Lusagyugh, Red Monastery (Mkhe Vank), Tukh Manuk, Fort Aver

MODERATE 1 reviews

Lusagyugh, Red Monastery (Mkhe Vank), Tukh Manuk, Fort Aver is a 10.9 kilometer lightly trafficked out and back trail located near Ashtarak, Kotayk', Armenia that features beautiful wild flowers. The trail is rated as moderate and primarily used for hiking.

DISTANCE
10.9 km
ELEVATION GAIN
936 m
ROUTE TYPE
Out & Back

hiking

forest

views

wild flowers

wildlife

historic site

no dogs

This hike goes through the slopes of the Tsaghkunyats mountains. The trailhead is in Lusagyugh village, in the Aragatsotn province, 2 km from the town of Aparan. The first site on the hike - the Mkhei monastery - dates back to pagan times, and once served as an inn for travelers. Further down the trail is the Tukh Manuk shrine, which was once dedicated to the sun god Mihr, but is now a Christian monastery. Tukh Manuk is one of the rare places in Armenia where one can spot “equal-wing” cross stones. Different mountain ranges reveal themselves along the trail: the Aragats mountain on the west, and the Tsaghkunyats mountains on the east. Beyond the pagan temples and the silk road, the hike leads to Fort Aver, which is almost completely in ruins. The hike passes through birch and pine groves, as well as wild plum, pear, and apple trees. Hikers will return along the same route. “The Red Monastery” (“Mkhei Monastery”) has been preserved since pagan times and dates back to the 4th century. After the adoption of Christianity, it was turned into a Christian monastery and served as an inn for travelers, both native and foreign. The road (which is still visible) was for caravans that passed along the mountain summit. The monastery was named after Mkhe, a man who used to cultivate his land in the area. “Tukh Manuk” (“Veri Monastery”) is a 7th century church, possibly of pagan origin. It was dedicated to the sun god, Mihr. The “equal-winged” cross stones on the walls and the church grounds prove the age of this construction, as these types of cross stones are the predecessors of the common cross stone. There is also an underground well adjacent to the monastery. According to legend, it had healing properties, and many people came to seek relief from grievous pain and injury. “Fort Aver” (2nd -1st century BC) lies on the hill known as, “Dzakhi Dzor”. The cuneiform inscriptions (786 BC) of King Argishti, detail the ancient history of this fort, which had been ruined many times over history, during earthquakes and wars. The fort’s wells and tunnels are now blocked with large stones, preventing access to its underground portions. People say that sorcerers would make predictions in the forest. There is a legend that a tired man once carried wood from the forest toward his home, but could not put it in his shed, because the wood had attached itself to his back. The man had to return the wood to the forest, and after that incident, none of the nearby inhabitants tried to collect wood from that forest again. Due to this, the forest has been preserved and is considered a sacred place. The area is full of yellow dandelions, chamomile, blue forget-me-nots, colorful violets, and blossoming thorn plants, which have unique significance in pharmaceutics. Edible herbs - including sickleweed, nettle, and Chaerophyllum - also grow here, and are collected for use in various dishes. Those who love mushrooms can bring small knives and gather them during the hike, between April and June. It is necessary to show the mushrooms to the locals to be sure they are not poisonous. There are 5,000 hectares of forest, where oak, maple, and birch trees, as well as pine groves, apples and pear trees grow. The surrounding forests and flowery slopes fill the cool and bracing air with a unique fragrance. Vipers, adders, and lizards can be found in the beautiful meadows, cornfields, and the slopes leading to the summit. There are frogs in the swampy areas. The forests are home to many animals, including brown bears, hares, wolves, and foxes. Birdwatchers can enjoy a great variety of species, including wood and field larks, owls, quails, woodchat shrikes, falcons, eagles, sparrows, hoopoes and woodpeckers.