The Janapar Trail in Artsakh
There are many reasons to visit the region of Artsakh, or Nagorno-Karabakh. The region is filled with a rich history, hospitable people with incredible stories, beautiful nature, and of course, notorious and delicious local food.
Now, there is another reason to visit, and it combines all of the incredible aspects listed above. The Janapar Trail, officially launched in 2007, is an incredible hiking route founded by Raffi Kojian that takes you through the mountains and nature of Artsakh. The hike is divided into two parts: marked and unmarked. The former takes you from Hardut to Kolatak, with the latter beginning from Kolatak and ending at Vardenis. It is estimated to take about 16 days to complete.
Photo by Elizabeth Audrey
Although hikers, of course, have the option to pitch their tents in the evenings and sleep outside, what sets this initiative apart is the homestay directory included. Participants have a place to stay almost every night, and can experience local hospitality and culture first-hand, moving the dynamic away from tourism.
A friend of mine and a Janapar Trail participant, Elizabeth Audrey, told me about her experience, and also provided some recommendations for anyone thinking about taking the plunge and committing to the hike. Elizabeth hiked the first part of the trail in 2013 with a small group that helped her remark the trail, and completed the second unmarked half earlier this year with a friend. She confirmed the time recommended to complete the entire hike was accurate, and allows the hike to be completed “comfortably”.
She stated: “I love hiking, but the Janapar Trail took it a step further by intertwining that with culture, and I can say that the home stays made the entire trip more meaningful, and were a major part of why I chose to return to complete the hike. I still stay in touch with some of the families I met during the hike.”
She added that staying with local families also connected her with the communities she was in, and led to her tasting delicious local cuisine—including the seasonal fresh fruit!
Elizabeth also noted the exceptional nature found along the way of the trail, and especially noted the beauty of the zontiks (waterfall umbrellas) and the view atop the mountains where her and her friend made sure to pause and take in the breathtaking scenery.
When I asked if she had any advice for those (including myself) who may be interested in partaking in this incredible journey, Elizabeth stated: “Read everything available on the wiki site as the information is extremely relevant and useful. Summer in Artsakh is not as hot or humid as in Armenia, so it is a great time to do the hike, and be prepared in advance to politely refuse the copious amounts of oghi (vodka) that will be offered to you, to avoid beginning your morning hike feeling terrible!”
So there you have it! The Janapar Trail seems to be an unforgettable experience that combines the nature of Artsakh, its hospitable people, the history, as well as the delicious food, all in a 16-day adventure!
Have you hiked the Janapar Trail? What were the most memorable moments?