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Located on the dividing line between the north and south of the country, the capital of Yerevan is a good base from which to explore this small country. Russian architecture remains from the 19th century but the city has dramatically changed from the days of Soviet rule into a bustling metropolis with numerous museums and monuments to visit. Some of these include Matenadaran (the Museum of Ancient Manuscripts), Tsitsernakaberd (the Armenian Genocide Memorial and Museum), the National Art Gallery and the Erebuni Fortress dating back to 752BC.
Surrounding Yerevan there are many sights which can be seen on a day trip. West of the city is Echmiadzin (Vagharshapat), the seat of the Armenian Apostolic Church. To the north-west is Ashtarak, a pretty town overlooking the Kasagh gorge with several churches dating from the 6th to the 16th centuries which line the gorge.
Going further into northern Armenia are scenic sights such as Mount Aragats, the highest point in Armenia, and Lake Sevan, which is a welcome retreat from Yerevan in the hot summer months. Just north of the lake is the stunning, almost alpine area of Dilijan National Park. Travelling into southern Armenia, the country becomes more remote still with one main highway serving as a vital artery linking to the capital city. Age-old churches and monasteries, rustic villages, vineyards and orchards, forests, caves, canyons and high plateaux all feature in this enchanting land.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
See Armenia come alive in this image and video gallery, showing off some of the best areas that you can visit and explore.
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