Dilijan National Park in Armenia is an outdoor lovers haven. The forested mountains and alpine lakes of the area are connected by well-maintained hiking and cycling trails. The park is also home to some of the country’s most well preserved and beautiful medieval monasteries dating back centuries.
It is the country’s ultimate escape into nature and incredibly easy to reach from Yerevan. It’s popular on weekends and holidays but the multitude of activities on offer means you can still find a sense of serenity amongst the open grasslands and dense forests.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Dilijan National Park whilst in Armenia and I covered some of the popular hiking trails and monasteries. Here’s my detailed Dilijan National Park blog for anyone wanting to tackle a section of the coveted Transcaucasian Trail or just take a break from Yerevan’s smoggy cityscape.
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The town of Dilijan in Armenia’s north is the gateway and main hub of the Dilijan National Park. The sprawled town is situated on the Aghstev River surrounded by beautiful alpine mountains.
It was once a retreat for Armenia’s artists and creatives during the Soviet era and is now a haven for travellers looking for an outdoor escape. The densely forested slopes and snow-capped peaks of the surrounding national park hide plenty of trails that can be tackled on foot or by bicycle. There are also a number of medieval churches in the area that attracts those interested more in historical sights.
It’s easily one of the most popular weekend and holiday spots in Armenia and is easily accessible from Yerevan. The town has over 100 guesthouses and hotels now and is often heaving with crowds in summer. Still, the tourist infrastructure is of high quality and the well-developed hiking and adventure projects in the area make it a really attractive place to go in Armenia.
Planning on travelling to the Caucasus? Read: 12 must-see places to visit in the Caucasus with suggested itineraries
How to get to Dilijan
Getting from Yerevan to Dilijan is not too difficult and there are frequent marshrutkas or minivans plying the main road between the two places and beyond. In Yerevan, you’ll have to head out to the Northern Bus Station, which is 10km out of the city centre.
To get there by public transport, you can take bus 259 from the bus stop on Mesrop Mashtotas Ave, outside OST Fast Food and Karas Restaurant in Yerevan’s city centre. A ticket on the local bus is around 200 AMD (AU$0.70) but it takes up to 45 minutes depending on traffic. A taxi can charge up to 1000 AMD (AU$3.50) but it would only be around a 15-minute drive.
From the Northern Bus Station (more like a parking lot), you can find marshrutkas leaving when full to Sevan and on to Dilijan. It costs 1000 AMD (AU$3.50) for a seat and the journey is an hour and a half on relatively good roads for Armenian standards.
Hanging out in Yerevan? Read: The Ultimate Travel Guide to Yerevan
Running in the opposite direction, from Dilijan to Yerevan, marshrutkas congregate in the centre of Dilijan town near the roundabout. You can find them parked side by side and they leave when full. It’s relatively organised with driver’s taking turns so you can just head there and grab a seat without a reservation. However, in the summer months from June to August, I would get your host or Dilijan hotel manager to call ahead for you, as the increase in tourists makes seats in high demand.
If you’re coming from Tbilisi across the border to Armenia on a marshrutka, you can ask to be dropped in Vanadzor, a major town in the north of Armenia and just 35km from Dilijan. From there, you can find regular services to Dilijan. This way you can make a stop here for a couple of days before you continue on to Yerevan.
Heading to Georgia? Read: 11 free things to do in Tbilisi
Where to stay in Dilijan
There are a number of good Dilijan accommodation options, including homely and affordable guesthouses.
I really loved my stay at Green Garden Guesthouse in Dilijan. It was outside the centre of town but just a short 10 minute walk to the Information Centre. It was a lovely property with spacious private rooms and a self-contained kitchen and lounge room. The host was lovely, she spoke very good English and offered homecooked dinner and breakfast as well. It was very affordable from 4500 AMD or AU$15 per night for one person.
Where to eat in Dilijan
The best cafe in Dilijan is Cafe Number 2, right in the centre of town across from the marshrutka stand and with views over the town lake. The cosy and modern place has a great menu including an extensive drinks menu and it’s the best place to sit and relax for an afternoon. I ate here numerous times and I enjoyed it every time.
