Dreaming of a trip to the Caucasus? Here’s everything you need to know to plan the perfect Georgia Armenia Azerbaijan itinerary — including what to see, what to skip, and transport, food and accommodation advice. All recommendations are based on my own experience travelling in the Caucasus for three months.
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So, you want to travel to the Caucasus? Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan are three of the most dynamic, perplexing and frankly beautiful countries I’ve ever travelled to. When combined into the one itinerary, they make for one of the most rewarding travel experiences you could possibly have in 2018.
You’ve seen our two-month itinerary for the Caucasus, you’ve heard all about the trials and tribulations of bus travel in Azerbaijan—and you’ve definitely heard me wax lyrical about Tbilisi, Georgia’s capital city, after we spent a month ‘living’ there. Now I want to bring all that knowledge together to help you plan your own Georgia Armenia Azerbaijan itinerary. It’s going to be epic.
This itinerary isn’t just copied out of Lonely Planet (actually, we gifted our copy to Ross’ parents, so I don’t even have one to refer to!). All information here is based on my own experience travelling around the Caucasus for three months, backed up by hours of research and forum trawling to bring you the most logical route and up-to-date travel information.
READ THIS next: 12 things you should know before travelling to the Caucasus.
You should know… I’ve done a lot of research to ensure the information presented here is accurate to the best of my knowledge. Everyone has their own travel style, so the sample itineraries and suggestions I’ve come up with are obviously subjective. To balance my own biases and cast the net a little wider than just the areas we travelled to, I’ve tried to incorporate a variety of options, including destinations that don’t interest me personally but make sense logistically, plus a few places we missed.
A quick note on forward planning versus spontaneity… We did a lot of our trip on the fly, but we had the luxury of time. A little bit of advance route planning goes a long way in the Caucasus, especially if you’re on a tight schedule. I highly recommend having a basic plan laid out to ensure you hit all the main destinations you want to see, while still allowing enough wiggle room for spontaneous side trips, marshrutka delays, and of course cha cha hangovers.
Before we delve into the itinerary, let’s first look at a few Caucasus travel FAQ.
Caucasus Travel FAQ
If you’re reading this, you’ve probably already signed on the dotted line and committed to travelling to the Caucasus. Good for you! These frequently asked questions and other need-to-know tidbits will give you the practical and logistical knowledge you need to start planning your own Georgia Armenia Azerbaijan itinerary. If you have questions about language, culture, religion and politics in the Caucasus, I have a post all about that, too.
Is it safe to travel in the Caucasus?
For the average traveller, the Caucasus is a very safe place to visit—provided you exercise caution and common sense. Violence and petty crime is pretty low in all three countries; minor corruption has been all but stamped out; and terrorism is almost unheard of. People in this part of the world are known for their kindness and hospitality, and it’s not uncommon for strangers to invite you into their home for a meal (just like anywhere else, you should approach such situations with caution, especially in rural areas). Tbilisi is consistently ranked among the safest cities in the world.
In my experience, there wasn’t a single occasion where I felt my personal safety was at risk in the Caucasus. Bare in mind that I was travelling with my (male) partner—but plenty of solo travellers and female travellers visit the Caucasus with no issues. I wouldn’t hesitate recommending the region to either group.
Having said that, there are some things you should be aware of. Recent events in 2018 in Yerevan and Tbilisi have shown that this part of the world is still politically volatile. Be a responsible traveller: Do your research, and don’t go anywhere without travel insurance.
Travel insurance for the Caucasus
Insurance is a good idea no matter where in the world you’re travelling to. The Caucasus is no exception. On our trip, my partner fell ill in Yerevan and we spent a lot of time at the local clinic (which was fantastic, by the way) getting him sorted out. Healthcare and medications in the Caucasus is generally cheap—but above the financial advantage of being insured, there’s peace of mind in having someone to call on for advice if things go wrong.
Be aware that some insurance companies may not cover you for Abkhazia, Artsakh or South Ossetia, where there is no consular support for most nationalities either. Check with your insurance provider first if you plan to travel there.
When is the best time to visit the Caucasus?
I recommend travelling to the Caucasus in shoulder season, either spring or autumn. We visited in March/April/May and had perfect weather. It wasn’t too busy or expensive, we got to experience Orthodox Easter and Genocide Remembrance Day in Yerevan, and everything was open (except the road up to Tusheti—you’ll have to travel in summer for that).
