Dilijan is a town with mild climate and fresh air to the northeast of Yerevan. It is famous for its lovely surroundings, called the "Armenian Switzerland" by the locals, due to the densely forested valleys and mountains with alpine meadows surrounding them. It is an excellent base for hiking.
Most visitors to Armenia spend all of their nights in Yerevan. Spending a night or two in Dilijan while exploring Tavush Marz region is well worth it. There are plentiful accommodations in Dilijan, from the luxury of the Tufenkian Hotel to much more basic hotels or homes. From Dilijan you can explore up to the Georgian border and the remote Shamshadin region much more easily than from Yerevan, and then continue on to Lori Marz.
The first settlements in this area were established around the end of the second millennium and beginning of first millennium BC. Some excavated collections of artifacts from that period are exhibited in the museums of Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Tbilisi, Baku and Yerevan, with the reminder kept in the Dilijan Geological Museum.
During the Medieval period this territory belonged to the Arsacid kings and was one of their favourite forest and a summer resorts used for hunting. A bit later, in the 13th century, Bujur Dili settlement was founded here. The monasteries of Haghartsin and Goshavank were built between the 10th and 13th centuries, quickly developed and have served as cultural and educational centers in the intervening centuries. Some other important religious and educational centers have also survived in Dilijan, such as the Jukhtak Vank Monastery and Matosavank Monastery.
Since the town came under Russian rule in 1801, the population has gradually grown. A school, library and several theaters were opened. In the second half of the 19th century Dilijan’s fame as of a resort center started to grow.
During Soviet years it was already widely known as a mountain climatic and balneological resort; there used to be 35 major sanatoriums hosting tens of thousands people yearly. It was popular among creative people, musicians and painters. However, all its fame faded away quite quickly after the collapse of Soviet Union, the number of tourists fell dramatically, and sanatoriums and all other tourist-oriented infrastructure went into a serious decline. Only during the last few years has the situation started to improve. Tourists (mainly wealthy Armenians and some foreigners as well) have started coming back, giving a fresh breath to the town. New hotels and restaurants have started to appear again. There are still many signs of a recent decline nowadays; there is a feel of abandonment and some provincial neglect (which is somehow inherent to the majority of Armenian towns). Nonetheless, pristine nature, calm and relaxed atmosphere and ancient monasteries are still the main points of interest and the main reasons to visit the town.
Tourist Information Office. Except for giving some valuable advice, it has maps and souvenirs. They can also find guides who can accompany visitors on their trips to Dilijan National Park. There is Wi-Fi in the office and a small adjacent bistro serving coffee, snacks and beer.
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Dilijan has a moderately cold temperate climate, with moderate precipitation.
The best months to visit Dilijan are May-October, the months with the most pleasant temperatures. July and August, the hottest months, have average daily highs of around 26 C. and average lows around 12 C. The coldest months are January and February, with average low temperatures around -6 C. and average high temperatures around 3 C. Precipitation is moderate to moderately low: May is the wettest month, averaging 92 mm, and June averages 85 mm, but other months get quite a lot less precipitation.
Take a van (marshrutni) from the Medical University (Pjhishkakan Hamalsaran) on the corner of Abovyan and Koriun to the upper Avtokayaran. From there you can take a marshrutni headed to Ijevan that will stop in Dilijan on the way (a taxi from the centre to here is ~ 1,200 AMD). There are also direct marshrutnis, 09:00-18:00, roughly hourly (AMD 1,000,--).
More bus schedules: Dilijan - Yerevan: 08:00, 09:00, 10:00, 11:00, 13:00, 16:00; Dilijan - Iljevan 09:15, 10:15; Iljevan - Dilijan 13:00, 14:00; Dilijan-Vanadzor 09:30, 11:30; Vanadzor - Dilijan 08:30, 10:30, 13:00, 14:30;
A taxi from Yerevan will cost approximately 10,000 AMD one way with a standard meter price. You can probably negotiate a better rate, especially for round trip. A taxi from Vanadzor is roughly 4,000 AMD.
