Armenia is a little-known country nestled between Georgia and Turkey in the region between Europe and Asia. It lies in the highlands surrounding the legendary mount Ararat and makes up for its lack of fame with centuries of history and a truly unique culture. Of course, since all this may sound admittedly academic, we’ve hunted down five even better reasons to want to put Armenia on your next travel map!

Leisure

The Armenian countryside is one of the most beautiful in the world. The country’s myriad of mountains, gorges and valleys make it a perfect destination for hiking enthusiasts. And for the non-hikers there’s nothing quite like a leisurely horse ride through the scenic valley. The slopes of Mount Aragats, northwest of Yerevan and the highest point in Armenia, make a particularly lovely ride.

History

Speaking of capitals, did you know that the city of Yerevan wasn’t always the capital of Armenia? In fact there have been eleven over the centuries, but the one that stands out is the city of Vagharshapat – home to one of the oldest cathedrals in the world – Echmiadzin. This UNESCO World Heritage Site was completed in the early fourth century and is an excellent example of early Armenian architecture. There’s even more to see in the monasteries at Geghard, Haghpat and Sanahin if you’re truly inspired.

Sights

One of the first sights you’ll notice in the capital city of Yerevan is the imposing Materadaran library. The building houses over 13,000 ancient manuscripts and has one of the most extensive collections of medieval literature in the world. If books aren’t your thing, then take a trip down south-east to the town of Goris, which boasts of an entire village of homes carved directly into the cliffs. These dramatic rock formations are believed to have been a Stone Age settlement, but draw more tourists these days than actual residents.

Food

If all this talk of walking has made you hungry, then look no further. No trip to Armenia is complete without sampling two extraordinary dishes – Kadaif and Chechil. The first is a mouthwatering cheese pastry coated with sugar syrup and crushed pistachios. It’s easily mistaken for the middle-eastern Knaffeh, but is unique in both flavor and texture.

The second, Chechil, is a must-have Armenian specialty made of braided strands of cheese that are smoked to perfection. It’s a savory treat that makes a great snack and goes well with just about every drink.

Nature

Last but not least, most people would think we were joking if we told them of a beach at almost two kilometers above sea level, but that’s exactly what Armenia’s Lake Sevan has to offer. The lake is the largest in the Caucasus region and is one of the largest, high-altitude lakes in the world. Not only will you find expansive sandy beaches here, but the area is also known for its delicious salmon trout and the many historic monasteries that dot the shoreline.