Biblical Mount Ararat, where the life began!
Area: 29,743 km2
Population: 3,018,854 (census of 2011)
Capital: Yerevan
Official Language: Armenian
Foreign Language: Russian, English
Local Currency: Armenian Dram (AMD)
Time zone: UTC + 4
COUNTRY IMAGES

Time passes, scripts the history, still leaving us some footsteps behind to be found in the rocky home of Armenians, which once counted among the great powers of the world, with a story dating back to the times of ancient Babylon. Armenia was the first country to Adopt Christianity in 301 AD, the fact which together with the introduction of Armenian Alphabet in the 5th century AD by the great Armenian enlightener Mesrop Mashtots helped the country and the nation to survive and preserve its national distinctions while fighting with foreign invaders and conquerors. The country whose rich past still comes to life today in unique and deep preserved traditions will worm you with its true hospitality and open mindedness. Experience tours to various historical sights in Armenia, all of which will have its story to tell, its legend to prove… 

Nowadays official name of the country is the Republic of Armenia and the capital city is Yerevan. It is located in the southern Caucasus and is bounded by Georgia on the north, Azerbaijan on the east, Iran on the south, and Turkey on the west. Contemporary Armenia is a fraction of the size of ancient Armenia. Territory of Armenia is 29.800 square km, the most of Armenia's territory ranges are from 1000 to 2500m above sea level. 

Armenia has a rich cultural heritage and is famous for age-old decorative stone carvings that are practiced even today. Other forms of art include rug weaving and metalwork. Coming to music and dance, Armenia is famous for Opera and ballet, in fact, national dance companies and orchestras tour throughout the country performing and entertaining the people.

The Armenians, an ancient people living on an ancient land, call Armenia "Hayastan," and themselves "Hai." Oral history explains the lineage of the Armenian people as being the direct descendants of Noah's son Japheth. The indigenous people of the land of Ararat, Armenians forged their national identity with the rise of powerful Armenian kingdoms, the adoption of Christianity as Armenia's state religion, and the creation of the Armenian alphabet, which spurred the development of literature, philosophy, and science.

Come to visit the stones of cave towns, old churches, temples, mountainous contrasted nature, and lovely town of  Yerevan in quick and warm spring, summers when the sun cheers hearts, rich and colorful autumns, and winters though in snow but mild. History, archeology, architecture, rich culture, spectacular sites, diverse flora and fauna, various microclimates with sunburn deserts, rich forests and never melting snow on the mountains, national life style and modernity all these can be found in Armenia.

Come to see mountainous fortified monasteries, river canyons, castles, forests and fertile plains, coupled with the beauty of Lake Sevan, the second largest navigable alpine lake in the world, offer a breathtaking encounter with the natural wonders of Armenia. From the Hellenistic temple of Garni and the Monastery of Geghard to ancient cave dwellings, churches, standing stones and thousands of the unique Khachkar stone crosses make every day’s exploration in Armenia an exciting experience.   

You are always welcomed in Armenia…then it’s time GoArmenia!

State System

Semi-presidential Republic

Parliament

National Assembly, 131 members

Geography

Armenia lies on the southern slopes of the Armenian Mountains in the Lesser Caucasus and shares border with Georgia, Turkey, Azerbaijan and Iran. Its highest peak is Mount Aragats 4,090m (13,415ft), and even its deepest valleys are laying from 450 to 700m (1,200 to 1,870ft) above sea level. Its biggest lake is Lake Sevan (1.417 sq. km) located in the east of the country.

Climate

The climate in Armenia is markedly continental. Summers are dry and sunny; the temperature fluctuates between 22° and 36°C. Springs are short, while falls are long. Autumns are known for their vibrant and colorful foliage. Winters are quite cold with plenty of snow and temperatures ranging between -10° and -5°C.

What to wear

We suggest you to take both demi - season cloths and warmer things, such as raincoats and jackets. Those who spent their vacation at mountains or by a lake in summer will certainly need sportswear and a jacket among with their summer clothes. Women mainly wear cocktail dresses at various festivities and parties, while men are usually in black tie at official events.

