Endowed with “blue-eyed beauty” epithet by locals and “Armenian Riviera” by foreigners, the Lake Sevan is one of the top tourist attractions you may not want to miss during your trip in Armenia.
The Sevan waters have many colorful transformations. From crystal clear azure on a breezy morning to mystic dark blue in a rainy evening – Sevan is charming at every moment of the day. Mere gazing at the waters and beyond them, up to the bluish sky, is a pure delight and ultimate meditative experience.
Quick facts about the lake
Beautifully “seated” 1900 meters above the sea, in the embrace of majestic Geghama Mountains, the Lake Sevan is the largest in Armenia, and one of the major freshwater high-altitude lakes in the world. Alongside with the Lake Van and Lake Urmia, Sevan was considered one of the three major lakes of the historical Armenian Kingdom. Originally, the Lake was famous for its picturesque island, widely described in the literary works of Armenian authors, but, unfortunately, after human intervention in the early 20th which drained the waters of the lake, it turned into a peninsula.
The Peninsula and neighborhood
Your trip to Sevan will be incomplete without short of historical/cultural sightseeing which starts from the Sevan Peninsula and its neighborhood. Nowadays, the picturesque Sevan Peninsula houses the Armenian President’s residence, a guesthouse of Armenian Writers’ Union, a seminary and medieval Sevanavank Monastery which is one of the most-visited sights in Armenia. The monastic complex comprises 2 churches- vivid pieces of early Armenian medieval architecture- Surp Arakelots (“Holy Apostles”) and Surp Astvatsatsin (“Holy Mother of God”). The inscription in one of the churches says that the monastery was founded by Princess Mariam in the 9th century, during the liberation battles against the Arab yoke. The two churches are quite similar in appearance, and next to them you can see the ruins of a gavit (narthex, entrance to the church) initially supported by six columns. Needless to say, an incredible panoramic view of the Lake, adjacent villages and the mounts opens from the top of the Peninsula.
What to do and where to stay
The Lake and its mountainous vicinity offer a myriad of opportunities for active and passive rest. Paragliding over the lake, windsurfing in the waters or camping on the shore – pick something to your taste.
Feeling like passive rest and internet detox? Refresh yourself in the cool waters of Sevan (18-22C maximum) and then lounge on the beach with a cocktail to idle away the tension of the urban life. Not a keen swimmer? Don’t worry. Just sunbathing or meditating on the beauty of the lake can be an excellent way to find ultimate relaxation, far away from the hustle and bustle of the daily routine.
A caveat: as the lake is high-altitude, the water temperature is never too high, thus the swimming season opens in mid June and lasts to mid September. Also, even for the most experienced swimmers, it’s not recommended to swim far away from the special mark.
Whether traveling solo or with a group, on a budget or a more lavish scale, you’re sure to find your appropriate accommodation on the Sevan shoreline or in neighboring areas. Of course, renting an apartment in the town and walking a few kilometers to the public beach is also an option (and a good physical exercise, by the way). For budget travel, consider Tsaghkhunk Guest House . For luxury travel, check out Best Western Bohemian Resort Hotel and Tufenkian Marak Tsapatagh Hotel.
A trip to Sevan is incomplete without the local “must-taste”- the inhabitants of the lake, trout and whitefish. Drop in to Ashot Yerkat restaurant on the Peninsula and savor the wonderful lake-view while indulging your stomach with the delicious fish dishes.
How to get in and get around
The Lake Sevan offers a number of public beaches, which are safe and clean, with free access to the beach chairs. The most popular beaches are located next to the town of Sevan and Peninsula.
The town is only 60kms away from Yerevan, and you have a number of transportation options on your plate. Of course, the cheapest yet the longest is the train which runs from Kanaker Station in Yerevan. However, the best budget option to go to Sevan is on a minibus, from the Northern Bus Station, running approximately every 20 minutes. The taxi will cost you around AMD7000-8000 and will drive you there for about 40minutes.
As for getting to Peninsula, you can take a minivan in the Sevan center, or an electric train at the Sevan train station.
Armenians do take pride in the beauty of Sevan and keep saying to foreigners semi-jokingly: if you’re in Armenia and you haven’t seen Sevan, Garni and Geghard – then you haven’t seen anything. Truly, the Lake Sevan, this miraculous gem of the Armenian nature, is a must-see in Armenia. Hurry up, it’s just the high season for Sevan!
Already bathed in the waters of Sevan? Or, perhaps, went for a cultural sightseeing tour on the Peninsula? Feel free to share your impressions on the comment section below.
Text: Sirvard Amatuni