Armenia | Travel

What to See and Do in Armenia? | Day 1: A Trip to Tatev Monastery and the Rest of the Places in the South

By on July 30, 2017

Armenia is one of those countries that doesn’t usually come to our minds whenever we talk about travel destinations. But what you don’t know is that, this country has a lot to offer to it’s tourists particularly when it comes to nature, culture and religion.

Last June, Tep and I were very fortunate to explore Armenia for 3 days (check out our itinerary). During our first day, we drove through the southern part of the country, with Tatev Monastery as our main destination.  We hired the service of Artur, who is a driver/guide recommended by the owner of the apartment where we stayed at.

Our trip started around 6:30 AM. I was wearing a pink skirt that morning, when Artur told me that I should change to pants since I might get a hard time climbing steep stairs in some places that we will visit. I was too stubborn at first, but I eventually gave in.

Our first destination that day was Khor Virap. It is the monastery, where St. Gregory the Illuminator (patron saint of Armenia) was imprisoned. This place would also give you a stunning view of Mt. Ararat (believed to be the mountain where Noah landed his ark).

Khor Virap and Mt. Ararat from afar.

The view of Mt. Ararat from Khor Virap Monastery.

The facade and altar of the Church of the Holy Mother of God, that can be found within the monastery.

After our short tour of the monastery, we drove straight to Areni Winery, which is known as one of the oldest winemaking places in Armenia. We got the chance to taste 8 different wines here, which varies from dry to semi sweet. Apart from wine, I have also tried a mulberry flavored vodka that has 60% alcohol content.    

Areni Winery facade

This was inside the winery. I was surprised to learn that I don’t have any photos of the wines that we tasted.

The alcohol that we consumed made me feel a bit dizzy. But that didn’t stopped me from enjoying the sights of our next destination which was Noravank. This is a monastery as well, completed during the 13th century. 

Noravank Monastery is famous for its two narrow side stairs found at the Surb Astvatsatsin / Holy Mother of God Church.

St. John the Baptist Church in Noravank

The Altars

When we were done taking pictures and roaming around Noravank, we went ahead to get to the next place that we will visit. It was a long drive, but while on the way, we stopped at a small fountain to get some cold spring water, which is safe for drinking. This was also the time that we had our lunch at an eatery that serves yummy potato bread.

The fountain that I am talking about and the potato bread, which you have to dip or sprinkle with red pepper powder.

It was already around past 1:00 PM when we arrived at the Wings of Tatev, known as one of the longest cable cars in the world. The ride, that took around 10 mins, brought us to Tatev Monastery. I would personally recommend riding the cable car, just make sure to get a spot where you can see the view outside as it is really nice.

The cable car going to Tatev Monastery. Also known as the Wings of Tatev.

Took this photo while inside the cable car. 

Tatev Monastery is the oldest (built in 9th century) and most famous monastery in Armenia. Within the monastery complex, you will see St. Paul and Peter Church, Pendolous Column, Ancient Oil Press, dining hall, classrooms and other centuries old structures.

St. Paul and Peter Church located within the Tatev Monastery Complex

Left: The altar of St. Paul and Peter Church. Right: The Pendolous Column or Gavazan. It gives warning to the people during the early centuries when an earthquake is about to happen.

These are some of the equipments that they used during the early centuries to press oil from seeds and herbs. 

Tatev Monastery Complex from afar.

After spending an hour at Tatev Monastery, we drove straight to the place called Tatev Devil Bridge. It is named as such because this bridge was naturally built from huge masses of limestones. Sadly, we were not able to see this up close as it required us to descend using ropes. I am usually up for challenges like this, but we were not dressed for this type of activity that day.

Left: The rope that you will use to descend. Right: Down there is the Tatev Devil Bridge.

Left: This is one of the structures that you will see on the way to the bridge. Right: A pipe that releases natural carbonated water coming from the mountains. I’ve tried it, but I don’t like the taste since I’m not really a fan of carbonated water.

Harsnadzor Watchtower was our next destination after the bridge, where we saw awesome views of the mountains. After taking selfies and some photos of the place, we headed to the last place on our list that day which was the Shaki Waterfalls.

View from the Harsnadzor Watchtower

Shaki Waterfalls

On the way to the eatery, we stopped for a while at this beautiful flower farm to take some photos.

We decided to have dinner before we head back to the city. Artur made a stop at a small eatery where we had kebab. According to him, they serve the best kebab in Armenia.

This was the Kebab Eatery. The meat that they used was a mix of beef and pork. It was tasty and really nice, plus the owner and the staff are very accommodating.

It was already close to midnight when we arrived back at the city.