Security

For a lot of reasons we can say that Yerevan is one of the safest cities in the world. Here strolling along the streets late at night is much safer than in many European cities during daytime. It seems like there are no robbers and bandits in Yerevan at all, or they are all in prison. In fact, the level of crime is very low and usually the common tourist cannot see it. For example, we can leave our car in the street with the doors unlocked and then find it untouched and undamaged. A tourist, like any other ordinary citizen, feels completely secure in Armenia.

Language

Armenian is the state language in Armenia. In Yerevan a lot of people (mainly youth) can often speak English, French, German and Spanish. Russian is spoken almost fluently by most of the population. There can be some difficulties with the communication only in some very distant villages, and even than it happens very seldom. There is no language barrier in Armenia.

Religion

Armenia is the oldest Christian nation in the world, its conversion is dating from the year AD 301, when King Trdat III declared Christianity the state religion. Absolute majority (94%) of Armenians belongs to Armenian Apostolic Church; its spiritual center is the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin. The Armenian Apostolic Church is the religious unity with the Catholicos of All Armenians at the head. For Armenians religion is the anchor of a nation's existence. Religion and culture were closely connected since ancient times. Armenians converted to Christianity in the early 4th century, and by some accounts were the first in the world to adopt Christianity as a state religion.  During the centuries of foreign domination, when Armenians did not have a state of their own, the Armenian Church helped to keep a strong sense of collective identity. The church became imprescriptible symbol of the Armenian nation.  Today, Christianity remains the country's predominant religion. Most ethnic Armenians belong to the Armenian Apostolic Church.

Electricity

Electricity in Armenia is 220 volts. European plugs with two round pins are used.

Currency

The national currency is the Armenian Dram. In stores and other commercial centers trade is carried out in the national currency only. There is no problem with the foreign currency exchange, as almost everywhere and in many big stores there are exchange desks where you can easily buy drams. Rubles, Euros, US dollars and some other currencies can be exchange very quickly. There is never a commission at the exchange windows. Usually, the smaller is the difference between buy and sell, the better rate you are getting.

In big commercial centers of Armenia you can use credit cards. There are also several banks and ATMs where you can withdraw money. Credit cards are accepted in most of the restaurants and cafes.

Banks

Banks are open on weekdays usually from 9 am to 17 pm, on Fridays working day is shorter.

Visa

To enter Armenia, foreigners must have a valid passport or a document of residency status.  A visa is required for citizens of the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the European Union. Single-entry tourist visas with a duration of 21 or 120 days, as well as transit visas, may be obtained on arrival at Zvartnots International Airport or when crossing land borders into Armenia. No letter of invitation is needed. All other nationalities should visit the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website to determine whether they require a visa and, if so, whether they also require a letter of invitation.

Meals

You can dine almost everywhere. Wherever you are inside the city at every 100 meters you can find a snack bar, a café or a restaurant. If you are in the city center you can find a place to eat at every 10 meters. The numerous restaurants in Yerevan offer authentic local food. There are also many restaurants of different world-known cuisines: Arabic, Georgian, European, Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Brazilian and Mexican. Prices can vary.   Generally, having a good meal in Yerevan will cost you less comparing with the prices in Europe.

The traditional Armenian cuisine has a large variety of richly flavored dishes. Fresh vegetable and meat are considered to be the most favorite food in Armenia. No Armenian celebratory table can be imagined without all time favorite barbecue, kyufta, tolma or khapama. There is also a traditional dish called khash, which foresees a great ritual, starting from its preparatory process till the last moment at the table.

Water

You can buy water in every food store; all trademarks are of Armenian production. You can also open the tap either at a hotel or in a house and drink running water. It’s absolutely safe for drinking and very tasty. In the streets and yards of Yerevan you can see certain water springs, which in colloquial Armenian are called “pulpulak”. This unique one-meter-high bubbling jet offers clean and fresh Armenian water. Come close and drink. It is completely free.

Tips

There are places where tips are included in the price and the average one is 5-7 %. In this case there is no need to leave a tip. In other cases it is common to leave tips of around 10% of the bill.

