Armenia is one of the few countries in the world that can boast of ancient and complex history. This Caucasian nation has a rich culture laced with art and tragedy.
A destination that will leave you intrigued by its history, amazed by its monuments and charmed by its simplicity. Travelling here is a mix of the old and the new.
The incredible archaic monasteries spread across this nation is where most tourists go and then there’s the amazing landscape perfect for outdoor adventure. The capital, Yerevan is delightful with its modern malls and historic old buildings. Put this all together and you have a great travel experience, which is so close to Dubai.
A flight takes less than three hours from Dubai to Yerevan and Indian nationals with UAE residence visa get visa on arrival. The visa at Yerevan airport will cost you USD6 and you’ll be out of the airport in no time.
Our visit to Armenia was for 72 hours and here’s what we did there.
How to get there…
We chose Air Arabia – direct flight of about two and a half hours to Yerevan in Armenia and we got a very sweet deal of return airfare, hotel stay with breakfast for under AED1000 per person.
There are other airlines like FlyDubai that fly to Yerevan.
RELATED: Here’s what to see and do in Russia
What we liked?
– We liked Yerevan a lot. From its pedestrian modern street of North Avenue with all big brands to basement bars and pubs on Pushkin Street, Yerevan city is a mix of the old and the new.
– The statues throughout the capital city and the art in its buildings and carvings are something you can look at for hours.
– The Vernissage is an open-air market in the city centre and it’s a treasure trove of mini wine barrels, wooden chess sets to handmade jewellery and paintings. We did our entire souvenir shopping from this stunning market.
– The architecture in this city is a sight for sore eyes. Its old buildings, facades, churches and monasteries are beautiful with some unique stone and woodcarvings.
– The drive to other attractions near Yerevan like Khor Virap and Noravank Monastery is interesting with the landscape and Mount Arafat always in view.
– The small town of Areni, well know for its fruit wines is quite stark but the wines make up for the strakness. These are special fruit wines that are all organic.
– The organic food and drinks that you get everywhere in Armenia is healthy and fresh.
What is overrated?
– The churches and monasteries. Don’t get me wrong, they are beautiful but there are just too many. If you have seen one or two important ones, then it’s good enough. The main attractions in Armenia are the monasteries all over the country.
– Khor Virap Monastery is one of those buildings that is being rebuilt since the sixth century. The story is that the pagan King Trdat III imprisoned St Gregory the Illuminator (Surp Grigor Lusavorich) here for around 12 years. We went down a metal ladder into the well where the saint was incarcerated. It’s a stark circular room and gets very crowded. There’s no one to monitor the up and down traffic to the well.
RELATED: More travel destinations and tips
– Free walking tour in Yerevan. Use Yerevan Walking Tour, led by Vako who knows all the stories, legends and is an artist himself. He takes you to interesting places and ends the tour at a local pub, which is cheap and full of youngsters. See this: https://www.facebook.com/YerevanFreeWalkingTour/
– Visit the History Museum of Armenia in Yerevan. One of the iconic buildings with a fountain in the front houses two museums. The history museum has an extraordinary collection of Bronze Age artefacts with many of the items excavated at a site near Lake Sevan in the 1950s. You can see bronze sculptures, wooden chariots to stone fertility symbols carvings. The building also has the art museum on one floor, which shows the history of Armenian art.
-Take a day trip to Areni village and cave and Noravank monastery. Archeologists discovered the 6100-year-old winery, in 2007 at the Areni caves. The urns and pots are as it is and there are other ruins as well. Whereas, the Noravank monastery is a 13th century church, atop a hill, with a stunning stone-made staircase jutting out of the building. It’s a bit hard to climb up and down but it’s worth the adventure.
-Visit the Garni Temple outside Yerevan. Armenia’s King Trdat I built it in the 1st century AD. Overlooking the Azat River, the temple was dedicated to the heathen sun god, Mitra. Large parts of the temple were destroyed in the 1679 earthquake. The Parthenon-like structure was rebuilt between 1969 and 1975. It features a monumental staircase and ionic columns with Roman bathhouse ruins next to the temple.
-Armenian cuisine has some specialty, though it has been largely influenced by its history and neighbouring countries. Dolma is a grape leaf in which vegetables and meat are wrapped and this dish is available everywhere.
-Zhingyalov hats is a type of flatbread like naan or chapatti, stuffed with finely diced herbs and green vegetables. It is a vegetarian and traditional dish of Armenians from Nagorno-Karabakh. In Yerevan there’s one restaurant by the same name that serves this dish only.
-When it comes to food in Yerevan, one must visit Yerevan Tavern, just off Republic Square. They have traditional Armenian dishes, great local wines and also Khachapuri from neighbouring Georgia. You might find the staff a bit snooty of you go during peak times like Saturday evening, but don’t let them get to you. Their menu has some great vegetarian options. Mind you, it’s all organic and fresh.
