Map & Trail Notes
Elevation Gain/Loss: 7,472m/7,352m
Note: The route is described from north (Bells of Goris monument) to south (Shishkert), but can be hiked in either direction.
Bells of Goris monument – Goris
Take a taxi ride to the newly reconstructed Bells of Goris monument on a hilltop to the E of the city (not to be confused with the older monument of the same name to the W of the city!). The trail follows the ridge S across pasture and alongside fields of crops. You’ll descend on a 4×4 track into the steep hills that overlook Goris from the east, before descending from the ridge on narrow footpaths among limestone pinnacles and caves.
The final section of this trail approaches the city through a cemetery. Follow the marked route to cross the River Vararak and arrive at the city square.
Goris – Karahunj
The trail leaves Goris from the southwest residential district on the hillside above the Goris–Kapan highway. To reach the trailhead from the centre of Goris, follow Syunik St S until you reach the junction with the old road to Shinuhayr. Walk up this steep hill and take the first left, then follow the marked route among the residential backstreets. After the last house there’s a gravel clearing and then the road reverts to a grassy path and passes into sparse woodland.
You’ll pass a couple of elaborate picnic shelters before delving deeper into the forest, following historic paths through former orchards. This forest trail eventually bears W into a deep side valley and drops sharply down to the river through mature walnut groves before climbing SE towards Karahunj. You’ll emerge from the woods on a meadow overlooking Karahunj, following 4×4 tracks down among the gardens and outlying houses until you reach the paved road that leads to the centre of the old village.
Karahunj – Khot
From the village centre, the route continues past the church before looping down to the small river that runs through the south part of the village. Cross the bridge over this river and continue along the unpaved road among the gardens on the edge of the village. Soon the road turns into a rough 4×4 track which climbs steeply and continues S past a row of caves at the base of a cliff.
From here, the track climbs steeply S across scrubby hillside, eventually flattening out where it meets a concrete aqueduct running parallel to the track. After several kilometres you’ll reach an abandoned pumping station on a spur, with two huge pipes running straight downhill. Rounding the corner, you’ll enter the Vorotan gorge, whose river joins the Vararak a few kilometres into Azerbaijan
The trail continues to traverse the valley side as it continues W into the Vorotan Canyon, weaving in and out of gullies before joining an old asphalt road, passing above a small reservoir, and then zig-zagging up towards the village of Khot.
Khot – Old Shinuhayr
Head south out of Khot, turning SE onto a dirt track shortly after passing the war memorial. Follow this track past the remains of the Soviet-era farm buildings perched on the clifftop. A precipitous zig-zag road descends from here, propped up by huge rock walls and hugging the cliffs at several points. The 4×4 track continues beyond Old Khot, but the marked trail takes a scenic route, following footpaths among the staggered dwellings in the upper portion of the village.
From Old Khot, the trail ventures W beyond the river, passing another rocky spur, traversing the steep hillsides below the modern village of Shinuhayr and weaving among some impressive rock formations before entering the eastern end of the historic settlement of Old Shinuhayr. Follow the marked route up through the ruined buildings to the opposite end of the village, from where you can choose either to hike up to the modern village of Shinuhayr or continue to Old Halidzor.
Old Shinuhayr – Old Halidzor
Leaving Old Shinuhayr, you’ll follow a rocky road which weaves gently down and along the side of the gorge. Around half-way to Old Halidzor, the 4×4 track suddenly zigzags down to the valley floor, but you should take the small trail leading uphill before the first bend in order to stay on the correct route.
You’ll pass a flat area at the top of a hill, where several khachkars (cross-stones) on pedestals can be found with a little exploring. From this ridge, the trail brings you down to the lower, eastern part of Old Halidzor, where it joins another 4×4 track leading down to the bottom of the gorge. You should proceed a short distance uphill on this track towards the upper part of the village, where you’ll find a junction with a side trail to the modern village of Halidzor.
