ARARAT; AZERBAIJAN AND TURKEY
A TOUR FOR THE ALPINE GARDEN SOCIETY
Greentours/AGS Botanical Tour to Ararat, Azerbaijan and Turkey, Irises, Spring Bulbs
This region is the heartland of the Oncocyclus irises, from the lovely furry-falled Iris paradoxa (three very different forms on this tour!) to the mighty Iris gatesii. Ararat forms the axis on which the tour revolves and we’ll see this great mountain from almost every compass point.
To the east we’ll explore tiny Nakhchivan, a beautiful Azerbaijani enclave that has recently opened its 1km wide border with Turkey. Arid slopes in the Aras River drainage host the huge dark flowers of Iris lycotis (the local form is well-named as ‘magnifica’) as well as populations intermediate between this and Iris paradoxa atrata. Fritillaria armena and the stunning multi-hued Corydalis seisumsiana bloom in the mountain meadows of Batabat alongside unusual forms of Fritillaria crassifolia whilst the valleys below have literally millions of impressive Iris imbricata.
On the very slopes of Ararat we’ll see some magnificent shows of Iris elegantissima whilst Van’s steppes host blue-purple Iris barnumae and some fine populations of Iris sari, including one that has hybridised with Iris paradoxa to produce a wonderful variety of different colours and forms. A million powder-blue Puschkinias bloom all the way up the Karabet Pass and everywhere are meadows covered in a pink haze of Orchids and Primulas. Deep cerise Merendera kurdica, bright mauve-pink Tulipa humilis, yellow, green, maroon or butterscotch Fritillarias and scarlet Phelypaeas make for an extraordinarily colourful show.
The tour starts with Iris acutiloba, close by Baku’s Caspian shore. Southwards we’ll explore the stunning forests and mountain steeps of the Talysh Mountains that straddle the border with Iran. Alongside marvels such as Fritillaria kotschyana are dark-lined Iris grossheimiana and the elegant pale flowers of Iris lineolata. Growing with these is a third onco, the gorgeous Iris medwedewii an iris with blue standards and white and maroon-coloured falls. If we are lucky we’ll get the last flowers of Paeonia mlokosewitschii.
Flowers – especially Oncocyclus Irises and other spring bulbs. Mountain Landscapes, Birds, and a little geomorphology.
No more than three or four miles in any one day, usually much less, and always at a relaxed pace ideally suited to photographers. Much of the flora is close to roads but there are some steep slopes and the ground can be rocky and uneven.
Included in the Price
All flights. Accommodation, transport, meals and tips in Azerbaijan and Turkey. Services of your leaders. Your e-Visa fee – please note that you no longer need to have a visa in your passport to visit Azerbaijan – we will provide you with the necessary documentation to carry with your passport. Please note; items of a personal nature including travel insurance and drinks are not included.
Minimum group size is 4 and the maximum is 15.
A midnight arrival in Baku will see us hastening through the almost Dubai-esque city centre to the very comfortable Central Park Hotel. Bakuis resonating with the wealth created by the oil boom and you’ll see extraordinary modern architecture wherever you look! In the lush green lower slopes of the Talysh Mountains we’ll stay in the Relax Hotel a very good quality ‘resort’ beautifully set in natural Hyrcanian Forest. In Nakhchivan we’ve three nights at the Grand Nakhchivan Hotel, which is indeed a modern comfortable hotel with large rooms, and great views out over this most unusual of cities. Moving to Turkeywe’ve a night in the Sim-er Hotel. The owner, Ahmet Özturk, is a keen naturalist and has planted the gardens with trees which attract migrant birds and Iris iberica grows in the surrounding steppe! The rooms are spacious and comfortable and have unbeatable views of Mount Ararat. Next are two nights at the 4-star Merit Hotel delightfully situated onLake Van’s eastern shore. On the slopes of the extinct Nemrut volcano we’ve a night in the new Nemrut Kardelen Hotel which has the most wonderful views over a vast swathe of the lakes and mountains of the Van area. The rooms are large and well-equipped and there’s a good list of birds to be seen from the breakfast balcony! Our last night will be at the superb Büyük Carvanserai Hotel in Diyarbakır. This hotel is literally chiselled out of a real old caravanserai. All rooms on this tour have en suite facilities.
UK return flights are from London Heathrow/Manchester/Birmingham/Stansted to Baku via Istanbul, returning from from Diyarbakir via Istanbul. Other indirect routes from regional UK Airports* are available.
*These routes may incur a supplement.
Generally warm and sunny. Showers and more prolonged rain are possible and it can be quite cool on the higher passes.
How to Book
Contact us to check there is availability for the number of places you require. Download a booking form (or contact us and we will send one to you) from the Booking Information section. Complete and send to us. You will receive confirmation of your place and then a detailed information pack will be dispatched to you about twelve weeks before departure. Mammal and bird checklists are available.