– Armenia was the first nation to adopt Christianity and they have a church to prove that. Holy Etchimiadzin church was built in early fourth century.
– Chess is taught in Armenian schools, its part of the curriculum. There many chess masters from this nation. Beautiful chessboards in wood are available at the Vernissage open-air market.
– Apricot is one of the symbols of Armenia. The orange colour of the flag comes from the fruit. Apricots are sold everywhere, from fresh and dried fruit, juice to apricot flavoured wine.
Royal Continental Hotel in Dubai is the latest addition in the city’s hospitality sector.
Located near Deira City Centre, its proximity to the Airport, a mall and a metro station, makes it convenient.
A mid-budget 4 star hotel, this one is good for tourists as well as business travellers.
The lifts and the corridors are neat and spacious. The lights are modern and corridor designs are quite nice.
Being a family of four, we stayed in a suite, which had a pantry, a seating area, a bedroom, a separate wardrobe area with a nice bathroom.
As we had to put an extra bed in the seating area, the only downside was the automatic lights with sensors, so even if you move a little bit, the lights came on, which can be a hassle for a light sleeper.
There’s one main restaurant Oasis and one coffee shop All The Perks at the lobby level.
There’s a great lunch buffet at the restaurant and the chef has some different and delicious dishes up his sleeve. We had an amazing dinner with rice balls and Thai green curry, pav bhaji martini and an extremely unique dessert with espresso.
The hotels amenities in terms of gym and pool are quite nice. They also have table tennis, pool table to keep you occupied. There’s also a spa offering some great treatments. The downside here is that the pool and gym opened at 9:00am, which we found to be very late opening hours.
All in all a great new modern hotel with a central location perfect for tourists and business trips.
Always hated the wait at the airport? Well, Singapore Airport definitely has a lot to see.
Changi Airport in itself is a tourist destination and we didn’t mind checking in early as there was a lot to do.
Having kids in tow, they had a couple of play areas with slides, TV’s etc. which kept them busy.
And then we all checked out the butterfly garden, which is a green haven in the middle of an airport and absolutely free to enter.
You can easily spend 30 to 45 minutes even if you are not a fan of butterflies.
Dubai’s One & Only Royal Mirage has been voted the best resort in the Middle East and 24th in the world’s best resorts.
The lavish resort came out on top in the 29th annual Conde Nast Readers’ Choice Awards, beating Abu Dhabi’s Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort to the No. 1 spot.
Anantara The Palm took the third place, while Atlantis, in Dubai, took came in fourth.
More than 300,000 readers, twice as many as last year, cast their votes for 7,394 hotels, 606 cities, 500 cruise ships, and 236 islands, in an average survey time of 8.4 minutes.
Free walking tours are quite popular in Europe but a free food tour is special to very few places.
Our first free food tour was with Balkan Bites in Sofia, Bulgaria. They took us to 5 places and made us taste food that ranged from traditional Bulgarian to modern Bulgarian cuisine.
Our favourites were the Sun and Moon restaurant that is healthy and vegetarian. This restaurant is famous for its bread flours and a popular hangout place for the locals as well.
Another favourite was the last restaurant in the video, a very difficult name to pronounce but it’s English translation is Summer Garden close to Vitusha Boulevard. Definitely have the palin wine there and the food is absolutely gorgeous.
When in Bulgaria next try this food tour for sure.
Russia is a beautiful country with lots of history and art. We spent five days in the country splitting our time between Moscow and Saint Petersburg.
Here’s where we stayed, what we did and some tips if you are planning a trip to Russia:
Month of Travel: August
Airline flown: Fly Dubai
Time to get there: 5 and a half hours or less
Visa: We got ours from Sea Star Tourism in 3 working days
Duration of stay: 5 days: 2 in Moscow and 3 in St. Petersburg
Where we stayed: Aquamarine Hotel in Moscow and Petro Palace in St. Petersburg
Currency to take: We took US Dollars and got an excellent exchange rate
Moscow sight-seeing: The Red Square, Moscow boat cruise, Bolshoi Theatre, Church of the Christ Saviour, Flea market
St. Petersburg sight-seeing: St. Isaac’s Cathedral, Admiralty, Hermitage, Winter Palace, Church on the spilled blood, Petergof, Alexandrinsky Theatre for Swan Lake.
Things to remember:
– No one knows where the ticket office is in Petergof Summer Palace is, it is actually inside the Palace
– Capcan (pronounced Sapsan)train is a super-fast train between Moscow and St.Petersburg. It provides food up to 2000 Rubles, which is included in your ticket if you have seats in car number 5 only
– Restaurant My My (pronounced Moo Moo) asks for original passport to serve alcoholic beverages
Russia is very reasonable priced, be it food or drinks or even the train tickets. The entrances to museums or churches range from 250 Rubles to 600 Rubles.
