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Geghama Mountains and Azhdahak

This article offers concise details about the Geghama mountain range, covering its geography, flora, fauna, and historical monuments. It serves as a valuable tourist guide for those eager to take a hiking trip to Geghama mountains.

The Geghama Mountains, also known as the Geghama Ridge, are a range of mountains located in Armenia. This mountain ridge stretches between Lake Sevan and the Ararat Plain, covering a length of 70 km and a width of 48 km. The range is of volcanic origin and the volcanic activity in the area peaked around 200 ka (in the context of geology, “ka” stands for “kilo-annum”, which is a unit of time equal to one thousand years. So, when it is said that the volcanic activity peaked around 200 ka, it means that the peak of the volcanic activity occurred approximately 200,000 years ago).

The volcanoes Spitaksar (3560 m) and Geghasar (3446 m), which erupted 120ka and 80-40ka ago respectively, are sources of obsidian in Armenia.




Satellite image of Geghama mountain ranage


The highest peak of the Geghama mountains is Azhdahak, standing tall at 3597m, while the average elevation of the range is approximately 2500m. A lake has formed in the crater of the Azhdahak volcano, which is fed by meltwater throughout the year. Another crater lake is located in the crater of the Tar volcano, adjacent to Azhdahak. The second highest mountain is Spitakasar, with a height of 3560 meters above sea level.

 



 The frozen crater lake of Mount Azhdahak


The name of the Geghama Ridge is associated with the name of Gegham - the great-grandson of the legendary ancestor of the Armenians, Hayk.


Ecology

The bird fauna of the Geghama mountains includes about 250 species, accounting for 70% of all Armenia’s avifauna.

The area is home to a variety of bird species including:

Golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos),

Egyptian vulture (Neophron percnopterus),

Cinereous vulture (Aegypius monachus),

Imperial eagle (Aquila heliaca),

Griffon vulture (Gyps fulvus),

Bearded vulture (Gypaetus barbatus).

Animals include hares, rabbits, wolves, foxes, rarely bears, and reptiles include lizards and snakes.

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The following plants are typically found in the Gegham Mountains area and surroundings of Azhdahak: Peacock-eye pink (Dianthus pavonius)

Whiteout (Iberis sempervirens)

Basket of gold (Aurinia saxatilis)

Jurinea moschus

Arabis caucasica

Catsfoot diclinous (Antennaria dioica)

Gentiana pontica

Red everlasting (Helichrysum pallasii)

Lady’s-mantle (Alchemilla grossheimii)

Alpine cinquefoil (Potentilla crantzi)

 Sibbaldia (Sibbaldia parviflora)

Merendera Radde (Colchicum raddeanum)

Oxytrope Lazica (Oxytropis lazica)

Vavilovia Oshe (Lathyrus formosus).



Peacock-eye pink (Dianthus pavonius)



Historical Monuments

Petroglyphs

The Geghama mountains are rich in historical monuments, including petroglyphs and dragonstones, indicating that there were settlements in the area for thousands of years.

There are a few geographical areas in Armenia where petroglyphs are concentrated; Geghama Ridge is among them!




A quick glance at this petroglyph reveals images of deers and bulls



A great number of petroglyphs (rock carvings) have been found in the area. These are source of historical information and in some sense can be treated as written monuments. They show men in scenes of hunting and working, as well as both domesticated and wild animals. Additionally, they depict astronomical bodies such as the Sun, the Moon, constellations, and the stellar sky. Phenomena such as lightning is also represented.




Sketches of petroglyphs of Geghama mountains. (The petroglyphs of Geghama mountains/H.A. Martirosyan, 1981). Image colors are inverted


Rock carvings can be used as rich sources of paleogeological information. Dominant among rock-carved animals is the bezoar goat, widespread in the high Alpine zones of prehistoric Armenia. Armenia offered favorable conditions for early goat and sheep domestication and improvement through crossbreeding with wild stock. Of high artistic quality among all the images in the Geghama mountain range are the lutiform carvings of deer, which impress with their realistic form. The study of rock carvings has brought to light another member of the extinct fauna - the elk.



Dragon stone or Vishapakar

Vishapakar, also known as dragons, dragon-stones, megalithic monuments, or menhirs, are monoliths abundant in the Armenian Highland. Situated at high altitudes, they are often found near natural and artificial ponds, as well as other water sources in proximity to high-altitude lakes, forming an intricate connection to the worship of water.




A sketch of the dragonstone located near Dragon lake from Boris Piotrovsky’s book "Vishaps, Stone Monuments in Armenian Monuments."


There are approximately 150 known vishaps discovered in the Armenian Highland, and 90 of them are located in Armenia. Most of the Vishaps found were lying horizontally, having fallen from their original standing positions.

The concept of Vishaps was first introduced by the Armenian writer Atrpet in 1880, and his work was later published in 1926.

In 1909, scientists began studying dragonstones (or vishaps) found in the Gegham mountains. That same year, during excavations at Armenia’s Pagan Temple of Garni by Nicholas Marr and Yakov Smirnov, local residents shared stories about Vishaps dwelling in the mountains. This prompted a scientific expedition to the Gegham mountains to confirm the existence of Vishaps and assess their scientific significance.




Nicholas Marr standing near a dragon-stone in Geghama mountains, 1909


The findings from the Gegham mountains were published in 1931. They are considered to be Armenia’s oldest monuments, and to this day, they continue to be examined by scientists.

The southeastern slopes of the Gegham mountains contain the Khosrov Forest, planted in the 4th century by Khosrov I and converted into a state park in 1958.




During the summer season Geghama ridge is being inhabited by nomadic herders.


This mountainous region attracts tourists from around the world with its charming landscapes and historical monuments.

It is a must-visit destination for those who love to lead an active lifestyle and feel the calming presence of nature.

 

Lakes in Geghama Mountains

Lake Akna

 

The largest lake in the Geghama mountain range is Lake Akna. It is situated at an elevation of 3030 meters above sea level, with a surface area of 0.5 square kilometers. The maximum depth is 15 meters, and the water capacity is 3.91 million cubic meters. It is primarily fed by snowmelt and springs.



Sunset as seen from the shore of lake Akna 


In 1959, a reservoir was created by damming the lake. It underwent reconstruction in 1976, and its length is now 360 meters.

 

Dragon Lake

Dragon Lake is located 9 km east of Geghard village, at an altitude of 2620 meters above sea level, covering an area of 30 hectares.


Dragon lake in Geghama mountains

 

Lake Nazeli

The lake is situated approximately 1.5 km east of Mount Nazeli at an altitude of 3100 meters. In old maps, it is referred to as Badi (Duck) Lake.



The last photo before descending towards lake Nazeli


For a hiking tour to mount Azhdahak check out this link please! Thanks

Галерея​

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