Must See

Dilizhan

This hill resort, located in the northern Armenian province of Tavush, is the source of much of the country's mineral water. Armenians say that heaven must be like Dilizhan, on account of its beautiful mountain scenery, with woods and springs. The town also offers a number of furniture workshops and carpet factories for the keen shopper.

Just a few kilometres east of Dilijhan is the Haghartsin Monastery, which is set in a beautiful wooded gorge. Built in the Middle Ages, the monastery is one of the very few perfectly preserved examples of the architecture of its period (10th to 13th centuries). St. Astvatsatsin Church (1281) is the largest building of the complex and the dominant artistic feature, featuring a sixteen-faced dome decorated with arches.

Echmiadzin

Formerly the capital (from 180-340 AD), this holy city is the site of the Cathedral of St Gregory the Illuminator, which is the country's most important cathedral. Founded in 303 by the first Armenian Catholicos, the church was built on the foundations of a pre-Christian temple. The existing 17th-century building is an excellent example of Armenian ecclesiastical architecture, with an elaborately carved dome and squat bell tower. The cathedral's museum contains a number of relics, artefacts, church vestments and tapestries, including the Relic of Geghard (believed to be the spear that pierced Christ's side) and the Reliquary of Noah's Ark (believed to house a piece of wood from Noah's Ark taken from Mount Arafat).

Garni

Approximately 32 km southeast from Yerevan is the village of Garni, notable for its fortress complex, first constructed in the 3rd millennium BC. Sites include the king's palace, baths and the site's most famous and best preserved building, a Parthenon like temple to the Roman god Mithras. Although repeated earthquakes have destroyed most of the original structure, the temple's vertiginous position, dominating the valley from a plateau 300m (984ft) above the Azat River, is breathaking.

Geghard Monastery

Just 7 km southeast of Garni is the monastery of Geghard, a unique construction partially carved out of the adjacent mountain. The spectacular towering cliffs surrounding the monastery are part of the Azat river gorge, and are included together with the monastery in the World Heritage Site listing. 'Wishing trees' by the road approaching the site are decorated with coloured scraps of cloth, tied on by pilgrims and travellers hoping their prayers will be answered.

Some of the churches within the monastery complex are entirely dug out of the cliff rocks, others are little more than caves, while others are elaborate structures, with both architecturally complex walled sections and rooms deep inside the cliff. The monks, who still inhabit the monastery, occasionally sacrifice sheep on an open-air stone altar.

Lake Sevan

The largest lake in the Caucasus, Lake Sevan, is situated 70 km (43 miles) east of Yerevan. It is known for its pure waters, stunning setting and delicious salmon trout. However, ill-planned irrigation and hydroelectric projects have caused it to shrink and fears exist for its future.

Mount Aragats

The country's highest peak at 4,090 metres high, on which stands the ancient Amberd fortress and 11th century church.

Yerevan

Yerevan is Armenia's historic capital city and one of the oldest continuously inhabited settlements anywhere in the world, founded nearly 2,800 years ago in the time of Babylon. Its modern architecture, however, owes more to the Soviet regime than its ancient roots.

The city boasts no fewer than 20 museums, including the National Art Gallery, which has more than 16,000 works that date back to the Middle Ages, the Modern Art Museum and the Yerevan library of ancient manuscripts (Materadaran), which houses over 13,000 texts, many beautifully illuminated and some dating as far back as the 9th century.

The Vernisaj flea market, close to Republic Square, bustles with hundreds of vendors selling a variety of crafts on weekends and Wednesdays (though the selection is much reduced mid-week). Specialities include obsidian (which is found locally and crafted into assortment of jewellery and ornamental objects), handcrafted gold items, Soviet relics and souvenirs, enamel boxes, woodcarving, antiques, fine lace, and hand-knotted wool carpets and kilims.

The Armenian Philharmonic Orchestra performs at the refurbished city Opera House, and chamber ensembles may be heard at the National Chamber Orchestra of Armenia and the Serenade Orchestra. Classical music can also be enjoyed at one of several smaller venues, including the Chamber Orchestra Hall and the Yerevan Komitas State Conservatory. Jazz is popular, especially in the summer when live performances are a regular occurrence at one of the city's many outdoor cafés.