Ecokayan Dilijan - Local Discoveries
The time is 8:00 AM in Ecokayan Dilijan. You don’t want to wake up from your warm, cozy bed, yet the alluring sounds of outside life are so inviting that you can’t resist. Birds chirping songs all around, babbling sounds of Kayenajur brook, crystal clear mountain air after the midnight rain and the warming rays of the sun all beckon you to go out to the balcony to take in a fresh breath of a fresh new day.
After savoring an Armenian country side breakfast in the balcony, you are now finally ready to take in new impressions brought upon by Mother Nature surrounding Ecokayan Dilijan Hotel. Farm animals are all around, freely grazing and chasing each other. A lovely farm dog with a wagging tail is begging for food and ready to accompany you on today’s endeavor. Though one day is not enough to experience all the surroundings, with us you’ll have a chance to be in all notable neighboring places to Ecokayan.
Situated right in the middle of Dilijan Hills and bordered by the Dilijan National Park, Ecokayan Dilijan is conveniently placed in a walkable distance from many of Dilijan’s attractions. Whether you want to go for a hike in the mountains or forest, enjoy a relaxed walk nearby, experience locals’ culture or try countryside organic food, Ecokayan is here with its advantageous location.
Notable landmarks of Dilijan National Park like the Molokan wild pear wood, Soldiers’ pond, Kayenajur gorge, the Shamakhian alpine meadows and village, and Ayriqar mount with its stunning views are all in the vicinity of Ecokayan Dilijan. Those are all about an hour long relaxed walk from Ecokayan.
Mainly known as a hiking destination, Dilijan is yet to offer more cultural heritage attractions like the Haghartsin Monastery Complex, Matosavank and the Jukhtakvank Monasteries along with many others. All in reachable hiking distances from Ecokayan Dilijan. But in order to reach them you’ll need more time, around 4-5 hours of easy hiking. So, in this article we will be covering only the sites which are in a 1 hour walkable distance from Ecokayan.
Molokan wild pear wood
Take the road to the Dilijan center from the Ecokayan roundabout, and upon reaching the Ecokayan gates take a left side footpath which gently climbs up the hill. The place is named Molokan wild pear wood where amongst the oak, hornbeam and lime trees you’ll see wild pear and apple trees. Legend has it that a couple centuries ago a molokan peasant cultivated those trees for the household, and after years upon years of growing its gone wild. But this is only a legend. Locals gather ripened fruits from the ground to make the famous homemade Panda vodka, which you’ll probably try with your evening meal at the Ecokayan Restaurant.
As you slowly walk up hill, throughout wildwood you’ll see how the notable forest bird resident - the Great Tit invitingly escorts you through your journey, trying to get your attention. You may hear a rustling in the fallen leaves, and when looking closely you will notice how a few blackbirds plow the surroundings in search of their desired food – wild pear fruit. Suddenly your eyes fall on the treetops on the opposite hill and notice two buzzards mating, with an obvious whistle coming from the other direction.
If you are cautious enough and don’t make a noise while stepping on the fallen foliage, the probability of seeing a wild roe deer in the woods is very high. Some hikers report that they have even seen an Indian crested porcupine and a red fox, not to mention a Persian squirrel and a pine marten. You can rest assured that no big predator has been spotted in the vicinity of Ecokayan.
Continuing for about half an hour you’ll reach a meadow with beautiful flowers in it. Take left side pass and by the edge of the hill you gradually come down to Ecokayan. Just make sure that Ecokayan is always on the left hand side from you. This walk may take for about 1 – 1,5 hour but for sure will enrich you with energy after short rest.
If you continue to walk along the dirt road to Dilijan and pass the Ecokayan gates, in about 15 minutes you’ll reach a summer house. Head on for about 150 meters and on the right side of the road in the gorge of the Kayenajur stream you’ll see the Soldier’s pond. There is a no sign to show the exact place, but if you take a closer look you’ll find a footpath down the small gorge which eventually leads to the pond.
Throughout centuries the waters from the mountain stream carved through the rocks, deepening them and creating a small pond on the river way. Some even jump from the top of the small waterfall into the pond, but be careful, it requires practice and caution to not get hurt. In general water is cold and only during august it becomes warmer.
Folks say that during the Russian-Persian war in the beginning of 19th century, Russian Cossack regiments were positioned in Dilijan. Every morning soldier’s ran from their barracks to the pond, jumped in the ice cold stream water, refreshed themselves and returned back. Thus it gained its name- Soldier’s pond. Occasionally you may see Armenian soldiers and locals near it because this place remains popular to this day.
Take the right path from the pond and climb a little up the hill and you’ll eventually reach a mineral spring coming from the inside the mountain with its water enriched with carbon. You may taste it though it has a distinct flavor.
Getting to Soldier’s pond and back to the hotel may take about 1-2 hours depending on the time you spend next to the pond.
