A Tiny Treasure: Sacred & Secular

Armenia

Armenia is a small and mountainous country of peaks and high plateaus cut by river valleys.  It was the first to embrace Christianity as a state religion and powerful old stone churches are silhouetted on the hilltops and tucked into the valleys.  Tragedy and triumph have become dual themes that are indelibly woven into the fabric of Armenia’s history.

Why Travel with MIR to Armenia
  • 30 years of Armenia travel experience
  • Travel programs such as World Affairs Council of Philadelphia and Harvard have chosen MIR to guide them to Armenia
  • Twice named one of National Geographic Adventure’s “Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth”
  • MIR’s small group tours Eastern Turkey and Georgia: Legacy of Empire and Georgia & Armenia: Mountains & Monasteries were honored as “Tours of a Lifetime,” by National Geographic Traveler
  • On-the-ground support and quality you can trust
  • Personalized travel planning from start to finish
  • Guides and tour managers that clients rave about
Signature Experiences

We regularly garner raves from our travelers for the inspired opportunities we provide to help them get to know the local people, distinctive art, architecture and accomplishments of the age-old country of Armenia.  Below is just a sampling of the Armenia experiences MIR has designed to take our clients far from the familiar.

  • Experience the soaring voices of a small ensemble in a classic setting
    Experience traditional Armenian songs sung a cappella during a private concert at 1st century Garni Temple....
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    Experience the soaring voices of a small ensemble in a classic setting

    Armenia

    Garni, Armenia

    Experience traditional Armenian songs sung a cappella during a private concert at 1st century Garni Temple.

    Journeys with this Signature Experience

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  • See all the way to Turkey from Khor Virap
    Admire the incredible panorama of snow-capped Mt. Ararat looming over the vineyards and the little stone monastery of Khor Virap....
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    See all the way to Turkey from Khor Virap

    Armenia

    Khor Virap, Armenia

    Admire the incredible panorama of snow-capped Mt. Ararat looming over the vineyards and the little stone monastery of Khor Virap.

    Journeys with this Signature Experience

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  • Marvel at the manuscripts at one of the world’s oldest book depositories
    Marvel at the reverence for the written word at one of the world’s oldest book depositories ...
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    Marvel at the manuscripts at one of the world’s oldest book depositories

    Armenia

    Yerevan, Armenia

    Marvel at the vast collection of manuscripts and the reverence for the written word at the Matenadaran Museum, one of the world’s oldest book depositories.

    Journeys with this Signature Experience

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  • Learn to make lavash, Armenian flatbread
    Visit a private Armenian home for a lavash-making demonstration, then taste the fresh bread during a meal....
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    Learn to make lavash, Armenian flatbread

    Armenia

    Various locations, Armenia

    Visit a private Armenian home for a lavash-making demonstration, then taste the fresh bread during a meal.

    Next Steps

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Ways to Travel to Armenia with MIR

Over the years we have built up an extensive list of contacts in Armenia and can figure out how to get you most anywhere and see most anything in the country. Our team of fabulous guides is ready to show you around and take you behind the scenes.

Take a look at your options, from small group escorted tours to independent trips, from luxury rail journeys to custom and private travel:

Small Group Tours
Treasures of the South Caucasus

Treasures of the South Caucasus

Classic Survey of Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia

Travels to: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, South Caucasus

15 Days / Departures in September 2017

Small Group land tour from $7,395

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Rail Journeys by Private Train
Caspian Odyssey by Private Train: Eastbound

Caspian Odyssey by Private Train: Eastbound

South Caucasus to Central Asia Aboard the Golden Eagle

Travels to: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Central Asia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, South Caucasus, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan

16 Days / Departures in October, September 2017

Rail Journey by Private train land tour from $21,495

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Custom and private travel is our specialty. We’ve been designing unforgettable custom itineraries across the mountains and hidden valleys of Armenia for 30 years; a majority of our guests travel on custom itineraries.

