How to plan your trip to Armenia?
Planning your trip to Armenia can be important for most of us. Depending on the season, accommodation, transportation, and access may be limited, difficult, or even impossible. Depending on the length of your stay, you will need to plan your trip to Armenia as well as possible.
As far as I am concerned, this trip to Armenia was not prepared because my stay was initially limited to the time needed to obtain a visa from the Iranian embassy. COVID decided otherwise!
Continue reading or pick any section below and jump right to it:
- Armenia outside Yerevan
- How to travel in Armenia?
- When to travel to Armenia?
- Where to go from Yerevan for a day?
- My best visits to Armenia (North-East of Yerevan)
- North of Yerevan: volcanoes, mountains, and Spitak.
- West and South Yerevan: Between 2 different worlds
- Religion in Armenia
- COVID in Armenia
- Important points in Armenia
Armenia outside Yerevan
Yerevan does not have the fallacious pretension of being a modern and avant-garde capital. Still, it must be recognized that it is gradually integrating the consequences of urbanization in progress. Two-thirds of the total Armenian population is grouped in and around the capital, amplifying the problems of urban management (water, sanitation, waste management, road infrastructure, and public transport), which are, therefore, daily challenges.
Moreover, the city's significant expansion is taking place at the expense of all other country regions. Every modest town or village has been inexorably depopulating for several years, creating constant emigration, either to the country's capital or abroad.
How to travel in Armenia?
To travel to Armenia, you can either take a driver (by the day or by the week), rent a vehicle and drive it yourself or use only the "local buses", which will then become an adventure within the adventure but probably hyper enriching!
Blocked in Yerevan for long months by the COVID19 epidemic, I wanted as soon as possible to discover the rest of Armenia. Without appropriate public transportation, the adequate solution was to rent a vehicle (Practical info: Sixt - from 100 EUR per week for a new Renault vehicle, thanks to a special COVID19 discount of 50%).
Due to Yerevan's central geographical location, it is easy to "star travel," i.e., to leave in the morning for a chosen location and return to Yerevan in the evening to sleep. With the few hotels or places to sleep outside the capital being all closed during this epidemic period, my choice will prove to be wholly appropriate and judicious.
The train option is very limited!
The state of the streets within the city is acceptable, even if it can miss, sometimes, some utility hole covers in particular in the more industrial zone in the south of the train station (manhole covers probably stolen by local scrap metal dealers according to the witnesses of my accident, who looked like scrap metal dealers of the district themselves! Note for me: don't be crazy on a bike if the visibility is poor and stay careful at all times, even when the speed of my pedals exhilarates me!
This relative quality of the urban roads is limited to the 10 kilometers around the capital and only concerns my stay in Yerevan: beyond that, it is necessary to be extremely vigilant because the asphalt, degraded by a harsh winter and a sweltering summer, will sometimes be random or even non-existent. Moreover, most road users' adventurous and approximate driving and the pitiful or even disastrous state of some vehicles can only incite the most constant concentration during your travels and journeys through Armenia.
The selection of a few days of visits from Yerevan and then some personal explanations of my feelings during my trip to Yerevan and Armenia will complete my travel diary in Armenia.
I have no pretension to relate here EVERYTHING to see in Armenia but to share my most remarkable experiences of my visit to Armenia!
When to travel to Armenia?
Traveling in Armenia is different depending on the season: in winter, the cold is bitterly cold and accompanied by heavy snow. In summer, temperatures can reach 40*C, and the landscapes are dry and desertified.
For my part, the choice seems obvious to me: it's summer!
I wouldn't say I like the negative temperatures, the refrigerated atmospheres, and the biting winds blowing down from the snowy mountains.
Where to go from Yerevan for a day?
The village of Garni is only about twenty kilometers away from the capital Yerevan. Still, it takes a little more than an hour to get there (by bike, it is better to plan about 2h30 to climb the vital difference in altitude and discover these hills often arid and devastated by the sun. On the other hand, the return trip will only take an hour and a half).
