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 of gorgeous dark 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 Diphelypaeas make for an extraordinarily colourful show. The renowned Iris gatesii will require a bit of a hike but it is possible to see transplanted specimens without walking up the mountain though the prospect of seeing Crown Imperials blooming in the wild may draw you upwards. Lovely Iris kirkwoodii blooms on Ahir Mountain and nearby are populations of dark Fritillaria persica, elegant Fritillaria amana and a whole range of lovely plants such as Bellevalia gracilis, Tulipa armena, Scilla melaena, Onosma albo-roseum.
Those on the pre-tour will experience a whole gamut of different oncocyclus irises. There’s Iris acutiloba, close by Baku’s Caspian shore, and the famed mud volcanoes. 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 and Scilla hohenackeri are dark-lined Iris grossheimii 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 to see the last flowers of Paeonia mlokosewitschii.
Flowers – especially Oncocyclus Irises and other spring bulbs.
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 Turkey and Azerbaijan. Services of your leaders. Your e-Visa fee –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.
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 Turkey we’ve a night in the Tehran Boutique Hotel in Doğubeyazit. This excellent little hotel has great views of Ararat from the terrace, a fine restaurant and pleasant rooms. Next are two nights at the excellent modern Rönesans Hotel in Van. This is a four star hotel with lovely rooms and in an excellent position for us to enjoy Van’s tea gardens in the evenings! Heading west from the Van region we’ll have a night at the Batman Termal Hotel situated not in the city of that name but close to Sason and Halkış Dağı in the village of Taşlidere. This overlooks one of the arms of the Batman Lake (a reservoir) formed when a branch of the Tigris River was dammed. The hotel is a rather plush four-star spa resort with all the comforts you’d expect. Our last two nights will be in the elegant Şirehan Hotel in Gaziantep. The Şirehan is a five-star hotel set in a former Silk Road caravan complex (‘han’) and with rooms surrounding a beautiful interior courtyard. Those on the pre-tour will have a midnight arrival in Baku which will see us hastening through the almost Dubai-esque city centre to the very comfortable Central Park Hotel. Baku is 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’ve three nights in the Relax Hotel a very good quality ‘resort’ beautifully set in natural Hyrcanian Forest. All rooms on this tour have en suite facilities.
UK return flights are from London Heathrow, Manchester, Birmingham, Edinburgh or Stansted to Nakhchivan via Istanbul, returning from Gaziantep via Istanbul. Those on the pre-tour will have an outward routing of UK via Istanbul to Baku. 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. 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. This will contain up-to-date health information. Flower, bird and butterfly checklists are available.