Choosing where to hike in the Caucasus depends on how adventurous you want to get. The region is home to the tallest mountains in Europe — even if the highest peaks are across the border in Russia. From long-distance hikes between mountain villages to day hikes through national parks, here’s how to choose your Caucasus trek.

Georgia Tusheti

The forests of Tusheti, Georgia

Armenia, Azerbaijan or Georgia

Hiking and trekking in the Caucasus tend to revolve around Armenia and/or Georgia. Both countries are well set up for tourism, offer beautiful hiking country and are well prepared for hikers.

Georgia is perhaps the best-known destination, having welcomed an influx of tourists in recent years. This is an excellent place to try out some long-distance routes, taking in high mountain peaks, lush green valleys and isolated stone villages. Look out for the many churches and monasteries that frame Georgia’s mountaintops.

Armenia is less about alpine peaks and more about day-hikes and easier routes. Dilijan National Park has several trails that can be hiked in a day, while the Tatev Monastery hike is picturesque.

Azerbaijan is one for the adventurous. With fewer marked trails than either Georgia or Armenia, hiking in Azerbaijan isn’t easy. Head to Quba for trails between mountain villages — this is a place to experience the culture as much as the scenery.

Unless you’re planning on hiking across the entire mountain range, you should expect a trek in the Caucasus to last anywhere from a single day to a couple of weeks. Most travellers opt for small group trips led by local guides who are knowledgeable about the region.

Travellers to the Caucasus will be able to choose between point-to-point treks between villages and refuges, or single destination bases where you get transported to the trailhead and back each day.

The Transcaucasian Trail (TCT)

In development since 2015 and led by a team of volunteers and adventure travellers, the Transcaucasian Trail (TCT) will be a long-distance hiking trail more than 3,000km in length, following the Greater and Lesser Caucasus Mountains. Pioneer trekkers who would like to contribute to the trail's development can join summer projects and group treks. You can learn more here: www.transcaucasiantrail.org.

Azerbaijan Lahij hills near the village

Countryside surrounding Lahij village, Azerbaijan

When to hike in the Caucasus

The weather in the Caucasus is at its most reliable between June and September when you can expect warm and sunny weather. Temperatures can reach 25C plus, so make sure you pack appropriate hiking gear. It’s also important to bring mosquito nets and repellant, as the summer heat sees mosquitos descend on the region. The higher you get into the mountains, the less of a problem they will be.

Winter brings heavy snowfall to the Caucasus, making trails difficult to find and impossible to trek. It’s not uncommon for the snow to stay on higher ground until late April or even May, keeping higher routes closed off, even though the lowland is green and lush.

The best time to hike in the Caucasus region is from mid-June until the end of September. The high season is July and August, when the weather is dry and warm, whereas June and September are quieter but less reliable.

Hiking in the winter snow is not possible, but some tour companies do offer ski-touring, particularly in Georgia, which is also home to several ski resorts.

Armenia Tatev Monsastery3

View of Tatev Monastery, Armenia

Independent vs organised trekking

There are two ways to hike in the Caucasus: either as part of an organised group with a tour guide, or travelling independently and choosing your own route. Which should you choose?

Organised Caucasus treks

An organised trek doesn’t have to mean a package tour-style trip with coaches and loads of people. In fact, an organised trek can involve just yourself and a guide, taking off across the Caucasus mountains.

Mostly, an organised trek will involve several hikers of varying degrees of fitness and expertise alongside a couple of guides and potentially a porter, depending on whether you’re doing a multi-day or single day hike.

A fully organised trek comes with the benefits of having your accommodation booked in advance each night. Your guide will know the best places to stop for the night and where you can eat, as well as introducing you to locals and explaining the history and geography of the places you’ll see.

An organised trek also means security. Your guide will know the route and any problems up ahead that independent trekkers would not. They’ll also be able to act as a cultural and language translator, meaning your interactions with locals will be more authentic. Finally, having someone book your accommodation along the way means that you won’t have to carry extra equipment or camping gear (note that it is possible to mix up homestays/village accommodation with an occasional wild camping experience).

Armenia Selim Caravanserai2

View of the Selim Caravanserai, Armenia

Independent treks

Georgia is the Caucasus country most set up for independent hiking, with some well-marked trails, plenty of villages used to visitors and a burgeoning hiking community. The Svaneti region is particularly well-suited for independent visitors, with apartments available to rent in villages, lodges preparing lunches and breakfasts and signposted trails.

Beyond that, most independent treks take place in national parks, such as Armenia’s Dilijan National Park or Georgia’s Borjomi-Kharagauli.

