When’s The Best Time To Hike in Syunik, Armenia?
Most of the Transcaucasian Trail route in Syunik passes through subalpine forests, meadows and pastures between 835–3,076m in elevation, following historic footpaths and 4×4 tracks between villages and points of interest. The optimal time of year to hike these routes is between early May and mid October.
Springtime hikers will see the wildflowers at their very best, although late spring can bring heavy storms and muddy trails. High summer is a time of dry, sunny days with a climate similar to central Europe, bringing with it soft fruits and haymaking. Autumn sees the forests turn golden, the temperatures begin to drop, and the last of the apples and pears falling from the trees.
Only Mount Khustup and the surrounding ridges fall outside of this description: the 3,210m peak and its approaches are rarely snow-free until June, with fresh snowfall likely from October onwards.
Although the days are shorter and the landscapes more bleak, winter in southern Armenia often sees substantial dry periods between snowfalls, during which some trail sections may be accessible. Most village homestays will continue to host travellers throughout the winter, and hotels in bigger towns are open year-round.
Getting To & From The Trailheads
From Yerevan, intercity minibuses depart for Goris (AMD3,500) and Kapan (AMD4,000) from the Intertown Bus Station, located outside the western entrance to the pedestrian subway beneath Sasuntsi David Railway Station, which is easy to reach from the city centre by metro or minibus.
Minibuses depart as soon as they’re full, and you can’t reserve a seat in advance, so it’s best to arrive early. If you miss the last bus or can’t get a seat, you may be able to find a shared minivan operating the same route for a slightly higher price.
Be aware that prices, timetables and departure locations change regularly, so get up-to-date local information before you travel.
There is no public transport to Shishkert, so you will need to arrange a taxi or other private transport in Kapan if you plan to start or end your hike here.
Especially if you are in a group, a private taxi may be a more convenient way to reach your starting point. Metered services cost AMD100/km for a regular car and AMD150/km for a 7-seater, and can easily be ordered via Armenian ride-hailing smartphone apps such as ggTaxi, YandexGo or Utaxi.
One of Yerevan’s many private travel agencies may be able to offer you a fixed price lower than the metered equivalent. Most hotels and guesthouses in Yerevan can also make travel arrangements on your behalf.
Where To Stay
As in most places in Armenia and the Caucasus, wild camping is largely tolerated, though you may be visited by inquisitive locals if you set up your tent in a conspicuous location.
Indoor accommodation is available at several points along the trail, with the notable exception of Bardzravan. Most accommodation providers in Armenia use the popular Booking.com platform to advertise their services. Detailed information and contact details for homestays and guesthouses along the route can be found in the Legends Trail guidebook (see below).
For assistance with local guesthouse bookings, transportation and guides, consider visiting the Yerevan-based HIKEArmenia resource center (5 Vardanants St, Yerevan), Goris Tourist Information Office (3 Ankakhutyan St) or Tatev Information Centre & Cafe (opposide the cable-car station). Kapan doesn’t have an official tourist information centre but the local NGO ARK Armenia (4/4 Charents St) provides support and information for hikers in English.
Hiking & Camping Supplies
UTC gas canisters for camping stoves are unavailable to buy in the region. You will need to bring gas canisters with you from Yerevan (see HIKEArmenia above), use a multi-fuel or alcohol-burning stove, or bring a butane cartridge adapter.
The villages on the route either have no store or carry a poor selection of goods. If camping, we suggest you bring all necessary supplies from Yerevan, or else get your supplies in Goris or Kapan, both of which have well-stocked supermarkets.
If staying in B&Bs, guesthouses or homestays, we highly recommend you order dinner in advance. The hosts will prepare a variety of delicious home-cooked food with organic, locally grown ingredients.
Every village has a local nurse on duty if minor medical treatment is needed, who can usually be found at the municipality office (ie: village hall).
The nearest fully equipped hospitals are the military hospital in Sisian, or else hospitals in Yerevan.
There are no pharmacies in any of the villages on the route except for Shinuhayr.
Cellphone service is good throughout the area passed by this trail. We tend to find that VivaCell-MTS currently has the best coverage in rural Armenia. Wi-Fi at B&Bs and homestays cannot currently be relied on, so subscribing to a data plan in advance is recommended if internet connectivity is needed.
Dive Deep Into Local Lore With The Syunik Legends Trail Hiking Guidebook
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.