The view from Garni Temple
The temple of Garni is magnificent and exceptional. Indeed, this temple with modest and balanced dimensions overhung a deep valley and flanked by cliffs. Built on an old palace of the VIIIth century BC and dedicated to the god Mihr, it is the inescapable archaeological monument of Armenia. The majestic beauty of the site and the perfect preservation of this Greco-Roman temple of the 1st century allow us to go back more than 20 centuries in the past quickly! By the magic of the place (and my overflowing imagination stimulated by the influx of dopamine for this first post-confinement escapade), I was able to "hear the clamors" of past festivities, "witness" the fervent processions, and "participate" in the ceremonies and sacrifices organized in homage to the venerated deities! Beware: like most Roman temples, the temple's interior is straightforward and even cramped with only a few square meters! Everything is located outside! Roman temples are usually dedicated to a specific god, represented by a modestly sized statue or even a simple figurine, which contrasts with the often-grandiose statues of Roman emperors and military leaders (Practical info: entrance to the temple 2,50 EUR)!
The handmade jams, offered at the temple's exit by friendly saleswomen, are also absolutely divine. With large pieces of fruit, they are a delight that cannot be ignored, with a unique taste that cannot be found elsewhere.
Leaving the site to the temple's left, a cobbled alleyway descends steeply down the valley toward Symphonic Rocks. After ½ hour of walking and crossing some barriers and fences, I reached this intriguing and very original site. My successive encounters with several snakes (including a surprising pastel yellow one!) basking in the sun in the middle of the wooded path incite me to strongly recommend that you bring a walking stick and make your footsteps resound on the ground to keep them away and allow them to flee without confrontation!
The landscape is now wholly atypical and impressive: basaltic rocks of mainly square or rectangular shapes descend vertiginously towards the ground and look like "giant organs". In the spring, during their migrations, hundreds of swallows build or restore their nests to accommodate their young during the summer. The parents' incessant ballet and their constant chirping resonate throughout my visit to this site, giving it an even more enchanting and improbable dimension.
Continuing a few kilometers eastward, the monastery of Geghard will be the "religious" visit of the day. In Armenia, as much as to be prepared for it, churches, monasteries, and other Christian cathedrals will be the main places to visit and of interest: it will be difficult to really appreciate Armenia, without liking to visit these omnipresent and ancient Christian sites, often from the beginning of Christianity. Every Armenian is proud of these religious testimonies which characterize, in his eyes, this country as the oldest Christian country in the world (however, the neighboring Georgians also claim this postulate and paternity!). This splendid 7th-century monastery is nestled at the bottom of the valley, along a peaceful stream. Several caves with countless legends and hidden by green vegetation, bathe in a freshness which contrasts with the summits, arid and crushed by the sun.
Within the monastery itself, the religious fervor and piety of the visitors incense the monastic atmosphere of the small halls with rocky floors. Marked by whispered prayers and whispered hopes, the atmosphere is heavy and dark. The many burning candles at the bottom of the dark and humid alcoves plunge me into deep reflection and remind me of the film "In the name of the rose" (with Sean Connery). The heady and so peculiar smell of the Armenian paper, which is constantly burning, tries to hide the mysteries and plots inexorably linked to this historical place. This atmosphere, almost palpable, remains perceptible several minutes after leaving the site itself. Outside resounds very particular melodies that several elders sing and share. These are traditional ancestral songs accompanied by duduks and kamancha, typically Armenian musical instruments. I feel this moment as a rare privilege of my extended stay in this Caucasian country.
Inside the monastery of Geghard
My best visits to Armenia (North-East of Yerevan).
