[ Autumn, 2005 ] Lake Sevan in Armenia is at 1900m above sea level. This is one of the largest lakes in the high altitude in the world. But during Soviet era, the water was…
Lake Sevan is one of the largest mountain lakes in the world and sits at an altitude of around 1,900 metres above sea level.
It is located in the province of Gegharkunik in the eastern part of Armenia and is about two hours by car from the Armenian capital of Yerevan in a north-easterly direction.
The name of the lake was allegedly derived from an event which took place during the time of the Arab invasion.
In order to escape from the invaders, the local population took refuge in the island monastery of Sevanavank which they only managed to reach because the lake had frozen over.
When the Arab armies took to the ice in order to capture the fugitives, the ice gave way beneath them due to their weight and thus, they drowned in the freezing waters of the lake.
The bodies that floated to the surface gave the impression that the lake had changed colour and become almost black, the word for which, in the Armenian language, is “Sev,” and from this, the lake derived its name of Sevan, otherwise known as the black lake..
The lake is fed by 28 different sources emanating from the mountain peaks and has just one river, the Hrazdan, which is created by the water that flows from the lake.
Only 10% of the water that pours into the lake from these 28 sources flows into the Hrazdan river because around 90% of the water is lost through evaporation.
During the period of Russian domination at the beginning of the 20th century, much thought and consideration went into the best way to exploit the lake in order to produce hydro-electric power, how best to irrigate the land and by reducing the surface area covered by the lake, to increase the amount of land that was suitable for cultivation.
Unfortunately, the work that was carried out in order to complete these projects took decades and caused enormous damage to the natural environment and its ecosystem, for the damage to which, a remedy is still being sought today.
Along the riverbanks, thanks to the reduction in water levels, beaches have appeared and these have become popular resorts and tourist attractions, given that Armenia is landlocked, these have now taken the place of what would be the seaside in another country.
There are four main towns that overlook the banks of Lake Sevan: Gavar, Verdenis, Martuni and Sevan.
Some of the monasteries that were built in Medieval times are situated on the shores of the lake, the most famous of which are: Noraduz towards the south and the cemetery of Khachkar, Hayrivank to the west and on that which, prior to the intervention of man, was an island and today forms a peninsula, the monastery of Sevanavank,
From the latter, you can enjoy spectacular views. Unquestionably, getting there involves a steep climb, around four hundred and forty steps, to be precise, but, once you arrive at the top, the effort is forgotten as you stand and admire the breath-taking panorama.
If you wish, on Sunday mornings, you can attend Mass which is said is accordance with the local rites accompanied by hymns and choirs and enthusiastic participation by the congregation.
It is also possible to stroll through the gardens and pathways of the nearby seminary in complete peace and tranquillity.
But, if you want something livelier, you can join the locals for some fun at the bars and restaurants along the shore line where you can find every type of food and entertainment you could wish for.