The Janapar Trail, in Nagorno-Karabakh, goes through the beautiful landscape of the Caucasus mountains. The marked trail involves 8-16 days of hiking, starting from the southern end of the trail in Hadrut and ending in Vardenis, Armenia. The Janapar Teail is 284 km long.
The trail runs through the region of Nagorno-Karabakh, which means "mountainous black garden".
The trail was first marked in 2007, and since then volunteers have returned a few times to maintain markings in the southern half of the trail. There is a good website with substantial information, as well as an active Facebook page with a lot of photos where questions can be directed.
The majority Armenian-populated region of Nagorno-Karabakh declared independence from Azerbaijan around the same time the Soviet Union collapsed, and won a bitter war. No peace treaty has ever been signed however, so the region remains unrecognized internationally. It is beautiful, remote, and surprisingly to many, rather safe.
Nagorno-Karabakh is only accessible through Armenia. Most will take a mini-bus from Yerevan to Stepanakert. From there a bus or another mini-bus to Hadrut will get you to the starting point. A visa is required, and can be obtained in Stepanakert upon arrival at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (ask for the Artakin Gortseri Nakhararutyun). You'd want to list all the provinces of Nagorno-Karabakh in order to be able to hike the various sections of the trail and have freedom to move wherever you'd like.
Fees and permits
There is no fee for accessing the Janapar Trail.
However, a special permit might be necessary for the Dadivank to Vardenis section of the trail, i.e. sections 13-16. Such a permit can be obtained from the Karabakh Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Nevertheless, if found along that part without a permit the worst that can happen is that you will have to leave the trail and go back to the main road. But the remoteness makes it very unlikely anyone will ask. And as soon as you have gone back into Armenia, you are on the safe side.
The hike is broken into day-hike sections, with a village or town you can sleep in at the end of each days hike. Nevertheless, some sections are shorter and might only require half a day of hiking. Starting from the southern point of Hadrut and heading north, this is the order of places along the marked Janapar Trail.
Due to the often remote nature of the trail, it is important that you are well prepared and have a proper and reliable map with you. In addition, using GPS adds an extra layer of safety, both in towns as well as the countryside. For reliable (offline) maps, and comprehensive trail and map information, consult OpenStreetMap, which is used by this travel guide, and by many convenient mobile Apps like OsmAnd (complex with many add-ons) and MAPS.ME (simple but limited).
Section 01: Hadrut to Togh
Summary: 16 km, medium, well-marked
You hike from the edge of the town of Hadrut up to a crest, then head down to the village of Togh, with nice views of cool mountain you will be hiking the next day. Make a trip up to Spitak Khach Vank to light a candle upon completion.
Section 02: Togh to Azokh
Summary: 18 km, medium, well-marked
You hike in a circle around the impressive mountain that the 12th century Gtichavank monastery is on. Nice monastery undergoing restoration, nice forest, and depending on your route you may cross over a nice old bridge or two. You can explore the cave in Azokh village in the evening when you arrive, or in the morning before you depart for Karmir Shuka.
Section 03: Azokh to Karmir Shuka
Summary: 11 km, medium, well-marked
Hike up from Azokh over the crest, to Shekher village and through the fields below Karmir Shuka before reaching the town.
Section 04: Karmir Shuka to Avetaranots
Summary: 15 km, medium, well-marked
From Karmir Shuka you hike up to the impressive 2,000 year old tree of Skhtorashen, then hike across the highway past a waterfall, and on to Avetaranots village, with an old melik's house.
Section 05: Avetaranots to Karintak
Summary: 16 km, medium-difficult, well-marked
This hike takes you through some thick forest, up to a crest overlooking the cliffs of Shushi, and down across the Karkar river into aptly named Karintak (meaning below the rock) village.
Section 06: Karintak to Shushi
Summary: 7-10 km (4 hr), medium-difficult, well-marked
This stunning section of the trail takes you along the Karkar river, through the sheer and spectacular canyon walls, past the otherworldly Zontik waterfall, across an old bridge, through the ruins of the abandoned Hunot village, and up the cliffs to Shushi.
Section 07: Shushi to Stepanakert
Summary: 14 km, medium(-difficult), well-marked
This easy hike takes you across a rarely traveled back road, through nature, across an old bridge and up to a tiny hamlet was a simple old church, and then down to Stepanakert. A pleasant alternative to a ride to Stepanakert even if you're not hiking the entire trail.
Section 08: Stepanakert to Patara
Summary: 16-17 km, easy, not so well marked (esp. along the fields)
Mostly across fields, and through a couple of villages along the foothills, the markings are not frequent where there are no stones. Use a proper app and ask for the next village when needed.
Section 09: Patara to Kolatak
Summary: 17 km, difficult, well-marked
The toughest day of hiking, involves climbing a very steep mountain to the mostly natural fortifications of Kachaghakaberd fortress, and then down the mountain and across the river to Kolatak village. Rewarding with top-of-the-world views.
Section 10: Kolatak to Gandzasar
Summary: 20 km, medium, not or badly marked
Hike up to the monastery of Metsaranits and back to the village of Kolatak before heading downriver along the only road out of the village. When you read the junction of the main road, head left up to the village of Vank, and up to the stunning monastery of Gandzasar.
