One of the oldest protected areas in the world offers an ancient history in the middle of wild nature. You can see a roman temple, cave monastery, a church ruin and a stone symphony with a refreshing river in one day.
Khosrov Forest State Reserve was founded in the 4th century. Few years after the christianity became an official religion. Armenia was the first country in the world that was officially christianised. The Armenian Apostolic Church is one of the most ancient Christian institutions and persists till today. .
It was the king Khosrov III who gave the reservation it’s name, planted trees and brought new species of animals. The climate is pretty arid here and any tree that gives shade is welcome nowadays.
It became an official state reserve in 1958 with 239 km² and elevations from 700 to 2800 m above sea level. Reservation protects caucassian fauna and flora. There are some tourist trails within the park, but no camping is allowed inside. There are legal camping places near the border of the reservation by the guard’s house, where you also pay the entry fee.
Khosrov reservation is not far from Yerevan, the Armenian capital. You can get there in one hour by public transport. For an easy hike, go to the Garni temple. For more culture, go further to the Geghard monastery at the end of the valley.
Garni Temple is the only standing Greco-Roman temple in Armenia and the former Soviet Union. It is also one of few armenian monuments where the entry fee is required. There is one significant difference from greek temples. This one is black. Made of volcanic basalt rock in the first century.
The temple stands on the edge of a deep gorge of river Azat. Ite clear water supplies Yerevan. Right behind the temple a magnificent view of the gorge opens. Stone symphony - basalt rock columns are on the opposite side. Walk down the trail to the river and enjoy the view.
Continue ustream along the river and admire more of the symphony canyon. High hexagonal basalt column look like a huge organ. Flocks of birds found their shelter here and nested under the overhanging columns.
After almost two kilometers you are at the end of the symphony canyon. You can end your walk here in a restaurant and take a taxi back to Garni or cross a twelve-century stone bridge to hike more. The dusty trail takes you steep up to the other side of the canyon. Soon you reach a small campsite with fresh water pipe. There is a park guardian’s house, where you pay the fee to continue hiking.
A guy in an uniform shows you the way further to the Havuts Tar monastery ruin. It is visible far in the distance on a round hill. There is a wide dusty road that comes there in about 2,5 km. It’s origins date back to 12th century. The main church stands on a hill with an amazing view of the basalt rock valley and the Garni temple far back on the other side. Four hundred years ago it was destroyed by an earthquake and never rebuilt. Amenaprkich Church was constructed in a checkerboard pattern of red and dark gray tuff stone.
It is better to walk back to Garni from here and take a bus or taxi to continue to Geghard monastery. This UNESCO monastery is partly carved in a cave. The main chappel was built in 1215. The original name was Ayrivank, meaning "the Monastery of the Cave". The common name is Geghard (or fully Geghardavank), meaning "the Monastery of the Spear", originates from the spear which had wounded Jesus at the Crucifixion. That spear is now stored in the Echmiadzin treasury.
There are some restaurants on the road and a big parking under the monastery.
If you decide to hike from Havuts Tar, expect an almost invisible trail hidden in a spiky bushes. Not many hikers go through here. Scree slopes go down to the river valley with some fruit trees giving a shade to grazing cows. Steeps slopes above give the feeling of a real wilderness.
Once you cross the river walk through some fruit (apricots, cherries) gardens back to the road. Rest of the hike follows the asphalt road.