What you need to know:

  1. This is an all day trip and getting from one stop to another may take a long drive. Just be ready with something that will entertain you while inside the car.
  2. Make sure that your cameras and phones are fully charged. It is also advisable to have power banks and excess batteries.
  3. There will be stops along the way where you can buy food. But I would still suggest you to bring something to snack on inside the car.
  4. Wear comfortable shoes, as some of the places visited would require you to hike and climb.
  5. All the places I have mentioned here doesn’t have entrance fees, except for the cable car where you need to purchase a one or two way ticket.
  6. Bring a scarf. There are some monasteries that requires the ladies to cover their heads upon entrance. In case you don’t have one, you can borrow from there.
  7. Armenians usually light candles whenever they visit a monastery. If you also want to light one, there are stores within the monastery to buy some. I believe it cost less than AMD 300 (USD 0.63).

Additional Knowledge:

This is a stork’s nest. Armenians believe that it brings happiness to a family or household if they have this on top of their houses.


Tour in Armenia:
Artur 
+374 91 584 550 (available also in whatsapp)

 

Tatev Cable Car / Wings of Tatev:
Website: www.tatever.am
Contact Nos.: +37460-463333 +37496-463333
Ticket prices and Opening hours may vary depending on the season.

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Armenia | Georgia | Travel

How Much Does it Cost to Travel in Georgia and Armenia for 9 Days?

By on July 13, 2017

Georgia and Armenia are two former Soviet Union countries, that has been getting the attention of travellers lately due to its impressive landscapes and natural beauty. One thing that you should also know is that, a trip to these two countries won’t break your bank as the prices are relatively low considering that it is part of Europe.

Last week, I have written about our 9 Day Itinerary on these two amazing countries. As promised, I will be laying down how much we have spent (approximately) during our vacation.

Note: AMD or Armenian Dram is the currency in Armenia while GEL or Georgian Lari in Georgia.

Air Ticket

If you are like us, who is coming from Doha, Qatar, an economy air ticket usually range from QAR 1,800 (USD 490) to QAR 4,000 (USD 1,095) depending on how early you booked your flight, the season of your trip and if there are layovers. We booked our ticket with Qatar Airways. Initially, our flight to Georgia have a layover of 12 hours at Azerbaijian. Thankfully, that flight was cancelled, so they moved us to a direct flight, which gave us additional one day for this trip.

To know more about air ticket prices from your place to Georgia or Armenia, you may check out Skyscanner.

Accommodation

We are a bit finicky when choosing an accommodation during our travels, but we always make sure that it is within our budget. Below are the places where we stayed on this trip. The rooms that we booked have its own bathroom and the prices below doesn’t include breakfast.

There were some flaws during our stay, but the positives still outweigh the negatives, that’s why I would still recommend these places. You can check them out at booking.com.

Depending on your budget, you can opt to stay in a posh or average hotels, cheap hostels, apartments or you can even do coach surfing. But whatever your choice will be, one thing that you should always consider is the location. It should be within walking distance from various tourist attractions, restaurants, stores or at least near a train or bus station.

Daily Tours

A lot of tourist attractions in Georgia and Armenia are located outside the city center, that’s why it is recommended to either hire a car or join a tour, as public transportation to reach these places are somewhat limited or impossible.

During our time in Armenia, we hired a car with driver as recommended by our host at the accommodation. The price is per car and per day, based on the places that you would want to visit. The car that we used has 4 seating capacity, once you maximized this, the price per head will be lesser.

The total amount below is the cost per person assuming that we reached the maximum capacity of the car.

As for our tours in Georgia, we got the service of Kartveli Tours for Day 6 and 7 on a private basis, while G7 Euro Travel and Tours provided the trip on Days 8 and 9. Both of their price quotations are per person and based on the tours that we have selected.

Kindly note that tour prices may vary based on the season, the number of persons in your group or the places that you wanted to include on the itinerary.

Entrance Fees

Most of the tourist attractions on these two countries doesn’t have entrance fees except for the following places we visited. I have also included here the fares that we have paid for the cable cars and funicular to get to certain attractions.

Transportation

Both of these countries got various options when it comes to public transportation. If you want to get around the city or travel to other cities, you can use their trains, metro, buses and taxis. The fares are relatively cheap. We didn’t get to use their public transportation often as we were usually on tours and the hotels where we stayed in are within walking distance to the city center.

Below are some information on the fares of the public transportation that we were able to use.

Food

Food is very affordable in these countries. Their cuisines are somewhat similar with each other, but the taste is different. One food that is always present every meal is bread. They consume it just like how we Filipinos devour rice.

In Armenia, a complete meal of meat, bread and drinks on an average restaurant can cost around AMD 2,000 to 5,000 (USD 4 to 10.50). While in Georgia, it can cost around GEL 15 to 30  (USD 6.25 to 12.50). Wines are also cheap on these countries and most people living there consume it every meal.