Orientation

It is very easy to find one’s way in the city, even if it is your first time here, you don’t have a map or there is nobody to help you. This kind of situation is hardly probable and you can hardly get lost in Yerevan. The city is not big (excluding city outskirts and far end districts); the city center consists of circular belt roads and streets that intersect. The streets are crowded with means of transport: so-called marshrutkas, buses and taxis. Though, you can get to a place without using public transport as the distances between the places are not very long and you can get there by foot. In case you have lost your way after all, you can stop any passer-by and ask him for the way, and be sure that he will come with you to show the place you need.

Public Transportation

The following means of public transportation are available in Armenia:

Metro: Yerevan subway system has one line stretching from the north to the Railroad Station in the southern edge of the city. There are 10 stations. The fare is 100 AMD ($0.26). Buses: There are buses running in major directions. The fare is 100 AMD ($0.26). Minibuses: These small vans with 12-15 seats are available everywhere in the city. They run until late at night. The fare is 100 AMD (€0,26). Just raise your hand and stop the needed number, pay 100 Drams and you can go where you want to.

Taxi Services: There are many taxi services, which accept orders by phone. They offer very clean, comfortable cars with polite and skillful drivers. The fare varies from 100 AMD (€0.26) to 150 AMD (€0.40) per km. Regular taxi: There are taxi stands at major and busy intersections. Fares are subject to negotiation.

Traffic: tourists usually notice one and only disadvantage in Yerevan – street traffic. The city has not been designed for such amount of cars so streets are often overcrowded. Though traffic jams are seldom here, the abundance of cars is not in harmony with the comfortable streets of Yerevan. That is why it is better to walk along the streets than take a public bus.

Holidays               Memorial Days

Armenians celebrate both public and religious holidays. The celebrations here are usually accompanied with joyful songs and traditional circle dances. 

1, 2 January New Year's Day 6 January Christmas 28 January Army Day 8 March Women's Day 7 April Mothers' and Beauty Day 24 April Genocide Remembrance Day 1 May  Labour Day 9 May Victory Day 28 May Republic Day 5 July Constitution Day 21 September Independence Day 31 December New Year's Eve

Armenian souvenirs

There are a lot of souvenir and gift shops in Yerevan. Most of them are located on Abovyan street, Tumanyan street and Northern Avenue. We advise you to visit Dalan Art Gallery (12 Aboyan street) where you can buy original handmade Armenian ware, traditional silver jewellery and beautiful paintings. Other popular souvenirs are Armenian wine and brandy, dried fruits and ceramics. We would also recommend you to visit Yerevan Vernissage (Aram and Buzand streets), a flea market where you can combine your souvenir shopping with sightseeing as the Vernissage is considered to be one of the most interesting and unique places in the city.

Armenian tradition has preserved several legends concerning the origin of the Armenian nation. The most important one is the tale of Hayk,the eponymous hero of the Armenians, the legendary archer who defeated the Assyrian King Belus and became the first King, calling the country Hayk' or Hayastan (this is the way Armenians call their country nowadays). Movses Khorenats, the 5th century Armenian historian, also relates at some length the valiant deeds of Aram whose fame extended far beyond his country’s limits. Consequently the neighboring nations called this people Armens or Armenians.

For the first time this region was called Armenia more than three thousand years ago. By 1824 BC the Armenian princes had united to form one country. In the Bible, Armenia is called the Ararat Kingdom (Urartu) and thanks to the archaeological excavations we now know that there has been highly developed civilization living in this part of the world. Today the remains of this ancient civilization can be seen in the museum of the Erebuni Fortress located on the edge of the present city of Yerevan. The "renaissance of Armenia" was accomplished during the reign of Tigran the Great (95-99 B.C.), who proclaimed himself "King of Kings." Under the rule of Tigran II, Armenia reached to the nigh level of military strength and political influence. According to the Roman orator and politician Cicero Tigran the Great "made the Republic of Rome tremble before the powers of his arms." Armenia's borders were extending from the Caspian Sea to the Mediterranean. During this so-called “renaissance” period trade, art and literature flourished. The ancient city of Artashat became an important regional center, connecting the trade routes between East and West.

The success and prosperity of being one of the centers Silk Roads, unfortunately caused Armenians to suffer many invasions from the competing nations over the next centuries. By the second half of the 1st century AD Roman Empire had spread its tentacles in the attempt to influence Armenia and the neighboring Parthian state. Eventually the Armenian King Trdat І was crowned by Rome in 66 AD and the following period of peace and revival allowed to construct many castles and towns. In 301 Armenia became the first nation to adopt Christianity as a state religion and Etchmiadzin became the cradle of the new church with St. Gregory becoming the first Catholicos.

