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Digital Subscriptions > Lonely Planet Traveller (UK) > October 2016 > After the flood

After the flood

Journey among snowy mountains and ancient monasteries in the little-visited country of Armenia, to hear stories of Noah’s Ark and those troubled souls who have searched for it in vain
The monastery of Khor Virap with Ararat in the distance. The closed Turkish-Armenian border runs a few hundred metres beyond the monastery

AFTER 150 DAYS AFLOAT ON the water, Noah, his family and all the animals heard a loud crunch as the Ark hit dry land. They had arrived on a little island – which, as the waters receded, turned out not to be an island at all, but the tip of an immense mountain. The mountain was called Ararat, and it towered high over a rocky landscape.

After some months the world was dry again, and Noah’s family and animals descended (many seizing the opportunity to trot off to warmer and/or more exotic parts). But legend tells that Noah’s great-grandson, Hayk, stayed put in this stony land, and founded Armenia. It would become the first Christian nation on Earth.

The monastery of Noravank dates from the 12th century, and is said to have once housed a piece of the True Cross

After 4,500 years, the biblical deluge has turned to a light drizzle as my plane lands in Yerevan, the Armenian capital, but the importance of Ararat has not been forgotten.

At the border control, a guard pauses from playing solitaire on his phone to ink my passport with an Ararat-shaped stamp. Travelling into Yerevan among Soviet-era tower blocks, the taxi passes the stadium of FC Ararat (the Man United of Armenia), and the Ararat Cognac factory. Among the wide boulevards of the city centre are the Ararat Restaurant and the Ararat Hotel – where, according to TripAdvisor, some rooms smell of cigarettes (possibly Ararat brand cigarettes). In the cafés around the Opera House, you can use Ararat-adorned banknotes from the ATM outside AraratBank to buy Ararat Beer and Ararat Wine, excessive consumption of which may mean you’re admitted to Ararat Medical Centre. And close by is the clock tower of Government House, which bears the national crest: Ararat etched in stone.

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About Lonely Planet Traveller (UK)

Book for your ferry for an island-hopping trip around the Cyclades, hop on the legendary Sunset Limited train for a cross-state American adventure from New Orleans to LA, join us for some epic bike rides, learn about the final resting place of Noah’s Ark in Armenia, and book in for a cosy autumn break in our pick of the season’s best hotels.