If we will talk about the cost of food per day per person, I would recommend you to budget atleast AMD 10,000 (USD 20) in Armenia while GEL 60 (USD 25) in Georgia. This is assuming that you are like me who loves to eat and try different types of food, you won’t be skipping any meal and you will be dining in average or casual restaurants. But it can be lowered down if you opt to prepare your own food or you will buy in grocery stores.

Other Expenses

Visa fees – This is based on the nationality or your residency. Filipinos living in the Middle East are visa free in Georgia, while in Armenia, one must pay AMD 3,000 (USD 6) for a single entry visa on arrival.

Souvenirs – I already forgot how much the souvenirs cost for each countries. All I remembered was we paid AMD 8,000 (USD 17) and GEL 60 (USD 25) for some keychains and ref magnets that we purchased.

I believe these are all it. Just do the math guys in getting the total for all the expenses. I hope this can help you in budgeting your own trip either to Georgia or Armenia.

P.S.: I used Google in translating the amounts to USD and rounded it off as well.

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Armenia | Georgia | Travel

Wandering Through Caucasus Region | Our 9 Day Itinerary in Georgia and Armenia

By on July 6, 2017

If you have been following my social media accounts, you would have known that last June, Tep and I had an amazing time visiting two countries from the Caucasus Region, namely Georgia and Armenia. Some of our friends were so engrossed with the pictures that we posted, that’s why they keep on asking us for our itinerary, as well as other details regarding our trip. On this blog post, I will try my best to give you as much information as I can to help you drafting your own itinerary. If you want to know how much we spent on this trip, I will be posting a breakdown of our expenses on the next few days.

Day 1: Arrival in Tbilisi – A Visit to Georgia National Museum and Mtatsminda Park

Coming from Doha, Qatar, we arrived in Tbilisi, Georgia around 12:20 AM via Qatar Airways. We took a taxi going to our hotel (Noah’s Ark B&B), checked – in and then took a rest. It was around 12:00 noon when we started our day going to the city center, which is a 20 to 30 minute bus ride from our hotel. Initially, our plan is to join a free walking tour of the city, however we were late, so I just decided to go somewhere else.

We first went to the Georgia National Museum where we spent almost 2 hours walking around. It’s not a big museum but there are some interesting stuff to see.

Stone Age Georgia – one of the sections in the Museum

Next, we headed to Mtatsminda Park. It is an amusement park located at the top of Mtatsminda Mountain, giving you a fantastic view of the city.

View of the city from Mtatsminda Park

Day 2: Mashrutka (shared taxi) ride from Tbilisi, Georgia to Yerevan, Armenia

It usually takes 6 to 7 hours to reach Armenia from Georgia by land. This is the reason why we started early that day. We were at the station around 8:15am but the Mashrutka left at 9:30 because it needed to get full before it can leave. When we reached the Georgia and Armenia border, all of us went down for the passport control.

It was almost 4:00 pm when we arrived in Yerevan, the capital city of Armenia. After checking in at our rented studio apartment (Apricot Studios), we walked for 10 mins towards the city center. We stopped for a while at St. Gregory the Illuminator Cathedral, which is the largest Armenian Church in the world. Again, we were supposed to have a free city tour but since it was raining, we just cancelled it and had dinner at one of the local restaurants.

St. Gregory The Illuminator Cathedral

Day 3: Tatev Monastery Tour

This was the longest day tour that we had during this trip, but believe me, it was worth it. We started at 6:30 AM and we were back at the apartment around 12 midnight. Tatev Monastery was our main destination for this tour and it is located on the south most part of Armenia. You can reach this Monastery either by car or by riding a cable car, called Wings of Tatev. Apart from this, we also visited other places such as Khor Virap Monastery, Areni Winery, Noravank, Tatev Devil Bridge, Harsnadzor and Shaki Waterfalls. I will be writing more about this tour soon.

Tatev Monastery in Armenia

Our host at the apartment recommended a guy, named Artur, to be our driver/guide for this tour. We also got his service for the rest of our days in Armenia.

Day 4: Mt. Aragats Tour / A short trip to the city at night

It was only on the night of Day 3 when we decided to do this tour. We were supposed to go back to Georgia by train this day, but we totally changed our minds when we learned the places that we will see on this tour. There were 5 stops, which enabled us to visit monasteries, see stunning views of Armenia and experience snow.

The snow and lake in Mt. Aragats

After the tour, we went to the city center to watch the fountain show at the Freedom Square. It was not the best fountain show I’ve seen, but consider checking it out. This was also the time that we visited the Yerevan Cascade, which is a 500 step stairway that got multiple levels with fountains and sculptures. Once you reached the top, you will be rewarded with a breathtaking view of the city.

The Cascades at night

Day 5: A Private ride from Armenia to Georgia with a side trip to Garni Temple, Geghard Monastery and Lake Sevan

On this day, we hired the service of Artur again to get us to Georgia. But before waving goodbye to Armenia, we made side trips to Garni Temple, Geghard Monastery, Sevanavank and Lake Sevan, which were along the way.

