We have just spent 6 nights in the Health Spa town of Jermuk. Being a popular Health Spa town, Jermuk is relatively expensive for Armenia.
It is time for us to try out a less touristic, more remote town: Goris. The internet says that Goris is one of the ‘top 10 nicest towns in Armenia’ … so, let’s have a look …
The currency in Armenia is the Dram (or the ‘AMD’). I will refer to them as A$s. At the time of writing:
Over time, these exchange rates will change. Please check the current rates.
Only 2 minibuses leave Jermuk each day. Both go to Vayk. They leave at 7:45am and 3:45pm. I caught the 7:45am … and, I am glad that I did. The minibus leaves from the Taxi Rank in front of Dolphin Lake.
These minibuses have a very small luggage compartment behind the back seat. If you have a big backpack or suitcase, it will not fit. You will have to put your luggage inside the minibus. If it is put inside, you may be charged for a seat. The price to Vayk was A$500. With my suitcase, the total was A$1,000.
I arrived in Vayk at 8:45am. You cannot pre-book tickets on these minibuses. You have to wait for one to pass and flag it down. Most are coming on long distance runs from Yerevan. Some may even be going to Susa, Azerbaiyan. They tend to leave Yerevan full. You may have to wait for several minibuses to pass before one stops with a spare seat. Mine stopped at 10:30am.
The driver took one look at my suitcase and signalled that the price to Goris was A$5,000 … take it or leave it. The price from Vayk to Goris should be about A$1,000-A$1,500. The price from Yerevan to Goris is A$2,500. I had no choice but to accept. It was a total rip-off but what could I do?
Apparently, many drivers charge you the full price to their final destination even if you get on / off along the way … in their mind, you have taken a seat that they could have sold to someone else. I guess that my minibus was going to Susa and that I got charged 2x A$2,500.
Anyway, my suitcase went inside on the floor … I had paid double for a seat that I did not actually use. At 12:15pm I was dropped off on the outskirts of Goris. He did not drop me off in the town centre. I was dropped off at the Gas Station on the M12 highway.
I walked the 2 kms from there to my accommodation.
Goris is a town in Syunik Province in the south of Armenia. It is located in the valley of the river Goris. It is 254 kms from Yerevan and 67 kms from (the provincial centre) Kapan. In terms of population, Goris is the second-largest city in Syunik. In the 2011 census, it had a population of 20,591.
The area of Goris has been settled since the Stone Age. Goris was first mentioned in writing in 735 BC. Between the 12th and 15th centuries, the area was invaded by the Seljuk, the Mongols, the Aq Qoyunlu, and the Kara Koyunlu.
At the beginning of the 16th century the region became part of Persia and, subsequently, resisted Persian rule and the invading Ottoman Empire.
At the beginning of the 19th century the region became part of the Russian Empire. In 1876, the construction of new Goris was completed. Between 1918 and 1921, Armenia had a brief period of independence but soon fell under Soviet rule.
Armenia achieved full independence in 1991.
Our walk starts at my accommodation which is located 1 block from the town centre. We circle around the side streets only 1-2 blocks from the centre before looking at the centre itself.
It was overcast and raining when I was here. Even in the sunshine, I don’t think that Goris is going to look much better.
This is what GRANDPAckers can expect to find at short notice in late September:
PLEASE NOTE: HOTELS usually display prices INCLUSIVE of TAXES. But many search sites (like HOTELS) don’t provide a ‘private bathroom’ filter, so be careful with some of the cheap hotels and make sure that you read the room details. HOTELS does not do well in the Armenian marketplace.
AIRBnB / HOLIDAY RENTALS:
PLEASE NOTE: Other sites (such as Homeaway, FlipKey and VRBO are also worth a look).
Guest House / Homestay accommodation is very popular in this part of the World. This means that sites like AirBnB usually have several listings. That said, many such listings are also now available on BOOKING.COM where you tend to get better value for money (because you avoid AirBnB’s service and cleaning fees).
I used BOOKING.COM to book a 1 bedroom Apartment (single occupancy) in an unnamed guest house. The price was A$4,000 / US$9 per night for 3 nights. It had a TV room and a kitchen / diner. The bedroom had a Double Bed and two Singles. The ‘private’ bathroom was an average size.
My ‘private’ bathroom was shared with anyone that was staying in the apartment above me. The shower only had warm water. The kitchen had no toaster, no microwave, and no coffee maker. The TV only had a few Armenian speaking channels. The bedroom had no wardrobe and nowhere to hang your clothes. There was no wifi in the apartment – you had to go outside to get a signal.
My hostess was very kind and hospitable. She surprised me often with free meals, fruit, tea, and snacks.
My hostess bought the apartment 2 months ago and has not yet had time to give it the Spring Clean that it needs. But, she will. A Spring Clean would make it much more attractive to Western Tourists.
