GEOGRAPHY AND WEATHER
A land-locked country, Armenia covers over 10% of the Armenian plateau. Relatively recent volcanic activity on the Armenian plateau has resulted in significant volcanic formations, and highlands consisting of a series of both small and large mountain massifs. A number of lakes, including lakes Sevan, Van and Urmia were also created as a result of tectonic activity in the region. Armenia is a typical mountainous territory with well-defined mountainous relief and ramified river drainage. Indeed, 87% of the Armenian territory is between 1,000m and 3,000m high. Furthermore, there is a wide range of altitude. The lowest points are the Debed river at the Northern border of Armenia with Georgia, located 379m above sea level, and the town of Meghri at the Southern border of Armenia with Iran, while the highest point, Mount Aragats in Central Armenia, is 4,090m above sea level.
Armenia's mountainous nature helps create a series of highly diverse landscapes, with variations in geological substrate, terrain, climate, soils and water resources.
The Ararat Valley, where the capital Yerevan is located, represents the lowest part of the Ararat depression, which is still undergoing tectonic movement. The average elevation of Ararat Valley is 900m above sea level and partially semi-desert, with green orchards and gardens along the Arax River. The Ararat plain serves as the major agricultural basin for Armenia where more than 35% of Armenia's vegetables and fruits are grown. Ararat Valley is dominated by the stunning Mount Ararat with its two peaks, which is actually located in Turkey, just across the border.
In the North of the Armenia, the landscape is dominated by the Bazoom and Halab mountain ranges, and parallel to them, the Pambak mountains further South. These mountains are approximately 2,800m high and are characterized by gentle grass covered slopes.
The northeast of Armenia (Lori and Tavush districts) have extensive forest coverage. Rainfall is more abundant in the northeast and the variation between winter and summer is softer than in most other parts of Armenia.
Another amazing feature of the country's natural environment is Lake Sevan. Lake Sevan is Armenia's largest surface water resource, covering 4% of Armenia's territory. The lake is situated at an altitude of 1,900m and is considered one of the largest alpine lakes in the world. Lake Sevan is surrounded by several mountain ranges. The western shore of the lake is bordered by the Geghama Mountain range, with its typical volcanic cone shaped peaks and small craters on the top. Ascending the Geghama mountains, such as Mount Azhdahak (3,597 m), rewards with splendid views of lake Sevan, the surrounding mountain ranges and the Ararat Valley. On the opposite side of the lake, parallel to its eastern shore, are the Areguni and Sevan ranges. The Sevan range forms a natural border with neighboring Azerbaijan. The Vardenis mountain range runs along the Southern shore of Lake Sevan.
Mount Aragats, the highest mountain in Armenia (4,090 m), dominates the landscape of Central Armenia. Mount Aragats is a huge volcanic mountain with four peaks and a deep crater of 350m. It stands alone in Central Armenia and covers a perimeter of 200 square km. The landscape of Central Armenia is characterized by meadows and mountainous steppes with isolated small forests in Tsakhadzor and Hankavan. The climate is dry and continental, with hot summers and cold winters.
In the south of Armenia, the Vayk and Zangezur ranges run from North to South and form a natural border with the Autonomous Republic of Nakhichevan, an Azerbaijani enclave located between Turkey and Armenia. The Sunik range, also running from North to South, forms the natural border between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Two smaller mountain ranges, the Bargooshat and Meghri mountains, run across the far South of Armenia. The Armenian high plateau between Vayk and Goris is characterized by a wild, treeless landscape of alpine meadows and mountain steppes. The climate is dry and harsh, with hot summers and cold winters. The region further South around Kapan is dominated by the mystic Mount Khustup, whose peak is generally hidden by mist. This region is covered with grasslands, lakes and forests. The southern most part of Armenia, around the town of Meghri is again characterized by another climate zone. This region shares the same climatic conditions with the bordering Northern part of Iran, which allows figs and pomegranates to grow.
Most of the Armenian mountains are of volcanic origins and covered with relatively recent lava. When hiking, one can find an abundance of obsidian in the Geghama mountain range and tuff on the slopes of Mount Aragats. Obsidian is a volcanic glass and is considered a semi-precious stone. It is also known as "Satan's nail" in Armenian. Tuff is a lightweight volcanic rock, which comes in yellow, grey and red color shades and is omnipresent in the Armenian architecture.
The climate in Armenia is dry and continental, with hot summers and cold winters. Notwithstanding, the weather conditions in Armenia change according to the wide variety of geographic terrain. While it may be sunny and hot in Yerevan and the Ararat valley, 60 km away in Sevan it may be cold and rainy, and snowing in the upper regions of Aragats.
Common August temperatures range between highs of 30 - 40 °C in the Ararat Valley and 18 -20°C in middle mountain regions. Common January temperatures range between lows of 5 -15°C in the Ararat Valley to common lows of - 18 to - 25°C in the middle mountain regions (see annex 2 for conversion from °C to °F). Above 3,000m, snow disappears only between mid-June to mid- September, with permanent snows in some areas.
Armenia receives an average of 2,700 hours of sunlight a year and a total average precipitation of 550mm. The greatest amount of precipitation occurs in the upper regions, and during spring and early summer, with a second rainy season in October and November.