Features: Views — Wildflowers — Wildlife
Mount Ara is located around 40km from the capital, Yerevan, towards the middle of the Aragatsotn and Kotayk provinces’ shared border, and can be accessed from both sides (from Saghmosavan and Yernjatap in Aragatsotn, or Aragyugh and Saralanj in Kotayk). In order to reach Mt. Ara, the best option is to take a taxi from Yerevan. This will cost between 4,000-5,000 AMD. It is recommended to take a taxi with a working meter (be sure the driver uses it), or agree on a price beforehand.
There are also buses to the neighboring villages that leave from the Northern Bus Station (check with the drivers/passengers to find out where they are going and if they can drop you off along the way), and usually cost around 1,000 AMD one-way.
The elevation of the mountain is 2,606m. The weather in the area is generally pleasant in the spring and summer, with long, warm, windless days making it an ideal rushing and rock climbing destination, as well as a favorite base for local paragliders; in the winter, a considerable snowfall makes it an ideal destination for ski-touring and winter mountaineering. A variety of sub-alpine and alpine flora, lush grassy meadows, steep rocky ravines and spectacular panoramic views also make it an ideal destination for nature enthusiasts and photographers.
A number of routes exist up to the peak, following its crescent-like ridge, as well as easier trail leading to the chapel at the heart of the crater with tall cliffs looming on either side. This route covers the majority of beautiful scenery this mountain has to offer, but feel free to wander around and discover some of the hidden beauties of its cliffs.
The Monastery of Tsaghkevank or Virgin Varvara is carved straight into the rock at the centre of the crater. Residents of the surrounding areas celebrate both Christian and Pagan holidays here, and visitors will often visit the monastery for the healing spring within it, whose water source has been found to contain a significant quantity of zinc which is said to be beneficial to eyesight and help cure joint diseases and muscle spasms.
Flora & Fauna
Flora: With over 650 species of plants growing on its slopes, Mt. Ara boasts an extensive biodiversity. Once the snow melts in spring, a stunning array of flowers, grasses, bushes and trees spring to life with fragrances that are tangible from miles away. Over the slopes in wetter months, runners may find blue and yellow bellflowers, snowdrops, violets and dark and light nuphars, while during the drier season, helichrysum species can be seen.
Fauna: Although rare, visitors should mind potential poisonous snakes (including the black Armenian mountain viper and the green adder), wolves and brown bears–although the latter two tend to stay clear of humans, preferring instead to frighten campers with their howls at night. The forested slopes of Ara provide an ideal playground for the bears to raise their cubs, and the wolves make their dens in the ravines and shallow caves.