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Dilijan: welcome to the Armenian Switzerland

Dilijan is a very picturesque town that has preserved a few buildings with traditional local architecture designs: houses with wooden balconies and gabled roofs reminiscent of a more alpine style of construction. It is surrounded by forests, fast-moving waters, and mountains which remain covered with snow during a great part of the year.

It is located in the heart of the Dilijan Natural Park, and the weather here is much more humid and milder than in the rest of the country. The Aghstev River divides it in two. On the right bank sits the ‘Old Dilijan’, which climbs the hillsides with their typical wooden houses that give it that bucolic touch. On the left, on the contrary, is the area of the large spa hotels.

The surroundings of the city offer many paths for hiking, like the one which connects the Hagharstsin Monastery with the small village of Shamakhyan (10 kilometers), the route that connects the Parz Lich Lake with Goshavank (8 kilometers), or the route going from Haghartsin to Abeghakar peak (11 kilometers).

Many of these trails are not well signposted and you should go with a guide or prepare thoroughly for the tour. You can ask the staff at the tourist office for advice.

Dilijan is located 62 miles from the capital and the forest that surrounds it forms one of the natural gems of Hayastan. There is a local saying that describes the beauty of this region accurately: “if Paradise exists, it must look a lot like Dilijan”.

What to See in Dilijan?

Haghartsin

As if it were a fairy tale setting, Haghartsin is hidden among the forests of Dilijan Park. It appears as if from nowhere in the middle of the River Gorge of the same name. The huge cone-shaped dome of the Surb Astvatsatsin Church, from the thirteenth century, stands out amongst all the trees and the color of the centenary stone of the monastery merges with the green of the mountains which surround it.

Monastic life began here with the construction of the temple dedicated to Saint Gregory. Gradually it was expanded and two other churches were added, as well as the refectory, a new entrance for the Surb Astvatsatsin Church and a mausoleum of the royal dynasty of the Bagratuní. The word Haghartsin means “the dance of the eagles”. The monastery is 8 miles from Dilijan and there are no buses or marshrutkas which cover the trip. Your best bet is to rent a car or take a taxi.

Goshavank

This area was an important cultural and religious center during the Middle Ages. It was founded in 1188 and soon reached its maximum splendour at the hands of the greatest scholar and theologian of the time: Mkhitar Gosh. This character was so important that they decided to baptize the monastic complex with his name (Goshavank = Gosh Monastery) and his remains rest in the enclosure.

Goshavank is composed of the Surb Astvatsatsin Church (1191-1196) – the most important – the Saint Gregory of Narek Church (1231), the Saint Gregory the Illuminator Church (1237-1241), a library, school, and chapel. Goshavank is located in the village of Gosh, 20 kilometres from Dilijan. There is no public transport. To get there you have to drive on the M4 heading towards Ijevan for 15 kilometres and then take the M30 a couple of kilometres further ahead.

Lake Parz Lich

It is the largest of the lakes which make up the Dilijan National Park. It is surrounded by a dense forest and it is located at 1,400 meters above sea level (4593 feet). In autumn, the blanket of leaves and the multi-coloured tone of the forest is quite a show. It is about 6 miles from Dilijan and you can get there by car.

Note also that the road you’ll take to visit this place is quite deteriorated, and the taxi driver might charge an extra fee to take you there. Another good way to get there is by mountain bike. During the summer season, there are rental boats that sail through Lake Parz and there is the odd cafeteria, which does not fit very well with such an ideal place.

A Little Bit of History

The exact date when Dilijan was founded is unknown. However, the first time it was mentioned was in 1666, in a letter from the French traveller Jean Chardin.

From the nineteenth century, the pure air of the place served as a call to attract people with lung problems and its urban development began at that time. In 1921 the first center for treating tuberculosis was built. Soon, the word was spread of its mild climate and the medicinal properties of some of its springs, which are said to be equivalent to those of Vichy in France or those of Borjomi in Georgia. More tourists began to arrive.

The area became a favourite destination of many artists during Communism, and even today there is a Bohemian touch thanks to its galleries, craft workshops, and museums.

Museums

The Geological Museum and Art Gallery (Dilijan)

Address: 28 Miasnikyan Poghots Street.

Ticket price: 500 AMD.

It is not a huge museum like those in Yerevan but it is worth a visit, especially if it is raining and the weather is not good enough for going on a day trip. The museum exhibits an interesting collection of European and Armenian artists from the 16th century to this day.

Museum of National Architecture

Address: 5 Lermontov Poghots Street.

Folklore Museum

Address: Getapnya 1 Street.

Practical Information

Tourist Information Centre

Phone: +374 91 76 7732/ +374 55 767730.

Opening Hours: from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. (summer) and from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. (winter).

