In Mid October 2017 I was finally getting closer to one of the big goals on my journey, Iran. The country in between, Armenia, is is not as popular as its more widely known neighbour-country Georgia. Whilst I have to admit that it`s not quite as spectacular it was definitely worth my visit.
I was off to a rough start though, not only where the roads the worst thing I`ve experienced so far (worse than Albania and Romania!) it was the first time the where some troubles crossing the border at Bagratashen. The officers send me into an office where there where some unfriendly workers who just told me I have to pay them money now. Upon asking for what they all of a sudden weren`t able to understand English anymore. Due to bad cellphone reception I couldn`t use google translate on the phone to find out the issue. After about 20 minutes they were annoyed enough to get someone from the backoffice who told me that it is a road usage fee. Wouldn`t have been to hard to post a sign or something I think. The next adventure started right after leaving the border checkpoint, there is a big roundabout right after the crossing where insurance sale Agents just wait for you to sell you overpriced insurance.
Yes, you have to get insurance for your car in Armenia and apparently there are huge fines if you get caught without. Still I didn`t appreciate the two guys literally trying to crawl into my car through the half open window. As I was trying to figure out which way to head next they just kept annoying me. In the end I just did one circle in the roundabout to get rid of them and drove off. I decided to take the risk and buy insurance in the next bigger town as well as a SIM Card. I ended up buying insurance in the next bigger town for around half of what they tried to sell me at the border. I don`t know anymore how much I paid but it really wasn`t much. The only real negativ thing that happened to me in Armenia is that an ATM there took my credit card. It still gave me the money, but after that it refused to give my card back. Since it was saturday evening and I was just passing through I had no chance of getting it back :( As a prepared traveler I of course carry a spare one, but still it is no fun to make a skype call to the credit card hotline and explain to them that your card is stuck in an Armenian ATM, they have to block it an send a new one to your mother. It`s seems to be somewhat confusing for the average worker there, but it worked out in the end :)
In Armenia you can pretty much camp anywhere. Nobody cares as long as you behave yourself and don`t make a big mess. The monasteries all over the place are really spectacular. I can`t really recommend one over the other since they are all amazing. So when you get there you have free choice all over the country :) As I mentioned earlier Armenia had the worst roads of the trip so far which I couldn`t understand at first, because they had the highest road usage fees of all countries I have visited so far. It became more clear the more I drove, there where road improvement projects at pretty much every road. So I have to give it to them, they really use these fees to do some good! During this trip I have come into the habit of not trusting road signs to much anymore since a lot of times they where outdated and would not be taken down once a road blockage is over. Well you better trust them in Armenia, the sign telling me that the road ahead would be blocked in 30km was right. So there I was standing in front of a newly constructed tunnel which was still blocked for traffic. The construction worker signaling me to turn around. Luckily enough there was an Armenian guy in the car behind me that talked to him and he ended up letting us go trough following a construction truck. Lucky me, otherwise I would have had to drive 30km back and on top take a 50km detour around the tunnel.
I eventually managed to end up at Sewan Lake which is one of the highlights in Armenia. There are quite a few nice places to park right next to the lake. I link some here, just remember, I was there during off season in October, during other times you might not be allowed to stay there.
40.437295, 45.107622 (The one in the picture below named lakeside Camping)
40.278422, 45.222319 (not picured, but really nice a little away from the road. Be aware the access is really narrow, the paintjob of the vanagon suffered quite a little going through some brushes anything wider would not fit!)
39.545364, 45.996660 (This is the lovely remote camping spot next to the river, shown below, the basalt colums are just around the corner as well)
Apart from that there where a few nice places to see (Goris Caves, 39.499765, 46.430271 where I stayed overnight) are highlights if you are not all about monasteries, which start to look the same after the 5th one :) Two days before I started my final approach to Iran I meet some fellow travelers that where traveling by motorcycle. Since the world is such a small place to be, we would meet later again in Iran. As everyone who has been traveling for an extended time knows, it feels so nice to meet fellow travelers from home just for a brief exchange how they feel about traveling, people they meet and news from home.
Even though I was in Armenia for only 8 days I had a great time there and definitely can recommend it for visiting. I was so excited to get to Iran that I rushed it a little I have to admit. It is one of the less touristy places in the area and the friendly people and beautiful landscape are worth visiting. To be totally honest it doesn`t stand out from the crowd but I`m sure you can do a lot worse than visiting Armenia :)