Join our fall 2019 fundraising trek through Vayots Dzor, Armenia!

8-Day Itinerary: October 13–20th, 2019
Contribution: $1,250 USD per person (GBP/EUR/AMD)

Explore the dramatic landscapes of southern Armenia on this exclusive 8-day supported trek!

Our second fundraising trek of the year will explore the newest section of the Transcaucasian Trail in Armenia, weaving 110km through the dramatic gorges and rocky canyons that characterise the province of Vayots Dzor. 

Members of the TCT crew will lead the first small group of up to 10 people on this never-before-hiked route, taking in the very best of the natural and cultural wonders the region has to offer – 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 camping gear transported by 4×4 between beautiful wild-camping sites in the mountains and rural guesthouses and homestays in villages along the route.

As always, all proceeds from your participation will be invested directly back into our work in Armenia, helping ensure the future of this world-class long distance trail.

Itinerary Overview

Day 1: Yerevan transfer to Vayots Dzor via Noratus & Selim Caravanserai
Day 2: 16km hike & night in guesthouse
Day 3: 21km gorge hike & nature camp
Day 4: 24km hike & night in homestay
Day 5: 13km hike & night in guesthouse
Day 6: 17km canyon hike & nature camp
Day 7: 19km loop hike & night in guesthouse
Day 8: Winery tour & transfer to Yerevan

Route statistics

Total distance: 110km
Elevation gain/loss: +4,844m/-5,118m
Average gradient: +7.1%/-6.9%
Min/max altitude: 1,007m/2,529m

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
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A unique opportunity to explore the newest section of the Transcaucasian Trail in Armenia!

How do we know this experience is one-of-a-kind? Simple: we explored, mapped and designed this route ourselves. Nobody else knows it like we do!

In 2016, a team of explorers spent months scouting and mapping the historical trails and cultural heritage sites of southern Vayots Dzor to create a single continuous route. We followed up in 2017 with a five-week design project to plan the new trail infrastructure that would make this section of the TCT possible. Finally, a huge trail construction and marking effort in 2018 has resulted in the complete route being open to hikers for the very first time.

This fundraising trek represents 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.

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This experience combines stunning natural beauty with the best of local hospitality.

The Caucasus region is famous for three things: gravity-defying mountain landscapes, a stunning richness of 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 October 13th: Walking tour of Yerevan & transfer to Vayots Dzor.

We’ll meet in the Armenian capital of Yerevan at 13:00, take a short walking tour, then at 14:00 depart by minibus for Vayots Dzor (~3hrs). On the way, we’ll visit the unique collection of over 900 khachkars (cross-stones) at Noratus, and the world-famous Selim Caravanserai perched below the mountain pass, before descending to the village of Hors. We’ll stay at a new eco-lodge in Hors conservation area, enjoy a home-cooked meal, and prepare for departure on foot the following morning.

Includes: Minibus transport, night at eco-lodge, home-cooked dinner.

Monday October 14th: 16 km / 5 hour hike & night in guesthouse.

After a hearty breakfast, we’ll follow cattle trails and dirt tracks among rocky crags and mountain pastures high above the Yeghegis Valley. Rounding the southern flanks of Mt Gandzakar, we’ll descend towards the cavernous Arpa River valley which splits the province of Vayots Dzor in half. As we descend, open hillsides will give way to the expansive vineyards of Aghavnadzor. It’ll be grape harvesting season, so we may find an opportunity to sample matcharr – a very young type of homemade wine that appears around this time of year – before finishing up at a traditional guesthouse in Areni village.

Includes: Breakfast, luggage transfer, home-cooked dinner.

Tuesday October 15th: 21km / 8 hour gorge hike & overnight camp.

Today’s hike delves deep into Gnishik Gorge, also known as Noravank Gorge after the provisionally UNESCO-listed monastery that sits beneath its cliffs. We’ll take an early drive to the monastery to enjoy the peace, and perhaps spot a herd of the wild Bezoar goats that frequent the gorge, before plunging into the depths of the gorge along historical footpaths used for centuries by the inhabitants of nearby villages to reach the monastery. We’ll make camp in the hills beyond the village of Gnishik itself, with dinner cooked by a local family.

Includes: Breakfast, luggage transfer, dinner at camp.

Wednesday October 16th: 24 km / 8 hour hike & night in guesthouse.

The morning’s hike will take us out of the Gnishik river basin and over a panoramic mountain pass into the valley beyond. On the way down, we’ll explore the ruined hillside village of Horadis, abandoned in Soviet times due to the difficulty of providing modern infrastructure to such a remote location, still inhabited in summer by a family of local beekeepers and with a partially restored 10th-century basilica church. The day’s hike ends at the village of New Martiros, where we’ll enjoy the hospitality of a local family for the night.

