- This article is an itinerary.
The Janapar Trail is in Nagorno-Karabakh. The trail goes through the beautiful landscape of the Caucasus mountains, specifically in the region of Nagorno-Karabakh, which means mountainous black garden. The marked trail involves 9 days of hiking, starting from the southern end of the trail in Hadrut. Additional hiking can be done to the north using the GPS tracks, hiking apps, and downloadable maps.
The trail was originally marked in 2007, and since then volunteers have returned a few times to maintain markings in the southern half of the trail. There is a good website with substantial information, as well as an active Facebook page with a lot of photos where questions can be directed.
The majority Armenian-populated region of Nagorno-Karabakh declared independence from Azerbaijan around the same time the Soviet Union collapsed, and won a bitter war. No peace treaty has ever been signed however, so the region remains unrecognized internationally. It is beautiful, remote, and surprisingly to many, rather safe.
Preparation is like that of any extended trip/hike. You want to pack light, but be prepared to walk all day through different terrain, to navigate, and to protect yourself from the elements. You have either the option of bringing camping gear, or staying in villagers homes each night, as the trail is designed to bring you into a village each night at the end of your days hike.
Be sure to download the Everytrail Pro app onto your smartphone, and then the Janapar Trail guide onto that app specifically, before you begin the hike. This will be quite helpful on the trail, since you will likely not have a data connection.
Nagorno-Karabakh is only accessible through Armenia. Most will take a mini-bus from Yerevan to Stepanakert. From there a bus or another mini-bus to Hadrut will get you to the starting point. A visa is required, and can be obtained in Stepanakert upon arrival at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (ask for the Artakin Gortseri Nakhararutyun). You'd want to list all the provinces of Nagorno-Karabakh in order to be able to hike the various sections of the trail and have freedom to move wherever you'd like.
The hike is broken into day-hike sections, with a village or town you can sleep in at the end of each days hike. Starting from the southern point of Hadrut and heading north, this is the order of places along the marked Janapar Trail.
Hadrut to Togh
You hike from the edge of the town of Hadrut up to a crest, then head down to the village of Togh, with nice views of cool mountain you will be hiking the next day.
Togh to Azokh
You hike in a circle around the cool mountain that Gtichavank Monastery is on. Nice monastery undergoing restoration, nice forest, and depending on your route you may cross over a nice old bridge or two. You can explore the cave in Azokh village in the evening when you arrive, or in the morning before you depart for Karmir Shuka.
Azokh to Karmir Shuka
Hike up from Azokh over the crest and down through another village before reaching the town of Karmir Shuka.
Karmir Shuka to Avetaranots
From Karmir Shuka you hike up to the impressive 2,000 year old tree of Skhtorashen, then hike across the highway past a waterfall, and on to Avetaranots village, with an old melik's house.
Avetaranots to Karintak
This hike takes you through some thick forest, up to a crest overlooking the cliffs of Shushi, and down across the Karkar river into aptly named Karintak (meaning below the rock) village.
Karintak to Shushi
This stunning section of the trail takes you along the Karkar river, through the sheer canyon walls, past the otherworldly Zontik waterfall, across an old bridge, through the ruins of the abandoned Hunot village, and up the cliffs to Shushi.
Shushi to Stepanakert
This easy hike takes you across a rarely traveled back road, through nature, across an old bridge and up to a tiny hamlet was a simple old church, and then down to Stepanakert. A pleasant alternative to a ride to Stepanakert even if you're not hiking the entire trail.
Stepanakert to Patara
Mostly across fields, and through a couple of villages along the foothills, the markings are not frequent where there are no stones. Use the everytrail app and ask for the next village when needed.
Patara to Kolatak
The toughest day of hiking, involves climbing a very steep mountain to the mostly natural fortifications of Kachaghakaberd Fortress, and then down the mountain and across the river to Kolatak village.
Kolatak to Gandzasar
Hike up to the monastery of Metsaranits and back to the village of Kolatak before heading downriver along the only road out of the village. When you read the junction of the main road, head left up to the village of Vank, and up to the stunning monastery of Gandzasar.
Follow all of the safety information and warnings off on the Janapar Trial website. Stay far from the front lines, which won't be a problem if you stick to the trail.