Just like that, our month in Tbilisi is almost over. From the moment we arrived in Georgia’s capital city we’ve felt right at home. (We’re already scheming ways to come back to Tbilisi for even longer.) Aside from day trips to Mtskheta, David Gareja and Gori (upcoming), we haven’t seen much of the country at all. Lucky for us, we have eight more weeks up our sleeves before we fly back to Brisbane.
Before we see more of Georgia, we’re off to Azerbaijan. We’re also planning a short side-trip into Armenia to round-out our tour of the Transcaucasus. As usual, I’ve done a fair amount of advance planning to make sure we take the most logical route and use our money wisely. With the sheer number of places to visit in Georgia particularly, I’ve found organisation pretty essential if we want to make sure we see everything we set out to. We prefer travelling as slowly as possible, so two months is barely enough.
Our draft itinerary has a few missing links, but it will give you an idea of the overall structure of our trip. When all is said and done I’ll post an updated itinerary to reflect our actual movements. It’s still relatively difficult to find information about travelling in the Caucasus (particularly the transportation side of things), so I’ll do my best to investigate and report back. At the end of this post you’ll find some other resources to help you plan your own trip through Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan.
Week One – Baku
Once our Airbnb lease in Tbilisi is up, we’ll take overnight train #37 to Baku. Travelling to Azerbaijan is easier than ever with the new e-visa system. I’ll talk more about the train and visa process in another post.
We figure a week is a good amount of time to spend in Baku, with day trips to Qobustan, Yanardag and the Caspian coast thrown in.
Week Two – Quba, Xinaliq & Lahic
Although it’s not exactly off the tourist trail, I’m really excited about visiting some of Azerbaijan’s more remote villages. We’ll have a full day in Quba to visit the carpet workshops that make this town famous before overnighting at a homestay in the tiny community of Xinaliq. To get to the next village, Lahic, we first have to loop back to Baku.
Week Three – Sheki, Zaqatala & overland to Georgia
Sheki, billed as Azerbaijan’s prettiest mountain village, will be a rest stop for us. We’ll probably spend four nights here, hopefully in the caravanserai hotel I’ve been reading so much about. From Sheki we’ll continue north to Qakh and Zaqatala, spending a night or two in each, depending on how we feel. A short bus ride should deliver us to the Georgian border and back into Kakheti.
Week Four – Signaghi, Telavi & overland to Armenia
Once we cross the border, we’ll spend three or four days in Signaghi and Telavi in Georgia’s wine-making Kakheti region. Then we’ll take a short bus back to Tbilisi to board the overnight train to Yerevan.
Week Five – Yerevan, Lake Sevan & Dilijan
We’ll spend at least four days in Yerevan, including day trips to nearby Khor Virap and the Geghard Monastery. Following Yerevan, we’ll spend a night at Lake Sevan and a few days at Dilijan, Armenia’s ‘little Switzerland’, for some hiking.
Week Six – Borjomi, Akhaltsikhe, Vardzia & Borjomi
This is where our itinerary gets a bit sketchy. The idea is to travel back to Georgia from Armenia by bus (fully possible as far as I can tell), visiting Borjomi, Akhaltsikhe and Vardzia, which are all pretty close to the border. We’ll then head for the Black Sea coast for a few days in Batumi.
Week Seven – Zugdidi & Svaneti
From Batumi, we’ll take a three-hour bus ride north to Zugdidi, the gateway to the northern Caucasus. Svaneti is probably the place I’m most looking forward to visiting in Georgia. We’ll base ourselves in Mestia with a side trip to Ushguli if the road is open.
Week Eight – Kutaisi, Tbilisi & Kazbegi
From Mestia it’s only a short bus ride to Kutaisi, Georgia’s third-largest city. We’ll stay here for two or three nights before heading back to Tbilisi by train. In Tbilisi, we’ll tick off anything we missed the first time around and do a quick overnight trip to Kazbegi.
Helpful resources & links:
As I mentioned, it’s still pretty tricky to find practical information about travelling around the Caucasus. Aside from Lonely Planet, there are a few resources I found helpful when planning our trip:
If you have any tips for our two-month itinerary in the Caucasus, please leave them in the comments below!