We chanced upon Evaneos when researching a visit to Armenia some 18 months ago. Our usual requirements when travelling to less well-known destinations are an individually tailored itinerary that allow rest days between bouts of travelling around, an informed local guide who can bring to life what we are going to see, and a degree of immersion in local culture and day to day life.
A quick search soon revealed that not many of the usual operators covered Armenia, and most of those that did offered only group tours of short duration, quite often including neighbouring Georgia, with what felt like rather brisk itineraries that would only give a fleeting glimpse of the country.
Having come across Evaneos, attracted at first by the fact that they focus on tailor-made trips, and reassured that they offer the same protections as well-known travel companies like ABTA and secure payment processes, and refunds, we approached them with our requirements.
We were put in touch with two travel companies in Armenia, both of whom provided detailed suggestions for itineraries and after some e-mail communication with both, we settled on the one we felt had best understood our preferences. Every detail was agreed with us so that we had as clear a picture as possible of what to expect. This included the length of driving time from one location to another, the location and standard of all the hotels, restaurant recommendations and the like, even including a couple of visits to local people’s homes to have lunch with them.
Setting off with a latent concern that we may be stepping into the unknown with an untried provider, the entire trip more than lived up to expectations. We were met at Yerevan airport at midnight by Karina, our guide for the trip, who was a highly educated, multi-lingual, passionate advocate for her country. Having completed her Master’s degree in international relations with a dissertation on the relationship between Turkey and Armenia she was perfectly placed to answer all our questions on this fascinating region. She and our driver, Karim, accompanied us for the following two weeks on a fascinating journey around a beautiful country.
From a practical point of view, everything was perfectly arranged and all went according to plan. Given we were visiting some extremely remote locations tucked away in valleys and on mountain plateaux, this was pleasing to see. We were driven around in a clean, spacious and comfortable vehicle, Karina and Karim were courteous, personable and immensely well-informed and we saw everything that we had planned to see. Private guides were arranged for us in museums and restaurants and bars suggested for us to try.
The pleasures of a private journey were manifest on this trip. As the timetable was flexible, we could spend as long as we liked roaming around remote churches, sit chatting in sunny monastery gardens eating peaches picked from the trees, decide on whim to walk down a beautiful valley along the river on a lovely sunny morning, rather than be driven, with the extreme convenience of being able to call our driver when we felt we had walked enough. Perfect.
We also had long, informative conversations with Karina about many aspects of the country, its architecture, history, tangled political relationships with neighbouring Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey, and of course its religion, as the first country in the world to adopt Christianity. These often took place whilst on the most spectacular drives through endless mountain scenery; the travelling around was a key part of the experience as the countryside is so beautiful.
The service level was maintained right up until the last minute. Checking in at the airport for our departure at 4 am, a splendid time to embark upon any journey, I think, our driver not only accompanied us to the check-in desk, but also on to a remote airport office where we had to pay for our excess luggage. We had succumbed to a rather large, and beautiful, hand-woven rug – yet another Armenian speciality – and it far exceeded our luggage allowance. A straightforward process in itself, but with no English signage at all in this part of the airport, a broken credit-card machine and no English spoken by the customs staff, it could have been a stressful process to navigate by ourselves as the departure time ticked ever closer.
As it was, we left relaxed, feeling very well looked after, and with myriad memories of a wonderful country. The planning and detail of this trip was on a par with other high-end travel companies we have used in the past, every effort was made to meet our requirements, and the service provided was excellent from start to finish. All of this was delivered for a very fair price for the quality we received. I would use Evaneos again without hesitation.