Dilijan Tourist Information Centre
Dilijan’s Tourist Information Centre is a relatively new building just five minutes from the centre of town along the river. It was a European Union-sponsored venture and has mountain bikes and camping gear to rent along with extremely knowledgable staff who are able to provide maps, brochures and information on what to do in Dilijan National Park.
Their website has almost everything you need to know about visiting Dilijan too. You can take a look at it here. I was super impressed by the place and I highly recommend you visit if you’re staying in town for a few days.
Maxim Gorky 15/2, Dilijan
9:00 AM – 6:00 PM, Monday – Sunday
+374 94 399336 | email@example.com
The other resource and office I can recommend you visiting, especially if you plan on hiking in Armenia, is Hike Armenia. They’re an amazing organisation who are developing great hiking infrastructure around the country as well as a seriously useful mobile app which has GPS routes and information for various hikes from day trips to multiday expeditions. You can also search for local guides and accommodation on their website and app too.
Their head office is in Yerevan and is open to anyone who wants to find out information and collect some brochures. Otherwise, their website and app have all the information you’ll need for Dilijan National Park trails as well as other hikes around the country.
5 Vardanants Street, Yerevan
10:00 AM – 7:00 PM, Monday – Friday (Open Saturdays during hiking season)
+374 11 445326 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Things to do in Dilijan National Park
Dilijan National Park is really an outdoor lover’s dream with plenty of trails to keep hikers and cyclists busy for days. However, there are also some beautiful historical attractions making it an all-round good destination for any type of traveller. Here are the best things to do in Dilijan National Park.
“Old” Dilijan is really just one cobbled street with traditional stone buildings which have been turned into studios, shops and hotels. In some of the studios, you can find traditional craftsmen still producing some of the original art and crafts of the area. It’s the best place in town to pick up any souvenirs or local products that you might want to buy.
The Geological Museum and Art Gallery
A museum which opened in 1950, showcasing the local history and art of Dilijan. For anyone interested in art or the culture of the area it’s a must see with two floors of displays. It’s just up from the central roundabout in town, about a 10-minute walk.
Haghartsin Monastery is one of the major attractions of Dilijan National Park. The complex, also known as eagle’s game, is one of the largest and most secluded of the monasteries in the region. Its construction was slow and completed over three hundred years starting from the 10th century. There is still a resident priest there and the church is well looked after.
From the roundabout in the centre of Dilijan, Haghartsin is 13km along the road northeast of town and about a 25 minute drive. Taxis are readily available in town to take visitors out there and they charge around 4000 AMD (AU$13) for a return trip.
It’s also possible to hike to the monastery too, although it’s not easy. There is a trail marked on Maps.Me from the centre of Dilijan town that heads up to Haghartsin peak before continuing onto the monastery. It’s a difficult 12km one-way trail and the information centre told me that it’s not a well-marked trail although people have done it.
Otherwise, Haghartsin is also part of the multi-day trail known as Little Switzerland and you can reach it via Jukhtakvank to the west or from Gosh to the east, more on this below.
A small monastic complex with two churches dating back to the 11th century. It’s slowly crumbling and seems almost reclaimed by the surrounding forest, but that also makes it somehow picturesque. It’s easy to reach on foot from town and the closest of the major monasteries in the Dilijan National Park.
Follow the road going east of the town centre, past the Information Centre and Green Garden Guesthouse for 4km. Then turn off to the right and follow Abovyan Street until you come to the Dilijan Mineral Water Plant and a signpost showing the trail to the monastery. From there it’s just 10 minutes more.
From the roundabout in the centre of town, it’s 7km on foot and should take less than two hours one way.
From Jukhtakvank you can also follow a trail around to Matosavank, another crumbling monastery that is even more overgrown by the surrounding flora. This trail connecting the two monasteries is referred to as the Medieval Monasteries Trail on the HikeArmenia website and you can also read about it on the Dilijan Tourist Information Centre website here.
Goshavank Monastery is in Gosh village. It’s a large monastic complex with three churches and nine buildings in total, built between 12th-13th century. It’s a beautiful place and generally much quieter than Haghartsin, with far fewer visitors.
