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Armenian Highlands

Looking-out-over-a-gorge-and-mountains-on-a-Slow-Cyclist-journey-in-Armenia

A guided journey by electric bike and on foot through the northern Armenian highlands, travelling west to east discovering an ancient land with a complex history among monasteries and churches, snow-capped peaks and charming cities.

Duration
6 nights
Type
Electric biking & walking
Price
£3,390 per person
Group size
Maximum 12 guests
Good To Know

There are currently no direct flights between Yerevan and the UK. We have designed this journey to benefit from flights with Air France via Paris. Flights can fill up quickly, so we recommend booking as soon as your trip is confirmed.

  • "Having experienced two Slow Cyclist trips now, their quality of delivery and attention to detail mean it is no surprise that many of their guests keep coming back for more."
    Jan T, Transylvania
  • In a world of package holidays to big tourist haunts this trip stood out like a beacon - full of adventure, exercise, fresh food, stunning scenery, wonderful locals. In a word, unique.
    Bob M, Rwanda
  • Our third time with The Slow Cyclist and it was a superlative trip. The scenery, and places to stay were perfect. But the outstanding thing to me was the approach of your team. They anticipated our every need.
    Edward G, Mani

Welcome to The Slow Cyclist

Ever since launching our Hidden Anatolia journey in Turkey's Taurus Mountains, I've been curious about the tiny landlocked country east of Turkey. I fell in love on my first visit to Armenia, and knew immediately that it was a special place to share with guests, the rugged mountains and forests perfect to explore by bike. And the people here are some of the most welcoming and hospitable I've ever met. I hope you love Armenia as much as I do.

Photo of Oli Broom
Oli Broom's signature Oli Broom
Founder, The Slow Cyclist

Introduction

The Journey

Our time in Armenia begins with an overnight stay in its charming capital Yerevan. We then transfer to Gyumri, where we begin cycling eastwards from a nearby village. Over the next few days we travel on foot and by electric bike through a rich array of landscapes, from grasslands to lush forests and meadows, rushing rivers to canyons. Pedalling along old Soviet-era roads and trails and walking across meadows and through vast forests, we will discover a vibrant traditional culture through the many people we meet along the way.

Is It For Me?

Our journeys are built around friendship, exceptional hospitality and the great outdoors. Slow Cyclists are curious travellers with a bit of juice in their legs, approaching our time on a bike - or on foot - as an opportunity to explore rather than test our fitness. That’s not to say we don’t pedal hard sometimes, just that we are often distracted by the food, history and people that make a place special. When we see something interesting, we tend to stop and take it in rather than race by. If this sounds like you, we're pretty sure you'll love your time exploring Armenia with us.

When to Go?

Snow covers some of our route until the end of April so we don't begin welcoming guests until the end of May. June, July, September and October are also great times to travel. With more than 90% of Armenia lying at heights of 1,000 metres above sea level, the summer temperatures in the mountains range between between 15 and 25°C, whilst Yerevan will see higher temperatures. May sees an abundance of wildflowers and emerald grasses, while autumn gives way to burnt amber grasslands and vibrant reds, oranges and yellows in the lush forests, as well as delicious autumn fruits. Temperatures drop quite a few degrees in the evenings. Rainfall is not uncommon in May and June, while September and October are slightly drier.

On the Move

The Walking & Cycling

The daily cycling distances range from 12 - 60 kms, on a mix of old and newly surfaced roads, gravel roads and meadows. Walks are up to 10 kms on grass and tracks. Some of the cycling could be challenging for those without experience, as there are downhill gravel sections and some of the old road surfaces are rock strewn and potholed. This region of Armenia is hilly and the distances we cover, although not huge, are still not inconsiderable so it is important that you have good general fitness and are comfortable riding a bicycle off- and on-road, up and down hills. Our guides are skilled at spotting your ability and level of confidence and reacting accordingly.

Food & Drink

Armenian cuisine is steeped in tradition. It is considered one of the oldest in Asia, its recipes hearty and rich in flavour, always using locally grown produce. Ghapama, a celebratory dish of pumpkin stuffed with rice, spices and dried fruits, has a song dedicated to it and khash, an ancient soup, has its own ritual involving salt, vodka and three toasts. We’ll try dishes unique to the region, including Armenia's favourite sweet treat, gata, and everyone’s favourite khorovats (an Armenian BBQ). Armenians are not big tea drinkers, favouring compotes and hot drinks made from wild mountain herbs; but no day starts without Armenian coffee. Sometimes we will eat in the open, at other times in private homes, traditional kitchens and small guest houses.

