Stage 8: Haghartsin Monastery to Hovk

Part of the Transcaucasian Trail route through Dilijan National Park, Armenia.

Distance: 24.0km
Elevation
Difficulty: Hard
Status: Open & Partially Marked

Trail description

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.

Just beyond this junction, on the island beyond the road forks and down the right fork on the right of the road, you’ll find some of Haghartsin Monastery’s more untouched relics, including several khachkars and a small chapel.

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.

This short and unassuming section of trail was discovered in 2016 by the Transcaucasian Expedition team. Local lore told of an ancient footpath between the monastery and the fortress of Aghchkaberd (Maiden’s Fortress) in the direction of Ijevan. Several more stretches of this ancient trail were found and mapped. Some are still in use, though the majority of the complete route has disappeared over the years. Given significant restoration work in the future, it is hoped that this heritage trail along the north side of the Aghstev Valley can be opened once again.

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.

If you’re lucky, you may spot the herds of semi-wild horses in this region that belong to the inhabitants of this farm.

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.

You’ll find various dirt roads leading in several directions from this pass, enabling intrepid hikers to formulate a variety routes between the seasonal settlements in the uplands.

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.

The route to Hovk beyond this junction is currently unmarked. Ensure you have digital or paper maps for navigation from this point onward.

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.

The future route of the Transcaucasian Trail will bear left at this junction, crossing the main ridge into the Sarnajur valley to the north of Dilijan National Park, with the route to Hovk becoming a side trail. Members get early access to new routes – find out more.

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.

This ancient route through the cliffs was brought to TCT’s attention by local mountaineer and hiking guide Andranik Miribyan, who also operates a guesthouse in the village of Hovk.

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.


Accommodation

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.

Camping

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.

Food

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

Trail Guide Contents

Download this route via apps and web platforms

Got an Android or iOS smartphone? You can find this trail on the following platforms (links open in new windows or tabs):

Download KML & GPX files for Google Earth & GPS units

Looking to download the raw data for this route? That’s a TCT members-only privilege. Find out what other perks you get for supporting our work, or login to your account to access the downloads.

Download printable trail guides & maps

Guess what? That’s a members-only privilege too! It’s really very good value, and you’ll be supporting our ongoing work in the process. Find out more.

Bitnami