This challenging mountain-biking route follows the Vorotan Gorge from Sisian to the world-famous Tatev Monastery and onwards to Goris, using a mixture of minor provincial roads and remote 4×4 tracks in the mountainous backcountry. From Tatev, a cable-car makes the second leg to Goris shorter and easier. We recommend a full day for an experienced rider to complete this route, and that less experienced or less fit riders try a shorter section of the route, e.g. from Ltsen to Tatev.
From the north side of the river in Sisian, follow Spandaryan Street east to leave the town on the H44 paved road. The road climbs over low hills before dropping down into the gorge and following the Vorotan river via Aghitu and Vorotan villages – the little-visited monastery of Vorotnavank makes a nice stopping point, as do the natural hot springs in Vorotan which are free and open to the public, though you may have to ask locals to help you find them!
Cross the Melik Tangi bridge and continue on the paved route along the south side of Shamb reservoir before then climbing up switchbacks to Ltsen, the last village on the paved road. From Ltsen, a little-used 4×4 track weaves its way up along the hillsides through fields and forests, with several freshwater springs and even a picnic shelter or two to break the climb. Watch out for the giant hogweed that infests a flooded section of the track in one place; in the summer it is best to walk through the weeds while taking care not to break any stems and get the juice on your skin (it reacts with sunlight to produce severe burns).
Panoramic views begin to dominate as you climb above the treeline. The route traverses the mountains, passing very close to spectacular clifftops before descending to the plateau above the village of Tatev – watch out for some very steep and rough downhill sections here. In Tatev, follow the tangle of residential roads downhill until you reach the 9th-century monastery with its nearby information centre and cafe. It’s worth taking a break to explore this important historical site – though by all accounts the best views are actually from the dirt road south out of the village where its clifftop aspect can be fully appreciated. Tatev also has plentiful accommodation, and the surrounding area is a great hiking destination in its own right.
If continuing to Goris, you may follow the dirt road down into the gorge and back up the other side, but this strenuous extra climb can be avoided by taking the cable-car across the gorge, which will carry a bicycle for the cost of an extra passenger. It is then possible to reach Goris via Shinuhayr and Khot on a quiet paved route that approaches Goris from the west – a much nicer ride than the main road in from the north. In central Goris there is a tourist information office and no shortage of accommodation and eating options, as well as public transport for your onward journey.