Sevan

by Ucman Scher
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Lake Sevan

Solo Trip Guide to Sevan Town & Lake Sevan in Armenia

I was a little anxious about my solo trip to Lake Sevan. My initial research revealed little about top things to do in Sevan so I was a bit anxious. I decided to spend the first 2 days around Lake Sevan. I turned out to be an interesting two days indeed. From the moment I arrived in Sevan, to, the time I left, my views about the place took an entire 180 degrees turn.

Read my country guide about Armenia for all information you must know before your solo trip to Lake Sevan.

Morning at the shores of Lake Sevan

Morning at the shores of Lake Sevan

Sevan is a small city near Lake Sevan. It is the biggest lake and water body in this landlocked country. It covers around 5% of the landmass of the country.

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Check my solo trip to Lake Sevan Instagram stories here.

YouTube Video

Check out the video of my solo trip to Lake Sevan below to find out the best things to do in Sevan.

Getting to Sevan

I landed in Yerevan at 6am and took a taxi directly from the airport to Sevan. I was expecting a city with some tourist infrastructure and in my half-asleep state when I arrived in Sevan, I was horrified at how derelict and ruined the place was. The hotel didn’t take cards so I had to go to the city to withdraw money from an ATM and thanked patted myself on the shoulder for booking a hotel near the lake and not in the city. The drive from Yerevan airport to Sevan took an hour with very little traffic as we got out of the city.

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The sunset from Lake Sevan

The sunset from Lake Sevan

The official taxi companies were asking for roughly $40 but I went out of the airport, I was approached by a few men in the parking as unofficial taxi touts. I agreed with one and he agreed on $25 and soon we were on the way.

The City of Sevan

The city of Sevan can be entirely missed. Honestly, I was so horrified after my first visit, I decided not to go back. The Soviet-style apartment blocks were in such derelict condition that I wondered if they’d fall next moment. The whole city was a ghost town. The two days I spent didn’t include anything to do with the city so you can skip it too. Ironically in all the top things to do in Sevan, the city of Sevan isn’t included.

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Somewhere utterly peaceful near Lake Sevan

Somewhere utterly peaceful near Lake Sevan

Where to Stay

The next shock was the hotel which seemed pretty close to the Lake but with almost no address. It was the only building around with an empty big street between the hotel and a distant lake. The hotel was called Armenia VanSevan Hotel. Be careful, most places here don’t take cards including hotels.

The hotel was comfortable but the thing that really stood out was the hospitality. The owner had his kids playing around and the place felt really cosy. He also understood that I was just going to stay 2 days despite booking three. I talked to him using google translate and he arranged for a local taxi so I could go around. I’d highly recommend this place. In the season it would be much better equipped as well because I saw a BBQ there as well.

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Going Around Sevan

While there are marshrutkas that run periodically, it is difficult to use them due to the language barrier. There are no set stops either and they don’t stop at monasteries etc which makes it very tricky. You’d definitely need your own transport. If you don’t have a car of your own, it is easy to get local taxis. I hired a guy with a taxi and make sure to get the old-style Russian cars. They are amazing on horrible roads like going to Lake Parz which has a gravel road. Check out my post about Dilijan and Lake Parz here.

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Khachkars at Noratus cemetery

Khachkars at Noratus cemetery

Despite not speaking a word of English my driver had become a silent good friend. We communicated in sign language and I would take out Google translate for anything complicated. So far, we didn’t need it much. He was good company.

Food in Sevan

Fresh fish is the ultimate food here. I didn’t bother looking internally but there are quite a few restaurants located near the lake which provide excellent freshly grilled fish. Food was also quite cheap and I totally loved Gata. It is a sweet thick bread which is amazing when fresh.

Top Things to do in Sevan

While there aren’t as many options in terms of exploring here, it is still lively. There is a watersports area near the Sevanavank Monastery. You can rent jet skis and there were also some boats to go around the lake but that was pretty much it. The most amazing things to do here are the world-famous monasteries and the most beautiful cemetery in the world.

Lake Sevan

Lake Sevan is really beautiful. The water is nice and calm and there are a lot of areas which are completely wild and beautiful. I sat around the shore for quite some time and really loved the waves splashing on the shore. There are also some beaches for the summer season. Like I said before there is an area for watersports where you could hire jet skis near Sevvanavank Monastery complex. You can also hire fishing equipment.

Sevanavank Monastery

The car arrived on time and I was fresh after a relaxing shower and nap. It was around 2pm and the weather was amazing. We started the journey on the Russian Lada. I had seen the might of these cars in Georgia and totally loved a reunion. It took us 10 minutes and I was standing in front of my first Armenian monastery. It was actually the perfect time because most day trip tourist buses were leaving. The place looked nice. There were some shops and makeshift stalls selling souvenirs. I grabbed fresh and warm gata and headed up to the monastery.

For top things to do in Sevan, Sevanavank takes the trophy for sure. The word ‘complex’ is a bit of an overstatement, though. It is actually a small monastery with a conical roof but the best part is the crude black stone with which it is built. The inside was relatively simple and you could see it in detail in less than 5 minutes.

I came out and walked a bit further to see the view. The entire lake was at my feet. I sat around looking at the beautiful blue waters of the lake. The gata made the view even better and I truly felt like I was in a new, unique place and life was beautiful in a new way.

Hayravank Monastery

I spent an hour in Sevanavank and eventually got up to get to Hayravank Monastery, my next stop for the day. The drive took some 30 minutes and we arrived at the second beautiful monastery perched on top of a small hill. The entrance was empty and I got my first glimpse of the beautiful rust coloured Kachkars on the stairs of the monastery. Khachkars are the Armenian cross-stones which are decorated beautifully.

Hayravank is even smaller than Sevanavank and made of similar crude black stone. The interior was the same. Dark and small and for someone like me who gets claustrophobic quickly, it is never easy to understand how anyone could live in there.

I went to the back of the monastery and it was a different view of Lake Sevan. The light had also changed by now and with the sun at my back, the shadows were long and the shore darker. A beautiful combination of grey and gold.

Lake Sevan from Hayravank

Lake Sevan from Hayravank

Noratus Kachkar Cemetery

The next and last stop was Noratus Kachkar cemetery. I was a bit sceptical about visiting a cemetery but went along anyway. The drive was barely 15 minutes long and we arrived at the village of Noratus. The cemetery is located at the end of the town. It was more like a small village with women herding sheep, children playing around. Life seemed simpler and I was an outsider, another wanderer who came to see the famous cemetery. The place was empty when we arrived. It was too late for the tourist buses to stay.

The cemetery has two small chapels, so small in fact that it is hard for three people to fit in but the whole place is full of Khachkars. All of them turning rust coloured. Some in groups whereas others standing alone. Each stone had a story, a life behind it. The day was finishing and the sun started to set over Noratus. I sat there with a woman passing through the cemetery with her sheep. She came close to sell something to me but somehow stopped, looked at me and perhaps it was the sun in my eyes, she turned around and went on her way. I got back to my senses when it was getting dark and I could see my driver checking his watch. I slowly got up and went back to the car. Noratus is the most beautiful cemetery I have ever been to.

sunset over Noratus

sunset over Noratus

The drive back was calm and short and I was in bed after a quick dinner. It was the day to explore Dilijan and lake Parz next day. You can read about it here.

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