Explore the dramatic landscapes and rich history of southern Armenia on this brand new 8-day guided trek!
Join the first TCT supporters’ trek of 2020 and be among the first to hike this brand new stage of the Transcaucasian Trail, weaving 103km (64 miles) through the dramatic gorges and forested mountains of Syunik province in southern Armenia – historically, one of the country’s most fiercely independent territories.
Accompanied by members of our local trail-building crew, you’ll join an intimate group of fellow hikers, taking in the very best of the natural, cultural and historical wonders the region has to offer. This is a hiking experience you’ll find nowhere else!
You’ll carry your daily provisions and personal items in a small day-pack, with your overnight gear transported between the beautiful campsites and traditional rural guesthouses in which we’ll be spending our evenings.
As with all of our group hiking experiences, 100% of the proceeds from your participation will be invested back into our work in the Caucasus, helping ensure the future of this world-class long distance trail.
June 7–14th, 2020
Day 1: 5hr transfer to Goris & night in hotel
Day 2: 17km hike & night in guesthouse
Day 3: 14km hike & night in guesthouse
Day 4: 16km hike & night in homestay
Day 5: 14km hike & overnight camp
Day 6: 17km hike & overnight camp
Day 7: 25km hike & night in hotel
Day 8: 6hr transfer to Yerevan
Total distance: 103km
Elevation gain/loss: +3,820m/-4,170m
I have done a lot of hiking in my time so am qualified to say that this was by far the best group hiking experience I have ever had.Guy, June 2018 fundraising trek participant
A unique opportunity to explore the very newest stage of the Transcaucasian Trail in southern Armenia!
How do we know this experience is one-of-a-kind? Simple: we explored, mapped and built this route ourselves. Nobody else knows it like we do!
Every year since 2016 we’ve been sending our route designers to the province of Syunik in search of the perfect trail. Their research and exploration took more than three years to complete – and as a result of a massive construction effort in 2019 with our partners in the region, we’re incredibly proud to say that this route is ready for the first intrepid hikers to explore.
This, our first supporters’ trek of 2020, is an exclusive opportunity to become part of this story and experience first-hand the fruits of our labours. You’ll be accompanied by members of the team who built and rehabilitated the historic paths you’ll be walking on, who’ll share their stories of how this pioneering project came to be, what they discovered through designing and developing the route – and what the future holds for the Transcaucasian Trail.
This experience combines the dramatic beauty of the Vorotan Canyon with a deep exploration of Syunik’s history and the very best of local hospitality.
The Caucasus region is famous for three things: gravity-defying mountain landscapes, a stunning richness of culture and biodiversity, and some of the most welcoming people on Earth! We combine all three for the most authentic experience possible. Read on to find out exactly what this trek has in store for you…
Sunday 7th June: Transfer to Goris, walking tour & night in hotel
There’s no getting away from it: it’s a long drive from Yerevan to southern Armenia! We’ll keep it interesting by visiting a couple of worthwhile sights along the way. Once in Goris, we’ll take a short afternoon stroll around the historic cave settlements near the town to warm up our leg muscles for the trek to come. We’ll stay the night in a local boutique hotel, where we’ll also have the opportunity to sample some of the special local cuisine typical to Goris.
Monday 8th June: 17km (11mi) / 6 hr hike & night in guesthouse
Elevation gain/loss: 450m/420m (1,476ft/1,378ft)
We’ll start the trek hiking through historical orchards on the outskirts of Goris before plunging into deep forest, where walnut groves and the ruins of ancient settlements litter the sheltered valleys. Emerging from the trees high above the Vararak gorge, we’ll pass through the quaint village of Karahunj before following a panoramic route into the Vorotan valley. Clambering up to the cliff-tops, we’ll stop for the night in Shinuhayr village at a local guesthouse.