It’s 22km from Dilijan town and a taxi charges around 5000-6000 AMD (AU$17-20) round trip, which can be split between people if you prefer to share the ride.
Gosh is also on the multi-day hiking trail known as Little Switzerland which also includes Haghartsin.
Alternatively, you can hike the section of it between Gosh and Dilijan in one day by getting either dropped or picked up from Gosh. I did this by taking a taxi to Gosh for 4000 AMD (AU$13) and then followed the trail from the monastery to Parz Lake and back to Dilijan. It was around 22km and took me 6 hours.
Parz Lake is a picturesque alpine lake in the middle of the dense forest just 14km from town. For many locals, this is a popular place to come for a picnic and there are rowing boats for hire at the lake’s edge. There is a restaurant there as well which is busy in summer, but when I was there in late November it was all shut up for the approaching winter.
You can take a taxi or drive there yourself. Otherwise, it’s possible to hike or cycle there following marked trails, more on this below.
Mountain biking and cycling
The Dilijan Tourist Information Centre rents mountain bikes and they can also give you plenty of information on trails suitable for all experience levels. The flat roads around town along the river are easier and suitable for families, while you can also take some of the more undulating trails to Parz Lake or even offroad trails with steeper ascents further afield.
Armenia hiking is really centred on Dilijan National Park with many marked trails and good information available for the area. There’s everything from day hikes to multi-day treks and difficulty levels for every type of hiker.
Otherwise, some of the most popular Dilijan National Park hikes I can recommend are:
Multiday Little Switzerland (Transcaucasian Trail section)
This 80km trail that starts from the village of Khachardzan and ends in Hovk, was constructed in 2017 as a showcase section of the grand Transcaucasian Trail. When complete it will eventually link trails across Georgia and Armenia in an epic long-distance thru hike. For now, you can enjoy this 80km trail over 4 or 5 days, which covers the main sights in Dilijan National Park, including Goshavank, Jukhtakvank and Haghartsin monasteries as well as a side trip to Parz Lake.
The entire trail is marked with red and white painted streaks as well as official Transcaucasian Trail markers. Guesthouses are available at all but one of the recommended overnight stops (Haghartsin monastery), meaning you technically need to be self-sufficient with camping gear.
You can read the official overview and find detailed information about this trek on the Transcaucasian Trail website here.
Alternatively, you can pick a one day section of this trek and do it as a day hike. The HikeArmenia website and app has plenty of good information and GPS maps for this.
Interested in more multi-day treks in the Caucasus? Read: 9 treks that showcase the Caucasus’ remote and rugged beauty
Gosh to Dilijan via Parz Lake day hike
This is day two of the Little Switzerland multi-day trek and I completed this as a day hike during my time in Dilijan. I took a taxi to Gosh village and walked up to the monastery. From there, I found the trail starting just up from the monastery through the last house in the village and past the cemetery.
It was a beautiful hike through forested hills and grasslands to an open ridge. From there, it was down through forest to the turn off to Parz Lake. I decided to go to the lake and then from there I backtracked to the main trial and continued down to Dilijan town.
The taxi to Gosh from Dilijan cost me 4000 AMD (AU$13). The hike was 22km and took me 6 hours. You could do this in either direction and organise to be picked up in Gosh at the end if you prefer.
Hidden waterfall from Haghartsin Monastery half-day hike
Just before the Haghartsin Monastery complex, there is a trail off to the right which you can follow for 1.6km to a hidden waterfall. It’s mostly downhill and not too difficult to follow. It’s a small waterfall but a peaceful setting for a nice half day walk.
You have to return on the same trail, which is harder going back up. It should take an hour or so return plus some time spent at the waterfall.
A taxi to Haghartsin Monastery costs around 4000 AMD (AU$13) for the return trip.
Gosh Lake from Goshavank half-day hike
Another shorter hike option is from Goshavank Monastery to Gosh Lake and returning by the same way. It’s a 4.2km easy trail that can be done at any time of the year. If you’re in Gosh to see the monastery you might want to spare an extra three hours to do this half day hike.