Old Halidzor – Tatev
From the church, follow the trail markings down through the narrow streets, descending gradually towards the southwest part of the village and towards a prominent rocky ridge to the W that slopes down towards the bottom of the gorge. You’ll find a footpath following the E side of the ridge down among the bushes and rock outcrops, in some places making tight zig-zag turns through tricky terrain.
You’ll soon reach the base of the ridge, where the trail bears W and crosses a small stream before passing an uninhabited farmhouse and descending to a faint dirt track that doubles back E to the only footbridge on this section of the River Vorotan.
From the S end of the footbridge, follow the 4×4 track W along the riverbank. As the route bends SW, the gorge becomes narrower, and after you pass the ruins of a small stone building the 4×4 track becomes a narrow trail through increasingly rugged terrain, with cliffs and rock outcrops towering above you on both sides of the river. At the narrowest point of the gorge, the trail hugs the cliff face so closely that a half-tunnel has been chiselled out of the rock to allow passage. Following this are some particularly steep and narrow passageways through tightly-stacked rock escarpments.
As the gorge opens up again you’ll see a small hydroelectric plant near the river below you. Avoid this by zig-zagging sharply up into the woods and taking a higher route above the plant. You will cross a large, half-buried water pipe which feeds the turbine from above.
Beyond this, the monastic complex of the Great Hermitage of Tatev will come into view, nestled at the foot of the hillside opposite. You’ll descend past a grove of walnut trees to a confluence of two rivers – the Vorotan and the Aghandzu – and cross a makeshift metal footbridge before rejoining the River Vorotan and following it upstream on a NW bearing to the junction for the hermitage. Turn left at the signpost and follow the trail uphill to reach the upper entrance of the complex.
The route up to Tatev itself continues from the signed junction above the hermitage’s upper entrance, and follows old cart tracks and pack routes up the terraced hillside below Tatev Monastery, reaching the paved road on the outskirts of Tatev. Follow the road uphill for a few hundred metres to emerge just above Tatev Monastery complex.
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Tatev – Tandzatap
From the upper entrance of the monastery complex, follow the H-46 road out of Tatev. The road descends to cross the river and after a hairpin bend climbs back up to the Tatev viewpoint, a favourite spot for photographers wanting to capture the dramatic sight of the fortified monastery on the clifftop opposite.
The onward trail winds down from the viewpoint into the woodland, passing the ruins of the 10th-century Holy Mother of God chapel. The trail continues across wooded hillsides, zig-zagging down through sloping meadows and then plunging deeper into the Aghandzu gorge.
Tandzatap is clearly visible from several points on the route and sometimes appears to be within throwing distance, but you must first pass the deepest part of the canyon, with tumbling falls and pools running alongside the trail, the ruins of a watermill on the riverbank, and a high bridge spanning the cascading waters. From here it’s a short walk up to the tiny hamlet of Tandzatap.
Tandzatap – Bardzravan
A longer route down from Tandzatap may be shown on some maps and trailheads, but we recommend a shorter, currently unmarked route for the first part of this stage.
From the signpost just NW of the church in the middle of the village, proceed N and down towards the pump station. Before reaching it, look for a very narrow trail descending left from the dirt road and into the trees. This steep footpath leads down to join a more substantial marked trail a few hundred metres below.
The trail passes by the 10th-century Holy Mother of God chapel on a precipitous outcrop, and then continues to zig-zag down (and occasionally up) among the steep hillsides and rock outcrops of the Aghandzu gorge. At present it is necessary to climb over a recently-installed large water pipe twice in short succession. The trail dips back down into the forest before bringing you to the same junction you will already have visited on the way to the Great Hermitage of Tatev.
From here, retrace your steps E along the gorge and past the footbridge. You’ll soon bear right and uphill on a 4×4 track that leads towards Harants Hermitage, but long before reaching this site you should take a junction left onto a narrow path leading back down towards the river.
