Winter gateways in Armenia. What to see if you are visiting Armenia around Christmas?
I know you might be a little surprised, but yes, I’m here today to invite you to Armenia in the dead of winter. Yes, it is low season. Yes, it is cold. But still, I believe that every traveller should pay a visit to the Caucasus in winter. Why? First of all, it’s beautiful. Skies are blue, air is crispy, rural areas turn into a snowy wonderland… I promise you that you will feel the Christmas vibe here.
Photo by Zofia Baldyga
Photo by Anna Khachatryan
There are several facts you need to learn before leaving everything and booking your icy Armenian adventure. Now, take notes. Firstly, Armenians celebrate Christmas on January 6th. Secondly, New Year’s festivities are much bigger deal here than actual Christmas. That makes Yerevan a perfect place to ring in the New Year. While visiting Armenia around Christmas be prepared for the party to last longer than just one day. While Yerevan has the best nightlife in the country, I beg you not to stay in the capital for too long. You came to seek winter wonderland, remember?
Where to look for it? Here are some tips:
When I say Armenia, what do you think of? Yes, the mountains. Armenian ski resorts might not be internationally famous, but this makes them even more temping. Let’s travel like a local and spend some time skiing in Tsaghkadzor, Armenian winter capital. Its name literally means a valley of flowers in Armenian. In the winter it turns into the valley of skis. The facilities are modern and the slopes perfect. Even coming from Europe you won’t be disappointed by Tsaghkadzor ski resort’s infrastructure. Located at over 1700 meters above sea level, the place maintains perfect weather conditions for most of the season. It was built to serve as a training facility for Soviet athletes. It just can’t be bad. Tsaghkadzor has developed hospitality facilities, but if you are traveling on a shoestring budget, spending a night in town might not be the smartest idea. It’s just an hour ride from the capital and it might be worth a commute cost unless you feel like splurging on luxurious accommodation.
Tsaghkadzor might get a bit crowded in early January. No wonder, the entire country is on holiday. If you prefer to get off the main path, there is another spa town down in the Vayots Dzor region, which will be a perfect fit for you. I mean Jermuk, home to the famous mineral water brands and hot springs. The local ski resort has recently been modernized and a brand new ropeway was constructed. Today ski lovers can enjoy a 2620 meter-long alpine skiing track. Other than that, Jermuk offers you skiing routes and first class spas. If you get bored, you can visit a nearby Gndevank monastery complex.
This is not a ski resort. This is spiritual capital of Armenia where the mother cathedral of Armenian Apostholic Church is located. If you seek spiritual experience, this is where you go in Armenia in winter. Try to attend a service. You might not understand a single word, but it’s a feast for senses. You might not be religious, but you shouldn’t skip this lesson on religion, tradition, and history. While in Etchmiadzin, go beyond the cathedral. Pay a visit to Saint Gayane and Saint Hripsime churches as well. You don’t want to skip some of the finest examples of Armenian sacred architecture, right?
I hope I’ve inspired you. I know your feet are itchy to get on a plane. Don’t pack too many sweaters; you will only wear the warmest one anyway. Remember that woolen socks are better than any thermal nonsense that you find in malls nowadays. Now you are ready to embrace Armenia in winter.
Have you ever spent a Christmas season abroad? Would you like to spend it in Armenia?