Janapar Trail Descriptions
- 1 Trail overview
- 2 Marked Trail
- 2.1 Day 1: Hadrut -> Togh
- 2.2 Day 2: Togh -> Azokh
- 2.3 Day 3: Azokh -> Karmir Shuka
- 2.4 Day 4: Karmir Shuka -> Avetaranots
- 2.5 Day 5: Avetaranots -> Karintak
- 2.6 Day 6: Karintak -> Shushi
- 2.7 Day 7: Shushi -> Stepanakert
- 2.8 Day 8: Stepanakert -> Patara
- 2.9 Day 9: Patara -> Kolatak
- 3 Unmarked Trail
The trail is designed to be hiked in mostly easy day hikes, with each day hike ending at a village where you can pitch a tent or find a home stay. You can also double up on sections in some cases if you are a faster hiker, or have less time. The entire Janapar is 284 kilometers in length. You can print the maps at http://www.agprint.am/ in Yerevan before setting out - though it's always better to print them in your hometown and bring them with you.
Marked Janapar Trail
The Artsakh/Karabakh portion (2 weeks of trail) of the Janapar is well marked. The trail markings have been redone with two vertical white and blue stripes in 2018. Check the Janapar Trail Facebook page for the latest updates and to ask questions. To download the GPX tracks, you must be LOGGED IN to ViewRanger website. Please remember there are fields where there is nowhere to paint or attach a trail blaze, and posts have not been installed yet, so you will need to refer to the app in order to follow the trail in fields where there is nowhere to place trail markers. Installing posts is the next priority for the trail.
|Section||Well Marked?||Description||Distance||Difficulty||Tracks||Maps||Viewranger Guide|
|Hadrut -> Togh||Yes||Hike the last stretch to Hadrut, and make a trip up to Spitak Khach Vank to light a candle upon completion.||16km||Medium||GPX|| J-38-22-B-2a
|Togh -> Azokh||Yes||Walk around Mount Togh, up to restored 12th century Gtichavank Monastery, then on to historic Togh Village||18km||Medium||GPX||J-38-22-B-2a||Phone Guide|
|Azokh -> Karmir Shuka||Yes||Hike through the fields below Karmir Shuka, up to Shekher village, over the mountain and down to Azokh village with Azokh Cave.||11km||Medium||GPX|| J-38-10-G-2b
|Karmir Shuka -> Avetaranots||Yes||From Avetaranots you pass a small waterfall, then hike up to a massive tree 2,000 year old tree and down to Karmir Shuka.||15km||Medium||GPX||J-38-10-G-2b||Phone Guide|
|Avetaranots -> Karintak||Yes||Through forested hills and fields to Avetaranots, where Melik Baghu's minor palace is found.||16km||Medium-Difficult||GPX||J-38-10-G-1b||Phone Guide|
|Karintak -> Shushi||Yes||Hike through spectacular Karkar Canyon, stopping at the fantastical Zontik Waterfall and the ruins if Hunot village on your way up to Shushi.||10km||Medium-Difficult||GPX||J-38-10-G-1a||Phone Guide|
|Shushi -> Stepanakert||Yes||Explore the semi-ruined fortified city of Shushi, and hike a back country road down to the capital city of Stepanakert.||14km||Medium||GPX||J-38-10-V-2a||Phone Guide|
|Stepanakert -> Badara||Yes||Hike through the foothills and villages to reach the village of Badara/Patara. Marked wherever possible, but not along fields.||17km||Easy||GPX||Phone Guide|
|Badara -> Kolatak||Yes||Hike directly into the wilderness and forested mountains the whole day, with top-of-the-world views from the mountaintop Kachaghakaberd Fortress.||17km||Difficult||GPX||Phone Guide|
|Kolatak -> Gandzasar (Vank)||Yes||Hike along rivers and forested mountains. See the unassuming Metsaranits Monastery, also known as Hakobavank, 2km above Kolotak, then the impressive Gandzasar Monastery.||20km||Medium||GPX||Phone Guide|
|Gandzasar (Vank) -> Andzavner||Yes||This is a steady long hike gaining elevation the entire time. Remote, with nice scenery, but get an early start. The high elevation means the winter is longer, so it can have snow later/earlier in the season than lower elevation sections.||21km||Medium||GPX||Phone Guide|
|Andzavner -> Zuar||Yes||Hike down the mountain, past an uninhabited village, and head upriver to Zuar hotsprings then back downriver to Zuar village.||15km||Medium||GPX||1, 2|| Phone Guide
|Zuar -> Nor Verinshen||Partial||Hike over low mountains to Nor Manashid village.||23km||Difficult||GPX||1, 2||Phone Guide|
|Nor Verinshen -> Tsar||Yes||Ascend from Karvachar town through a canyon with a geyser, to the mountain plateau village of Tsar.||23km||Medium||GPX||Phone Guide|
|Tsar -> Vardenis||Yes||Head over the mountains from Tsar to Vardenis (or Verin Shorzha village to shorten it), in Armenia proper, in the southeast corner of Lake Sevan.||34km||Difficult||GPX||Phone Guide|
ALTERNATIVE ROUTE FROM GANDZASAR/VANK TO ZUAR:
The standard route takes you from Vank (Gandzasar) village, west up to the mountaintop site of the Poghosyan cattle farm homestay, and back down to Zuar. It is scenic, but the accommodations are simple, and it has a longer cold/snowy season due to the elevation when much of the rest of the trail is nice and clear (the cool weather is a bonus in the heat of summer). It also misses the fantastic monastery of Dadivank.