Independent trekking has a lot going for it — but it also has some very large negatives. It’s cheap, easy and a lot of fun. Trekking lodges — though far from luxurious — are often warmer and more comfortable than tents, and an increasing number now boast hot showers, varied menus and even wifi. There’s also the option of staying in local villages, although it is difficult to book ahead, so you’re often relying on the kindness of strangers.

The biggest advantage of independent trekking is the ability to change your itinerary as you see fit. If you stay in a village and like the feel of it, you can stay for a few days. If you hear about a sidetrek or different route you want to try out, you can. However, this positive can also be a negative. Attempt an unusual or unmarked route, and you can end up in the middle of nowhere without a place to sleep. Trying to book accommodation in advance can be tedious and difficult. Language difficulties mean you might spend most of the trip on your own, unable to interact with the people you meet.

As with all trips, the type of trek you choose will depend on your individual circumstances and what you want to get out of your adventure.

Georgia Borjomi Kharagauli National Park4

Hiker in Borjomi Kharagauli National Park, Georgia

Practical information

Unfortunately, geopolitical issues are never far away in the Caucasus. This means that the dream of following the Transcaucasian Trail to its completion is just that — a dream. Border blockages between Georgia and the breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia make overland crossings in certain regions impossible. Even straying too close to the border can be dangerous, so it’s important to have a qualified, knowledgeable guide if you plan on trekking in these regions.

Hiking routes in the Georgian Caucasus

The best trekking in Georgia and the Caucasus Mountains

Hiking routes in the Georgian Caucasus
By Baia Dzagnidze

With its mountainous landscape and green hillsides, there are plenty of hiking trails in Georgia to explore. The diverse terrain of the county offers travellers plenty of trekking opportunities. You can hike to remote villages, traverse through breathtaking lakes and high peaks, or walk from one region to another.

Situated south of the Caucasus mountains, Georgia’s trekking routes are suitable for all fitness levels, be it a beginner or an experienced walker. Hiking in Georgia offers splendid views of the Caucasus mountains, a walk through the wilderness, a look at mountainous medieval architecture and a glance at the local lifestyle of remote areas.

Georgia Svaneti Ushguli village2

Village in Ushguli

Georgia has almost no restrictions for putting up a tent while exploring the great outdoors; however, it does depends on the location. National parks and state nature reserves have designated camping and fireplace spots. Water is drinkable everywhere. During your hike, you’ll find several spring sources to fill up your water bottles.

The hiking season in Georgia depends on the region and route. In the mountainous regions, the season starts from early summer and continues till early autumn. Winter in Georgia sees heavy snow that blocks roads and trails. Trekking in the winter is only available in national parks but depends on how bad the weather gets.

Mestia-Ushguli hike in Svaneti region

Wild orchids, mountain peaks and villages in Svaneti

The hiking trail from Mestia to Ushguli is one of the most popular multi-day hikes in Georgia. Best hiked in the summer months of July and August, the Mestia-Ushguli hike takes three to four days to complete. The trek offers superb views and goes through several traditional villages in Georgia’s northwestern Svaneti region, with excellent homestays – so no tent required.

Facilities on this trek are as good as it gets for a remote mountainous region. Most of the lodges even have free wi-fi. In Mestia, you can also find apartments to rent. Hosts at homestays serve breakfast, dinner, and can even prepare lunchboxes for the road.

Georgia Svaneti Mestia snow

Mestia in the snow

The first and last days of the hike are quite easy, but in between, you need to overcome significant elevation. The hiking trail is well marked and starts from Mestia's main square passing through forests, meadows, fields of rhododendrons, and villages adorned with typical Svanetian houses and defence towers. On your way, you have fantastic views of Mount Ushba (one of the Caucasus’ most notable peaks at an elevation of 4,710m) and the Svaneti Valley, full of wild orchids and views of imposing Mount Tetnuldi and the Adishi Glacier.

On the third day of the hike near Iprali village, hikers need to cross the Adishi river. In high season, locals offer horses to help travellers across the river. At other times, ask in the village about the water level and hire a horse if necessary. If you don't want to pay (or are scared of horses), walk around 50m upstream where the river branches out into several streams where you cross it on your own. The water is freezing, so wear hiking sandals and use sticks.

The last day of the hike takes you to one of the highest settlements in Europe and a UNESCO World Heritage Site – the village of Ushguli, found right below Mount Shkhara. Most hikers in Georgia follow the main road to Ushguli, which can get dusty from car traffic and can be a disappointing end to a rural hike. However, there's an alternative route that goes through the villages forming the Ushguli community. Once in Ushguli, stay overnight and visit the 12th-century Lamaria Church, once a devoted to a pagan Svan god of fertility. If you’re still after some trekking, you can walk to the imposing Shkara glacier (5 hours) enjoying breathtaking views of the snow-covered mountains.

