Five Breathtaking Mountains to Climb in Armenia
Five Distinctive Peaks to Climb in Armenia
Before your plane even touches down in Yerevan, you’ll notice Armenia’s rugged mountain landscape! There are more than 16 ranges spanning the country which boast a variety of beautiful peaks and extinct volcanoes. Here, we’ll explore five of the most distinctive summits to add to your hiking bucket list. Don’t leave Armenia without conquering at least one of them! We think it will be the *high* point of your trip.
The Best Time of Year to Climb
Most hiking groups visit Armenia’s high-altitude mountains between June and October. The period between July and September is best. In June, you’ll encounter patches of snow and spring wildflowers on the highest peaks. In October, you may face flurries and colder temperatures. No matter the season, weather is always unpredictable. Even in July and August, the summits will be windy and chilly. Be sure to check the forecast for the day, consult a guide and bring appropriate gear, including sunscreen, a hat, warm clothes and a waterproof windbreaker.
Physical Training Tips for Climbing Mountains
Ensure you’re in proper shape before embarking on a challenging hike. Walking or running helps to develop cardiovascular fitness, while body-weight training like lunges and squats can help your muscles prepare for inclines. Even if you are relatively fit and used to walking long distances, altitude change can often cause negative symptoms such as shortness of breath and lightheadedness. There are plenty of professional hiking groups in Armenia with whom you can practice! Start with shorter, low-altitude hikes and gradually work your way up in altitude and difficulty level.
- Mt. Aragats
With an elevation of 4,090 meters, Mt. Aragats is Armenia’s highest mountain and a must-go destination for every hiker. Once an enormous volcano, Aragats has four distinct peaks, each with its own unique character. These surround a massive, mystical and multi-colored crater. From the summit, you’ll see jewel-like ponds dotting the expansive slopes. While you hike, watch for some of the ancient petroglyphs and dragon-stones (“vishapakar”) that can be found there too. Historically, dragon-stones were often placed near water sources to protect them.
Because each peak has a different incline and surface texture, Aragats offers hiking experiences for everyone. With its well-marked trails, low incline and grassy surface, the southern peak (3890m) is the most accessible for beginner hikers. For those seeking adventure, the western peak (3995m) offers scree and a high incline. To access the steep Northern peak (4090m) and the jagged Eastern peak (3910m) , hikers must cross through the crater, distinctive for its rainbow of colors, from rust to gold, and for its rock scrambles and streams. Most hikers visit the northern peak’s “false” summit which is several meters lower than the true summit. However, because the true summit is steep and treacherous with slippery stones and scree, it is advised only for those with extensive climbing experience.
Serious hikers strive to conquer all four peaks in one day, catching the sunrise from the summit of the Southern peak, crossing the crater, and working counter-clockwise from the Eastern to the Western peak.
Even in the summer, it’s common to encounter rain, hail, intense sun and fog over the course of one hike. Prepare accordingly!
2. Mt. Azhdahak
Azhdahak is distinctive for its rusty red slopes and the small, Caribbean blue lake which shines like a sapphire in its crater. At 3,597 m above sea level, Azhdahak is Armenia’s third tallest peak and an extinct volcano. Located in Armenia’s rugged Geghama mountain range, the mountain is most safely reached by off-roading vehicle. Petroglyphs and dragon-stones are particularly numerous in this region of the Armenian highlands too.
The round-trip hike to the summit is about 12 kilometers in length with an altitude gain of 600 meters. On a clear day, it’s possible to see Mt. Ararat, Mt. Aragats, Mt. Hatis, Mt. Ara and Lake Sevan from the peak. If you dare, bring your swimsuit and take a plunge in the freezing crater lake.
3. Mt. Khustup
The highest peak in the Katar mountains of Armenia’s Syunik region, Mt. Khustup (3201 m) is a bucket-list summit for serious hikers. When traveling from Yerevan, the hike is best enjoyed over the course of two days. On day 1, you’ll experience the beautiful drive south to the village of Baghaburj, about four kilometers from the larger town of Kapan. By off-roading, you’ll climb to the base of the peak, where most hiking groups choose to camp. You’ll wake up early the next morning and catch the sunrise in all its golden splendor over the valley below. June and July are the best months for visiting, when the weather is mild and the mountain slopes are blanketed in wildflowers. But if you want to feel above the clouds, visit in autumn. The sea of clouds beneath your feet gradually disperse with the dawn, and a breathtaking view opens up in front of you.
Some of the relics of the revered Armenian commander Garegin Nzhdeh are buried on Khustup. It was Nzhdeh’s desire to be buried there so his spirit could continue to protect Syunik after his death. You can visit a large monument dedicated to the military hero in nearby Kapan.
4. Mt. Dimats
Mt. Dimats captivates hikers with its stunning juxtaposition of rugged white cliffs and lush greenery. Located in the Ijevan mountains of Dilijan National Park, the mountain reaches a height of 2378 m and provides breathtaking views of the cliffs and valley below. The sight is awe-inspiring on a clear and sunny day, but might be even more memorable when swathed in mystical fog.
Tall and narrow Shaghot waterfall lies to the east and the tallest peak in the Ijevan range – Mt. Sartsapat – is also closeby and worth a visit. Most hikers begin from the small village of Teghut, a 30 minute drive from the city of Ijevan, and travel to the base of the peak via off-roading vehicle for a shorter hike or on foot for a longer one.
5. Mt. Artanish
The highest peak of the Arjakar mountain range, Artanish stands 2,461 m above the northern shore of massive Lake Sevan.
On a clear day, the view from the summit is a treat indeed. Located at the point where Minor Sevan (the smaller eastern section of the lake) and Major Sevan (the larger western portion), Artanish is truly the best lookout point for enjoying the lake from above. While it can be very cold in the winter, the lake is even more eye-catching when framed by the snowy peaks of the Pambak and Geghama mountains on its southern shore. Hiking in the summer has an obvious benefit – you can have a swim as a well-deserved finale!
Is your curiosity *peaked*? Learn more about Armenia’s stunning mountains and mountaineering opportunities here.