The trail follows the top of a steep embankment before bearing right and uphill once more, passing a ruined building on your right and then traversing above more orchards. You’ll soon reach a thicket of brambles at a mulberry grove. Head SE and uphill on a badly-eroded track, which will eventually narrow into a steep footpath taking you up the wooded ridge between the two excavated halves of Deghnadzor (Yellow Valley).
Ascending into thicker forest, you’ll pass among the ruined walls and walnut trees that signify the edge of Old Bardzravan (also known as Yeritsatumb). Follow the waymarkings past St Minas Kratak church and up to the base of the cliffs before rounding the end of the escarpment and climbing out of the gorge and onto the plateau on the edge of Bardzravan.
Bardzravan – Tandzaver
Leave the village heading S on the unpaved road that connects Bardzravan to the Goris–Kapan highway. After passing the farm buildings and small reservoir to the west, take the signposted junction south off the road to pick up a well-used 4×4 track, which winds its way up through the forest to reach the main ridge dividing the Vorotan Canyon and the Kashuni river valley to the south, in which Tandzaver sits.
The dirt road back towards Tandzatap and Tatev heads west from here, but you should pass the ridge and continue downhill and S. You’ll pass through thick forest, rolling hills and little-visited rural valleys as you continue along 4×4 tracks, passing a small farmstead and a medieval church just below the small peak of Harsnablur (Bride’s Hill).
S of here, the marked route will bring you through more thick forest and down into the northeastern district of the village of Tandzaver.
Tandzaver – Verin Khotanan
Walk east along the H-46 road towards Verin Khotanan. The road leads down to the River Kashuni, but you should turn off E before the bridge, walking down a short dirt road that crosses a tributary of the Kashuni and passes by the gates of a farmhouse.
Stay low at the fork to follow a path running parallel with the river. You’ll roughly trace the river in this way for several kilometres, using a mixture of animal paths and fragments of farm track, sometimes walking across water-meadows next to the river and at other times climbing through patches of woodland.
When the H-46 road (on the south side of the river) zig-zags up the mountainside, you should continue E along the Kashuni valley, following the north side of the river downstream as before. The tangle of 4×4 tracks will narrow to a single route as the forest becomes more dense, until eventually there is just one way to follow. Stay on this 4×4 track, which before the narrowest point in the deepening gorge will loop north around a rocky hilltop. The marked route passes a number of tributaries and eventually crosses the River Kashuni before reaching what is left of the T-8-99 road at the western end of Davit Bek reservoir, better known to locals by its old Turkish name of Chay-Zami (roughly translating as “field of rivers”).
The trail follows a dirt road along part of the southern shore of the reservoir, before climbing sharply up through the forest on a steep 4×4 track, emerging onto an open field and continuing uphill and back into the forest to reach the same dirt road you passed earlier.
After a few kilometres you’ll reach the highest point of this stage and start to descend into the Khotanan valley. The marked route follows the rutted and often muddy dirt road all the way down to the valley floor; we recommend delving a few metres W into the forest at this point, where you’ll find a singletrack trail running parallel to the road and avoiding the worst of the mud.
You’ll emerge back onto the main route as the valley broadens and the route bears W into open pastureland, your destination of Verin Khotanan soon coming into view. Continue downhill on the gentle gradient of this dirt road. Here we recommend a second diversion from the marked route: look for a narrow trail up the embankment to the right, which connects to a historic footpath that will bring you out at the N end of the village. Proceed S and downhill to rejoin the marked route.
Verin Khotanan – Arajadzor
Proceed SW out of the village and past the school. The dirt road will pass a picnic shelter and drop down to a small river. Cross the bridge, and as soon as you reach the edge of the first open field on the uphill side of the road, turn NE and traverse uphill across this steep meadow to its far northwest corner. Here you’ll find a narrow footpath leading into the forest, which will climb steeply and soon bring you back to the same stream you crossed earlier. A well-used path crosses the stream and continues back towards the village, but before the stream crossing you should double back and continue uphill and S. This historic footpath will bring you up and out of the forest onto a broad, grassy ridge, with tracks leading in multiple directions.