Tuesday 9th June: 14km / 5 hour hike & night in guesthouse
Elevation gain/loss: 400m/580m (1,312ft/1,903ft)
The second day of the trek takes us on a journey into the medieval history of Syunik. We’ll explore the ruins of three major settlements that for centuries stood upon the steep sides of the gorge, connected by ancient footpaths which we’ll use to travel between them. During our explorations, we’ll hear stories of these villages from their last remaining inhabitants and visit some of the medieval churches that can still be found among the ruins. We’ll end by climbing out of the gorge once more to a nearby guesthouse in Halidzor.
Wednesday 10th June: 16km / 6 hour hike & night in homestay
Elevation gain/loss: 820m/600m (2,690ft/1,969ft)
Dropping back into the canyon on the third day, we’ll descend all the way to the foot of the canyon and follow a newly reconstructed footpath between sheer cliffs that makes this section of the gorge accessible after decades of disuse. This will take us to the confluence of two rivers and the site of the Great Hermitage of Tatev – just as grand as the UNESCO monastery above it, but almost entirely deserted as a result of its inaccessibility. From here, we’ll follow a popular walking route up to Tatev itself, where we’ll stay in a local guesthouse and enjoy a traditional Armenian meal.
Thursday 11th June: 14km / 5 hour hike & overnight camp
Elevation gain/loss: 270m/1,010m (886ft/3,314ft)
We’ll rise early to beat the crowds and make our way down to the world-famous Tatev monastery on its clifftop perch. After a guided tour of the complex, we’ll set off on the newly opened trail to Tandzatap village – a trail whose restoration required some of the most difficult engineering yet attempted in Armenia. We’ll see if you can spot it! From Tandzatap, we’ll follow a historic route down to the canyon floor, doubling back on yesterday’s route in order to reach the forgotten hermitage of Harants Anapat. Our overnight camp will be ready and waiting for us in a beautiful mulberry orchard right on the riverside.
Friday 12th June: 17km / 7 hour hike & overnight camp
Elevation gain/loss: 1,110m/370m (3,642ft/1,214ft)
This morning begins with a tough but spectacular climb along a 19th-century gold-mining trail – in our opinion one of the most unique walks in the country. This newly restored trail brings us to the hidden church of St Minas Under-the-Rocks, set among the gigantic boulders left by a rockfall at some point in the distant past. Continuing along a brand new trail through the forest, we’ll emerge near Bardzravan village and hike up through oak woods via a vertigo-inducing viewpoint to the village of Tandzaver, where we’ll stay at a prepared campsite on the outskirts of the village.
Saturday 13th June: 25km hike & night in hotel
Elevation gain/loss: 770m/1,190m (2,526ft/3,904ft)
The final day of our treks is traditionally the longest and toughest, and this is no exception! The route traverses the remote hills and forests of southern Syunik, passing through remote villages who barely felt the touch of the Soviet Union due to their isolation. A mixture of forgotten pathways and dirt roads will bring us eventually to the mountain ridge above the provincial capital of Kapan, the end point of this section of the Transcaucasian Trail. After such a long day, you’ll be pleased to know we’ll have transport ready to take us to the hotel before a final celebratory meal at a local restaurant. You’ll have earned it!
Sunday 14th June: Transfer to Yerevan
We’ll spend most of the day making our way back to Yerevan, stopping to visit more of the famous sights of southern Armenia on the way. We’ll be back in the capital late afternoon in time for check-in at your hotel of choice, at which point we’ll say our final goodbyes.
Hiking Boots At The Ready!
So you’re interested in joining our first fundraising hike of 2020? Get in touch using the form below and we’ll send you an intake questionnaire to join the team. Places are offered on a first-come first-served basis, so register now to secure your spot.
If you prefer not to use the online form, you can contact our bookings coordinator directly on [email protected].
What happens after I submit my enquiry?