So for those who want an easier, perhaps warmer hike which includes Dadivank Monastery, we can suggest the following. Hike over the densely forested mountain from Vank to Vaghuhas for an overnight, then hitchhike or take a cab to Dadivank Monastery the next morning, explore it, and then catch a ride to the turnoff to Zuar. From the turnoff (which takes you through a tunnel), you can walk up to Zuar, soak in the hotsprings, and then spend the night in the village. The reason we are recommending a car ride for that stretch is because that is now a highway, which most hikers wouldn't enjoy hiking along. If you're really running low on time, you can catch a ride all the way to Karvachar city, and hike from there to Tsar then to Vardenis.
|Section||Well Marked?||Description||Distance||Difficulty||Tracks||Maps||Viewranger Guide|
|Gandzasar (Vank) -> Vaghuhas||No||DO NOT HIKE this section until you've read the safety notes! See the incredible Gandzasar Monastery, then hike over forested hills to Vaghuhas village.||14km||Medium||GPX||Phone Guide|
|Vaghuhas -> Dadivank||No||Catch a rid on the highway along the Tartar River to Dadivank village and Monastery.||22km||Easy||GPX||1, 2||Phone Guide|
|Dadivank -> Zuar||No||Starting at the tunnel, follow the river up to Zuar Hotsprings||24km||Easy||GPX||1, 2||Phone Guide|
Unmarked Janapar Trail - Armenia Extension
2016 saw the scouting of large parts of northern Armenia for an extension of the Janapar Trail to Yerevan. These are the tracks we're going forward with at this time and are quite usable, but they may be adjusted in the future. This Armenia portion is not marked, so you'll need to rely on the smartphone app!
|Section||Well Marked?||Description||Distance||Difficulty||Tracks||Maps||Viewranger Guide|
|Vardenis -> Daranak||You start out on an asphalt road, but then somewhere after Vanevan you cut over the fields. Near a sand/stone mine on the way it may get dusty. Whenever possible the trail goes through forests. Before Areguni village, there's a fenced area you skirt around on a path, then continue to Daranak.|
|Daranak -> Artanish||Heading north on the main road it starts out as a dirt road. Later, when you reach the asphalt portion the trail skips over to take you old road along the (in use) railroad tracks. Avoid the coast because a number of sections are fenced off with aggressive guard dogs. The last part, 3-4 km before Artanish, you'll be back on the main road and walk along it until reaching Artanish.|
|Artanish -> Shorzha||The hike begins on a dirt road with beautiful views. The road eventually disappears and you go through some grass before picking back up on a dirt road that eventually becomes a dirt path through trees before once again following a dirt road. Awaiting clarification for whether the track goes through a private summerhouse land that the resident maintenance man said was okay to cross, but large guard dogs were worrisome. The track from the end of the peninsula to Shorzha takes you past the Painters Union Resthouse.|
|Shorzha -> Kalavan||From Shorzha you continue along a dirt road with nice landscapes, until it skips back and forth from the main paved road to the dirt road running parallel to the railroad tracks, then back along the main road to Drakhtik, which gets little traffic. From Drakhtik, there's a dirt road running all the way to Kalavan. It does reach the elevation of 2317 meters, but this is the easiest route. This trail can get muddy if it's rained much, in which case you can just take the primary road from Drakhtik to Kalavan. Note: Kalavan has no store whatsoever.|
|Kalavan -> Gosh||Get an early start on this day. The first part of the trail can be overgrown in the spring, but is still visible and not difficult to walk. When you reach an open field above the village of Antaramej, you'll start on a normal dirt road. It does get a little overgrown at one point, but is passable. The descent to Khachardzan village can be quite steep at times. The trail from Khacharzan to Gosh Lake then Gosh village is normal. Note: Kalavan has no store whatsoever.|
|Gosh -> Dilijan||The track from Gosh to Parz Lake is a good dirt road, however the start from Gosh that is steep for the first 2km. From the lake you can follow the trail to Dilijan.|
|Dilijan -> Margahovit||From downtown Dilijan until the beginning of the trails to Jukhtak vank and Matosavank, it's a paved road. From Matosavank the dirt road eventually ends, after which you head to a path through the forest and eventually another dirt road to Margahovit which takes a very steep uphill for a while, which is rewarded with very beautiful landscapes and views. The last 4km before Margahovit you finally head downhill after heading uphill most of the day. Best to get an early start on this day.|
