What To Do
The mountainous nature of Armenia results in a series of highly diverse landscapes, with variations in geological substrate, terrain, climate, soils and water resources. These landscapes support a great variety of habitats, which in their turn support distinctive flora and fauna.
Flora in Armenia
With 17 vegetation zones, the variety of plant-life in Armenia is truly astounding. The country has everything from desert plants to oak, beech and pine forests, wet marshland and sub-tropic plants to alpine meadows teeming with wild flowers.
There are even virgin fields of wild grain, the forebears of the first wheat in the ancient world, believed to have been cultivated in Armenia 12-15,000 years ago. Known by their genus names Triticum Urartu and Triticum Araraticum, the wheat is native to the Ararat valley and can be found in small protected fields between Yerevan and Garni.
Armenias flora is so diverse and rich it seems all you would have to do is add cacti, palms and a rain forest, and your would pretty much complete the worlds diversity of plant life.
Armenia has over 3,500 species of plants, more than half of the 6,000 that can be found in the entire Transcaucasus region. While Europe has around 20,000 species, and the entire North American continent holds 40,000 species, with a total landmass of just under 30,000 sq. kilometers (about the size of Belgium), Armenias diversity and close proximity of so many different types of flora is often breath-taking.
Literally within an hours drive of Yerevan, 5 completely unique topographies lie, each with its own varieties of flora, many lying on opposite sides of the highway. While one side will hold forests teeming with woodland species, the other may be semi-desert, Mediterranean marshland, mountain steppe or alpine meadow. Forests are home to particular species unique to the Transcaucasus, including the Araks Oak, Eastern Beech, Caucasian Pine, and a coniferous tree called the «Tis»
Native to Armenia are the apricot and peach. The apricot was taken by Alexander the Greats army back to Greece, where the Romans then spread it throughout Southern Europe. Other fruits that grow in the country include apples, pears, cherries, mazzards, plums, pomegranates and an amazing variety of grapes. The Ararat Valley sustained a large cotton industry before vineyards were.
The system of specially protected nature areas (SPNA) of the Republic of Armenia includes National Parks, State Reserves, Sanctuaries and Natural Monuments. Totally, they make about 10% of the territory of the country.
Armenia has a tremendous climatic variety packed in a small physical area.
Much of this is due to Armenias unique weather systems, which mix moisture from heavy snowfalls in the mountains and the Black and Caspian Seas with hot blasts of air from the Syrian and Iranian plateaus.
The mixture produces incredibly diverse amounts of rainfall, from a mere 250 mm (10 inches) a year in the lowlands to 550 mm (21 inches) in the mountains. At the same time, ecosystems formed by large forests in Northeastern and Southern Armenia produce their own climates, so that the region around Haghbat and above Kapan can count on 50-60 inches of precipitation annually. Most of the countrys precipitation comes from snowfall, which averages 100 cm (40 inches) in the middle mountain regions alone.
Armenia is protected from the harsh winter conditions of the Russian landmass by the Northern Caucasus Mountains, and consequently receives much of its weather from the Persian and Syrian Plains. In wintertime, the Southern regions and northernmost regions are thew warmest. While the mountains may be covered with snow, lower valleys are clear, getting their first spring flowers as early as the end of January.
The southernmost area of the country is considered Dry Subtropical: while Giumri is still receiving its last winter snowfall in April, Meghri has begun its second harvest. Ararat Valley is one of the lowest areas in Armenia, and does not receive as much snowfall or rain as the upper elevations.
The weather changes according to the great variety of geographic terrain. While it may be sunny and hot in the Ararat valley, 60 kilometers away in Sevan it may be cold and rainy, and snowing in the upper regions of Aragats. Common July temperatures range between Ararat Valley highs of 25-30° C (77-86° F) to middle mountain regions summer highs of 18-20° C (64-68° F). The absolute recorded high was 42° C (107.6° F), in Ararat Valley.
Common January temperatures range between Ararat Valley lows of -5 to -7° C (23 to 19° F), with an absolute recorded minimum of -30° C (-22° F); to middle mountain regions common lows of -8 to -12° C (16 to 12° F) and an absolute low of -46° C (-46° F) recorded at Arpi. The average number of frost-free days in Armenia is 250 in Ararat Valley, and 150-200 days in the middle mountain areas. In the upper elevations no more than 30-50 days are considered frost-free.
Armenia receives a total average precipitation of 550 mm (21.6 inches). Ararat Valley receives the least amount of precipitation, 200-250 mm (7.9 to 10 inches). The most amount of precipitation occurs in the upper regions, and during Spring and early Summer, with a second rainy season in October and November.
When rain falls in the summer months, it often begins with a drizzle and soon develops into a downpour. In the winter months, snow does not last in the Ararat Valley, as the temperatures often vary between freezing and just above. In the middle mountain areas, the snow will keep for long periods of time, and commonly reaches 100 cm (40 inches).
Armenia receives an average of 2700 sun hours of light a year. In the summer months, the Ararat valley is perpendicular to the sun, and each sq. cm of land receives per minute 1.46 calories of heat. Because of the perpendicular alignment of the land with the sun, people who sunbathe can obtain very even suntans (listen up, beach bums).
Armenia holds a large diversity of fauna, including the Wild Armenian Goat, Deer, Wild Ram, Leopard, Caucasian Bear (all endangered), lynx, wildcat, Reed Wildcat, Wild Bore, Porcupine, Squirrel, Jackal, Mole, Prairie Dog, Marten, Royal Stag and Nutria. Other species normal to vegetation zones elsewhere will be found in Armenia. Unique fish found in Armenia are the Ishkhan (red-spotted trout) and Sig. Most popular habitats for specific fauna are listed under each Region.
Popular Fauna by Region
The largest prairie dog population in Armenia is in Shirak, located west of Maralik. Nutria, moles, jackals and wildcats are frequently seen in the region as well.
Notable fauna include sylvan wildcat, reed wildcat, lynx, fox, royal stag, deer, caucasian squirrel, porcupine, bear, wild bore, marten.
On Aragats, mountain leopard (very rare), caucasian wildcat, caucasian ram and mountain goat (very rare), mole, lynx, porcupine, squirrel and marten. In Kotaik, deer, wildcat, mountain leopard (very rare), squirrel, wild bore, lynx, nutria, white panther (extremely rare), fox and bear.
Wild Armenian Goat, Wild Ram, mountain leopard (endangered species), wild bore, fox, wildcat, Ishkhan and Sig.
Endangered species include the wild bore, leopard, royal stag, wild ram and mountain goat (Khosrov Nature Preserve). Others include the lynx, deer, wild bore, wildcat, reed wildcat, prairie dog, mole and nutria.
Primary species include caucasian goat, ram, mountain leopard (endangered species), wild bore, caucasian bear, jackal, lynx, mole, porcupine, fox, wildcat, squirrel, marten.
Kapan City and its immediate surroundings lie on the Iranian Plateau, a semi-arid land inhabited by field deer, jackals and marten. Immediately to the West of Kapan City, between Goris and Meghri the landscape suddenly changes, marking the border of the Caucasian Land mass, with wild mountain goats, lynx, porcupines and sylvan wild cats. There are still a few wild boars in the deepest parts of the forest, and even the rare Caucasian leopard in the most remote mountain areas. This territory is pocked with small sections of the Asia Minor Plateau, with a few jackals, reed wildcats, hawks and eagles crossing between nature zones. Sissian is home to part of the surviving Caucasian bearded goat and wild ram.