As a day tour
Many companies offer day tours from Yerevan, which include Dilijan, Haghartsin and Goshavank. They can be cheaper than taking a taxi, and depart in the morning on fixed days of the week.
Within town, for the most part, walking is quite easy.
There are 2 bus routes starting at the Mineral water plant factory (which is a starting point for hikes to Jukhtak Vank Monastery) and then crossing entire town and ending at another end of it. Operation time: Mo-Fr 7:30-18:30, Sa-Su 9:30-17:30, approximately every half an hour.
A taxi within the town should cost no more than 600 AMD.
If you need to get to some of the regional monasteries, your best bet is negotiating a package deal with the taxis. You can ask someone from the tourist information office help you translate and negotiate, as most of the drivers will not speak English. If a driver tries to change the price on you, absolutely refuse, and take the matter to the police if necessary.
Bikes can be rented either at the Dilijan National Park's information center (at park's HQ 500 m past Dilijan roundabout, AMD 1000/hr or 5000/day) or at the "Old Dilijan" historic center.
- "Old Dilijan" historic complex, Sharambeyan str.. A little cobbled street with the traditional buildings. Created in 1979 by artist Hovhannes Sharambeyan. The aim of the historic center was to present the history of Dilijan, its lifestyle, and the interest of the people who live there. Here instead of the previously established workshops and houses, 16 studios were opened where you could see items used in everyday life as well as handmade works of Dilijan craftsmen and artists. In 2005 the territory was leased by American-Armenian businessman James Tufenkian, who has already had a list of hotel complexes named “Tufenkian Hospitality” LTD.
- Historic museum, Sharambeyan str. (part of "Old Dilijan" historic center, entrance is next door to Tufenkian restaurant). Located in a 19th century house decorated with furniture, carpets and crockery of that time. AMD 3000.
- Museum of Folk Art after V. Sharambeyan, 1 Getapnya str., ☎ +374 91703047. Tu-Sa 11:00-18:00, Su 11:00-16:00. The building of a museum was built at the end of the XIX century and served as a summer house of Princess Mariam Tumanyan. Currently works of contemporary folk masters and self-taught artists are all collected here, as well as significant ethnographic exhibits. 300 AMD.
- The Geological Museum and Art Gallery of Dilijan, 28 Miasnikyan str., ☎ +374 26824450. Tu-Su 10:30-18:00. Here are some excerpts from the "Page Info" page of this small museum's Facebook site: "The Geological Museum and Art Gallery of Dilijan which was founded in 1950...provides a comprehensive view of the history of the Dilijan Region, the historical development of the local people, their way of life, material culture monuments, historical and geographical conditions."
"[The land of Dilijan was so rich in archeological relics] that it...was able to provide museums of the...city with [items that are] more than 3,000 years old....The rare pictures stored here also make the Geological Museum of Dilijan a treasury." It contains works by Armenian and Russian painters, "Dutch, Italian and French painters of the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries", etc.
- Jukhtak Vank Monastery (On the edge of Dilijan, a short 10 minute hike from the Dilijan Mineral Water plant). A nice little monastery. Huge iron bands hold one of the two churches together, preventing its collapse.
- Matosavank Monastery (A 25-minute hike from the Dilijan Mineral Water plant: Follow the marked trail from the water bottlers). It is easy to miss, and not terribly interesting from the outside, but the inside is a cool, moist, green, mossy world unto itself. The low light illuminating bright green algae-covered khachkars is very soothing, and the environment transports you far from your daily life.
- Haghartsin Monastery (13km of town: 8km following the main Dilijan-Ijevan highway and then 5km off this road after the turning to the monastery. There is also a walk from Haghartsin Monastery to Goshavank one: the trail is not marked, takes 3 hrs, 10km). One of Armenia's most popular monasteries, Haghartsin is nestled in lush forested mountains about a half hour drive from Dilijan. The monastery is in good condition and has a resident priest who sometimes gives tours. There are a few different churches, a large gavit, a huge dining hall, khachkars and a massive hollow tree. A slightly sweet bread is often being baked in an old oven.
