few tourists.
Dilijan is also called the Switzerland of Armenia. I felt I could easily spent a week here doing hikes in the area. With this trip I really felt I just experienced the tip of the iceberg if it comes to Armenia’s natural beauty.
Byurakan Astronomical Observatory
Not many people know I have a secret childhood passion for astronomy. I used to have my own telescope and always wanted to become an astronomer. Unfortunately I wasn’t very good in mathematics so when the time came to choose a study I followed my other passion to learn more about people and different cultures in the world.
Still, whenever there is an astronomy event somewhere I feel something twinkling in my brain. And so it did when I read One Way Tour was offering a tour to the Byurakan Astronomical Observatory. What else is more exciting than visiting an old Astronomical Observatory in the mountains of Armenia?
We left when it started to get dark and we were lucky, because we had a clear sky. The astronomer in charge showed us the moon, Saturnus and Jupiter. It was a short tour, but I could not have been happier.
An honest review of One way Tour
I was quite happy with the services of one way tour and because of them I was able to see a lot of the country in a very short time period. The tours are budget friendly and much cheaper than by private transport. Most of all, I loved One Way tours, because of the friendly people I met.
One Way Tour offers a great variety of one day or multiple day tours throughout Armenia and Georgia.They also have tours to Nagorno Karabagh.
You can check their websites for their regular weekly tours, but also keep an eye out on special tours. They offer tours to local festivals such as the dolma, raspberry and mulberry festivals or sheep shearing competitions.
Ellis is a travelblogger from the Netherlands with over 20 years of experience as an independent budget traveller in more than 50 countries. She has a Master degree in Cultural Anthropology and Global Health with a specialization in South Asian cultures and the Caucasus.