Hitting the trails of Armenia’s countryside is easy – with the right information. Whether you’re a novice hiker or a seasoned expert, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the best hiking practices. But where do you get all this intel? We’ve put together this post to serve as a comprehensive guide to hiking in Armenia, from attire to transportation to camping rules. Use this as a reference, and setting out on your next natural expedition will be easier than ever!
Table of Contents
What to Wear
What to Bring
Interacting with Locals
The HIKEArmenia Office
What to Wear
No matter the time of year, we recommend wearing long pants on your hiking adventure. Lots of trails go through tall brush and brambles which can scratch up your legs if you aren’t wearing the proper attire. Similarly, a long-sleeved shirt will protect against low-hanging branches, sunburn, and ticks in the warmer months. Wear durable sneakers or hiking shoes as well as synthetic or wool socks for the best support – you’ll be doing a lot of walking and, depending on the trail, climbing. Based on the weather, you may also need a rain jacket and, if it’s fall or winter, a thermal jacket or coat, gloves, a warm hat, and a scarf. Finally, don’t forget sunscreen! Even a cold winter’s day can cause sunburn if the sun is out. In the summer, consider bringing along a cap or sun hat for added protection against UV rays.
What to Bring
Before embarking on your next big hike, make sure you bring a backpack big enough to fit all the essentials – starting with water (at least 2 liters) or hydration packs. There are also sanitary items like hand sanitizer and wet wipes to consider as well as a first aid kit and any personal medications (especially allergy medications) you might need. For the warmer months, don’t forget to bring along extra sunscreen, sunglasses, a sun hat, insect repellent, and an extra liter of water. Bring an extra shirt and pair of socks plus layers in case you find yourself feeling cold, or the clothes you’re wearing get wet or dirty. Hiking poles are also a great addition if you’d like extra support while traversing rough terrain (if you don’t have any of your own, you can borrow some from the HIKEArmenia office.) Keep a list of important addresses and contact numbers in the case of an emergency. Finally, make sure you bring enough snacks to keep your energy up on your hike as well as a portable battery pack to keep your phone’s energy up too.
We love a weekend spent in nature, don’t you? If you’re keen to camp out in Armenia’s beautiful countryside, there are a few things you should know.
Camping is allowed on all public lands in Armenia, no permit required. Protected areas and private land, however, require obtaining special permission. There are also designated campsites throughout the country, most of which you can find on our free app and website. We suggest following these basic steps and courtesies when camping to ensure your own safety as well as the protection of the great outdoors:
If camping in the wild, store your food away from your campsite so as not to attract nearby animals to the site.
Follow the motto of “leave no trace,” and make sure that everything you bring to the campsite, you pack up and take when you leave. Keep nature as it was, if not better – bring a trash bag and spend some time collecting any litter you find, if you’re up for it.
Always have a first-aid kit with you in case of injury or illness.
Make sure that you have a warm sleeping bag – even during the warmer months, it can get quite cold at night in Armenia, especially in the north or up in the mountains.
Be very careful when making fires. If available, use an existing fire-ring or make your own using stones to keep the fire from spreading. Make sure to disband the ring and cover the area with soil once you’re done so as to, again, leave no trace. During the dry season, make sure to choose a spot away from tall grass and never leave the fire unattended. If you have to step away, put the fire out with a shovelful of soil so it does not spread on its own. Do not cut down trees to make your fire – forage for dry wood instead. Keep the fire a manageable size – you don't need a fire visible from space! Finally, never leave your fire unattended and make sure that it’s been completely extinguished before turning in for the night or leaving the campsite.
If you don’t have your own camping gear, you can rent a tent and other items from the Dilijan Tourist Information Center or the Armenia Mountaineering Federation website. For more detailed information on camping in Armenia, check out this blog article from wildarmenia.com.
Armenia is home to a broad range of landscapes and ecoregions like steppes, meadows, forests, open woodlands, marshes, deserts, and even wetlands, making for an ecosystem rich in both flora and fauna. There’s lots of life to see out in the countryside, including an impressive range of wildflowers in the warmer months, but there are also dangers you should be prepared for. Keep reading to learn about what you should watch out for when crossing paths with the wildlife of Armenia:
These territorial canines are usually seen either guarding an area of land or a herd of animals, like sheep. If you happen to be approaching this territory and a dog starts barking, it’s best to back away or change direction. If you come upon a guarded area or herd that you can’t avoid walking past or through, try calling out to the farmer or herder who can pacify the dog or dogs. If none of the above are options and the dogs begin to approach you, do not run. Start walking away while speaking to the dogs in a calm but firm voice and if you have hiking poles with you, make them visible. The goal is to establish yourself as a non-threatening human. Even if you raise your voice, do not gesture as if to attack or flee from the dog.
In this situation, the most important thing is to stay calm. Do not give into fear or anxiety and do not yell or kick at the dog. Your calm composure will throw an aggressive dog off from attacking. Avoid eye contact with an aggressive dog and only claim your own space once you have successfully used calm assertiveness to keep the dog back. If you happen to be carrying anything in your hands like a cane or an umbrella, position it out in front of yourself to appear bigger and be more in command of your space. By doing so, you maintain an energy that creates a barrier between the dog and yourself and demands the dog’s respect by letting it know that you are not afraid. Once the dog senses that you are not a threat and that you don’t feel threatened yourself, it will likely lose interest and the tense situation will be diffused.
