Dilijan National Park
Crown Jewel of Armenia
Nature reserves enjoy the well-deserved fame among the natural attractions of Armenia. And the Dilijan region is one of the most picturesque corners of the country. To preserve this beauty, the Dilijan National Park was formed.
Here you’ll be amazed by deciduous forests, mountain springs, alpine meadows, rich vegetation and wildlife which all make the Dilijan National Park a crown jewel of Armenia, not to mention in all of the Caucasus and Armenian Highlands. Babbling brooks, and mountain lakes, mineral springs, century’s old woods and stunning views all compose the beauty of Dilijan. Some say that if you haven’t seen Dilijan you haven’t seen Armenia.
The park stretches around the Aghstev and Getik river valleys and the Dilijan city, all the way up to the surrounding mountaintops. It spreads from the west to the east of Northeastern Armenia. The spacing of Pambak, Areguni, Miapor and Kayan (Ijevan) mountain ranges contribute to the formation of remarkable mild microclimate in the Dilijan region. This climate creates favorable conditions for the growth and prosperity of more than 900 species of plants, 800 species of beetles, 150 species of birds and 40 species of mammals in the park.
The wealthy nature you’ll encounter here is simply indescribable... and this all in close vicinity of the Dilijan town. This beauty is here to be explored and you are free to evaluate the truthfulness of these words - “If there were forests, mountains and mineral springs in Paradise, then it would look like Dilijan.” - Y. Kirilova.
Dilijan National Park Forest, Armenia / Photo: Ecokayan
From ancient times the Dilijan region was the most favorite place for Armenian Kings as a hunting ground and countryside residence. It was named, at the time, Hovq of Kayan / Kayen province of Armenia. Abundant wildlife and the healing climate have attracted the aristocracy and emerging bourgeoisie of the South Caucasus during Czarist Russia. Many cultural heritage sites in Dilijan were the silent witnesses of turbulent events that happened during those times. Nowadays, the people of Armenia endeavor to maintain and pass on the beauty and charm of Dilijan to the next generations.
Dilijan National Park was founded in 1958 as the Dilijan State Reserve in the basin of the upper reaches of the river Aghstev, on the territory where mountains, forests and mineral springs merged beautifully. The reserve was started with the goal of protecting the scenic and charming mountainous natural complexes of northern Armenia, aiming towards the preservation of oak and beech moist forests. Alongside with it, one of the primary objectives in the Dilijan National Park is to conserve surviving species from the Tertiary era, such as the European yew (Taxus baccata) and the Armenian (Caucasian) rhododendron.
Beautiful forests spread throughout almost the entire middle-mountain range of the park. Armenian/Georgian oak forests are thriving on the southern slopes of mountains, opposite to this grow lush forests of Oriental beech (Fagus orientalis) on the northern slopes. Those woods are mainly mixed with hornbeams (Carpinus betulus), lime trees (Tilia caucasica) also called linden or basswood, common (Acer campestre) and Norway maple (Acer platanoides) and others. It is a well-known fact that the oriental beech forests contributed to the mild climate formation of Dilijan.
Inside the boundaries of the Dilijan National Park 6 strict reservation areas are formed to protect the gems of the park. Human interference is prohibited with them but they are open to visit by the public. And if you comply with the rules of nature, you are more than welcome to be there and enjoy woods that are centuries old.
- “Aghavnavank Yew Grove” Preserve – is located 200 meters west of the Aghavnavank community and is aimed to protect the relict 300-400 years old berry yew trees which are scattered in 25 ha. This is the largest Yew Grove in Armenia and in the entirety of Caucasus and Armenian Highlands. It lies on the banks of Aghavnavank River in the Getik valley of Tavush region at the elevations of 1250-1600 m above the sea level.
- “Haghartsin Oriental Beech Grove” Preserve – is located 50 meters from the intersection of the left tributary of Haghartsin brook and the road leading to Haghartsin Monastery, to the upper edge of the forest. It aims to protect the oriental beech woods. It is located in the northern part of the National Park and covers an area of 455 hectares.
- “Khachardzan Oak Grove” Preserve – is located on the western border of Antaramej community and aims to protect ancient oak groves. It is located in the south-eastern part of the Dilijan National Park and covers an area of 615 hectares.
- "Natural Pine Grove" Preserve – is located east of the city of Dilijan, on the right slopes of the Aghstev river valley and covers an area of 15 hectares. It aims to protect natural pines.
- "Dilijan hydrological” Preserve – is located in the north-western part of Dilijan National Park and covers an area of 552 hectares. It is expected to conserve mineral springs and their environment.
