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What you need to know about Gyumri

Gyumri is an urban municipal community and the second largest city in Armenia, serving as the administrative centre of Shirak Province in the northwestern part of the country. By the end of the 19th century, when the city was known as Alexandropol, it was one of the largest cities of Russian-ruled Eastern Armenia with a population similar to that of Yerevan. It was renamed to Leninakan during the Soviet period. The city’s population grew above 200,000 prior to the 1988 Spitak earthquake, when it was devastated. As of the 2011 census, the city had a population of 121,976, down from 150,917 reported at the 2001 census.

Gyumri is the seat of the Diocese of Shirak of the Armenian Apostolic Church.

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Geography and climate

Gyumri is 126 kilometres (78 miles) north of the capital Yerevan at the central part of the Shirak plateau. It has an approximate height of 1,550 metres (5,090 feet) above sea level, the high altitude line being 1,500 metres (4,900 feet). The Akhurian River passes through the western suburbs. The Shirak plateau is surrounded with the Pambak Mountains from the east and Aragats volcanic range from the south. The city of Gyumri is 196 kilometres (122 miles) away from the Black Sea. The surrounding lands near the city are rich in tufa, basalt and clay.

Gyumri has a humid continental climate (Köppen Dfb), characterized by cold and snowy winters where the minimum temperature in extreme spells can plummet to −41 °C or −41.8 °F. On the other hand, summer in Gyumri is relatively hot with temperatures reaching up to 36 °C or 96.8 °F. The annual precipitation averages 486 millimetres or 19.13 inches.

Population

The population of Gyumri has gradually grown since 1840 after gaining the status of town. A huge decline of the population was due to the disastrous earthquake of 1988. The residents here have a distinct look and style, and a boundless pride in their city. The dialect of Gyumri is a variant of Karin dialect, closely related to Western Armenian.

Transportation

Air transportation

Gyumri is served by the international Shirak Airport, about 5 kilometres (3.1 miles) to the southeast of the city centre. It was inaugurated in 1961 and is the second largest airport in Armenia. At the beginning of 2006, the government of Armenia felt the importance of having a second international airport, when adverse weather conditions meant that many flights had to be diverted from Yerevan’s Zvartnots International Airport into Gyumri’s Shirak Airport. New air traffic control equipment allowed airport workers to identify planes in a 400-kilometre (250-mile) radius.

Following moderate use in 2005 and 2006 during which annual passenger traffic was at about 46,000 and several hundred aircraft movements took place each year, the airport’s activity quickly declined again to the point where in 2016 passenger traffic amounted to only 12,421 and a mere 54 aircraft movements took place. However, in the beginning of 2017, as part of new efforts to develop Gyumri and its tourism industry, the government focused on revitalizing the airport. Multiple new airlines began operating flights to the airport, including Taron Avia, a new Armenian airline based in Gyumri. In order attract more customers, the Ministry of Nature Protection made meteorological services free for all airlines flying to Gyumri, lowering ticket costs. The Gyumri Technology Center also participated in helping revitalize the airport by adding interior design details to improve the airport’s look.

Railway

The railway junction of Gyumri is the oldest and the largest one in Armenia. It was formed in 1897 and the first railway link to Alexandropol that connected the city with Tiflis was completed in 1899. The rail line was then extended from Alexandropol to Yerevan (in 1902), Kars (in 1902), Jolfa (in 1906), and Tabriz. As a result, Alexandropol became an important rail hub.

As of 2017, the Gyumri Railway Station operates regular trips to Yerevan and Batumi. The South Caucasus Railway CJSC, is the current operator of the railway sector in Armenia.

Public vans and taxis

Public transport is dominated by the private sector in Gyumri. Public transit is mainly served by public vans, locally-known as marshrutka. Most of the marshrutkas Russian-made GAZelle vans with 13 seats that operate with certain routes and stops. As of 2017, the one-way trip fee is AMD 100 (around US$0.21). Passengers need to pay the money directly to the driver when getting out of the vehicle, with no established ticketing system.

The central station of the city serves as bus terminal for inter-city transport, serving outbound routes towards other major cities and towns in Armenia, as well as cities in Georgia. The M-7 Motorway passes across the Shirak Province from east to west, connecting the city of Gyumri with the rest of Armenia.

Armenia is among the top 10 safest countries where one can wander around and go home alone safely at night. Taxis are available in the city at any time of the day or night.