|Margahovit -> Meghradzor||From Margahovit you follow a trail that the villagers still use to Meghradzor. It is a steep trail that reaches 2700m elevation, but is not a difficult trail, even with a pack. From the top you'll follow a beautiful road taking you all the way down to Meghradzor, other than the factories and power lines in the valley. If you want a more gradual hike up, you can take the dirt road for cars that switches back and forth more, but takes a bit longer. Be prepared for aggressive large shepherd dogs in these mountains.|
|Meghradzor -> Tsaghkadzor|
|Tsaghkadzor -> Bjni|
|Bjni -> Arzni|
|Arzni -> Yerevan|
Speeding up the hike
Most people hike at about a pace of 5km per hour on a flat path, while difficult terrain and wet conditions can slow you down. These trail sections are usually planned in order to give you some time to enjoy the sights along the way, as well as the company of others. However, if you are interested in completing the trail sooner, you can pretty easily double up on sections a few times during your hike. For example you could hike from Stepanakert to Shushi to Karintak in one day instead of two if you push ahead, as the combined total of these two sections is still only 25km. Karmir Shuka to Azokh to Togh can likewise be doubled up, as can others, depending on your pace and how much oghi (vodka) the villagers convince you to drink the preceding night!
The seven sections of the Janapar from Hadrut to Stepanakert are marked with blue or blue and gold trail markers.
Directions - When you need to ask where the trail is, always ask where the arahet (trail) is, or to be even more exact, Ur e kapuyt n'shanov arahetuh? (Where is the blue marked trail?).
Day 1: Hadrut -> Togh
Catching a ride to the main southern town of Hadrut, you can go up to Spitak Khach Vank above town to light a candle before setting out. 16km Medium
In Hadrut, you head towards the only working church (yekeghetsi), which is in a neighborhood called Yerebazaar (upper market). You'll see the blue trail markers by the church, which you can follow up into the hills. As you come immediately out of Hadrut the markers are slightly less frequent, until you reach a clearer road. On the right will be some fences with more markers. You'll pass farms on the right, and reach a bigger intersection. You go left at this intersection and start climbing. (a diversion to the right will take you to an old simple church). Some of the markers beyond this are on electrical poles. You go all the way to the top and reach a better dirt road and head right towards the highway. (Left would take you to a different trail to distant Katoravank).
Hitting the highway, go left along the highway about 50 meters and then the trail goes off to right. There is a marker on the electrical pole and on the highway divider. From there you go down. You reach the intersection for Tsakuri. Don't turn right into the village, go onto the highway downhill for a while until you reach the first left towards Taghut village. Take that turnoff. You go through Taghut village, down the hill, crossing the bridge, you enter Togh village. When you enter the village, the trail hits the main road of the village.
Togh has a local winery that produces red dry wine from the local grape variety Khndoghni (Խնդողնի). It is sold chilled at the petrol/benzine station north of the village on the highway turnoff, in 1.5 liter bottles for 1,200 dram (about $3) and is good. You can also visit the winery itself, which produces the nice Karasi wine.
Day 2: Togh -> Azokh
Walk from historic Togh Village to Gtichavank, around Mount Togh, skirt by Mets Taghlar, then on to Azokh. 18km Medium
There are two marked trails from Togh to Gtichavank (one passes Togh Mountain to the north, the other to the south). From Gtichavank there is one trail which takes to Azokh and Mets Taghlar. We recommend taking the trail starting from the north end of Togh Village which is somewhat clearer to follow, and has a nicer forest you pass through. When leaving Togh, find the small village shop (khanut). The shop has some outside seating and a small table. Across from the shop there is a large dirt road. Follow the road to the right for the northern route, or follow it to the left for the southern route.
At the north end of the village, you can head up a road towards the cemetery, where the real trail begins. Ask the villagers for the gerezmanots to find the trail-head. The trail markings begin at 46.9637866,39.5904183, and the actual trail at 46.9622349,39.5905200. When you are on the hillside above the cemetery, you follow the marked trail along the cemetery fence to the northwest and away from the village. You continue along this clearing for 5 minutes before entering the forest. In the beginning part of the trail the forest is scrubbier and denser, but it will gradually open up into grand, open forest, with towering beech trees and a light green undergrowth. There are only one or two forks on this entire section of the trail, and they are well marked. You will eventually hit the first road since leaving the village, and that is the road to Gtichavank. You turn left onto that road and head up to Gtichavank monastery, which is only 5 minutes up the road.