September/October is also a good time to visit, when Georgia celebrates rtveli, the annual grape harvest. There are lots of festivals and events on, and the weather is good for hiking.
Summer (especially July and August) is peak time in the Caucasus. It can get oppressively hot, particularly in Tbilisi, and there’s a noticeable uptick in crowds and prices to match. Winter (November to February) is obviously the best time to travel for skiing and winter sports—but access to some more remote parts of the region will be limited due to snowfall.
How long should you spend in the Caucasus?
How much time do you have? Seriously, there is so much to do in this part of the world—we spent three months and barely scratched the surface. How much time you spend in the Caucasus really depends on how deep you want to go. It’s possible to do all three countries in two weeks, but you’ll only see the capital cities and a few monasteries and churches. My itinerary is for six week—the optimal amount of time to experience all three countries.
What are the visa requirements for the Caucasus?
Many (but not all) nationalities can enter Georgia and Armenia visa-free. Azerbaijan has stricter requirements—but the good news is they also have an e-visa system. For visa advice specific to your nationality, please check with your local embassy or consulate before you travel.
Some sources mention needing proof of onward travel when crossing borders in the Caucasus. In my experience, I was never asked to present any tickets or documentation when passing through immigration. As far as I know, letters of invitation don’t exist in the Caucasus.
Keep in mind that you also need a special permit to travel to Abkhazia, Artsakh or South Ossetia.
Armenia or Azerbaijan first?
The border between Armenia and Azerbaijan is closed, so if you plan to visit all three Caucasus countries overland, you’ll have to transit through Georgia. What order you choose to visit the three countries in doesn’t really matter—with one important exception: Artsakh (formerly Nagorno-Karabakh).
Let me clear this up once and for all: There is no official law or prohibition on travelling to Armenia after Azerbaijan or Azerbaijan after Armenia, provided you follow the advice on Artsakh. Briefly, if you enter into Artsakh (which is only accessible from the Armenian side), you will be denied entry into Azerbaijan. Permanently. Forever.
If you haven’t been to Artsakh, you will probably be quizzed by Armenian or Azeri immigration. It will likely get uncomfortable. But I’ve never heard of a tourist being knocked back because of the stamps in their passport. I highly recommend reading my overnight train travel reports (Georgia to Armenia or Georgia to Azerbaijan) so you can prepare the documents you need to cross the border smoothly.
How do you get to the Caucasus?
The Caucasus occupies a ‘seam’ of land between the Black and Caspian Seas. Here is a brief overview of the inbound transport options that are currently available.
For obvious reasons, by far the most convenient way to arrive in the Caucasus is by jumping on a flight. There are international airports in all three countries, but the most popular airports for travellers right now are in Tbilisi (Georgia), Kutaisi (Georgia) and Baku (Azerbaijan). Wizz Air has regular low-cost flights from Poland and Ukraine to David the Builder Airport in Kutaisi, while Fly Dubai connects Tbilisi with Istanbul and the UAE.
Travelling to the Caucasus overland involves passing through one of the three bordering countries: Russia, Turkey or Iran. From Russia, you can enter Georgia from the far-northern border point at Kazbegi. From Turkey, you can cross the border into Georgia at Sarpi on the Black Sea Coast. In this case, Batumi will be your first port of call in Georgia.
The border between Turkey and Armenia is closed, so it’s not possible to travel between these two countries overland. From Iran, you can travel from Tabriz into southern Armenia or southeastern Azerbaijan.
I’m nowhere near adventurous enough for this—but there are boat connections across the Black Sea from Bulgaria or Ukraine to Georgia, and across the Caspian from Turkmenistan to Azerbaijan. From what I’ve heard, there are no passenger ferries as such—you can only make the journey by freight ship. If you’re interested in travelling to (or out of) the Caucasus by boat, start your research with Caravanistan.
What transport options are available in the Caucasus?
Once you’re in the Caucasus, transport within and between Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan is pretty straightforward. All three countries have reliable, affordable public transport networks—hence why this itinerary completely relies on public transport. In the three months I was there, I didn’t take a single flight, and only caught a taxi on two occasions. Trains, buses and marshrutka (fixed-route minivans that are popular throughout the post-Soviet countries) are more than adequate.
