While once condemned as a place of strife and instability, the Caucasus region has been gaining more and more traction as a tourist destination in recent years; and it’s not hard to see why! This incredibly diverse region encapsulates a plenitude of unique landscapes, climates, languages, religions and cultures. But something that stays fairly consistent throughout: great food and incredibly friendly people! Read on for the best things to do in the Caucasus region.
As the most accessible of the three Transcaucasian states, we begin our trip with Georgia. Unlike some of the other countries on our list, Georgia enjoys open borders with each of its neighbouring countries, as well as Turkey and Iran; however, the regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia along the Russian border will require special visas as they are technically under Russian control. But while the political complications to be found might put a few restrictions on your travel plans, most of the country is incredibly accessible and well worth the trip!
Although Georgia can count among its assets breathtaking mountain scenery, a gorgeous coastline, and a plenitude of beautiful small towns and villages, the capital of Tbilisi is certainly the best first introduction to the country. Since the Rose Revolution of 2003, the city has undergone a remarkable revitalization.
Now, visitors can enjoy a thriving arts and culture scene, modernized public transportation, delightful cafes and restaurants serving incredible food – plus the picturesque architecture that has been a hallmark of the city for hundreds (and hundreds) of years. Tbilisi has become an exciting mix of old and new!
From Georgia, the next destination on our tour of the Caucasus is Azerbaijan. We recommend catching the train from Tbilisi to Baku – as it’s not only an affordable, safe and convenient (take the sleeper train and save on a night’s lodgings!) way to make the trip – but you’ll also get to see a bit more of the beauty of the Caucasus.
While technically in Asia, the Transcaucasian countries all have a fairly liminal feel to them: not quite Asian, not quite European. Azerbaijan is certainly the most Asian of the three, but even here the liminality remains. Baku is the largest city on the Caspian Sea, and incorporates an exciting mix of medieval Islamic, Baroque, Soviet socialist realist architectures with a 21st-century skyline (the product of the most recent oil-boom) to boot!
Explore the old town, visit the famed mud volcanoes; heck, why not even take a bath in warm crude oil? All on the beautiful shores of the Caspian!
To knock off the last country on our tour of the Caucasus we’ll have to cut back through Georgia, as the Armenian/Azerbaijani border is closed; but with its fascinating and tragic history, a trip to Armenia is well worth it! Whether you decide to fly, take the train, or make like the locals and hop on a marshrutka (a sort of minibus quite popular in the ex-Soviet countries and other parts of the world), after our detour to Tbilisi we finally arrive in Yerevan – one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world!
While we strongly recommend exploring Yerevan, and paying a visit to the Armenian Genocide Memorial, our final stop in our Caucasian tour is Lake Sevan: commonly referred to as the Pearl of Armenia.
As the largest body of water in the Caucasus, as well as one of the largest freshwater high-altitude lakes in the world, Lake Sevan is worth visiting solely on account of its beauty and ecological significance in the region. But with the position it holds in the national psyche, as well as the historically and culturally notable Sevanavank monastery, Lake Sevan should be on the list of every traveller to Armenia.
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