After spending time exploring Gtichavank Monastery, you head back down the same road you went up! Ignore the markings pointing left, as those will take you back to Togh, which you only want if you are doing the Togh loop trail.
Head down the road, past where you originally came onto the road, and the trail markers will eventually bring you to a second turn off onto the right towards the river below. You pass a ruined farm on your left and turn right just after it when you see a marker on the cliff. At this part, the "every trail" is not accurate so leave it for a while. You pass through a mulberry orchard. A little further you pass an arched old stone bridge and go right, then pass a ruined building, and go uphill briefly and make a right. After going a while, you reach another bridge to the right of the road, it's only for walkers, not for cars. You go off the road and over the bridge, going up a bit and right again. From here you descend through some cultivated lands and continue along the trail until you hit a better road dirt. You need to go right on that road downhill. The left would otherwise take you to Mets Tagher/Taghlar. Go down this stretch (which is NOT marked yet) and hit the North-South highway of Karabakh. At the highway head left/straight (you'll see what I mean) and walk about 2.5km to Azokh Village. The second turn off to the left leads you to the village itself.
Togh loop trail
A great day hike is the Togh loop trail. It will take you all the way around Togh Mountain, beginning and ending in Togh.
Head to the very south end of Togh village. As you reach the last houses, keep an eye out for the Janapar trail signs. Follow them past the last house in the village and you will soon see a turnoff to the right (around 46.9567849,39.5761733). You'll head uphill on a gentle slope the entire way up to the monastery. The first 15-20 minutes will be grassy terrain with rocks. Then you'll enter a low-growing forest that you'll be in much of the way to Gtichavank, with few opportunities to see the great layered mountain views across the valley from you through the thick forest growth.
Towards the end of this long stretch of forest, you'll come to a little spring-fountain, with a trough under it. A great spot for a break. Soon after you'll come to the first clearing where the views are finally visible. After this short clearing is another stretch of forest, followed by short stretch of forest, another short clearing and a final short stretch of forest before reaching the clearing where you see Gtichavank just above you close-by. You can explore the monastery and take a break.
To continue on the loop trail, you head back down and follow the road instead of going back on the trail you came from. Heading down the road, you after about 5 minutes you come to a turnoff to the right. (Note that if you continue down the road and miss this turnoff, you will end up following the marked trail to Mets Taghlar, instead of heading back down in Togh!!)
A few meters into the trail, the scrub clears up into a tall, beautiful beech forest. It is a very clear trail that takes you all the way back around the mountain and back to the north end of Togh village. Along the way there are only one or two places where the trail branches off, and they are well marked. You should never go very far without encountering a trail marker.
As you come out of the forest, you are already approaching Togh Village, and soon reach the village where you skirt above the cemetery and down into the houses. The trail takes a left at the dead end after the cemetery, then the first right, and ends at the next intersection. There are no markers beyond this point. From here you can just go left straight down where you hit the main road through the village in 3 or 4 minutes. Turning right you can head back through the village, with a 20 minute walk on that main village road taking you back to the original trail head.
Day 3: Azokh -> Karmir Shuka
Explore the Azokh Cave, head over the mountain through Shekher, and down through the fields to Karmir Shuka. 11km Medium
Check out the Azokh cave above the village, before heading down to the main highway. There is a small WWII memorial where the highway has about a 90 degree bend. At this memorial, you head uphill through the main road of the village, past a couple of small shops, and to the end of the village. Follow the markers as you continue to ascend, sometimes through stream beds which will be wet in the spring, until the top of the mountain.
You'll start to head down and eventually on your left you may notice a small grave/shrine where people come to light candles. There will also be some remains of animals that were sacrificed at this spot as offerings - usually the legs of chickens or lambs tied to the trees. Past this, in 5 or 10 minutes you'll come out of the forest and onto the dirt road again, where there will be some nice views of the valley below.
You'll quickly reach and pass through Shekher village and the trail takes you to a point where you hit the highway. You do not really walk along the highway at this point, you turn left at the petrol station there and head back through the field. There will be few markings, but not many. You continue pretty straight however and at the first real fork/intersection which comes pretty soon you keep right. Again go straight until the road dead ends at another road/intersection where you make a left. Continue along that dirt road until it hits the river. You can either pass a couple dozen meters before the road hits the river - where you'll find a big pipe and wire to hold which will get you across nice and dry. Or if the river level is low enough you can cross through and continue up the road a few dozen meters to the highway, where you turn left and immediately enter Karmir Shuka.
