We have decided to go to Armenia during Easter 2014. How did we choose Armenia? We went to Skyscanner.fi, chose Helsinki as a departure city and Anywhere as a destination and checked what was available for a reasonable price preferably where we haven’t been before. 🙂 The flights cost a bit over 300€ per person and it was quite reasonable for such a long flight. We will have to change planes in Moscow where I haven’t been before and I haven’t flown Aeroflot before either, so a lot of new experiences ahead.
Once again we left a lot of the planning for the last minute, but luckily I borrowed a couple of travel guides on Armenia from the library, which were really useful. Turns out my knowledge of Armenia is nearly non-existent. We couldn’t decide on accommodation for the longest time, but finally we chose Envoy Hostel Yerevan because of their reasonable prices and a recommendation from Bradt Armenia travel guide. The hostel had also high scores in Trip Advisor and finally they seemed to offer a lot of interesting trips around Armenia. At least we couldn’t find a lot of information online about different tourist agencies in Armenia. There were agencies that offered packages to travel to Armenia but not so much trips inside Armenia.
Unfortunately because Easter is a busy time in Armenia as well, we only managed to get a private room for one night and the rest of the time we stayed in the four-person room, but there were only two of us. The bathroom was shared. Even though the shared bathroom was clean, now that I’m in my thirties, I miss the ease of having my own bathroom even during short hotel stays, so for the future I will try to stick with those instead of carrying all the bottles and tubes around. 🙂 But as I said, we should have booked the hotel earlier and there weren’t any other rooms available at the hostel. The double room was quite plain and small, but clean and quiet. The shared room was located so that we needed to pass through another 8-person room to get to our room. Being old 30 somethings, we also had to ask the people in that room to be quiet a couple of times during our stay as we wanted to sleep. 🙂 Also the walls at the hotel were quite thin, so we could hear the TV and the dog barking from the neighboring flat. The staff at the hotel did ask the neighbors to keep their dog under control and then we listened to the owners yelling at their dog in Armenian every time it barked. 😉 Luckily during the night (23:00 – 8:30) it was quiet and we got a good night sleep.
During our time in Armenia we also wanted to see Nagorno-Karabakh. This area is not recognized by any country, but it is a de facto state. This is one of the mains reasons to visit it. The capital Stepanakert is quite easily accessible e.g. by minibus, but we wanted to see also other areas. This is why we asked the hostel to arrange us a private tour for two days. The distances in Armenia aren’t huge, but it is in fact a very mountainous area and the roads are winding, so the speed cannot be very high. Not to mention that the roads in Armenia aren’t exactly great. We got an offer from the hotel for 260 000 AMD (approx. 464€), which included visiting (almost) all the places we wanted, an English-speaking tour guide, a driver, entrance fees, and a night in a hotel in Stepanakert. The food was possible either to add to the price or to pay them ourselves. Considering the prices in Armenia the sum seemed to be quite a lot of money, but in the end 232€ per person turned out to be a very reasonable price. The trip took full two days and almost half the fee was spent on gas. The rest was a pay for two people’s two days work and in the end it didn’t feel expensive at all especially when they did all they could to make the trip interesting for us. We would never had the time to see all the places we saw if we used public transportation and renting our own car seemed to be quite a risky endeavor, because we didn’t know where to go (very few signs on the roads), the roads weren’t in good condition, and the driving habits were quite interesting. 🙂
At the same time we booked an Essential Armenia tour, which took us to see the sights in the East and a Soviet Tour in Yerevan, which showed the soviet history and consequences of Yerevan. We have never participated in so many guide tours during one trip, but they were really interesting and just the right choice for us. More on them later.
We also booked a pick-up from the hostel, which in hindsight was a bit of extra cost. Our flight (as for some reason the majority of flights to Yerevan) arrived in the middle of the night and we didn’t want to spend time trying to find our hotel at 2 a.m. The hotel pick-up would of course know right away where to go. The pick-up cost 7500 AMD (approx. 13€), when the regular fixed fee for taxis seemed to be 2000 AMD (approx. 4€). Hostel was located quite centrally and I think that any taxi driver would’ve found that location quite easily if we just printed a map in advance. On the way back we did choose a regular taxi and the cost was 2000 AMD.