Bears & Wolves
It is highly unlikely that you will ever encounter a bear out in the Armenian wilderness, even if you come upon fresh droppings. But just in case, make sure to make your presence known while hiking. This is enough to scare off a bear from many kilometers away – which is why you will rarely cross paths with one. The same is true for wolves, which are just as if not more elusive than bears.
Armenia is home to 22 different snake varieties, 4 of which are poisonous: the Blunt Nosed Viper (known locally as the gyurza), the Armenian viper or Radde’s Mountain Viper, the Armenian Steppe Viper, and Darevsky’s Viper. You’re most likely to come across snakes in the spring, specifically between April and May, when mating season occurs. It’s not uncommon to find them out in open areas, sometimes even on roads, taking in the sunlight. Be especially careful during these months. By summertime, snakes hide underground during the day to avoid the heat, and come out at night. Unless you’re out camping during this season, snakes are much less of a danger. Venomous snakes can be found throughout Armenia, though they’re less common in mountain forests, especially in the north.
However, it doesn’t hurt to be careful! In order to prevent a snake bite, make sure to wear long pants, stick to the trail, use hiking poles in tall grassy areas, leave any snakes you do find alone, and check for snakes before heading to sleep if you’re out camping. For more detailed information on snakes in Armenia, how to prevent a snake bite, and what to do if you do get bitten, check out our Medium article!
Interacting with Locals
While hiking, it’s common to come across shepherds, settlements, and villages. Locals may invite you to food, coffee, tea, and even (and often) an alcoholic beverage. Be aware that not only can this alcohol be quite potent (think homemade fruit vodka or oghi), but that these villages are usually located at rather high altitudes. This means that just one or two drinks can be enough to impair you. And when you're out hiking on a hot day or on dangerous terrain, this is something to be cautious of.
Otherwise, take advantage of the chance to interact with the warm and hospitable people of Armenia. If you don’t speak Armenian or Russian (many locals, especially older ones, will also speak Russian), we recommend familiarizing yourself with some of the following useful Armenian words and phrases. For even more phrases, check out this more detailed “cheat sheet.”
Thank you – Shnorhakalutyun / merci (Շնորհակալություն / մերսի)
Hello – Barev (Բարեւ)
Goodbye – Hajoghutyun / ts-tesutyun (Հաջողություն / ցտեսություն)
See you soon – Ktesnvenk shutov (Կտեսնվենք շուտով)
Excuse me (to get past someone) – Knereq (Կներեք)
Excuse me (to get attention) – Nerecek (Ներեցեք)
I'm sorry – Knereq indz (Կներեք ինձ)
Yes – Ayo (Այո)
No – Voch (Ոչ)
Please – Khndrum em (Խնդրում եմ)
You are welcome – Khndrem (Խնդրեմ)
Do you speak English? – Duq khosum eq Angleren? (Դուք խոսո՞ւմ եք անգլերեն)
I – Yes (Ես)
You – Du (Դու)
He/she – Na (Նա)
Good – Lav (Լավ)
Bad – Vat (Վատ)
I don’t understand – Yes chem haskanum (Ես չեմ հասկանում)
Hot – Taq (Տաք)
Cold – Saruh (Սառը)
I don’t want to – Yes chem uzum (Ես չեմ ուզում)
I would like… – Yes kcankanai… (Ես կցանկանայի)
Information – Teghekatvutyun (Տեղեկատվություն)
You’re all packed and ready to head out on your hike, but how are you going to get there? There are several options for transportation to and from your selected trail which may vary depending on location.
If you have a car, driving to and from any trail in Armenia is relatively easy, though it may take a while depending on where you’re going. Simply plug in the starting location into your GPS, and you’re ready to go. Alternative transportation, however, is a bit trickier. With the GG app, you can order a taxi for your desired destination. If you choose to hike a trail in a village near Gyumri, Vanadzor, or Dilijan, you can also opt for a GG shuttle, a cheaper alternative to a private car. As for finding a car back, there are several options we recommend. When you reach your destination, ask your driver if they would be willing to wait by the trail and take you back to Yerevan when you’ve finished. This is the most expensive option, as your driver will have to leave the meter on while they wait. Another option is to ask your driver to come back to the trail site in a few hours, when you’ve finished your hike. Make sure to get their number – they will likely choose to make this ride independent of the GG app. Otherwise, you can search GG for a driver accepting ride requests nearby, though there aren’t usually many that far outside of Yerevan.
If you’re really stuck and can’t find a car, try asking a local! They are usually happy to help you call the local cab service. If none of these options work (or if you’re just up for some more adventure), you can always try hitchhiking. Stand by the side of the road and flag down a car for a ride back to Yerevan. For trails closer to the city, this option will be more feasible as most cars tend to be headed that way anyway. Depending on the location of your trail, you may also be able to find a bus or a train that goes either directly to your starting village or to a major town closeby. Check out rome2rio.com or the Transport for Armenia website for information on bus and train routes in Armenia.
The HIKEArmenia Office & Website
As always, we are here to offer free info and advice on how to plan the best hiking adventure in Armenia according to your wants and needs. Message us online or visit our office at 5 Vardanants Street in Yerevan with your questions, and we’ll be happy to help – in English, Armenian, Russian, Dutch, French, German, AND Swedish! Our office is open from Monday to Friday from 10:00 to 19:00. You can also contact us by phone (+374 011 445 326) or by email (firstname.lastname@example.org). Happy hiking!