This is an enquiry form, not a booking form, and using it neither obliges you to take part in the trek or guarantees you a place! We first want to make sure that you’re fully informed about the experience and that your expectations match what we’re offering. Our fundraising trek coordinator will respond to your message by email or phone to go over the details of the trek and ask you a few more questions relating to your level of hiking experience and fitness. If all is well, we’ll ask you to pay 50% of the amount as a nonrefundable deposit to secure your place on the team. We’ll be in further contact with you before your departure for Armenia, and we’ll always be on hand to answer any questions you may have during that time.
Frequently Asked Questions
What exactly is included for the money?
For your USD $1,750 contribution ($1,650 for early-bird applications), you’ll receive all of the services and inclusions as detailed above, including all transport, luggage transfers, meals (including packed lunches), and accommodation, as well as the company of two guides for the duration of your trek. Not included are items of a personal nature (e.g. phone credit), trail snacks, visas or applicable fees, international flights, accommodation in Yerevan, personal travel insurance, tips to guesthouses or any other services, or any personal hiking/camping equipment.
How does prior membership of TCTA affect the price?
If you are a member of TCTA at the time of paying your deposit, we will offset your membership fee against the nonrefundable deposit for this trek. In other words, if you paid $100 for membership, and your membership is active when you register, the deposit amount will be $775 instead of $875.
If you are not a member, you will acquire complimentary TCTA membership for one year from the date of paying your deposit, including all the benefits of membership unless stated otherwise.
(Free TCTA membership acquired as a result of participation in previous treks, events, projects or fundraising campaigns cannot be redeemed against the cost of this trek.)
How do I secure a place on the team?
Get in touch using the registration form to inform us of your interest. We’ll send you a full application form to ensure that your expectations will be met by the kind of experience we’re offering. We’ll ask you to pay a nonrefundable 50% deposit of USD $875 to the Transcaucasian Trail Association within 15 days of being accepted in order to secure your place. The balance (USD $875) is due 30 days before departure and is paid directly to our local NGO in Armenia.
How does payment work, and where does my money go?
Your initial 50% deposit is paid to the Transcaucasian Trail Association, a 501(c)(3) registered nonprofit organisation based in Washington, DC. This portion of the fee is nonrefundable and is considered a charitable donation for tax deduction purposes. These funds are distributed among projects that support our goals in the Caucasus region. We publish an annual report to illustrate how these funds are spent.
The 50% final balance payment is made to our local NGO in Armenia, who operate the trek, and covers all of the actual costs of your participation.
What level of fitness and experience do I need to be?
We’ll be hiking up to 25km per day, with a daily elevation gain/loss of 300-1,100m (900-3,600ft). In other words, you must be fit and conditioned to regular long days of walking in mountainous terrain and on rough tracks and trails. You must also be comfortable camping in a wild location with basic, temporary facilities, and with setting up your own tent and camping equipment.
Is any equipment provided? If not, what do I need to bring?
We’ll take care of all meals, including when we’re camping, but team members are expected to bring their own personal hiking/camping equipment with them. Click here to download a full packing list (PDF).
What is the weather going to be like?
Syunik in early June is generally warm and sunny, but with frequent storms and showers. Expect a mixture of dry and pleasant days on the trail together with sudden rain! Most of the route is relatively low in altitude, so severe wind and exposure is unlikely to be a problem, but you should still pack for poor weather, including good boots and full waterproofs.
I want to book my flights – when should I aim to arrive and depart in Yerevan?
On Sunday 7th June (Day 1), we ask you to make your way to central Yerevan by 09:00, so we suggest arriving the previous day in order to rest, orient yourself, and ensure a timely rendezvous.
If you wish to depart on the final transfer day to Yerevan (Sunday 14th), we will aim to arrive in Yerevan city centre at 18:00, so any flight departing after 21:00 is suggested – it may be preferable to stay an additional night in Yerevan and depart the following day.
I have special dietary requirements – can these be catered for?
Vegetarians and vegans can be catered for. We suggest bringing personal trail snacks if you have any other special dietary requirements, including nut allergies. These meal requirements can be provided for only if we know in advance and within reason considering the rural location.
