Explore Mind-Blowing Canyons in Armenia
Mind-blowing Canyons on Your Hidden Track
You’ve heard of Armenia’s beautiful mountains, but what about its amazing canyons that carve dramatic lines through its landscape? Topographically, Armenia is full of texture and depth just waiting to be explored. “Canyoning” can look as calm as a low-altitude-gain hike or as extreme as scrambling, climbing, swimming, and/or rappelling down waterfalls or cliffs. Here we list some of the most unique gorges, canyons and ravines to add to your adventure bucket list.
Don’t be fooled by the name. While this area of the Ararat region gets quite hot in summer (and snakes like to hang around), hiking in Hell’s Canyon is as heavenly as it gets in autumn and winter. The area is a striking combination of tall, narrow gorges and expansive views. For the best experience, begin in Tigranashen village and hike to the nearby peak of Tezhkar mountain. From there, when the weather is clear, Mt. Ararat stands directly opposite you, larger than life. After summiting, begin your descent into the canyon, which boasts eye-catching red rock, caves and if you’re lucky – bear footprints. You’ll quickly discover why Hell’s Canyon is also a favourite location for rock climbers.
Near the village of Vedi you’ll find Angel’s Canyon. While relatively small in size, the canyon is captivating due to the structure and colour of its rock walls. Clay-red in colour, and striated in texture, walls rise up on both sides of the narrow path, which mystically snakes through the gorge. Wind your way through the most photogenic section of the trail, then continue along the loop for about 11 kilometres. Keep your eyes open for eagles and tortoises! Since the area usually gets very hot in summer, we recommend visiting in spring or fall.
The Pink Canyon is a relatively new discovery near the popular Azat Reservoir. Located behind the lake’s northern banks, the gorge carries hikers through tall cliffs of the Yeranos mountains. You’ll admire the endless sections of naturally striated rock, notable for their distinct layers and variegated hues of – you guessed it – pink! In the narrowest sections of the hike, you’ll have to scramble a bit. Other parts of the trail widen to give hikers a magnificent view of the landscape around. See if you can spot geological wonders like the massive Sphinx-like peak, rock pillars and cave as you walk.
Located just 30 kilometers east of Yerevan, Garni Gorge combines one of Armenia’s top cultural destinations with unique topography. The gorge is famous for its distinctive, hexagonal basalt columns, a remnant of volcanic activity. Walk from the ancient Garni Temple, which dates to pagan times, to the “Symphony of Stones.” There, you can see a natural cluster of columns that resembles a pipe organ. Should you wish to continue walking, the hiking path follows the Azat River which carries fresh alpine water from the Geghama mountains all the way to Azat Reservoir. There is no outlet once you hit the reservoir, so be prepared to make a loop back to your starting point!
Noravank is one of Armenia’s most-visited monasteries, largely because of its dramatic location on a cliffside overlooking the Gnishik Canyon in Vayots Dzor. To visit by car, you must drive roughly 10 dazzling kilometres through this canyon. For those not keen on walking, this is a beautiful way to enjoy the magnificent nature of the region. For those who want to explore on foot, we recommend starting off in the village of Gnishik and working your way through the canyon from the opposite direction. Admire the massive red cliffs dotted with green underbrush and see if you can spot mountain goats prancing masterfully across the sheer rock. If you have experience with winter trekking, try this trail when it’s blanketed in white. The combination of a bright winter sky, red cliffs and snow is dazzling. By the end of the roughly eight kilometre hike, you’ll have earned your reward. From far above, you’ll spot Noravank nestled in the valley below.
Exploring the Kasakh canyon is a great way to combine nature with visits to some of Armenia’s most iconic monasteries. Admire Mt. Ararat and Mt. Ara from the 13th-century Saghmosavank, which sits dramatically on the edge of the gorge. From there, descend into the canyon via the footpath and follow the Kasakh river for eight kilometres. Then, you’ll finish the hike with an upward ascent to Hovhannavank, another stunning monastery perched on the gorge.
This might be the most adventurous trek on our list! Get extreme with a canyoning tour of Devil’s Bridge, a natural wonder in Armenia’s Syunik region. There, you’ll descend into the Vorotan river canyon with rope and harness, don a wetsuit and explore the area’s multicolor mineral deposits, hot springs and unique rock formations.
The Dzoraget, Debed and Pambak rivers divide Armenia’s lush Lori region into three parts. At their meeting point lies a magnificent canyon, which appears from above as a massive fracture in the landscape. In a swelling of the Dzoraget river, you’ll find a majestic rock which looms high above the water below. This point is called Arevatsag or “Sunrise” Canyon. It’s possible to hike into the valley, but many people travel there by off-roading vehicle. While this section is one of the most popular places to visit, there are many other beautiful sections of the canyon to hike. It’s also possible to enjoy white water rafting in the area. Visit in spring when the grasses and vegetation are at their most brilliant green or summer for the most pleasant temperatures.
Located in a magical section of the Tavush region, the Khachakhbyur gorge is best known for Lastiver, a section of fairy-like waterfalls, picnic spots and dense forest in the Sarnajur river valley. Nearby, there are unique camping options, including accommodation in treehouses and glamping (upscale camping, usually with access to beds and toilets). There are also opportunities for horseback riding, ziplining and other active sports in the region, which is easily accessible from the nearby town of Ijevan.
Akhuryan River Gorge
As it flows south from Lake Arpi, the Akhuryan River carves a massive swath through the Shirak region known as the Akhuryan gorge. The river naturally widens to create the Akhuryan Reservoir. Ancient Marmashen Monastery, one of the Shirak region’s most visited landmarks, stands majestically on its eastern bank. Enjoy kayaking in the reservoir near the church complex, or descend by trail into the deep canyon from the village of Vaghramaberd.
There you have it; ten canyons on Armenia’s hidden track await you. Get exploring!
Published on July 31, 2023