Explore the dramatic landscapes and rich folklore of southern Armenia on this brand new 14-day guided trek!
Join our newest fundraising trek of 2021 and be among the first to hike a brand new regional stage of the Transcaucasian Trail, weaving 153km (94 miles) through the dramatic gorges and forested mountains of Syunik province – historically one of Armenia’s most fiercely independent territories.
Accompanied by our trail explorers and local experts, you’ll join a small group of fellow supporters from around the world on our first fundraising trek along this brand new route, taking in the very best of the natural, cultural and historical wonders the region has to offer.
You’ll carry daily provisions and personal items with you, 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 treks, 100% of the profits go back into our work in the local area, helping ensure the future of this world-class long distance trail.
September 12–25, 2021
Day 1: 5hr transfer to Goris & night in hotel
Day 2: 17km hike & overnight camp
Day 3: 8km hike & night in guesthouse
Day 4: 13km hike & night in guesthouse
Day 5: Rest day in Tatev with local excursions
Day 6: 20km hike & overnight camp
Day 7: 10km hike & overnight camp
Day 8: 15km hike & night in guesthouse
Day 9: 15km hike & night in guesthouse
Day 10: 13km hike & overnight camp
Day 11: 16km hike & night in guesthouse
Day 12: 13km hike & overnight camp
Day 13: Summit day. 12km hike & night in Kapan hotel
Day 14: 7hr transfer to Yerevan
Total distance: 153km (94 miles)
Avg daily hiking distance: 14km (9 miles)
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 a brand new stage of the Transcaucasian Trail in southern Armenia!
How do we know this experience is one-of-a-kind? Simple: we’re part of the partnership of organisations that spent the last four years developing the route. Nobody else knows it like us!
Since 2016 we’ve been sending our trail explorers to the far south of Armenia in search of the perfect hiking route. In 2019 and 2020, a huge shared construction effort by our partners People In Need and ARK Armenia has resulted in the 148km Legends Trail – a regional long-distance route in its own right, and a major stage of the Transcaucasian Trail through Syunik province.
This is an exclusive opportunity to experience first-hand the fruits of our labours, and help ensure the trail’s future.
You’ll be accompanied by members of the team who explored, mapped and rebuilt the historic paths you’ll be walking on, who’ll share their stories of how this pioneering project came to be – and what the future holds for the Transcaucasian Trail.
This experience combines the dramatic beauty of the region with a deep exploration of Syunik’s legendary 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 12th September: 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 cuisine typical of Goris.
Monday 13th September: 17km (11mi) hike & overnight camp
We’ll start the trek hiking through 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, before descending to the ruins of a thousand-year-old village to camp for our first night on the trail.
Tuesday 14th September: 8km (5mi) hike & night in guesthouse
The second day continues the medieval theme. We’ll explore the ruins of two more settlements that for centuries stood upon the steep sides of the gorge, connected by ancient footpaths which we’ll use to travel between them. We’ll hear stories of these villages from their last remaining inhabitants and visit some of the monastic complexes that can still be found among the ruins. We’ll spend the night at a guesthouse in the clifftop village of Halidzor.
Wednesday 15th September: 13km (8mi) hike & night in guesthouse
Dropping back into the canyon, we’ll descend to the River Vorotan 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 16th September: Tour of Tatev Monastery, optional excursions & night in guesthouse
On this full rest day from the trail, we’ll rise early to beat the crowds and make our way down to the world-famous Tatev monastery on its clifftop perch for a guided tour of the complex. The rest of the day is yours to spend as you choose, with several day-hiking routes and other heritage sites in the area, or simply relax at our traditional guesthouse. In the evening we’ll stock up on calories for the trek ahead with another traditional home-cooked dinner.
Friday 17th September: 20km (12mi) hike & overnight camp
We’ll set off early on the newly restored trail to Tandzatap village, built by TCT volunteers in the summer of 2019. 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. The day finishes 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 Kratak, set among the gigantic boulders left by a rockfall, where we’ll make our camp for the night.
Saturday 18th September: 10km (6mi) hike & overnight camp
Continuing along a brand new trail to the clifftops, we’ll emerge near Bardzravan village and hike up through oak woods to a vertigo-inducing viewpoint called Harsnadzor, meaning “Bride’s Valley”, before continuing to the village of Tandzaver. We’ll take a tour of Armenia’s first land art museum by means of a short loop trail through the nearby forest, before spending the night at a new eco-camp in the village.
Sunday 19th September: 15km (9mi) hike and night in guesthouse
Today’s route takes us along the Kashuni river valley to a lake known locally as Chay-Zami. On the way we’ll visit the ruins of a little-known fortress, as well as a waterfall and plunge pool hidden deep in the forest – bring your swimsuit and towel! From the lake we’ll climb the pass to the Khotanan valley and descend to the village of Verin Khotanan.
Monday 20th September: 13km (8mi) hike and night in guesthouse
Today’s route is a village-to-village hike among the tiny communities in the valley below the jagged peak of Mount Katar (3,012m), passing through several tiny hamlets with mixed ethnic heritage as a result of waves of migration over the centuries. We’ll stop for a break in Dzorastan to check out the local historical museum, before finishing up at a large summer house in Arajadzor belonging to one of our long-time local partners in developing this section of the trail.