For ideas, peruse one of our Regional Travel Planners, a roundup of the must-sees from our savvy staff.

Take a look at our suggested Private Journeys, Essential Georgia & Armenia or Essential Caucasus, or read more about how to design your own trip.  Also, consider this: You can customize our small group tour Treasures of the South-Caucasus or other MIR South Caucasus tours to match your preferred dates of travel.

Design Your Own Custom Trip

Traveling privately on a custom program means flexibility:

  • You set the dates, the focus and the level of accommodations.
  • You are met on arrival and seen off at the end of your trip.
  • Your in-country transportation is pre-arranged hassle-free.
  • Your own expert local guides ensure that you get the most out of your visit.
  • And the best part? You travel at your own pace on an itinerary exclusive to you.

Check out just a handful of our Armenia signature experiences below and then get in touch with a MIR Private Journey Specialist to craft an itinerary that suits your travel goals, budget and style.  Or get started planning now.

Suggested Itineraries for Private Travel

Whether you’re looking for a compact trip with all the highlights or something a little roomier with some of the extras, MIR offers itineraries that are available on a private departure basis with your choice of dates. They can also serve as inspiration for your own custom itinerary.

Our itinerary, your dates – great for solo travelers, couples or small groups.

Essential Georgia & Armenia

Essential Georgia & Armenia

An Overland Expedition from Yerevan to the Black Sea Coast

Travels to: Armenia, Georgia, South Caucasus

Departures in June, July, August, September, October 2017

This itinerary available as a private journey

See Trip
Essential Caucasus

Essential Caucasus

Highlights of Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan

Travels to: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, South Caucasus

Departures in June, July, August, September, October 2017

This itinerary available as a private journey

See Trip

Weather
Our Favorite Places in Armenia
Armenia

Yerevan

The capital city of Armenia is older even than Rome. Yerevan was founded under the name Erebuni in 782 BC. In the 4th century, Armenia became the first country in Europe to adopt Christianity as its official religion. The Armenian peoples’ faith, culture and language have managed to survive through centuries of conflict with Arabs, Mongols, Persians and Turks: Yerevan changed hands 14 times between 1512 and 1735.

The city center today includes a wide range of architectural styles as a result of the fusion of Armenian and Russian design. The layout of the city features a large central square with broad avenues radiating from it, and a ring of parkland. Mountains surround the city, including the snow-covered peaks of Ararat to the south and the four peaks of Mount Aragats to the northwest.

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Armenia

Garni

Drive slightly outside of Yerevan to admire the Temple of Garni, which stands on a cliff near the Azat River valley. With walls of huge basalt blocks, the temple was once the summer pal­ace of King Trdat I who built it in the first century AD. Destroyed by an earthquake in 1679, the monument has been restored by Armenian architects in recent years. Skilled work continues on the royal baths and their striking mosaics.

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Armenia

Geghard

Carved into the side of a mountain, UNESCO-listed Geghard Monastery is one of the most fascinating monuments in Armenia. Beside the river at the foot of the rock, the church dates from 1215. It provides access to another building that has a roof formed by stalactites. The convent is in a cave adjoining this building; the only way in is through a narrow opening in the roof. The compound includes monastic cells, churches, tombs and khachkar all hewn from solid rock. The churches are still functioning and baptisms and sacrifices of lambs sometimes take place.

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Armenia

Echmiadzin

Echmiadzin, founded as Vargarsapat in AD 117 and once the capital of Armenia, is the center of an agricultural area renowned for its fruit and wine. But it is better known as the spiritual center of Armenia and the seat of its Catholicos, or Patriarch. A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2000, it is also an important place of pilgrimage for Christian Armenians from the world over. It was here that St. Gregory the Illuminator had a vision of Christ descending to earth, and the Cathedral at Echmiadzin was built on the spot in the 4th century.