As Armenia has no sea coast, one of the Armenian points of pride is Lake Sevan, located about 100 kilometers east of the capital Yerevan. On weekends, its private beaches are popular with wealthier families. I am therefore looking forward to relaxing on its shores after these long months of confinement and even swimming there happily. The fine but cold rain will not allow me to do either. I'm content with a coffee machine in the only "roadside restaurant" left open in the region during this pandemic period!
Breton (and therefore used to the exceptional shores of the Atlantic Ocean) and inhabitant of Bali (which boasts several idyllic beaches), I must admit that I am not particularly attracted by this succession of private "beaches". They look more like a marshland to me, with reeds and bushes and no sand.
A land of old volcanoes
My journey will certainly be more interesting by continuing towards the mountains of the North East and more particularly towards Ijevan than Berd, near the Azerbaijan border. The mountainous and wooded nature of the region, its villages more typically nestled in deep valleys, and the pleasant simplicity of the inhabitants I met, radically enchant me.
Beware of solitary cows and sometimes even entire herds, which wander freely, without supervision (fence, dog, or shepherd), along with or even in the middle of the roads. It is frequent to find oneself with one or more ruminants happily monopolizing the entire roadway and forbidding, for a while, the passage of the lightest vehicle. Caution and vigilance are necessary on these small tortuous roads (how to write in Armenian a friendly accident report with a bovine straying on the road?).
At the village market, the few stalls of local farmers offer regional products, often in limited quantities and exclusively from their own work on this ungrateful and difficult land. The products are not graded, prepared, and advantageously arranged as in more urban markets: Modern marketing will take a few more years before invading these deliciously traditional places.
Some, curious to see me in this place, invite me by gestures, to contribute economically to their development. In an improbable hubbub and with many gestures of explanations, a few elders gave the word, and here they are, offering me to taste the most diverse and unknown local products. I am not even sure that they even consume it themselves so much it is very, but then very strong in taste! I immediately forgot the unpronounceable names of these "local culinary specialties" on the contrary of the bitter and indefinable taste that persisted in my mouth, and this despite my assiduous consumption of tasty and juicy figs intended to cover this horrible taste impregnated on my taste buds (I did think of calling the hypothetical customer service but it is likely, considering the rusticity of the salesmen, that the online service could not do anything to relieve my taste disappointments !)
One of the accomplices of “the crime”!
The omnipresence of soldiers on this market continually reminds me that the border with the hated Azerbaijani neighbor is very close (about 5 kilometers)!
Unfortunately, the day after my journey in these isolated and sparsely populated areas, I will learn that several villages crossed the day before was the scene of fighting deploring a total of twenty victims on both sides of the two warring parties.
North of Yerevan: volcanoes, mountains, and Spitak.
From Yerevan, it is possible to see, far to the North, the Lesser Caucasus Mountains, year-round snow-covered mountains that form the natural border between Armenia and Georgia. I am passionately attracted by this region which hosts the highest point in the country: the extinct volcano Aragats (4090 m). The surrounding landscapes are barren and peeled and the volcano itself made up of 4 peaks is remarkable only by its dominant standing overlooking the entire northern part of the country and particularly the whole Yerevan plain. Extinct Stratovolcano, whose last eruption dates back to 5000 years, is a testimony to the intense seismic and volcanic activity of the region.
My stop in the city of Spitak is very moving: in 1988, the city was completely destroyed by an earthquake (6.9 degrees on the Richter scale). Between 25,000 and 30,000 people disappeared and only 80 survived from the rubble of the city. The new city, which is trying to rebuild itself little by little, seems to have difficulty finding dynamism, energy, or even quietness, so much the fear of this catastrophe is still present in every memory. I find myself feeling the ambient "darkness" that forbids me to even take the slightest picture of this place destroyed in less than 8 seconds more than 30 years ago! It is hard for me to forget that the old Metsamor nuclear power plant (1973), considered one of the least safes in the world and using old Soviet Chernobyl-type technology, is located less than 30 kilometers from the epicenter of the devastating earthquake.