Head roughly SW and gently downhill on the narrow path running parallel to and just below the 4×4 track. As the track rounds the first spur, the footpath will break away and head steeply downhill, taking a more direct route to Tavrus, which should now be visible below you.
Wander down among the clusters of ruined and newly-rebuilt homes, following the main route S out of the village. As the road wraps around the hillside to the E, a faint track continues S along the open ridge. Follow this for a short distance before dropping sharply down the E side of the ridge. The route follows a small river down through thickets of hazel, crossing the stream several times before emerging at the very top of Okhtar.
Follow the main residential road down through the village, which will eventually turn W after the last house and join the T-8-59 paved road at the bottom of the Achanan valley.
The route to Vanek makes use of a short section of the T-8-59 paved road, which thankfully sees little traffic. Continue up through the village, following the road to the last and uppermost house. From here, a steep and rutted 4×4 track continues uphill alongside a large fenced garden.
When the track flattens out among a collection of small meadows and streams, navigation becomes somewhat challenging: head E across the meadow and down into the trees towards the next stream, looking for a large picnic area in the trees on the riverbank. From here, a good 4×4 track traverses the forested hillside for several kilometres, bringing you round to the northern, uppermost edge of Dzorastan.
Continue through the upper part of the village and out between the gardens, descending towards the river on a dirt track which plunges down into the trees at the bottom of the valley. The route crosses the river and then climbs away, heading roughly E and passing through a series of grassy clearings. After another stream crossing, you’ll pass a picnic shelter and the 4×4 track will become much more substantial. Continue a couple of kilometres along this track as it winds its way around the hillside to reach the upper part of the village of Arajadzor.
Arajadzor – Shgharshik
From the top of Arajadzor, follow the 4×4 track SW up the ridge (beware that the first part of this track is steep and badly eroded). The track winds upwards and soon levels out to follow the ridge, ducking in and out of the trees as it climbs away from Arajadzor and deeper into the forest.
After a few kilometres you’ll reach an area of scrubby, south-facing hillside. The 4×4 track continues up the ridge from here towards a derelict communications tower, but you should follow the lower, fainter track traversing the hillside, crossing a stream and re-entering the forest on a narrow path. Parts of this path can become overgrown with brambles, and the route is criss-crossed with old trails and tracks, so be careful with navigation in this area.
You’ll descend until you leave the forest into an area of rocky hillside, which leads onto the top of a flat ridge. Follow this ridge S for a few hundred metres until the trail drops sharply to the west. From here it is a steep and rocky descent on a mix of 4×4 tracks and livestock trails to the northern, uphill end of Shgharshik. where you’ll meet the main residential road and proceed downhill to the village centre.
Shgharshik – Bekh
Proceed down the road from Shgharshik, cross the M-2 Kapan–Kajaran highway and continue down the small road opposite. The road crosses the River Voghji and then climbs steadily up into the side valley to the S. It’s a short distance away from the main route on the paved road to the extensively restored 10–11th-century monastery of Vahanavank.
From the top of the clearing above the picnic shelters near Vahanavank, follow the 4×4 track uphill into the forest. Beware that this track can become very muddy. You’ll pass a metal barrier, crossing the stream at several points. The track will grow fainter until it appears barely used, but continue following the markings. You’ll reach a junction in a thicket of brambles at which you should bear E, passing out of the bramble thicket and onto a narrow footpath which climbs the hillside through thin woodland on a roughly NE bearing.
The trail reaches the top of a wide, flat ridge and loses a little of its definition, but if you follow the markings you will find the correct route down the eastern flank of the ridge, weaving NE in tight zig-zags through more woodland and occasional open areas of pasture to bring you out above Halidzor Fortress.
From the fortress, a steep and often muddy 4×4 track descends to the highway, but you should break off this track at the first bend and follow the narrow path through thorny scrub and S into the valley. A clear trail soon emerges, passing a small cascading waterfall surrounded by elder and bramble and through thin woodland.