Over the following centuries Armenian was almost always being invaded and occupied wholly or partially by its powerful neighbors. During these times Persians, Arabs and Turks ruled the country. However, in spite of the constant wars and foreign aggression, this period in the history of Armenia is also known for its rich cultural heritage: both architecture and literature were flourishing – many famous manuscripts were written and a lot of beautiful monasteries were built. By the mid of 17th century Armenia was divided between Persia and Turkey and this status remained the same up until the 19th century when Russia began the war against Persia and Turkey. In 1828 Armenia was finally united again as one nation but under the rule of Russia.

At the beginning of 20th century the Ottoman government of Turkey began its planned and systematic extermination of its ethnic Armenian population. This resulted in the massacre of one and a half million people in 1915. Those who managed to escape and survive the genocide settled down in all parts of the word creating what is today know as Armenia diaspora.

The defeat of the Ottoman Turks in World War I and the disintegration of the Russian Empire gave the Armenians a chance to declare their independence. On May 28, 1918, the independent Republic of Armenia was established, after the Armenians forced the Turkish troops to withdraw in the battles of Sardarapat, Karakilisse and Bashabaran. Overwhelming difficulties confronted newborn republic, but amid these conditions the Armenians devoted all their energies and efforts to the hard task of reconstructing their country.

Due to the pressure exerted simultaneously by the Turks and Communists, the republic collapsed in 1920. Finally, the Soviet Red Army moved into the territory (Eastern Armenia) and on November 29, 1920 declared it a Soviet republic.

After 70 years under Soviet rule in 1991 Armenia once again regained its sovereignty and today it is a flourishing independent republic with a democratic form of Semi-presidential Government.
The Armenian Church is one of the most ancient Christian churches in the world. Armenia have proclaimed Christianity its official state religion back in 301 AD, during the rule of King Trdat III, long before other peoples officially converted to this religion. The Armenian Apostolic Church is the "Elder Sister" among all the Christian Churches of the world. Gregory the Illuminator became the first Patriarch and Catholics of All Armenians in 302. He was canonized later. The current leader of the Armenian Apostolic Church, Garegin II Nersisian, was elected to be the 132nd Catholicos of All Armenians in October 1999.

The majority of Armenians is nominally Christian and belongs to the Armenian Apostolic Church. However other religious groups exist in Armenia, including Russian and Greek Orthodox, Catholics and Protestants, as well as some Jewish and Islamic communities.

The city of Vagharshapat is the official residence of the Catholicos, where Etchmiadzin Cathedral (built in 303) stands. Besides Araratian Patriarchate (the leader of which is the Catholicos himself) the Catholicosate of All Armenians now consists of Jerusalem Patriarchate (formed in the VII century), Constantinople Patriarchate (formed in 1461), and 36 dioceses (8 in Armenia, one in Nagorny Karabagh (Artsakh)), and others in the different countries of Europe, America, Asia, Africa and Australia, wherever Armenian community exists. The Catholicosate of the Great House of Cilicia (the successor of Holy Cilicia) situated in Antelias (Lebanon), had certain disagreements with the Throne of Holy Etchmiadzin, since 1955 it acts as an independent Armenian church. The Cilician Catholicos is the spiritual leader of most Armenian communities in Lebanon, Syria, Iran and other countries of the Near East, as well as some communities in the Western hemisphere (about 500 thousand people in all).

Catholicos Aram I has been the Head of the Catholic Church of the Great House of Cilicia since 1995. On the territory of the Republic of Armenia, besides the Armenian Apostolic Church, there are also the Armenian Catholic and the Armenian Evangelic Churches. But they don't have as many followers as the traditional Church. In addition, there are also churches, synagogues, meetinghouses of different religious minorities (over 50). Specialists from Iran are currently reconstructing the Blue Mosque in Yerevan. This mosque is supposed to be attended by Islam confessing guests of the Armenian capital.
Culture

Culture is the inseparable part of Armenian history. It is a wondrous mosaic of human achievements in fields of architecture, music, fine art, literature, philosophy, handcrafts, and cuisine. Over a thousand years, starting from epoch of Urartu, which was competing with Assyria in the world superiority, to the new period of a history - Armenian culture developed in a very interesting and complicated way. The culture of Armenia covers many different elements based on the geography, literature, architecture, dance, and music of its people. In some certain things the Armenian culture is quite similar to the cultures of the bordering countries like Russia, Georgia, and Iran. There is also some similarity between Armenian and Mediterranean (mainly Greek and Cyprian) cultures. Yet it is very unique and distinctive.


