Do you enjoy hiking, or just love the great outdoors? Then Armenia is definitely the country for you to travel to! Full of fresh-water streams, rocky gorges, and incredible summits, the natural scenery is breathtaking.
Armenia is a vastly alpine country, renowned for its mountainscape. It’s known for its fresh-water streams, rocky gorges, and incredible summits. People travel from all over the world to hike and sightsee this gorgeous country, and to no surprise! The natural elements of life are emphasized in everyday life here. The locals are used to the natural spring water that flows freely, and to seeing the biblical Mt. Ararat always looming in the sky.
Geographically situated right between Asia and Europe, Armenia is located within the Transcaucasus. The South Caucasus run right through the Armenian Plateau meaning there’s plenty a peak to climb!. About 87% of the country is between 1000 and 3000 meters high (roughly 3300 to 10000 feet). This makes this little independent country a hiker’s and mountain climber’s dream!
Tatev Monastery to Devil’s Bridge
Interested in a fairly easy, beautiful hike that begins at a monastery build in the Middle Ages on top of a mountain? Which ends in an otherworldly gorge dubbed the Devil’s Bridge? Then get to Tatev as quickly as you can! Roughly 280 kilometers (173 miles) from Yerevan, Tatev is one of the biggest destinations in Armenia. Located in the south-eastern Syunik province, Tatev is a small village municipality with a very long history. It’s known as one of the oldest archaic spiritual centers in Armenian history.
On a large basalt plateau on a mountaintop, you will find the ancient Tatev monastery. To get there, you’ll need to take an aerial tramway. Although it may be the shortest route to the monastery, it’s the longest reversible cable car in the world, clocking in at a whopping 5752 meters. A twelve-minute ride flies you over the lush mountainscape, suspending you in midair and taking your breath away!
Your hike begins at the monastery, passes through the winding trail of the Voroton gorge, and ends at the Devil’s Bridge. But don’t be alarmed by the ominous name! The Devil’s bridge (Satani Kamourdj) is a natural, travertine bridge that Armenians have been trying to understand the origins of for thousands of years. Eventually, with no logical explanation, the natural wonder was dubbed its infamous name! It's over 30 meters long and 60 meters wide, with the Vorotan river flowing underneath it.
The trail is about 6 kilometers (a little over 3.5 miles), so schedule several hours to be able to fully enjoy yourself. And enjoy yourself you will, as there’s plenty to see! The trail passes through an oak forest, full of maple and elm trees, as well as rose hip, wild pear, and wild apple. Countless flowers and herbs bloom here in the spring. On and around the Devil’s Bridge, you can find mineral springs. Take some time to relax, since the springs are said to have healing powers!
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.
Roughly 40 kilometers (25 miles) from Yerevan, you can find the highest peak in the Republic of Armenia in the Aragatsotn province. The mountain’s name stems from the legend of the Armenians’ forefather Hayk’s son Aramanyak, or to the Armenian god Ara.
Mt. Aragats is a dormant stratovolcano, covering an area of 200 km² (80 mi²). Centuries of volcanic activity and earthquakes have split the mountain into several parts. It contains an immense, 350 meter (1150 foot) deep crater. From this crater, the four summits of Aragats arise. Each peak offers something different. The hike for each summit varies in level of difficulty and distance, so there’s something for everyone. You’ll have to take a taxi up the base of Mount Aragats, but after that, the choice of the summit is up to you!
Mt. Aragats contains varying ecosystems. Within this alpine mountainscape, you can find dry grasslands, semi-desert, and even snow-covered areas! Rivers run through the lower valleys and gorges, forming freshwater rapids and waterfalls in certain places. Vast meadows of violets, forget-me-nots, and wild lilies grow here, as well as poppies. Take a rest and pick some fresh wildflowers to take back as a memento with you!
The South Summit is considered moderate difficulty, although it is climbed frequently by children and families. It’s the smallest of the four peaks, being only 3,887 meters (12,752 feet) high. If you choose this summit, Qari Lake (Stone Lake) is the last stop you’ll have before continuing on foot. The cold, freshwater lake is surrounded by wildflowers, beautiful mountain scenery, and the snow-capped Aragats.
For you, hiker aficionados through -- the North Summit is the challenge you seek! The climb starts at the village of the same name as the mountain, at 1900 meters. It takes about two days to climb overall, as it’s a long way up. During the first day, you’ll hike up from Qari Lake to a clearing straddling the West and South summits. Pitch a tent, build a fire, and relax! Your morning should start early, and begin your lengthy labor of love. If it’s summertime, there will be plenty of fresh water in the streams.
The North Summit, unfortunately, has two summits - the real one, and the false one. To reach the real peak of Aragats, have at least 40 meters of rope with you and be cautious! The top of the real summit is an astonishing 4090 meters. In theory, the hike could take more experienced hikers a day, but make sure to ration at least 10-14 hours to complete the hike!
Published March 06, 2018
Article by Satine Iskandaryan