Mount AragatsNatural Wonders
Mt. Aragats, a dormant stratovolcano and the tallest mountain in the country, offers some of the most challenging alpine landscape to those seeking it, and relaxed sightseeing accompanied by delicious food to those who aren’t.
About 40 km from Yerevan, the massive mountain covers more than 18% of the total land area of the country! Four summits form the jagged edge of the volcanic crater, once a huge cone over 10,000m high which blew apart around 500,000 years ago, just as the first people began to settle in the area. Pictograms found on the mountainside allude to this catastrophic event, which ended an era of warm moist climate and began the continental weather patterns Armenia has today.
Its peaks range from over 4,000m to just under; the north peak is the tallest, at 4,090m, followed by the west, at 4,080m, the east peak at 3,916m and finally the south peak at 3,879m. The jet black Kari Lich (Stone Lake) from where most hikers set off up the mountain is at 3,200m altitude, and offers a nice place to cool down after a strenuous hike. From the top of the mountain, views in all directions reach as far as Mt. Ararat, 100km to the south, and as far north as Mt. Elbrus, Europe’s tallest mountain at 5,642m altitude, 500km away!
The altitude is ideal for stargazing and space observation, and scientists work year round at the observatories by the lake, gathering data on cosmic rays and solar flares using some of the world’s largest telescopes. The observatories of Mt. Aragats made Armenia one of the world’s centers for astrophysics during the Soviet period.
Besides the hike to the peaks, there are a number of sights and easier routes around its lower folds, including the stunning 4th century fortress of Amberd, the 5,000 year old temple complex of Agarak, the observatory of Byurakan, and the monasteries of Mughni, Hovhanavank, Tegher and Saghmosavank. There are also paragliding tours around the mountain, as well as mushroom picking on the lower slopes. Some of the peaks are even starting to attract extreme skiers willing to carry their equipment up the slopes with them!