Mount Ararat is situated in the Agri region of eastern Turkey, close to the Armenian and Iranian borders. It is approximately 250 kilometres east of Erzurum, 130 kilometres southeast of Kars, and 160 kilometres north of Van as the crow flies. The primary road between Turkey and Iran runs from Erzurum to Tabriz via Dogubayazit (just south of Ararat). Mt. Ararat’s summit is 5,165 metres (16,945 feet) above sea level. Except for Alaska, it is the highest mountain in the continental United States, and it is the highest mountain in Europe outside of the Caucasus.
Ararat is a dormant volcano, with the most recent eruption occurring on June 2, 1840. The upper third of Mount Ararat is currently snow-covered all of the time, with the last hundred metres of snow at the summit having turned to ice. Fresh running water is accessible for climbers on the peak once the sun has risen long enough to melt the snow, but it is cut off in the late afternoon when cold air overcomes the sun’s heat. The hills are covered in enormous pieces of black basalt rock, some as large as village houses, beneath the snow.
Various parties have visited Mount Ararat over the years in the hopes of discovering Noah’s Ark relics. Both Josephus (about 70 AD) and Marco Polo (around 1300 AD) mention it on the mountain, but their accounts are dependent on the testimonies of others. Its remains are on exhibit for everybody to see without the necessity for an organised exploration, according to Josephus. Many groups have been looking for it there in recent years. The prospect that ancient tales represent historical fact is interesting, and each fresh finding of truth in previously rejected texts strengthens the case for continuing the archaeological pursuit.
Nevertheless, even before accepting this particular high mountain as the correct spot to look for the ark, the issues of determining exactly what the biblical narrative in this case means must be resolved. Even still, it’s possible that Noah and his family dismantled the ark and used the fragments to construct their new dwellings, a fate that has befallen many other notable constructions in the Near East since then.
The biblical account of Noah’s ark is a retelling of an earlier Babylonian narrative documented in the Gilgamesh Epic. Utnapishtim, the favourite of Ea, the god of wisdom, is the hero of the earlier version. It’s likely that the Babylonian myth was inspired by a particularly destructive flood in the Euphrates (Firat) River valley, with the ark stranded on the Zagros mountain ranges. The biblical term “Ararat” might just as well be “Urartu” because the text only has “rrt” and the necessary vowels must be added.
Urartu was the name of a historical country, but it also denoted “a distant land” and “a northern location.” So, while Buyuk Agri Dagi is a beautiful peak that is not difficult to climb for individuals who have done high-altitude exercise before, it seems unlikely that Noah’s Ark will be discovered there. That uncertainty does not detract from the fact that archaeologists have made significant contributions to our understanding of the Old Testament.
Ararat’s roots are in the Araxes (Aras) River valley on the north side. It rises from the valley floor at an altitude of roughly 760 metres above sea level. The Araxes River marks the border between Turkey and Armenia in that area. The mountain’s peak is only 30 kilometres from the boundary. Because of military security concerns, both the Turkish and Soviet governments have been wary about foreigners investigating Ararat for some time.
As a result, getting authorization to climb it for sports fans was tough. The government designated Ararat Mountain and its environs as Turkey’s 35th National Park on November 1, 2004, bringing more visitors and benefiting the local economy. There are currently no ski resorts on Mount Ararat, but you never know… The one on Bubi Mountain is the closest and is open from December to April.