Areni, Armenia is a small village two hours south of Yerevan and one of the oldest wine-growing regions in the world. For such a small village, there are lots of excellent things to do in Areni from sampling wines to visiting vineyards, descending into age-old caves, hiking and more.
I recently spent a week here and discovered some of the wonderful Areni things to do, which I’ll detail below. The region forms part of the Vyots Dzor Wine Route, named after the canyon and valley of the same name.
Here you’ll find towering canyon walls, mountains, valleys, rivers and some beautiful monasteries perched on rocky outcrops like the famous Noravank Monastery, a short distance from Areni. So, whether you’re a wine lover, a nature lover, or just want to escape the city for a few days, Areni, Armenia is definitely an excellent place to visit.
10 Best Things to do in Areni Armenia
Below you’ll find a wide range of things to do in Areni, Armenia from visiting some stunning clifftop churches and monasteries to wine-tasting, vineyards and more.
1. Go Wine Tasting at Areni Winery
One of the first things to do in Areni is to check out the Areni Wine Factory. It dates back to 1994 making it one of the oldest factories in the village. You can take a tour of the complex, see where the wine is aged in large oak casks, and taste a selection of delicious Vyots Dzor wines.
There is a rustic bar upstairs with inside and outside seating and stunning views across the valley. The winery also hosts other activities like lavash-making classes, and there is a gift shop where you can purchase wines, handmade goods, and other gifts.
I visited the Areni Wine Factory a couple of times to enjoy a glass or two of dry red on the upstairs terrace. A generous glass costs just 500 drams (£1.25). Around the back is the Abu Georges Restaurant which I’ve detailed below under the food and drink section.
This day trip from Yerevan includes a stop at the Areni wine factory where you’ll have the opportunity for a tasting and to buy a bottle or two. Click here to check availability.
Address: E117, Areni 3604. Click here for directions
How to Get There: The winery is on the main E117 road from Yerevan and easily walkable from the village. You can also take a tour from Yerevan.
Opening Hours: 9 am to 9 pm every day
Entrance Price: Free
2. Visit a Vineyard
There are lots of Vineyards in Areni, Armenia and it’s considered one of the earliest wine-producing regions in the world dating back thousands of years. The Areni Noir grape grows here along the Arpa River and makes some of the tastiest wines I’ve tried (dry reds like Karas in particular).
The area produces a range of wines from light sparkling and rose to full-bodied reds. The “young wines” which are reminiscent of port, or fortified wine, are well worth a try, and you can buy all of the different varieties direct from the vineyards.
3. Visit Holy Mother of God Church
Holy Mother of God Church, also known as Areni Surb Astvatsatsin, is a sandstone-coloured Armenian church situated on the top of a hill overlooking the village and Arpa River. This is definitely one of the most impressive sights in Areni and can be seen from miles around.
The church was built in 1321 and there some interesting carvings inside and out including depictions of mythical creatures and the Virgin Mary (another mythical creature). The releifs were designed by the sculptor Momik Vardpet who also decorated the nearby Noravank Monastery.
I hiked to the church from the village which only takes around 15 minutes, and the views to the surrounding mountains, river valley and countryside are incredible.
Address: Areni Village. Click here for directions.
How to Get There: The church is a 15 to 20-minute walk from anywhere in the village.
Opening Hours: 24/7
Entrance Price: Free
4. See the Areni-1 Cave
The Areni-1 Cave was one of the attractions I wanted to visit and it didn’t disappoint. The cave is home to one of the oldest wine cellars in the world dating back to around 4,000 BC and is carved into the cliffs above the Arpa River a couple of kilometers from the village.
The cave keeps on giving surprises and in 2008 the earliest shoe ever discovered was found in the cave, in 2009 the earliest known human brain was discovered, and in 2011 a grass skirt dating back to 3,900 BC was also found.
I took the short walk up a series of steps and ladders to the cave entrance where archaeological pits containing clay pots and other finds are on display. Then I was led farther into a tunnel deep into the cave system where other excavation pits are on display.
You only need 30 minutes or so to discover the artifacts and explore the cave system, but it’s well worth doing and is within walking distance of Areni.
Address: Junction of E117 and Noravabk Monastery Road. Click here for directions
How to Get There: I walked from the village and it took around 25 minutes.
Opening Hours: 10 am to 7 pm every day
Entrance Price: 1,000 drams ($2.50)
5. Explore Magellan Bat Cave
I already knew about the Areni-1 Cave, but I stumbled upon the Magellan Bat Cave when I attempted to hike from Areni to Noravank Monastery. I’m so glad I did as this is definitely one of the top things to do in Areni, Armenia.
This is the longest cave in Armenia stretching over a kilometer through the cliffs of the canyon. It has been used as shelter since prehistoric time
On a guided tour of the cave you’ll get to walk through 150 meters of underground corridors, see bats, stalactites, a live stalagmite growing before your very eyes, and ancient remains (yet to be determined by archaeologists.
