If you wish to expand your Armenia vacation beyond the vibrant yet clamorous capital, consider a trip to Dilijan, a pleasant city approximately 90 kilometers northeast of Yerevan. An alpine city located on the banks of the Aghstev River, Dilijan’s heavenly climate and calming environ offer holiday-makers a peaceful and memorable escape. Often referred to as the “Switzerland of Armenia”, the city is surrounded by deep forests and spellbinding mountain views.
Nature’s matchless beauty is only enhanced by the town’s narrow labyrinth streets and quaint homes adorned with patchwork tile roofs and carved wooden balconies. This charming scene is made complete by the sounds of the gently flowing river, the smells of freshly prepared local cuisine and the warm hospitality of city residents, leaving little wonder why Dilijan is such a popular destination among both locals and tourists.
While no Dilijan Travel Guide can do the area justice, the info below can nonetheless help you plan your travels around the city and regional highlights.
Armenia’s Switzerland beckons travelers with forested valleys and alpine meadows that are sure to fill your vacation with picturesque memories, unpredictable adventures and hours of much-needed relaxation. Be sure to visit these gems:
Dilijan National Park
Start exploring the region with a visit to Dilijan National Park. Its beautiful forest landscapes, rich biodiversity, medicinal mineral springs and unique cultural monuments will not disappoint curious visitors. Diverse hiking trails will take you through green forests and isolated monasteries to the picturesque Parz Lake. Transcaucasian Trail, a long-distance hiking path currently being created through Georgia and Armenia, also winds through the park. Whether you're an expert trekker or an amateur hiker, there's a trail out there at Dilijan National Park that will be the perfect place for you to unplug, feel rejuvenated and be inspired.
Dilijan weather may vary greatly with the season, yet Parz Lake, located within Dilijan National Park, remains beautiful no matter the time of year. “Parz” means “clear” in Armenian and is an apt name for such a translucent body of water. The lake mysteriously reflects the surrounding trees and sky, creating an otherworldly place to relax and unwind with friends or in quiet solitude.
Haghartsin Monastery Complex
Situated at the peak of high mountains and surrounded by thick forests, Haghartsin Monastery is one of the most famous places in Armenia. The name can be translated as “The Dance” or “Game of Eagles”. The complex was built between the 10th- 13th centuries and includes three churches, two courtyards, a refectory, prayer halls and various stunning khachkars (cross stones). The monastery, which served as a spiritual and cultural center of the country for centuries, is well known for its iconic medieval architecture.
A 40-minute drive from Dilijan will bring you to Goshavank Monastery, located on the banks of the Getik River in the village of Gosh. It was built in the 12th -13th centuries and represents a uniquely Armenian architectural style. The monastery and village were named after Mkhitar Gosh, a famous Armenian scientist, historian, writer and teacher. Goshasvank was not only a religious site, but also an important educational and cultural center.
If you’re wondering what to do in Dilijan, soaking in the atmosphere is a good place to start. In the city, traditional Armenian architecture mingles with Soviet oddities and 21st-century masterpieces. The city was selected to be a part of UNESCO Global Network of Learning Cities, and Dilijan International College continues to unite students together from all across the globe.
Although a new addition to the city, Dilijan’s Amphitheater was built to reflect the traditional style of ancient Greece and is particularly admirable in the evening. Situated in the very heart of town, the Amphitheater is hard to miss and worth a visit if you’re in town.
Geological Museum and Art Gallery of Dilijan
To learn about the history and traditions of the region in-depth, be sure not to miss a visit to Geological Museum and Art Gallery of Dilijan. Opened in 1950, the museum provides a comprehensive view of the historical and cultural development of the local population. The two-story, marbled floor museum also exhibits the works of famous local and foreign artists.
An evening stroll along Myasnkyan Street is the perfect way to enjoy the dazzling character of the city. Along the boulevard are colorful, Soviet-era buildings embellished with ornamentation and mosaics, as well as the old open-air theater and several interesting monuments and museums.
Sharambeyan Street is a beautiful avenue of wooden homes, craftsmen’s workshops, a gallery and a museum which all demonstrate the historic spirit of the city. The Old Dilijan Complex, sponsored by the Tufenkian Foundation, tastefully brings to life the earlier elegance of Dilijan.
Wining and Dining
Armenian food is rich in flavor and always served with warm hospitality and national pride. From fine dining to trendy cafes, there is something for every taste and budget in Dilijan, where a meal is as much a presentation of local lifestyles and traditions as it is of savory food.
Tufenkian Foundation's Old Dilijan Complex includes a famous restaurant where you can enjoy delicious Armenian dishes in a dining room decorated with national carpets and wooden ornamentations. Many restaurants will also provide entertainment in the form of Armenian traditional songs, jazz band performances or live shows. Both the Rudder Pub and Flying Ostrich Bar & Grill Tavern, set along the Aghstev River, are great options for good food and entertainment. Or, warm up during the frigid Dilijan winter at Kchuch Restaurant, famous for its tasty dishes baked inside a brick oven.
If you want to grab coffee and sweets, you can try cafes near the lake, like Cafe #2, which offers beautiful views, aromatic coffees and tasty gata, a local sweet bread stuffed with sweet fruit fillings.
Vegetarians need not worry, for Armenian cuisine is sure to fill your vacation with tasty memories, too. Famous dolma, local lavash bread, zucchini cutlets, stuffed peppers, salads, eggplant, cheeses and various local yogurts will not leave you hungry.
As the city is a center for tourism, Dilijan hotels include a wide range of safe, welcoming and comfortable accommodations. Options include B&Bs, boutique hotels and larger chains such as Best Western. Whether you prefer the luxury of the Tufenkian Hotel or a cozy local guesthouse, Dilijan has something to offer.
Getting In and Around
Traveling from Yerevan to Dilijan is quite easy, as the cities are less than a hundred kilometers apart from one another. Travel options include a minibus (marshrutka), taxi, car rental or private transportation through a pre-arranged tour. It’s less than 200 kilometers from Dilijan to Tbilisi, the capital of neighboring Georgia, and thus Dilijan is often visited as a stopover point for tourists traveling from Yerevan onward into the rest of the Caucasus.
If you need transportation for sightseeing within the city, taxis in Dilijan are quite affordable. Even though few drivers can communicate in English, most will do their best to offer assistance and show you all the highlights of their city.
Now that you’ve read our Dilijan Travel Guide, what are you waiting for? Pack your suitcase and come explore this charming city of ancient Armenia!