Day Trip to Debed Canyon, Armenia

Debed Canyon an hour and half drive from Dilijan is a great day trip for enjoying the river gorge scenery and the medieval monasteries of Armenia’s northwest. We combined a river rafting trip with Rafting Armenia in the morning with a visit to a few of Armenia’s best monasteries in the afternoon.

Rafting Armenia

Rafting down the Debed River is a fun way to see the river and canyon. As there aren’t many view stops from the road it’s also has the prettiest views, especially on hazy summer days.

This is an active raft trip and you do need to paddle and help direct the raft through the rapids. For me, a novice who rarely does rafting trips, the rapids were the perfect level difficulty, just intense enough for a little drama but I never felt I was in danger. We did, however, bounce off a couple of rocks.

We were just 4 guests with a guide, Ashot, and two trainee guides. Ashot only spoke Russian. During the instructional briefing before the raft trip Rose, the English speaker of the outfit, translated the briefing for us. On the raft, Ashot gave paddling commands in both English and Russian, i.e, “all forward”, “left back”, “stop” and so forth.

You do get wet, so bring a change of dry clothing.

The time on the water was about 75-90 minutes with a water break at a stream. Bring your own water if you don’t want the natural stuff. This was plenty long for us and gave us time to explore the monasteries in the region afterwards.

This is a small family run operation with no real website or information available. They have a Facebook page and you can contact them via WhatsApp (+374 94 129013). I booked our trip 4 days before a Wednesday in mid-July. Weekends may be busier. Rose told me that they generally run trips June through October because guests like the warmer months. The water levels are good for rafting and stay about the same June through March. In April and May water levels are higher and can be dangerous.

Despite being a small operation with little infrastructure they are safety conscience and outfitted us with life jackets and helmets. The raft looked newish and was in good condition although they did bring it to the departure site on the top of an old Lada.

Rafting Armenia also has a photographer that takes photos at strategic points and then emails them to you.

Debed Canyon Monasteries

Outside of Alaverdi are several medieval monasteries dating from the 10th to 13th century. We visited Sanahin, Haghpat and Akhtala, each up a winding road off of the M6. All of them are well-preserved examples of the monasteries in the area. The first two are multi-room complexes with chapels, a library, grave stones and numerous khachkars. The last one, Akhtala, is known for its amazing frescoes. It took us about 25 minutes to drive between the monasteries and we spent about 30 minutes each at the first two and 20 minutes at Akhtala.

Sanahin Monastery

Haghpat Monastery

Akhtala Monastery

For links to all the posts in this series see the Southern Caucasus – Georgia/Armenia page.

July 13, 2022