The northeastern Armenian province of Tavush is home to some of the largest broadleaf forests areas in the country. Built with the generous support of HIKEArmenia and Caucasus Nature Fund by volunteers in 2017, this 85km ‘showcase’ section of the Transcaucasian Trail will take you on a journey through the very best the region has to offer, focused around the spa town of Dilijan and the surrounding mountains of Dilijan National Park.
As well as taking in the broadleaf forests and stunning limestone escarpments of the region, your run will also pass close to some of the most iconic historical sites in Armenia, including the early Christian monasteries of Haghartsin and Goshavank, which date back to the 10th century, as well as several lesser-known natural and cultural sites.
Self-sufficient runners will find plentiful camping opportunities along the route, giving you the ability to modify the itinerary to suit your preferred schedule and ability level. For those wishing to spend their nights indoors, guesthouse accommodation is available at all but one of the suggested overnight stops (Haghartsin Monastery). However, the monastery is within easy reach by taxi of guesthouses in Dilijan and Teghut.
The route overlaps with many parts of the Dilijan National Park trail network. It is marked with red and white painted blazes, as well as TCT directional tags, and can be done in either direction. More information on trails in this region, as well as recommended accommodation, sites of interest, and local guides, can be found on the HIKEArmenia website
and iOS/Android app.
The guide will describe the route in a south-north direction of travel, beginning at the village of Khachardzan and ending in Hovk.
For emergency services dial 911 or 112. Note that cell service is unreliable in many parts of the park. Guesthouse accommodation is available in Dilijan, Gosh, Parz Lake and Teghut. Wild camping is tolerated throughout the National Park; please follow Leave No Trace principles at all times.
The route can be done in either direction, though we recommend starting in Khachardzan and ending in Hovk.
From the west end of Khachardzan village, the trail follows a dirt road along the river and into the forest. After the first river crossing, keep on the north bank to avoid further fords, following instead the narrow trail along the hillside until you rejoin the road. The trail eventually opens out in an old orchard, where apple and pear trees can be found. The fruit is still harvested by local villagers.
Bear north and ascend through the orchard to reach a footpath which takes you up a side valley, crosses the creek and climbs up above the cliffs heading east and then north towards the ruined village of Chermakavan. Here a good dirt road passes through the ruins and past the remains of the "white church" after which the village is named. Re-enter the forest and follow the blazes down to Gosh Lake, a small natural lake in the forest above Gosh village, which is also a good place to camp.
Continue descending through forest and fields to Gosh, home to the famous Goshavank Monastery
. Pass north out of the village through the cemetery and ascend the rocky slopes to a wonderful lookout point. The trail follows the ridge, re-entering the forest and climbing to wildflower-filled meadows used for haymaking in July and August. At the crossroads, turn right, pass the picnic shelter and turn left to relocate the trail, which descends through woodland to a bridge over the river. From here it is a 1km detour to Parz Lake, or continue following the signs to Dilijan.
The trail again climbs through mature woodland, coming out on an alpine meadow full of wildflowers in spring and early summer. From the northwest corner, follow the blazes back into the forest and descend on dirt tracks and singletrack trail, continuing west. You'll pass a couple of farms and the forest will thin out as you approach the southeastern suburbs of Dilijan. A scenic route into the town center can be followed through the "drunken forest", or you can follow the streets straight down into town. Dilijan itself is well worth a half day exploration and has some of the best dining options in the region, if not in the country.
Heading north out of Dilijan, the trail will take you to the twin churches of Jukhtakvank. From here, the route passes through pasturelands in the northern part of the park, crossing an iconic pass before descending steeply down to Haghartsin Monastery, where it is possible to camp informally with permission from the staff. Continuing east, a newly-built side trail takes you to the (swimmable) "hidden waterfall". Back on the main route, you'll climb above the treeline before following mountain tracks above the limestone cliffs and reaching some of the highest elevations on the run, with spectacular views across the whole of the Aghstev Valley.
After the last farmstead, the future route of the Transcaucasian Trail crosses the ridge to the north into the Sarnaghbyur Valley. For now, however, you may follow an ancient footpath down among the cliffs, and finally descend to Hovk village on dirt roads. A short side trail to Mount Apakekar is well worth taking on the way down.
For an even more detailed guide to the trail, including downloadable PDF trail notes, visit the official Transcaucasian Trail website