As published in print with Girl in a jacket
As published in print with Girl in a jacket

Undiscovered ancient beauty

As Armenia develops its tourism potential, the country extends an invitation to the world to explore its fascinating heritage and breathtaking beauty

The Wings of Tatev is a six-kilometre cable car ride soaring above the Vorotan Gorge before reaching a fortified ninth-century monastery perched on top of a rocky promontory 250 kilometres south of Yerevan. Completed in 2010, the cableway is a spectacular symbol of what Armenia has to offer: stunning scenery, authentic heritage and, increasingly, solutions to the logistical challenges of making the country’s best sites more accessible.

The Armenian government has identified tourism as a sector with potential for growth, and hopes to attract greater numbers of international visitors so they will, first, fall in love with the country’s traditional hospitality, and, second, invest in ways to reveal Armenia to the rest of the world.

“The country has a rich historical and cultural heritage and fascinating nature, as well as mild weather all year round,” notes President Serzh Sargsyan, adding that the country is rated as one of the safest in the world.

“Awareness about Armenia is still low, but we are now on the tourism map,” says Zarmine Zeitountsian, chairperson of the State Tourism Committee, making now a perfect, hassle-free time to explore the country’s 25,000 historical sites – many dating back to Armenia’s fourth-century Christian origins, and others back yet further.

“Awareness about Armenia is still low, but we are now on the tourism map”

Zarmine Zeitountsian , Chairperson, State Tourism Committee

The UNESCO-listed Geghard medieval monastery in Kotayk province is partially carved out of the adjacent mountain and surrounded by cliffs.
Photos: State Tourism Committee

From a base figure of 500,000 international visitors in 2008, last year saw arrivals reach 1.5 million, making a total contribution of around 13% to Armenia’s GDP. According to Zeitountsian, the immediate goal is to reach 3 million within five years.

Health tourism, a good fit with Armenia’s pristine nature, is growing; the number of hotels is at 500 and rising; and winter sports are available not far from the friendly, café-lined streets of Yerevan – all just three hours from Abu Dhabi or Dubai’s airports.