Day 4: Karmir Shuka -> Avetaranots
Walk up from Karmir Shuka to the massive 2,000 year old tree, then head down and west to Avetaranots, also known as Chanakhchi. 15km
Starting in Karmir Shuka, head along the highway to the last building in the town on your right. Make an immediate right heading up the trail after this building. Follow the trail up to the huge, 2,000 year old tree. Continue along the trail which heads past the tree and then down to the highway again. You follow the highway for about 2.5km before turning off to your left on a smaller road towards Avetaranots. This turnoff is about 200 meters before hitting the main marked entrance road in to Avetaranots.
Follow the trail markings along this road. You'll have to walk through the river once or twice. You will eventually come to a waterfall area. Enjoy the water, but don't let the leeches enjoy you. Continue along the clear road without any turnoffs, straight into Avetaranots Village.
Day 5: Avetaranots -> Karintak
From Avetaranots (Chanakhchi) you head through forested hills and fields to the beautifully sited village of Karintak. 16km Medium-Difficult
The trail markers take you through Avetaranots Village, and up to the northwest where you soon enter the forest. Follow the trail along a large clearing, then a good stretch of forest, and when you hit the next large, you don't enter it, but rather fork right. This takes you around and down to a river crossing. Unless there has been recent rains, it is very easy to cross. You head right at the opposite bank, and quickly hit a clearing where you make a hard left along the trees of a large clearing. After a few steps of forest you enter another, smaller clearing, before entering a long stretch of forest.
The trail eventually will hit a couple of bigger fields in the forest. Soon after you will hit the crest of the mountain, and find yourself at an intersection where you will see down the opposite side of the mountain to Karintak and the massive cliff above. Turn right here and walk along the crest for about 1km before you hit a fork (46.7696099,39.7264116). From here you take the left fork, and head down the mountainside towards the village of Karintak. The road is very well defined, and you should not leave this road. At the bottom it hits the Karkar River, where you cross over an old stone bridge and head directly into Karintak.
Day 6: Karintak -> Shushi
Head down the river from Karintak village, make your way through the breathtaking Karkar Canyon, check out the surreal Zontik Waterfall, the ruins of Hunot Village, and then head up the cliff to Shushi, a fortified town with a lot to explore. 7km Medium-Difficult
Please note that the directions for this section of the trail are the reverse direction from the rest of this guide. In other words, they're written from the perspective of someone heading from Shushi to Karintak, rather than the opposite, because this popular section is usually hiked beginning from Shushi as a day hike... you can of course hike it from Karintak to Shushi if you prefer.
This hike takes you from the top of the cliffs in Shushi, down through ruins of Hunot village, along the Karkar River in the spectacular Karkar Canyon, past the Zontik ("umbrella") waterfall, and over to Karintak ("under the rock") village.
Distance: 7km Hike Time: 4 hours
This hike can be challenging, due to narrow and steep sections of trail, two narrow bridges consisting of pieces of trees laid across the river, and potentially muddy tracks after a rain. It is also a must-see section of the trail, and no doubt many hikers will find it to be their favorite. If you have a bigger pack on your back, you can leave it in Shushi, and do the hike with some water and a picnic lunch. When you get to Karintak you can have a cab bring you your gear from Shushi. Have someone wherever you stayed the night in Shushi arrange this ahead of time, so that you just call them and they have it brought to you.
Beginning in Shushi, head to the mosque (mzkit) next to the restored market (shuka). Facing the mosque, look down the road to your left. Head down this road all the way to the end. You'll come to one large somewhat unusual intersection/square after a while, but stay straight (the right-hand road) and continue down. The road will not be as straight from here, but you quickly come to the end of the road, with an old water spring on your left. From here the trail is marked. You take your right at this dead end, take your second small street on your left, and go down through some narrow cobbled streets. The street ends and you're forced to turn left. Go down this passage/overgrown road and you pretty soon reach some small cliffs with a fence and gate at their foot. Open the gate, pass through, and close the gate again. Follow the marked trail over a small stream and to the right. As you descend, you follow a rusty sheet metal fence that's mostly fallen over. Continue until this fence ends, and take an immediate left at that spot. Go through the forest until signs lead you out into the grass. People miss this last "right" turn mark, please look carefully for it! On your left will be a few old Armenian tombstones. Continue straight across the unmarked grass field as downhill as possible and you'll in no time come across stones. Look for the stones with trail markings and follow those. This section will use a "breadcrumb" trail marking method with smaller, more frequent markers to ensure you don't lose the trail.
After the trail turns right you begin to pass some of the cliff's face on your right, with a sheer drop on your left. You'll pass a cave where shepherds take breaks during the day. Continue until the first place where you can really descend downwards. Follow the trail downhill, and at the bottom you'll reach the first of the ruins of Hunot village. This old Armenian village was abandoned in Soviet times because no road could ever be built to reach it. You cross the old stone bridge, and at the end of it make a sharp right to head upriver, and you pass some more ruins. You come to a river crossing where you have to balance your way across two (not particularly thick) logs. If it has rained recently, you may have to wade along the river in a foot of water to make your way to the log crossing. Don't be embarassed to get on your hands and knees to cross this log bridge if you think that might help. Upon crossing, head left as close to the riverbank as possible to the trail around the rocks. From here you continue heading upstream for a short section until you reach the Zontik waterfall. If the water level is high from a recent rain, you may need to head directly up upon crossing, go left, and then head back down to the lower trail as soon as you can.
