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Sightseeing in Armenia

Thick forests with a variety of wildlife, crystal clear lakes, volcanic peaks - Armenia's landscape is in itself the country's biggest attraction.

The main tourist attractions in Armenia are the capital Yerevan and the towns of Echmiadzin and Sevan. The major pull is to the spellbinding architecture of the churches and monuments, and the special Armenian carved stone crosses that dot the country. The source springs of mineral water are wondrous and health-giving, and for all those adventurous winter sports people, the ski resorts are a delight.

Artashat is 30km south of Yerevan and buses travel between the two cities. A visit here is interesting as it is the site of an early Armenian capital of the 2nd century BC.

Second, here is the Khor Viran Monastery – mythology says Gregory the Illuminator –the prisoner who cured and converted King Tiridates III was confined in a well at the Monastery. If you want to visit an ongoing excavation site, visit nearby Dvin. This too was once the capital (around 340 AD).

Located 50 km (31miles) north east of the capital, trains between Yerevan-Tsovagyukh pass Sevan thrice daily. The settlement shares its name with the Lake that lies along its south eastern side. The lake is the biggest in all of Transcaucasia. Located 1900m (6232ft) above sea level, it once covered nearly 5% of Soviet Armenia (1360 sq km /530 sq mi). Ever since the Armenian’s began harnessing water from the Razdan River that feeds the lake, for hydroelectricity and irrigation the lake has shrunk. The only good that came of this was that monuments, historical buildings as old as 2000 years that had been submerged when the lake rose were exposed.The river even today is the source of the most delicious trout in Armenia. In Sevan you could visit two churches – the last mementos of a 9th century monastery.

Echmiadzin is a quiet city. In human terms it’s like an elder living a retired life of solitude. Eons ago, Echmiadzin was the capital of Armenia (184 A.D. to 340 AD). Now it bears a holy symbolism for the country – a result of King Tiridates III's converting to Christianity here in 300 AD. Legend has it that he had condemned a Christian virgin to death by stoning. His own verdict drove him mad and he found a savior in another imprisoned Christian – who till date is referred to as Gregory the Illuminator. It was Gregory that converted King Tiridates III to the Christian faith and soon the populace followed its leader. The Orthodox Cathedral, which Gregory founded in Echmiadzin, remains the most revered and important historic site here. This is also home to the Supreme Catholicos who are the leaders of the Armenian Orthodox Church. The Church of St Gregory (Tserkov Sv Grigoria) is also here and though this was constructed in 641-61 it hasn’t survived the assault of time.

You would need to consult a model of it in the Armenian History Museum before you come to it. An earthquake in the 10th century demolished this Church building – considered the most beautiful of its time. A 20km (12.5mi) bus ride westwards from Yerevan's bus terminus will land you in Echmiadzin.

It is quite possible to take a holiday without spending a lot of money. Many people will refrain from going ...

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