Night sky above Zorats Karer (Carahunge) / Photo: Edgar Barseghyan
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One of the remarkable things about escaping from the city to the mountains is that you get a chance to see the night sky, so close that you feel you can pick a star from the sky. Plus, you can make a wish if you see a shooting star, who would miss an opportunity like that? I have my favorite places for stargazing in Armenia which I thought I’d share with you in this article. Especially, since the Perseid meteor shower that happens every year in August is approaching! So why not to leave Yerevan and head for a stargazing night?
The night sky above Vahagni village / Photo: Edgar Marukyan
The Perseid Meteor Shower is a spectacular natural phenomenon, which occurs every year in the period from the end of July till the end of August, with its peak usually falling on August 11-13. The best time to watch the Perseids is the night of August 12, after midnight and till dawn. And Armenia offers some great locations for stargazing and watching the upcoming meteor shower.
Located about 55 km northwest of Yerevan, on the slopes of Mount Aragats (the highest mountain in Armenia), the medieval fortress of Amberd is an ideal location for stargazing. It is far enough from the city lights and offers breathtaking views of the sky in clear weather. You can start your stargazing night with a tour around the Byurakan Astrophysical Observatory. Founded in 1946, the Byurakan Observatory is one of the most prominent scientific institutions in Armenia.
The night sky above Mt. Aragats / Photo: Edgar Marukyan
The tour needs to be booked in advance – night tours are available hourly every day from 21:30 (subject to clear skies) and cost AMD 1,000 for Armenian language tours and AMD 1,500 for Russian and English language tours. The tours can be booked through the Observatory’s Facebook page.
After visiting the observatory, you can proceed further up the winding road to enjoy the magnificent night sky above the Amberd Fortress.
Mind that you can only get here by car (either rented or taxi) as there is no public transportation available at night hours.
WISHUP SHORE AT LAKE SEVAN
Located about 110km east of Yerevan, the WishUp shore is a very popular destination during the summer season in Armenia, and it is also a very popular location for meteor shower observation and stargazing in general. In clear weather, you get an excellent open view of the sky over the lake! And imagine swimming in Lake Sevan with billions of stars above you!
The Milky Way as seen from Lake Sevan / Photo: Edgar Marukyan
Accommodation (cottage houses and tents) as well as restaurant and bar facilities are available at WishUp Shore. You can also bring your own tent with you and camp there. To get to WishUp, you can take a train from Yerevan to the village of Shorzha (available on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays only, leaving from the Yerevan Almast train station at 8:30 AM), and then walk about 3km to WishUp, or take a cab. Note that there is no public transportation available on weekdays, so you’ll have to either get a taxi or hitchhike. Alternatively, you can take a minibus to the town of Sevan, and then get a taxi or hitchhike from there.
But it you’re looking for an unforgettable experience, far away from the city and people, then you should definitely come to the mystical site of Zorats Karer (also referred to as Carahunge) in the Syunik Province of Armenia. Located at about 210km south of Yerevan, Zorats Karer is a pre-historic megalithic monument dating back to 7500 BC.
The night sky above Zorats Karer / Photo: Edgar Barseghyan
The site is a flat plateau located at about 1770 meters above the sea level with hundreds of huge weirdly shaped basalt rocks scattered all over the place. There are several controversial opinions regarding the origin and purpose of this mystical site. According to one of the versions, this used to be a pre-historic observatory. Historians and archaeologists are yet to come to a conclusion about this site. Nevertheless, Zorats Karer is a perfect location for stargazing in Armenia where you can enjoy some incredible night sky views and observe the Perseid meteor shower.
There is no public transportation to get to Zorats Karer at night, but a visit here can be combined with a day or weekend trip exploring Syunik Region. The closest place that can be reached by public transportation is the town of Sisian (the mini-buses leave from the bus station on Sevan Street, just behind the Yerevan Train Station). You can put up a tent here to camp, but mind that the weather can get pretty cold and windy here even in August, so make sure to have warm clothes.