Julia Jones of New York City writes, “I’d like to do a two-week genealogical trip to hit some of the countries that my boyfriend and I have ancestors from. Ideally, we’d like to see Armenia (my background) and Hungary (his background). We are outdoorsy, cultural sightseers, interested in history and food, and would like to travel in November or December.”
A his-and-hers ancestral trip? Sounds like a fascinating—and deeply personal—vacation awaits you! As you didn’t mention which cities or regions in particular your families came from, I based each trip around general itineraries that reflect your interests, which you can easily modify to best suit your tastes and specific family histories.
To make the most of your vacation time and budget, I recommend this genealogy travel in November, with a week in each country.
In Hungary, plan on using Budapest as your home base, with day trips or possible overnights in the easily accessible Eger-Tokaj wine region, where you can feast on outstanding food and wine, hike, and bike. From Budapest, you’ll fly to Yerevan, Armenia’s capital city.
For your week in Armenia, spend several days in Yerevan for a cosmopolitan getaway, then a few days in Goris, an unspoiled, non-commercial “town that time forgot,” known for natural wonders such as dramatic cliffs, caves, and stone pyramids; oghee (a local spirit made from local fruits and berries); and historic stone architecture.
As with most travel nowadays, airfare will take up the biggest chunk of your budget. In this case, too, you’ll also want to budget extra time getting from Hungary to Armenia – I found scarce options for road or train transportation between the two destinations, and flight options were limited as well. As such, you’ll pay a premium price, and spend more time in transit compared to other European and Asian destinations.
I priced multi-city flights on Kayak in November and December: New York to Budapest for the first leg, Budapest to Yerevan a week later, then Yerevan back to New York a week after that (for a total of two weeks away with minimal backtracking). The cheapest flights came in around $1,350 per person for travel from Newark but returning to JFK, with all travel on Saturdays. Mid-week flights and December travel were more expensive.
A caveat: The cheapest flight includes a very long travel day for the second flight – 30 hours with two changeovers from Budapest to Yerevan. The next-cheapest option, $2,700, reduced the travel time to 13 hours (but there were still two changeovers). Track flights for a few days using a multi-city travel tool (similar tools are also available on Expedia, Orbitz, and Travelocity) to see if you can find better prices and times. When you see a price and schedule that fits your needs, book it.
Alternatively, you can also look into a combination of train, sea, and bus travel to get into Armenia – prices and schedules will vary by operator, but this may be a more scenic—and adventurous—way to get between the two destinations. Check out the recommendations from the Tour Armenia website to see if this appeals to you.
Once you’re in both Hungary and Armenia, embrace buses and your own two feet for sightseeing. There are also local trains and private tour services that can get you where you’ll need to go.
From Budapest to the wine region, take buses to Eger and Holloko, two lovely towns that are both within a two-hour trip from the capital. From Yerevan to Goris, a mini-bus (or marshrutka) is a popular option for locals and sightseers alike.
Note that in each country, you’ll have to fly out of the city you arrived in, so there will be some element of backtracking to get to the airport. By keeping your Hungary explorations limited to day trips or mid-week overnights, however (with Budapest bookending the Hungary portion of your trip), you can avoid a rush to the airport on the day you travel to Yerevan.
For all destinations, I started with reviews from other travelers who shared your interests in food, outdoor explorations, and historic sightseeing. From there, I ran price comparisons between the major online travel agencies, as well as the property’s own websites. Here are a few suggestions for each. All rates are based on double occupancy.
The Bohem Art Hotel in Budapest has three-night stays starting at €280 (or $375), including airport transfers, a daily champagne breakfast, Wi-fi, and happy hour. Alternatively, the Continental Hotel has three-night stays from €260 (or $348), including daily breakfast. Booking.com also had a large range of properties available, starting at $60 per night.
If you do decide to stay overnight in the wine region, the Palazzo Wellness Villa hotel and spa in Eger has rates from €65 per night ($87), including daily breakfast and full use of the property’s wellness facilities, including pool, sauna, gym, and more.
At press time, Expedia had Yerevan hotels starting around $50 for budget accommodations. If you don’t mind staying outside the city proper, the Three Jugs B&B offered three-night getaways from $164, including breakfast. Cooking, art, and cultural classes are also available for an additional fee.
B&Bs are also the name of the game in Goris, where the historic Christy Hotel has rooms from $39 per night including daily breakfast and free Wi-Fi. Khachik Bed and Breakfast is also a good option, with rooms starting at $37 per night.
Things to Do
Get acquainted with the lay of the land and start planning your customized itinerary by visiting each country’s respective tourism website: Go to Hungary and Armenia Information.
TripAdvisor’s forums have great advice for travelers, from travelers. Ask a question here, and you’ll typically have a response within a few hours. I also like reading the questions other travelers ask about the destinations I want to visit – I typically get great suggestions and recommendations I wouldn’t have known about otherwise.
Lastly, if my suggested itineraries don’t appeal to you—or if they’re nowhere near your ancestral towns—contact a local travel agent to assist with trip planning. The Armenia Tourism board website, for example, has an extensive listing of local tour operators specializing in trips for all types of travel interests.
Is there a trip I can help you plan? Send your request to EcoSalon’s <a href=”/mailto:email@example.com”>Journey Genie</a> and I’ll consider it for a future column!
Main Photo credit:Lieven SOETE;Lanchid Bridge, Budapest, courtesy Abel Leemans; all others courtesy mentioned venues.
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