Armenia is a landlocked country, surrounded by Georgia, Turkey, Iran and Azerbaijan. Situated on the ancient route of the Silk Road, various different cultural influences have played a part in shaping the country as it changed hands between numerous powers. The land was primarily split between Persian and Ottoman rule from the 16th century. In the early 19th century, the eastern areas became part of the Russian empire while the western part remained with the Ottoman empire. It was during the first world war that the infamous killing of hundreds of thousands of ethnic Armenians took place at the hands of Ottoman troops. Independence was declared at the end of the first world war, only for the country to come under Soviet rule in the 1920s. Independence came again in 1991 after the Soviet Union collapsed.
Armenia has played a crucial role in the development of Christianity and monasticism in eastern Europe. One of the first countries to convert to Christianity in the early fourth century, it contains a rich ecclesiastical heritage. The country has a large number of wonderful churches, cathedrals and monasteries to visit and explore. Different in mentality and heritage to its neighbour, Georgia, Armenia has a host of attractions, from the Unesco world heritage site of Geghard monastery to the mighty Mount Ararat and some stunning scenery.
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Currency Armenian dram
Flying time from London 5 hours
Official language(s) Armenian
Time difference +4 GMT
Visa requirements Not required for UK passport holders
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A Unesco world heritage-listed building, the Geghard monastery was founded in the fourth century in a steep canyon and contains a number of churches and tombs, many of which are cut into the rock. Surrounding trees are dotted with strips of cloth in the belief that saying a prayer and tying cloth to a tree near to the monastery will make sure it is answered.
Explore the Temple of Garni
The site of this Hellenic temple, built in the first century and dedicated to Mithra, the Roman god of the sun, includes a Roman bathhouse with intricate mosaics and a seventh-century church.
Admire the view of Mount Aragats
On a clear day, the views of this volcanic summit are beautiful from the countryside below. The peaks of the surrounding mountain range are usually snow-covered all year round. You can even climb to the crater at the top. Mid-summer (July to September) is best for this as there is permanent snow cover at the top.
View Zvartnots Cathedral
Located 10km west of Yerevan, the outstanding feature of Zvartnots is the cathedral, which was constructed in 652AD and buried by an earthquake about three hundred years later. It was only rediscovered in the early part of the 20th century. Built by Catholicos Nerses III, the cathedral is dedicated to St George and is formed in the shape of a Greek cross. In 2000, the cathedral was listed as a Unesco world heritage site.
See the spiritual heart of Armenia
The town of Echmiadzin, just west of Yerevan, is seen by Armenians as the spiritual centre of their country and the main focus of any visit is the Echmiadzin cathedral. Listed as a Unesco world heritage site, the cathedral is the oldest in Armenia and features a vaulted basilica dating back to the fourth century.
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