How to get to Mestia

The most common way to get to Mestia is taking a night train from Tbilisi to Zugdidi and then a marshrutka (a minibus) to Mestia. Marshrutkas to Mestia depart from Zugdidi train station daily. The first one leaves around 6:30am, right after the night train arrives. The last one leaves at 2:30pm. The journey takes approximately 3-4 hours, including a one hour break.

Alternatively, there's a flight from Natakhtari airport near Tbilisi, run by VanillaSky company. Be aware that flights get cancelled frequently due to poor weather conditions.

You can also drive to Mestia from Kutaisi. The direct marshrutkas leave from Kutaisi bus station behind McDonald's.

Hike to Gergeti Glacier from Stepantsminda (Kazbegi)

A day hike through Kazbegi

Stepantsminda, also known as Kazbegi, is a popular destination for day or weekend hiking trips from Tbilisi due to the graceful Gergeti Trinity Church found at the foot of Mount Kazbegi. Hiking to the Gergeti Glacier from Stepantsminda is a typical one-day hike passing by the church and Kazbegi. The best time for this hike is from June till October.

In total, the trek takes around 7-8 hours from start to finish. Most hikers take five hours to climb the glacier and then come back to the village for another three. Even though this is a single day hike, be aware that you’ll gain more 1,500m in elevation. This is a tough walk, but the path is well marked and easy to follow. If you want to make the hike to Gergeti Glacier easier, you can take a taxi to Gergeti Trinity Church from Stepantsminda and start the hike from there.

131622561 m

View of Stepantsminda village

It’s worth starting your Gergeti Glacier hike as early as possible. Mount Kazbegi is normally cloaked in clouds, so don't be fooled by bright, sunny morning. By 10am, Mount Kazbegi has "a cloud hat". Ideally, at this time you should be either at Gergeti Trinity Church or even higher.

There are several routes from Stepantsminda, but the best trail to take to the church is through the Bashli Valley, offering some fine views of the surrounding mountains. This route is a bit longer, but the incline is less steep and is away from car traffic. The track passes a ruined tower and follows the Bashi creek up to the church.

After getting to the church, the path continues towards the glacier through the birch forest to the Sabertse Pass. There are two options here, but the scenic route is the one that follows the ridge to the Sabertse crossing. Once there, you can explore a small shrine with a cross and enjoy a first look at the glacier. After crossing the metal bridge of the Chkheri river, the trail becomes steeper and climbs directly to the bottom of the glacier.

How to get to Stepantsminda

There are two ways to get to Stepantsminda – by marshrutka or a shared taxi. They both depart from Tbilisi's Didube Bus Station, located nearby the Didube metro station. A marshrutka is the cheapest – but least comfortable – way to get to Stepantsminda. Minibuses don’t leave until they are full, starting at 8am until late afternoon. The journey takes around 3-4 hours. Note that these are public transport meant for locals, so drivers don't stop at touristy spots along the Georgian Military Highway, except for a short toilet break.

Your best bet is taking a shared taxi. You can ask drivers to stop at iconic landmarks like Ananuti Fortress and the Georgia-Russia Friendship Monument along the way, giving you plenty of time to explore.

Hike to Kelitsadi Lake in Stepantsminda (Kazbegi)

Mineral springs and abandoned villages in Kazbegi

This picturesque and remote trek starts from the scenic Truso Valley, near the border with South Ossetia. Here, you can explore abandoned villages, ancient towers and mineral lakes. The route traverses the Keli volcanic plateau – an arid, rocky land situated west of the Georgian Military Highway. Few hikers come here as it's very close to the separatist territory of South Ossetia and the track is quite challenging. However, the highlight of the hike – crossing two 3,400m high mountain passes and the glacial Kelitsadi lake itself – make the trek worthwhile for hiking in Georgia.

The Truso Valley is around 20km from Stepantsminda. The trek starts from the sparsely-inhabited Kvemo Okrokana village and climbs up into the upper part of the valley. Look out for several mineral springs along the route, with some even forming pools of – icy – water you can swim in. Once in the valley, you see beautiful views of the opposing Mna gorge until you reach the rock-covered Keli plateau.

100381675 m

Shepherd on horseback in Truso Valley, Georgia

The trek takes three days. There are no proper camping spots or homestays, so you’ll be wild camping. Bring a tent, food, and water. As the trek crosses a volcanic plateau, there are few water sources. Make sure to have around 4-5 litres of water when leaving Kvemo Okrokana.

During the hike, you’ll pass the Higher and Lesser Khorisar volcanic peaks, until you reach the Khorisar Pass at 3,429m. The route is challenging so it’s worth taking a guide or GPS. From here, you should be able to see the White Aragvi River, which you’ll cross before descending to Kelitsadi Lake.