Snaking through the surrounding hills and mountains, and alternating visits to the numerous churches and religious buildings dotting the landscape, the inhabitants of the villages easily recognize me as a "passing stranger" because my vehicle, simple and unpretentious, nevertheless catches the eye immediately: new (which is completely incongruous in these regions), it is of European make, contrasting with the absolute local norm: the antique Lada considered as practically new if it was put into service in the 80s!
Lada cars: a new religion or a myth?
Proud of my new deserved status as a patented and recognized traveler, I revel under the mocking glances of some villagers, to store dozens of photos of the many religious sites and old monuments, often deserted and of soothing calm.
Undoubtedly too calm for me by this overwhelming heat, because it has favored my drowsiness in the shade of a cherry tree... from where I will wake up under the intrigued bleating of the sheep and goats of a herd led by a mocking shepherd and amused by discovering me there.
The magic of encounters on a solo trip! I am of course talking about the shepherd because I have to admit that this sudden awakening confirms my obvious limits and shortcomings in terms of communication with sheep drooling on my picnic!
West and South Yerevan: Between 2 different worlds
The city of Yerevan is only 20 kilometers away from the Turkish border. It's probably the best axis for an easy bike ride as there are no hills or mountains to cross. After only a few kilometers out of the city, the roads and paths are not very busy and allow walks through orchards and agricultural crops on Armenia's most fertile lands. No difficulty until the Aros River, the natural border between the 2 enemy countries, and no risk for me to cross this border accidentally: the separation of these 2 "worlds" is a no man's land of several kilometers wide. The separation of these two "worlds" is a no man's land of several kilometers wide.
Surmounted on both sides by numerous watchtowers and materialized by threatening fences forbidding any passage, this border represents the end of the Christian world facing the Muslim world. The monumental Christian crosses scattered along with the river rival the many minarets on the opposite bank. A "cold war" atmosphere is perceptible everywhere and each of my stops (by bicycle or car) will be the occasion for the military to control my intentions and for me to "show my white paw" in order to continue my peregrinations.
As in Turkey, the nests of storks, perched on the tops of the electric poles of each village, are omnipresent in this region of hot plains in the south. Often in pairs, from their promontories, the storks watch the rare passers-by while conscientiously feeding their chirping offspring. Their graceful and whirling flights over the fields of this Armenian plain bring me, again and again, an intense, almost childlike joy about storks (it is indeed the storks that carry babies at birth, isn't it?).
Its position overhanging the plain allows a breathtaking view of Turkey, Iran, and the Autonomous Republic of Nakhchivan (Azerbaijan), all dominated by the 2 Turkish summits of Mount Ararat (volcano supposed to shelter Noah's Ark!) and its eternal snows. The majesty of the site is amplified by its history and its many adventures, as well as by the legends and epics that arise from it. Saint Gregory is supposed to have survived his imprisonment in the underground moat for 13 years with his hands and feet bound during his entire stay. Still visible today, they were filled with snakes, venomous reptiles, and other scorpions at the time!
I am always curious during my peregrinations, to discover new ideas and commercial approaches cleverly deployed by the salesmen to the tourists. In this field, the Egyptians near the pyramids, the Turks of Istanbul, but also the Greeks near the archaeological ruins, and the Americans (everywhere even when there is nothing special!), are among the most innovative. On the site of Khor Virab, several clever people propose to you, for only a few euros, to proceed to a "dove release".
This symbol of international peace takes its place in an almost moving way in this border zone between Armenia and Turkey, practically in the shade of the watchtowers installed a few hundred meters away.
Your "act of purchase" has thus become an "act of peace" which is supposed to guarantee you moreover, luck, happiness, and success in your future business!
The vulgar pigeon (and not a dove!) that you are going to elect, will fly over the church and will return in a few minutes to its initial starting point, its home what!
