Dilijan, a resort town of sorts, is centrally located in the northwestern mountains of Armenia. While I found the layout of the town inconvenient, it winds up the hillside, it otherwise made a good base for exploring the region and in clear weather has great views overlooking the surrounding mountains.
Medieval Monasteries Trail
This short walk through the woods takes you to two 13th century monasteries, Matosavank and Jukhtakvank, with a surprising number of khachkars (carved stone crosses). The structures are in good shape and you can explore the interiors. Some of the chapels are still in use. On a Tuesday afternoon we saw a couple of other small groups hiking but no one was at the monasteries while we were there.
The trail is through forest mostly on a 4×4 road and is well signed but you have to pay attention as there are a number of other roads and trails that cross it. The HIKEArmenia app has a great interactive map that will keep you on the right track. It took us 1.5 hours for the 4km track taking lots of photos at the monasteries.
Haghartsin Monastery and Hidden Waterfall Trail
Haghartsin Monastery was my least favorite monastery in the region. Late morning on a Thursday in mid-July it was busy with tour groups. Unlike the other monasteries we visited in the area this one has been spiffed up to the point that it has lost much of its medieval charm. There are few khachkars or other carved details. The exterior and interior of the structures are mostly unadorned and have a newish vibe.
Near the monastery is the trailhead for the The Hidden Waterfall Trail. The route is a pleasant walk through the forest to a cascading creek that ends at a waterfall behind a rock. The trail, once you find it is easy to follow. The HIKEArmenia app works well to track the trail, though they have the time it takes to do the trail wrong. This is a fairly easy out and back trail, 3.2km return, that takes about 1.5 hours at a slow pace. Note too that there is a 4×4 dirt road that parallels the trail and is also blazed. The foot trail is through the forest above the road and is much more pleasant. Near the beginning of the trail, just past the gate, take the trail that winds up the hill to the left.
At the end of the trail the waterfall is best viewed from left side. Go straight instead of crossing the bridge to the right. You have to climb a small hill to get to the view point, but it’s not too bad and the rocks are not too slippery. Even from this vantage point the top of the falls is obscured by trees.
Sleeping and Dining at Dilijani Tun
Dilijani Tun, an upscale establishment at the top of Dilijan, is a pleasant respite from the dinginess of the town. Unfortunately the windy drive to the hilltop location doesn’t get you views from the hotel, but it does put you on a quiet residential street. The upper rooms may have views but our second floor room had views of the street, power lines and the tops of the mountains beyond.
The dining room opens out to a terrace and a vegetated garden with private nooks for dining and hanging out. A cascading fountain muffles any unwanted noise.
Our modern room was clean and spacious. The comfortable bed had soft sheets. The large bathroom had a great shower and plenty of counter space. Amenities included a hairdryer, hot water boiler with instant coffee and tea, a safe, good Wi-Fi connection and plenty of outlets for charging electronics. There is no air conditioning. It was cool enough at night in mid-July with the windows open, but the windows don’t have screens and mosquitos do get in. Also the neighborhood dogs bark a lot at night.
Some staff speaks some English, but not well enough that there weren’t some minor language difficulties. Getting our laundry done, for instance, was not as easy as it should have been for a hotel of this quality and was extremely overpriced, $100USD for a bag that cost us $7USD in Georgia at a similar quality hotel. Parking is on the street which did not pose a problem.
The breakfast spread was not as extensive as some but included a nice selection of quality offerings. Hot items included scrambled or boiled eggs, hotdog type sausages, another hot dish – one day it was sautéed vegetables and on another a tasty grain and sausage dish. Cold items included cut fruit and dried fruit, various creams and cheeses, cold cuts, olives, smoked salmon on a toothpick, tomatoes and cucumbers, quality bread, rolls and cake, honey and preserves, 2 kinds of cereal and yogurt. French press coffee, hot milk, tea and juice are also available.
The hotel restaurant has a lovely outdoor terrace near a cascading fountain. While the setting has nothing to do with the surrounding mountains it’s a pleasant respite from the somewhat chaotic Dilijan. The menu has a broad selection of Armenian and international dishes, though they were out of a number of dishes we inquired about – no chick peas, no dolmas and no lamb.
We ordered the Arrabbiata pasta, the barbeque vegetables, the barbeque trout and the barbeque potatoes. The Arrabbiata pasta was fine and a boring choice on our part. The barbeque vegetables was a smoky pureed vegetable dish. The trout and potatoes was the highlight dish of the evening if not the best dining experience of the trip. The whole fish, a local salmonid type, was fresh, cut into steaks and perfectly cooked. Service was attentive, friendly and spoke enough English to get by.
Drive from Goris to Dilijan
On this 4.5 hour drive we took the route that passes Lake Sevan avoiding, having to go through Yerevan. While the road is nearly all paved some sections are in better shape than others. Backtracking to almost Areni, the same route we took to Goris a few days earlier, the road was generally OK with some potholes and other issues. They were working on this road, repaving sections, though it didn’t hold up traffic much.
Past the M10 turn off the road winds through the mountains, deteriorating some but still paved. There was far less traffic. Once at the top is a high plateau. There would be views, but the day was windy and very hazy. At Lake Sevan the road improved and was mostly in great shape all the way to Dilijan. With the hazy skies the views over the enormous lake were not much to look at. Rolling hills of not much interest continue until just before Dilijan where you enter a long tunnel and when you pop out the other side you hit the green side of the mountains with lush vegetation and forest.
July 12-14, 2022