Stage 8: Haghartsin Monastery to Hovk
Part of the Transcaucasian Trail route through Dilijan National Park, Armenia.
Status: Open & Partially Marked
From the monastery car park, head E along the asphalt road as if leaving the complex. After 200m you’ll pass a small kiosk on your left next to a boom gate across the road. Directly after this kiosk, turn left on the dirt road leading uphill and into the forest.
Follow the dirt road for 1km until you reach a small river crossing. Cross the river and proceed up the steep track for 30m, before taking a sharp right onto another track heading E along the hillside. After 250m you’ll come to another narrow stream crossing. Continue another 550m along the trail through the forest until the trees begin to thin out and the trail begins to widen into a road.
As the route emerges from the trees, look for a narrow trail to your left, which winds up the hillside for about 250m before rejoining a heavily used dirt track. Stick to the lowest of the many routes N for 600m: the road will veer E and up, bringing you out at a small farmstead on a broad meadow on a ridge between two valleys.
From the NW corner of the fenced compound beside the uppermost farmhouse, proceed N, following the faint track up the field towards the rock formations above. After 600m the road becomes more pronounced and veers W to pass among rocky outcrops, before heading N and then NE to continue ascending the valley side below the main ridge. You’ll find several freshwater springs along this route. Stay on the most well-used track for 3km; you will come to a seasonal farmstead perched on the saddle between the ridge and a small hillock to the S.
Continue climbing for a further 1.7km along the road to a point just below a pass on the main ridgeline. At 2,387m (7,831ft), this pass is currently the highest point on the Transcaucasian Trail through Dilijan National Park. On a clear day, it is worth gaining the ridge here to take in panoramic views of the Aghstev valley to the S, and also the Sarnajur valley to the N which drains out to Ijevan, as well as beyond across the central uplands of Tavush.
The road begins to descend E from the pass, dropping below the main ridge on its south-facing slopes. After 500m you’ll pass another cluster of seasonal farmsteads before the road winds its way more steeply through several small watersheds. You’ll pass 4 switchbacks on the way down. At the 5th switchback, 2.2km after the farmsteads, you’ll find a junction.
Turn left and take the road E from here for another 2km to a junction with a road leading NE up the hillside. Continue straight on at this junction, following the road E and down the narrow valley between the ridge above and to your left and the dramatic limestone outcroppings to your right.
Pass the solitary farmstead on your right after 900m, keeping aware of the possible presence of dogs in the vicinity. You’ll reach another cluster of buildings after 500m. The road will narrow into a footpath and begin to climb the hillside N and to your left. Instead, traverse and descend the hillside NE to SE on one of the many livestock trails. Cross the small gorge after about 400m and continue traversing the hillside SE, maintaining your elevation and following the signposted route.
After 500m the terrain will begin to flatten and you’ll find yourself crossing open fields across a gently sloping plateau above the cliffs. Continue following the contours of the terrain on a geneally SE bearing for another 1km to reach the most SE point of the peninsular, where the terrain drops sharply. You’ll find the remains of a distinctive trail just above the cliffs here, leading E and then N. Follow this trail to discover a spectacular set of ancient stone switchbacks, which will allow you to descend the cliffs to the hillside below.
From the base of the cliffs, pick up the trail heading S for 100m and then switching back NE. The route follows the lip of the natural escarpment and is marked by rock cairns. After 750m you’ll reach a dirt road. Take a right and follow this road downhill NE. It will wind down the hillside bearing roughly S. After 1.2km the terrain will flatten out and you’ll meet another road coming in from the left, with a huge boulder marking the junction.
From here, the road is well established and easy to follow to the village of Hovk, which is on a SE bearing and can be reached after approximately 5km of downhill walking.
One of the first houses you’ll pass on your way into Hovk is the Wild Trail Lodge, run by local mountaineer and specifically catering for hikers and adventure travellers. It’s currently the only formal accommodation option in the village.
There are no formal campsites in the area. Plentiful opportunities can be found on the flat lands below the cliffs approximately 5km above the village. There is a freshwater spring behind a farmstead which is a short walk to the W of the trail as it bears NE near the base of the cliffs.
There is no catering available on this route. Campers are advised to bring their own food supplies. Guests of the Wild Trail Lodge can request meals in advance. It may be possible to buy fresh dairy produce from the summer settlements at times when they are occupied.
TCT Dilijan National Park
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