Flora & Fauna

Armenia may be a small country, but it is incredibly rich in flora and fauna. The country has over 3,500 plant species, from semi-desert shrubs to aquatic flora. In spring and summer the grasslands are blanketed in orchids, gladioli and irises. The wild poppy fields near Gyumri are particularly spectacular. And there is a huge range of wildlife to spot, too. The country is home to an abundance of rare species, from bezoar goats to Caucasian leopards, grey wolves and Eurasian lynx. Spring and autumn see migratory birds passing through, including flamingos, pelicans and shrikes.

Itinerary

We take a less-is-more approach to the itineraries we provide. We do this because we think travel is at its best when plans remain flexible and when, as travellers, our guests don't always know what's coming next. So, please treat this itinerary as a guide to how your time with us is likely to unfold. You will have experiences, meet people and see places that we have not listed here. There may also be occasions when, for good reason, we cannot fulfill every detail here. Finally, please treat distances as estimates because the routes we take may vary slightly.
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Day 1 - Saturday 31 May - Arrival

Transfer 30 minutes

The Air France flight we recommend lands at Zvartnots International Airport outside Yerevan at 21.30. We will transfer you straight to the Grand Hotel Yerevan, where you can catch a good night's sleep at the start of your Armenian adventure.

Day 2 - Sunday 1 June - Yerevan to Gyumri

Morning walk 2.5 hours - Afternoon transfer 3.5 hours

Armenia’s charming and vibrant capital city, Yerevan, founded in 782 BC, is so named because it's believed that Noah, sighting dry land, cried in Armenian “Yerevats! Yerevats!” (“It’s appeared! It’s appeared!”). We begin our morning with a walk through this friendly city, uncovering layers of history among streets lined with lively cafes and wine bars, fascinating museums, symmetrical squares and soviet era architecture. We’ll pay our respects to the reported 1.5 million Armenians who lost their lives during the genocide in 1915, followed by a light lunch at an art gallery. We’ll break the 3.5 hour drive to Gyumri with a visit to the 10th century Amberd Fortress in the foothills of Mount Aragats which, standing at 4,090 metres, is Armenia's highest mountain. Arriving in Gyumri in the early evening, we’ll check into our hotel and, if there’s time, walk to Vardanants Square. Dinner will be at a small family owned restaurant in the city.

Day 3 - Monday 2 June - Gyumri to Stepanavan

Morning cycle 38 kms - Afternoon cycle 20 kms

Bidding farewell to urban Armenia, we’ll take a short transfer before jumpng on our bikes near the village of Musayelyan. At 2,000 metres above sea level, this is the highest point on our journey through Armenia’s highlands. We’ll cycle along an old Soviet-era road, passing through expansive steppe and alongside rolling hills. After lunch in a village west of Stepanavan, named in 1923 to honour the Bolshevik leader Stepan Shahumyan, we’ll cycle along a river and through meadows to reach the town itself. Tonight we’ll stay in a modern, family owned guest house and enjoy dinner cooked by the family.

Day 4 - Tuesday 3 June - Stepanavan to Debet

Morning walk 7 kms - Afternoon cycle 30 kms

After breakfast we’ll continue our journey into a very different landscape on foot, through forested hills and meadows to Pushkino. There we will hop on our bikes and cycle along the southern edge of the Dzoraget river gorge. The gravel road is barely used, and a little rough in places so patience and concentration is required (there is the option of taking a smooth tarmac road much of the way too). After lunch we cycle out of the gorge and descend across another - the Debet river canyon - to our accommodation, a modern concept hotel that is run as a social enterprise. Income is invested into delivering educational programmes to more than 2,000 children in the surrounding rural communities. Dinner will be with our friends at their guesthouse, which is a short walk from the hotel.