The hike towards Ketrisi village from Kelitsadi offers spectacular views of the Kazbegi massif, but strays very close to the South Ossetian border, so make sure you’re on the right route. The path continues into the Esi river valley and enters a small canyon with steep slopes. The village lies ahead after crossing the Esri river via a wooden bridge. Look for the monasteries and nunneries of Ketrisi, or take a short walk to the ruins of Zakagori Fortress.

How to get to Truso Valley

The entrance to the valley lies at Kobi village. Either ask the marshrutka driver to drop you off there or take a taxi to the Kvemo Okrokana village. Since 2018, Mountain Freaks, a travel agency, organises a bus from Stepantsminda to Kvemo Okrokana twice a day.

How to leave Ketrisi

The easiest way is to call a driver and arrange a pickup. Otherwise, walk out of the valley and stop any marshrutka to Tbilisi on the Georgian Military Highway.

Hike between Tusheti and Khevsureti

Five days through the wilds of Georgia

This spectacular five-day hiking in Georgia routes connects the regions of Tusheti and Khevsureti – starting from the village of Omalo and ending in Shatili. Tusheti is one of the most stunning mountainous areas of Georgia, located just behind the main ridge of the Caucasus. Both areas are still unspoiled from tourists and commercial buildings due to poor roads, which also gives another charm to the whole trip.

Georgia Tusheti

Tusheti region, Georgia

The route is attractive not only for its nature but also for the traditional villages you’ll visit, which are dominated by stone towers that have stood since the Middle Ages. The trek follows a shepherd’s path connecting the regions. The first two days of hiking are spent on dirt roads connecting the villages of Tusheti, including Dartlo, one of the most well-preserved settlements in Tusheti, as well as abandoned towns with crumbling buildings. Afterwards, you'll continue walking towards Khevsureti through flat meadows, shepherds' shelters, the Atsunta Pass, with amazing views of Mount Tebulo. Eventually, you get to Khevsureti's ancient fortress of Mutso. From here, you continue your way towards Shatili Fortress. Make sure to stop by Anatori – House of the Dead – a place where inhabitants spent their last days during the plague of the 18th century.

The route is quite popular among travellers and hikers; it is also suitable for those who want to try a camping trip, but don't want anything too wild and remote. In terms of difficulty, the trek is somewhere between moderate and hard. You gain elevation slowly, but the track is 75km long and crosses a 3,400m-high pass.

Note that during this trip, you’ll pass several border checkpoints, where guards ask you to fill out registration forms for hiking in the border area.

How to get to Omalo

The only way to get to Omalo is by hiring a driver with 4WD. First, you need to get to Telavi or Kvemo Alvani village from Tbilisi either by a shared taxi or a marshrutka. Drivers are used to hikers and tourists heading to the region, so they can help you arrange the drive to Omalo. The drive to Omalo takes around 4-5 hours through the winding Abano Pass road.

How to leave Shatili

Marshrutkas from Shatili to Tbilisi leaves every Thursday and Sunday at noon. In high season they often get full, so buy tickets in advance.

Hiking in Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park

Georgia's finest national park

Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park, located in central Georgia, spans 107,083 ha of land and covers six districts, with plenty of hiking trails offering scenic panoramas.

This park is the first of its kind in Georgia to comply with international standards for national parks, meaning every trail is well marked apart and their are designated areas for tents, fires and picnic areas. Trekking here involves staying either at the tourist shelters or putting up a tent. It is possible to go hiking in Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park in every season except summer, as it gets far too hot.

Georgia Borjomi Kharagauli National Park3

Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park, Georgia

Hiking trails in Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park

Twelve well-marked hiking trails provide single or multi-day hikes. Try some of the following:

Nicholas Romanov's Trail

The path goes through coniferous forests leading to Lomi Mountain and St George Church, with spectacular views of the Caucasus mountains. This moderately challenging trek takes three days with 43km long route.

St Andrew’s Trail

This difficult 4-day trek takes you to the highest peak of the National Park, called Sametskhvario (Shepherd’s Place). On your way, you pass through sub-tropical forests and alpine meadows, enjoying spectacular views of Mt Iron Cross.

Panorama Trail

The Panorama Trail is one of the most beautiful treks in Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park. It is a two-day, 34km long circular trail with stunning views and the chance to see wildlife including bears and wolves. You can visit the shepherd’s huts near the hiker huts to learn more about this challenging job.

Footprint Trail

This one-day moderately challenging trek is famous for the ancient yew trees you’ll pass, some of which are centuries-old. The winding path crossing mountain slopes through to Kvabiskhevi canyon.