Includes: Breakfast, luggage transfer, home cooked dinner, night in village homestay.

Thursday October 17th: 13km / 4 hour hike & night in guesthouse.

Today is relatively short. We’ll begin by exploring the old village of Martiros, a once-important settlement whose founding is recorded on a khachkar dating back to 1283AD, before visiting a unique rock-hewn cave church at the foot of nearby Mount Gogi. From here, we’ll follow a newly-built trail around the mountainside – offering truly spectacular views across Vayots Dzor – to Gomk, where we’ll take a well-earned half day off to enjoy local food and hospitality.

Includes: Home-cooked breakfast and dinner, luggage transfer, night in guesthouse.

Friday October 18th: 17km / 8 hour hike & overnight camp

This morning’s hike is perhaps the hardest of the trek, with a steep climb up an ancient stone staircase to the top of nearby Kapuyt Gorge – but the effort is more than worth it for the panoramic views at the top, as well as a truly spectacular cliff-ledge traverse above the gorge: don’t look down! The route continues along another historical trail, winding down through the oak groves of Artavan Forest and passing among the remains of ancient settlements, bandit camps and iron forges. We’ll make camp in the vicinity of Artavan village on our penultimate night of the trek.

Includes: Home-cooked breakfast, luggage transfer, dinner at camp.

Saturday October 19th: 19km / 6 hour hike & night in guesthouse

We’ll drop our bags at a local homestay in Artavan village before making a loop of the nearby meadows and mountains, visiting several points of interest along the way, including waterfalls, lakes, tomb fields, and the ruins of an ancient fortress on a rock outcrop – which also marks the furthest point south on this section of the Transcaucasian Trail. We’ll return to our guesthouse for a final celebratory meal and a well earned night’s sleep.

Includes: Breakfast at camp, luggage transfer, home-cooked dinner, night at village homestay.

Sunday October 20th: Winery tour & transfer to Yerevan

No need to get up early (except if you want to!) – after a relaxed breakfast at our homestay, we’ll hit the road and take a tour of a renowned small-scale winery in the region, after which transport back to Yerevan will be provided (~2.5hrs to the city centre or airport, estimated arrival time 17:00) and we’ll say our final goodbyes.

Includes: Home-cooked breakfast, winery tour, transfer to Yerevan.

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Requested contribution:
$1,250 USD per person

(See this in GBP / EUR / AMD)

Includes 1-year membership of the Transcaucasian Trail Association.

Already a member? Did you know your fee counts towards your place on this trek? Find out more

Hiking Boots At The Ready!

So you’re interested in joining our second fundraising hike of 2019? 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 click the big green button?

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 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.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What exactly is included for the money?

For your USD $1,250 contribution, you’ll receive all of the services and inclusions as detailed above, 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 (except for stoves and cooking equipment).

How does prior membership of TCTA affect the price?

If you are a donation-paying member of TCTA at the time of paying your deposit, we will offset your membership donation against the total cost of one trek per membership cycle. In other words, if you paid $100 for membership, and your membership is active when you pay the $625 deposit, the final balance due will be $525 instead of $625.

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 crowdfunding 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 offeding. We’ll ask you to pay a nonrefundable deposit of USD $625 to secure your place, with the balance (USD $625) due 30 days before departure.

How fit do I need to be?

We’ll be hiking up to 26km per day, with a daily elevation gain/loss of 500-1000m. In other words, you must be fit and conditioned to regular long days of hill walking, and wild camping in locations without facilities.

Is any equipment provided? If not, what do I need to bring?

We’ll take care of meals and cooking equipment, 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?

Vayots Dzor is well known for its relatively dry and sunny climate, with some of the lowest annual rainfall in the country. In October, we expect clear, mild days, cold (possibly frosty) nights, and a small chance of scattered rain – but bring waterproofs just in case!

I want to book my flights – when should I aim to arrive and depart in Yerevan?

On Sunday 13th October (Day 1), we ask you to make your way to central Yerevan by 13:00, so we suggest arriving the previous day (Saturday 8th) in order to rest, orient yourself, and ensure a timely rendezvous.

If you wish to depart on the final transfer day to Yerevan (Sunday 20th), we will aim to arrive in Yerevan city centre or airport at 17:00, so any flight departing after 20:00 is suggested – it may be preferable to stay an additional night in Yerevan and depart the following day (Monday 21st).

In case you are restricted to an earlier flight on Sunday 20th than our itinerary can provide for, we can arrange private transportation to Yerevan on the evening of Saturday 19th.

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 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 the Caucasus 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!

How many other hikers will there be?

We’re recruiting 5–10 participants for this trek, not including the two guides.

Is the itinerary set in stone?

The dates and the general route through Vayots Dzor 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 Vayots Dzor 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 fundraising 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 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 activities 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.

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