Today, one has so many opportunities to explore the world and make days brighter. All you need to do is to find like-minded people and go to conquer the world. There are six of us in a group of crazy adventure lovers. We are not afraid of challenges and bad weather. By supporting each other, we follow the goal and achieve it. Our next goal was the South Caucasus and its snow-capped mountains. After studying the characteristics of nature and the landscape, we chose the best month for trekking in the South Caucasus and identified specific routes. So, our destinations on May were Armenia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan. We hope that our story and experience will be helpful in your trip planning.
Trekking in Armenia
The first stop of our spring trekking was Armenia. We heard a lot of controversial reviews about the country, but for us, it was an absolute surprise. Most of the country managed to get rid of the “stigma” of the post-Soviet country.
Climbing the volcano Azhdahak
The first serious trip was scheduled to the volcano Azhdahak. This is the highest point of the Geghama Range (3597 meters above sea level). The ascent was of medium difficulty; time and again we stopped at the ancient petroglyphs or just to enjoy the beauty of the nature of the Alpine meadows.
We made a stop at the mountain lake Akna. We had a trekking route, but we will definitely get back here for camping. And finally, the last stop of the route is Azhdahak volcano, overlooking Lake Sevan, Mount Aragats and Ararat. We returned to Yerevan through the village of Sevaberd and discussed the trip the whole night.
Trekking from Sevan to Dilijan
We were lucky with the weather. The next two days we were so full of impressions. We reached Lake Sevan by car, and then continued hiking about the sights of the region.
Sevan was so big and impressive and no wonder the locals call it Geghama Sea. You may stand on the shore and listen to the sound of the waves. Looking at the horizon you will only see the peaks of the Geghama Range in the distance. The lake is quite large and we decided to explore only the most interesting parts.
The temperature of the water was still too low for swimming and we had to simply explore the sights nearby. We visited Sevanavank Monastery on the peninsula and Ayrivank Monastery. Sevan is really a must-visit natural gem included in almost all guided tours in Armenia like the credible Arara tours.
The first part of the day ended with an early dinner by the lake. Main dishes were trout and whitefish BBQ. Guys, you should definitely try them, the taste is unforgettable.
We left Sevan and move on to Dilijan. The next stop is the resort town of Dilijan. The road to the town passed through very steep passes, and on the halfway, we started feeling the warm and slightly damp smell of the coniferous forest.
Dilijan is the most popular resort town in the reserve. From Dilijan, there are several trekking routes in different directions. We chose the most Interesting one that passed through Lake Parz, Gosh village and Goshavank monastery. The lake is located about 7 km from Dilijan and it was a truly nice walk. The lake turned out to be a spectacular place. The green trees and the bright sun reflected in the clear waters of the lake. It was a perfect place for a picnic. From the lake, there is a ready trekking route with marks to the village of Gosh. A small cozy village is hidden in a dense forest. The main attraction of the village is the medieval monastic complex Goshavank. The last stop in the village is Lake Gosh, smaller than Lake Parz, but no less colorful.
Trekking in Georgia
We said goodbye to Armenia and continued our journey to Georgia. When planning trekking in Georgia, we had so many options to choose and so many routes that it is rather difficult to find the best destinations. I think we will return to Georgia not once.
Trekking in Svaneti
Svanetia was selected as our first destination. Georgians used to say that if you have never been to Svaneti, you have not seen the beauty of Georgia. From Tbilisi, we got to Mestia, the capital of Svaneti. The city and the whole Svaneti are famous for their Svan towers. On our way, we saw the most interesting of them. The whole area is absolutely fascinating for its picturesque landscapes, and we spent the whole day just walking around the neighborhood.
The next morning we had an ascent to the mountains at 2,200 meters. Ushguli village is considered the highest mountainous village in Europe. The locals are truly blessed to see one of the most breathtaking panoramas of Mount Shkhara (5068 meters) every morning. The architectural monuments of the village are included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. In the village, we saw more than 30 towers.
At that altitude even in May, it was windy and cool, the nights were rather cold. On the last day of our stay, we decided to take a ride on the cable car from Mestia to the ski resort Hatsvali. From the top, there is a beautiful view of the city.
Trekking in Kakheti
Tourists come to Kakheti for a wine tour, we decided to combine a pleasant experience with the more pleasant one. The first stop is the city of Sighnaghi. We chose Sighnaghi because it seemed more picturesque than Telavi. Tile houses, narrow alleys, fortress walls, and small towers resemble a provincial town somewhere in Italy, and the wine completes the whole landscape.
For this trekking, we chose one of the national parks of Kakheti, Lagodekhi, which borders Azerbaijan (our last stop will be in Azerbaijan). The nature of Georgia has been revealed to us from the best side. Of course, we didn’t manage to explore the whole park, but we visited the most beautiful places with rivers, lakes, waterfalls, alpine, and subalpine meadows. We walked to the Lagodekhi gorge, which extended to the Alazani Valley.
Trekking in Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan was chosen as the last destination in the South Caucasus to bring an oriental flavor to the journey.
From the very beginning, we decided to spend the whole day in Baku and take a walk around the city. We have never seen such a contrast. On one side there is a super modern metropolis with skyscrapers, on the other hand, it is an eastern city with narrow streets, brick houses, and a bazaar.
To make our stay in a new country safe and sound we tried to follow the popular trekking routes rather than exploring new ones.
On the second day of our stay in Azerbaijan, we visited the Gobustan reserve. The park was not far (50 km from Baku), we could easily get there and spend more time exploring the territory in detail. The first thing we saw was mud volcanoes. By the way, most of the mud volcanoes of the whole world are located in Azerbaijan. Mud volcanoes and the cracked land look like a shot from the Martian Chronicles. In Gobustan, volcanoes are of medium size and quite safe. After a hundred interesting shots of volcanoes of all angles, we move ahead to other attractions.
The next attraction in the park is rock paintings. Traces of ancient civilizations are still preserved on the mountains like images of a human, his life, hunting scenes, and wild animals.
The last stop of our trekking tour is the mountain village of Khinalug, or “Island among the Mountains”. The ancient settlement, which appeared more than 5 thousand years ago, is located at an altitude of 2350 meters. For us, a trip to Khinalig became a wonderful opportunity to take a closer look at the life of the ancient inhabitants. The houses are built on steep slopes, from the side they are adjacent and look as if one house is built on the other. Climbing the slopes is not easy as it may seem to you.
We say goodbye to the South Caucasus looking through the photos in the plane.
-By Arpi Kazaryan