Northern Armenia's Holiday Spots

We left our campsite on the outskirts of Vanadzhor taking a route that bypassed the city centre. Although “shorter” in distance, the condition of the roads didn't save us much time (maybe it lengthened our trip). But who cares? It's nice to avoid the highways. We made our way through the back roads, making a few wrong turns, passing friendly locals and even spotting a few gems from the past.   Leaving our Vanadzhor campsite on back roads

  When we took this photo a nearby man proclaimed "comrades good"

Our first destination on the way to Yerevan was the resort town of Dilijan a 700m easy, gradual climb from Vanadzhor. Dilijan is surrounded by densely forested hills and even with our first day of cycling in the rain the ride was (the comparison of Dilijan to Switzerland didn't seem like much of a stretch). It was fun to bring out the rain gear that we'd been carrying for two months without ever using (but Molly and Kyle seriously outdid us with the hazmat suits that they got courtesy of an oil worker in Georgia).   Our first day of cycling in the rain

  The 20km descent into Dilijan

Yann and I spent a rest day in Dilijan, relaxing and enjoying the cool alpine climate. We parted ways with Molly and Kyle who were on a much tighter schedule than us. From Dilijan we were a little bit worried about our almost 1000m to Lake Sevan, our biggest concern being the 3km Dilijan Tunnel that we would be slowly climbing through. We crossed a cyclist who said that he had inhaled enough fumes in the tunnel to counteract any of the positive health effects of his cycling trip (and he was riding in the opposite direction, downhill). We also heard reports that it was unavoidable and others that said we could take a bypass road (Google Maps had no answers either). We set out hoping that we could find a way to avoid it.

It took us most of the morning to climb to the tunnel, multiple switchbacks making for easy grades and a way better ride that we had hoped. The Armenian drivers continued to be fantastic, slowing down at every turn, never passing blindly and generally being cautious and smart on the mountain roads. Other than worrying about the tunnel the ride was great.   A long, gradual climb out of Dilijan towards Lake Sevan

Near the entrance to the tunnel we spotted a turn-off for a detour, we could see that by taking the detour we were adding a few hundred metres to our climb but we couldn't have cared less. The road we gradually switchbacked its way up the mountain to the Sevan Pass (2114m) through the small villages of Semyonovka and Tsovaghugh before rejoining the highway at Lake Sevan. Despite the fact that the road is in good condition and completely quiet, vehicles seem to overwhelmingly use the tunnel, we crossed two cars and one tractor in the hour or so it took us to bypass the tunnel. We had one of our favourite riding days to date, perfect weather, beautiful scenery, no traffic, what a success!   Avoiding the Dilijan Tunnel by climbing to the Sevan Pass (2114m)

  The road over the Sevan Pass was all ours

Camping at Lake Sevan was a little bit less of a success. This was our own fault. Once we saw what the touristy section of the lake was like, we should have rode on. But it's hard to ride on when you aren't sure where to go or what to expect. We paid to camp on one of the many beaches that line the Sevan Peninsula near its famous monastery. The peninsula is only 70km from Yerevan and is an understandably popular place for escaping the city's summer weather, we should have been prepared for the crowds. But each beach seems to be equipped with an exceedingly loud stereo system and a limited selection of Russian techno music (played on repeat). The actual "beach" at the place where we stayed only took up a tiny fraction of the property, most of its shoreline was occupied by a gigantic concrete patio for the bar. To be fair, we were at one of the lake's most inexpensive establishments and the staff were very nice and did their best to make sure we were comfortable. There was just no privacy and no peace.   Our private campsite at Lake Sevan

When we left the lake we made sure to visit the beautiful Sevanavank Monastery which we did early enough to be the only tourists on site. So we did in fact get a few moments of peace in the end.   Morning at Sevanavank, before the tour buses arrive

Stats for Vanadzhor to Yerevan:

Days of cycling: 3
Days of rest: 1
Kilometres cycled: 147
Metres climbed: 2116
Cycle-tourists crossed on the road: 4

Partially sponsored by Mountain Equipment Coop  Expedition Support


mom said...

I loved the picture of everyone clustering around your tent. (I have tried about 5 times to get this comment past the "prove you are not a robot" )

Papa said...

Yes nice post.I'm surprised Mom was able to mimic a human.