Section 11: Gandzasar to Vaghuhas
Summary: 14 km, medium, not or badly marked
This entire day is spent hiking over the forested mountains to the village of Vaghuhas, which has an old church.
A special safety notice from the HALO Trust, responsible for the trail development and maintenance. Read carefully and do not hike this section if you are uncomfortable with this information.
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.
Section 12: Vaghuhas to Dadivank
Summary: 14-22 km, easy-medium, not or badly marked
The entire day is spent hiking between the river and the road to Dadivank, in a narrow and impressive gorge. Dadivank is a beautiful, large monastery with a small village under it.
Section 13: Dadivank to Zuar
Summary: 19-24 km, easy, not or badly marked
Following the river towards Karvachar, you leave the main road and follow up the river to the Zuar hot springs.
Section 14: Zuar to Karvachar
Summary: 28 km, difficult, not or badly marked
You hike over rolling hills towards Nor Manashid village. Following the unused and fallen Soviet electrical towers until the next river valley, you head down towards Tartar River. Then upriver to Karvachar, the tiny regional capital.
Section 15: Karvachar to Tsar
Summary: 20 km, medium, not or badly marked
Down from Karvachar into Tartar Gorge you hike though a canyon upstream, dip into the geyser and continue along the Tartar. At the turnoff to Tsar village a steep ascent follow up to the mountain plateau of Tsar.
Section 16: Tsar to Vardenis
Summary: 34 km, difficult, not or badly marked
Over the mountain plateau into Armenia and finally Vardenis at the southeast corner of Lake Sevan. You can try shorten this part by trying to find a taxi as soon as you reach the first villages in Armenia.
See and do
There are many popular sights like monasteries and monuments along the way (sometimes a little off-track), and several hot springs allow for a refresh during a day of hiking.
There exist marked campsites along the trail—consult OpenStreetMap.
Otherwise numerous homestays offer their service along the way. In the following a list of such homestays for each village and town in the order of hiking.
- Hamlet and Susan, ☏ , . 5 beds.
- Ira, ☏ . 5 beds.
- Artur and Sveta.
- Nikolai. Just a campground in the backyard.
- Vardan, ☏ .
- Armo. 3 separate bedrooms with 6 beds for guests.
- Aro, ☏ . 8-9 beds in separate bedrooms.
- Officer Samvel, ☏ (Samuel), (Mr. Borik).
- Samvel the younger, ☏ . Large groups are ok.
- Tiko, ☏ .
- Vasak and Tatevik, ☏ .
- Henrikh and Madlen Stepanian, ☏ . A double room with 2 extra beds possible.
- Mardik sister, ☏ .
- Surik and Zamira Hayrapetian, ☏ . 2 rooms with twin beds.
- Yurik and Zamira Hayrapetian, ☏ . 2 rooms with 4 beds all together.
- Guesthouse Nadejda, ☏ , , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. A real guesthouse with 6 beds.
- Ulmar, ☏ , , , , . Ulmar is just a guy, but he know all the homestays in Karintak. 5-6 beds each.
- Alvart Dadayan. 3-4 people
- Gago, ☏ . Not for large groups, but couples.
- Nver Dadayan.
Patara (Ptretsik, Badara)
- Albert and Laura, ☏ . 5-6 beds.
- Armen and Luisa, ☏ , . 3-4 beds.
- Elmira (Emma) Hairapetian, ☏ . 3 beds.
- Suren, ☏ .
- Artur and Anahit Babayan, ☏ . 5 beds in separate bedrooms
- Onnik and Amalia Balassanian, ☏ .
- Sergey and Nadia Harutyunian, ☏ . 5 beds.
- Narimon House. 4-5 beds.
- Artush Mangasaryan. 10 beds and more.
- Gagik Zakharyan. 10 beds and more.
- Fedya Ohanyan, ☏ . 3 beds, plus another 10 at their neighbour's.
- Valo and Mareta Ohanyan. 4 beds.
- Vano (Vanya) and Nurvard.
- Vazgen and Dzovinar Baghdasarian. 4 beds.
- Ara and Inga Adamian, ☏ . 3-4 beds.
- Elmard and Hranush (Sonia) Sarafian, ☏ . 2 beds.
- Vova and Alina Begnazarian, ☏ , . 6 beds.
There are a few empty houses where you might set up sleeping bags and spend the night.
- Gegham Badalyan, ☏ (his relative in Yerevan).
- Hayk and Mrs. Alvart Danielian. 3 bedrooms.
- Lova and Mrs. Maret. 3 beds.
- Movses and Shoghik. 2 beds.
- Rafik Sayan. Not so comfortable, but in the village.
- Sasha Hovhanessyan. 5 beds.
Follow all of the safety information and warnings off on the Janapar Trial website. Stay far from the front lines, which won't be a problem if you stick to the trail.
There are reports of ammunition and mines in the forest between Gandzasar and Vaghuhas (Section 11). Always stay on the track and align with locals before crossing this part.
Preparation is like that of any extended trip/hike. You want to pack light, but be prepared to walk all day through different terrain, to navigate, and to protect yourself from the elements. You have either the option of bringing camping gear, or staying in villagers homes each night, as the trail is designed to bring you into a village each night at the end of your days hike.
In addition to the website mentioned above and Wikivoyage, the Viewranger app provides a specific Janapar Trail guide. This might be quite helpful on the trail, since you will likely not have a data connection.