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.
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.
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.
Day 1 Flight to Yerevan. 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. Nearby we will visit the Graeco-Roman Garni Temple and the monastery at Geghard.
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. Our day includes a visit to Armash Fish Ponds where we look for some of the special birds of the area including White-tailed Lapwing, Menetries’s Warbler and the beautiful Blue-cheeked Bee-eater.
Day 4 Starting our journey north we will 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 We visit Noratus Cemetery with its traditional khachkar memorial stones. The rest of the day will be a relaxed walk along Old Sevan Road overlooking Lake Sevan. Plants should include Pontechium maculatum, Centaurea cheiranthifolia, Campanula stevenii and the imposing Lilium armenum. We’ll keep watch for butterflies, along with raptors and Armenian Gulls rising on the thermals.
Day 6 We visit Artanish Peninsula passing through meadows, juniper woodland, and stony slopes where we look for species including the vibrant Hedysarum elegans and beautiful Prometheum sempervivoides. This is an important area for butterflies and with luck we may find species such as Clouded Apollo and Turquoise Blue.
Day 7 Heading north towards Goshavank Monastery, we will make several stops for plants including Iris paradoxa and Anacamptis coriophora. In the afternoon we visit Makaravank Monastery, one of the most beautiful in Armenia, where several impressive ancient trees can be found including elm Ulmus elliptica and Hornbeam.
Day 8 We explore the eastern end of the Tsaghkunyats Mountains, which shouldbe awash with Anemone fasciculata, with a great deal of plants to be uncovered including Veronica gentianoides, Linum hypericifolium, Tanacetum coccineum and Allium aucheri. We will also make a stop in Dilijan to visit its historic old town and perhaps add the striking Rhynchocorys orientalis to our list.
Day 9 This morning we will explore the meadows and woodlands surrounding our hotel before moving on to the Spitak Pass. Plants today should include Pedicularis sibthorpii, Salvia staminea, Lilium szovitsianum and Arnebia pulchra.
Day 10 Our last day in Armenia will be spent on Mount Ararats where we will stop at different altitudes including Amberd Fortress and the alpine zone. We can expect see many interesting species here including Primula algida, Colchicum raddeanum, Myosotis alpestris, Pulsatilla albana and the rare and delicate Allium tripedale. There are also a number of interesting mountain birds to be found and we will keep an eye out for Radde’s Accentor, White-throated Robin, Horned Lark and more.
Day 11 Our morning flight takes us to Paris and from there back to the UK.
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. The hotels are all of a good standard, with en-suite rooms.
Evening meals will be taken at the hotel or in local restaurants. Lunches will be mostly picnics, with a couple of lunches taken in local restaurants.
We will travel by minibus, with our visit to Makaravank Monastery including a journey in an off-road van (~5km). The roads are generally good, with comfortable travelling conditions.
The group flights are with AirFrance from London Heathrow to Yerevan via Paris.
France is one hour and Armenia four hours ahead of UK time.
It is also possible to travel with AirFrance from Manchester or Edinburgh to Yervan, via Paris.
British passport holders can stay in Armenia without a visa up to 180 days per year. Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of six months from the date of entry into Armenia.
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.
We will be visiting high altitude, up to 3,200m on Mount Aragats, however anyone not wishing to travel to this height can stay in the area around Amberd Church (2,300m). All accommodation is below 2000m. If you have any reason to believe you will be adversely affected at these altitudes, you should consult your doctor prior to booking.