Cheapest places on earth: Armenia

Cheapest places on earth: Armenia
Why should you plan a visit here? Besides being ultra-affordable,
Armenia offers an interesting glimpse of what happens to a culture
when East collides with West

The 12th century Armenian Apostolic cathedral Khorvirap is in the
foreground of snow-covered Mount Ararat in Khorvirap, Armenia
Photo: Misha Japaridze / AP

By Robert Kurkjian
Updated: 6:21 p.m. ET April 06, 2004

April issue, Budget Travel magazine – Its not a place that most people
automatically think of heading: just east of Turkey and north of
Iran. Armenia’s unusual position, pinioned between Arab and Western
cultures, has given it a dynamic, 3,000-year-old history, although
independence for the current republic dates only to its messy breakup
from the U.S.S.R. in the early 1990s. Being tucked into a corner of
the world, however, has its price advantages.

Strong coffee, 28″: Have it served in a demitasse, at one of the
hundreds of sidewalk cafis in Yerevan, the capital. In the summer
and fall, you can’t walk more than a block without passing a
street-side café where you can sit all day, even with just a
single cup. It’s considered rude to ask patrons to leave.

Free: The country’s ancient monuments, erected when Armenia was
ruled by, at various times, the Romans, Byzantines, Persians, and
Ottomans. The stone-arched cathedral at Echmiadzin dates back
1,700 years, and the spectacular Khor Virap Monastery, from the
17th century, overlooks the frosted peaks of Mt. Ararat, where
Noah’s ark came to rest.

A loaf of freshly baked bread, 20c: You want a full meal with it?
Figure on spending two or three dollars at most. Khorovats, barbecued
pork, is the country’s most popular dish.

A bottle of good wine to go with your meal, $2: Vintners in the
Armenian version of Napa Valley, the wine-growing regions of Areni and
Geytap in the southwest of the country, bottle mixed vintages while
you wait and charge as little as $1.

A kilogram (more than two pounds) of fresh-picked organic tomatoes or
cucumbers, 20c: In summer, produce is sold along the roads of the
Ararat Valley just outside Yerevan. Huge bags of apples and apricots
are about 20c, too.

A subway ride in Yerevan, 12c: That’s the new, inflated price; the
fare was less than 10c a year ago. Spring for a private cab ride
within the city center for about 85c, or hail a minivan, to cover
longer distances across town, for about 18c. Planning to see the
countryside? A bus from the capital to Stepanakert, a city 224 miles
away in the tiny, self-autonomous region of Karabagh, is only $3.

A museum ticket, 18c: There are dozens of state-operated museums, such
as the National Art Gallery, which under the Soviets was the
third-largest collection in the U.S.S.R. The country’s bounty of
artifacts dates to the infancy of Christianity and earlier.

Color film, $2.50: To process 24 pictures (the countrys common
fire-red poppy fields are a popular subject), the price is about the

For $30 or less, a night at one of Yerevan’s Soviet-era hotels
(no-frills). A Western-style hotel (cable TV, gym) runs more like $130
– a stay of five nights would cost about what most Armenians make in a

Copyright © 2004 Newsweek Budget Travel, Inc.