It is located inside one of the premises that looks like a travel agency in the Dilijan bus station (Dilijan Avtokayan), at the beginning of Kamo Street. If you have planned a trekking trip, they can help you prepare for the route here. It is not an official tourist office. It is managed privately and although they will help you, it is likely that they will try to sell you a tour organized by themselves.

Bike Rental

If you want to explore the Dilijan surroundings by bike, they rent mountain bikes at the Hotel Tufenkian.

Dilijan Hospital

Address. 7 Sayat Nova Street.

Phone: +374 268 27678.

Where to Sleep?

Cheap Lodging

Ararat Guesthouse

Address: Miasnikyan Street 76/15.

Phone: +374 91 76 77 32// +374 55 767730.

E-mail: aro-a22@rambler.ru

The owner is Ararat, who speaks English perfectly and he has worked in the Dilijan Tourist Office. The accommodation offers information of all kinds, including about hiking and transportation in the area. It also organizes tours of the area and to Georgia. The interior has been renovated recently and it is spotless. The guesthouse has a good location in the middle of the village of Dilijan.

Nina B&B

Address: 18 Myasnikian Poghots Street.

Phone: +374 91 76 7734.

Email: nina-mail08@mail.ru .

It is one of the most famous B&Bs, with 12 rooms at different prices. Some rooms have an ensuite bathroom. One of its strengths is that most of the bedrooms are outside of the family home, which allows for some privacy. It has a nice garden and WIFI connectivity as well. The owner speaks some English. It is located in the Old Dilijan area, behind The Geological Museum and Art Gallery. AMD 7,000-8,000-10,000.

Medium Lodging

Haghartsin Hotel

Address: 121 Kamo Poghots Street.

Phone: +374 268 27770/+374 93 044700.

This hotel offers a lot of recreational activities: saunas, billiards, gymnasium, heated swimming pool, games room, and playing space for kids. It has 31 rooms of different categories and 10 apartments. Expect a warm and cosy decor. It is located on the outskirts of Dilijan, 4 miles from the center. The most basic double rooms cost AMD 25,000. For more information: www.haghartsin.com

Expensive Lodging

Best Western Paradise Hotel

Address: 156 Kamo Poghots Street.

Phone: +374 268 24016.

The Best Western chain is always a safe bet. They provide comfort, excellent service, a pool, gym, nursery and all the services of the big hotels. It is located several miles from Dilijan. There are rooms of different categories and prices on offer, ranging from 36,000 AMD for the plain double to 120,000 AMD for the senior suite. For more information: www.paradisehotel.am

Where to Eat?

Medium Restaurant

Getap Restaurant

Address: 44 Dilijan-Tbilisi Highway.

Phone: +374 268 25614// +374 99 88 8334.

Getap Restaurant is 3 miles from Dilijan on the highway that leads to Ijevan. It is a well-known venue by the locals and they also rent apartments to tourists. The dining rooms are inside small wooden and stone cabins that overlook the Aghstev River. This restaurant specializes in barbecues.

Expensive Restaurant

Villa Jrvezh Restaurant

Address: 146 Kamo Poghots Street.

Phone: +374 55 099402.

It is located on the outskirts of the city, on the entrance road and near the Best Western Hotel. The villa is a traditional house that has been renovated. This restaurant has a lot of charm and a nice garden area where there are small private dining rooms.

They define themselves as “a traditional cuisine restaurant typical of Dilijan”. Their specialties include khorovats (Armenian barbecue), Zuk, Khashlama, Kartoshka, and Varunk. The only downside is that they do not speak English, but they are very helpful. Still, it’s the perfect place to have dinner in Dilijan.

Tufenkian Restaurant

Address: Sharambeyan Poghots Street.

Phone: +374 10 520911.

This is the restaurant of the Tufenkian Hotel. Expect a friendly atmosphere, seasonal products, and local cuisine with a creative twist. The restaurant specializes in mushroom and apricot soup, and the Smirna Kefta. The staff speaks English.

Transportation

The bus station is located at the intersection of Kamo and Misnikyan Street, near the tourist information centre. It is at the entrance of the town, in the main roundabout of Dilijan. There are no marshrutkas from Sevan to Dilijan.

  • Yerevan-Dilijan. From 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. They leave every hour from the north station. (1000 AMD)
  • Dilijan-Yerevan. They leave at 8:00, 9:00, 10:00, 11:00, 1:00 y 4:00 p.m. (1000 AMD).
  • Dilijan-Vanadzor. They leave at 9:30 a.m.
  • Dilijan-Idjevan. They leave at 9:15 a.m. and 10:15 a.m., although if there are any available seats, you can also get on the ones which go from Yerevan to Idjevan which stop at Dilijan.