the shore of Lake Sevan

The drive to Lake Sevan, Armenia’s largest and highest lake, goes past, and at times inside, Azerbaijan; the lake itself is somewhat disappointing.

Our next stop is Lake Sevan, with more than 1200 km2 Armenia’s – and the Caucasus’ – largest lake, and with an altitude of 1900 m also one of the largest high altitude lakes in the world. There is a fairly direct route to the town of Sevan, at the western end of the lake, but we need to try the more difficult option. Of course. Because there is also a longer route, that partly tracks the Azerbaijani border, and according to Google Maps even crosses into Azerbaijan several times, before turning back into Armenia. But, the border, that was a problem, wasn’t it? We ask several people, in Alaverdi and also in Noyemberyan, not far from that border stretch, but everybody is adamant: ‘no, no, there is no problem, good road’. OK. I suppose that if there is a problem at all, we will be stopped and send back.

back in the dry landscape of Armenia, and in this case Azerbaijan

a small lake, probably inside Azerbaijan – like we are, I suppose, at this point

the houses have been abandoned, probably because of border sensitivity

or, houses have been destroyed, just to make sure nobody is coming back

There is no problem. It is a good road. Judging from the many Armenian national signs, flags and red-blue-orange painted rocks, we do indeed swing in and out of Azerbaijan, but we would not have otherwise noticed. No military presence to speak of, we do see the occasional army post, but not heavily manned. No trucks, no tanks, but mostly other cars, who do not seem concerned at all.

local fuel station

another derelict factory, far enough away from the border not to blame border sensitivity

The route was advertised by my guidebook as scenic, with wide views into the Azeri plains. Hmm. Many earlier roads we have taken were advertised as such, and most were disappointing. Here, too, mostly dry landscape – we are leaving the relatively green Debed Gorge area again. Don’t get me wrong, it is fabulous scenery, but with little variation, and not very photogenic. A distant lake, small, definitely inside Azerbaijan. The occasional abandoned villages, houses destroyed, presumably to de-populate the border zone. And before we know it, within 40-50 kms, we are solidly back in Armenia again, passing larger towns and ultimately the Dilijan tunnel, another one of those scary, dark two lane affairs. We had wanted to avoid the tunnel, and ascend the Sevan pass, instead, for our first views of the lake, but we realised much too late. Now the views were from the lake side itself, almost immediately after emerging from the tunnel.

We had a plan. We had identified two hotels, at the beach. But we hadn’t booked anything yet, because we reasoned that Sunday afternoon the crowds of Armenians would be returning to Yerevan, and there would be plenty space. There was, at least at the first one, located on the Sevan Peninsula. Which is perhaps the most popular place along the lake, yet, with a mini beach only, nevertheless packed with people, parasols and children, with roaring jet-skis just offshore and noisy beachfront restaurants, one after the other. Was this where we wanted to spend our time? Nah, let’s find the other option. Which was equally busy, on an equally small beach area. And had no rooms left, anymore. Which we didn’t regret so much.

our suite in the Oazis Hotel

and our evening company – the bottle on the right is the culprit

In the end we found a place to sleep in Hotel Oazis, not on the lake. Which offered us a fabulous, if somewhat old fashioned luxury suite with lounge area and bedroom. Not that this was a quieter option: the owner happened to have invited five long-term friends, who, in true Armenian fashion, celebrated being together. And invited us to celebrate with them, with an obscene amount of barbeque food, and an even obscener amount of alcohol. Resulting in a great evening, where, the later it got, the better everybody’s English became – which not necessarily improved the conversation, but by that time nobody cared anymore.

along the lake, dried fish is being sold

looking really attractive

The next day breakfast was, thankfully, only at 10 am. Afterwards we found a spot on the lake, decorated by an old train wagon – how on earth they got it here, beats me. The small beach spot was not just filthy from yesterday, but from many days. Plastic bags, bottles, glass, every kind of rubbish related to beach fun had been left behind. Somebody had even collected his rubbish in a heap, and then left the heap behind, as if somebody else would come and clean it up. We dipped our feet in the water, and said good bye to the Sevan Lake. We’ll find another place, someday, somewhere.

Next: the incredible Noratus cemetery

another view of Lake Sevan

rubbish on the lake shore, and a railway carriage

we even got our feet wet!

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