At nearly two kilometers altitude, with a surface area of 940sq km, Lake Sevan is a vast and stunning alpine lake that is the outstanding feature of the Gegharkunik Marz (region in Armenian). Armenia may be landlocked, but the beaches of Lake Sevan provide a much-needed respite from the heat in Yerevan. Popular beaches on the Kghzi peninsula, below Sevanavank Monastery, are packed with beach goers every weekend – many of them barbecuing – whilst quieter beaches on the northern shore make for a perfect campground under the trees.
There is much to explore beyond the Kghzi peninsula of Lake Sevan. The largest region of Armenia, Gegharkunik is also home to the dominating Geghama Mountain Chain, which serves as a picturesque backdrop to the crystalline Lake Sevan, and offers more adventurous tourists amazing hiking experiences to mountain peaks and the small, hidden lakes left behind by the snowmelt. Noratus, halfway down the southwestern shore, houses the largest preserved collection of khachkars (cross-stones) in the world, and following the lake’s contour further, the mountainous landscapes give way to a large plain on the southern shores near Martuni, where fields of wildflowers hide a handful of cryptic petroglyphs. The quiet shores on the northeast are where people in search of solitude escape to, with the Painters’ Retreat near Shorzha a favorite amongst artists and freethinkers. Further east, the Getik River begins, hugging the mountain slopes through quiet mountain villages, all the way down to the valleys of the Dilijan National Park.