Birdwatching in Armenia

https://www.armenia.travel/en/tourism/bird-watching-in-armenia

I love to spend time outdoors and am always eager to learn more about the natural world. Although I am not an ornithologist, I would be pleased to take you bird-watching. Check out the information below (from armenia.travel) and let’s pack our binoculars and go. I am patient, quiet and curious and can pack a picnic for us to enjoy in the outdoors. Of course, birdwatching can also be combined with some of  my other cultural, historical and food and drink tours

A Rewarding Destination for Every Keen Birder

Armenia is located between the Black and Caspian Seas, an ideal bio-geographic bridge between Europe and Asia, and, therefore, home to a rich diversity of flora and fauna. Worldwide, there are approximately 9,700 species of birds, 350 of which have been reliably recorded within Armenia, 245 of which have been proven to breed here, and around 170 have been found in winter. This may not seem like a lot, but by comparison, the whole of Europe has 550 species and the entire landmass of the former Soviet Union has only 750!

red fronted serin
Red -fronted Serin

The richness in birds and other wildlife in addition to the famous hospitality of the locals, the delicious cuisine, numerous ancient historical and cultural sites and some of the most impressive landscapes in the Western Asia, makes Armenia an amazing and rewarding destination for every ambitious birdwatcher.

​​The country lies on the main migration route between the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. Following a major flight path, more than 180 species pass through Armenia on the way to and from their wintering grounds that spread from the Middle East to South Africa. With its diverse terrain and vegetation zones overlapping in such a compact area, Armenia attracts diverse bird species that would otherwise not be found so close together. Thus, it is possible to observe desert and forest birds, waterfowl, high plains and alpine species living in the same area – sometimes even within the same square mile.

A Variety of Bird Species

caspian snowcock
Caspian Snowcock

You can find the world’s largest breeding colonies of Armenian Gull near lakes Sevan and Arpi. Arpi lake is also famous for holding a small population of the well known Dalmatian Pelican species. Glossy Ibis, Pygmy Cormorant, Marbled Ferruginous and White-headed Ducks found their home in the Ararat plane due to the location of fish farms there.

Ménétries, Moustached, Paddyfield and Savi Warblers can be found throughout the reeds and the scrub in this area. White-tailed Lapwing breed is mostly found in the nearby salt planes. White-winged, Whiskered Terns and Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters all inhabit the banks and canals of this area.

The forests of the mountainous areas are full of big variety of birds. Among this huge variety of species you’ll be able to spot the Lesser-spotted Eagle, Black, Green and Middle-spotted Woodpeckers, Samamisicus Redstart, Greenish Warbler, Mountain Chiffchaff, Red-breasted and Semi-collared Flycatchers.Caucasian Grouse, Magna Bluethroat and Radde’s Accentor all found their home in the slopes that are covered with scrub from above the treeline. Meanwhile, the mountain springs in the alpine meadows are inhabited by the Horned Lark, Caucasian Twite and Red-fronted Serin. Crags and scree adjoining the alpine meadows are home to Caspian Snowcock, Crimson-winged Finch and Wallcreeper.

Best Time to Visit

The best time to visit Armenia for bird watching falls between the months of May-July as well as September-October. In order to get the full experience by getting most of the country’s species you should plan your trip for at least 8 days, 12 ideally. An important thing to note is that you must consider the weather conditions of the mountains even during the hot months of summer. While looking at high montane species you must consider bringing warm clothes with you.

If you’re still hesitant about visiting Armenia for bird watching purposes, you must know that certain parts of Armenia still remain underwatched. You as a birdwatcher have the exclusive chance to make new discoveries and share with the world. Once done with your expeditions you can enjoy all of the other things Armenia has to offer to you, from the mesmerizing landscapes of the countryside all the way to the active urban life of the capital. You won’t have to limit yourself to just one activity.​

The petroglyphs mountain Ughtasar

I am not afraid to say that the petroglyphs mountain Ughtasar is one of the world’s truly amazing and memorable sites. Only accessible in summer, you will be glad you have made this off-road trip and will wish you could come back again and again to marvel at the petroglyphs and enjoy the supernatural beauty and mysterious silence of the deep and dazzling lakes. Ughtasar – a mountain 3300 meters high above sea level, is snowy even in high summer, even though it is only about 30 km far from Sisian. In 1968, thousands of petroglyphs—ancient rock drawings—were found there, but this magical place still remains unexplored because it is so remote.

 

The people called the place Ughtasar (Camel Mountain), because the mountainous area between Black and Al lakes looks like the hump of a camel.

More than 2000 scattered rock paintings have been found at the base of this mountain, around the small lakes of the volcanic crater, and in the valleys . Most pictograms are engraved on horizontal or vertical surfaces of copper and black cliffs with depths of 2-6 cm, with a width of 2-20 mm.

