I loved spending some time in the Dilijan National Park. The views were just incredible, whether it was from the town of Dilijan, from the drives around there or from the hikes I did. Although there are many day trips from Yerevan, this place deserves a bit more time, especially if you like to hike. I read a few too many warnings about shepherd dogs in the mountains. After being bitten twice already on my travels, I’ve developed a fear of dogs I can’t seem to shake. So I decided to stick to some short trails because I was alone.
Medieval monasteries trail – 3,5 km loop
About 6 km from the bus station in Dilijan is the start of the Medieval monasteries trail. As the name suggests, the path leads you to the 13th century monasteries of Jukhtakvank and Matosavank. When I arrived at the start, a local man was just entering the trail and he gestured for me to follow. I started in the direction of Matosavank, which meant climbing up through the forest. The man went a bit off track, but gestured for me to come. After a little hike I already saw Matosavank. You can tell it’s pretty old. The building is half hidden by the hill and the roof is covered by grass, with even a tree growing on it. A big wooden cross indicates there’s a church and inside you can find some modern religious paintings. From the back you can enter the roof and look at the opening in the stone cupola.
Continuing through the forest I saw some fruit trees with lots of fruit lying on the path. I followed a jeep road for a while and had to cross a small bridge at Dilijan’s water plant. After about 1,5 km I saw Jukhtakvank. There were 2 buildings here, both with a very beautiful (modern) gate. They were being held together with some steel reinforcement. There were a few khachkars here and some nice carvings in the stones. Here too I found a modern altar, signifying it’s still used at times. Suddenly I heard someone shouting. Not long after I heard the trotting of cows going in all directions. A young farmer was running after them, trying to keep them together. I waited for them to pass until I took another jeep track back to my starting point.
You can get to the Medieval monasteries trail easily from Dilijan. It’s about a 6 km walk from the bus station. The easiest is to take a taxi there with one of the taxi Apps. Along the road there are a few picnic spots with benches too.
Hidden waterfall – 1,6 km one way
This little hike is easy and perfect to combine with a visit to the Haghartsin Monastery (free) since the trailhead is just down the road from there. Closeby is also an old cable car station with a great view. The trail itself is not super interesting at first, as you follow a jeep track through the forest. But since it’s short, you’ll quickly hear the water. The last part of the trail follows the stream, which is already super scenic. Since it’s so accessible there were some other people on the trail, but it was still an oasis of calm compared to the bustling monastery grounds.
The water was incredibly clear and a sign stated the area was rich in mineral springs. When I reached a bridge I knew I was close to the waterfall. You can’t really see it until you walk over a small ledge and peak around the corner. It was like paradise! The surrounding rocks were covered in green and it seemed like I wasn’t in the forest at all, but rather in a more tropical location. I hopped over some rocks to get a better view and stuck around for a while. It’s a beautiful spot for a picnic break. What a nice surprise!
Haghartsin Monastery is quite far outside of the town of Haghartsin. It’s about a 13,5 km drive, mostly uphill from Dilijan. You can hitchhike or take a taxi up to the trail. If you have enough time, there is also a hiking track to get there. I was lucky enough 2 Russian hikers took me back down to Dilijan in their taxi.
Gosh to Parz Lich – 7,1 km one way
The first 30 to 45 minutes the trail lead up from behind Goshavank. The monastery had been beautifully quiet in the morning, apart from a German church group that was trying out the acoustics with their singing. The trail was even quieter. The good thing about the initial climb was that I was rewarded with great views over the town and surroundings very early on in the hike. The path was pretty clear and is part of the 1500 km transcaucasian trail.
At the top of the mountain I came out of the forest onto the meadows, where cows were grazing under the trees. I stopped. Where there are cows, there may be dogs. So I made my presence clear by shouting hello, so as not to startle anyone. Nothing happened and I walked on, looking out over the beautiful mountains on the other side. The vistas were incredible and later on I saw the 2 farmers on the other side of the meadow. A small hiking tour group passed me going the other way. For both of us, most of the climbing was done.
Just before I entered the forest again I saw 2 local women. They were gathering some things from nature, not sure what. I greeted them and we engaged in a conversation of which I’m not sure how much we really understood each other. They asked if I was alone and I confirmed. Then one of them started making a gesture with her hands and arms bent. I am still not sure how to interpret it. It looked like she was warning me that something might jump at me, but maybe it just meant jumping into the lake. I’ll never know.
From there the narrow trail winds down the mountain through the forest. I regularly encountered cows, who are not just in meadows, but also in the forest here. I took a few spider webs with me, one including the spider and its prey. So I was happy to wash my arms when I saw a little water stream near the bottom. It was actually a point where you could refill your drinking water. I could already hear the sounds of Park Lich, or Parz lake below me. The last bit went over a broader dirt track and suddenly I was in civilization. Parz lake is pretty touristy, with a campground, café and rope course. Many people just drive up here to take a stroll around the lake. I was glad I’d come by foot.
Gosh is about 22km away from Dilian. The drive is beautiful, through the valley and later up towards Gosh town. I took a taxi there, walked to Parz lake one way and from there took another taxi. This works well if the taxi Apps work. Mine didn’t work at Parz lake and I ended up paying almost double the price to a taxi driver who was there. Hitchhiking could be an option too.
For hiking in Armenia you can find all the trail information on the Hike Armenia website. You can also download their App and download offline maps and descriptions for when you’re on the road. Even in the Dilijan visitor center they refer people to the App.