The unusual mossy umbrella of Zontik waterfall has a stikingly beautiful appearance. At the falls you cross the river again on another less challenging bridge, where crossing on hands and knees could be wise. Head right upon crossing, and the following long section of trail meanders between the river and the cliffs and has a couple of steep and narrow sections which can get slippery after rains. At one or two points you may pass through the riverbed a spell. Take your time and you'll eventually make your way to a farmer's field on your right. At the end of this field the trail comes out towards the river in an open area, and you'll find a nice, solid bridge on your right. Cross that and head left. The village of Karintak is not far from the bridge.
REVERSE: If you begin this hike in Karintak instead of Shushi, you should ask which way to go to "Zontik". You will be directed onto the one road that goes down river and soon you'll begin to see signs for the Janapar trail.
Day 7: Shushi -> Stepanakert
Hike down from Shushi along a back country road to the capital city of Stepanakert. 14km Medium-Difficult
The Shushi - Stepanakert trail is a 14 km hike. Rather than taking a car or walking on the main highway, this is a very beautiful hike, with a lot of forest, nice views, an old bridge, old church, and great flora and fauna.
The trail out of Shushi begins near the town square. Facing the town square with the tall hotel directly behind you, you see a statue of a man sitting on a bench. To the left of that man you see a road heading down, lined with trees. Follow those trees and you'll find the trail start marking. Following the road straight down, you see a marking to go left. You go through a little turnstile into what looks like a restaurant courtyard of some sort. Keep to your right and duck through a passage to exit one of the main old gates of Shushi's fortified walls.
Go straight out of the gate and down to the main road, and continue downhill on the main road until you see the big Shushi sign at the junction with the main Yerevan-Goris-Stepanakert highway. Look both ways before crossing the quiet highway, and cross it. You'll notice a dirt road right where you cross. Take that heading downward, following the Janapar marks. You will follow this road the entire time, until you reach Stepanakert. Staying on this dirt road is quite easy, and there are very few intersections of any sort.
The first section of trail mostly descends until you reach an old bridge crossing a river. Very shortly after that the road ends at an intersection of sorts. Take the rightmost, which is marked, and continue again virtually uninterrupted as you mostly ascend to a tiny little village of a few houses. There is a small ordinary old village church, and a harder to notice cemetery above the village. After this the road will have some descents and ascents, before eventually hitting the edge of Stepanakert. After a few houses, you go left to stay on the more heavily traveled road, and in a short block you reach the paved road. This spot is known as Gərgəjhan. From here you can continue on foot into the center of Stepanakert, or wait a few minutes for the route 19 marshutni to take you to the city center for 70 drams (at the time of writing in 2012).
Day 8: Stepanakert -> Patara
Hike from Stepanakert through the foothills and villages to reach Patara. 16km Easy
You can start this hike at the Stepan Shahumyan Statue in the central square of Stepanakert, however the markings do not begin until you reach the northern part of the city. With the statue at your back, walk down Azatamartikneri Ave until you reach Freedom Square, a large roundabout. Turn left onto Tigran Mets St. Follow the road as it bends to the left. Shortly after take a hairpin turn down and to the right onto Tumanyan St. The blue markings begin here. Follow the main road. At the top of the hill, take the right fork (you’ll see a blue bus stop sign at the fork). Continue following this main road past Khnatsakh Village to Aygestan Village. You'll see occasional markings along the road. When you reach Aygestan, go over the small bridge and turn right along the river. Go left up a steep hill, cross the road, and follow the street into the village. Turn left at the marking, heading down and out of the village. You’ll pass a large fenced in area on your left with markings on the fence posts. At the end of the fence, follow the footpath up into the hills. At this point, markings become less frequent through the fields. You’ll go through a large field on a hill. At the top of the hill continue through the field and under the large hanging wires. Eventually the path meets a small dirt road which you follow through Dahrav Village. After the village you’ll pass through some scrubby forests. When you reach the large field, turn right and walk along the perimeter. Then you’ll cross a stream (there’s a footbridge to your right). At the main road take a left and follow the road into Patara.
Day 9: Patara -> Kolatak
Hike directly into the wilderness and forested mountains the whole day. 17km Difficult
Note: This is probably the most difficult section of the Janapar Trail. At times, it is a steep hike with an ascent in elevation of 700m to Kachaghakaberd Fortress. At some points, the trail does not follow an established path and you must bushwhack through the forest. Long pants are highly recommended. While there are markings throughout, it is important that you have the GPS tracks you can follow electronically (on a smartphone or GPS) and printed maps for this section.