The dream of any product marketing developer: the product that returns to its seller at no cost is reusable at will while ensuring an easy income for its owner. It requires only a minimal operating cost and it becomes, in the end, a good family meal (Practical info: a flight of the bird between 5 and 7 EUR depending on your negotiation skills). What wouldn't we do to help Peace in the World, to see all our wishes granted and incidentally to allow a plump pigeon to stretch its wings?
Choose your way to go to the South
Further south, the village of Yeraskh is old-fashioned and consists of 3 houses and 5 shops-bazaars-petrol pump-coffee-bakery... The completely improbable atmosphere of no-man's-land at this meeting point of the Armenian, Turkish and Iranian borders and the Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic (Azerbaijan) reminds me of the old American westerns and its ghost towns, crisscrossed by dry thorn bushes.
Bee on a thistle
On the very close surrounding heights, the outposts (and firing posts!) of the various armies are scattered in watchtowers, trenches dug with a bulldozer and surrounded by minefields and protective parapets, etc... Walking through the village, I find myself bending my back to avoid being the target of probable snipers from all sides who would like to make a "hit" on this lost Frenchman! As no dog, cat, or even stork is hanging around in this corner swept by the hot July wind, I am wary!
Leaving the soldiers of the Russian army detachment in charge of enforcing the ceasefire to patrol proudly in their 4x4 jeeps, on the roads and paths winding through the hills, I quickly move away from this place full of international tensions.
The road continues towards the southern heights framed by very high earthen dikes that are supposed to protect vehicles from the observation of soldiers on duty on the various summits. Camouflaged firing posts, 100 meters apart, reflect the nature of the local territorial controversies as the majority of heavy vehicles struggle to climb the pass towards Iran. It is surprising to cross the tiny Azerbaijani territory of Tigranashen, a landlocked village in the heart of Armenia: 3 square kilometers of arid land, with 2.5 dilapidated houses and a deserted school. Cacti and other thorny and dried-up grasses are the only evidence of life from which no inhabitant appears.
The many tombs and crosses scattered along with the roadside bear witness to the fury of past battles. I, therefore, wonder about the human absurdity that engenders so many broken lives and bereaved families in order to obtain the management of a gaunt and famished steppe having no other interest than vague nationalist causes!
They were fighting for this hill!
The southern slope of the pass is a mountainous desert crossed by deep valleys hardly greener. Stalls, often held by idle teenagers, are along the only practicable road (designated "Highway" on the maps!) and offer to the rare vehicles that use it, fruits, jams, and more prosaically local products…
On the road to the South...
This region also produces the most famous Armenian wines, the pride of all its inhabitants. Of course, the "historical" and typically Armenian churches remain to be visited at the detours of a valley or a rocky peak as well as several prehistoric caves (extraordinary and rich in ancient artifacts), majestic waterfalls, and national parks (with brown bears and wolves of course but also the rarest panther of the Caucasus or the Persian leopard).
However, from Kapan and even more from Kunajaran, the rare villages invaded by unruly herds of multicolored goats with ears dropping to the ground, testify more and more to Persian inspirations and remind us that the Iranian border is at the end of the road.
Convoys of tanker trucks with Iranian plates that are heavily loaded and heading north confirm that the embargo imposed by the United States is blithely bypassed and transgressed on this side of the world.
Truck with petrol from Iran: what is the embargo?
Summary (these are only my personal opinion!)
Repeat after me: PTGHUNK!
When is it better to travel to Armenia?
It is better to travel to Armenia between April and September.
What are the places to visit in Armenia in winter?
The places to visit in Armenia in winter can be summarized at: the Yerevan, and the 3 ski sites of the country: Tsakhkadzor - 27 km of slopes, Jermuk - 3 km of slopes, and Akhtamar - 2.5 km of slopes.
What are the places to visit in Armenia in summer?
The places to visit in Armenia in summer are much more numerous and include all the places mentioned and underlined in the previous paragraphs.
What are the 3 places to visit in Armenia?
What to bring to Armenia?
