Exploring Yerevan, Gyumri, and Vanadzor with public transport.
As we don’t dare to drive in other countries, we decided to go backpacking in Armenia. Our Armenia travel itinerary relies solely on public transport in the form of buses, marshrutkas, and trains.
Of course, the capital of Armenia is a must-visit.
Use your first day in Armenia to explore the capital. We are suckers for a free walking tour to get a good overview of the city. It should cover everything you need to see in the city centre.
Additionally, it’s a must to climb the Cascade Complex for some amazing views over the city and if the weather is clear Mount Ararat. If you want to, you can walk further to the Mother of Armenia but we think it isn’t a must if you’re short on time.
Other worthwhile areas to explore in Yerevan are:
We stayed at Hotel & in the very center. The location was good and the price was unbeatable. The owner was super hospitable although most of the conversation took place with Google Translate.
On the downside, it was not the cleanest and the included breakfast was a packet of instant ramen.
Day trips are the easiest way to explore the surroundings of Yerevan.
We opted for Khor Virap Monastery, Winery & Birds Cave Tour by Hyur Service which brought us to two stunning monasteries as well as the cave where the oldest archaeological evidence of wine was found. We also got to taste Armenian wine.
There are 3 other popular options:
Gyumri is the second largest city in Armenia. We liked the atmosphere which felt super artsy.
On the way to the train station in Yerevan, we made quick pit stops at
Afterwards, we took the metro from Zoravar Andranik to the train station.
The Soviet train Yerevan - Gyumri runs three times per day. On the weekends, there’s also an express train.
We opted to take a marshrutka from the train station as absolute armenia described. When we arrived at the train station, we asked around for the marshrutka and were sent in three different directions. Eventually, a driver said he would take us to Gyumri for 2000 Dram per person as soon as the car filled up in 30-40 minutes. After 80 minutes of waiting, we actually left.
In hindsight, we would take the train.
We stayed at Friendly B&B and couldn’t be any happier. The location is good, the price great, and the owner amazing. She speaks perfect English and is such a nice person – she even borrowed me a pair of shoes.
If you don’t mind paying a bit more, Berlin ART Hotel is a great option. The main advantage of them is that they offer tours. We went on their Gyumri walking tour and couldn’t recommend it more. After the tour, we met the owner who speaks perfect German.
Some people argue that Gyumri is Armenia’s cultural capital – and we are inclined to agree. You can find loads of street art as well as art studios and galleries in the city.
The black and colourful tuff stone buildings are an architectonic highlight. Don’t miss St. All Saviors Church and the Cathedral of the Holy Mother of God.
Make your way to the Mother of Armenia monument for some amazing views of Gyumri and its surroundings.
Vanadzor is Armenia's third-largest city. It is marked by Soviet architecture and old Soviet factory ruins.
We made a quick pit stop at the Gyumri market before heading to the bus station.
After we arrived in Vanadzor, we just walked around the area between Artsakh Square and Hayk Square a bit because it was snowing like crazy. You can find a more detailed Vanadzor guide here.
There is a bus service with a couple of buses per day. This site gives an indication but the times were not 100% correct for us. Have your host call the bus station to be safe or walk by yourself.
On our journey, there were 18 people in an 11-seater minibus. Buy the ticket early if you don’t want to stand.
We stayed at DownTown B&B. The location is great and so is the price. the owner is very helpful and speaks great English. He organised our day trip to the Haghpat and Sanahin monasteries.
Haghpat and Sanahin Monasteries are also called twin monasteries and are an absolute must-visit in northern Armenia.
They are both on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The two monastic complexes from the 10th and 13th centuries represent the highest flowering of Armenian religious architecture. Sanahin was renowned for its school of illuminators and calligraphers. Haghpat stands out because of its well-preserved frescoes.
Armen, the owner of DownTown B&B, kindly organised a private driver for us.
Let us end with an honest word about backpacking in Armenia: We found that Armenia was not the easiest country to go backpacking.
The main reason is the scarcity of public transport. In the off-season, the train between Tbilisi and Yerevan only runs every other day. In addition, there’s the old Soviet train which runs a couple of times per day.
Buses do not run often, even in between the three major cities Yerevan, Gyumri, and Vandzor.
We are not a big fan of marshrutks as the system is too chaotic for our liking.
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