Patara village is nestled at the bottom of a few mountains. From the town square, which has a couple of small shops, head uphill and take your first left. Heading toward the edge of the village on what appears to be the more traveled road, you pass the small village church on your left while still in the village. Out of the village, go up the hill into the fields. Go through the field and meet the dirt road. Follow it past the Surp Prkich Church on your right. It stands out of the forest, and has simple architecture with some carvings. A little further along the trail you'll enter the forest. Follow the trail through the forest and over the creek. Shortly after the creek you’ll see a left turn marker going up the hill through the forest. Don’t follow this marker and instead continue straight along the path. Soon after, the trail markers head off the road and through the trees up a steep slope. This time, you will follow the markings. Markings may be sparse as there is evidence of logging in the area, and many trees have been cut down. As you get higher up the slope you’ll notice more undergrowth within the forest. Eventually you’ll reach a small path which you will follow through the forest and fields. Towards the top of the mountain, take a sharp right up into the open field. Follow the tree line where you’ll reconnect with a path. Follow the path through the trees and fields to the top of the mountain. Enjoy the stunning views of the surrounding mountain chains and of the Kachaghakaberd fortress.
Begin your descent at the edge of the mountain looking directly across at the fortress. Climb down the steep slope, passing to the left of the fortress rock. When you reach the far side of the rock outcropping, follow the markings down through the trees. There is no defined path until you reach the logging road. Follow the road until it takes a sharp left turn. Turn off the road, following a small path to the right. You’ll reach another road which you’ll follow through more open space. Look out for the left hairpin turn which you will take back into the forest. Continue along this road. Then, follow the trail down to the river. Cross the river. (There is no bridge, so you’ll want to take your boots off.) On the other side of the river, follow the dirt road. Turn left up the hill, cross another road, continuing up the hill to a third road. Turn right and follow the road through the field to the paved road. Turn left, and follow the road into Kolatak.
Note: If you are hiking this trail in reverse, at the very start there is no marking for the right turn off the paved road which brings you through the field when leaving Kolatak. This is the first turn out of the village.
Villagers are often available to guide you up to the fortress or all the way to Kolatak, but it can be impossible to find a guide if you do not make arrangements the evening before your hike. You can find villagers either with or without a horse, and possibly with a horse for you as well. A simple guide to lead you on the hike can cost between 5,000 dram to 10,000 dram - though it usually tends towards the higher end. If you're going all the way over to Kolatak, you may need to pay for their transport home.
Asking around in the village square (where to shops are located) will probably yield some results or you can directly contact some men willing to guide you. You should arrange a guide the night before your hike!
"Vorsord Armen", or Hunter Armen is a seasoned mountain man. He can take you up and potentially over the mountain to Kolatak. (097) 202-081. Speaks Armenian and Russian.
Melik can take you up and knows the ways well. He has at least one horse, which he'll probably share with you part of the way up. But not all! (097) 211-917.
Stepan is a young guy in Patara who speaks some English. He may be able to help you find or talk to a guide - (097) 250-314
From the other direction, in Kolatak, you can see if Artur, the former mayor, is available to guide you, at least to the summit.
From Stepanakert heading north, some of the sections were marked years ago, and some were never marked. You should not rely on the trail markers at all. You should only trust your maps and GPS. Some of it is along roads that are easy to follow, but others may be better only for advanced hikers. See the notes for each section.
Day 10: Kolatak -> Gandzasar (Vank)
Hike on the trail through forested hills after passing the beautiful old monastery 2km above Kolotak. Much of the trail is well defined and easy to follow, but the trail can seem to disappear for short stretches here or there - just continue to follow your tracks. You eventually cross a small footbridge and enter Vank village, where you can proceed up to the stunning Gandzasar Monastery. 20km Medium
Day 11: Gandzasar (Vank) -> Andzavner
IMPORTANT ANDZAVNER HOMESTAY INFORMATION:
There is one room that is simple, remodeled and should be clean. There are at least 5 comfortable cots with very warm military sleeping bags, and sheets to insert inside of them that are changed for each guest. There are tea and coffees and a stove which you are free to help yourself to on the small gas camping-style stove. There may also be a couple of food basics you can use (like kasha), but really at this point it is better to bring your own food supplies. This is a situation that is being worked out, and suggestions for easy cooking dry foods are welcome. There should be no expectation of a meal being prepared or available for you!
There is a wood fired heater, the bathroom is an outhouse, and there is no hot shower yet, but there is running cold water outdoors.
