(This article is a guest post sent in by Lusine Mkhitaryan)
Exploring a new country is done in a myriad of different ways. And hiking in nature is perhaps one of the best ways! Armenia is vastly alpine, and is renowned for its mountainscape. It’s known for its fresh-water streams, rocky gorges, and incredible summits…..which all make for an excellent time spent hiking!
Armenia has many rivers, many of which go unexplored. Pack a back full of essentials for the day, and take a trip to Azat river. Only 24 miles (roughly 39 kilometers) from Yerevan, the Azat’s source is found in the Geghama mountains. It flows for over 34 miles (about 55 kilometers), which means you can pick and choose what sights to see on its banks based on personal preference.
Hiking in Garni
You can start at Garni, the Hellenistic, pre-Christian pagan Armenian temple built in 77 BC. If it’s your first time in Armenia, this would be the best choice, since the Garni temple is a must see destination! A taxi to Garni will cost about 2,500-2,700 AMD (about $5-6$) and is a mere 17 miles (28 kilometers).
From there, you can embark on a beautiful hike that’s almost 7 miles long (11 kilometers) that also passes by the incredible, natural wonder known as the “Symphony of Stones”. Located right in front of the Garni temple is a larger-than-life, breathtaking basalt formation that will take your breath away. It’s also a perfect place for a photo-op!
The Azat river also passes through the Khosrov National Reserve, a natural sanctuary and national gem.
Speaking of nature reserves, another amazing hike can be found in the very center of the Shikahogh Nature Reserve. This is located in the Syunik region, one of the historic provinces of ancient Armenia.
Starting in the village of Shikahogh, 195 miles south of Yerevan (314 kilometers), the hike eventually ends at the summit of Kari Berd. Kari Berd translates to ‘stone fortress’, and is a preserved – albeit crumbling – castle. You will cross prairies, rocky slopes, and dense woods, but once at the top of the castle, you’ll be able to enjoy a gorgeous view of the Shikahogh area.
Dilijan National Park
Our third hike is located in Dilijan National Park. Located about an hour and a half from Yerevan, or 60 miles (98 kilometers), Dilijan is one of Armenia’s most sought-after destinations.
Begin at Parz Lich, or “clear lake”, which is about 5 miles (9 kilometers) northeast of Dilijan. The lake is surrounded by thick forest terrain. Hike to Goshavank, a 12th century monastery atop a mountain. The hike is fairly easy, about 7 miles (11 kilometers), and the stunning beauty of the woodland areas will fill you with peace.
Tatev Monastery to Devil’s Bridge
Being in Armenia and not to see Tatev? Of course, in this extraordinary country we don’t have the lack of beautiful sightseeing, but Tatev is different. It is the work of nature and human being, the nature made those rocks and stones, the human being made that wonderful monastery. The one and only Tatev Monastery Complex, The Devil’s Bridge and The Tatev Ropeway are situated in Goris.
The so-called bridge is situated in the 500 meter below Tatev Monastery and in the gorge of the Vorotan River. This can be a real natural masterpiece, because over the years wind and water created this polishing and piercing the petrified lava.
The hiking trails starts from Tatev Village – Mets Anapat Monastery – The Devil’s Bridge – Tatev Village.
The width of this natural bridge, is 60 m, the length 30 m ,along which runs the auto road to Tatev Monastery. Near the Devil’s Bridge, you will see warm, healing springs, surrounded by stalactites of marvelous colors. And if you are brave enough you can go down the river and see the secretive caves below the springs.
Lastiver Caves, Tavush Province
Carve out an afternoon to visit the beautiful, “fairy world” of the Lastiver caves! About 140 kilometers from Yerevan, this magical hike leads you through a dense forest to a gorgeous waterfall. Lastiver is a 100-meter deep gorge in the northeastern part of Armenia, located in the Tavush region. A mere 10 kilometers from the town of Ijevan, you start this hike at the Apaga resort. You’ll also come across Yell Extreme Park, where you can experience extreme ziplining!
This forest-covered gorge spans for about five kilometers and has several caves throughout. The walls of the most famous two-story cave are covered in dozens of prehistoric carvings, depicting man, beast, and symbols of the faith (crosses). During Armenia’s pre-Christian paganism, the caves were a sacred place. In the Middle Ages, as the Mongols invaded Armenia, the Lastiver caves became a refuge hiding place.
Your hike will pass by the rushing waves of the Khachaghbyur river and end by the waterfalls. With incredible cascades and rapids, the waterfalls are one of the best places to enjoy a swim! Right near the end of the river is a campground, for those of you seeking an extra day or two in this remarkable location.
This, of course, isn’t all you can see during hiking in Armenia. So our advice? Don’t miss the chance to be in this extraordinary country and see everything in your eyes.