Vira Natura

Armenia - Irises and ancient art

14 - 22 May 2023
From €2,600.00 per person

Europe meets Asia in a remarkable corner of the globe and where both flowers and civilisations have intermingled for thousands of years.  Here are wonderful plants, cultural sights and diverse landscapes. Among the steppe are extraordinary and flamboyant Oncocyclus irises, serpentine roads lead onto mountain passes with many delightful bulbs and tracts of mixed woodland harbour a rich variety of orchids. The landscape changes often, culminating in the remarkable canyons and emerald slopes. In combining these areas with there is not only a wide-ranging botanical pallet but a fascinating and broad cultural aspect too, with some fabulous old monasteries as well as some fine cuisine.

An 9-day tour with Tamar Galstyan  

Day 1   Arrival in Yerevan (14 May)

Depending on arrival times we will have dinner and overnight in the city.

Day 2   Garni, Geghard and Azat River gorge

On the first morning we will drive to Azat water reservoir located not far from the capital. Here we will see unique flora of sand formations, statuesque Eremostachys moluccelloides, alongside lilac Geranium tuberosum, Euphorbia marschalliana, and the pale blue stars of Caccinia macranthera. The picturesque mountain pass will take us to another beautiful site where depending on weather there is a chance to see late flowers of Iris iberica subsp. elegantissima growing with Gladiolus atroviolaceus, golden-flowered Astragalus caraganae, Matthiola odoratissima and Allium materculae. In the afternoon we will have a pleasant walk along the river to see fascinating natural monument Symphony of Stones, unique basalt formations of the canyon. Overnight Yeghednadzor.

Day 3   Tatev Monastery

The famous medieval university of Armenia, the Tatev Monastery, an impressive complex of churches. It is accessed by a spectacular aerial tramway, the ''Wings of Tatev'', actually the longest reversible aerial tramway in the world and one which passes above spectacular forest-clad deep gorges, waterfalls and another tantalising historical monuments. Nearby gorges have stands of pale-yellow Iris imbricata. On the way to Kapan we also hope to see Orchis punctulata, O. mascula, O. purpurea subsp. caucasica, O. simia, Steveniella satyrioides and many other wonderful plants. Overnight Kapan.

Day 4   Kajaran Pass to Meghri

In the morning we will drive to the highest pass on the way – the Kajaran pass (2535 meters). Here we will walk to see the alpine plants of the area; Scilla siberica subsp. caucasica, Solenanthus stamineus, Ornithogalum sigmoideum, Colchicum szovitsii. We will visit the beautiful church in Meghri city, which is located on Armenian-Iranian border. During our trip around Meghri we have a chance to see the lovely rock-dweeling thistle; Jurinea spectabilis, genuine wild trees of Punica granatum, Pistaccia atlantica, Rhus coriaria, as well as Bellevalia fominii, late tulips and Iris imbricata. In the evening we will visit another medieval monastery Vahanavank located in a natural forest. Overnight Kapan.

Day 5   To Yeghegnadzor 

Today we will continue our journey back to the north of the country via picturesque mountain passes full of Iris caucasica, Scilla armena, Puschkinia scillioides and Colchicum bifolium. We will enjoy breath-taking views of Vorotan gorge where hopefully upper reaches have the lovely finely-lined Iris lineolata, stands of I. imbricata, as well as big-leaved Allium akaka and orchids such as various forms of Orchis caucasica, O. punctulata and Ophrys caucasica. Overnight in Yeghegnadzor.

Day 6   Selim Pass & Sevan Lake 

Medieval Armenia by its geographical location was situated on the crossroads of the Great Silk Road. There were numerous caravansaries one of which we will visit on our way to today. Just above here we may find the last flowers on Iris pseudocaucasica. Snow patches have Crocus adamii in various shades, which the wet flushes throng with pink Primula auriculata and pale yellow P. elatior subsp. pallasii, white-purple flowers of Anemone narcissiflora subsp. fasciculata, golden yellow Arnebia pulchra and little, silken-haired Pulsatilla armena. Overnight in the pleasant green city of Dilijan.

Day 7   Pushkin & Shirak Passes 

A variety of subalpine plants are on offer today as we traverse two passes on route to the north of the country. The tessellated golden bells of Fritillaria collina grow near whitish-yellow Primula ruprechtii and with luck (if the sun is out) the deep blue of Gentiana verna, with golden Trollius ranunculinus. Endemic Viola somchentica grows in crevices lower down. A side valley has a rich array of plants with Fritillaria hadjastanica and F. kurdica with plenty of hybrids in between and the sweet-scented onion Allium struzlianum. Shortly before Gyumri we hope to see the silvery spires of Asphodeline taurica and Iris paradoxa too. Overnight Gyumri.

Day 8  Gyumri, Aragats and to Yerevan

 Our first stop will be at the monument of the Armenian Alphabet, dedicated to the 1600th anniversary of the creation of the Armenian alphabet. On the foothills of the mountain, in the woodland we will look for orchids (Orchis mascula, O. coriophora). Then we will drive up to 3200 m above sea level to enjoy the view of terrific alpine carpets. The slopes will delight us with white, purple and blue carpets of flowers growing near the snow and alpine streams. Colchicums, Puschkinia scilloides, Scilla armena, Ornithogalum hajastanum, Bellevalia paradoxa, Bellevalia pycnantha, Pulsatilla armena will delight us on the rocky slopes of the mountain. In the wet meadows we will see dark purple Dactylorhiza umbrosa, growing with Bistorta carnea. We will also visit the 10th century Amberd Fortress and hopefully find Nectaroscordum tripedale in flower by the walls of the fortress.


Day 11   Flights home

TOUR DATES 

14 - 22 May 2023

 

TOUR COST

2600 euros (twin share)

Deposit 400 euros

Single supplement 300 euros

Included:

  • Accommodation
  • All food
  • Ground transport
Not included:
  •  International Flights
  • Visas (if needed)
  • Travel/Medical Insurance
  • Alcoholic and soft drinks
  • Personal expenses

GROUP SIZE

*Minimum number of participants 3, maximum 12.  



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