If you want a challenge of climbing mountains every single day, Armenia is where you should go. There are mountains and hills all over the territory. You always walk either up or down in Armenia. There are no horizons without spiky mountain tops. Even a vast field ends with a mountain far away.
A legend says that the territory of Armenia was once populated by giant brothers. They used to wake up every morning, fix their belts and then greet each other. But soon the brothers grew old, and their memory, naturally, got worse. So, one day they greeted each other before fixing the belts. God got angry seeing the tradition being broken and punished the brothers by turning them into mountains. They say the rare green valleys in between the Armenian mountains are the forgotten belts and the springs are the tears of the brothers.
Highest Armenian Top, Mount Aragats
Mount Aragats is currently the highest point of the Republic of Armenia. It has four peaks; the height of the Northern peak is 4090m, the Western one is 4080m, the Eastern peak is 3916m, and the Southern one is 3879m. The mountain is located on the border of Shirak and Ararat regions. (image by Tod Ragsdale).
The word “Aragats” is derived from the name of the pagan god of death and reincarnation, Ara. It has been an inspiration for art and literature and continues to remain one of the most beloved mountains of all Armenians.
Aragats has a volcanic origin, and the four peaks are nothing less than the surviving walls of the crater. The latter contains a heavenly beautiful lake and a few glacier fields.
Just like any other trip to the Armenian mountains, this one will also be accompanied by stone inscriptions dating back to ancient times. Other sites near the mountain include Qari Lich (the Stone Lake). There are numerous springs coming out of the mountain, feeding the Metsamor Lake and rivers like Qasakh, Amberd, Mantash, etc. The top of Aragats is always covered with snow, while the slopes display a change of seasons. The climbing level is above average.
The Mythical Mount Ara
Mount Ara is also named after the god of death and reincarnation, Ara. In fact, Ara the Beautiful (as the Armenians call him) is one of the most popular mythical heroes of Armenia. He was forced to fight against the Assyrian queen, who was in love with Ara. The hero was killed during the battle. To avoid the revenge of the Armenian troops, the Assyrian queen announced that her gods have licked Ara’s wounds and brought him back to life.
When viewed from the capital, the mountain looks like a lying man (who is said to be Ara the Beautiful), the nose of which is its highest peak. It’s called Aqloraqar (meaning “rooster stone” in Armenian).
The location of the mountain is shared between the regions of Kotayk and Aragatsotn, 33 km from Yerevan. The height is 2577m.
While the mountain is isolated and not too difficult to climb, a local guide would be of great help. Also, the most interesting scenes are on the way to the top, not at the top. The only view you get at the end is the panorama to Yerevan and the surrounding nature. The slopes of the Mount Ara contain a cave church, where you can pray and light a candle for a safe trip.
The Bloody Mount Azhdahak
Mount Azhdahak (meaning “giant” or “dragon” in Armenian) is located in the region of Gegharkunik and forms a part of the Geghama range, 25 km from Yerevan. The height is 3597m. It’s located in the center of the range, which is why you will need to take a bumpy drive and a hike before reaching the mountain.(image by Seroujo)
The name is related to the mythical evil dragon called Azhdahak, common in Armenian and Iranian mythology. The dragon is defeated and chained by a number of heroes, depending on the myth.
The hike is extremely scenic. In summer, the fields leading to the mountain are striped with snow fields and spring valleys. As you walk towards Azhdahak it seems that you cross the seasons of the year. The mountain is of volcanic origin and has a bloody red color, which makes it easily distinguishable from the other hills and mountains. Because of the snow fields, you need to prepare your clothing and equipment very thoroughly. Water resistant shoes, sunglasses and a sunblock are a must.
An average climber will reach the top and descend back in 6-8 hours. Reserve a few hours to spend at the top, where you will find an absolutely majestic crater lake. The view opens instantly once you make your last step climbing. Its beauty is a true reward for a long hike and a steep climb. The climbing trip can be combined with a visit to the Lake Sevan.
Anna is a part time tour guide and and occasionally writes for www.traveltoarmenia.am. She’s been almost everywhere in Armenia – from popular everyday monasteries and to unbeaten paths through mountains.
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Feature image by SheA