Armenia, a hiking destination? Who would have thought?! Not only is Armenia filled with beautiful landscapes and trails to enjoy through every season, but you will walk away with an experience you cannot find anywhere else. You will discover a wide range of wild plants and species in areas that feel untouched by tourism (or really anyone at all). You will realize it is normal to come across little bits of history no matter what region you are in as Armenia is the first Christian Nation and is filled with monasteries. While discovering small enclaves you will likely meet locals who will happily invite you over for coffee and other treats. And perhaps most important for a world traveler, Armenia is a relatively cheap travel location, allowing you to enjoy as much of the country as possible!
As the locals call it: little Switzerland! Dilijan is filled with lush “bnutyun” (nature) and is known as a prime location for hiking. Sometimes it is difficult to know where to start when a location has multiple hiking trails but amazingly enough Dilijan has a tourist information center! The staff is helpful and offers guidance so you know which trail is best for you. They also offer bikes, tents, and various hiking equipment for rental.
Each trail has unique features, giving you a wide variety to choose from. You can start alongside abandoned railway tracks, go through a vibrant green patch of grass, and end up at a small waterfall. Or you can start at Parz Lake, walk beneath towering trees, through a field alongside local cows, and then end your hike at a church. No matter what path you choose you are bound to find small surprises along the way.
2. Mt. Aragats (Southern Peak)
Although Mt. Ararat is a national symbol, Mt. Aragats is significant in its own way as it has the highest point in Armenia. Mt. Aragats has four peaks, the highest is the Northern Peak at 4,090 meters while the lowest is the Southern Peak at 3,888 meters.
Don’t let the thought of climbing a mountain scare you. The Southern Peak is achievable. You can start by taking a taxi to Kari Lake. From there, it is quite easy to pick a path; you merely just climb upwards. The terrain ranges from grass to rocks, to snow; be prepared. It gets windier the higher you go, so layers of clothing are recommended. The climb up to the Southern Peak can take up to 5 hours, depending on your speed. Give yourself plenty of time (snacks and water as well) so you can enjoy the view as you head to the top.
3. Lake Arpi
A peaceful getaway, Lake Arpi is the perfect spot for a small hike and picnic with friends. It is about an hour and a half drive from Gyumri to the National Park Visitor Center. There, you can find maps of the surrounding area and pictures of the wide range of flora and fauna that can be found. Lake Arpi has a wooded area, tall grass trails, and a black sand beach, giving you options once you arrive. With no trash laying around and no stores in sight it feels as though it has not been touched by society; both calm and quiet, an ideal break from city life.
Just about 20 minutes from Gyumri is a town called Jajur. The road there from Gyumri is a straight shot. You head down M7 and once you hit a bend in the road you should see a few “khachkars” (cross-stone memorial) on the left, there is a little nook in the road you can pull into. The path is visible and easy to follow. You can decide for yourself how far along you want to go as the trail is on an incline and you might need to stop for small breaks.
If you are lucky to have clear skies, you will be able to see Jajur as well as the city of Gyumri far off into the distance. Depending on what season you decide to take on this hike, you will come across beautiful wildflowers (including “oortz” – a herb) as well as mountain succulents.
Goris: the city where rocks tower over you and where caves call your name.
HIKEArmenia has a marked trail titled “Time Travel to Old Goris.” With the download of their mobile application you can easily follow the trail, peak in every cave you come across and take in the breathtaking view. The route starts at a cemetery, where you may also come across local cows grazing and sheep being herded up the mountain. As you make your way upward you will feel the sun on your face and the strong Goris wind through your hair. It is the perfect place to take a breath of fresh air and enjoy the silence away from the city.
Author: Noor Varjabedian