 

There is Huge variety in the rock paintings. They include hunting, the nature surrounding man, charming family scenes, and cosmic interpretations that suggest sun worshippers once lived there. The oldest rock images show crop and vegetable farming, and are thought to date from the BC. V-IV millenniums. Large images of deer and predators are stamped on the massif cliffs

We will use an off-road vehicle to get to the petroglyphs and, will have an unforgettable lunch there—I’ll bring pork kebabs to barbecue there. It is a great place to eat your first Armenian khorovats. Bring your hiking boots! It will be one full day in total. Because our ability to visit Ughtasar depends on the weather conditions, please plan to visit Camel Mountain in the summer and book your tour well in advance. I will do my best to make it happen.

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Make the most of your journey to or from Yerevan: Khor Virap, Norovank, Areni wine–and also Zvartnots and Etchmiadzin cathedrals

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Norovank. Picture credit Thong Do

You can start in Goris or Sisian and end your day-trip in Yerevan or at Zvartnots airport–or do the journey the  other way around. Either way, we will take in the monasteries at Khor Virap and Norovank, and visit Areni, home of Armenia’s finest wines–and the place where the world’s oldest shoe was discovered. (You can see the 5,500 year-old shoe in Yerevan at the History Museum of Armenia, but the site where it was found is also worth exploring). Enjoy stunning views of Mount Ararat (if the day is clear), and gorges and mountains of amazing colours. Take part in a wine-tasting and learn what makes Armenian wine so special. Learn the legends of Gregory the Illuminator, and Momik the Architect, and speculate about the history of  our world-famous shoe. This day-trip combines history, archaeology, opportunities to photograph fabulous landscapes, and great food and wine. Depending on the time of  year, feast on apricots, apples, or walnuts sold by the side of the road–and take home a bottle or two of our beautiful  wine as a momento of your trip.

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Upon request, this trip can be extended to include a visit to Zvarnots Cathedral, an ancient site just outside Yerevan, and to Etchmiadzin, the Holy See of the Armenian Apostolic Church. 

From Goris to Jermuk

This day-trip winds through the mountains of Syunik Marz and the rocky slopes of Vayots-Dzor to the spa town of Jermuk. Depending on the time of year, we will see eagles soar across our path.  We will count numerous wild flowers–and discover the reason why the honey sold by the roadside is so good. Stop to pick apricots and admire volcanic rock formations along the way. In Jermuk, visit the gallery and drink mineral waters that bubble from the earth at a range of different temperatures. Walk around the lake and pose beside giant busts of Armenia’s great writers and artists. Enjoy an Armenian coffee on the floating cafe–or strip off and take a dip in the famous hot pools. We will visit Jermuk’s Waterfall, Armenia October 2017 2017-10-17 13.22.07and take a ride on the funicular to get great views of this beautiful region. You can pick wildflowers and breathe the clear mountain air. If you would like to have a spa treatment at one of Jermuk’s luxury hotels, let me know–I will make your appointment. The town has great restaurants, but you may like to order a picnic lunch to enjoy by the river. My wife will be happy to feed you!

 

 

Karahunj (Armenia’s Stone Henge)–> Vorotnavank Monastery–> Vorotnaberd Fortress–> Melik Tangi Bridge–>Shaki Waterfall

2017-10-19 12.23.49This day-trip explores some of the most beautiful and ancient sites of Armenia, in the area of Sisian. See the 7500-year old sharp stones at the Armenian Stone Henge and see if you can unlock the secret of the perfect round holes in the stones. Visit the monastery complex built by one of Armenia’s ancient Queens, and hear the legend of the snakes of Syunik. See a fortress dating back to at least the 4th century, and marvel at the rock formations beside the Vorotan river. Climb an ancient monument dedicated to two brothers who took on the Persians, and walk amongst khatchars–Armenian cross stones. Finish your day at the Shaki Waterfall, one of the great sights (and sounds) of Syunik Marz. Depending on the time of year, buy honey, mushrooms, cabbage, aveluk or apples from local families.

Depending on the time of year, you  may wish to extend your day-trip to visit the Hamo Sahyan museum in the village of Lor. A picnic lunch can be provided upon  request.

Goris–>Devil’s Bridge–> Halidzor Cable Car–> Tatev Monastery–> Swinging Bridge–> Cave Village Old Khndzoresk

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Picture credit: Karissa Kresge

This day-trip takes in all the most famous sites of the Goris region, allowing you to ride the world’s longest reversible tramway from Halidzor to Tatev, and cross the 160-meter swinging bridge over the gorge to visit the cave village of Khndzoresk where my father was born. Marvel at the beauty and history of Tatev Monastery and walk through the stream at Devil’s Bridge to see the stalactites and stalacmites in the underground caves. Benefit from my local knowledge and contacts to have a truly enjoyable day. For example, I will call Wings of Tatev to book your tickets for the Tramway, so you do not have to wait.

Upon request, a picnic lunch and dinner at my home can be added to this tour. You may also wish to talk to me about hiking Tatev gorge and seeing Mets Anapat, an abandoned monastery from the 17th century.