Language

The formation of the Armenian language began in the early period of Indo-European differentiation and dispersion over 5000 years ago, or perhaps even 7,800 years ago according to newest research. Trade and conquests forced the language to change, adding new words into the people's vocabulary. First literature and books written in Armenian appeared in the 4th century. The written language of that time, called classical Armenian or Grabar Craper, remained the Armenian literary language, with various changes, until the 19th century. Meanwhile, spoken Armenian developed independently of the written language. Many new dialects appeared when Armenian communities were separated by geography or politics, and not all of these dialects are mutually intelligible.


Armenian Literature

Armenians have a rich history of both verbal and written literature. Literary tradition in Armenia began around 401 A.D. Parts of the early folk literature and the majority of the literary arts were created by Movses Khorenatsi, a fourth-century historian. Through the years the elements of literature had changed as the stories and myths were passed on through generations. During the nineteenth century, under the influence of a European interest in folklore and oral literature, a new tendency was born, which led to the large collection of oral epic poems, songs, myths, and stories.
The written literature can be divided into five main epochs: the fifth century golden age, or vosgetar following the adoption of the alphabet; the Middle Ages; the Armenian Renaissance (in the nineteenth century); modern literature of Armenia and Constantinople (Istanbul) at the turn of the twentieth century; and contemporary literature of Armenia and the Diaspora. The fifth century has been recognized internationally as a highly productive epoch. It was also known for its translations of various works, including the Holy Bible.
European literary styles and traditions had always affected Armenian literature. It has also been influenced by the tragic history of Armenian people. The 1915 genocide caused the death of the great majority of the Armenian writers and poets. Thus, the period that came immediately after the genocide was marked by a complete silence. However, there was a new beginning after all: Armenian literature was revived thanks to the diaspora (with centers in Paris, Aleppo, and Beirut). In Soviet Armenia, the literary tradition was obviously following Russian trends and tendencies, yet it still managed to keep its own Armenian voice. Literature received notable support from the Soviet state: Writers Union of Armenia was founded in 1934.


Music

Music has always been one of the most important parts of the Armenian culture. The world-class Armenian Philharmonic Orchestra that performs at the beautifully renewed Aram Khachaturian Concert Hall in the Yerevan Opera House is the best evidence of that fact. In addition, several chamber ensembles are highly regarded for their musicianship, including the Komitas Quartet, Hover Chamber Choir, National Chamber Orchestra of Armenia and the Serenade Orchestra.
The most known Armenian traditional instrument is the duduk (pronounced [duˈduk] or doo-dook). Born in the outset of Armenian history, it is purely Armenian with a 1500-year history. Duduk is a handmade wind instrument. The authentic duduk must be made of apricot wood. The instrument itself is a simple hollow pipe with eight finger holes on the upper side and one thumbhole on the bottom. It requires a specific type of double reed and is hard to play. The duduk exists in three sizes, ranging from 11 to 16 inches.
Jazz is very popular in Armenia, especially during the summertime, when there are a lot of live performances in outdoor cafés and parks of Yerevan. Armenian rock has also made its input to the world rock culture.


Traditional Armenian Dance

The Armenian dance heritage is one of the oldest and richest ones in the world. In the mountainous regions of Armenia there are several petroglyphs with dance scenes, dated from the fifth to the third centuries B.C. Having a thousand years of history, the art of the Armenian national dance originated in a pre-Christian period, in times of ancient paganism. On the whole, traditional Armenian dance has always been one of the most spectacular expressions of the national character and aesthetics. The dance highlights Armenian national idiosyncrasy, its inner world and attitude towards nature and life.
Today traditional dances are still quite popular among expatriate Armenians. Besides, they have been very successfully exported to the international folk dance groups and circle dance groups all over the world. The majority of people feel something solemn and special in the Armenian dances. Perhaps it is the passion, subtlety and courage, which they embody.