The Snow Shoes Trail

This is one of the most popular trails, winding through evergreen forests covered in snow. The total length of the path is 15.5km and takes two days to finish. The route starts and finishes at the Likani guard station and follows the mountain ridge, with views of Mount Lomis Mta.

How to get to Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park

The best way to get to the national park is to take a marshrutka from Tbilisi to Borjomi. The journey takes around two hours. From Borjomi, take another marshrutka towards Likani and ask your driver to drop you off at the park’s administrative centre.

Armenia's best hikes

The best hiking trails in Armenia and the Caucasus

Armenia's best hikes
By Joel Balsam

With its stunning mountains, sweeping valleys and hundreds of historic churches dating back to the fourth century, Armenia is perfect for exploring by foot. You can hike from village to village through forests of fruit trees, scale stark Caucasus mountains and visit traditional towns where the way of life hasn’t changed much in decades.

Squished between Georgia, Turkey, Azerbaijan and Iran, Armenia might be tiny — it’s eight times smaller than the United Kingdom — but the country has a diverse landscape with plenty of walking routes for all levels. Beginners and those looking for a quick stroll will enjoy the multitude of day hikes surrounding picturesque towns and there are multi-day treks for more experienced visitors.

Armenia Tatev Monsastery

Tatev Monastery, Armenia

Feel free to set up your tent nearly wherever you want as Armenia has no restrictions on camping except in a few designated reserves and on private property. If you want to camp on someone’s land, don’t be surprised if the owner not only gives you permission, but invites you inside for a dinner of khoravats (barbecue meat skewers) with lavash (traditional thin bread) and a shot of oghee (fruit vodka). Armenians are very proud of their country, their culture, their food and their mountain spring water, which you can generally drink safely throughout the country.

When to go hiking in Armenia?

The best time to hike in Armenia is during the spring when millions of wildflowers blanket the valleys or in the fall when fruit trees including fig and apricot (a fruit so prized Armenia put its colour on the flag) are ripe for plucking. Winters in Armenia can be freezing cold and mountaintop trails will be covered in snow.

Wear boots and long pants on trails across the country as Armenia is home to 22 species of snakes including four vipers. You should also avoid hiking near the eastern border with Azerbaijan as an active conflict over the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh can bubble up at any moment.

Dilijan National Park

Lush mountains, wildflower laden valleys and one of Armenia’s most picturesque towns

Known as the ’Switzerland of Armenia,’ Dilijan National Park is a mountainous area covering 240㎢ that offers the best and most care-free hiking in the country. You’ll find beech and oak forests populated with brown bears, wolves, deer and eagles as well as an abundance of fresh fruit including apricots and berries. The town of Dilijan is a wonderful place to recharge in between hikes with plenty of quality accommodation and delicious restaurants.

Armenia Dilijan National Park

Dilijan National Park, Armenia

A great hike to start with is from the town of Dilijan to Parz Lake or vice versa, which takes four to five hours and spans 14.5km. On the hike, you'll cross forests, epic vistas and, if you’re hiking in spring, valleys with millions of wildflowers that can be plucked to make tea. Starting from Dilijan’s helpful tourist information centre where you can rent hiking gear such as poles and sleeping bags, walk out of town to the south and up the mountain until you’re looking down on Dilijan. Follow the signs that indicate the Transcaucasian Trail (TCT), a 3,000km network of paths throughout the region, until you reach Parz Lake where you’ll find accommodation, a khoravats barbecue restaurant, a mini-rope park, paddle boats for rent and an hour-long 2km loop of the lake. You can spend the night here or have the info centre in Dilijan organise to have a cab meet you in the parking lot and take you back to town. If you’re keen to hike some more, you can continue along the TCT another four hours (7.1km) to the 12th-century Goshavank Monastery and to Gosh Lake, which will take an extra hour (4.2km)

A quick option is the 75-minute (3.8km) loop that takes you to two medieval monasteries, 13th-century Matosavank and 11th-century Jukhtavank, which are embedded in lush forest. You can either start this hike by driving to the trailhead on Abovyan St. or you can walk for about an hour from the info centre. Dilijan’s info centre has mountain bikes that you can rent for this loop.

For a multi-day trek, you can spend five to seven days (85.6km) hiking from the village of Kachardzan to Hovk. You’ll travel through forests, gorges and woodlands and see the beautiful 12th-century Goshavank and 10th-century Haghartsin monasteries along the way. There are campsites and guesthouses throughout this hike, but be sure to contact them beforehand to see if they’re open.

How to get to Dilijan National Park

You can take a marshrutka (minibus) from the Hyusisayin Avtokayan station in the north of Yerevan between 9am and 6pm. Minibuses leave when full and take about two hours to get to the central roundabout in Dilijan. The cost of the trip is about 1000 Armenian drams.