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Armenia

Lake Sevan

Blue-green Lake Sevan, at over 6,200 feet above sea level, is one of the largest alpine lakes in the world. Filling two inter-mountain depressions, the brilliant lake is a favorite resort for citizens of Yerevan, about 70 miles away. In 1930, a Soviet plan to use lake water for hydroelectricity and irrigation caused the water level to sink rapidly, and beaches and resorts to appear on the new lake shore. An ancient island monastery became a peninsula monastery. Work has been underway to reverse some of the drainage, and as of 2005, the water level of beautiful Lake Sevan is beginning to rise again.

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Armenia

Khor Virap

This small, sturdy monastery is set on a ridge above the flat Ararat Valley, and behind it looms snow-covered Ararat. Gregory the Illuminator is said to have been imprisoned here for 13 years before converting the king to Christianity. It is one of the most beautiful places in Armenia.

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Armenia

Tatev

The powerful fortified monastery of Tatev was founded in the 9th century. Overlooking a steep gorge, the complex includes the St. Peter and Paul Church, frescoed by the founders of the famous Tatev School, which taught humanities and manuscript illustration. In the courtyard, a 10th century pillar, called the Gavazan, tilts at the touch of a human hand.

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Journeys that travel to Tatev

Contact a MIR Private Journeys Specialist at privatejourneys@mircorp.com or 800-424-7289 to plan a custom & private trip to Tatev Monastery.

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Armenia

Haghbat and Sanahin Monasteries

The Haghbat Monastery complex was founded in the 10th century, like its nearby companion, Sanahin Monastery. These fortified monasteries, added to over two hundred years, were literary, artistic and educational centers as well as monastic compounds. Comprised of atmospheric stone churches, bell towers, mausoleums and numerous khachkar (carved stone crosses), Haghbat and Sanahin are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. They are outstanding examples of the blending of Byzantine church architecture with the local Caucasian architecture of the period.

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Journeys that travel to Haghbat and Sanahin Monasteries

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Armenia

Ashtarak

The Ashtarak region is located on the southern slope of Mount Aragats. The area is ancient and has been inhabited since time immemorial; today it is dotted with stone monuments and ancient burial places. Visit one or two of these impressive places before exploring the villages of Ashtarak.  Ohannavank, Saghmossavank and Tegher monasteries were all built by Prince Kurd Bakutian in the 13th century. Ohannavank was rebuilt from its original wooden structure (which also was constructed on pagan ruins), and is considered to be one of the finest examples of large churches in the country. Saghmossavank and Tegher are representative of the central dome construction style typical of the period. Also in this region is the Arshakid mausoleum, which was constructed in the 4th century for the royal family.

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Journeys that travel to Ashtarak

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Armenia

Lori Region

Armenia’s Lori Region is in the northeast corner, next to the Georgian border. The country’s greenest and most beautiful area, the Lori Region is set mainly on a high plateau cut through with deep river gorges. It is sparsely populated except along these gorges. Its most important river is the Debed, along which many of Armenia’s earliest monasteries were built.

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Journeys that travel to Lori Region

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When to Travel to Armenia

Easter

Armenian traditional dancingAs Europe’s oldest Christian country, Armenians consider Christian holidays an integral part of their culture. Easter is a favorite for many Armenians and is celebrated with several local traditions. At the start of Lent, families place lentils on a tray and cover them with cotton. Over the course of the Lenten Period, the grains begin to sprout, symbolic of spring. The new “grass” becomes the Easter table centerpiece, and painted eggs are placed on top of the grass, furthering the idea of rebirth. Armenians also build scenes of small figurines and stage Passions in observance of the holiday.

Local Festivals

Food and wine are important parts of Armenian culture as well, and several harvest festivals are held throughout the spring and summer. Traditional crops include strawberries, cherries, peaches, pears and watermelons. Wine festivals also take place throughout Armenia’s wine growing regions, with the majority located in the fertile Ararat Valley and Areni Village. As the harvest schedule and yield is dependent on weather, the schedule varies from year to year. Though difficult to plan for, an unexpected visit to a local harvest festival is an exciting and meaningful cultural experience, the element of surprise making it that much sweeter.