This was intended to be a voyage of discovery. The main reason for going was to see Armenia because of family connections and the country really did not disappoint. We planned our trip with the help of TravelLocal's partners in Yerevan, who helped us tailor-make a tour taking in Tibilisi, going east to Kvareli to the wine region to see the end of the grape harvest and then west to Gori and Akhaltsikhe. We then went south into Armenia via a wonderful overnight stay at the Armas winery (more reminiscent of Califorina than Asia), Yerevan, south to Jermuk and then north over part of the silk road to Lake Sevan and back to Tibilisi. I am absolutely certain that without the help and local knowledge of TravelLocal's Armenian partners and Tigran Khathchatryian (our wonderful driver/guide) we would not have been able to see so much in such a relatively short space of time. I would recommend TravelLocal's Armenian partner company (and particularly Inga) to anyone considering a visit to Armenia and I am very glad that quite by accident I found TravelLocal. I think the TravelLocal concept is wonderful and I felt that we got the very best out of our trip with the local help we had
Inga took the time to consider our likes/dislikes. For example, we have both sampled Armenian brandy but neither of us particularly like it, so a visit to the production plant would have been wasted on us. Similarly, we have seen carpets being made in various parts of the world. Inga would always respond within 24 hours to the suggestions we made in respect of her draft itinerary. When we arrived in Tibilisi our driver/guide had been delayed by a car breakdown, but they organised someone to pick us up from the airport and take us to dinner. Well done!
I don't think TravelLocal's Armenian experts could have improved on anything. It was a pleasure to meet them in Yerevan and we were glad of the opportunity to say thank you to them in person.
Tigran Khatchatryan was first class: a careful driver, knowledgeable, patient, perfect English (as well as Armenian, Georgian and Russian) and a good companion. In retrospect we would have like to spend a little more time on our own, but we had an incredibly busy schedule and it is a credit to Tigran that we got through it.
First, don't expect people in former Soviet countries to speak any English. Brush up on your Russian, which everyone speaks fluently in addition to their native language. If you are visiting Georgia and Armenia, go to Tibilisi before Yerevan (Yerevan is a revelation by comparison as it is a more modern, chic city. Do try and visit all the churches and monasteries that you can. Each is stunning in its own way. Expect food to be very regional. You can eat khinkali in Yerevan, but people will travel to Tibilisi to sample them as they are considered better. Khatchapouri (another Georgian dish) should be sampled in the west - for example Gori. Georgians can't (according to Armenians, anyway!) make barbecued meat. So sample pork kebab in Dilijan where the pigs are left to forage wild in the forests.
Almost too many things to mention: Treading grapes in a wooden tub in a little winery in Kvareli region and seeing wine made in the traditional way in huge clay pots buried in the ground Uplitsikhe cave dwellings Gyumri, still trying to recover from the 1987 earthquake followed by the collapse of the Soviet Union (almost half the working population of Armenia were suddenly jobless as a result). The stunning Marmashen monastery where a girl sang the Lord's Prayer for us in Armenian. Staying at the Armas wine estate and a tasting menu dinner with some stunning Armenian wines Yerevan - the city and the Matenadaran (state respository of manuscripts). Armenia was christianised before Rome and so there were Armenian monks copying Greek an other manuscripts and translating them before anyone else) The monasteries at Geghard, Khor Virap (with its view of Ararat) and Noravank'; Garni - the list is very long Driving up part of the Silk Road and stopping at the Selim caravanserai The now disused chemical factory in Vanadzor, which closed with the collapse of the Soviet Union never to reopen - it is 5km long to drive past A tour of Echmiadzin (the Armenian church's equivalent of the Vatican)
Our local partner based in Armenia replied...
Sireli Robert and Seza jan! :) Armenian Travel Bureau and TravelLocal teams thank you a lot! We tried to do our best for you to visit "Your Armenia" and we did everything to meet your hopes. My colleagues and I really appreciate your evaluation and comments. Will be glad to assist your future trips! :) With kind regards, IngaOur local partner based in Armenia