Marshrutkas can be a bit slow going and cramped, but they are faster than large coach buses. Some routes have departure schedules, but generally, vans only depart once they fill up with enough passengers. To get between countries, you can travel by overnight sleeper train or bus.
The most we travelled in a single day by bus was about eight hours. Our average trip was between two and four hours. You can trim travel times down even further by hiring a car or taxi, or by taking advantage of domestic flights to the more remote corners of Georgia, notably Mestia.
What about accommodation in the Caucasus?
Another thing to consider when planning your Caucasus itinerary is accommodation. But it’s not something you have to worry about or plan out too far in advance—unless you’re travelling in peak season. We booked online as we went and never had a problem finding a great place, or a great deal. The exception to this rule is boutique hotels, such as Rooms Kazbegi, which you’ll want to reserve as far in advance as possible.
In the cities, Airbnb is a great option. Everywhere else, we chose to stay in family-run guesthouses (which are actually a lot like homestays). Family-run guesthouses are like mini travel agents—they offer meals, transport, tours, guides and trekking as well as accommodation. So if you’re really travelling on the fly, you can feasibly roll up at your guesthouse and let them organise everything for you.
We found accommodation was most expensive in Batumi and Tbilisi. To save some money, you might want to consider staying in one of Tbilisi’s boutique hostels.
Essential reading: What to expect when you stay at a guesthouse in Georgia—plus 29 of the best family-run accommodations across the country.
How much does it cost to travel in the Caucasus?
Travelling in the Caucasus is incredibly affordable, especially if you have enough time to go slow. We didn’t keep a thorough budget, but I estimate we spent between 20 and 40 USD per day per person. We found Azerbaijan (especially Baku) the most expensive of the three countries, while Armenia and regional Georgia had the lowest prices.
A word of advice… Just remember that Georgia and Armenia in particular are still fledgling economies recovering from major financial crises. Poverty remains a big issue in all three countries, and local wages are low. Please be respectful when discussing money in the Caucasus, and do everything you can to be a responsible traveller.
The Ultimate Georgia Armenia Azerbaijan Itinerary: 6 Weeks in the Caucasus
This ultimate Caucasus route starts in Tbilisi and finishes up in Baku, with the option to return to Tbilisi by overnight train on the final night if you have round-trip flights from Georgia.
Days in-country: 44 – Georgia (23 days), Armenia (10 days), Azerbaijan (11 days)
Route overview: Tbilisi (Georgia) – Kazbegi – Kutaisi, Chiatura & Imereti – Svaneti – Batumi – Khulo – Akhaltsikhe, Borjomi, Bakuriani & Vardzia – Gyumri (Armenia) – Yerevan – Lake Sevan & Dilijan – Dzoraget – Alaverdi – Kakheti (Georgia) – Sheki & Kis (Azerbaijan) – Ismaili & Lahic – Baku
6 Week Georgia Armenia Azerbaijan Itinerary: Day-by-day
Days 1–20: Republic of Georgia
Days 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 – Tbilisi + day trips of your choosing
Tbilisi, Georgia’s capital, is the coolest city in the region and the perfect place to start your Caucasus adventure. Check into your accommodation—be it a boutique hostel, a family-run guesthouse or a luxury hotel. Spend your first day finding your feet. Start with a walking tour to get your bearings, then explore some of Tbilisi’s most beautiful suburbs solo, discovering tourist highlights, off-beat gems, and heritage buildings along the way. Sample some khinkali, khatchapuri, eggplant rolled with walnut and other Georgian delicacies, then pay a visit to the Dezerter Bazaar, the city’s biggest marketplace, to see an abundance of fresh produce, cheeses and pickles. While you’re there, grab a churchkhela—Georgia’s favourite snack, and the perfect afternoon pick-me-up.
Visit the Dry Bridge Market, indulge at Tbilisi’s wine bars, and detox at Gulo’s Thermal Spa, one of a collection of sulfur spas in the Abanotubani district. Fill your next few days with art galleries, cafes and creative spaces.
Essential reading: Awesome things to do in Tbilisi, Georgia.
