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Armenia – wild flowers and natural history of the Caucasus

Explore the spectacular landscapes and rich wildlife of the Caucasus biodiversity hotspot.

Nestled amid the Southern Caucasus, the small country of Armenia is characterised by its rugged mountainous landscape, still roamed by Persian Leopards and Syrian Brown Bears, and notable for its habitat diversity, encompassing alpine meadows, steppe grasslands, semi-desert, dense forests and more.

Our holiday takes us on an exploration of this fascinating country, in particular searching for its rich flora, which includes more than half of the species found in the entire Transcaucasian region. We start our visit among the magnificent basalt columns of Garni Gorge, before paying a visit to Ararat Valley and Armash, an Important Bird Area. We will search for plants around the Selim Pass, before heading to central Armenia to explore the woodlands, meadows and gorges of the Artanish Peninsula on the eastern shores of Lake Sevan.

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Continuing north we will visit Makaravank and the eastern extremity of the Tsaghkunyats Mountains. Our final days will explore a range of altitude around Mount Aragats where as well as plants we hope to find interesting birds.

We can expect to find colourful alpines such as Pulsatilla albina, Primula algida and Colchicum raddianum, along with several of Armenia’s attractive irises and lillies, including Lilium armenum, Iris paradoxa and Iris furcata. With luck we may catch the last flowers of Tulipa julia.

Although our focus is on Armenia’s botanical diversity, there is an exciting range of birds, butterflies and other species to be uncovered. We will also have the opportunity to experience some of the area’s rich cultural heritage.

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Wildlife Travel Armenia 2019

Please note that holidays change, although sometimes only slightly, from year to year and previous trip reports may not reflect the planned itinerary, or other holiday details, for the current trip. Please ask us if you would like to know of any significant differences.

Dates

6 – 16 June 2020

Leader

Laurie Jackson with local guides

Price

£2,585

Single Room Supplement – £130

Included

Return flights from UK. Local transport on excursions as specified in the itinerary. Ten nights’ accommodation, full board basis.

Not included

Refreshments. Entrance fees for optional sightseeing. Gratuities. Travel insurance.

Group size

Minimum 4 or 5, maximum 12.

Day 1 Our flight takes us to to Yerevan from where we transfer to our hotel in the village of Geghadir.

Day 2 We will walk through Garni Gorge filled with spectacular basalt columns whose crevices hold species such as Saxifraga cymbalaria and Sedum caucasicum, and provide nest sites for House Martins and Eastern Rock Nuthatch.

Day 3 We explore the semi-desert and steppe vegetation of the Ararat Valley looking for species including Gladiolus atroviolaceus, Matthiola odoratissima, Gundelia armeniaca, the striking hemiparasitic Phelypaea tournefortii and the cushion-forming Gypsophila aretioides. Later we visit Armash Fish Ponds where we will look for some of the special birds of the area including the beautiful Blue-cheeked Bee-eater.

Day 4 We explore the Selim Pass area with species such as Smyrniopsis aucheri, Pedicularis armena and the delicate Primula auriculata, along with butterflies such as Caucasian Vernal Copper.

Day 5 Our day starts at Noratus Cemetery with its traditional khachkar stones. We then take a relaxed walk along Old Sevan Road overlooking Lake Sevan, looking for plants including Pontechium maculatum, Centaurea cheiranthifolia, Campanula stevenii and the imposing Lilium armenum. We’ll keep watch for butterflies, raptors and Armenian Gulls.

Day 6 We visit the Artanish Peninsula passing through juniper woodland, meadows and stony slopes where we will look for species including the vibrant Hedysarum elegans and the beautiful Prometheum sempervivoides. This is also an important area for butterflies.

Day 7 Heading north towards Goshavank Monastery, we will make several stops for plants including Iris paradoxa and Anacamptis coreophora. In the afternoon we will visit Makaravank Monastery, one of the most beautiful in Armenia.

Day 8 We explore the eastern end of the Tsaghkunyats Mountains, which should be awash with Anemone fasciculata, with a great deal of plants to be uncovered including Veronica gentianoides, Linum hypericifolium, Tancetum coccineum and Allium aucheri. We will make a stop in Dilijan to visit its historic old town.

Day 9 This morning we will explore the meadows and woodlands surrounding our hotel before moving on to the Spitak Pass.

Day 10 Today is spent on Mount Ararats where we will stop at different altitudes up to ~3,200m. We can expect see many interesting species such as Primula algida, Colchicum raddeanum, Myosotis alpestris, Pulsatilla albana and Allium tripedale. We will keep an eye out for mountain birds including Radde’s Accentor, White-throated Robin and Ortolan Bunting.

Day 11 We make our way back to Yerevan and our flights home.

Please note that the itinerary may be changed to suit the weather or other practicalities at the discretion of the leaders.

We will stay at six locations: two nights at the Hyelandz Eco Village Resort, Geghadir; one night at Lucy Tour, Hermon; one night in Nerkin Getashen; two nights in Avan Marak Tsapatagh Hotel; two nights in Tezh Ler Resort, Margahovit; and two nights in Amberd Hotel, Byurakan. The hotels are of a good standard with rooms en-suite.

Evening meals will be taken at the hotel or in local restaurant. Lunches will be picnics with a couple of lunches in traditional restaurants.

We will travel by minibus, with our visit to Makaravank Monastery including a journey in an off-road van (~5km).

The group flight is with Air France from London Heathrow, flying via Paris:

6th June depart London Heathrow 09.00, arrive Paris 11.25
6th June depart Paris 13.45, arrive Yerevan 20.25
16th June depart Yerevan 09.00, arrive Paris 12.10
16th June depart Paris 13.20, arrive London Heathrow 13.45

It will be possible to connect from Manchester and Edinburgh – speak to us about the options.

France is one hour and Armenia four hours ahead of the UK.

If you have a UK passport, you do not currently need a visa to visit Armenia for up to 180 days per year.

 

At this time of year the weather is usually warm and sunny but not too hot. There may be some cooler weather and some rain.

The walking is not strenuous but we will be walking (relatively gently) uphill in some places: paths may be rocky and uneven and some walking is ‘off-track’. Walking boots are essential for most excursions (lightweight boots are fine). All excursions are optional except those on days when transferring between hotels. The hotel rooms are likely to be reached by stairs rather than lifts (but help will be given with luggage). On some days we will take longer walks (2 hours+) but on most days, walks will be shorter (1-2 hours).

We will be visiting high altitude, up to 3,200m in Mount Aragats, however anyone not wishing to travel to this height can stay in the area around Amberd Church (2,300m). If you have suffered from altitude problems before or have any reason to believe you will be adversely affected at these altitudes, you should consult your doctor prior to booking.