Armenia boasts a history that goes back over 3,000 years and is the only country in the Caucasus' Eurasian Region that can be found on maps dating back over three millennia. Armenia is landlocked and lies south of Georgia, west of Azerbaijan, north of Iran and east of Turkey and is one of the few true gateways between European and Asian culture.
Yerevan is the capital of Armenia, and this ancient and venerable city lies in Armenia's Central Province. When in Yerevan, tourists must be sure to visit its magnificent Opera House, its 3,000 year old Erebuni fortress and its Matenadaran museum, which contains the world's largest collection of illuminated Armenian manuscripts. Armenia was the first country in the world to embrace Catholicism as its national religion, and Armenian churches are consequently of great interest to both the professional historian and anyone with even a casual interest in the history of both Armenia and the Catholic Church.
Although landlocked, Armenia lies between the Black and the Caspian Seas and experiences a highland continental climate. Summers are sunny and dry while winters bring much snow, and the countryside, with its volcanoes and rocky escarpments, is sometimes reminiscent of a lunar landscape. Armenia is divided into five separate provinces: Central Armenia, Nagorno-Karabakh, which is sometimes considered part of Azerbaijan, the Lake Sevan Region, Northern Armenia and Southern Armenia. Armenian nationals speak either Armenian, Yezidi Kurdish or Russian.
Central Armenia, apart from being home to Yerevan, also features the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Echmiadzin. The famed Echmiadzin Cathedral was founded in 301AD, and the city is thus understandably the country's religious hub. Central Armenia also boasts the city of Artashat, Armenia's former capital and site of the breathtaking Khor Virap Monastery. Nagorno-Karabakh is an unrecognized Caucasus republic, which lies within Azerbaijan but which is controlled by Armenia. Tourists are constantly drawn to this beautiful land of undulating green hills and out of the way shrines, and major attractions include the ghostly cities of Shusha and Agdam.
The Lake Sevan Region features the stunningly beautiful Lake Sevan, which, at 2,000 meters above sea level, is one of Armenia's highest lakes. The lake boasts pristine beaches and is perfect for a summer getaway, and while not enjoying the swimming and sun-bathing facilities, visitors can marvel at the awe-inspiring monasteries, like Sevanavank, that dot the area. Northern Armenia is a land of rivers and lush landscapes and also contains Dilijan, the city that's known as Little Switzerland and that will delight the visitor with its alpine meadows and peaceful walking trails. Southern Armenia, on the other hand, is a land of caves and is most well known for the mysterious petroglyphs atop Ughtasar Mountain, the Old Khndzoresk cave city, the intriguing Selim Caravansary and the Zorats Karer standing stone formations.
Home to ethnic populations that have been called the friendliest people in the world, Armenia is a wonderful place to visit if the traveler wants to obtain an understanding of both European and Asian culture.
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