Two days is enough to see Tbilisi’s highlights. You might choose to spend a third day wandering the streets or cafe hoping. Devote your final two or three days to day trips around Tbilisi, all of which are easily accessible using public transport and can be done independently (with the exception of David Gareja, for which I recommend taking the organised shuttle bus. See below for more info). If four nights in Tbilisi is too much, break it up with a night in the charming walled city of Sighnaghi.
Recommended day trips from Tbilisi:
For this itinerary, I recommend two day trips: Mtskheta, Gori and Uplistsikhe, and David Gareja Monastery. It’s also possible to day trip to Kazbegi, Kakheti and the Borjomi area from Tbilisi—but you’ll be visiting those spots later in the itinerary. See the post linked below for full details on Tbilisi day trips, including what to see and how to get there.
FOR more information, including up-to-date Transport advice, check out my complete guide to Tbilisi day trips.
Days 6, 7 – Kazbegi & Georgian Military Highway
Depart Tbilisi and head north into the Greater Caucasus Mountains. Travel along the Georgian Military Highway, which is an attraction in itself. If you want to stop off along the way, I recommend spending a bit extra on a taxi (27 GEL/person), which is triple the price of a marshrutka (10 GEL/person), but will allow you to visit Ananuri and the Russia-Georgia Monument. The 153km journey takes approximately 3.5 hours.
When you arrive in Kazbegi (Stepantsminda), choose a cozy guesthouse to base yourself. Enjoy a meal at Rooms Kazbegi before exploring the little town on foot. The next morning, take an easy hike up to Gergeti Trinity Church and push further to the glacier if you wish.
Days 8, 9, 10, 11 – Kutaisi, Chiatura & Imereti
From Kazbegi, travel back to Tbilisi’s Didube Station via marshrutka before boarding another van to Kutaisi (3.5 hours; 10 GEL). Vans depart at least every hour and run late, so as long as you get a reasonably early start, it will be possible to do the journey in one day.
Kutaisi, Georgia’s administrative capital, is a small town with a romantic, vintage vibe. Spend one full day in the city, visiting the Green Bazaar and the nearby ‘abandoned’ spa town of Tskaltubo. On your second day, head out to Chiatura and Katskhi Pillar—an ex-Soviet mining town and an incredible monastery complex—before spending your final day exploring the lush Imereti region. Refer to the post below for full details on what to do, see, eat and drink in Kutaisi.
read This: my Guide to three days in Kutaisi, including day trips to Chiatura and Imereti’s canyons and caves.
Day 12 – Kutaisi to Mestia (Svaneti)
Gear up for a full day of travel from Kutaisi to Svaneti. Most people break up the 245km journey with a stopover in Zugdidi—depending on what time of year you’re travelling, the stopover might be mandatory (direct vans from Kutaisi to Mestia only run during peak season). There are a couple of points of interest in Zugdidi, so I’ve included a short stopover on the way back through.
When we travelled, the driver of our first van was very helpful in organising our transfer and ticket payment. Once we arrived in Zugdidi, we were dropped off at another marshrutka where we sat for about 20 minutes until it was full. Expect to pay about 25 GEL per person in total.
The journey up to one of Georgia’s premier mountain regions is tiring, but it’s well worth it. When you arrive in Mestia, make a beeline for Cafe Laila on the main square, where you can refuel before checking into your guesthouse.
Days 13, 14 – Mestia
Devote two full days to Mestia, the biggest village in the Svaneti region. The world-class Svaneti Museum of History and Ethnography sheds light on the area’s cultural diversity and natural history and is a must-visit. There are a few cozy cafes and restaurants in town where you can sample local cuisine amongst the stone towers. Beyond Mestia, single and multi-day hikes to Chalaadi Glacier and Koruldi Lakes are both popular.
Day 15 – Day trip to Ushguli
Considered by some (including UNESCO) to be the highest continuously inhabited village in Europe, Ushguli is located about 50km east of Mestia. It’s the most popular day excursion in Svaneti, so you’ll have no trouble finding a shared 4WD or van to take you up and back for a reasonable price (if in doubt, ask your guesthouse to organise a seat for you).
On the way, stopover at the Tower of Love—a Svan tower that you can climb inside. It takes a few hours to cover Ushguli on foot, taking in the upper and lower villages (there are 4 distinct settlements in total, each with an impressive collection of towers). Don’t miss Tamar’s Tower, where you can get a good view of the lower villages.
