Finally! Armenia is receiving the recognition it deserves as an exciting and unique hiking destination. Travel publications from Condé Nast Traveler to Forbes have placed Armenia in their top places to travel in 2020, and with good reason — Armenia has something to offer everyone, from history buffs to wine enthusiasts to nature lovers.
Considering this, what, specifically, makes Armenia and its hiking trails special? And why is now the best time to visit? Here are 5 reasons to hike in Armenia this year.
Free Hiking Support from Us
Since 2015, we’ve been developing a free hiking app and website to help connect international hikers in Armenia to trails all over the country. In addition to over 30 trails, the app offers information on how to get to the trail heads, what to expect while hiking, and sights along the way. What’s more, the app provides accommodation options, reviews of local guides you can get in direct contact with, GPS tracks to help you navigate the trails on and offline, and trail essentials such as elevation profiles, distance, and even the weather forecast!
In addition to these digital resources, we have an information center located in the heart of Yerevan, Armenia’s capital city. Hikers and anyone interested in hiking are welcome to stop in Monday through Friday, 10am-7pm (open Saturdays late spring-early/mid fall) to ask questions, request further information about any of the trails found on our app and website, or rent equipment and grab hiking maps. Our team is ready and would love to help you plan a personalized hiking adventure here in Armenia.
We are always adding new trails to the app and website, as well as places to go and experiences to have here. If you couldn’t tell already, we love hiking in Armenia, and want to make it as easy as possible for you to come and hike this incredible country yourself!
Facts are important, so here are a few facts about Armenian history:
Fact #1: Armenia is one of the world’s oldest civilizations with a recorded history of 3,500 years. To put it on a timeline, Yerevan is older than Rome, and Rome was founded in 753 BCE!
Fact #2: Armenia was the first state in the world to adopt Christianity as its official religion in the year 314 CE. Maybe it comes as no surprise, then, that Armenia houses the oldest cathedral in the world, Etchmiadzin, and over 4,000 monasteries. Have we hiked to them all? Not yet, but we’re working on it!
Fact #3: Due to Armenia’s geographical positioning between Europe and Asia, Armenia was a crucial point along the Silk Road. Ancient Armenians were renowned for their business skills; because of this, Armenian merchants were key actors in cross-continental trade.
In short, Armenia’s history is long and rich. Many of the hiking trails featured on our app lead to or pass by relics of the past, from fortresses to monasteries to intricately carved cross-stones, called khachkars in Armenian. Here are a few trails that might be of special interest to historians, by profession or hobby alike.
Old Bandit Road
Location: Vayots Dzor Province
This trail takes you between the villages of Gomk and Artavan in the stunning Vayots Dzor Province, one of Armenia’s key wine making regions. Parts of this trail are thought to have been used by merchants traversing the Silk Road!
World Heritage Trail
Location: Lori Province
This trail connects the medieval monastic complexes of Sanahin and Haghpat, both of which are designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and were once important religious and academic centers.
Time Travel To Old Goris
Location: Syunik Province
This trail near the southern city of Goris will lead you to Old Goris, where the Goris caves can be found. These ancient, man-made caves were inhabited until the 1960s!
No Lines! No Crowds!
Oldest Christian nation, key position on the Silk Road, a capital city older than Rome… Armenia’s pretty decorated when it comes to history. But let’s face it: there are countless other Old World destinations you can travel to. What sets Armenia apart? It remains relatively “undiscovered,” a descriptor we can add to the list of characteristics — hospitable, safe, affordable, and culturally rich — that make it a special destination. That means no long lines and no crowded trails. Just you, friendly local people, and world-class trails.
That being said, while Armenia is a hidden gem, it is rapidly becoming known to the world; 2020 is projected to be the busiest year for Armenia’s tourism sector thus far. According to Ara Khzmalyan, Executive Director of the Tourism Development Foundation of Armenia, the country hosted 1.5 million tourists in 2019, and that number may jump to as many as 2.5 million in 2020. So, come now and beat the crowds before it’s too late!
Easy, Cheap Air Travel
As the world quickly learns about Armenia as an attractive travel destination, airlines are responding accordingly. Late last year, European budget airline Ryanair announced its first-ever direct flights to Yerevan and Gyumri, Armenia’s second largest city. Shortly after, Wizz Air and airBaltic followed suit. Here’s a list of all the new low-cost air routes to Yerevan and Gyumri:
- To Yerevan (Ryanair) from: Milan, Rome, Italy; Berlin, Germany; Thessaloniki, Greece; Paphos, Cyprus
- To Yerevan (Wizz Air) from: Vienna, Austria; Vilnius, Lithuania; Larnaca, Cyprus
- To Yerevan (airBaltic) from: Riga, Latvia
- To Gyumri (Ryanair) from: Memmingen, Germany; Athens, Greece
In just 29,743 square kilometers (about the size of Belgium), Armenia is home to an impressive number of climates and ecosystems. The country has six distinct landscape zones: desert, semi-desert, mountain steppe, forest, subalpine, and alpine. Due to the variety of landscapes zones, there is immense variance in Armenia’s flora and fauna. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), it is estimated that there are…
- 3,600 species of flowering plants in Armenia
- 17,500 different species of fauna, including….
- Approximately 500 vertebrates such as the brown bear, red fox, weasel, the beautiful bezoar mountain goat, and the Caucasian leopard
It is also worth mentioning that many of the flora and fauna found in Armenia are unique to the country. 3% of all flora and 339 fauna species in Armenia are believed to be endemic, according to the IUCN. One more thing — if you’re a fruit lover, prepare to be delighted. Apricots and peaches are native to the country. In fact, the scientific name for apricot is prunus armeniaca, and you can find local people doing really creative (and delicious) things to fruits, from drying them, to pickling them, to making jams out of them, to even barbecuing them!