Introducing Dilijan National Park
A brief guide to the region for hikers on the Transcaucasian Trail.
It’s easy to see why Dilijan is known colloquially as the “Little Switzerland of Armenia”. The former spa town nestles in the depths of the Aghstev Valley, overlooked by broadleaf forests and limestone crags, its suburban tentacles reaching up into the surrounding woodlands and gorges of Dilijan National Park.
Though having suffered a sad decline after the Soviet collapse, Dilijan is undergoing something of a renaissance, with the forward-thinking Russian-Armenian philanthropist Ruben Vardanyan investing untold sums in urban regeneration plans and projects. The fruits of this leadership are beginning to make themselves visible, having catalysed an exodus of entrepreneurs to leave Yerevan and join the movement, with the result that today’s Dilijan is a hotbed of start-up cafes and boutique homestays, as well as the shabby-Swiss faux-alpine architecture of old.
The revival has spread beyond the town itself to the National Park, with the Transcaucasian Trail pioneering new trails in 2017 and giving nature lovers new opportunities to explore some of the most pristine forest in the country, with the towering oriental beeches found on the upper slopes being particularly impressive.
While you’ll meet plenty of Yerevantsis at weekends escaping the summer heat for the cool climes of Dilijan, you’ll also see an increasing number of expats and intrepid foreign hikers exploring the Aghstev valley on two feet. Its proximity to Yerevan – just 90 minutes’ drive – makes it suitable for day-trips, though if you have the time, there’s enough to see and do to occupy at least three or four days of your visit.
Dilijan has an alpine climate with plentiful rain throughout the year. Winter sees subzero temperatures and snow throughout the region, while spring is the wettest season, with heavy rainfall from April to June. July to September is generally drier, and the relatively cool weather makes Dilijan a popular getaway for Armenians from elsewhere. The drier weather continues through autumn; by December temperatures are already dropping well below freezing. Rainstorms can blow through at any time, however; we recommend hikers pack waterproofs and appropriate footwear for mud at any time of year
When To Hike
It’s possible to hike from March onwards in the northern half of the Park, where snow begins to melt earlier, though it is unlikely to have vanished completely until May. If you don’t mind a bit of mud, the growing season from May to July is a fantastic time for nature lovers, with abundant wildflowers and mushrooms on display. July and August are generally the driest months, but also the hottest and by far the busiest on the trails. September and October bring more favourable daytime temperatures but the flowers will be long since gone.
Our money’s on the 2-3 week sweet spot in late October and early November – when the autumn leaves are magnificent shades of red and gold – is perhaps the most visually spectacular time to be hiking in Dilijan National Park, though many tourist services will have closed down for winter, herding settlements in the mountains will be abandoned, and campers should prepare for cold nights.
If coming from Yerevan by public transport, take the 259 bus or a private taxi to the Northern Bus Station (hyusisayin avtokayaran). Minibuses (mashrutkas) depart on the hour for Dilijan between 10am and 4pm daily, costing 1000 AMD. A private taxi from Yerevan should cost between 9,000 and 11,000 AMD.
If coming from Tbilisi, minibuses or shared taxis to Yerevan will drop you in Dilijan for a reduced rate, which should be negotiated before departure.
There’s no passenger train service to Dilijan at this time, though much talk exists around the possibility of reopening the line from Yerevan. One day…
TCT Dilijan National Park
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