The Land of Armenia
Nestled high in the Caucasus mountain plains that separate Russia from the Middle East, Armenia is one of the most secluded countries in the world. Its neighbors—Turkey to the west and southwest, Iran to the southeast, Azerbaijan to the south and east, and Georgia to the north - all have access to large seas. Armenia, however, sits landlocked, squashed in the middle of these larger countries. There is no way to enter or to leave the country except by traversing high mountain passes or by airplane.
Armenia, more than Georgia or Azerbaijan, lives and breathes the Caucasus Mountains. The small country contains some of the highest peaks in the Lesser Caucasus chain. Mount Aragats rests in the western part of the country and serves as one focal point for the country’s agriculture, industry, and tourism. Mount Ararat, the 16,000-foot mountain that historically symbolizes the country for both foreigners and Armenians, lies slightly farther south in what is now Turkey. With 11,500 square miles of land, Armenia is just slightly larger than the state of Maryland. However, much of that land is impossible to live on. About half of Armenia’s land is more than one mile above sea level, and only 3 percent of the country lies below 2,000 feet. In most of Armenia, the land receives fewer than 10 inches of rain a year. It is very common for much of the country to experience severe drought at any time of year.
If it were not for the Caspian Sea, which lies several hundred miles to the east of Armenia, and the Black Sea, which lies several hundred miles to the west of Armenia, the country would have extremely cold weather. However, those two large bodies of water bring more warm weather than is usually found at such high altitudes. For example, summer temperatures are very similar to those in Arizona and New Mexico, with warm evenings and daytime highs reaching 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Spring and fall usually have temperatures more like those in the midwestern United States, ranging from 40 to 80 degrees with cooler evenings. Winter, because of the surrounding highlands, frequently brings temperatures like that in the northeastern United States, with highs rarely reaching 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
No matter what the temperature, because the country is high in the mountain plains and receives very little rain or snow, most of the days are sunny and bright. The few rain showers that occur in the spring rarely last more than an hour or two, and snowfalls are rarely more than a couple of inches, except on the mountain peaks. Because of its unique geography, the country is divided into four regions. The northeastern area has folded back mountains. This area is one of the few natural sources of wealth for the country. The frequent earthquakes of several thousands years ago revealed large deposits of precious metals such as gold, copper, and zinc. The area also has some forest and small pockets of land suitable for raising livestock.
The central part of the country has many mountains that used to be volcanoes, with high plateaus lying between. The mountains are too high to serve as good land for farming, while the plateaus are made of dense volcanic rock. As a result, any water the area does receive from rain or mountain runoff does not sink into the soil but simply flows farther south. However, this durable rock makes an excellent building material used in most of the buildings in the country.
The southern part of Armenia is a broken network of valleys and deep gorges that show some good deposits of minerals and precious gems. More important, though, is the fact that in between these large cracks in the ground lies good farmland that produces some major crops of citrus fruits and vegetables. The grapes grown in this area are highly prized for making wine, and the area was so fertile that, during Soviet rule, it was able to provide enough fruits and vegetables for its own citizens while still having enough to send to nearby Georgia and Russia.
The northwest is a fairly flat plain, but it sits on very brittle fault lines in the earth’s crust. These faults frequently shift, creating large-scale, severe earthquakes. The area has some deposits of minerals and some forested land that provides income for the residents. Some farmers are able to make a small living by raising potatoes, sheep, and beef cattle on the dry, hard land. Because the country has so many different types of land, it has animal and plant habitats ranging from deserts to forests, marshland, and alpine meadows. As a result, Armenia has a larger variety of wildlife and plants than its neighbors. It has more than 3,500 species of plants and hundreds of different mammals, such as bear, deer, and squirrels. It also has nearly 350 types of birds because many migratory birds travel through Armenia to winter on the Caspian Sea.
The most striking—and most economically important—geographic feature in Armenia is Lake Sevan, one of the largest freshwater lakes in the world. Sitting in the north central area of the country, it takes up 5 percent of the country’s entire land, or more than 600 square miles. It serves as an important source of water, as the Hrazdan River leaves it from the northwestern coast and flows through the country’s capital city, Yerevan. Just south of Yerevan, the Hrazdan connects with the Aras River, which flows west to east along the southern border of the country. These two rivers help irrigate farmland and move products between the north and south of the country, while the lake itself serves as an important recreation spot for the country’s citizens.
If you have any questions about travel to Armenia (visa, hotels, guide services, transportation), please feel free to contact us at any time and we will gladly answer your questions.