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Welcome To Armenia

Lake Sevan

This huge mountain lake which takes up 5% of Armenia's surface area and is about 2,000 meters above sea level. On a clear and sunny day, the water is often a deep turquoise color. Maxim Gorky once said about the waters that they were like a piece of the sky that had descended to the earth among the mountains. The shores are white sand and most beaches are uncrowded. The monastery peninsula (called the island in Armenian) is the most popular spot, and is the closest place to visit as well. The water is about 18-22 Celsius in the summer, a very refreshing swim after a hot week in Yerevan. It is a freshwater lake, so you do not have any salt residue after swimming. There are fish in the lake, however there has been a ban on commercial fishing (without authorization) in recent years. For this reason, it is not uncommon to see men standing along the main road signaling cars by hand the supposed length of the fish they sell. To put these fish on display would mean calling the attention of unwanted authorities.

Locals have told visitors that the name Sevan comes from many centuries ago during a cold winter when one of the frequent invasions by Arabs was imminent. The villagers warned one another and proceeded across the ice of Sevan to the (then) island on which Sevanavank was located. Once everyone was across they barracaded themselves in the church and prayed that their lives be spared. As the Arabs approached the ice they too crossed, but once they were well on their way across it, the ice gave and the invaders drown in the icy waters. The villagers viewed this as an act of God, sparing them from sure death. The lake was black with bodies of the dead soldiers so they named it Sevan (Sev meaning "black" in Armenian).

On the peninsula there is the monastery of Sevanavank, consisting of two rather rough churches. It is worthwhile to climb up the many stairs for the view and the green khatchkars. They were carved from a plentiful local green stone and stood out from the others which are all made of tuff. All over the West and North shores are places to stay. On of the nicer (normal) ones is the Sevan Hotel at the very north end, just past the massive remains of an unfinished Soviet construction. The Harsna Kar luxury resort is located a few hundred meters from the Peninsula as well. On the East shore is the painters house at the tip of the opposite penninsula near Shorjha, and just south of that is probably the nicest beach on the lake. Kilometers long, nice waters, and some pine trees for shade behind them. It is perfect for camping or getting away from the crowd on the West shores. (About 40 minutes of extra driving down from the north, very bad road if you drive up from the south) If you go down the western shore you will reach Hayravank Monastery, a nicer monastery which very few visit. A bit further lays Noratus with a nice old church, and old basilica ruins, and more importantly the largest khachkar cemetery in Armenia. Continuing south towards Vardenis you will hit the nice sites of Ddmashen Church, Vanevan Monastery and Makenyats Monastery.

The Armenian government has announced plans to spend 44 billion drams ($122 million) in the next few years on addressing the environmental fallout from the rising water level of the country’s ecologically vital Lake Sevan.

The government engineered the dramatic rise in 2000 in response to a dangerous shrinkage of Armenia’s main water reservoir that had begun in the 1950s. Environmentalists had long warned that Sevan’s enlargement is the only way of saving its endangered ecosystem.
The picturesque lake, which has a total area of almost 1,000 square kilometers, has since been mainly swollen by two underground tunnels pumping water from mountain rivers. The government’s decision to cut back on use of Sevan’s waters for power generation and irrigation has been a major factor.
The lake’s level has soared by at least three meters over the past decade and currently stands at just over 1,900 meters above the sea level. About half of the surge has occurred in the last three years.
Under the government’s long-term rehabilitation program, Sevan is to rise by another 3.5 meters by 2029. It envisages that further growth will be less drastic and average roughly 20 centimeters per annum.

The process, strongly supported by Armenian ecologists, has created a separate environmental problem threatening to turn the hitherto clean lake into a swamp. Sevan’s rising waters have submerged large swathes of shore covered with man-made forests.


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