Geography and Climate of Armenia

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Armenia is mainly a high-altitude (1800-2400m, less than 10% of the country lies below 1000 meters) 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 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 modern Turkey 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 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.

Aragats Mount area, plains of Ashotsk and surroundings of Lake Sevan, the second freshwater highland lake in the world (correspondingly Aragatsotn, Shirak and Gegharkunik provinces) in winter are the most appropriate survival course for those who would like to taste the breathtaking wind chill (20-30 below 0C) before assaulting the North Pole.

The Northeast is land of mounts and forests with fascinating sights equally during winters, springs, summers and autumns – shortly it’s an Alpine region with resembling features and opportunities for the tourist.

The geographical location of Armenia and its unique topography creates as much weather contrasts as the country itself. The climate is unusually varied according to altitude and aspect and runs to extremes, but as a whole is defined as continental. Armenia is protected from the harsh North Winter by the Caucasus Ridge, and consequently receives much of its weather from the Middle East Plains.

The average number of frost-free days in Armenia is 250 in Ararat Valley and 150-200 days in the middle mountain areas.

Rainfall: Armenia receives a total average precipitation of 550 mm (21.6 inches) with the least (200-250 mm or 8-10 inches) in Ararat Valley. The most occurs in the highlands, during April-May, with a second rainy season in October and November. In the Winter months, snow does not last in the Ararat Valley, as the temperatures often vary between freezing and just above. In the middle mountain areas, the snow will keep for long periods of time, and commonly reaches up to 100 cm (40 inches).

Sunshine: Armenia receives an average of 2700 sun hours of light a year (333 days).

It is hard to say when is the best time to visit Armenia. Each season offers its own menu of sensations. May be the following will be of a use to chose your time to come.

Winters are long and moderate. In winter it is extremely cold and snowy in the mountains, but in the valleys the weather is mild (0-5 below 0C). People taste the Summer and Fall supplies, long evenings have a special magnetism when people visit with their friends and neighbours and warm themselves at an open fireplace – a foreign guest will earn a special hospitality in the wintertime. The secret of Winter evenings lies in the fact that there is no shorter way to understand Armenian sole as to sit at a leisurely winter meal with locals and listen to the stories of old-age past. For a winter camper, the terrain is easy to travers, and if you are experienced and well equipped you’ll be the winner. White background stresses the density of colours and you’ll get a whole new appreciation for nature. Winter tourists visit the most favourite resorts like Tsakhkadzor, Dilijan and Aghveran as frequently in the winter as they do in summer for sport and relaxation, picturesque scenery and pure air.
The cultural season is at its height during the last decade of December and the first fortnight of January. Winter is the season of gourmets, music and theatre lovers. They will find abundant entertainment for a gay social round. Overcrowded bazaars, filled to overflowing with oriental fruit, sujukh (string of walnuts covered by dried grape juice), alani (dried apricot filled with nuts and sugar powder) and other dainties of the times immemorial sharply indicate the approach of the New Year. Winter is the time for winter tales, time to wish and to hope. Winter is the time when guests are made most warmly welcome.

Springs are brief and gay. You have to see the spring in Armenia yourself to absorb the delicate fineness of its colours. The green is the triumphant and mild temperatures (12-20C) make the very air joyful. Springtime begins with Geezh (Crazy) March, a month notorious for its unpredictable weather. By April the delights of the season gradually steal in from the South, surmount the passes creeping to the sheltered sunny Ararat Valley, advance up the rocky valleys and descend gently upon the hills and plains of the North. This is the time of the year when the Armenians themselves love to set out across country, to walk up a mountainside and pick snowdrops on the first patches of emerald green showing through the faded whiteness of melting snows. Grass and trees seem to grow at once. The verdant hills and meadows become alive with anxious pilgrims to historic sites and naturalists gathering wild herbs and spices. Air is electrified from the spring rains and the fragrance coming from orchards ablaze with blossom. Spring festivals bring people out at large. Everyone takes to the streets for a friendly chat with neighbours and if one could count the smiles during the year, springtime would be at the top of the list.

Summers are hot and arid. The weather gets very hot and dry in the Ararat Valley and the lowlands. In the highlands summers are mild and pleasant and springtime wildflowers still bud and bloom in July, when the snow-caps begin to fall. The first summer month is enjoyed for its mild warmth, but in second decade of July the sun turn bright spring colours of Ararat Valley to its pale shades. It is the time of Navasard – pagan Armenian New Year and apricot harvest . Exquisite taste of Armenian fruit is explained by mountain sources’ irrigation (dating back to VIII BC) and – of course – by intense summer heat (30-35 C). In Yerevan guesting is shifted to the evening hours, and people promenade in the streets and boulevards after sundown. Music is heard from cosy sidewalk cafes, fountains relieve the weary passers-by, enormous markets are resplendent and attract with summer richness, the traditional stalls are weighed down with local pastries and vessels filled with “than” – a traditional refreshing yoghurt drink. Summer is excellent for mountaineering, trekking and repelling. People escape the burning heat at Lake Sevan, Tsakhkadzor, Dilijan, Jermuk and numerous other resorts for sport and relaxation and lovely scenery. There woodlands are brilliantly hued in green, swift-flowing rivers and streams are teeming with fish, the air is fresh and invigorating. Hikers enjoy breathtaking sunrises and sunsets in the mountains and crystal-clear views of snowy peaks, discover the country’s hidden pearls.

Autumns are cool and refreshing. The autumn in Armenia needs innumerable adjectives to be described . Splendid weather (20-25C), plenty of festivals, dates and happenings make Golden Autumn, as Armenians call this “velvet season”, the most attractive time for visitors. After the mid-September break in the hot weather, “Indian Summer” comes and lasts throughout October. For Armenians this season is really the one of fulfilment and repletion. It is the harvest-time and the time of vineyard festivals when the Catholicos (Supreme Patriarch of the Armenian Church) blesses the grape harvest. The variety of grapes grown in Armenia is astonishing and even along the streets and avenues of Yerevan you will see grapevines lovingly raised high on the balconies.
The wheat harvest is in full swing, and village women shake huge baskets of wheat to separate kernels from the chaff. Tonirs – traditional Armenian ovens – blaze as they bake lavash, the standard bread of the country, only about the thickness of one or two sheets of newspaper used for wrapping the food in it as a sort of sandwich. Morning groundmists lie nostalgically in the valleys, filled with jollity, games and laughter in the evenings. Town streets draws people as a light attracts moths, and the cultural season begins, with Opera, music, theatre and dance venues holding their first premieres of the year. It is also wedding season and on Saturdays blaring cacophony indicates the routes of “just-married” escorts.
Each province has something to be pride of: Ararat Valley and Yeghegnadzor area are renowned for delightful wines, Ashtarak is famous for its walnuts, Meghri for figs, and each region is jealous for fame of its apples and apricots. Farmer raises his prestige processing his own spirit from virtually each sort of grapes and fruit and foreign visitor will be hailed in village as non-biased expert and judge. Indeed Autumn in Armenia is the crown of the year and the favourite visiting time.

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