- Goshavank Monastery (22km east of Dilijan: 16km following the main Dilijan-Ijevan highway and then 6km off this road after the turning to the monastery.). Goshavank monastery is surrounded by a traditional village, and has a groundskeeper who opens the main church building up for visitors, and can give a tour. This is the one church in all of Armenia where entrance to one of the chambers is not free. The chamber is nice, but you can certainly enjoy the rest of the complex without it, especially since it may not be offered in English. There are excellent carved details and khachkars here, but the "lacework" khachkar at Goshavank is one of the most impressive in the world.
- Mantash Fortress (Ashot Yerkat Fortress, Kara-Kala) (on top of a steep mountain, on the right bank of Aghstev River, about 25 km north-east from Dilijan). It was built under the Arab rule and was one of Armenian invulnerable fortresses. The fortress has two entrances, the doors of which were made of large stones. The passable parts of the mountain are fortified with walls that have pyramid-shaped towers on top.
- Lake Parz (Parz lich), on the 9th km north-east from Dilijan, in the north-west of Areguni Mountain Chain, on a marvelously forested slope. Clear Lake is a dream, a miraculous vision one can ever imagine. Its altitude is 1350 m, length – 300 m, width – 70-80 m. Water temperature reaches 15.5 C at summertime. Poet Gevorg Emin says, “Go to Lake Parz, I urge you to go. One last time I tell you to go as long as the magic is there.” Besides, there is a restaurant overlooking the lake.
- Lake Tzrka, 7 kilometers from the village of Gosh. Long time ago leeches were bred here for traditional and non-traditional medicines. There are no longer leeches now, but the lake is called Tzrka by their name. It is better to travel by foot rather than by car to enjoy beautiful wildlife surrounding the lake.
- , on the outskirts of Aghavnavank village, in Dilijan National Park. 12th-13th century monastic complex. The church is a small structure with the dome in the center and its depositories. It is built with yellowish polished stone. Hood of the dome and roof were covered with polished slabs, but only few of which preserved. Shaped stones of cornice fell down. There are also numerous constructions remained to the south of monument, which most probably constituted logistical and residential premises of the Church Congregation.
- Molokan Villages, Lermontovo and Fioletovo villages. If you take the highway toward Vanadzor, a few of the villages you pass will be those of the Molokans. A Russian old believer sect, much like the Amish in Pennsylvania, they grow beards and shun technology.
Hiking and biking are the most popular physical activities in the area because the town itself is compact and the surrounding countryside is beautiful and best experienced at low speeds.
- Dilijan National Park, ☎ +374 268 2-70-32, +374 268 2-71-71. It surrounds Dilijan town and has some marked hiking trails you can try out and discover some lesser known monasteries, a lake, forests, springs and wildlife. There is 12 eco trails in a park. All visitor are required to pay AMD 500 per person for accessing these routes. Although payments can sometimes be troublesome as usually there is noone on the route who can accept the payment (it can be done primarily in tourist office or national park HQ).
- Dilijan - Matosavank and Jukhtak Monasteries - 30-60 min hike. From tourist information center take the road to Vanadzor, after 3 km turn right (there will be brown road signs for Matosavank and Jukhtak Monasteries). Travel down the dirt road for 3 km, after that Matosavank will be on the left and Jukhtak on the right.
- Haghartsin Monastery - Shamakhyan Village. From tourist information center take the road north to Ijevan, after 8 km turn left ( there will be a sign for Haghartsin Monastery). Follow it for another 6 km. The beginning of the trail is 100 meters before the road ends (near the chapel with khatchkars).
- Parz lake - Goshavank monastery - 3 hrs hike. There is a signs near a lake marking beginning of the trail.
- Dilijan - natural mineral spring Ttu Jur - Parz Lich lake. Take the right fork 200 m after the town square - this is the beginning of the trail.
- Aghavnavank Village - Redwood Grove - easy hike suitable for a family. From tourist information center take the road north to Ijevan, after 16 km turn right (there will be a sign for Gosh & Chambarak). Drive another 11 km. Then after a bridge there will be green sign marking the trail beginning.
