Ucom and VivaCell-MTS networks are almost always available between Fantan village and Mount Gutanasar. In case of emergency, call 911, a service which is available throughout Armenia.
From the Geghard Monastery this ride begins on an easy paved pedal into the village of Goght before heading north along a mild climb to the village of Geghard. Just past the buildings a country road takes riders through beautiful open scenery and several kilometers of climbing to reach the shore of the lake and the Vishapakars above. After admiring these carved stone columns, descend back through Goght to end at the doorstep of the Temple of Garni. Overall the climbing during the first half is sustained and has some steeper sections, but taken casually will make for a lovely pedal to view a grand collection of landmarks.
Need to Know
- For the best experience take a taxi from one of the nearby villages to the start at the Geghard Monastery. We recommend taking a cab with a working taximeter, and making sure the driver uses it.
- Riders should keep the MTB Project mobile app handy as there are many of interconnecting unmarked roads on the way to the lake.
- If you're sticking around after you finish your ride, the Temple of Garni is lit by a beautiful glow of colored lights each evening.
- This is one of two recommended rides in the area. Consider arranging a stay with one of the guesthouses in advance to enjoy all the riding in the area.
- Best ridden from May to Ocotober. The ride generally takes between five and seven hours.
This ride starts at a beautiful mountain setting at the Geghard Monastery. To add to the charm, residents of Geghard village often play Armenian national music by the entrance of the complex. Start pedaling on the road you arrived on. The first 5 kilometers is paved as you travel through the villages of Goght and Geghard.
On the other side of Geghard a country road continues climbing a sandstone (soil) road that will continue to the top of the ride. You may see inhabitants of the area living in tents and tending cattle until the first snow falls. The peacefulness of the road and surrounding views is occasionally interrupted by the strong call of birds living in the plains. The distant shape of Mount Azhdahak (3,795m), the queen of the Geghama Mountains, creates a striking background to the open scenery.
Near the top the steady climbing backs off as the road follows a lightly rolling grade to reach Geghardalich (21 kilometers from the start). In addition to the lovely highland lake you'll find a collection of Vishapakars ranging in size up to five meters tall. These ancient statues were dedicated to the worship of dragons and date back to the III millennium BC.
Return through the village of Goght on a pleasant descent to continue down to the ride's end at the Temple of Garni. There's also the opportunity to stop at an observation point or the Bed & Breakfast Garni guesthouse to enjoy the view of Mount Ararat. The temple at the end of the paved roads is well-preserved and has majestic architecture and carvings making it another popular destination for tourists.
Flora: The flora of the Geghama Mountains is very rich, colorful and fragrant, in the summertime. The area is located above the tree line so there are no forests. Instead, the alpine landscape is marked with meadows and small mountain lakes, and the cold shores of streams and rivulets descending from the mountains are covered with alpine flowers. Look for the chamomile, immortelle, thyme, nettle, dandelion, bellflower, and the dark blue alpine violet.
Fauna: In the illustrations of the Geghama Mountains, we can see various species of wild animals. The petroglyphs of the Geghama mountains portray a diversity of animals including wild bulls and oxen, Caucasian deer, lions, roes, horses, foxes, wolves, dogs, boars, lynx, leopards, hares, swans, and reptiles.
History & Background
Geghard Monastery is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The two-story stone temples and a church along with cave structures and several tombs are one of the most popular landmarks in Armenia. The nearby village of Gehard was founded in the ninth century by Grigor Lusavorich (Gregory the Illuminator).
Geghardalich, a small freshwater lake and reservoir, sits in the highlands of the Geghard plateau. The water rises each spring from snowmelt and spring floods before subsiding over the summer as its used in irrigation. Standing on a knoll above the water are several ancient statues called Vishapakars (dragon stones). Varying in size, these solid stones resemble fish but have other animals carved into them too.
At the end of the ride is the Pagan Temple of Garni Legend has it that Garni was founded by Hayk Nahapet’s great-grandson, Gegham, who named the temple after his grandson Garnik. Another legend claims that Garni was originally called the Temple of the Sun.