Is Armenia Safe? Adventure tourism and natural disasters

In the modern world of a ridiculously high number of risks and dangers all around I suppose everyone planning a trip to Armenia has a question rolling in their mind: “Is Armenia safe?” This is a pretty valid question to address and it really has many layers underneath. So I will try to cover the topic thoroughly and understandably, so there are no info gaps left. So, if you think this post makes a difference please ping me on Instagram or Twitter, with #ArmeniaTravelTips.

Perception of safety and its layers

As safety might be perceived in a different way by each reader, I’ll try to dig deeper into several layers and provide answers for each. In any way, the concept of safety always means “being free of harm and danger”. So in all layers that I present below, the main principle of staying safe is the same.

So here is the list of topics this post will cover:

  1. Safety outdoors: adventure tourism, hiking, outdoor recreation activities
  2. Safety of burglars and thieves
  3. Safety of natural disasters: earthquakes and snowstorms

Is Armenia safe for adventure tourism?

Armenia is a geographically small country – diverse in nature and relief. Generally it’s a mountainous area where there are both dense forests and solid rocks. So it has really a lot to offer for various types of adventure activities. Armenia has great hiking routes with beautiful landscapes, awesome adventure activities like rafting, extreme options like rope jumping. Here’s my little guide on how to choose from top hiking destinations in Armenia.

All outdoor recreation activities are generally considered safe if you know some basic rules and don’t mess with danger on purpose. I wouldn’t classify any activity as an especially dangerous one. But let’s see what can happen in the wild and what stories we have documented so far.

Bear attacks

Only brown bears can be found in the territory of Armenia, in almost all regions of Armenia. Bear attacks are unusual, but have happened.

A bear attacked a Polish couple climbing up mount Aragats in 2019. This was actually an exceptionally surprising event, as many hikers later told stories of solo hikes up Aragats when they met a bear, and bears would never even approach or show interest. So this could be a result of rabies or another virus or sickness that caused this rage. Nevertheless, nothing more was found out or investigated about this case. Here’s a great article on how to prevent a possible bear attack and how to secure yourself.

Wolfhound dogs

In all mountainous countries cattle breeding is a developed branch of agriculture, just like in Armenia. And many shepherds settle in a camp from June to October and herd their cattle in the mountains. They’re always accompanied by a wolfhound dog. Most of the time it’s a huge dog of the Armenian Gampr breed, strong and furious. These dogs can be very kind and playful, but just as they see you enter their territory they will let their owner know: there’s a foreigner. To stay safe and unharmed when meeting wolfhounds in the mountains, the least you can do is read an article dedicated to it. Here’s one that thoroughly explains and gives tips on how to behave when meeting a wolfhound

Staying safe in Armenia and securing your possessions

This is where I can say for sure. Armenia is safe. Well, minor thefts happen here and there periodically, where burglars break in an empty house and search for gold or money savings. Generally it’s so rare that most will say they don’t have a relative or acquaintance having had such an experience. 

As to stealing a bag, purse, or bank card there is very little chance that this will happen anywhere in Armenia. Well, there are many cameras in most places travelers stay at or visit. Plus, locals prefer charging double, triple or 5 times more for a taxi ride or a kg of dried fruits and “earn” this way rather than steal. This way they’re more likely to be proud of themselves as smarties who managed to sell for a really good price (for them).

So to keep your finances safe make sure to be attentive, compare prices and if possible, take a local with you when shopping. Not to overpay and be fooled you might want to read through the handy guide of how to shop like a local.

Natural disasters in Armenia

If you’ve ever looked for Armenia on the world map, you have for sure seen it’s far from deserts and doesn’t have access to sea. So sandstorms, tsunamis, just like tornados and hurricanes are not a thing here. The country’s climate and its geographical placement make it basically impossible for a long list of natural disasters to happen. 

Earthquakes in Armenia

However, Armenia is situated in a transitional zone of two major tectonic plate collisions – Arabian and Eurasian. This means that the Armenian Highlands are located in a part with very high seismic activity.

Throughout its seismicity history the Armenian Highlands have suffered many mid-strength and major earthquakes.  Several of them were truly destructive and consequences are still visible in modern-day Armenia and other historical Armenian lands which are de facto within other states’ territories now. 

Earthquake in the city of “a thousand and one churches” 

Ruins of Ani. Photo credits: @meginnie

The city of Ani, which used to be the capital of the Armenian Kingdom, suffered a devastating earthquake in 1319. This remnants of our cultural heritage was shaken and damaged again during the earthquakes in 1832 and 1988. Ani is now in the territory of Turkey and very little is left from its rich and beautiful history.

Garni earthquake

Garni temple suffered an earthquake in 1679 and most of the temple got destroyed. Fortunately, it was recovered later with its original form and now we can see it in all its glory.

In fact, the presence of this very rare remains of Armenia’s pagan cultural heritage made the region around it popular among locals and travelers. Garni temple, which is the only fully preserved temple from pre-Christian times in Armenia, is a super important area which allowed documenting history that wasn’t present elsewhere. If you want to read more about Armenia’s pagan past and what’s left of it, check out my post that covers the pre-Christian religion of Armenia.

Spitak earthquake: 1988

Spitak is a small town in Lori Province, Armenia. It was the epicenter of the latest major earthquake in this seismic zone. The town itself suffered, of course, but as there wasn’t a large number of inhabitants and no high building, the damage was comparatively little. The largest city close to Spitak was Leninakan (now Gyumri) with a population of 200K. The earthquake wave hit Gyumri with terrible strength. All the Soviet-era constructions and residential blocks cracked and crumbled down. The official number of victims is 25K. And 150K people survived but were left homeless. 

Photo credit: @meginnie

What to do in case of an earthquake in Armenia

❗ First, study closely the plan of the building you’re staying at. 

❗Whatever it is, a guesthouse, a hotel room, or a mall, watch for emergency exit signs and try to remember exit / entrance way and its placement.

❗Don’t panic. Review and memorize the advised behavior rules during earthquakes

❗Remember, there is very little chance you’ll happen to be there when another earthquake happens in Armenia. But even the slightest chance should keep you awake and attentive. So take your time and do your research before coming here.

Snowstorms

In every mountainous country with heavy snowfall seasons there is a strong chance of snowstorms, just like in Armenia. There are regions in Armenia with really much snow the height of which can get to 1.5-2 meters in winter. Certain areas like mountain passes and windy regions with plain fields might close because of snowstorms. So if you’re planning to rent a car and drive to remote or mountainous places in wintertime, make sure to check my post on driving in Armenia with a set of helpful tips.

Snowy winter in Tavush Province. Photo credits: @meginnie

So, is Armenia safe? What’s the conclusion?

The verdict is, generally Armenia is a very safe country for visitors. As a traveler you just need to follow certain behavior rules in situations and cases that apply to Armenia. Just as you would need to learn and memorize them in any other country. 

In comparison to other countries where travelers are advised to carry cheaper smartphones and no or little cash, Armenia is very safe when it comes to personal belongings and possessions. Be sure that kind and generous locals will eagerly return the phone you’ve lost and help you out when you’re stuck in the snow. I hope nothing bad happens during your stay, but if you find this post helpful or want to share your experiences with me, reach out to me on Instagram or Twitter, with #ArmeniaTravelTips.

Featured image credits: Mostafa Meraji on Pixabay

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