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In this mountainous country roughly the size of Belgium, there are thousands of important religious and archaeological sites dating from 4,000 B.C., including the recent discovery of 6,000-year-old winemaking materials near the village of Arenisupposedly where Noah planted the world's first grape vines. Meanwhile, investment from wealthy Armenians abroad has kick-started a heritage tourism revival that is attracting travelers. Lake Sevan, one of the world's highest bodies of water, is popular for its beaches and island monasteries, while the hexagonal basalt pillars of Garni Gorge are drawing international rock climbers. Skiers looking for fresh tracks can check out backcountry trails on the 13,400-foot-high Mount Aragats.
Know the backstory:
Armenia emerged from decades of Soviet rule in 1991, but continues to be shadowed by corruption and by the legacy of its greatest historical tragedy: The slaughter, in the early 20th century, of up to 1.5 million Armenians, in what the Turkish government still refuses to call a genocide. More recently, a 1988 earthquake killed 25,000 people and left half a million homeless.
Due to closed borders with its would-be neighbors Turkey and Azerbaijan, the only way into Armenia is by plane from the European Union and Russia. Much of the country can be visited on day trips from the lively capital, Yerevan. The Yerevan Marriott is conveniently located in a 19th-century-style palace on the historic Republic Square. Tufenkian Heritage operates four boutique hotels linking Yerevan, Lake Sevan, the Lori River, and the 18th-century village of Dilijan.