The Garni Temple

When we reached Georgia, we immediately checked in at Hotel Four Brothers, then had dinner. Afterwards, we just roam around Rike Park and Bridge of Peace which were a few walks from our hotel.

Bridge of Peace

Day 6: A Long Drive to Vardzia Cave and Rabati Castle

Two of our friends from Qatar joined us on this trip and we hired Kartveli Tours to take us to Vardzia Cave and Rabati Castle. It took us four hours from the city by car to reach our first destination. We spent some time walking around Vardzia Cave, which is a monastery built on the slopes of the mountain. The hot weather of Georgia that day was too much for us to handle, the reason why we were not able to reach the end of the cave. Then, we drove for another hour to get to our next stop which was the Rabati Castle. After spending some time at the castle, we immediately went back to the city.

Vardzia Cave

Day 7: Kazbegi Adventure with Paragliding

Our tour started at 9:00 am and was provided by Kartveli Tours. This was the day that I’ve been looking forward to because of the paragliding experience which we did at Guduari. But apart from that, we also visited Zhinvali Water Reservoir, Ananuri Fortress, Friendship Monument, Kazbegi and Gergeti Monastery. We also got the chance to have lunch with a local family and they even taught us how to make Khinkhali, a Georgian dumpling.

At Kazbegi

Day 8: Kakheti and Signaghi Tour / Cable Car Ride to Narikala Fortress

For this day, we got our tour from G7 Euro Travel and Tours (including the tour for Day 9 and airport drop off). There were various places that we visited on this tour such as Bodbe Monastery, Signaghi (known as Georgia’s City of Love), Ilia’s Lake and Chelti Winery in Kakheti, where we learned the process of wine making and got the opportunity to taste Georgian wines and chacha (vine vodka).

Ilia Lake

Upon reaching the city center after the tour, we hopped on the cable car that brought us to the Sololaki Hill. We just walked around the area which offers a great view of the city. This is also the place where you can see the statue of Kartlis Deda (Mother of Georgia) and the Narikala Fortress.

Old Tbilisi

Day 9: Temca, Mtskheta and Gori Excursion / Flight back to Doha

Started our last day with a drive to Temca to see The Chronicles of Georgia, which is a massive structure depicting the history of Christianity in Georgia. Next we went to Mtskheta to see Jvaris Monastery and Svetitskhoveli Cathedral. Then we’re off to Gori where we visited Uplitsikhe and Gori Fortress. We were back in the city around 7:00 pm.

The Chronicles of Georgia with these two that we met during this tour.

Initially, our plan was to either have a massage or roam around the city while waiting for our 2:00am flight. But it rained so hard, that’s why we just stayed at the hotel and had dinner afterwards at a local restaurant.

We were picked up at the hotel for drop off to the airport around 11:00 pm. Then we fly back to Doha, Qatar.

So that concludes our amazing 9 day trip to Georgia and Armenia. Everyday was fully packed with activities, but we still got plenty of time to rest since most of the tours usually ends around 8:00pm, except for Day 3. I will be writing more about each tour on the succeeding blogs. Hope this will help you for now, especially if you are planning to go during the Eid Al Adha holiday.

P.S.: By the way, I properly planned this trip, however, there are really some circumstances that is way out of our control. That is why, it is always best to have Plan B.


Tour Operators

Tours in Armenia:

Artur 
+374 91 584 550 (available also in whatsapp)

Tours in Georgia:

Kartveli Tours
www.kartvelitours.com
+995 557 213 515 (available also in whatsapp)
contact@kartvelitours.com

G7 Euro Travel and Tours
www.g7eurotravelandtours.com
+ 995-579-128-007 (available also in whatsapp)
g7eurotravelandtours@gmail.com

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Travel | Visa Guide

How to Successfully Get a Japan Tourist Visa in Qatar? | Visa Guide for Filipinos

By on May 15, 2017

Japan has been one of every Filipino’s dream destinations. We wanted to go there for various reasons such as to see the cherry blossoms, taste the authentic Japanese cuisines, ski during the winter, experience Japan’s heritage and a whole lot more. But in order to make that “dream” of getting there a reality, the first step that every Philippine passport holders should do is to apply for a visa (apart from saving). 

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Airline Reviews | Travel

Airline Review | Flying with Cebu Pacific from Doha to Manila

By on May 2, 2017

Cebu Pacific Air started their 9 hour direct flight from Doha to Manila last 2015. When I first learned about this, I was kinda hesitant to try it due to comfort, entertainment, food, plus the ticket cost is not that cheap unless you were able to score a piso fare. But all these hesitations slowly went away when I heard from some friends that their experience with the airline was not bad after all. 

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