- "Frolova Balka" Preserve – is located in the south-western part of the National Park and covers an area of 383 hectares. It is designed to protect the environment of one of the main sources of water supply to Dilijan city.
Abundant vegetation, rich water resources and inaccessible gorges and mountaintops are the perfect environment for wildlife to flourish. While walking in the forests and mountains of Dilijan you may accidentally meet the European roe deer, the red fox, a European wildcat (Felis silvestris), European or Eurasian badger, Caucasian or Persian squirrel (Sciurus anomalus), European or brown hare (Lepus europaeus), European pine (Martes martes) and Beech marten (Martes foina), also known as the stone or house marten.
Inaccessible parts of the park are the home to the Grey wolf (Canis lupus), Brown bear (Ursus arctos), Wild boar (Sus scrofa) and Lynx. In recent times traces of the Persian leopard (Panthera pardus saxicolor or Panthera pardus ciscaucasica), also known as the Armenian or Caucasian leopard were found in Tavush province and in Dilijan vicinity.
Other species marked in the Red List also call Dilijan their home. Those are the Indian crested porcupine (Histryx indica) (seen in Ecokayan Dilijan), Marbled polecat (Vormela peregusna), European otter (Lutra lutra), also known as the Eurasian river otter (seen in Ecokayan Ponds), Eurasian water shrew (Neomys fodiens), Lesser white-toothed shrew (Crocidura suaveolens) and Edible dormouse or Fat dormouse (Glis glis).
Recently the Caspian or Caucasian Red Deer (Cervus elaphus maral), which is very rare subspecies, of Red Deer has been repopulated in Dilijan forests. You may enjoy a visit to the “Red deer breeding center” in Dilijan Park and enjoy feeding them along with learning more about their lives and habitat.
Through their photo lenses birdwatchers may satisfy their hunger for observation of rare bird species in the wild and possibly catch a perfect photo of them. Luckily, you may see a Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus) preying on a Common Wood-pigeon (Columba palumbus), or see a Golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) gracefully soaring over the hilltops, and even be fascinated over the tandem hunt in pairs of Eastern imperial eagle (Aquila heliaca).
Fortunately in the Dilijan National Park your lens may catch the only one living bird specie in the world that specializes in feeding on marrow. Imagine that the Bearded vulture (Gypaetus barbatus), also known as the lammergeyer, can swallow whole bones the size of a lamb’s femur and fly with bones weighing 4 kg in their clutches.
You’ll have a great luck to see those wild gems of Armenia in the vicinity of Ecokayan Dilijan. But really memorable excitement will be if you see the Caucasian grouse (Lyrurus mlokosiewiczi) which is the large game bird of grouse family or a very rare Caspian snowcock (Tetraogallus caspius).
Armenian Highlands are widely known as an origin place of domesticated plants and Dilijan National Park is a living proof of this fact. Here you may encounter and taste the wild pear (Pyrus caucasica), wild apple (Malus orientalis), wild cherry plum (Prunus cerasifera, Prunus divaricate), wild blackthorn (Prunus spinosa), common medlar tree (Mespilus germanica), hawthorn (Crataegus) and others. Locals on a seasonal basis make homemade vodka from wild fruits and the most favorite and popular one is made from the wild pear. They call it “Panda” vodka and it is definitely worth tasting in local restaurants.
While walking in the woods you’ll possibly have a chance to gather a few from the 176 types of edible mushrooms. The most famous amongst local people is the tree oyster mushroom (Pleurotus ostreatus) which is gained its popularity in Armenia as the Dilijan tree mushroom. Or if you are lucky you may find a delicious penny bun (Boletus edulis). Villagers used to go to forests for mushrooms and usually seasonal mushrooms are sold on the road sides of Dilijan and the nearest villages.
The Dilijan National Park is located on the border of the Caucasian and Armenian-Iranian floral provinces, which makes its flora very well mixed. This has contributed to the great wealth of healing herbs and edible plants in Dilijan. There are 95 types of edible and medicinal plants present in the park and surrounding mountain hilltops. Throughout centuries local folks have used them in preparation for seasonal delicious vegetarian dishes and herbal tea as well as use in herbal medicine. Ask in local restaurants for the seasonal herb meals and they will for sure offer you one which is typical for that time of the year.
Many people in the World are very concerned with the organic and healthy food and the producers in the West strive to comply with the strict rules and regulations to produce those organic foods. And the Most interesting thing about Dilijan park vegetation is that they are totally naturally organic. This gift of Mother Nature is used by locals throughout centuries till now days, but in sparing way to allow plants and herb to reproduce themselves and even flourish.