Art and Architecture

Historically the Armenian art has been associated with architecture, bas-reliefs, stone engravings, steles, illuminated manuscripts and tapestry. Since the Armenian Renaissance during the nineteenth century, interest in drawing, painting, sculpture, textiles, pottery, needlework and lace has intensified. The Soviet period was the period marked by the development of graphic arts, as were especially encouraged by the government. Also, a new Armenian style of bright colors emerged in painting. The interest in landscape painting, rustic images, focus on rural life and ethnographic genre paintings are very noticeable in the art of the Soviet Armenia. The National Art Gallery in Yerevan has more than 16,000 works dating back to the Middle Ages; they indicate Armenia's rich heritage of the tales and legends. In addition National Art Gallery’s collection includes paintings by many European masters as well. The Modern Art Museum, the Children’s Picture Gallery, and the Martiros Saryan Museum are only a few of the other noteworthy collections of fine art on display in Yerevan. Moreover, there are also many private galleries and even more are opening every year, featuring temporary exhibitions and sales.
Armenian architecture is considered to be a major component of the world culture with its monuments and the significant role it played in the development of world architecture. Classical Armenian architecture is divided into four separate periods. Despite the large diversity of the types of early churches, Armenian architecture achieved a distinctive style through the combination of a number of common characteristics and materials. The compositional employment of these traits was unique to Armenia, though its northern neighbor Georgia was benefited from the flourishing building activity. By the late sixth or early seventh century a unique national style of church architecture was formed. Some scholars have called this phenomenon the first national style in Christian architecture since it had originated long before the Byzantine, Romanesque, and Gothic or the less known Ethiopian, Scandinavian, and Slavic styles were known. The first Armenian churches were built between the 4th and 7th centuries. The construction began right after Armenia’s conversion to Christianity and ended with the Arab invasion of the country. The early churches were mostly simple basilicas, though some of them had side apses. By the 5th century the typical cupola cone in the center had become widely used. By the 7th century, centrally planned churches had been built; they were more complex with niched buttress. That is when famous radiating so-called ‘’Hripsime’’ style of Armenian churches was born.


Armenian carpet

Armenian words for carpet are “karpet”, “khali” or “gorg”. Even if the oldest carpet in the world wasn’t made in Armenia, early Greek, Armenian, and Arabic historical sources repeatedly speak about the fine rugs and other textiles woven there. Carpets are mentioned as part of the annual Armenian levy to the Caliph of Baghdad in the late eighth century. In the medieval period, famous Venetian merchant Marco Polo repeatedly praised the rugs woven by Armenians. The characteristic red Armenian dye (vordan karmir) was prized throughout the Mediterranean. Traditionally, since ancient times the carpets were used in Armenia to cover floors, decorate interior walls, sofas, chairs, beds and tables. Up to present the carpets often serve as entrance veils, decoration for church altars and vestry. Carpet weaving was a part of everyday life in Armenian, a must in every Armenian family and in the most cases rug making was mainly women's occupation. The Armenian carpet and rug weavers carefully preserved the ancient traditions. The imitation and presentation of the same ornament-ideogram in unlimited variations of styles and colors contain the basis for the creation of any new Armenian carpet.


Armenian cuisine

Armenian cuisine is as ancient as the history of Armenia. It is an exquisite combination of different tastes and aromas. Armenian women well known for their hospitality put their heart and soul into every dish they make and serve them with great pleasure. The traditional Armenian cuisine has a large variety of richly flavored dishes. Fresh vegetable and meat are considered to be the most favorite food in Armenia. Armenian cuisine is closely related to the Eastern and Mediterranean ones; it also uses various spices, vegetables, fish, and fruits. All of this is combined and mixed in a very unique way that makes the taste of the Armenian dishes unforgettable. No festive Armenian table can be imagined without all time favorite barbecue, kyufta, dolma or ghapama. There is also a traditional dish called khash, which foresees a great ritual, starting from its preparation process till the last moment at the table. Armenians are known for making delicious pickles and preserves from different vegetables, fruits and even herbs. They make their own original types of cheese – chechil, motal and chanakh as well as soft zhazhik cheese seasoned with greens, garlic etc. They make wonderful snacks from cured meat – basturma and sujukh, which are also famous outside of Armenia. Along with khash they are considered our national brand. Brandy is the national Armenian drink. Armenian cognac is renowned worldwide. In fact, it was considered to be the favorite drink of the British Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill. The country is also known for its vintage wines made from selected sorts of grapes. Armenian vodka is made from all types of fruits - mulberry, cornelian cherries, grapes, apricots, peaches etc. and is very popular too. The apricot and pomegranate are the national fruits.


