Mount Aragats. Hiking the top of Armenia.

Highest peak of Armenia is a stratovulcano called Aragats. It actually has four peaks. The highest one is the Northern summit (4,090 m), and it also is the highest point of the Lesser Caucasus and Armenia. Lowest and easiest to hike is the southern summit (3879 m), which you can reach from the lake Kari (3200 m).

Not far from Armenian capital Yerevan and high above the city smog, there is a lake called Kari. You can reach it by an hour in a taxi. There is no public transportation. The other option is to use masrhrutka up to Byurakan and hitchhike the rest of the journey.

There are plenty of shepherds shelters along the narrow road to the mountain lake. Their big dogs try to fight with the car. Once you reach the lake, there is a meteo-station and a restaurant by the lake.

It is much cooler and fresher than in the hot and dusty city. Plenty of locals come here just for a picnic by the lake. A sign on the restaurant wall shows the way to the mountain -to the right along the building.

Southern peak and the southwestern pass are visible from the lake, so you basically know where to go. To do all the peaks in one day is also possible, but it is very long and technically much more difficult. High altitude can make you tired ans sick, so it becomes even harder or impossible.

There is a visible trail from the beginning. First part is wide even for the car, then it gets smaller on a wide meadow. At approximately 3500 m you need to cross a stone field. The trail seems to disappear, but there are actually more of them. It doesn’t really matter which option you take. They join together soon, at a mild ridge above the snow field. Snow usually remains here until late summer.

Once you reach the visible trail again, it winds up to the pass (3800 m). Here the amazing view of the crater and all four summits opens. Standing by the edge, you can see colorfull volcanic mountains in contrast with white snow fields. Deep down below our feet, the river Gegarot starts and leaves the crater between eastern and southern summit.

To reach the southern summit, you just go a few more meters eastwards (to the right). There is a steel cross, little stone wall, that protects your snack pause against the wind and plenty of small cairns.

After enjoying the beautiful crated view enough, you can turn around. If you are lucky and the air is clear enough, you can see ararat. The principal national symbol of Armenia and a sacred mountain lies beyond the border in Turkey. But the political border is not what makes it impossible to see on hot summer days. It is the city smog above Yerevan, that makes an invisible wall. Google winter pictures, to see the difference…

If you really want to see the mountain, try Khor Virap Monastery, which is very close to the border and to Ararat and also further from the city smog.

To descend use the same way. You also need to cross the stone field, now leftwards. In a good weather, you see the lake all the time.

When you get back to the lake, you can try the typical armenian soup Khash. It is traditional thick soup made of boiled cow or sheep parts, which might include the head, feet, and stomach. It is served with traditional bread lavash, salt and garlic and for many tourists it is just too strong. For locals it is a famous place anyway.

The hike to the Southern summit seems to be easy and usually is. Keep in mind, that you are high in mountains and be aware that mountain sickness can make it much harder. Taky plenty of water, sunscreen, cover your head and protect your eyes.