Day 5 - Wednesday 4 June - Debet to Ahnidzor

Morning walk 7 kms - Afternoon cycle 30 kms

There is no better way to start the day than to walk unencumbered through the quiet villages, rolling hills and wooded hillsides of the Armenian countryside. Starting from the hotel we’ll walk out through the peaceful village of Debet into the hills to Yeghegnut. There we’ll be met with our bikes for a short cycle to the nearby village of Dsegh, once home to the 'Poet of All Armenians', Hovhannes Tumanyan. After visiting his former home, we’ll wind our way along another quiet old road and along the river Marts. Tonight we’ll stay in simple, comfortable log cabins beside a rushing river where our host Davit will look after us.

Day 6 - Thursday 5 June - Ahnidzor to Atan and Yerevan

Morning walk 9 kms - Afternoon cycle 26 kms - Transfer 3.5 hours

Davit’s cabins sit within a wild and forested landscape, unfenced and unexplored. We’ll set off on foot to walk through two of our favourite villages. Following a river through the forest, we'll then climb up and over the hill to Atan, passing grazing horses and shepherds. By bike we will make our way through Davit’s ancestral homeland, where his family has lived for seven generations. After lunch we’ll cycle gently downhill for 18 km where we will be met by our transfer vehicle which will take us back to the Grand Hotel Yerevan, where our journey began. Our final dinner will be at one of our favourite restaurants in Yerevan

Day 7 - Friday 6 June - Departure

We have designed this journey to align with the Air France flight that departs Yerevan this morning. Assuming you are taking this flight, we will drive you to the airport and say our goodbyes.

Practical Information

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Guiding & Support

Our attention to detail sets us apart. You will be accompanied throughout by a member of The Slow Cyclist team from the UK who will act as your host. In addition, you will be looked after by two of our local guides, who will introduce you to Armenia's complex history, culture, traditions and politics. We are sure you will become firm friends by the time you leave. Finally, your bags will be driven ahead each day and a support vehicle will be on hand (although never too close) in case you need a lift.

Slow-Cyclist-cabin-in-woods-Armenia

Accommodation

Rural tourism is very new to Armenia generally, and this corner of the country in particular. That said, we think you will be perfectly comfortable throughout, staying in a mix of charming hotels, guest houses and simple cabins. To help you get a good night's sleep we provide luxury pillows in addition to those provided by the guest houses. Rooms are generally en-suite, although one of the cabins is not. Wi-Fi or a good 4G connection is available each night. If accommodation is listed in this itinerary it is as a guide and where required any substitutes will be of similar quality. Lodging is based on twin or double sharing although a single supplement is available.

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Bikes & Safety

We take your safety seriously. You must wear a helmet when cycling and we cannot accept bookings from anyone unwilling to wear one. The bikes you'll be riding with us are electric bikes. You will be given a brief lesson in how to use them effectively before we start cycling. If you have any technical issues during your time with us, from squeaky brakes to punctures, please let us know and we’ll fix it. And finally, please don’t worry if you feel you are too slow or too fast for others in the group. We have a guide at the front and one at the back precisely for that reason. Please remember, we're not here to race; this is a journey to take time over.

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Packing & Reading

Well in advance of your travels we will send you an online Information Pack including various details you need to know in advance. This will include a suggested packing list but also a reading list, should you wish to soak up Armenia's literary history before you arrive.

Young-horse-in-Armenia-Slow-Cyclist View-from-Slow-Cyclist-cabin-in-woods-Armenia

Pricing & Booking

Price

£3,390 per person

Extras

Single occupancy supplement £450

We are often told how nice it is that almost everything is paid for up front. So, while you are with us you can forget about your wallet, relax and enjoy yourselves. Included are:

  • Group airport transfers (1 x arrival, 1 x departure)
  • Support vehicle and luggage transfers
  • TSC host & 2 x English-speaking local guides
  • All accommodation, meals, snacks & drinks
  • All activities
  • Full suspension electric bike and helmet hire
  • 100% financial security
  • Donation to a local cause that is aligned with our values
  • Flights
  • Personal costs
  • Tips (optional, of course)
  • Travel insurance
  • Visas (if required)

For private groups a 30% deposit is required from the group leader and, thereafter, from each member of the party. A minimum of 50% of the party are required to book and pay their deposit within one month of the group leader. The balance is due 10 weeks before the departure date.

If you are travelling on one of our Scheduled Journeys, we require a 30% deposit on the core trip price (i.e. not on any extras) at the time of booking. The balance is due 10 weeks before the departure date.

Please make sure you are familiar with our Standard Terms & Conditions before booking.