- Haghartsin Village - Abeghakar Peak. From tourist information center drive 10 km along the road north to Ijevan. Once passing Haghartsin village there is a small picnic area and ascending dirt road with a green sign marking the beginning of the trail.
- Dilijan- Ayridash area/Astkhakar peak. From tourist information center drive 2.5 km along the road towards Vanadzor. Turn left to Shamakhyan village. At the highest point in the village there will see a green sign indicating the beginning of the trail.
- Goshavank - Gosh lake. A short walk down from Goshavank Monastery there is a small Gosh Lich (Lake). It has a nice picnic area there.
- Dilijan National Park Office - Waterfall . National park office is located 500 m away from tourist information center following the road north to Ijevan.
- Dilijan - Dilijan Mountains - Dilijan - circuitous trail bringing visitors to the one of the highest peaks in the area.
- Picnicking and overnight stays at the National Park. The National Park's information center provides a broad range of tents (AMD 2000-4000 per day), sleeping-bags (AMD 2000 per day), small gas-cookers for rent, bike rental (AMD 1000/hr or 5000/day).
- Some of the hotels (e.g. Getap and Tufenkian Hotels) offer horseback riding tours in the area (from 1.5 to 6 hrs long) and lessons for the beginners.
- Cooking class organized by Tufenkian hotel. Learn how to prepare some of Armenian dishes. Lasts up to 1.5 hrs and accommodates 3-10 participants. Another option is to sign up for a barbecue cooking class and learn how to cook Armenian Khorovats – traditional Armenian barbecue. Classes must be scheduled two to three days in advance.
- Some of the wood and ceramic makers shops at Sharambeian Street ("Old Dilijan" historic center) are ready to organize work classes for a moderate price, in which participants are encouraged to create a souvenir for themselves.
- A horse-drawn sleigh ride. Arranged via Tufenkian Hotel. Snow season only.
- Rundown theme park. Remains of an old Soviet-era theme park. Consists of a few lanes with trees and rundown roller coasters. There have been some rumors that it will be renovated by the owners of United World College Dilijan and turned into a local Disneyland, but no exact dates are given for when this would be done.
- Crafts on Sharambeyan Street around "Old Dilijan" historic complex. This street has some little shops where artisans are busy hand making their craft. Prices start from AMD 500.
- Visit Revik to see his wood working studio, with some great traditional designs for everything from Christmas tree decorations to cribs. The tourist information office has additional information on local crafts purchases and local painters you can visit.
- Grocery stores are mainly located on a square near the bus station and the town's main square (1 km E of "Old Dilijan" historic complex).
- There are a few bank branches where currency can be changed. Also about 5-7 ATMs are scattered around town and, similar to grocery stores, it's easier to find them near bus station and the town's main square.
Eat and drink
In Dilijan, drinking is done wherever people eat, not at dedicated bars. It usually entails vodka, though beer and wine are not uncommon.
- Restaurant Mimino, the building of bus station, Maksim Gorki str., ☎ +374 98 08 24 40. Quite cheap restaurant with exceptional Georgian cuisine. Big portions. Khingali dumplings are 2 or 3 to the US dollar... and they are not small. Decorated in a theme of old Soviet movie "Mimino". There is an outside take away grill place preparing bratwurst sausages.
- Cafe Dili (50 m of bus station). Inexpensive small family restaurant with 6 tables serving Armenian food as well as some other fast food options. Owners assure they use only local organic ingredients for cooking and indeed it tastes really good. Portions are of decent size. WiFi. No alcohol except beer. There is adjacent bakery cooking nice cakes and cookies, which can be taken away or eaten in the cafe. Mains AMD 500-2000.
- Tufenkian Restaurant (Haykanoush Restaurant), Sharambeyan Street. Restaurant with rustic modern Tufenkian furniture and upscale Armenian menus and prices. Although it looks fancy, the food isn't particularly good. There is also a traditional bakery on the first floor of the restaurant facing the promenade street; however, it seems to work only during high tourist season (i.e. summer months). Mains from AMD 2000.