An unbelievably charming narrow gorge formed by the rapid mountain waters of the Kayenajur stream resides in short walking distance from Ecokayan Dilijan. It will take about 15-20 minutes for you to reach this ravine, to be cut away from civilization and to be immersed in the nature’s sounds and beauty.
Take a right foot path from Kayenajur and head on through the dense vegetation until the creek crossing. Carefully cross it over the stones and continue. There will be one more crossing. Rivulet waters are shallow but very fast. So watch you step and try to have firm balance while crossing it. In a couple of minutes you’ll see a concreate manmade cube. Get to the bank of the stream and in front of you scenery will be unfolded with calm small ponds lined up with the small waterfall and a right sided tributary to Kayenajur.
You may cross the first pond barefoot (it’s not deep), or try to climb up the steep hill and then move down the hill to the mouth of the small tributary. The serenity you encounter is worth the effort. Local fishermen know this place as breeding ponds for the river trout (Salmo trutta fario) found in Aghstev and Kayenajur and their tributaries. Maybe you’ll want to try and catch some?
Shamakhyan Alpine Meadows
When looking from the balconies of Ecokayan you’ll see vast and welcoming meadows up on the front hill. These are the Shamakhyan village grasslands. They were used by peasants as a pastureland for centuries. Today those lands are covered with beautiful wild meadow flowers, grass and medicinal herbs. On the hilltop you will be surprised by a great view full of mountains and hills around, along with some views of the Dilijan city and Shamakhyan village which comprises the outskirts of Dilijan.
When walking towards the village on the left side, you will see Pupuz qar, a distinct lone rock, which gained its fame from locals deeming it as an orienteering sign. Make a picture in front of it, or even on top to mark your stay in Dilijan. Continue to walk along the upper dirt road for about 30 minutes and you will enter the village from its northeastern side.
Shortly, you’ll reach the central part of the community where settlement was formed. Some remaining ancient buildings from the beginning of 19th century may render the feeling of ancient life. During those times Shamakhyan village was named Poghosavank (Poghos kilisa) which in English means Paul’s church, though only remnants of St. Gregory’s ancient church are now present. It is located on the small hilltop south of the central part of the village and is a great place to observe surroundings.
Shamakhyan village was the home for the famous Armenian writer Vakhtang Ananyan who was the founder of the adventurous genre in Armenian literature. He wrote novels illustrating his homeland’s nature with interesting and beautiful pictures. His most famed novels are the “Hunt collection (1934), “Hunter’s Stories” collection (1947 – 1966), “On the bank of Sevan” and “Prisoners of Hovazadzor”. In 1954 and 1957 “Armenfilm” filmed movies based on those novels. (“The secret of a Mountain Lake” and “Captives of Hovazadzor”). You may find his house in the central part of the village, but unfortunately it lost its ancient charm due to renovations and different additions made by people who lived in the house afterwards.
Getting to Shamakhyan village is very easy from Ecokayan Dilijan. Cross over the footbridge, and then take a dirt road heading to the hilltop. In 30 minutes of relaxed walking you will eventually reach the village. We have created a route map for easy navigation and orienteering in the locality. Please feel free to download and use it in this easy hike. This walk will take about 2 - 3 hours in total and it will give you a good understanding of local culture.
Shepherds Wintering - Smugglers’ Route
Some call this route a Smugglers’ Route. During the 18th and 19th centuries the Russian-Persian state border was passing right through the Kayan (Ijevan) mountain ridge and mount Ayrikar. Many free-traders, mainly Armenians, were engaged in active trade between the two countries, escaping border control and trade duties while using this route through mountains.
Ecokayan Dilijan is situated right at the beginning of this route and you may walk north alongside the Kayenajur stream to immerse in the ancient smugglers feelings and meet today’s shepherds’ on the road. Of course you will enjoy the refreshing air of Dilijan Park and stunning views of the milieu. Not to mention encounters with forest residents. No life threatening daytime animal has been reported on the route.
Take a footpath to cross the bridge, pass the chicken coop and start climbing up the hill near the cowshed towards the right. In about 10 minutes you’ll reach a dirt road which descents to the Kayenajur river bank. Keep walking alongside the mountain brook by the dirt road to the north, occasionally crossing rivulets.
There are about 4 wintering shepherds’ farms along the way where they keep their flocks of sheep, herds of cows and horses for the winters. You may be excited if you get the chance to buy from the shepherds some of their homemade diary such as matsun and tan, savoring it with homemade bread or lavash. Unbelievably delicious.
Throughout the route there are a couple of summer houses with crystal clear drinkable mountain wellspring water sources, where you can have a little rest near Kayenajur. A small abandoned ancient chapel is not far from one of the summer houses on the dirt road.
It may take about an hour long walk to reach the foothills of Mt. Ayrikar. Then a dirt road starts a steep climb to the ridge heading towards the shepherds’ permanent village, snowcock cave and Mt. Ayrikar with magnificent views leading to one of the ultimate endpoints- Haghartsin monastery. But this is another long run hike story which you may enjoy if you have at least a spare 5 hours to go. Find out more about hiking in Dilijan National Park in this article.