Holiday season is here and to enjoy the vacation, the last thing you want to be doing is trying to find lost luggage!
Here are a few tips from luggage brand Carpisa to avoid lost baggage:
Make sure you put your name tag on your luggage along with the contact details of the hotel you will be staying in. It will make it easier for the airport authorities to locate you/contact you. It will also help identify your own luggage in case of similar suitcases on the console belt.
Pack your valuable items in hand luggage, especially your important documents, camera, jewellery items etc.
Make sure the correct destination tags have been attached to your bags and boarding pass. While at the check-in counter, make sure you check the number of baggage tags with the number of bags that have been checked in and the destination code.
Last-minute checked-in bags may not make it through the security screening or can get lost in the rush. So make sure you check in your bags way before time.
Get your bags insured
Having your luggage insured saves you stress if they are lost. If the contents of your suitcase are valuable and important to you, then get those insured as well.
Carpisa offers an insurance policy. To make the insurance claim on your lost luggage, you need to submit a copy of the report received from the airline/airport for loss of baggage along with a copy of your boarding pass. The details of your purchase should already be with the insurance company if you have activated it at the time of the purchase. Within a month of the purchase of your Carpisa bag, you can activate your insurance policy free of charge. Once the claim is authorised the value of the luggage will be reimbursed directly to the customer. The maximum refund limit is 199 euros (Dhs823).
Croatia Travelogue Where to go What to do
7 years ago when I visited Prague I wanted to go & see Croatia but at that time due to visa constraints, I was unable to visit the beautiful historic country. This year ofcourse, the plan materialized, with the embassy emailing that Indian passport holders with multiple entry Schengean visa can visit Croatia.
So we set out to visit this picturesque country. We took a smartwings flight from Prague to Dubrovnik, which was for an hour and a half. The bus service from the Airport to the city center Pile Gate was 5 Euros per person and very convenient. We crossed the medieval town in 5 minutes to get to our lovely bed & breakfast just outside the Ploce Gate. Our host Sdjan of was friendly & knowledgeable and suggested all the things we must do.
The old town of Dubrovnik is among the UNESCO World Heritage sites. And yes, it is truly spectacular. With churches, narrow alleyways and stunning architecture it is a sight to behold. Walking the walls of the old town is absolutely amazing and must be done in the morning anti-clock wise. Morning as the sun is not high up and anti-clock wise as there’s less climbing up to do that way.
A city of 42000 people, the old town is a tourist magnet. Wall in the hole – Buza is a great place to have a sundowner, watch the Adriatic Sea and some cliff jumpers. You are spoilt for choice when it comes to food, but try the Gusta Me just outside Ploce Gate. The island of Lokrum close to Dubrovnik is a nice quiet place to enjoy a swim and a picnic.
For all wine lovers, peljesac peninsula is a must do. Visit some wineries like , Matusko
and Korta Katarina
Plavac Mali is the main grape grown here which we all know as Zinfandale. From there visit Marco Polo’s home-town Karcula, which is breathtakingly beautiful.
We bid adieu to Dubrovnik and headed to Split in our rent a car. Split is a bigger city and cheaper than Dubrovnik. We stayed 200 meters away from the 1700 year old Diocletian’s Palace which is an ancient palace built by the Roman emperor. The Palace still houses people and has many restaurants, bars, pubs and shops. Just outside the Palace is the Riva or the promenade to take a stroll or eat.
The Palace is so lively that you don’t want to get out of there. Zinfandale Wine Bar is a must do if you like to taste the local wines. There’s a lot to do in Split and outside, Visit Trogir, a small old town just outside Split and if you have the time go to Hvar, the island close to Split.
Our final destination in Croatia was Zagreb and on our way from Split to Zagreb, we made a stop at the Plitvice Lakes and spent around 4 hours, the entry is expensive and there’s a lot to see in terms of lower lakes & upper lakes. If you have seen other lakes and National Parks around the world then it’s not worth going, as its way too expensive for what you get to see.
Zagreb is like any other Eastern European Capital City. It’s no doubt beautiful and cheaper than the Dalmitian coast cities. The Cathedral, Parliament, Railway station, all are beautiful ancient buildings carrying history. The concerts, rock gigs all take place in Summer months and it’s a great time to be there in this beautiful country.
Dubrovnik Stay – http://www.dubrovnikbedandbreakfast.com/
Split Stay – http://www.splitsuites.eu/en/rooms
Zagreb Stay – Sheraton Hotel
Airline to Dubrovnik form Prague – http://www.smartwings.com/en/
Currency to Carry – Euro and then change it to Kuna (more…)