- Shawerma (Just below the bus station). A modern shawerma fast-food joint, with rotisserie meat served in a pita or lavash sandwich. Cheap and fast food. $3.
- Bar & Grill "Flying Ostrich" by Dolmama, 6 Sayat Nova str., ☎ +374 60 655080. New fancy bar & restaurant with nicely decorated interior. Live music played at some of the evenings.
Along Yerevan-Ijevan highway
To get into any of the following restaurants you'll need a car or a taxi. Although they seem to be worth it.
- Kessab restaurant, 97 Tbilisyan Str. (on a highway leading to Ijevan, about 3km from the centre), ☎ +374 94822882. Western Armenian/mid-eastern food. Good view.
- Haleb Restaurant, 38/2 Tbilisyan Highway, ☎ +374 41 722270. 10:00–0:00. Syrian-Armenian cuisine, friendly staff. Restaurant consists of a detached private houses-cabins. Good reviews.
- Getap Restaurant and hotel complex, Tblisyan St. (5th north of Dilijan, along the river), ☎ +374 99 888-334. Great traditional wooden eating booths outdoors, some of them over the river serve as the perfect setting for fresh fish, meat or vegetable barbecues. There is also children's playground, table tennis. Wi-Fi. About AMD 3000 per person. Housing: one room flat AMD 15000, two room flat 20000 AMD.
- Haghartsin restaurant-hotel-bar complex, Kamo street, 121 (The first building at the entrance of Dilijan town, to the right on the way from Yerevan, just after the last turn from the tunnel), ☎ +374 268 2 777 0, +374 77 636565 (mobile). round-the-clock. It's a pleasant and quiet place near the road from Yerevan to Ijevan with large car parking. It's possible to taste national cuisine in a modern restaurant hall or cozy gazebos among trees. $10-$20.
- Petit Dilijan B&B, 22 Sharambeyan st., ☎ +374 55 19-28-82, +374 77 19-28-82, e-mail: email@example.com. A very comfortable, clean little B&B. It feels like a real homestay option, while being very professional and thorough. The owner speaks very good English. There is also an option of having breakfast and dinner prepared, which is very recommendable. Double AMD 5000 per person. Lunch AMD 2000 per person, dinner AMD 3000 per person.
- Dghyak Pansion, 50 Sayat-Nova st. (in close proximity to the Dilijan-Ijevan highway and the forest), ☎ +374 26823003, +374 93416811 (German), +374 93187518 (English), e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: noon, check-out: noon. Dghyak pansion was recently constructed. Bedrooms are on the first and second floor, which also has a large conference room. There are 21 comfortable rooms (Junior, Standard, Superior, Family, Deluxe and LUX). One room has two furnished bedrooms. Amenities: 21 rooms, bathroom, satellite, billiard/tennis, conference hall, garden, hot/cold water, swimming pool. Double AMD 18000.
- Nina B&B, 18 Myasnikyan st., ☎ +374 91 767734. Pretty simple rooms in a typical guesthouse. Some rooms are located in the same house where host lives, but a few others are in a small detached cottage. Close proximity to the town's center. WiFi. Double AMD 16000 with shared bathroom, AMD 22000 - en suite.
- Diligence Hotel, 69a Sajat-Nova Str., ☎ +374 94 407761. Nice proper mid-range hotel with very reasonable price policy which makes it to place it in a budget section. Spacious rooms with brand new furniture. Hotel is surrounded by a forest. Friendly staff. However, weak WiFi inside rooms. Double AMD 18000-20000.
- Casanova Inn, 63 Hovsepian st., ☎ +374 41 414400. Inn consists of two 3-storey houses and features a sauna, indoor pool, snack bar, free Wi-Fi. Good and warm reviews on a booking sites. It can get noisy due to the cars passing the nearby road. Double AMD 20000-30000. Sauna – AMD 10 000 for 1 hour.
