Armenia

Geography:

The Armenia is situated in the south of Transcaucasia. To the north and east the Georgian and the Azerbaijan, while its neighbors to the west and south Turkey and Iran.

Armenia is mainly a high-altitude (1800 - 2400m, less than 10% of the country lies below 1000m) rugged region, marked by clusters of jagged volcanic mountains, ravines and narrow valleys, deep gorges and swiftly flowing streams and is endowed with abundant mineral springs. The greatest part of Armenia is mountainous (about 300 feet above sea level), while one-third is pastureland. Forest and woodland cover 12 percent of the country, arid land some 18 percent, and permanent crops cover 3 percent. The highest point in Armenia, perpetually snow- capped Mount Aragats (4095m), is overlooking the fertile Ararat plain, which produces the lion's share of agricultural produce. The most famous and hallowed landmark of historical Armenia, Mount Ararat, lies in Turkey at present, but is visible from virtually every corner of modern Armenia. The southern region of Zangezur is a rough highland with picturesque canyons and valleys, ideal for hikers and wildlife fans. The southernmost area of the country is considered to be Sub-Tropical: while ridges are still receiving last Winter snowfall, in Meghri fruit-trees are in full bloom, and the first vegetables of the season are being picked.

Water: There are more than 200 streams and rivers in Armenia, none navigable, however, because of their steep descents and rapid currents. Araks – one of the largest rivers in the Caucasus flowing across entire Georgia and running into the river Kura on the territory of Azerbaijan. The rivers are fed with thawed, rain and subsoil waters. In spring the rivers become rapid and deep. And in the middle of summer the rivers get shallow and in the autumn their levels will rise at the expense of rain water.

The Armenian countryside also boasts some 100 small, but picturesque lakes. One of the largest mountain lakes in the world, Lake Sevan, covers an area of 1,400 square kilometers and is about 650 feet above sea level.

There are hundreds of mineral springs (both cold and hot) to delight taste buds and soothe tired bodies. There is even a hot spring at the top of a mountain, inside a dormant volcano.

Climate:

Armenia is often described as “sunny” and it is a fact that the Ararat Valley has almost as much sunshine as Egypt – 2,700 hours a year. Yet the republic’s terrain is such that winter the temperature sometimes drops to -46o C. Although it is situated on the same latitude as Spain, Italy and Greece, its climate ranges from dry subtropical to cold mountain weather. In the plateaus and foothills (where Yerevan is located), the climate is dry and continental with hot summers and moderately cold winter. The temperature in July is steady +24o to 26o C, and -5o C in January. The best time of the year in Armenia is definitely autumn when there is long span of clear crisp weather with rich harvests of grapes, fruits and vegetables. More than 100 mountain lakes number in Armenia. Sevan is the world’s biggest lake at an altitude of almost 2,000 metres above sea level.

Trekking and mountain climbing:

Trekkers and Mountain Climbers can explore 85 mountains over a mile high, in diverse ranges that cover and divide the country into micro-climates and topographies. Mt. Aragast, Armenia's tallest mountain, can be surmounted in a tight 6 week span of July to mid-August. There is great ski-touring in winter in this region.

Other tourists can hike, bike, climb, glide, swim, boat and horseback ride their ways across the country, exploring remote regions where one feels alone in the world, or village-hopping, savoring the delights of home living.

Culture History and Architecture:

Armenia, having passed a complex and interesting way of cultural development through long centuries of persistent struggle against the powerful states of the West and the East, just in the struggle created its bright, original spiritual and material culture. Armenia – an Ancient Land. The powerful state of Urartu was founded on the Armenian Highland in 9th century B.C. The ruins of the once impregnable fortresses along with other archaeological discoveries bear the hallmarks of a high degree of civil civilization. Urartu ceased to exist in the 6th century B.C., and was succeeded by the Kingdom of Armenia which united the local tribes, including the Haiasi and Armens. In the reign of the Artashesid (2nd-1st centuries B.C.) and the Arshakid (lst-5th centuries A.D.) dynasties, trades and handicrafts flourished in the kingdom. Its celebrated cities—Yervanda-shat, Armavir, Zarekhavan, Zarishat, Artashat and Dvin—served as capitals at different times. The development of the economy, trade and handicrafts brought about a great spiritual advancement, and Armenia became the cradle of a great civilization. Its architects built marvelous structures, of which the pagan tem¬ple in Garni (1st century A.D.) is a wonderful example. The Armenian theatre dates back to about the same time. Armenia was converted and embraced Christianity as its official state religion in 301. In 405 Mesrop Mashtots, the scholar, invented the Armenian alphabet, which is still in use today. Through the centuries, Armenia has managed to preserve a wealth of evidence of the evolution of humankind. the country is rightly called an open-air geological and archaeological museum, dating back to the dawn of recorded history. Monuments of the Paleolithic and Neolithic ages, as well as ancient settlements have been found in various parts of the country. As one of the oldest Christian countries, it boasts the densest concentration of monuments of early Christianity.The number of sacred monuments (churches, monasteries, chapels, shrines and Khachkars, or stone crosses) is truly mind-boggling. There are more than 5,000 churches, monasteries and chapels in Armenia, and over 20,000 Khachkars in the small territory of the Republic alone!

People:

The country's main cities are Yerevan, Kumayri (formerly Leninakan), Vanadzor (formerly Kirovakan), and Yejmiadzin (seat of the Armenian Church). Ethnic Armenians make up the bulk of the people in this densely populated republic. In addition, there are Russian, Kurdish, and Azeri minorities. The official language is Armenian; Russian and various other tongues are spoken by a small minority. The Armenian Church is predominant, and there are Russian Orthodox, Protestant, and Muslim minorities.

Cuisine:

Armenian cuisine is one of the most ancient on Earth and its preparation techniques today remain almost the same as 1500 years ago. Regional influences include the Mediterranean, the Caucasus, the Middle East, Eastern Europe, and to a certain extent also influences from the Balkans. Armenian cuisine is noted for its pleasing aroma, as a result of the expert mix of spices employed. Armenians use also many unusual herbs and greens in their cooking. The most exotic are collected at alpine meadows and combined in the most unexpected way. The taste will challenge even the most refined expert. Many of Armenian specialities are barbecued. You can taste traditional shish-kebab almost everywhere. The standard bread of the country, called lavash, is renowned for its quality. It is only about the thickness of one or two sheets of newspaper and the best is like a parchment Armenians like to eat lavash with local cheese or shish-kebab and fresh uncooked greens, using it for wrapping the food as a sort of sandwich. Ask an Armenian how lavash is made or visit any village to see it yourself. You'll be surprised and impressed. Armenia produces an unchallenged quality brandy (cognac). Armenian cognacs of numerous special brands are aged in oak barrels for 3 to 50 years and are from 40 to 57% proof. The unique flavour and smooth quality of Armenian cognac and wine is something you must sample for yourself while you are in the country.

Money:

Armenian national currency is Dram. 10, 25, 50, 100, 1000, 5000, 20000 Dram notes are used. During last month Armenian Dram rate is about 530 - 540 AMD per 1 USD. The best cash currencies are US dollars, euros and Russian roubles, roughly in that order. Georgian lari can also be changed in Yerevan and border towns. Other currencies are hard to change except at a handful of major banks in Yerevan. There are moneychanging signs waving flags and rates at customers everywhere in Yerevan and around shukas in all major towns. Virtually any shop can change money legally, and many food stores and small goods vendors do. Scams seem to be rare, and transactions straightforward.

Сommunication:

The country code for Armenia is 374. The area code for Yerevan is 2. While calling from the CIS countries the old code 8852 should be used. Local calls. Local calls can be made from the street by public coin operated telephones. One call costs AMD 70. International calls. To call outside Armenia, dial 8, followed by the country code ( 1 for USA and Canada, 31 for the Netherlands ), area code and number. International calls can be made from the Post building on the Republic Square as well as from many private international phone service providers available in Yeravan.

Visa:

For citizens of European countries, US, Canada, Japan, Korea, Australia, etc, visas may be obtained upon arrival at Zvartnots airport or at Armenian consulates and embassies in respective countries. You are also encouraged to request an Armenian E-Visa electronically via Internet at http://www.armeniaforeignministry.com/

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