WESTERN ARMENIA – There are several dozen lakes in the Armenian Highlands. Each of them is special and unique, but the trio that forms a pyramid on the Armenian Highlands stands out: Lake Van, Sevan and Urmia. The lakes located at a certain distance from each other, together with the mountains rising between them, form the “pyramid” of the Armenian Highlands.

At the base we see a pronounced equilateral triangle. We can find this trio on almost all maps of the Armenian Highlands. Well, let’s get acquainted with this geographical phenomenon.

Currently, the largest lake of the Armenian Highlands, Van, is located in the provinces of Turuberan-Vaspurakan of Greater Armenia. Lake Van was called the sea in Western Armenia. In general, our ancestors called the lakes of the Armenian Highlands the sea, or rather the lake. Medieval authors called the lake Tosp or Tosb. It was called the Sea of Bzdunyats or the Sea of Rshtunyats, in honor of the tribes that ruled in this area, Bznuni and Rshtuni.Lake Van was called by the Assyrians “the sea of the land of Nairi” and it is possible that the name “Nairi” in the Assyrian language meant “Urarti”. This is a lake of tectonic origin. It is located at an altitude of 1720 m above sea level. The  area of the lake is 3760 km2, which is 2.5 times larger than the area of Lake Sevan. The depth reaches 145 m . Surrounded by mountains Kordvats, Kotur and Tsakhkants. Lake Van had many islands. The island of Bznunyats Sebeos is called the islands of the Bznunyats Sea. However, the biggest ones remained: Lim, Ktuc, Arter, Akhtamar. Rivers don’t come out of the lake. Due to the fact that the lake is closed, it is gradually growing. The coastal population is engaged in fishing and salt extraction. Navigation on the lake has existed since ancient times. Only herring grows in the lake, which was caught, salted, dried and exported to many countries. In ancient times there was a special fishery here, a large fishery of the royal house of Arshakuni, which was located in Arestavan, and now it is under water.

    Currently, mostly Kurds live in the area of Lake Van. An Urartian fortress with a history of about 3,000 years was found at the bottom of Lake Van. The level of Lake Van, which has a history of about 600,000 years, decreased in a certain historical period, as a result of which people built various buildings here. But later, when the water level rose again, the population retreated, and the traces of civilization left by them remained under water. One of them is the city of Archesh, which remained under water. Since the water in Lake Van is salty, the castle walls are perfectly preserved and have not been damaged at all. The distance between the lake and the city of Van is gradually decreasing. The climate of the lake’s surroundings is mild, which is why different types of fruit trees (apple trees, pears, nuts, etc.) grow. The village of Artamete was famous for its gardens and delicious apples. The most delicious apple was grown in Artamet.

    Like the Geghama Mountains and Lake Sevan, Lake Van and its surroundings are associated with dragons worshipping water. According to legend, there are many dragons in Lake Van, and angels fight with them. When the dragon turns 1000 years old, the angels pull him out of the lake, bring him closer to the sun, and the dragon turns to ashes from the heat.

On those days, the lake fluctuates, and the sky is covered with thick fog.

Lake Van is surrounded on all sides by mountain ranges.

In its southern part rises the Main Commodity, which in this part is known as the Cordova Mountains, one of the most beautiful peaks are the Artos and Jaeger Mountains. In the northern part, the Aratsani basin is separated from the Vanna basin by the Tsakhkants Mountains, whose borders reach Berkri. A branch of the Tsakhkants Mountains stretches to the southwest, where a beautiful Sipan rises. Varag and the Timar Mountains rise to the east and northeast of the lake. 

The easten part of the lake is the widest. It extends to the state border of Iran. Due to the remoteness of the watershed, the river is longer here. The most famous are the Berkri and Hoshab rivers.  In the western part of the lake is the Bznunyats plateau, separating the basin of Lake Van from Bitlis-Chai and Aratsani. Nemrut and Grgur Mountains rise in this part. These surrounding mountains offer a very beautiful view of the lake, which struck many travelers, poets and artists with its special vividness.

Karine Grigoryan

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