Free range livestock in Dilijan grazes organic grass and piglets freely roaming in the forests eat acorns and beechnuts producing organic meat and dairy which gained popularity among the people of Armenia as healthy and delicious ingredients for the traditional meals. You’ll be amazed by the taste of these incredibly mouthwatering dishes in Dilijan.
Dilijan National Park Ecokayan Ponds, Armenia / Photo: Ecokayan
Lakes, Rivers and Mineral Springs
Dilijan National Park is stretching through the left and towards the right side from Aghstev River valley and is very rich with brooks, creeks, streams and rivulets. Virtually every gorge has its own rivulet which flows into Aghstev River. There are more than 100 tributaries of Aghstev and the most notable from them are Hovajur, Kayenajur stream (formerly Shtoghanajur), Haghartsin, Bldan and Getik river. Some of them are forming big and small waterfalls like Soldiers Pond small waterfall, the Whispering waterfall or the Hidden waterfall in Haghartsin. You may find yourself sitting on the banks of those streams and enjoying yourself in the calming silence and bliss of forest with nice murmur of mountain brooks.
Amongst the treasures of Dilijan Park you possibly heard about Parz Lake or in Armenian “Parz Lich”. It is definitely worth visiting despite the bad road condition. Located in the middle of lush forest, this lake is a gem of Dilijan where you can have your dinner in the nearby restaurant, try zip lining over the lake or rent a boat to explore far west corners. Parz means clear, and sometimes people wonder why they call it Parz if it isn’t. Take a closer look and you’ll see how the surrounding gorgeousness is mirroring in the lake surface. You got the hint.
Near the Gosh village there is another hidden Lake Gosh or Tzrka lake. It’s very marvelous, especially in the fall. To get there you have to hike for about 1 hour up to the hill, or maybe you would like to hire a local off-road car with a driver. A couple of decades ago this lake was famous for the healing medicinal leeches and people throughout Armenia came here for leech therapy. Today the population of the Hirudo medicinalis is not stable, but there is still hope that it will recover itself.
Another picturesque attraction in Dilijan which is not to be missed is the Ecokayan Ponds and nearby Kayenajur creek, where river otters were spotted a couple of times. The list of small lakes, marshes and swamps could be continued with Zhangot lich, Bahtiar lich, Kari Lake and Bachni lich.
The Dilijan region is very well known for its mineral springs. Some count up to about 20 mineral spring sources scattered around Dilijan city and among them are Taq jur, Puts akhbyur and others. To reserve the water resources, two State Preserves were formed. Well-known brands of Dilijan mineral water are “Dilijan” and “Dilijan Frolova”. These waters have long been used by the local population and spa residents of Dilijan as good and healing water.
Since ancient times, one of those springs acquired fame as healing holy water, with two medieval churches getting built not far from it. These churches formed the Jukhtakvank Monastery complex with the nearby abandoned and ruined settlement. Apparently, the same churches throughout the middle ages were medical centers where patients received the “holy" water for their treatment. And today you may treat yourself with it from the source itself in the “Dilijan” mineral water plant. Just ask the personnel of the plant to show you to the holy water well. Some people take a bottle of water with them to treat relatives from Dermatophytosis and Candidiasis. And these are not the only diseases which this amazing water treats.
Dilijan National Park is a well-known place in Armenia for active and passive outdoor recreation. Folks like to come here to spend time with their families and loved ones, have barbeque parties with Dilijan pork or simply enjoy the nature.
Others like to hike and explore park in search of the unknown. Many parties developed hiking trails in the park, but you might only come across boards with general information left by the same parties. Don’t take them seriously, and more importantly don’t be confused. There is a very well developed dirt road tracks left by villagers, so mountain biking, hiking or even trekking is not a hard thing to do. Just take a printout of an satellite map of the region with you and you can fully enjoy the beauties of Dilijan. The main trick here is to choose your stay in the right location, which is not far from hiking routes, footpaths and dirt roads and you could spend days wondering around Dilijan National Park.
If you prefer guided tours around Dilijan you have the option to choose from local guides or just ask our reception about horseback riding, mountain Off-roading, mountain guided camping or simply cultural heritage guiding and professional guides will accompany you through your endeavor.
Meet with us Armenia’s countryside in Dilijan, with mouthwatering meals, crystal clear air, stunning sceneries. Dive into your dreams. Book today and you’ll find yourself relaxing next to the banks of Kayenajur rivulet, walking around Ecokayan Ponds and savoring delicious evening dinner on the Ecokayan Restaurant balcony under the calming murmur of mountain babbling brook. You’ll be in walking distance from Dilijan city center (30 min walk) and simultaneously very close to the main hiking routes of the Dilijan National Park.