Hiking trail description
This trail starts from Yenokavan to Okon Monastery is located in the Tavush province, in the northeast of Armenia. This province is known for its forests, and this hike follows Sarnajur River through one of the most popular valleys near Ijevan, home to the Lastiver Caves and campgrounds, Okon Monastery and the ancient settlement around it. Sarnajur River is one of the most prominent tributaries of the Aghstev River, the largest river of the province, flowing through Dilijan and Ijevan.
This valley abounds in fast running streams, large and small waterfalls, dense forests and high cliffs. To get the most out of this hike, a couple of days are recommended, with an overnight stay near the Okon Church. A potable fresh water spring near the church is an ideal place to refill water bottles.
The hike starts at the Apaga Resort Complex, 3km away from Yenokavan, and follows a narrow path halfway up a steep cliff above the Sarnajur valley. It then descends into the valley, and roughly follows the river to the Okon settlement. The way back goes past the Lastiver Caves and campgrounds, made up of wooden tree houses and a simple kiosk that operates in the summer months. If the humid heat is too much, the refreshing Sarnajur River (Cold water, in Armenian) is always close by, to take a dip and cool down.
Okon Church, located within the boundaries of the Dilijan National Park, was constructed in the Middle Ages by peasants from the Okon settlement. The area has many intricate khachkars (cross stones) and ancient cemeteries. Animal herders from as far as Sevkar village use the settlement and surrounding areas as a summer base for their flock. The modern Sev Kar mountain area is located in Okon church territory.
The Lastiver Caves are often a destination for extreme tourism lovers. During the Mongol Raids between the 13th-14th centuries, the population of the area sheltered in the caves, as they are high up on a cliff and practically inaccessible. To get up, the residents had built a ladder using logs, and later on used a type of platform (“Last” in Armenian) that they raised (“Ver” in Armenian) with ropes.
An unknown artist sculpted a wedding ceremony into the rock walls of the cave.
There is a wonderful waterfall down the canyon, which is an inseparable part of the gorgeous nature.
The nature of Tavush is picturesque. Forests, rich in flora and fauna and unique natural monuments, make up over half of its total area. Dilijan National Park and Ijevan’s Forest Park (Dendropark) were founded in the Aghstev River basin to preserve its primordial state of nature, enrich and enhance it. A wide variety of beech, oak, linden, maple and hornbeam trees grow in these forests.
The climate around the Aghstev Valley, the pure mountain air rich in oxygen, healing mineral waters, forests, and highlands rich in medicinal herbs, has made this area a popular resort destination, for rest, health and international tourism.
The fauna of the area is relatively abundant, and possible encounters with wildlife include roe deer, Caucasian bear, wild boar, hare, rock badger, fox, hedgehog, jackal, field mouse, bobcat, marten, dormouse, squirrel, and a variety of birds, reptiles, insects and fish (trout being the most common).
Safety and Security
Mobile telephone coverage (via VivaCell-MTS and U-Com) is partially available throughout the area, and the 911 emergency service operates throughout Armenia in case of any accidents.
Watch out for bears and snakes, especially in the hotter summer months.
There are a number of potable fresh water springs along the route, but bring bottled water as well!
Best period: April -November
Distance: 145 km from Yerevan
Duration: 2 hour 13 min
Hiking trail length: 18.7km
Walk duration: 5 hours 50 minutes
Altitude from Sea Level: 1,050 – 1,400m
Existing Trail Surface: 100% Existing
How to Get There
In order to reach Apaga Resort (the starting point of the hike), the most convenient option is to take a taxi from Yerevan. It is better to take a taxi with a working meter (be sure the driver uses it), or agree on a price beforehand.