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біля Garrni, Kotaykʼ (አርሜኒያ)
The path begins at the Pagan temple of Garni, in the province of Kotayk, from here you must drive about 9 km by car, then the actual hiking trail begins. It is a perfect destination for a stroll between early spring to late autumn. Looking down from the edge of the gorge into the canyon you can see the outline of the trail. In May and June, the Azat gorge (180m in depth) is truly a sight to be seen. Depending on the season, the Azat gorge may be filled with various vividly colored plants, fragrant, and variegated flowers with healing properties, covering either sides of the gorge and stretching along the entire route. The Azat River (56km in length) runs between the two cliffs of the Azat gorge and feeds into the larger, Araks River. In the valley, on the right hand side of the Azat River, grandpa Vardan’s wooden house is located, which can serve as a shelter from the rain. On both sides of the house, there is a beautiful orchard with peach, apricot and mulberry trees planted by Vardan himself. Visitors have the opportunity to taste these fresh fruits in the Fall season. Further along on the Azat River, there is a wooden bridge that paves the way to Lake Azat. The hike is surrounded by tall cliffs, small waterfalls, as well as pink and yellow sandy mountains, the highest summit of which, is the peak of Eranos, with a height of 1,824 m. Within the vicinity of Lake Azat (reservoir) there is a mineral spring with a small yellow basin, the water of the spring flows into a narrow stream and is considered potable. The lake is especially crowded during summer months, it is truly beautiful and those who want to cool down can freely swim in the lake’s cool waters. The Azat reservoir is located in the province of Ararat, on the Azat River, near the village of Landjazat. The reservoir, with an area of 2.85 square km and 70 million cubic m of total volume, was put into operation in 1976. The reservoir is also fed by nearby springs and is used for irrigation. In spite of being an artificial lake, it has several islands, with an especially high water level between April and June. There are also fish in the lake, which may be obvious due to the presence of nearby fishermen.
The pagan temple of Garni is situated on the right bank of the Azat River, in the province of Kotayk. Legend ascribes Garni’s founding to Hayk Nahapet’s (the ancestor of all Armenians) great-grandson, Gegham, who named the temple of Garni after his grandson Garnik. The fortress of Garni was built in the Hellenistic architectural style, on a high triangular promontory, during the reign of King Tiridates I (Trdat, in Armenian) in the year 76. The fortress of Garni has been destroyed several times throughout the centuries, but the Armenian kings would always restore it – turning it into a summer residence, a place for the military exercises of troops and even an Episcopal Residence. Archaeological excavations around Garni have found late Bronze Age tombs, early Urartian and Armenian cuneiform and ceramic inscriptions attributed to King Argishti, and an urban settlement in front of the fortress, the traces of which had been covered by both medieval and modern buildings. There is also a medieval cemetery on the northern side of the village, with carved khachkars (cross stones) and inscriptions on the tombs. Currently the temple of Garni attracts numerous tourists visiting Armenia with its well-preserved majestic architecture and carvings. The temple is open for everyone throughout all four seasons, and at night it is dressed in the beautiful glow of colored lights.
The flora within the Khosrov Reserve is plentiful – it includes around 1,800 species of plants, which constitute more than 50% of Armenia's flora, by species! 146 of these are registered in the Red Data Book of the Republic of Armenia (similar to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species). Rich vegetation, colorful flowers and fragrant plants cover the landscape throughout the hike. On the rocks of the deep gorges, junipers (the most precious jewel of the Yeranos mountain range) seem to fight for life against the harsh landscape. Fir moss (Lycopodium selago), white and bright-pink roses, hawthorns, rosehips and plum trees, as well as orange Hippophae (in September and October) are common in this area. The Hippophae oil has very helpful properties, and is used for medical purposes against inflammation and as a tea to cure illnesses. The area is also abundant in wild poppeys (blooming in May and June), yellow dandelions, sorrel (aveluk in Armenian), chaerophyllums, mushrooms, as well as thyme and mint- the last two mostly being used as tea herbs. In relatively hot months (July, August) white chamomile, blue chicory, plantain (plantago) and others can be seen during the hike. All these plants and herbs have healing properties and are used in making drugs, infusions and masks.
This area is abundant in reptiles, it is especially advisable to be careful of snakes, which are common here, due to the hot, dry, semi-desert climate. The sightings of reptiles, such as gray and yellow pattern vipers, black vipers, brown and green grass snakes, large and small lizards, as well as green marsh frogs and small craw-fish are common here. There are also long-eared hedgehogs, porcupines, wild boars, foxes and wolves, as well as many birds like martins, ravens, starlings, sparrows, larks, quail and turtledoves, and many species of insects of various color and size. The Azat gorge is also abound in spiders.
Safety and Security
Mobile telephone coverage (via Ucom and Viva Cell-MTS) is usually available in the areas between Garni and Lake Azat. The 911 emergency services operate throughout Armenia in case of any accidents. Be aware of snakes and be sure to bring bottled water!
Best period: April -November
Hiking trail length: 4km
Walk duration: 2 hours
Altitude from Sea Level: 1,188m
Visible Trail Surface: 100%
How to Get There
In order to reach this hike, it is necessary to go to the 1st block of Nor Nork, and take minibus number 268, which will take you to the village of Garni (where the Garni Temple is located), for 250 AMD. It is also possible to go from Garni to the Azat river gorge (waypoint 002) by car and begin the hike from there. The most convenient option to reach the trail (Garni temple-Azat gorge) is to take a taxi from Yerevan, which will cost between 3,000-3,500 AMD. It is advisable to take a taxi with a working meter (be sure the driver uses it) or agree on a price beforehand.