Hiking trail description
This trail is located in the high mountainous province of Shirak, which borders the countries of Turkey and Georgia. The route begins at Harichavank (a monastic complex built in the VII century) located near the town of Artik. Adjacent to Harichavank, there is a religious school belonging to the Armenian Apostolic church. The route then leads up to the forest, situated high on the top of the neighboring peak, where there once was an active skiing base during the times of Soviet Armenia. Currently, pines and species of firs as well as ash and maple trees are the main “dwellers” of the forest. The cool healing waters of underground springs can also be found throughout the hike.
Harichavank is a medieval monastic complex located nearby, and represents one of the many ancient medieval Armenian monasteries. The oldest building is the St. Gregory church, built in the VII century, adjacent to which there is a double chapel, built in the 13th century. The major church of the monastery was built in the style of a large cross - domed building, which was erected by order of the Zakare and Ivan brothers, in 1,201 AD. This monument is one of the jewels of Armenian medieval architecture, covered with delightful ornaments, and is appreciated for its’ simplicity and perfect construction. The monastery used to be a scientific center as well, and between 1,887-1,889, Avetik Isahakyan studied in the famous school located there. At the Harichavank monastery, future clergymen are brought up and educated. Currently there are religious schools not only in Harichavank but also in Vagharshapat and Sevanavank.
Legend of Harichavank
During the invasion of the Seljuks, many people entered the church and disappeared without a trace. The Seljuks interpreted this miracle as a power of the soul, and that the church people had turned into pigeons and flew away. However, there was a secret passage within the church, which allowed the Armenian refugees to descend to the bottom of the nearby gorge. Entering the church and finding no one there, the Seljuks became furious and destroy the church. With the help of horses, they pulled down the four columns that carried the belfry, but they did not manage to destroy the church in its entirety. Fearing the miracle of the indestructible church, the Seljuks did not make any further attempts to destroy the monastic structure.
According to another legend, one of the noble maidens, escaping from the Seljuks, found shelter in a chapel built on the neighboring rocks, and when the Seljuks tried to seduce the young maiden out, the rock was split into two parts. Scared of such a miracle, the Seljuks retreated and the maiden was saved.
The Medieval Monasteries of Pemzashen
On the way to Lernakert, heading southeast from Pemzashen, the St. Sion church of Makaravank can be found, which according to records, was built by Sahak, in the year 1,001 AD. The ancient cemetery of the monastery is located around the church. Not far down in the gorge, the St. Astvatsatin single - nave church (XVII century) is located. The “Tsak Qar” small hand - made cave is also situated here.
The Arakelots monastery (VII century) is located in the center of Pemzashen village. It consists of three early - medieval churches built adjacent to each other. As a group of IV-VII century monuments, it is considered one of the unique examples of ancient Armenian architecture and one of the oldest by its compositional peculiarities.
The central church of the complex (VI c.) has three apse – inwardly cruciform, with a central dome, while rectangular in outward appearance. This church is the only one among four-wing, small domed constructions, with a composition which is outwardly enclosed in a rectangle. It is built of large polished stones of tufa, and decorated with inscriptions left by the original builders. This decorative style is typical of the Armenian architecture of the VI-VII centuries. The carved entrance to the church is quite remarkable, when entering you can see the portrait of St. Mary with the child Jesus in her arms, and in front of that, sculptures of angels with their arms spread open.
Nature in the province of Shirak is full of diverse plants, various bushes and trees, and is sparsely covered with forest vegetation. The hike is mainly surrounded by many species of flowers and plants useful for apiculture. Wild herbs useful for medicine are also common here, and during the summer months, the vegetation is thick and very lush.
There are few fauna species on the lower slopes of Aragats. Here, sightings of wolves, foxes, rabbits, mice, birds, butterflies, insects and beetles are common. During the summer months, various species of snakes can also be seen here.
Safety and Security
Mobile telephone coverage is always available in the area, from Harichavank to the forest and to Pemzashen. 911 emergency services operate throughout Armenia in the case of any accidents. Be sure to bring bottled water!
Best period: May -September
Distance: 108km from Yerevan
Duration: 1hour 47 minutes
Hiking trail length: 11.8km
Walk duration: 3.5 hour
Altitude from Sea Level: 1,797-2040m
How to Get There
In order to reach the route, the most convenient option is to take a taxi from Yerevan to Harichavank. It is better to take a taxi with a working meter (be sure the driver uses it), or agree on a price beforehand.
001 START HARICHAVANQ MONASTEY
003 SPRING TAK AGHBYUR
004 SPRING NALOV AGHBYUR
007 MAKARAVANQ CHURCH
009 CAVE TSAK QAR
010 ARAQELOC CHURCH