Sevan, a town on the shore of lake Sevan, is 60 km far fromYerevan, between Tsaghkadzor and Dilijan. The lake is the largest body of water in Armenia and the Caucasus region. It is one of the largest freshwater high-altitude (alpine) lakes in the world. Lake Sevan is situated at an altitude of 1,900 m above sea level. The total surface area of its basin is about 5,000 km2, which makes up 1⁄6 of Armenia's territory. The lake itself is 1,242 km2, and the volume is 32.8 km3. Higher and larger than Sevan there's only one lake in the world – Titikaka, that is located in South America, between Peru and Bolivia. It is fed by 28 rivers and streams, and the only river which is flowing out, is Hrazdan, on the both banks of which Yerevan is located. The scholarly consensus is that the word Sevan originated from the Urartian word suinia, usually translated as "lake". The term is found on an 8th-century BC cuneiform inscription by the Urartian king Rusa I, found in Odzaberd castle, on the southern shore. Since antiquity up to the Middle Ages, Sevan was mostly known as a sea and referred to in Armenian as the Sea of Gegham, after the mountain range which is to the east of the lake. Per folk etymology, "Sevan" is a combination of sev ("black") + vank ("monastery"). The monastery was founded in 874 by Princess Mariam, the daughter of the Armenian king. She married to the local prince, who lived only 40 years. The princess swore to build 40 churches and monasteries all around the lake. Two of them are called "black monastery".
Sevan has significant economic and recreational value. The lake provides some 90% of the fish and 80% of the crayfish catch of Armenia. Sevan trout, which is called ishkhan (prince), is an endemic species of the lake. There are also some other types of fishes, such as common whitefish (sig), goldfish and crayfish. The bird fauna of the lake and its vicinity makes over 200 species, out of which 95 species are breeding. The lake is an important breeding ground for the Armenian gull. There are differences comparing seagulls and Armenian gulls: the latter is a mountanious bird, living on the elevation of more than 1800 m, only near by fresh, and not salty water. During migration the Lake is visited by wide variety of birds including eagles, ducks, swans.
Lake Sevan has the only beaches in Armenia. The ones, which are adjacent to hotels, are usually privatized. Numerous beaches are located along the entire lake shore. Activities include swimming, sunbathing, jet skiing, windsurfing, and sailing. The area also includes numerous campgrounds and picnic areas for daytime use. The public beaches have free parking space, children's and sports playgrounds, toilets, medical aid stations, and rescue services. They are also equipped with beach couches. The most famous cultural monument is the Sevanavank complex (''black monastery''). Another prominent monastery at the western shore is Hayravank (''fathers' monastery''), and further south, a field of 900 khachkars of Noratus village.