You should bring the same essentials to Armenia as you would for your trips to other countries. However, since the standard of living in Armenia is low and in Yerevan, you can find everything you want at very competitive prices (especially for clothes and shoes), it will probably be much more interesting not to burden yourself unnecessarily from your country and to buy on the spot what you need for your stay (even if you have to sell them at the time of your departure or to leave them at your most friendly meetings).
Practical advice for traveling in Armenia
- Have good insurance covering your expenses and those of third parties. Be careful, an important deductible is generally applied (For info: +/- 500 EUR minimum)!
- Car rental companies are located only in Yerevan. Take your precautions!
Truck or bike for Armenian steppes?
- In the event of an accident, DO NOT MOVE your vehicle but leave it EXACTLY at the place of impact! If the vehicle is moved (even by only a few meters to let the traffic flow smoothly for example) the insurances would not intervene and you will be obliged to pay all the costs! In the open country, while I was driving quietly, 2 vehicles that had collided violently several days before, remained immobilized in the middle of the road, abandoned by their drivers in their respective post-impact positions, and represented an undeniable danger of over accident.
- Gas stations are numerous and traditionally at very similar rates (For info: 0.60 EUR per liter in August 2020).
Have you seen the shepherd?
- Speed limits are varied and difficult to understand and grasp because signs indicating these limits are rare. The authorized speed can vary according to the lane used on the same axis. ALL towns and villages have fixed and automatic speed controls: the first day, I was surprised by several radar flashes in the most unexpected places, making me more vigilant the following days. The hypothesis of paparazzi shooting at me being not credible, it became more and more obvious that the rental car company would make me miserable when I got back from the car!
Porsche Cayenne for 7000usd: are you sure?
- It is really surprising to note the very large number of luxury vehicles in Yerevan: few other cities in the world concentrate such a high percentage of big cars (+/- 80% of the capital's registrations), often luxury, often German, while the number of kilometers of good roads in the country is extremely limited (maybe 100 kilometers in total across Armenia??). The various explanations gathered presuppose an organization of trafficking of second-hand (or stolen?) cars from Germany and Italy often through Russian, Armenian, or Georgian "organized mafias", the ultimate being to have personalized license plates with selected numbers. Some even claim that the price of these personalized plates can exceed the price of the vehicle itself!
A long trip from Russia: holidays or business?
Lucky numbers for you?
Used cars from Japan are easily recognizable because the steering wheel is on the right; in right-hand traffic, the challenge of driving this type of vehicle becomes inappropriate or even extremely risky (especially when overtaking).
Religion in Armenia
Religion in Armenia in one sentence and a few numbers:
The most Christian country in the world!
Islam: - of 500 people (1.6 per 10,000 in 2018)
Judaism: - of 300 people (1 per 10,000 in 2018)
The omnipresence of the Christian religion in Armenia is undeniable, everywhere visible, and unanimously claimed by everyone. In my opinion, this engenders a large part of the conflicts with its immediate neighbors, mostly Muslim (Turkey, Iran, and Azerbaijan). For every Armenian, the mental wound resulting from the Turkish genocide (1915-1923) remains omnipresent and particularly painful (the Ottoman Empire of the time having caused the death of more than 1,000,000 people, mainly Armenians).
The main tourist sites and places to visit are churches, ruins of churches or ancient cathedrals, and monuments commemorating the genocide!! Unless one is ferociously inclined to study Christianity (mostly apostolic "old and rigorist version"), the interest of a new church visit, after the many already made, will fade radically.
Armenia, which claims to be (in competition with neighboring Georgia) the first country in the world to become Christian (in the 3rd century AD of course!!!), is neighboring Turkey to the west, Azerbaijan to the east, and Iran to the south, and all these countries are Muslim. Only Georgia in the North is also Christian.
Zvarnots church: the oldest church in the world?
