On Lake Sevan
It is said that Lake Sevan, located about 50 kilometers north of Yerevan, is the second highest body of water above sea level in the world, at an altitude of 1,900 meters (or 6,233 feet). The air here in the Gegharkunik region is certainly thinner than in the city and naturally, incomparably cleaner. In the sun much of the lake appears teal blue in color, and depending on the beach you visit the water is crystal clear.
This year has been an unlucky one for summer vacationers in Armenia because of a persistent cold spell, which only becomes milder rather than dissipating altogether. Then it gains strength once again bringing torrential rains along with it. The cycle repeats over and over—a most unusual summer. Thus, Sevan’s waters are not as warm as they ordinarily are for this time of year. Mornings and early evenings tend to be breezy, but the winds are very light, almost caressing.
The Tufenkian Avan Marak Tsapatagh hotel seems to be on the surface chiefly constructed of stone, wood and steel. Even the furniture is made of steel with a gun-metal finish. The entire place has a rustic, rugged and worn feel, with the stone walls and smooth brick floors. A hardwood bench topped with hand sewn cushions wraps around the corner of the front and right-side walls of the double rooms. The colors chosen for the décor are all earth tones—wheat, walnut, roasted red chili, pine, dark plum and wet clay. The shower area is completely lined with blocks of stone that are colored varying hues of green. The spray of the invigorating shower is wide under high pressure, and yields a warm feeling of solace in its wake. The evening lighting complements the décor—mellow and unobtrusive. It is also an eco-friendly hotel, with a sign in the bathroom asking guests to reuse towels, soft fluorescent lighting illuminating the corridors and solar heating panels affixed to the roofs.
In my previous post I declared that the Tufenkian hotels scattered mostly across the northern regions of Armenia were the best in the country. This quiet, tranquil resort, perched on an incline about 500 meters from the shores of Lake Sevan, is proof positive of that. As a special promotional offer, Anush and I stayed there for two nights at a rate of 28,000 dram per day, including three meals, and took advantage of the amenities it offers, such as a private beach, swimming pool, hot tub and sauna. With the exceptional, hospitable service, divine comfort and scrumptious meals, it simply cannot be beat.
Tsapatagh along with other nearby villages on the northeast side of Sevan are lined with tall poplar trees, which provide the ideal windbreak. The garden of each home seems to be overrun with fruit trees and garden crops of some kind. Apple trees thrive in this climate. Some sour cherry and plum trees are also found. There are also patches of cabbage and sunflowers in some gardens. A shepherd sets his sheep out to pasture in the field laced with tiny wildflowers to the left of the hotel. There are rare species of birds in this particular area of varying sizes and plumage. It seems that certain birds tend to thrive in their own special environments, depending on where you go in Armenia you will see unique birds that you have not run across elsewhere, even 20 kilometers away from a particular location.
There is an excellent, expansive view of Sevan—to the right is the Shorja peninsula and on the left side is the shoreline of the far south. It appears as if the entire length of the lake is in full view, and with your outstretched arms you can symbolically embrace it. Also in magnificent sight is the Geghama mountain range, on the other side of which lies the Ararat valley. On a clear day when you gaze out on the lake from the viewpoint of the village you can see the miniature summits of mighty Mount Aragats on the horizon.
The best way to enjoy Lake Sevan is to avoid the tourist areas and trendy beaches, all of which are located on the northwest end of the lake, known as Pokr Sevan, or Small Sevan. These places are primarily located in the vicinity of Sevanavank, the two ancient churches perched on the hill there. But remember that in the off-season there are very few people there—it’s virtually deserted, so it’s best to see the monastery in the spring or autumn. Travel round the lake at the village of Dzovakyugh. If you drive another five or 10 kilometers on that road you will find plenty of accommodating rest areas, some of them including cottages, and clean beaches frequented by less people. Once beach I recommend is called Sojiner. Along the beach is a tiny forest of pine trees, in which picnic tables are provided. Walk 50 feet to the shoreline and take a swim in the near pristine water. You won’t find hardly any litter there.
It should be mandatory that all visitors to Armenia go to Sevan. From Yerevan it’s only a 45 minute-long drive. There’s really no excuse not to see the lake at least once in a lifetime.