The capital city Yerevan is home to over a third of Armenia’s population. The city’s architecture is mostly utilitarian and Soviet. Specifically Armenian features are the numerous summer cafes and the pervasive pink of the locally quarried stone. The heart of the city is Republic Square, which despite its name has a circular layout. Notable sights include the16th-century Turkish fort, the 18th-century mosque, the cylindrical Soviet Youth Palace, the memorial to the victims of the 1915 Armenian Genocide, and the Matenadaran—a depositary of nearly 15,000 very rare ancient Armenian and foreign manuscripts. Public works repairs are limited, so watch out for the potholes.
A view of Mount Ararat in western Turkey through the fog. The highest of its two peaks, Greater Ararat, is the tallest mountain in Turkey at 5,166 m (16,949 ft). Although located some 32 km (20 mi) from the Armenian border, the dormant volcano dominates the skyline of Yerevan, Armenia's capital. This photo was snapped after take off from the Yerevan airport. (CIA Factbook)
Across the border in Turkey but clearly visible against the horizon—at least on a day when not obscured by the haze—one can see snow-topped Mount Ararat, the spiritual symbol of the Armenian people and the place where Noah’s ark is believed to have come aground.
Not far from Yerevan stands Echmiadzin, the ancient capital and still the seat of the Armenian Orthodox Church. Throughout the country you can see old churches with their characteristic conical roofs.
Climate and seismic activity
Armenia is very mountainous with a dry continental climate. It has the largest lake in the Caucasus, Lake Sevan, which is 6,000 feet above sea level.
The country has suffered greatly from intense earthquakes. The area around the city of Spitak in northern Armenia still shows the signs of damage from the quake of 1988. An even greater disaster would result if an earthquake were to strike the nuclear power station at Medzamor, which is built on a seismic fault line.
The economic situation remains very difficult. Many people survive thanks to aid from relatives living and working abroad.
Traditional Armenian cuisine reflects Middle Eastern influence. Populardishes are churek (flat unleavened bread with sesame seeds), spas (yogurt soup with barley and herbs), kharput kiufa (ground and minced lamb with pine nuts and cracked wheat), kashlama (shoulder of lamb boiled with vegetables), yarpakh dolmasy (grape leaves stuffed with lamb and rice), and khorovadz (meat or vegetable kebab). The country is also famous for its pastries—and for its wines, brandies, and cognacs.