A taxi from Yerevan to Dilijan could cost up to 14,000 drams for the 100km journey.

When in Dilijan, there are plenty of taxis that can take you to surrounding towns or to your accommodation, though the town is quite small so it’s easy to walk around.

If you’d prefer to drive, there are several rental car agencies at the airport in Yerevan and it’s an easy drive along the M4 highway.

Mount Aragats

Armenia's most rewarding climb

Armenia’s borders might no longer contain Mount Ararat, the country’s national monument said to be where Noah’s ark first landed, but it does have Mount Aragats, a beautiful mountain in its own right and modern Armenia’s tallest peak. On Mount Aragats you’ll find waterfalls, sheep-covered valleys and pristine snow-capped mountains. To avoid the coldest temperatures, climbing is best between July and September, but don’t be surprised if there’s snow well into August.

Armenia Mount Aragats

Mount Aragats, Armenia

All Mount Aragats hikes start from Kari Lake, which has a small hotel and a popular khoravats restaurant. You can climb all four peaks, the tallest and most challenging being the northern peak, which is 4090m high and involves carrying rope and wading through snowfields. The 8.5km trip takes about two days and is for experienced hikers only. An easier, though no less fulfilling option, is to climb the southernmost peak, which spans 4.7km to reach the 3893m-high summit. Hikers also sometimes climb the western peak (3995m) and the eastern peak (3908m).

On your way up or down to Kari Lake, don’t miss Amberd Fortress, a well-kept 7th-century stone fortress that commands beautiful views over the plains. For something different, 20km northeast of the town of Byurakan is a field of Armenian alphabet monuments built in 2005 as an ode to the 1600th anniversary of Mesrop Mashtots inventing the language.

Many hikers stay in Yerevan and come up to Mount Aragats from there, but there are places to stay at Kari Lake, and the towns of Byurakan and Ashtarak, another one of Armenia’s top hiking destinations.

How to get to Mount Aragats

There’s no public transport to Mount Aragats, so you’ll have to get to Kari Lake via taxi from Yerevan (about 10,000 drams) or by renting a car. The drive is 84km and takes about an hour and a half.

Many choose to get to Mount Aragats by hitchhiking, especially on weekends in the summer, but while hitchhiking is a popular way to get around in Armenia it's not recommended as it involves inherent dangers.

Tatev Monastery

A gargantuan gorge and one of Armenia’s most incredible monasteries

Since as far back as the 9th century, Tatev Monastery in the south of Armenia has commanded a bold place overlooking one of Armenia's most epic sights, the Vorotan Gorge, which dips 800m beneath stark cliffs. The gorge is a sublime destination for day hikes with trails leading to tiny villages and important cultural sights.

Armenia Tatev Monsastery3

Tatev, Armenia

The most popular destination is Satan’s Bridge at the bottom of the gorge where legend has it that a bridge magically appeared to save villagers fleeing a rebel army. It’ll take about an hour to get here from Tatev and it’s easy to find right next to the main road. Another option is to leave from the Tatev Monastery and hike six to seven hours (13.5km) through the gorge to the forgotten village of Old Harjis, which is filled with ruins and grass-covered homes. Along the way, you’ll cross oak and hornbeam forests, the new town of Harjis and a lake that you can swim in. Keep an eye out for wild lizards, bears, wolves, foxes, porcupines and snakes. Other popular hikes from Tatev include the village of Tanzatap, which takes an hour, the 17th century Mets Anapad church (two and a half hour) and to the village of Ltsen (five to six hours).

Multi-day treks are less common around Tatev, but you can easily do multiple day trips while basing yourself from Halidzor where there are a few excellent B&Bs and a station for the world’s longest nonstop reversible ropeway, the Wings of Tatev Aerial Tramway. Alternatively, the hilltop village of Tatev has several humble B&Bs and a helpful info centre and cafe with ample hiking information.

How to get to Tatev

There are no marshrutky (minibuses) to Tatev or Halidzor from Yerevan, but you can take one to nearby Goris and then onto Tatev from there. Marshrutky leave Yerevan’s Sasuntsi Davit metro station for Goris at 9am and 4pm and take about six hours (2500 drams). From Goris, minibuses leave for Tatev at 8:30am and 3:30pm from the bus stop on Komitas St and take an hour.

There are shared taxis from Yerevan to Halidzor, but not to Tatev. Ask at your accommodation in Yerevan to have one pick you up. A private taxi from Goris should cost 8000 drams.

The drive from Yerevan is 250km and takes about five hours.