Tuesday 21st September: 13km (8mi) hike and night in guesthouse
Today we’ll venture into the forests of the Voghji valley, which was a centre of resistance for the Syunik independence movement of the 18th century. As part of our explorations of the area’s turbulent history we’ll take a short detour to Baghaberd Fortress, a key defensive position for the armies of Davit Bek, before finishing up at our campsite near the 10th-century monastery of Vahanavank.
Wednesday 22nd September: 16km (10mi) hike and night in guesthouse
Our route today passes several historic sites connected to the legend of Davit Bek, beginning with Halidzor Fortress, a former convent turned military headquarters, and continuing via the village of Bekh to a hidden hermitage deep in the forest on the mountainside above. After exploring the monastery we’ll head down to Verin Vachagan and stay at a guesthouse overlooked by the towering peak of Mount Khustup.
Thursday 23rd September: 13km (8mi) hike and overnight camp
We’ll begin our approach to Mount Khustup by crossing a 9th-century bridge over the Vachagan river, then passing the hilltop hamlet of Baghaburj before starting along the ridge towards the base of the 3,210m peak, passing outlying farms along the way and finally reaching the summer farming settlement of Storot. We’ll make camp at this popular ‘basecamp’ location and prepare for the final summit!
Friday 24th September: Summit day! 12km (7mi) hike and night in guesthouse
Today is summit day! We’ll start early for the best chance of clear skies at the top of Mount Khustup, following an ancient pathway through high-alpine steppe landscapes to the ridge south of the summit. Weather permitting, we’ll make our final scramble to the peak and celebrate our completion of the Legends Trail before retracing our steps to basecamp, where 4×4 transport will be waiting to take us down for a well-deserved night in a Kapan hotel.
Saturday 25th September: 7-hour 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 the team? Get in touch using the form below and we’ll send you an intake questionnaire. 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 coordination team 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 you are not a current member of the Transcaucasian Trail Association, we’ll ask you to pay the $100 USD annual membership fee to secure your place on the team, with the balance due 30 days before the departure date. We’ll be in further contact with you before you arrive in Armenia, and we’ll always be on hand to answer any questions you may have during that time.
Frequently Asked Questions
What if the trek has to be cancelled due to Covid 19-related concerns?
We’re fully aware of the current uncertainty surrounding international travel, and of the possibility that changes to travel restrictions and other safety concerns may make operating this trek unviable. For this reason, the balance payment for your participation will not be requested until 30 days before departure, and then only if we deem the trek viable under current circumstances. You are free to cancel your participation at any time, and any balance payment will be refunded in full. Your deposit is considered a charitable donation and is nonrefundable, regardless of the reason for cancellation, but it will be credited towards any future fundraising trek.
What exactly is included for the price?
For the $2,950 USD fee, 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 paid annual member of TCTA at the time of signing up, your membership fee will be discounted against the final balance payment, and your place will be reserved automatically.
If you are not a member, you will acquire TCTA membership for one year from the date of paying the $100 USD membership fee, including all the benefits of membership, with no obligation to renew.
Membership acquired as a result of contributions to TCTA fundraising campaigns within the previous 12 months before the date of your enquiry can also 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. If you are not a paid annual member of the TCTA, we’ll ask you to pay a nonrefundable membership fee of $100 USD within 15 days of being accepted in order to secure your place. The balance of $2,850 USD will be due 30 days before departure and will be paid directly to our local NGO in Armenia (further details will be included as part of your pre-trip information pack).
How does payment work, and where does my money go?
For non-members, the initial membership fee is paid to the Transcaucasian Trail Association, a 501(c)(3) registered nonprofit organisation based in Washington, DC. This 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. The TCTA publishes an annual report to illustrate how these funds are spent.
The final balance payment is made to our local NGO in Armenia, who operate the trek, and can be paid in US Dollars, Euros, or Armenian Drams (AMD). In the case you wish to make payment in a currency other than US Dollars, the amount will be converted into your preferred currency at the rate published by the Central Bank of Armenia on the date the payment is requested. Of this payment, approximately 50% of the fee covers the direct costs of your participation, and the remainder is invested in our trail development projects in Armenia.
What level of fitness and experience do I need to be?
We’ll be hiking up to 20km per day, with a daily elevation gain/loss of 300-1,200m (900-4,000ft) and a maximum elevation of 3,210m (10,531ft). 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 September is generally warm, clear and sunny, with the possibility of occasional showers, and cooler temperatures at night. Expect a mixture of dry and pleasant days on the trail together with sudden rain! Most of the route is at moderate elevations, where severe wind and exposure is unlikely to be a problem, but you should still pack for poor weather, including good boots and full waterproofs.
The final summit of Mount Khustup (3,210m/10,351ft) is a different story: prepare for adverse conditions including strong sun, high winds, cold temperatures, rapidly changing weather, and a generally exposed high-mountain environment.
I want to book my flights – when should I aim to arrive and depart in Yerevan?
On Sunday 12th September, 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 25th September), 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 some 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 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 with one of our other group treks?
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 above 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 $100 USD 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. For reasons of health and safety you must bring your own sleeping bag.
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.