You will receive two emails shortly after booking. First, a payment receipt, then a second email explaining next steps. Within two working days you will then be contacted by a member of our Guest Services team who will look after and advise you in the lead up to your travels

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Getting there

Flights

You are responsible for booking your own flights and they are not included in the cost of the trip. We have designed the trip around the Air France flights from London Heathrow (or other UK regional airports) via Paris and into Yerevan Zvartnots International Airport. These provide the best arrival and departure times. Another option is flying with Pegasus Airlines via Istanbul. If you would like help researching and booking your flights we recommend contacting Liz Rees, who helps many of our guests with their supplementary transport requirements. Please let her know your departure dates and preferred airport. Her contact details are liz.rees@travelcounsellors.com or +44 7816 936876.

Transfers

We will provide one transfer for the group on arrival and another on departure. If you need to look at alternative transport options because you are arriving or leaving earlier or later, we recommend contacting Liz Rees, who helps many of our guests with their supplementary transport requirements.

Protect the Planet

We are thrilled that increasing numbers of our guests are choosing to get to and back from their Slow Cyclist adventure in creative ways, for environmental reasons. We understand that this may not be practical, but urge you to consider doing so if you can make it work. Of course, you can undertake the research and book yourself, or Liz Rees can organise your journey for you.

History of Armenia

Armenia has existed in some form since the 5th century BC, when it was a territory spreading across modern-day Eastern Anatolia, the South Caucasus and part of Iran. Since then, it has had a varied and turbulent history, frequently oscillating between Byzantine, Persian, Mongol or Turkish control, as well as periods of independence. In 301 CE, Armenia became the first nation in the world to embrace Christianity as its official religion. However, converting its citizens to the new religion often involved coercive and violent measures. A key part of Armenia’s history lies in its language and alphabet. Mesrop Mashtots was working as a translator in the Armenian royal chancellery at the end of the 4th century BC, and realised that much of the resistance to Christianity came from the unfamiliarity of the Greek and Syriac translations of the Christian liturgy and theology. He created a new phonetic alphabet to help Armenians adapt to the written form of a language they were already speaking. The letters were designed in very distinctive shapes, dissimilar to the lettering of other written languages of the time. The unique language and alphabet gave a new identity to the Armenians. Armenia's 20th century history has often been painful. In 1915 it is estimated that 1.5 million Armenians were killed in the Armenian Genocide. In 1918 Independent Armenia emerged from the demise of the Ottoman Empire but was incorporated into the Soviet Union four years later. It is estimated that during the second half of the 20th century a third of all Soviet military electronics were designed and produced in Armenia, and it was also home to the secret Yerevan Computer Research Institute, which employed thousands of highly skilled workers. Recent Armenian history is defined by three major events: a catastrophic earthquake in 1988 that killed almost 25,000 people; the collapse of the USSR in 1991, known in Armenia as the ‘dark years’ when food was limited and the electricity network was almost completely destroyed; and the most recent conflict with Azerbaijan, over the mainly Armenian-inhabited Nagorno-Karabakh region. In 1991 Armenian declared independence and the modern republic began.

Our Ethos

Slow travel is about savouring the journey, the people, the sights, smells and sounds along the way. It encourages deeper connections, friendship and lifelong memories. It is local, thoughtful and sensitive to its impact. It is an antidote to mindless mass tourism. A bicycle journey – indeed, a journey with The Slow Cyclist – is a wonderful way to travel slowly. With an open mind, an open heart and a little juice in the legs, it can provide the ultimate slow exploration of new lands, their food, history, landscapes and people. But although it's our focus, we don't just want to run great trips. In fact, we spend much of our time thinking about how we can run great trips, while benefiting people and planet. Our values guide us to this end.
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Exceptional Quality

Our passion for creating exceptional shared experiences in places we love is reflected in the journeys we design. We don't rest on our laurels, seeking continued improvement and innovation so that you, our guests, are enriched around every bend in the road.

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Community Driven

The Slow Cyclist was born as an antidote to mass tourism. All stakeholders, from our guests and team in the UK to our local guides, from food producers we work with to the communities whose lives we touch, must feel our influence and impact is positive.

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Future Focused

We travel with a light footprint but that’s not enough. We can always do more. We are part of a generation that must act responsibly in business and in tourism; one that begins to restore our planet's biodiversity and delicate ecosystems.

Have more questions? +44 1865 410 356