Landscapes in Europe
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The Debed river, that cuts through Armenia and ends in Georgia, has carved the Debed Canyon, one of Armenia's most beautiful areas. The main road to Georgia follows the river at the bottom of the canyon, offering amazing view at every turn. The slopes are mostly covered in woods with a few towns and villages here and there. There are two World-Heritage-listed monasteries in the region, Sanahin and Haghpat, along with less famous (but not less interesting) churches and chapels - and the usual bleak reminders from Soviet time, including a copper mine at Alaverdi.
Lake Sevan is Armenia's largest lake and is located at an altitude of 1,900 m - which should make it the second highest commercially navigable lake after Titicaca (3,811 m). It is deep blue and fringed by green fields, abandoned Soviet buildings, local villages and ancient churches - and popular for holidaying Armenians. In pre-Soviet times, the water level was 20 m higher with a surface 50% larger than today, but a Soviet-engineered irrigation project (similar to the one that made the Aral disaster) shrunk the lake and turned Sevan Island into a peninsula. Recent attempts have been made to save the delicate ecosystem by raising the water level to its original level, but it will be interesting to see how far they will get since farmers, resorts and even the president's summerhouse (behind Savanavank) are located right at present water level.
Mt. Aragats (4,090 m)
40 km from Yerevan
Since imposing Mt. Ararat (5,137 m) rises in the horizon behind the Turkish border, Armenia's highest mountain is the beautiful little sister Mt. Aragats (4,090 m). It is a volcano with four peaks and the beautiful green foothills are dotted with tent camps of Yezidi Kurd herders along with their livestock. An old Soviet observatory Byurakan is located at 3,200 m and is the reason why there is a road all the way up to the alpine Lake Kari that forms during spring. The southern peak can be reached by scrambling (not just trekking) while the northern peak (the highest) needs gear to be summited.
Mt. Ararat views
40 km inside Turkey
Yes, we are well aware that Mt. Ararat (5,137 m) is located in Turkey and so is the Armenian people, but nevertheless the Armenians consider it as one of their own. The picturesque cone of Mt. Ararat (and Lesser Ararat) is always something people look for whether it is from their apartment window in Yerevan, from the top of the Cascade (also in Yerevan), as a gorgeous backdrop for the iconic Khor Virap monastery or from the slopes of Mt. Aragats (4,090 m), the highest mountain in Armenia. So if the visibility is good, do as the Armenians and take in the splendid view.
Mud volcanoes and Rock art
Gobostan National Park
A short day trip south of the Azerbaijani capital, Baku, sit two rather different attractions. One of the particularly odd natural phenomenon is the mud volcanoes. With the majority of Azerbaijan's nearly 700 mud volcanoes (over half the number in the world), Gobostan is a great place to see the bubble-bubble action. Although not for bathing, simply wandering around the other-worldly landscape is worth the trip in itself. But, sharing the site is the UNSECO listed Rock Art Cultural Landscape. On the plateau overlooking the mud volcanoes are some 4,000 rock carvings covering 40,000 yeas of rock art. Gobostan is a rare chance to see both natural and man made wonders with having to wander too far.
No trick photography nor photoshop magic, the red lakes of Masazir are an odd site to behold. Although not unique in the world, the colour salt lakes make for a interesting day trip on their own (from Baku) or as part of a larger area exploration. The reason for the colour is due to a microscopic organisms that thrives on the extreme salt nature of the lake. Best seen on sunny days with high humidity in the mid afternoon, the colours can be quite stunning. As an extra souvenir, travellers can even buy some of the processed salt from the village as it's production is a major economic staple for the otherwise uninteresting village of Masazir.
One entrance is right at Klampenborg station
Dyrehaven is a natural forest park a bit north of Copenhagen and a lovely daytrip if you fancy a walk in the woods. It was originally laid out by the Danish king Frederik III in the 17th century as a hunting ground and was later extended by other hunt-loving kings. Dyrehaven means 'deer garden' in Danish and, as the name indicates, it has an abundance of deers (about 2000 in total). The park is kept as a natural forest with some of the biggest trees (oaks) in the country and with an extensive network of trails favoured by runners, mountain bikers, strolling families and dating couples. If you want to enjoy nature in style (and money is no issue), horse carriages are lined up at the main red gates, ready to take you for a ride. The oldest amusement park in the world, Dyrehavsbakken, lies as an extension of the park in the south end. Here, you can enjoy a ride in a wooden roller coaster constructed in 1932, which isn't as dull as it might sound.
Short drive from Tallinn
The northern coast of Estonia is gorgeous - if ignoring the bleak Soviet leftovers. Farmland give way to forest, all fringed by a dramatic coastline. The most famous cliff on the northwest stretch is probably Türisalu Cliff, which previous was semi-known as 'Suicidal Cliff' since those with a death wish drove straight off the edge. Today a low fence around the parking lot prevents this, but you are still welcome to walk right up to the unfenced edge and peer over.
Waterfall of Keila
True, Keila Waterfall might seem small. But in the spring time, with all the melting water, it really shows off. 60-70 meters wide with a drop of modest 6 meters, but in a flat country like Estonia that is impressive.
The trek up to glacier Chalati is the other fine day trek you can do from Mestia (the other is up to the cross at the view point). First, you need to cross the bridge behind the town square and follow the river, such that it will be on your left hand side, to the airport. This leg is the least interesting part of the trek, as it follows the road and can be quite dusty. Keep following the river and you will soon enter the green Mestiachala valley. Here, you will need to cross the raging river on a hanging bridge and follow the trail through the forest. There will be coloured marks on rocks to follow. The last section is over the rocky base right at the foot of the glacier (1815 m) where all the melting water is gushing out. The trek takes about eight hours round trip.