Hiking to Ashtarak and Kasagh Gorge

Two of Armenia’s finest monasteries on the edge of a breathtaking gorge

In the Western Armenian province of Aragatsotn, the massive Kasagh Gorge is overlooked by not one, but two of Armenia’s most striking monasteries; Saghmosavank, which was built in the 13th century and Hovhannavank, which dates back to the 5th century.

Kasagh gorge

Kasagh gorge, Armenia

The two monasteries are connected by an easy 7.5km trail along the edge of the gorge, which takes about five hours to complete a return trip. A longer hike (10km) starts from Saghmosavank and goes down into the gorge along the banks of the Kasagh River. The river eventually flows into the Metsamor River where you can take a dip before finishing the hike in the village of Karbi.

The area has stunning views of Mount Ararat, Mount Aragats and Mount Ara and is populated with apricot trees, wild rabbits and foxes. The region is also known for its wine and there are a few wineries to try in the area.

The town of Ashtarak is a good place to base yourself with its beautiful 19th-century black tuff buildings, pleasant tree-lined streets and several good restaurants.

How to get to Kasagh Gorge

Ashtarak is very easy to get to from Yerevan. Marshrutky (minibuses) leave from the Kilkya Avtokayan bus station every twenty minutes between 8am and 8pm and take 40 minutes (250 drams). To get to the Kasagh Gorge you’ll need to drive, hitchhike or walk — Hovhannavank is 7km from the centre of town.

Ashtarak is just 30 minutes from Yerevan by car or taxi. GG and Yandex, Armenia’s equivalent to Uber and Lyft, will have the best rates.

Yeghegis Valley

Hike in the footsteps of the Silk Road

Surrounded by huge peaks, charming villages, medieval churches and roaming animals, the Yeghegis Valley in Armenia’s Vayots Dzor province is excellent hiking territory. Don’t believe me? Take it from the Silk Road merchants who passed through here on their way to and from Western Europe and Asia. You can still find evidence of their journeys with a well-kept 14th-century caravanserai (shelter for weary travellers) in the Selim Pass. Summers in this region can get very hot at midday, so hiking between May and June or October and November is ideal.

141333385 m

Yeghegis Canyon

A popular modern-day hike is from the village of Artabuynk to an 800-year-old Jewish cemetery beside the town of Yeghegis. The trek will take you past the 5th-century Smbataberd Fortress, which offers gorgeous views over the valley, down into a meadow and then up again where you’ll find the 10th-century Tsakhatskar Monastery. From there, you’ll walk down to Yeghegis, a village which hasn’t changed much in centuries and features three historic churches dating from the 13th, 14th and 18th centuries. A few minutes east of Yeghegis is a rickety bridge that leads to an 800-year-old Jewish cemetery said to have the remains of Jews from Persia who walked the Silk Road. The whole trek is 10km and takes about five hours to complete. Boots and long pants are especially important on this hike as vipers are frequently encountered.

A scenic 125km multi-day trek starts from the Selim caravanserai and heads south to the village of Ughedzor. The partly marked TCT trek winds through lakes, valleys and streams to the gorgeous Noravank Monastery, which glows reddish gold at sunset. You’ll also pass by the Areni-1 cave, the world’s oldest recorded winery dating back over 6,000 years. The trek continues through remote villages and up the Syunik Mountains before ending in Ughedzor.

There are several guesthouses and homestays in the area, including an eco-hotel made out of shipping containers near Yeghegis and some of Armenia’s finest guesthouses and wineries in Yeghegnadzor.

How to get to the Yeghegis Valley

Buses leave Yerevan from the Sasuntsi Davit train station in the morning for Yeghegnadzor, the area’s main hub, and take about two hours (AMD1200). From there, you’ll need to take a taxi up to Artabuynk or the Selim caravanserai, which costs the standard AMD100 per kilometre rate.

A taxi from Yerevan to Yeghegnadzor costs about 15,000 drams and takes two and a half hours.

Driving is a good idea as there’s plenty to explore in the region but few buses to take you there. However, keep in mind that if you’re planning to do the Artabuynk to Yeghegis or Selim to Ughedzor hikes they aren’t loops, so you’ll have to find your way back to where your car is parked.

Trekking and hiking routes in Azerbaijan are much less developed than in Georgia or Armenia. Unless you opt for wild hiking, your hiking options are likely to be limited to day treks or national parks. If you’re heading to the mountains, you’ll only be able to trek during the summer months of April to October.

Azerbaijan Shahdag National Reserve autumn lowres

Autumn at Shahdag Mountain

Caucasus mountain villages

Azerbaijan is home to plenty of mountain villages offering a taste of rural life, historic culture and trekking routes. You can choose a multi-day route between several villages, or base yourself in one of the three main villages below for day hikes. Accommodation is primarily in homestays, with routes normally well-marked.

