Hiking Guide to the South Caucasus

If you are energetic, dynamic and real adventurer then the South Caucasus region is an ideal destination for you. Majestic mountains, velvet hills, azure lakes, and raging waterfalls - what can sound more tempting for nature lovers and adventurers? In recent years the region, namely Armenia, Georgia and Azarbaijan attracts more and more tourists for hiking, trekking and other adventure tours. And if you're planning active holidays in the Caucasus then our post will be a great guide for your travel.

Hiking in Armenia

In Soviet times, seven national parks and reserves were opened on the territory of Armenia to preserve the environment and historical monuments. The largest and most important of the reserves is Sevan National Park including Lake Sevan.

Dilijan National Park, 27.995 ha

One of the most picturesque nature reserves of Armenia is located on the territory of almost 28 thousand hectares. The national park represents the country's most interesting and diverse mountain range. The park has been transformed into a state reserve for the conservation of valuable mountain landscapes. The territory is rich in oak, beech, and coniferous forests and mineral springs. There are unique mahogany groves called “monuments of the second millennium” stretching through the park.

Small streams and tributaries flow throughout the reserve, which flows into the Agstev River, which also flows through the Dilijan Park. The pearls of the Dilijan National Park are the lakes of Parz and Gosh, located among the dense forests.

The main and most interesting routes pass through natural and architectural monuments. The park has more than five medieval monasteries, the ruins of ancient settlements, khachkars, and cemeteries.

Sevan National Park, 150.100 ha

Sevan National Park, including Lake Sevan, is the largest reserve in Armenia. In 1978, the lake and the surrounding area got the status of a reserve for protecting the ecosystem, in particular, for the conservation of water resources and rare species of flora and fauna.

Lake Sevan is the main natural value of Armenia. The reservoir is the largest alpine freshwater lake in Armenia and the CIS and one of the largest in the world. The reserve includes several strictly guarded zones, the most important of which is the “Seagull Island”, a breeding colony of Armenian Gulls. Sevan National Park is one of the best places for bird watching.

Trekking in the national park mainly runs along the shores of the lake, including the medieval monasteries, the ancient ruins of the Urartu fortress, as well as the khachkar cemetery on Cape Noraduz.

Khosrov Reserve, 29.196 ha

The history of the Khosrov Reserve began in the IV century when king Khosrov planted a forest on the slopes of the Geghama Range, where he often went for hunting. Now, the Khosrov Forest has received the status of a reserve for the protection of rare endemic species of animals listed in the Red Book. Flora is no less rich and diverse; there are about 1800 species of plants with oak trees dominating.

The entire territory of the Khosrov Forest Reserve impresses with its amazing landscapes. Also, the national park is a popular destination for trekking due to the location of historical monuments and natural values. On the territory, there is the only pagan temple of Garni over a cliff of the gorge, the medieval monastery complex Geghard, the unique basalt columns “Symphony of stones”, the river Azat, flowing through the forest and waterfalls.

Hiking in Georgia

Georgia has more than 15 national parks with unique flora and fauna, and each of them is worthy of your attention. Many of them already have ready-made trekking routes of varying difficulty.

Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park, 85,000 ha

Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park was one of the first to receive reserve status. Besides, the park is the largest one, occupying the territory of the Shida-Kartli, Imereti and Samtskhe-Javakheti regions.

Thanks to mineral springs, the diversity of landscapes and geographical areas, flora and fauna, as well as historical architectural monuments, the Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park is of great value for the development of ecotourism in the country. The unique fauna of the park has about 60 species of animals, some of which are under strict protection and are listed in the Red Book. Due to the diversity of birds (more than 215 species), this is one of the beloved places of birdwatchers in the region

Hiking season lasts all year round. As the most developed tourist infrastructure, the park has 11 trekking routes of varying complexity and length. The longest of them is a route of 54 km with a high level of difficulty. Trekking can be combined with horseback riding to explore a larger area.

Tusheti National Park, 83,000 ha

Another great place to explore the nature of Georgia where you can enjoy the breathtaking views of the mountain landscapes is the Tusheti National Park. The inaccessible and little-known region attracts lovers of silence and solitude.

The main goal of creating the reserve was to preserve historical and architectural monuments, namely, observation towers located throughout the region. The flora and fauna of the reserve are of no less value.

The entire territory of the park is all about hard-to-reach passes, mountain peaks, and powerful cliffs, alpine meadows and gorges with rivers. Fascinating landscapes are complemented by the authenticity of small settlements, views of the ruins of fortresses, ancient graves, and towers of Tusheti.

Kazbegi National Park, 8.707 ha

Despite the small territory, Kazbegi National Park is considered the most popular destination annually receiving more than 30 thousand tourists from all over the world. People come here for the indescribable beauty of the landscapes and the view of Mount Kazbegi.

The alpine reserve is located in the eastern part of the Greater Caucasus. The lowest point of the park is located at an altitude of 1400 meters above sea level. 35% of the protected areas are covered with pine and subalpine forests; the rest of the park is alpine pastures, mountain peaks, and rocks.

Tourism infrastructure is gradually developing. A tourist reception centre has already been opened, with planned trekking routes, horseback riding tours, and scientific trips to study the flora and fauna of the reserve are organized.

Hiking in Azerbaijan

In Azerbaijan, national parks and reserves appeared just recently to preserve the environment and develop ecotourism. Currently, nine national parks and reserves have already been registered in Azerbaijan.

Goygol National Park, 12.755 ha

Goygol Lake is the most picturesque place in Azerbaijan. The Goygol National Park was created 10 years ago to preserve the virgin nature. The territory of the park includes the lake itself, the slopes of Kapaz Mountain and forests. The flora of the reserve includes about 80 species of trees, including oriental oak, Caucasian hornbeam, beech, birch and more than 500 species of herbs. The fauna of the park is no less diverse; trout of the Akhsuchai River is considered rare.

Today the Goygol National Park is one of the most popular trekking destinations. The reserve is strictly guarded, swimming is prohibited in the lake and only a certain route is available for trekking. Nevertheless, despite such restrictions, the reserve attracts more and more tourists and campers every year.

Zangezur National Park, 42.797 ha

Zangezur National Park was created to protect about 50 rare representatives of the fauna: leopard, Transcaucasian mouflon, striped hyena, bezoar goat, Caucasian black grouse, brown bear, and others. For several years now, a project has been carried out to preserve and restore the leopard population. Recently, the channel “Nat Geo Wild” made a program about a leopard family with cubs.

In addition to the rich flora and fauna in the park, you will find the ruins of medieval bridges, Armenian churches, and settlements.

Shahdag National Park, 130.508 ha

Shahdag National Park is the largest reserve in Azerbaijan, located in six regions at once. The park was established in 2006 on the site of two existing reserves, covering the highlands and forests of neighboring territories.

As well as other reserves, the Shahdag National Park was created to preserve flora and fauna and to develop ecotourism in the country. Besides, the most popular and modern ski resort of Shahdag is located on the territory of the reserve. The tourist infrastructure with luxury hotels is another factor that attracts a huge number of tourists all year round. The main trekking routes pass at an altitude of more than 4000 meters.  You will enjoy dizzying views of mountain ranges, rocky cliffs of the gorge and dense forests. Mount Shahdag is the main value of the park. The granite slopes of the mountain are similar to steps; on one of the “stairways”, there is a waterfall 50 meters high.

Choose the Tour to Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan you like most and tour-operator Arara will organize your amazing Holiday in the Caucasus.

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