Destination Spotlight: Armenia

Located in the mountainous Caucasus region bordering Turkey, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Iran, Armenia has everything you may want in an exotic trip: history, culture, food, and birds. And this September, you can join Mass Audubon naturalist Amber Carr on a 15-day adventure. Here, a snapshot of what you could experience:

Rich History

Armenia has an ancient and complex history. Among the earliest Christian civilizations, it’s rich with historic and religious sites including Khor Virap Monastery (a pilgrimage site near Mount Ararat) and a dormant volcano just across the border in Turkey.

Among the sites you will see is Selim Caravanserai. Built in 1332 by Prince Chesar Orbelian to accommodate travelers between China and Europe, it’s one of the few artifacts left from the Silk Road.

Birds!

Bearded Vulture © Francesco Veronesi

Armenia’s country list includes 349 species of birds. Armenia lies on the main migration route between the Northern and Southern hemisphere, with species flying from as far away as South Africa.

So many of the great birding spots are near historic sites that date as far back as the 8th century BC: you’re likely see raptors near Geghard Monastery (a UNESCO world heritage site) and various species of larks near the Selim Caravanserai. Highlights include: Pied Avocet, Squacco Heron, Red-crested Pochard, Ferruginous Duck, Bearded Reedling, Long-legged Buzzard, Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, and Bearded Vulture (aka Lammergeier).

A Varied and Stunning Landscape

© Clay Gilliland

Visit a semi-desert gorge occupied by a colony of Eurasian Griffons; a 500 year old juniper woodland that is home to birds such as Sombre Tit and Fire-fronted Serin; a spectacular canyon of the Azat River where cliffs are formed by basalt columns and called the “Symphony of Stones;” and drive to the highest elevations to see Alpine Accentor and Cinereous Vulture.

Food & Drink

Every day you will taste the delicious fruits grown in Armenia, including grapes, figs, pomegranates, apricots, and apples, as well as vegetables, nuts, and locally produced honey.

A variety of meat dishes as well as breads such as lavash (a thin flatbread) will fill your dinner table. Plus see how Armenian Brandy (the favorite drink of Winston Churchill) is made. You will also learn how Armenian wine is made in Areni, where the tradition dates back 6,100 years.

Adventure!

On her last visit to Armenia, Mass Audubon Council Member and frequent traveler Roxanne Etmekjian recalls one excursion that was so awe-inspiring that it was added to our tour’s itinerary. Waking up pre-dawn, you will head up the alpine mountain of Gndasar in a 4X4 to look for the elusive Caspian Snowcock in the early morning light.

View the full itinerary or contact Mass Audubon’s Travel Team to learn more.

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About Hillary T.

Where: Mass Audubon Headquarters, Lincoln Who: Massachusetts transplant by way of Florida and New York. Raising two young girls, who she hopes will be budding naturalists Favorite part of the job: Learning something new every day from some of the smartest and most enthusiastic groups of people

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