By Hovsep Dagdigian
The Trchkan waterfall is the highest waterfall in Armenia, located near the border of Shirak and Lori Marzes (provinces) on the Chichkhan river in NW Armenia. Water from the river drops 23 meters (about 70 feet) to a pool below. This is a popular site for the local people who are able to travel the mountainous and unpaved road to the falls.
The waterfall is accessable from the village of Nalband, about a half hour or so drive from Spitak. Once off the main road and on to the dirt and rock road winding through the mountains, it took our small rented 4-wheel drive vehicle well over an hour to reach the hights 30-40 feet above the falls.
On the way to the falls are patches of forest as well as hay fields in which hay had been harvested and stacked. It is obvious from the condition of the road and the slope of the fields that this hay must have been cut by hand rather than by large reaping machines which are found elsewhere in Armenia. There are no villages on this road although some villagers can be seen tending cattle which are grazing on the mountain fields. Others are in the fields tending their bee hives.
From a convenient parking site above the falls, it is a short walk to the bottom of the falls, fording on foot a couple of streams. The streams are only 1-2 feet deep. When crossing them I took extreme care not to slip on the rocky stream bed, fearing my camera would get wet. One small car descended to the stream below and attempted to cross it, getting stuck in the stream. It took 4-5 people to push the car to the bank of the stream, wth significant damage to the car.
Near the base of the falls people were bathing in the cool water, picknicking, eating khorovats, roasted chicken, fresh vegetables, and of course toasting each other with rounds of oghi. One group of men invited me to share with them their food and beverage. We talked a bit, sang a few patriotic songs, and then I took their picture. One man said even if he had a million dollars he would not leave this place. Life may be tough here, but I think the good times like these friends were enjoying is probably not matched in many other places. Where the balance lies, I do not know.
A few years ago the Armenian Ministry of Environmental Protection gave permission for the construction of a hydro-electric station here, violating its responsibility to protect this nature preserve. Young people camped out here for months, protesting the government’s failure to live up to its obligation to protect this site. Thanks to our impressive young Armenian activists, then Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan put an end to the planned hydro-electric station and granted full protection to the falls. Our young Armenians saved the falls from possible distruction.
I am not aware of any tour agencies offring tours to Trchkan falls though perhaps there are some. Access to the falls requires a 4-wheel drive off road vehicle. Hertz in Armenia, as well as other car rental agencies, offer such vehicles. Some rental agencies, such as Hertz, require an international driver’s license (available from AAA in the U.S.) to drive their cars.
The drive from Yerevan to Trchkan falls passes many other interesting sites to visit as well, including the monasteries at Mughni, Saghmosavank, and Hovhannavank. The Bash Aparan monument comemmorating the Armenian victory against the Turks in May 1918 (which led to the establishment of the first Armenian republic) is on the way. Also on the way is the village of Ushi which contains a couple of sites including the monastery of Soorp Sarkis. The monastery itself dates to the 11-12th C but the ancient remnants of a fort there date to the stone age. But it may be better to visit these sites, time permitting, on the way back in order to avoid driving at night in unfamiliar territory. If time does not permit, one can visit these sites another day. They are not far from Yerevan and are quite accessible.