Lake Sevan is the largest lake of the Republic of Armenia and one of the three major lakes of historical Greater Armenia. Beloved by both locals and tourists for a bunch of reasons which will be presented below, Sevan is a must-visit destination for most of the tours across Armenia.
Lake Sevan is the second largest freshwater high-altitude lake in the world after Titicaca in the Andes and the largest lake in the South Caucasian Region.
There are several popular versions of origins of the word “Sevan”. According to one of them, the lake name comes from the Armenian words ”sev” (black) and ”vank” (monastery), as there is a monastery, located on the Sevan Island.
Due to its significant size, since antiquity up to the Middle Ages Armenians called Sevan the Sea of Gegham.
Lake Sevan: Quick Facts about Sevan
Lake Sevan Location
The lake is located in the Gegharkunik Marz of Armenia at the altitude of 1900 m (or 6200 ft) above sea level. It is 60 kilometers far from the capital city, Yerevan. There are many settlements, big or small villages and cities, surrounding the lake.
Lake Sevan Surface Area and Depth
The surface area of Lake Sevan is 1260 sq. km (or 486 sq. mi). The average depth of the lake is nearly 26 m (or 85 ft) and the maximum depth is 83 m (or 272 ft).
Lake Sevan Specific Climate Conditions
The climate of the Lake Sevan area is usually cool, mostly characterized by short mild summers and long, cold and snowy winters.
The average annual temperature in the basin of Lake Sevan is -4 to -8°C in January and +10 to +22°C in July. In general, the weather is windy here.
The best months to visit Sevan are July and August, when the weather is warm enough to get a swim in the lake.
Settlements around the Beach
The lake is surrounded by several settlements, such as the city of Gavar (provincial capital), Sevan city, Martuni and Vardenis cities and several small villages, such as Lchashen and Tsovagyugh.
How to Get to Lake Sevan?
The lake is located 60 km from Yerevan and it usually takes an hour to get there by car. Taking a mini bus will cost you 600-800 AMD (around 2 USD).
A taxi drive to Sevan will make around 5000-6000 AMD (10-13 USD). Taking a taxi is expensive, yet very comfortable. Make sure you make an appointment with the taxi driver to get you back to Yerevan beforehand!
You may also take a train from Almast platform in Yerevan to the largest settlements around the lake: the price of a train ticket ranges from 600 to 1000 AMD (around 2 USD). Note that the trains may not travel every day. You can call 1-84 for more information.
Lake Sevan as a Tourist Destination
People usually organize one-day trips to the lake, leaving Yerevan in the morning and returning in the evening. Sevan is good for swimming, tanning and having barbeque or simply sightseeing.
Lake Sevan Popular Beaches
Numerous beaches are located along the entire shore of Lake Sevan. The most popular one is a 2.5-km stretch on the northern shore, extending north-west from the peninsula. Here you can go for jet skiing, windsurfing or sailing. There are campgrounds and picnic areas where you can enjoy your meal.
Another, less popular beach stretches along the eastern shore, from Tsovagyugh to Shorzha, with small cabins at Shorzha.
There are free public beaches where people can rest, without paying any fees. Private beaches may have an entrance fee and usually have fees for additional services.
Beaches are provided with parking lots, toilets, first aid posts and rescue swimmers. Remember, it is undesirable to swim too far from the shore, as the water level may fall drastically which can be risky!
Cafes and Restaurants nearby the Beach
You will never get hungry in Sevan. There are restaurants all around the shores. The most popular dish, served here, is Armenian beloved barbeque.
It is highly recommended to taste fish barbeque, as fresh fish, caught in Lake Sevan and prepared on fire, is extremely delicious.
Hotels and Resorts in Lake Sevan Area
If you’ve decided to spend more than a day near the lake, there is a wide variety of hotels, rest houses and cottages for different prices.
If you plan to spend a large amount of money, you can rent a room in one of the luxury hotels, for example, Tufenkian Avan Marak Hotel, Harsnaqar Hotel, Best Western Bohemian Resort, Blue Sevan Resort and a few more.
If you have a smaller budget, then you can take a cottage, consisting of several bedrooms. This is especially convenient if you travel in a large group. Most Armenian families choose this very option.
Tourist Attractions around Lake Sevan
There are several famous historical sites around Lake Sevan that are must-see places, for sure.
Thing to See Near Lake Sevan #1: Sevanavank Monastery
The most famous cultural monument near Lake Sevan is the Sevanavank monastery, located on the Sevan Peninsula. It used to be an island, until the water level of the lake dropped in the mid-20th century which was due to the exploitation for irrigation and hydroelectric power generation during the Soviet period.
Sevanavank is said to be founded by the first official head of the Armenian Apostolic Church, Saint Gregory the Illuminator, in 305. The two main churches of the monastery were built in 874 by Princess Mariam, the daughter of Ashot I who later became the king of Armenia.
The monastery is located on top of a hill and it is built of crude black. Sevanavank is one of the most visited tourism sights in Armenia. Once you’ve climbed up the stairs, leading to the monastery, you will be able to enjoy the breathtaking view of the dark blue lake, surrounded by high mountains.
Thing to See Near Lake Sevan #2: Hayravank
Another prominent monastery is Hayravank, located at the western shore. It was also built in the 4th century. Further south, in the village of Noratus, there is a field of “khachkars” (cross-stones, Armenian traditional carved memorial steles, bearing crosses).
This is a cemetery, spread over a seven hectare field, containing almost a thousand khachkars, each with unique ornaments. The oldest khachkars in the cemetery date back to the late 10th century.
Other sights nearby Lake Sevan
More khachkars can be found at Nerkin Getashen, on the south coast of Lake Sevan. Heading to south, towards Vardenis, you can also see early Medieval Kotavank Monastery, Vanevan Monastery and Makenyats Monastery.
Why should You Definitely visit Lake Sevan?
Visiting Sevan is so popular among Armenians because for the population of the landlocked country, swimming in the lake is a blessing during extremely hot summer months.
Moreover, the best fish barbeque in Armenia and, according to some people, in the world, is served in Sevan. However, tourists are more interested in catching the fascinating views of Sevan, visiting the ancient monasteries and other historical sites.
Here, near Lake Sevan, you can also buy souvenirs, take splendid photos and enjoy eating Armenian food. What is more important, visiting Lake Sevan, you will get unique emotional experience and bright memories for your entire life!