Sunday ceremonies bring together a large crowd of faithful, showing a particular and very demonstrative devotion. It is also a time for social relations skillfully organized by the priests, and thus the "after ceremonies" can last several hours on the church squares or in the surrounding area. The chants and prayers of the faithful, grave, and melodious, during the masses, are amplified by the languorous tempo of the ringing bells.
The chants and prayers of the faithful, grave, and melodious, during the masses, are amplified by the languorous tempo of the ringing bells.
COVID in Armenia
Of all the countries of the Caucasus (Georgia and Azerbaijan) Armenia is the country that has suffered most dramatically from this contagion. The number of victims linked to VIDOC19 per million inhabitants has been notoriously higher for Armenia than for its neighbors. Despite strict containment, residents did not comply with the required measures until the police actually issued tickets to the offenders.
Street Art (Yerevan 2020)
As the number of police officers tended to decrease on weekends (especially on Sundays), the inhabitants did not apply any instructions during the weekends, while returning to "good manners" during the week. Sunday is the day for family gatherings and agape with friends. The consequences of this global laxity: a longer and more dramatic spread than in all neighboring countries and the mandatory and imposed wearing of masks for a longer period of time; even drivers alone in their cars had to wear their masks!! The road checks carried out by the police forces will remain, moreover, during all my stay, focused exclusively on the wearing of this mask!
It is probable that the local school system teaches every Armenian that the nose has NO breathing function: an advanced explanation that could explain that the majority of the people met did not put their nose inside their mask (or else, Armenian noses are definitely more imposing and have difficulty to fit into protective masks, like mine by the way!).
It is also impressive to see that, to talk on the phone in public, everyone systematically removed his mask! The ultimate trick (to avoid wearing the mask in the street) will be either to smoke (cigarette on cigarettes) or pretend to drink a coffee (or any other drink) in the street, making it impossible to be fined by the police.
The weak sanitary capacities and outdated means of Armenian public hospitals faced with the incessant influx of patients, transported continuously by ambulances with screaming sirens, quickly made the situation out of control. The Prime Minister, himself infected, requested international assistance. Medical teams, mainly Russian and French, intervened in June and August 2020.
Throughout the crisis period, the regular messages emitted by the loudspeakers of the civil protection vehicles that crisscrossed every street in the city reinforced the feeling of insecurity and uncertainty related to this period. The authoritative and authoritative tone made it easy to feel the martiality of the message even without understanding a word of it.
Team COVID in action and COVID posters everywhere (Only in Armenian)
Important points in Armenia
The population seems a little open to the outside world and exclusively focused on Armenia. The population seems globally racist, xenophobic, and homophobic, and there are only very rare community or religious mixes.
How many times have I been asked (often with gravity and disgust) why France welcomed so many foreigners on its national soil and of course, why "blacks" played in the French soccer team (forgetting that France welcomed, in its time, many persecuted Armenians or Armenians in search of better living conditions, such as the family of Charles Aznavour for example)?
Even though Armenia is an Asian country, Armenians are Caucasian. The few people of Asian origin met (Asian or Indian type) in Yerevan (and none outside the capital) are very discreet and rarely move alone in the streets.
The men seem a little less macho than in the surrounding countries (Georgia, Azerbaijan, or Turkey) and the women seem more autonomous or even more liberated.
The country is still in an atmosphere of war and conflict. Every day, the deafening passages of Armenian Air Force jets and helicopters over the capital will probably call out to you. It is true that the airbase is inserted in the urban fabric of Yerevan, next to the international airport. During my bike rides on the southern outskirts of the city, it was common to hear the detonation of shells and lighter weapons from the surrounding military training centers. In the eastern region as well as further south near Upper Karabach and Nakhchivan, slow convoys of military vehicles can slow down traffic and reveal often old equipment from the Soviet era.
PS : December 2020. A bloody war broke out a few days after my departure from Armenia causing the death of several thousand victims.
National Day aerial parade (9th May 2020)