According to Tolkien, “not all who wander are lost”. Well… this doesn’t apply to us—we get lost all the time. Our latest escapade/lostcapade occurred while hiking in Dilijan.
Not all who wander are lost…
Dilijan, sometimes affectionately referred to as “Little Switzerland” by the locals, is a resort town in northeastern Armenia. At 1500 meters (4900 feet), it’s beautifully perched between several mountains–an ideal place for a hiking adventure. There are several monasteries and villages within walking distance of the town, so we decided to hike to Jukhtak monastery, continue to a village, then head back to Dilijan. Seemed easy enough, especially since the walk was supposed to be clearly marked,
a must for noobs like us utterly unnecessary for hiking masters such as ourselves.
…but we certainly were lost hiking in Dilijan
After about an hour of walking, first along a main road, then through a small village and past some abandoned buildings, we arrived at Dilijan National Park, where the monastery was supposed to be. So far, so good. After about 10 minutes, lo an behold, a monastery! We walked around a bit, lazed in the sun, then decided to head on.
This is where it got tricky. There were several dirt roads with many a fork, and we were not sure which one to take. Fortunately, there were spray painted arrows on a fallen stone column pointing right. So, naturally, we went left. Our (il)logic: maybe the column had fallen over AFTER the arrows had been painted? So maybe they were originally pointing in another direction before? The fact that there was a gate on the path didn’t bother us either. Since it’s open, it must be okay, right?
About an hour later, after
pathetically scrambling and slipping traversing some seriously fucking steep mud hills, we reach an opening. Yes, we made it! …somewhere. Is that the next monastery? No… wait… it’s someone’s house. With a very angry dog. Crap. We’re not supposed to be here. Great success. Perhaps that gate meant something after all…
So the only thing that was left to do was go back to the monastery and start over, this time actually following the arrow markers. Surprise surprise, those arrows led to more arrows, which led to more arrows, which led all to precisely where we were aiming to go to. Did we tell you we suck at following directions yet?
The rest of the walk was very pleasant, albeit a bit muddy and steep at points (I’m still working on the fitness thing). The trail passes a simple hilltop cemetery, another tiny hut that may or may not be considered a monastery, and ends in a village on the outskirts of Dilijan, on the highway between Dilijan and Vanadzor.
Note: Beware of big dogs (with big teeth) along the way—not all dogs can be as friendly as the dogs that helped us in Mestia. Their bark is probably worse than their bite, but when the dog is as big as a small horse, we generally prefer to avoid finding out what their bites are like.
All and all, we managed in 6 hours what the Lonely Planet said should be done in 3. Die-hard trekker status activate.
Travel information for Dilijan
Marshrutka from Vanadzor leave for Dilijan hourly, starting at 8:00 until 15:30. The ride is about 45 minutes, and costs 500 AMD per person. The marshrutka you need will ultimately be heading to Ijevan (1000 AMD), so just let the driver know that you want to get off at Dilijan. You will be dropped at or near the roundabout that doubles as bus station.
We stayed at Art Guesthouse while in Dilijan, and hot damn we cannot recommend it more. This guesthouse is by far the most clean, professional, well run guesthouse we’ve encountered in our travels, and it was one of the cheapest options in Dilijan to sweeten the deal.
The owners are very business minded people, and it shows in how thoroughly they’ve thought out the amenities of this (new) guesthouse. The rooms all have actual heating units and come with private bathrooms, towels and toiletries. There are multiple outdoor pagoda sorts of things where you can chill, with friends or alone. There’s a barbecue, multiple kitchens, unlimited coffee and tea, an indoor chilling room with a feast table, pillows, a hookah with free shisha, and a projector for movies. Oh, and sweet mountain views. The guesthouse is a bit of an uphill walk from the center, and hard to find, but we assure you, it’s worth it.
We paid 14500 AMD a night for a private double, though prices may rise a bit in the high season.
We averaged about 26000 AMD per day for two people, including accommodations, transport, and food.
Do you have any tips on avoiding getting lost (besides following the arrows)? Let us know in the comments.