Entrance is and there are guides in Russian and English. I was lucky enough to have my own private tour as I was the only one there. You’ll need to use a hard hard, which is provided at the entrance, and it is cold inside, so a warm jacket is advisable before entering.
Address: Noravank Monastery Road, Areni 3604. Click here for directions
How to Get There: The cave is a 3km (1.86 mile) walk from Areni.
Opening Hours: 11 am to 6 pm every day
Entrance Price: 3,000 Drams ($7.75)
6. Hike the Canyon to Noravank Monastery
The road from Areni to Noravank Monastery follows the Amaghu river canyon with steep walls, caves, wildlife, and some of the most stunning scenery in Armenia. Noravank Monastery Road is around 8 kilometers (5 miles) and starts at Areni-1 Cave and finishes at the impressive monastery.
I hiked part of this route from the village to the Magellan Cave, but my camera ran out of battery after my cave visit, so decided to return to Noravank the next day. The scenery all along the road is absolutely jaw-dropping and each new bend offers a new vista.
There are campsites dotted along the route, so you can spend a few days exploring this beautiful region. It’s also pretty easy to hitchhike along the Noravank Monastery Road as the area is popular with both locals and tourists, though it’s not overly busy.
7. Visit Noravank Monastery
The 13th Century Noravank Monastery is one of the most impressive in Armenia thanks to its stunning location on a cliff above the Amaghu River Canyon. The sandstone walls of the church blend in with the background and the panoramic views are simply breathtaking.
The hilltop complex includes the beautiful Surb Astvatsatsin church as well as the smaller Surb Karapet (St. John the Baptist) Church, both of which can be explored. I spent a few hours exploring the buildings, a small underground cave and the surrounding countryside on my visit.
There are a couple of different tours to Noravank Monastery from Yerevan which takes a lot of the hassle and uncertainty out (though personally, that’s half the fun for me). These tours also include some other top places to visit in Armenia such as Khor Virap, Tatev and more.
- Noravank Monastery, Areni Winery and Khor Virap Tour – Click here to check availability
- Noravank Monastery, Khor Virap and Tatev Tour – Click here to check availability
Address: Noravank Monastery Road, Areni, Vayats Dzor, Armenia. Click here for directions
How to Get There: Walk, hitchhike or taxi from Areni. You can also take a tour to Noravank from Yerevan.
Opening Hours: 24/7
Entrance Price: Free
8. Attend the Areni Wine Festival
Each October there is an annual wine festival in Areni, Armenia where you can enjoy a wide range of wines from the local wineries and vineyards. It’s one of the biggest such festivals in the Caucasus and an absolute must for wine lovers like myself.
I had planned to return to Areni for the festival this year (2023), but due to the situation in Nagorno Karabakh, this year’s event has understandably been cancelled.
The festival will likely resume in 2024, so check locally before visiting.
9. Buy Wine from a Streetside Vendor
All along the main E117 road that goes through Areni you’ll find many streetside vendors selling wine in plastic bottles from their own small wineries and vineyards. These sellers also offer fresh fruit, juices and other locally made products.
10. Visit the Apra Protected Landscape
If you’re looking for outdoor adventure in Areni, Armenia, then you’ll not want to miss the Apra Protected Landscape. Here you can participate in a range of activities from wildlife watching to off-roading, and even glamping.
This beautiful conservation area is home to many species including the magnificent Bezoar Goats which cling to the cliffside, the Caucasian Leopard, the Brown Bear and the Marbled Polecat. There are also over 190 species of bird including vultures and golden eagles.
The landscape is renowned for its untouched natural beauty with steep gorges, towering mountains and hidden monasteries. I spent a lot of time exploring this incredible landscape and will return for another hiking trip soon.
You can book the following tours by going to the visitor centre in the small town of Yeghegnadzor (I hitchhiked there from Areni), by using the contact details below.
- Wildlife Watching – 2 to 10 people – 10,000 drams ($24)
- Off-Road Tours – 25,000 drams per car ($60)
- Hiking Tour – 2 to 10 people – 10,000 drams ($24)
- Bird Watching Tour – 35,000 drams per car ($84)
Visitor Centre Address: 1/8/1, Yerevanyan Hwy, Yeghegnadzor 3601. Click here for directions.
How to Get There: The Arpa Protected Landscape lies just south of Norovank Monastery abut 13km from Areni. You can get there by hiking, hitchhiking or taxi (I used all three methods to get around).
Opening Hours: 24/7
Entrance Price: Free
Telephone: +374 95 90 25
Email: [email protected]
Where to Eat and Drink
For such as small village, there are no shortages of places to eat and drink in Areni, Armenia. Below are a couple of the places I ate at during my stay.
The Areni Tavern is a charming restaurant and wine cellar with an absolutely gorgeous terrace out the back with views across the valley and is somewhere I ate three times while staying in the village.
