Solo Day Trip Guide to “Armenian Switzerland” – Dilijan & Lake Parz
Dilijan is called the ‘Switzerland of Armenia’. This beautiful town is located next to Lake Sevan and has quite a collection of monasteries surrounded by lush forests and small lakes. My solo trip to Dilijan sadly consisted of a single day that I spent there but it was still an absolutely fantastic day. I arrived in Sevan a day before, you can read about it here. After a night I hired the same taxi driver to take me around in Dilijan and Lake Parz.
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Most people use day trips to come here but I would recommend spending a night around here to enjoy the peace and calm of Lake Sevan and Dilijan. It used to be a famous resort area in Soviet times. It is still popular with Armenians.
Getting to Dilijan
Dilijan isn’t far from Yerevan and you can easily get here in an hour and a half. You can take the marshrutka from Yerevan, get a taxi which is quite cheap or use a day tour service from Yerevan. There are a lot of people in Republic Square offering seats till late in the evening. I would highly recommend combining it with Lake Sevan to avoid rushing. This place deserves time and it is well worth the effort. My solo trip to Sevan used a private taxi which was very cheap and comfortable. It cost me $30 for the entire day and I got dropped back to Yerevan at the end of the day.
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Food in Dilijan
Fresh grilled fish is the most amazing thing here. There are a lot of resorts scattered around Lake Sevan and around Dilijan as well. Most of them do amazing BBQ’s in the season. I had the best-grilled fish for the whole two days I spent in the region. Lightly salted without much oil, it was succulent and juicy and just rightly marinated.
There is also a good variety of fresh bread with every meal and lots of Liban which is sort of yoghurt. I also loved eating Gata which is a type of thick sweet bread. Best try it fresh and warm, I had it for breakfast and with evening tea. Wish I could get some right now. (drool drool!)
Getting Around in Dilijan
Public transport isn’t the best and I’d go to the length and say it is non-existent especially if you don’t speak Armenian or Russian. You have to have your own transport. I managed to hire a local taxi driver who charged me $40 for the whole day with a drop off in Yerevan in the evening, it was quite reasonable and he was good company. I’d also recommend getting the old-style Russian cars here like Lada because roads are horrible at some places like Lake Parz. These cars speed like rockets whereas other cars will take twice as much time at least. If you are planning a solo trip to Dilijan and Lake Parz you should hire a car but go with a Lada, you won’t be disappointed I promise.
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Where to Stay in Dilijan
I stayed at a hotel next to Lake Sevan called Armenia Van Sevan and it took me 30 minutes to get to Dilijan from Lake Sevan. There are plenty of nice resorts which are great especially for summer. I went slightly off-season so there were still good options but I could see they were planning to wind things down for winter.
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Things to Do in Dilijan
Dilijan is choke-full of monasteries, one more beautiful than others in very picturesque settings but that’s a problem. There is a limit after which you get saturated honestly. For my solo trip to Dilijan, I decided to spend my day with some time roaming in Hagharstin Monastery followed by Dilijan town and using Lake Parz as my last stop for the day.
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I woke up that morning after sleeping like a baby last in the peace and quiet of Lake Sevan. My Armenian driver cum travel buddy was waiting with his Lada, we headed on our way.
The first stop on this solo trip to Dilijan started with Hagharstin Monastery. Hagharstin Monastery is an easy 13 km ride from Dilijan and it took us an hour from my hotel. It was another beautiful day and we stopped on the way. The views of the entire places with winding roads were gorgeous at the very least. I was falling in love with Armenia.
The arrival at Hagharstin was also quite dramatic with the monastery covered in lush vegetation. I would have loved to live as a monk in older times. The monastery and its complex are well preserved, perhaps the best preserved of any monastery I have seen other than Noravank. There is a dining hall, a chapel and other buildings. In line with the Armenians Christian building style, the interiors are small and dark.
The surrounding forest, on the other hand, is covered with greenery. I walked around a bit to try and see how far I could go but the vegetation became quite thick quite quickly. Apparently, there is an unmarked trail that takes you to Goshavank Monastery but I am not sure how difficult it is.
It took some 30 minutes to get from the monastery to the Dilijan town. Dilijan is much smaller than I’d expected. The town is made of stone houses with lots of wood, almost like the Armenian version of Chalets. I walked around a bit before buying some tea to sit in the sun and enjoy some fresh gata bread with it. The sun felt amazing on my face and arms.
I got up and headed to Sharambeyan Street, which is sort of the main street with many shops. One thing I really liked about people in Caucuses is their nonchalance. They never push you to buy things which made me respect them. Whether it is the solo trip to Dilijan or Tatev, I felt very comfortable. Most people were friendly and smiled when I approached them. It was time to head to my next stop; the clear lake.
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Lake Parz in Armenian means ‘Clear Lake’. I didn’t know much about it but my travel buddy cum driver cum guide highly recommended it. After the monastery, we headed to the lake. Technically they are not far and it shouldn’t take you more than 20 minutes but the road to Lake Parz is horrible, to put it nicely.
This is where the Lada paid off, we were soaring through the slopes of the mountains. The entire route was very beautifully forested, we could barely see the sun, it was so dense. Eventually, we reached our destination and I remember somewhere about the lake by the poet Gevorg Emin:
Go to Parz Litch, I urge you to go. One last time I tell you to go as long as the magic is there.
Unfortunately, clear it wasn’t and I think because of over-tourism the lake has become very muddy. The scenery around is very beautiful, however. I spotted something interesting; an adventure park. They had the zipline to go from one side to another. I was contemplating doing it and saw some kids going for it. That was the point I decided to give it a go.
Ziplining over Lake Parz
I got all kitted up and got on the platform, slightly nervous at my first ‘flight’. I felt like a bird soaring through the skies over the lake for the brief seconds with the wind gushing through my hair. The second part was to return from the other side the same way and this time there was mere excitement. How I wished the zipline was 100 miles long over this beautiful lake covered by mountains and trees. Even the ducks seemed happy.
The next part was to get a boat and row to the end of it. It is a small lake and it wasn’t hard. The rowing challenge in the gym came handy. There weren’t a lot of people that day and the day was perfect temperature-wise.
Eventually, the started its journey westwards and I headed out of Parz because I still had to get to Yerevan and my travel buddy had to come back after that. It was a gorgeous day, a day well spent in the beauty of Dilijan. My solo trip to Dilijan went much better than I’d expected and I couldn’t be happier.
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