Quba

Nestled into the slopes of the Shahdag Mountain, the town Quba is home to 40,000 residents with many more spread across several different villages in the region. Set between dramatic canyons and deep valleys, the region is the perfect place for remote hiking on cattle paths and the chance to interact with traditional Azeri shepherd families.

Xinaliq

The remote village of Xinaliq has become more accessible to adventurous hikers after the building of a paved road from Quba. Sitting at 2,350m above sea level, Xinaliq is the highest village in Europe and has several trekking routes. Perhaps the easiest is the hike to the nearby town of Qalayxudat, which follows on an old road between the two settlements.

Xinaliq itself is a fascinating place to visit. Its inhabitants still speak their own language (called Ketch) and believe they are descended from Noah.

Laza

Laza is much smaller than Xinaliq and feels even more remote. Surrounded by waterfalls and misty mountains, there are plenty of day hike trails to follow here, either with a local guide or independently. Perhaps the most popular route is from Laza to the village of Kuzun, taking in waterfalls, streams and mountain views. Expect this hike to take up a full day.

In winter, Laza becomes Azerbaijan’s main ski resort with locals descending on the mountain village, giving it a completely different feel.

Azerbaijan Sheki The Khans Palace3

The Khan's Palace in Sheki

Sheki to the Gelersen Goresen Fortress

Once a trading stop on the historic Silk Road, Sheki is now a popular tourist destination for those wanting to explore Azeri architecture — particularly at the historic Sheki Khan Palace — and for craftworks such as shebeke, glass mosaics set in wooden latticework.

There are several trails around Sheki that make for pleasant day walks, but a particular favourite is the hike to the Gelersen Goresen Fortress that towers above the city. Despite dating back to the 8th or 9th century, the fortress got its current name in the 1700s when Sheki was ruled by Persians. An assistant to the regional ruler called Haji Chalabi Khan rebelled against his superiors and took refuge in the fort along with the surrounding population.

When the Persians sent a message to Khan asking for his surrender, he simply replied ‘you will come and see’. Outraged, the Persians launched attack after attack on the fort, but its strategic position meant Khan was able to withstand the assault until the Persians withdrew and he became the ruler of Sheki area. Since then, the fortress has been known as ‘Gelersen Goresen’ Fortress — translated as ‘will come, will see’ from Azeri.

Hiking to the fortress isn’t easy. There aren’t any signed trails or specific routes, so the best bet is to take a guided walk from Sheki. You’ll cross the Kish River, pass a slate mine and ascend a steep hillside to get to the remains of the fortress, which have largely been left to nature. However, there are excellent views towards Sheki and across to Dagestan.

Azerbaijan Gobustan Mud volcanoes lowres

A mud volcano in Gobustan National Park

Gobustan National Park

An hour’s drive from Baku near the Caspian coast, Gobustan National Park’s mud volcanoes, mountains and rock art make it the perfect place to try a few day hikes.

Gobustan is probably best known for its mud volcanoes. More than half the world’s mud volcanoes are found in Azerbaijan, and Gobustan has more than its fair share. Mud volcanoes are actually more like mud geysers, with methane and carbon dioxide being released from the holes causing the mud to bubble and boil. The hot climate causes the mud to solidify rapidly, creating cracks and fissures in the floor.

The other big attraction of Gobustan are its petroglyphs. These rock carvings were made by early humans and depict life up to 40,000 years ago, with images of goats, lions and big game, as well as pregnant women and dancing men. Head to the nearby Gobustan Nature Museum for more information on the carvings and their history.

Hiking in the Caucasus mountains

Baia Dzagnidze

Baia is a travel writer and blogger from Tbilisi, Georgia. With a background in journalism, she has been writing travel articles about Georgia for local and international publications for more than three years. Her articles have been published in Lonely Planet, National Geographic Traveller FOOD (UK edition), Skyscanner, Georgia Starts Here, and Forbes Woman Georgia.

Hiking in the Caucasus mountains

Joel Balsam

Joel Balsam is a Canadian freelance journalist and Lonely Planet guidebook writer.

Why Horizon Guides?

Impartial guidebooks

Impartial guidebooks

Our travel guides are written by the leading experts in their destinations. We never take payment for positive coverage so you can count on us for impartial travel advice.

Expert itineraries

Expert itineraries

Suggested itineraries and routes to help you scratch beneath the surface, avoid the tourist traps, and plan an authentic, responsible and enjoyable journey.

Specialist advice

Specialist advice

Get friendly, expert travel advice and custom itineraries from some of the world’s best tour operators, with no spam, pressure or commitment to book.

Loading...