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This hike goes through the slopes of the Tsaghkunyats mountains past several historic sites. The trailhead is located in Lusagyugh village, in the Aragatsotn province, about 2 km from the town of Aparan.
Need to Know
Cell phone service (via Beeline, VivaCell-Mts and Ucom) is usually available in the areas between Lusagyugh village, the forest, churches, and the monuments. 911 emergency services operate throughout Armenia in case of any accidents. Be sure to bring bottled water!
The best time to visit if from April through November. The most convenient option to get to the start of the hike is to take a taxi from Yerevan to the trailhead at Lusagyugh. This will cost around 5,800-6,000 AMD.
From the village, the hike starts on a wide, dirt road climbing gradually at first and then more steeply as you turn north. The first historic site on the hike, the Mkhei monastery, dates back to pagan times, and once served as an inn for travelers. The Red Monastery (Mkhei Monastery) has been preserved since pagan times and dates back to the 4th century. After the adoption of Christianity, it was turned into a Christian monastery and served as an inn for travelers, both native and foreign. The road (which is still visible) was for caravans that passed along the mountain summit. The monastery was named after Mkhe, a man who used to cultivate his land in the area.
Further down the trail, hikers will come to the Tukh Manuk shrine, which was once dedicated to the sun god Mihr, but is now a Christian monastery. Tukh Manuk is one of the rare places in Armenia where one can spot “equal-wing” cross stones. Tukh Manuk (Veri Monastery) is a 7th century church, possibly of pagan origin. It was dedicated to the sun god, Mihr. The “equal-winged” cross stones on the walls and the church grounds prove the age of this construction, as these types of cross stones are the predecessors of the common cross stone. There is also an underground well adjacent to the monastery. According to legend, it had healing properties, and many people came to seek relief from grievous pain and injury.
As you continue along the trail, views of the Aragats mountain on the west and the Tsaghkunyats mountains on the east open up. Beyond the pagan temples and the silk road, the hike leads to Fort Aver, which is almost completely in ruins. Fort Aver (2nd -1st century BC) lies on the hill known as Dzakhi Dzor. The cuneiform inscriptions (786 BC) of King Argishti, detail the ancient history of this fort, which had been ruined many times over history, during earthquakes and wars. The fort’s wells and tunnels are now blocked with large stones, preventing access to its underground portions.
The hike then passes through birch and pine groves, as well as wild plum, pear, and apple trees. Hikers will return to the village along the same route.
Flora & Fauna
Flora: The area is full of yellow dandelions, chamomile, blue forget-me-nots, colorful violets, and blossoming thorn plants, which have unique significance in pharmaceutics. Edible herbs including sickleweed, nettle, and Chaerophyllum also grow here, and are collected for use in various dishes.
Those who love mushrooms can bring small knives and gather them during the hike, between April and June. It is necessary to show the mushrooms to the locals to be sure they are not poisonous. There are 5,000 hectares of forest, where oak, maple, and birch trees, as well as pine groves, apples and pear trees grow.
Fauna: Vipers, adders, and lizards can be found in the beautiful meadows, cornfields, and the slopes leading to the summit. There are frogs in the swampy areas. The forests are home to many animals, including brown bears, hares, wolves, and foxes. t
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