- Riding style(s): Cycle touring, bikepacking
- Length: 212 km / 132 miles
- Elevation gain/loss: 2,862m / 9,390ft
- Suggested duration: 2–4 days
- Road conditions: Mostly paved, with one major unpaved section
- Terrain: Rolling steppe and plains with two significant mountain passes
This is a multi-day loop on a mixture of paved and good unpaved provincial roads. Our suggested 2-day itinerary begins and ends in Gyumri, with an overnight stop in or around Stepanavan. If you have camping equipment, you may prefer to spread the ride over 3–4 days in order to spend more time at the various heritage sites of interest on or close by the route.
Leaving Gyumri on the H32 heading northwest, the first point of interest is Marmashen, a 10th-century monastic complex of five churches on the banks of the Akhurian River. The route continues upriver to Amasia where it bears east, using a short (6km) section of the M1 main road to connect to a good unpaved road to Tashir in Lori province. This remote and little-used road crosses the Javakheti mountain range through spectacular wildflower meadows, bringing you to the small town of Tashir to resupply and rest. From Tashir you may shortcut to Stepanavan if time is short; otherwise continue east on a dirt road to the Russian village of Privolnoye with its ruinous Russian Orthodox Church of Archangel Michael. South from Privolnoye, a broken asphalt road passes the restored Dorbandavank monastery on a hillside to the east before bringing you to Stepanavan, named after the Armenian Bolshevik revolutionary Stepan Shahumyan, where several hotels and a good cafe-restaurant await you. Accommodation is also available in the nearby villages of Amrakits and Gargar, as well as at the Sochut Dendropark which is a 4km detour south from Gyulagarak village.
South from Stepanavan, take the relatively quiet M3 main road, which winds up through beautiful forested hillsides before climbing up to the Pushkin Pass (we do not recommend shortcutting through the tunnel), the site of Armenia’s only windfarm and a spectacular viewpoint over the Bazum mountain range. Plummeting down to the valley of the Pambak river, head west on a (sometimes busy) section of the M3 main road to Spitak, where accommodation is available at the YMCA if needed. From Spitak west, the road is much quieter as you return towards Gyumri. A final point of interest, in the village of Jajur is the house-museum of Minas Avetisyan, a famous anti-establishment artist of the Soviet era who was allegedly murdered by the KGB for his political views. Enjoy the final flat stretch back to Gyumri, where good food, warm hospitality and onward transport links await you.