The extensive menu features Armenian classics like Dolma (meat wrapped in vine leaves or cabbage), grilled meats, salads and much more.
One of my favourite meals here was the beef salad with fried peppers and onions which cost a reasonable 2,000 drams ($5.00). A glass of their own very drinkable wine costs 500 drams ($1.26), and the owner also brought out free samples for me to try.
Abu Georges / Full Tray Areni
Full Tray Areni is a restaurant run by Areni Winery and just around the back of the shop and bar. I ate here a couple of times during my stay in the village and highly recommend the shashlik. Prices are reasonable, though a little more expensive than Arpeni Tavern, and without the gorgeous views.
Ar Areni is another of the excellent restaurants in the village serving traditional Armenian cuisine. It’s located next to the Areni Winery on the main Yerevan Road. The menu includes barbecue, homemade dolma and many other local specialties.
Getting to Areni
Rent a Car
If you want to the freedom to explore the region then renting a car is by far the best way to go as you won’t be constrained by the lack of public transport. Our partners at Discover Car can provide rentals in Armenia. Click here to find out more.
Take the Marshrutka
I took the marshrutka from Yerevan to Areni which took just over two hours. A lot of the information online about how to get there is incorrect at the time of writing. The marshrutkas do not go from Kilikia Bus Station as mentioned on sites like Rome2Rio.
Instead, marshrutkas leave from the bus stop on Arshakunitas Avenue just next to the large roundabout with Bagratunyats Ave, also known as Labour Square. The cost is just 2,000 drams ($5.00) and you buy your ticket directly from the driver. Click here for directions to the bus stop.
Tours to Areni from Yerevan
If you only have limited time to visit Areni then this day trip from Yerevan is a great option. It includes a visit to Khor Virap, Noravank Monastery and wine tasting in Areni. You’ll be picked up and dropped off in central Yerevan in an airconditioned minibus which takes a lot of the hassle out of visiting.
Areni, Winery & Noravank Tour from Yerevan – Click here to check availability
Areni, Noravank and Tatev Tour from Yerevan – Click here to check availability
Getting Around Areni
As Areni is very rural, hiring a car is the best way to get around as it gives you more freedom to explore on your own. That being said, I travelled using public transport (marshrutkas, taxis and hitchhiking) and it was still relatively easy to get around.
The village itself can be explored on foot, and nearby attractions like the wineries and caves are within walking distance.
Where to Stay in Areni
There are lots of guest houses and BnBs in and around Areni, Armenia and I stayed at a couple of these during my week-long trip here. The great thing about Areni is that your money goes far and the accommodation is cheap compared to Yerevan.
Areni Wine Cellar
I stayed at the Areni Wine Cellar for my first two nights in the village. I had a large room with floor-to-ceiling windows and amazing garden and mountain views. The hosts can arrange wine tasting, and cook homemade meals or barbecue on request. Click here to check prices.
Areni House B and B
I spent 5 nights at Areni House B and B and had a large, cozy room with an ensuite bathroom. As with the Wine Cellar, the B and B is run by a friendly family who can also cook homemade food if requested. Click here to learn more.
Glamping at Arpa Protected Landscape – Arpa Valley Cabin
If you want to really experience the wilds of Areni and stay within the Arpa Protected Landscape, then the Arpa Glamping Site is the perfect place, and somewhere I will stay on my next visit. If you want to go on one of the wildlife or bird-watching tours, this is a great option.
Things to do in Areni, Armenia FAQs
The Areni-1 Cave has evidence of wine-making dating back to 4,000 BC, making it one of the oldest wineries in the world.
The most famous Areni Grade is the Areni Noir, which is a little like the Pinot Noir grape. It has been used to make wine across the Caucasus for thousands of years.
Areni produces lots of different wines including whites, reds, sparkling and young wine (similar to port). However Areni wine is most famous as a full-bodied, dry red which tastes (in my humble opinion) delicious.
Conclusion – Is Areni, Armenia Worth Visiting?
Areni, Armenia is definitely worth visiting as it is packed with fun and interesting things to do. For wine lovers like myself it’s an absolute must as the village has been producing wines for thousands of years, and makes some of the best I’ve tasted.
For outdoor lovers, there are so many wonderful things to do in Areni from hiking through vast canyons to wildlife-watching tours, and windswept monasteries dotted on lonely hilltops. I had an amazing time in Areni, and it’s somewhere I’ll go back to again (especially for the wine festival when it resumes).
And, as I finish writing this article at my apartment in Yerevan, I’m about to open a bottle of Areni and enjoy a glass or three. Cheers!
About the author:
Steve Rohan is a writer from Essex, England. He has traveled to over 60 countries, lived in Armenia, China and Hong Kong, and is now living the digital nomad life on the road.
Steve prefers “slow travel” and has covered much of the world by train, bus and boat. He has been interviewed multiple times by the BBC and recently featured in the documentary Scariest Places in the World. See the About page for more info.
Where I am now: Yerevan, Armenia 🇦🇲