An easy flight from London Gatwick via Kiev to Yerevan, the capital city of Armenia gets you to your centrally placed hotel in time for a good night’s sleep – ready to explore this lovely, laid back city the following morning.
From the architectural delights of Mashtots Avenue and Republic Square to the splendours of the State History Museum and Matenadaran, Armenia is a country full of surprises. However, their Russian past still remains visible in derelict old buildings and crumbling high rise blocks of flats, many of which are still occupied. It is not until you leave the city centre and look back that you realise how many hills and gorges there are in and around the different areas of Yerevan.
You quickly leave the city and get into the countryside where walnut trees dot the landscape. There are many roadside stalls selling tomatoes, cucumbers and watermelons as well as dried walnuts, plums, cherries, apricots and apples. Fabulous fresh bread is also for sale in villages, including specialities such as sweet almond or cheese bread. The snow-capped mountains are never far away in Armenia and give a classic and very picturesque backdrop to such views as Khor Virap Monastery – with Mount Ararat majestically in the distance.
Travelling further afield there are wonderful sights such as the monastery complex as Geghard – one of many staggering UNESCO World Heritage sites – or the picturesque 9th century Sevan Monastery at Lake Sevan. The landscape is constantly changing as you travel through the country. In the vicinity of Yerevan, the land is stony and no serious attempts have made at any form of land cultivation, not even to grow a few vegetables. Further on, cresting a hill we were greeted by dense forest, the steep slopes dropping to the winding road and following the narrow gorge. Wolves and foxes, whose pelts you will see for sale, can be seen in the forest together with deer, squirrels – and apparently the occasional brown bear.
In spite of local folklore, members of the cat family such as Persian leopard and striped hyena are almost extinct now. Continuing northwards towards the border at Sadakhlo we finally drove through a much more agricultural area where the soil was rich, dark and well-tended. We saw herds of cattle, sheep and goats – none of whom were being led! We left Armenia with a deep feeling of affection for this lovely country.