- Haghartsin restaurant-hotel-bar complex, 121 Kamo st. (Far from the center, about 1000 AMD by taxi, one of the last buildings on the road towards Yerevan), ☎ +374 268 2 7770, +374 77 636565, fax: +374 268 2 7770, e-mail: email@example.com. It's a pleasant and quiet place near the road from Yerevan to Ijevan, with large guarded car and bus parking. There are 21 comfortable rooms(DBL/TWN/TRPL), 10 comfortable cottages and 10 motel rooms with SPA and Sat TV in the hotel, as well as a conference hall with large plasma screen, heated swimming pool, fitness hall, children's room and playgrounds, billiards (snooker and Russian), Finnish and Russian sauna and bar. The hotel's atmosphere is something of a woodsy mountain retreat. Also here you can taste national cuisine in a modern restaurant hall, wedding hall, banquet room, open-air summer cafe or cozy gazebos among trees. Double AMD 25000, triple AMD 30000. Full board AMD 7000 per person.
- Daravand Guest House, 46 Abovyan St. (heading up Abovyan Street, pass under the bridge, on your right, on a short dirt driveway with two sharp turns), ☎ +374 2680 7857, +374 94 420965. Guesthouse was opened by an Armenian carpenter on the scenic road to Jukhtak Monastery. Built in a quiet canyon, the guesthouse is very comfortable and cozy. Seven guest rooms are available. A library and games room and billiard room are available for gaming. Open air dining area is also available, overlooking the beautiful valley. The bar, living room and nice garden provide areas for guests to congregate and relax. The owner Razmik is very accommodating, helpful and speaks decent English. AMD 22000 en suite, or AMD 16000 with shared bathroom.
- Dili Villa Guesthouse, 12a Myasnikyan st., ☎ +374 268 27059, +374 91 456164. It is a three-storey house with a winter garden, charming loggia with a fireplace, studio and a nice balcony with the breathtaking view of mountains. Dili Villa offers dinner/lunch service, a free pick up service in Dilijan, as well as sightseeing tours by 4x4 SUV. The guesthouse has a Sat TV and Wi-Fi internet. Capacity for overnight stay: up to 13 people and for the meal: up to 30 people. Cottage for 2 people AMD 18000, double AMD 26000`.
- Tufenkian Hotel (Ananov guest house), Sharambeyan Street (Top of the street, on the left), ☎ +374 10 65 58 77. Part of the high end Tufenkian chain of hotels; good location. Located in renovated 19th century-style Ananov Guest House. Double AMD 42000.
- Villarest Cottage Complex, 20 Parz Lich St., ☎ +374-98-444409. Premium hotel consisting of a group of cottages located in mountainous environment a few kilometers away from Dilijan on the way to Parz lich lake. Hotel has a garden, children’s playground, ski storage, free WiFi, restaurant serving Armenian and European cuisine. Double AMD 36000, suite AMD 50000.
- Best Western Paradise Hotel Dilijan, 156 Kamo Str, ☎ +374 268 24016. 4-star hotel built in 2011. Far away from the center. Restaurant serves only European cuisine. This is the place where most of European package tourists stay. All rooms are quite big and have balconies. Overall, good value for the money. Double from AMD 25000.
- Takht House, 14, 3rd alley, Ordjonikidze st., ☎ +37491417537, +37491416620. A two-storied rural old mansion that was reconstructed and now is rented to tourists. It has 4 bedrooms and can accommodate up to 8 people. AMD 63000 for the entire house.
- Alaverdi - the town itself has little to offer of historic value, but there are several beautiful monasteries in the vicinity of it, including Sanahin Monastery and Haghpat Monastery
- Ijevan - with Makaravank Monastery nearby
- Noyemberyan - small town near the border with Georgia, featuring 2 small nearby monasteries
- Berd — If you'd rather go to the remote and beautiful Shamshadin area, Berd is the only town in that region and therefore a good base for further exploration
- Vanadzor - Armenia's 3rd-largest city, featuring Soviet industrial architecture, although it also has a few nice churches
- Yerevan — If you didn't come from the vibrant capital of Armenia, it's the most logical place to go next