If you furrowed your brows thinking why we’re talking about Armenia, one of Europe’s best-kept secrets, when it comes to travel itinerary, then it may be time for you to look this place up and explore what many haven’t before. By Shubhanjana Das
Following is a list of places that don’t make it to the tourist’s guide of Armenia. This culturally rich country is located in the mountainous Caucasus mountains between Europe and Asia, is also one of the oldest Christian civilizations in the world. After all, if you’re visiting an offbeat destination, why should your experience be generic?
Did you know that Armenia is home to the world’s oldest astronomical observatory, beating even Stonehenge and the Egyptian pyramids? Built initially as a temple in honour of Ari, the Sun God, this Armenian Stonehenge is easily a few thousand years old and the rocks here have holes pointing to different directions in space. How had we not heard about this before?
2. Old Khndzoresk Cave Village
If you are already intrigued by the name itself, wait till we tell you a little about this place. Up until the 20th century, this network of caves used to constitute the biggest village in Eastern Armenia. Comprising both man-made and natural caves, Khndzoresk village was inhabited by thousands, resting on the steep slope of a gorge. The caves were inhabited even till the 1950s after which the Soviets cleared the population out on grounds of ‘uncivilized’ and ‘unfit’.
3. Alphabet Mountain
We stand the risk of sounding superficial while describing the Alphabet Mountain, but only a physical encounter with this place can make one believe that such a place exists. Dedicated to Mesrop Mashtots, the mastermind behind the Armenian alphabets, these free-standing statues of the 39 letters stand individually near the village of Artashavan. They were placed on the occasion of his 100th birthday in 2005.
This monastery complex is one of the lesser known but undoubtedly one of the most captivating places Armenia boasts of. The blue azure of the surrounding lake forms the most picturesque background you can think of. This monastery complex, which dates back to the 4th Century CE, has unique black-and-orange stone-constructed churches because of the vivid orange and green andesite and limestone khachkars. The stone blocks even have intricate designs carved on them.
5. Vernissage Flea Market
This flea market hailed as one of the best open markets in the whole world, often misses the sight of outsiders. It sells everything ranging from books and paintings to jewellery and carved wood. Open only on weekends, this market in Yerevan is heaven for shopaholics and master-bargainers. So, grab your shopping bag and shop all the beautiful souvenirs for yourself, friends and family.