I notice that on most of the nights we’ll be in guesthouses and homestays. What should I expect?
Guesthouses in Armenia are of a simple and basic nature with shared bathroom facilities. Shared rooms generally accommodate two or three people in single beds. A hearty dinner and breakfast should be expected!
In hotels at the start and end of the trip we will do our best to accommodate solo group members in single rooms, although this cannot be guaranteed.
What should I expect from the camping nights?
Since official full-service campsites are yet to be developed along this route, we will set up temporary camps where necessary and provide you with essential facilities. Clean drinking water, a washbasin and a basic outdoor toilet will be available, but don’t expect a shower on these nights – unless you fancy jumping into a nearby river!
How many other hikers will there be?
We’re accepting a maximum of 10 supporters for this trek, not including the two guides, in order to keep the experience unique and personal.
Is the itinerary set in stone?
The dates and the general route through Syunik will remain as advertised. Depending on weather and on the availability of accommodation, exact routes taken and overnight accommodation options may vary, for reasons of practicality and safety. We will also have arrangements in place for any additional transport the trek leaders deem necessary for a safe and enjoyable trip.
Can the Syunik fundraising hike be combined with other adventures in the region?
Yes! We can recommend several operators to create and coordinate other adventure and cultural experiences in Armenia and the Caucasus, in order to make the most of your visit to the region. Or why not consider combining this trek in Armenia with one of the treks in Georgia?
Are there any safety or security risks I should be aware of in Armenia?
We suggest you check the UK FCO website or the equivalent travel advice from your home country for comprehensive information and guidance on travel in Armenia.
What kind of travel insurance will I need?
Personal travel insurance is mandatory for each individual to cover any accidents and emergencies. Your policy must include trekking at up to 3,000m altitude. Please be aware of the possible dangers of this type of travel (e.g. limited medical facilities in some areas, mountain travel, non standard accommodation with limited electricity and water), and that conditions can mean a greater risk of discomfort, sickness, theft, natural disaster, etc. We will ask you for your policy number and the 24-hour medical emergency contact number of the insurers so that in the event of a medical emergency we may be able to contact the insurers on your behalf. We would also advise you to buy cancellation insurance as soon as the booking is made to protect your deposit.
What happens if the trek has to be cancelled due to unforeseen circumstances?
We will do everything possible to deliver the experience as detailed here and to make sure that you enjoy your time on the TCT as much as possible, even in the case of unexpected circumstances. However, we cannot always provide the planned service in the the case of unavoidable events or beyond our control, including Force Majeure. In the case of Force Majeure, this means that we will not pay you compensation if we have to cancel or change your travel arrangements in any way. These can include, for example, war, threat of war, riot, civil disobedience or strike, industrial dispute, terrorist activity and its consequences, acts of god, natural or nuclear disaster, fire, adverse weather conditions, technical or maintenance problems with transport providers, closure of airports or any unforeseeable or unavoidable event beyond our control. This is standard practice in the terms and conditions of organised treks such as this, and should be covered by your personal travel insurance.
I’d prefer to hire camping equipment rather than bring my own. Is this possible?
We can arrange tent hire on your behalf at an additional cost of USD $120 per two person tent. This additional cost may be split with other interested group members. We can also arrange hire of camping mattresses; please mention this in your enquiry if you are interested.
Will I be able to charge my phone/camera/other device? How about internet access?
WiFi is available is some guesthouses, as well as 220-240v mains electricity (with European-style sockets) in all guesthouses. If you wish, you may bring your own power packs to charge phones and other devices. Mobile data is available in certain areas via the purchase of a local SIM card and data package, but reception cannot be guaranteed.
Is this experience available anywhere else?
No – this is an exclusive offer to supporters of the Transcaucasian Trail who wish to explore the region with the TCT team members themselves, and at the same time help raise funds to support our future work.