The Rugged Beauty of Armenia

The Near Eastern country of Armenia is historic in the ancient sense of the word—life there stretches back to the Stone Age. A presence along the Silk Road, this area set betwixt the Caucasus Mountains has seen war in its time but it has also built churches, formed lasting traditions and made great cultural contributions to the world. Travelers in search of regions of cultural crossroads, where East meets West, will want to consider a journey to Armenia for an unforgettable people carving a home in a tumultuous corner of the world.

Despite its proximity to its Islamic neighbors, Armenians practice an Orthodox form of Christianity, but not with great ease or historic peace. This landlocked country of about 11,500 square miles has faced much hardship throughout its long history. Georgia borders this mountainous country to the north, Iran to the south, Azerbaijan to the east and Turkey to the west. In past centuries these neighbors have proved deadly foes, but nature in the form of deadly earthquakes has also added to the upheaval of the landscape.

Nevertheless, Armenia and its customs have persisted through the ages, its great symbol of Mount Ararat (site where Noah’s Ark is believed to have landed after the Biblical flood) known throughout the world despite the fact that the mountain is has been under Turkish control. Geographically speaking, Armenia is home to snowy peaks and lush green vistas. Its mountains are mineral-rich with deposits of silver, gold, copper, tin and small deposits of diamonds, turquoise, and emeralds.

The Armenian landscape also contains Lake Sevan—the largest in the Caucasus and one of the largest mountain lakes found anywhere. The lake has many visitors, especially in summer when travelers come to swim or visit the ancient monasteries near its shores. While parts of Armenia can be intensely green, other regions have periodically been struck by drought making much of the country a dry and dusty land. Still, Armenia has four distinct seasons and some sections of pleasing forested tracks.

Visitors to this nation will find plenty to see and do. Armenia has a unique zoo set within the hills east of its capital city Yerevan. It is home to many animals that are native to the region such as white pelicans, lions and mountain sheep to name a few. Outdoor enthusiasts will marvel at the great waterfall found in Jermuk nature preserve. Travelers interested in the country’s history will want to pay a visit to the village of Garni to see the Temple of the Sun and the fortress ruins of Armenia’s earliest kings.

There are other important places of note in Armenia including: Yerevan’s Genocide Memorial, Matenadaran Manuscript Library (Yerevan), Etchmiadzin (near Yerevan), Armenian History Museum (Yerevan), National Gallery of Art (Yerevan), Mount Aragats, and Metsamor Archaeological site and Museum. Armenia is also renowned for its contributions to the arts so be sure to include a visit to some of Yerevan’s galleries for a sample of the nation’s excellence.

author: J. A. Young

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