Armenian Traditions

Traditionally, Armenians make a bonfire, go round it and jump over the fire on the evening of February 13 or early on February 14, when the Armenian Church celebrates the Candlemass Day, or Tearnendarach (Trndez). It is one of the most beloved holidays among newly-weds. The name of the this festival means “come before God” in Armenian. This is a joyful holiday, celebrated in all provinces and villages of Armenia and of course in capital Yerevan, favorite one of the young and the adults, newly-weds and all families in general. Newly-weds jump over the fire in couples holding hand, and on this day recently married women usually receive gifts from their mothers-in-law. The celebration of the Trndez has pagan origin; it is connected with worship of the sun/fire in ancient pre-Christian Armenia, symbolizing the arrival of spring and fertility. The rituals of this holiday were considered to strengthen the heat of the sun, influencing cold with the help of fire. Originally, the fire symbolized the birth of Vahagn and the young women jumping over it were doing so in order to bear strong and intelligent male children. It was a holiday dedicated to Mihr and Tyr, the gods of fire and knowledge. Mihr was also the god best known for his loving and compassionate nature, comparing to the modern image of Jesus Christ. The Church adopted this holiday as one of its own for possibly this very reason.

Palm Sunday (Tsaghkazard) is celebrated one week before Easter. According to the Armenian Apostolic Church this holiday symbolizes Jesus Christ’s victorious entrance to Jerusalem as a Messiah. Jews met Jesus Christ with olive-tree brunches and covered his way with cloths. In our churches willow brunches are blessed and delivered to people. The customs observed on this holiday begin with boys and girls dressed in their best clothes. The engaged men of each village uproot a young willow tree and decorate the branches with colored pieces of cloth, fruits and candles. This festival symbolizes the rejuvenation and revival of Earth and the end of winter's dormant period. People decorate their homes, yards and cattle with blessed willow branches; they cover trees with dried fruits, colorful rags and ribbons.

Of all the Armenian festivals Vardavar is probably the most cheerful, funny and childish one. In spite of its serious origin Vardavar is very playful and amusing holiday, because of the main rite of this day is drenching everything and everyone with cool water. Young and old pour water on each other, and that is not offensive at all. Vardavar is celebrated 98 days after Easter and always on a hot summer month. Therefore, dousing is more than desirable at this time. Besides, according to the legend, the water is endowed with healing power on this day. The history of this funny custom lies in the pagan roots of ancient Armenia and is actually connected with the two legends. According to the first legend, the goddess of love and beauty Astghik poured everyone with the rose water, spreading the love. The second parable says that the holiday originated in the honor of a victory over evil rich man, who prohibited people to use water. Hence the "vard" means "water” and "var” means "to wash with water".

Navasard is an ancient Armenian festival. For many centuries Armenians had been celebrating the New Year, Navasard, on August 11. Celebrated by different people, it is the first day of the New Year according to the ancient Armenian calendar and a festival commemorating Hayk’s victory over the Babylonian tyrant Bel. Navasard was dedicated to 7 Armenian pagan gods: Aramazd (the Supreme Armenian God, the Father of all Gods and Goddess), Anahit (the Supreme Goddess), Astghik (the Goddess of Love, Beauty and Water), Nane (the Goddess of War), Vahagn (the God of Thunder and Lightning), Mihr (the God of Sun and Heaven Light) and Tir (the God of Wisdom, Science and Studies). According to the mythology, on this day the Gods came down to the Earth to bathe in the sacred River of Aratsani and then watched people celebrating the holiday.