That said, it was excellent value for money and if you come to Goris you should seriously think about staying here.
WHERE TO STAY:
Have a look yourself:
EAT & DRINK:
As aforesaid, the weather was so cold and miserable that I just got groceries in and ate back at my apartment.
A local 500ml beer in a corner shop will cost about A$450. A 1L about A$700. Expect to pay A$700 for a 400ml draft in a cheap ‘typical’ cafe.
Brandy is the most popular drink in Armenia. Prices in Goris are a lot cheaper than they were in touristic Jermuk. A local 3 year 500ml bottle starts at A$2,500; add another A$500 for each year … so, expect to pay A$4,500 for a 7 year cheap local Brandy.
A 2L bottle of Coke / Pepsi costs A$650.
The main highway that connects Yerevan with southern Armenia passes through Goris.
As a guideline, expect a taxi to cost 10x the price of public transport for the same route. When shared between 5 people, this should mean that you pay double the public transport price.
There is no Bureau De Change.
INTERNET / WIFI:
Don’t trust your hotel to provide good wifi in our GRANDPAcking price range.
There are 3 main prepaid providers in Armenia.
I chose Beeline.
At Yerevan Airport they had a promotional combo package available. For A$100 I got a SIMcard and for another A$3,500 I got a 1 month plan with 7 GB data, 250 SMSs, and 150 minutes local talktime.
You need your passport to register your new SIMcard. The girl at the counter spoke English. She configured it up for me whilst I waited. I immediately downloaded the Beeline smartphone app. Fortunately, the app has an English option.
HEALTH & SAFETY:
There is no reason to feel unsafe. As always, exercise normal levels of caution … don’t make yourself an obvious target.
WHEN TO GO
The best time to come is July through September. I was here in the middle of September … I was unlucky with the weather.
WHAT TO DO:
Goris has an average elevation of 1,385 metres above sea level. The surrounding mountains are famous for their medieval cave-dwellings carved out of the soft rock in the southern and eastern parts of the town.
The Goris Wildlife Sanctuary is situated at the southeast of the town at a height ranging between 1400 and 2800 metres above seal level, covering an area of 18.5 km². Caucasian grouse, roe deer, and brown bear are among the notable animals in the sanctuary.
The stone-pyramids of Old Kores (located to the east of town) is one of the most attractive sites in Goris.
The old town is home to the 4th-century basilica of Surp Hripsimé. The basilica was renovated during the 16th century. However it was closed during the Soviet period until its major renovation in 2010. Finally, it was reopened for the public in October 2013.
The archaeological museum of Goris (opened in 1948) is dedicated to the rich history of the Syunik region.
The house-museum of Axel Bakunts has been operating in the town since 1970.
The Goris art gallery has been operating since 2001. Other museums in town include the geological museum of Goris and the Local Lore Museum of Goris.
Goris is home to the annual Mulberry festival taking place annually during the month of August.
Read About – GRANDPAcking Costs if you don’t know how to interpret my figures.
My costs are broken down into:
- Cost of Existence: The basic costs of just being there
- Cost of Living: The additional costs that make being there fun
COST OF EXISTENCE (COE):
I EXISTED to GRANDPAcking standard. I had a Self Catering Apartment, I bought groceries, and I ate my meals at home.
My accommodation was A$4,000 / US$9 per night.
I already had my working and topped up Beeline SIMcard.
I averaged A$3,800 / US$8 each day on Food and Water.
My COE worked out to be about A$5,850 / US$13 per day.
COST OF LIVING (COL):
I DID NOT LIVE to GRANDPAcking standard. I worked during the day and I spent my evenings at home watching laptop movies tucked up in bed to keep warm.
Living Costs: I averaged about A$1,000 / US$2 per night on drinks.
In / Out Costs: I spent A$6,000 / US$13 on public transport from Jermuk.
My total COL was about A$8,100 / US$17 per day. This was 35% of my budget.
COSTS FOR 2 GRANDPAckers:
I have not bothered to provide a detailed cost breakdown: Goris is not a Holiday Destination.
Goris is a ‘Living Idea’: you come here to see the local attractions and leave.
That said, you can easily find cheap GRANDPAcking Standard accommodation in Goris. Your Food & Drink costs will also be low. GRANDPAckers can easily EXIST within budget here. The cost of tours and which tours you go on will determine your ultimate COL.
I have decided to leave Armenia. It will take me about 5 hours to get back to Yerevan by bus. I have to get to Yerevan to connect to transport going north. I will ‘pace myself’. I might as well stay a couple of nights in Yerevan to see the city centre. After that, I will spend a few nights in Dilijan and Gyumri before entering Georgia.
Could you afford to retire here on a GRANDPAcking budget? YES … but, why would you want to?