Despite these very basic conditions, we have suggested a sleeping-only price of 5,000 dram (just about $10) a night, which may seem relatively high, but is necessary for the following reason. The sheet washing requires sending the sheets back down to the village of Vank and back up each time they are to be cleaned. Also, there is simply no other family available to host, so we really want to make sure there is a real incentive for the family to continue to host, or this connection on the trail will be lost. They are also giving up the one renovated room in their entire house for this. For all these reasons, we hope the 5,000 dram per night will be acceptable for guests for sleeping only - any food would be a bit extra. The Poghosyan family has been very friendly and cooperative - it is us who have suggested this price - and we believe they will use the income to continue improving conditions for future hikers.
Camping is of course an option as well.
This section of the trail is a very infrequently traveled and easy to follow road leading from Vank village (and Gandzasar Monastery) up to the top of a mountain, where you spend the night at a small cattle farm. Very nice scenery, with virtually nobody anywhere to be seen.
Day 12: Andzavner -> Zuar
This and old eroded Soviet jeep track that's almost unused, going though virtually uninhabited mountainous regions brings you down to the Zuar area. When you reach the river and cross, you can head upriver (south) to the Zuar hotsprings, or downriver (north) to the village of Zuar.
Day 13: Zuar -> Karvachar
Take an early morning soak in the hotsprings north of Zuar before hiking over the rolling hills, mostly following unused and fallen Soviet electrical towers until you reach the next river valley and descend to the Tartar River, and head upriver to the tiny regional capital of Karvachar town. 28km Difficult
Day 14: Karvachar -> Tsar
Descend north into the Tartar Gorge and follow the river upstream (south). Take a soak at the geyser before continuing along the Tartar until your turnoff to Tsar village, which is a steep ascent. 20km Medium-Difficult
Day 15: Tsar -> Vardenis
Head up the mountains to the southeast corner of Lake Sevan, where the larger town of Vardenis lies. To shorten this hike you can try to catch a lift/cab from the first village you reach in Armenia named Verin Shorzha to Vardenis - or in the reverse direction it's strongly recommended to take a cab from Vardenis to Verin Shorzha to start your hike. That would bring down the total length of this section from 34km to about 24km. This is by far the most remote hike, with virtually nothing along the route. Do not hike it without a fully charged device showing the GPS tracks, and a full day of light to hike. 34km Difficult
Alternative Route from Gandzasar (Vank) to Zuar
Day 11: Gandzasar (Vank) -> Vaghuhas NOTE: DO NOT HIKE this section until reading the safety notes below! ((Hike from Gandzasar Village over to Gandzasar Monastery, then through the forested mountain to Vaghuhas. 14km Medium)) Also please check back as changes are being made to this section and a complete reroute is likely.
We have been in touch with HALO Trust at various times of trail development and maintenance, and for this specific section we have been sent the following information and suggestions. If you read it and are not comfortable hiking this section, you can hop in a cab at Gandzasar and take it around the mountains to Vaghuhas, or skip directly to Dadivank.
"There are no records of any minefields or cluster munition sites close to the route. However, in the past our survey teams have responded to a number of callouts to destroy ammunition (including mines and cluster munitions) around both villages, Vank and Vaghuas, reported by local population. Since the area was a scene of heavy fighting in the early nineties, it’s possible that there might be more abandoned or unexploded ammunition lying around.
"Our recommendation is to try to avoid walking on any unused ground or going deeper into forested areas where fighting might have taken place. If the Janapar Trail runs through a well-used footpath or a forest track, then it should be safe, but it is still worthwhile to get some advice from the local villagers who use the area on a daily basis for collecting firewood or hunting.
"In case anyone from your team comes across any ammunition or an unknown item, it’s strongly recommended not to touch/investigate it, and report the findings to HALO as soon as possible.
So for those hiking the trail, and sticking to the trail, you will be going through forest nearly all of the hike, with some rise and fall as you go over the hills. There are no trail markings, so you need to depend on a reliable GPS device or smartphone to hike this section, in addition to printing out the maps from the site. Hiring a villager as a guide is also an option. It's a moderate day of hiking and there is a well defined trail.
Here are some notes from a group of hikers in 2014:
a. We slept next to the “Gandzasar Monastery”, and started walking from there, as written in the description. b. Sleeping in the monastery rooms is optional. c. In order to descend to the river, take the only trail heading north from the monastery, pass a gate, and turn right to a smaller stream where there are some ruins and a spring. There you’ll have to find your way in the forest until you reach a good trail, which is also well marked all the way until “Vaghuhas”. d. Around the tallest ridge there are some fighting remains such as helmets, bullets and empty shells.
Day 12: Vaghuhas -> Dadivank Hike along the Tartar River to Dadivank Monastery and village. 22km Easy
Day 13: Dadivank -> Zuar Follow the river from Dadivank Monastery into Karvachar, and up the canyon to Zuar village, where you can soak in the hotsprings nearby. You're walking on a road which is very lightly traveled. 19km Easy