Reconfiguring a large private home into the Avan Villa, US carpet king James Tufenkian created a boutique style hotel with only 14 rooms, and a restaurant featuring the cooking of Western Armenia. On any night, chefs will prepare a dozen seasonal dishes including crunchy salads, braised vegetables and meats grilled-to-order on the outside patio. Breakfast ranges from traditional Caucasus fare to Western style eggs and cereals.
Tufenkian goes all-natural in the guestrooms, too, with tile, wood, metal – no plastic here. Rooms are furnished with hand-woven rugs and hand-knitted blankets. In addition, there’s plentiful closet space, TV with CNN, wi-fi, and modern bathrooms with showers and the usual amenities.
The hotel is located high on a hill overlooking Yerevan, in an area that was full of luxury households during the Soviet era; its distance from the city center provides quiet and clean air. Service is also a major plus here, with unpretentious, helpful staff. And the chefs at the hotel gave us a cooking class!
An extremely knowledgeable guide/driver is also available by the day. He took us everywhere from wineries to monasteries to art galleries, explaining the cultural history of Armenia from ancient times through the present.
We also visited two other Tufenkian hotels. In the mountains, the Old Dilijan Hotel is a complex of Alpine-feeling wooden and stucco buildings including artisan shops, a hotel in various buildings, and a very good restaurant with all foods cooked to order – and a friendly dog as doorman. Dilijan was a famous mountain resort for centuries; now it has a great little museum, too.
On the road between Yerevan and Tbilisi (Georgia), in a tiny village by a small river, the amazing stone Avan Dzoraget is a destination for both travelers and wedding parties. Inside, the building is softened by fine lighting, wood trim and sizeable, lovely handmade rugs in bright colors. Rooms are thoroughly modern, nicely outfitted with all modern conveniences. And the restaurant is available not just for guests but for all travelers.
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