It’s a smaller lake than Parz but much more quiet and serene and makes for a nice picnic spot. The return hike is 8.4km and should take around three hours with a short break at the lake.
A taxi to Gosh from Dilijan costs around 5000-6000 AMD (AU$17-20) round trip, or you can stay in Gosh village with a couple of guesthouses available there in season.
FAQs about Dilijan National Park, Armenia
Is it safe to hike in Dilijan National Park?
Dilijan National Park is a very safe place for hiking and other outdoor activities. The trails are well marked (mostly) and maintained throughout the year. The Tourist Information Office in Dilijan can provide all the information you need in order to make your trip to Dilijan safe.
In terms of navigation, the major trails are well marked with red and white painted stripes. Otherwise, there are good GPS and mobile phone app programs like Maps.Me which has all the trails marked on it. More specifically, HikeArmenia and the Dilijan Tourist Information Centre have downloadable GPS files and maps for hikes in Dilijan National Park. With so much information available, you really have no excuse to get lost!
Before you set off, check the weather forecast and assess whether it is the safest time to head out. In the offseason over winter, heavy snowfall is common on the trails and this can make things much more challenging. On the other hand, in summer the days can be quite hot and you need to make sure that you take enough water with you for the entire day.
The only danger on the trail might be bears which do live in the Dilijan National Park. There are signs warning you along the trails, although the close proximity to villages, towns and farms means any sightings are unlikely.
When is the best time to visit Dilijan National Park?
April until October is the best time to visit Dilijan National Park, when the weather and conditions are most favourable. The summer months of June until August are very popular times to visit and the town can be very busy.
Higher elevations in the park see snow until May and winter usually begins to set in by the end of November. During the winter months, heavy snow fall blocks many of the trails and much of the town and villages shut down for the season.
I was there in mid-November and it was quite cold, especially overnight. The trails had ice and frost until midday but otherwise, the weather was beautiful for hiking and the autumn colours were stunning.
How much money should you take to Dilijan?
There are a couple of ATMs in the main Dilijan town, however, it’s best to bring enough cash if you don’t want to bother finding them. My accommodation was 4500 AMD (AU$15) per night in Dilijan town and you can find a local meal for around 1500 AMD (AU$5).
Taxis are a little more expensive because they rely heavily on tourists and they know most of the sights are only accessible by a vehicle unless you want to spend days walking. Round trips to some of the monasteries start from around 4000 AMD (AU$13).
What should you pack for Dilijan National Park?
You really only need what you usually would take on a day hike or cycle. A small daypack of 30L or so should be enough for most day activities in the park. Good walking shoes are essential if you want to tackle any of the hikes, although the trails are not rocky or too uneven.
If you’re in Dilijan at the start or end of the season, like April or November, then you’ll need a fleece or warm jacket for the evenings and early mornings when it gets very cold. June and July can also be a little wet with rainfall so bring a rain jacket too.
Otherwise, hiking, camping and cycling gear can be hired from the Dilijan Tourist Information Centre, so you don’t have to have everything you need with you. There are also supermarkets in town where you can pick up food supplies.
Do you get phone reception or WiFi in Dilijan National Park?
Phone signal coverage is generally very good in Dilijan National Park and I had phone reception with a local SIM for most of my time there, even on the hiking trails. The cafes and guesthouses also have Wi-Fi which you can use for free.
What is the Transcaucasian Trail?
The Transcaucasian Trail is a project that is under construction but will eventually link trails across Georgia and Armenia. When complete it will be a 3000km long distance trail connecting two dozen national parks. The initiative started in 2015 and relies heavily on volunteers.
Still, they have managed to mark and map multiple sections in both Georgia and Armenia. Already well-established hiking trails in Georgia including the popular Mestia to Ushguli trek will be part of the long-distance trail.
Armenia, on the other hand, had less established trails than in Georgia and Dilijan National Park is considered the country’s showcase section of the thru-hike with the five day 80km Little Switzerland trek.
You can read more about the whole trail and initiative on the official website here.