Reaching the cultivated fields, the path widens into a well-established track, crossing a handful of streams and following the fringes of the forest before emerging onto open grassland, the village of Bekh visible on top of the hill in front of you. Follow the route up the hillside among mature walnut trees and finally up a narrow path between the houses to emerge next to the church at the centre of Bekh.
Bekh – Verin Vachagan
Head S along the road through Bekh. As the road leads uphill among the houses, a footpath will drop down into the valley W of the ridge, passing a few memorial stones and sculptures. The trail crosses a stream cutting through the bedrock and climbs sharply NW up the opposite ridge, following a tangle of eroded and often muddy trails into thickening forest. The gradient lessens as the trail bears SW and continues up into the forest, crossing a small stream before reaching Bekh Hermitage.
From the hermitage, the trail traverses up the forested hillside to the E, crossing several small streams (note: some maps may show the marked route incorrectly here). The trail will emerge from the trees onto a long, narrow ridge sloping down towards Verin Vachagan. Proceed downhill and E – steeply at times – across open hillsides and through thorny scrub to reach a 4×4 track, which will take you E and down into the upper part of Verin Vachagan.
Verin Vachagan – Baghaburj
From the top of Verin Vachagan, the marked route makes use of residential roads and footpaths between houses to weave its way downhill to the bottom of the village. It’s quite easy to get lost among the closely-packed buildings on the steep hillside, but all routes will eventually bring you down to the main paved road to Kapan.
Continue downhill beyond the road on steep trails among gardens to the path running parallel to the River Vachagan. Follow the path alongside the river, heading downstream and N to the historic bridge of 871. Cross the bridge and continue N on another path which now runs parallel to the opposite bank of the river, again downstream.
The path soon breaks away from the riverside, climbing up through sparse woodland in a generally NE direction, becoming a 4×4 track next to a picnic shelter. Follow the track up, again NE, to reach the hilltop village of Baghaburj.
Baghaburj – Storot (Navcha)
From Baghaburj you’ll follow a 4×4 track S and up, following the side of the ridge. Follow the track along the ridge, dipping in and out of dense woodland as you go. Some parts of this route can get very muddy, but the track is well-used and easy to follow as it gradually climbs in the direction of the peak of Mount Khustup.
The seasonal farming settlement of Storot (also referred to as Navcha or Nafcha) lies just above the tree-line on the south-facing hillside below the ridge you’ve been following. Zig-zag up through the hamlet to reach a flat area on the shoulder of the ridge, just above the highest cottage and close to a drinking water source. Being the closest off-road vehicle access point to the summit from the Kapan side, this is a well-established basecamp for hikers hoping to summit Khustup in a day.
Storot (Navcha) – Shishkert (via Mount Khustup)
The first half of the climb to the summit of Mount Khustup is a straightforward continuation of the same ridge you followed to reach Storot, although on a narrow path instead of a 4×4 track. After zig-zagging up through some exposed rock formations you’ll reach the first of two springs on the route.
From here the trail becomes considerably steeper, weaving its way up in tight zig-zags as it bears S of the summit to avoid the impassable rock crags above. The second freshwater spring is approximately 50m S of the trail, just before you reach the main ridge south of the summit. As you pass a couple of crude rock shelters and reach the main ridge, you’ll meet a 4×4 track coming up from the south side.
From below the summit, follow the ridge S on the faint 4×4 track, which zig-zags down to the pass at the top of the River Tsav watershed. Follow the same track SE as it zig-zags down the Tsav valley to reach Shishkert, and the current southern terminus of the Transcaucasian Trail route in Armenia.
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As well as ultra-detailed 1:25,000 topographic maps and written descriptions of each trail stage, this comprehensive pocket guidebook to the Legends Trail provides historical, background and practical information on all of the places and points of interest you’ll visit along the way, listings of accommodation and other services along the route, and guides to the many and varied side routes and excursions you can take from the main route of the trail. It also includes detailed advice on travel to and within Armenia, practical information you’ll need to know in advance of arriving in the country, and a lot more besides.