Day 16 – Mestia to Batumi via Zugdidi
Travel by marshrutka from Mestia to Zugdidi (4 hours; 20 GEL). There is a daily van departing Mestia at 8am, with additional services added during peak season. Alight in Zugdidi for a quick visit to the Dadiani Palaces History and Architectural Museum, housed within the exquisite Dadiani Palace complex.
Continue on by marshrutka to Batumi (3 hours; 15 GEL). Sit on the right-hand side of the van for impressive vistas of the Black Sea as it comes into view. In Batumi, head out for a well-earned dinner at Fan Fan, one of a dozen cute restaurants in town.
Day 17 – Batumi
One day is enough to see the highlights of Batumi—including the Botanical Gardens, the fish market, the local mosque, and the old town. Spend the afternoon on the beach, visiting the cafes, bars and ice cream parlors that dot the shoreline. Don’t leave without trying a signature Adjarian khachapuri. Refer to the link below for my complete guide on what to see, do and eat in Batumi.
Day 18 – Khulo
It’s possible to travel from Batumi to Akhaltsikhe in one day—but if you have time, I recommend stopping for a night in Khulo. Located east of Batumi, roughly halfway between the coast and the Borjomi area, Khulo is a nice place to get a closer look at the stunning Adjarian countryside and ride the cable car—not quite the same as the cars in Chiatura, but with equally glorious views. You can reach Khulo from Batumi by marshrutka (2.5 hours).
Days 19, 20 – Akhaltsikhe, Vardzia, Borjomi & Bakuriani
A daily marshrutka departs Khulo for Akhaltsikhe (4 hours) in the morning. Book a seat in advance through your guesthouse in Khulo.
Akhaltsikhe is a good place to base yourself for visiting Borjomi, Bakuriani and Vardzia—another of Georgia’s impressive cave cities. The region boasts beautiful gardens, hiking and scenic train rides. You can find more recommendations—plus tips for getting around—in my guide to the area.
Days 21-30: Armenia
If you just want to visit Georgia and Armenia, stitch these two sections together to create a Georgia Armenia itinerary.
Day 21 – Gyumri
Take the 7am marshrutka from Akhaltsikhe to Gyumri (4 hours; 20 GEL), passing through Armenian immigration at the Bavra border crossing.
Spend an easy afternoon in Gyumri, Armenia’s second-largest city. Points of interest include the Black Fortress, Vartanants Square and Ani Overlook (located 40 minutes drive outside of town).
Days 22, 23, 24, 25, 26 – Yerevan + day trips of your choosing
There are a few options for travelling between Gyumri and Yerevan. Trains depart Gyumri station daily at 8am and 6pm, and take approximately 3.5 hours to reach Yerevan. A ticket costs 1,000 AMD. Alternatively, marshrutka vans leave regularly (at least every hour) from Gyumri’s avtokayaran (bus station) and cost 1,500 AMD per person. You can also find shared taxis at the station, which cost around 2,500 AMD per seat. The journey by road takes approximately 2.5 hours.
Yerevan, Armenia’s capital, is a charming, easy going city filled with pink stone buildings, gorgeous flower gardens and outdoor cafes. When you arrive, pick up a copy of the Inside Yerevan map. Created by local staff from social enterprise ONEArmenia, it highlights interesting activities and some of the city’s best eateries.
Essential reading: Awesome things to do in Yerevan.
We spent a full 10 days in Yerevan. I recommend giving the city at least 3 days of your time. Must-sees include the GUM Market, where you can find vibrant displays of pickles and lavash bread being made and sold. The Armenian Genocide Memorial and Museum is one of the most difficult but important places to visit in Yerevan. Other highlights include the many museums and galleries, the Vernissage Market, Republic Square, and the Cascade.
Recommended day trips from Yerevan:
Armenia is small and easy to travel around, which means you can visit almost any corner of the country as a day trip from Yerevan. I’m not usually one for group tours, but I highly recommend booking day tours out of Yerevan to save money and time. Envoy Tours and Hyur Service are two popular and well-regarded outfits.
I highly recommend the one-day trip to Tatev Monastery, Noravank & Zorats Karer offered by Hyur Service. Classic days trips include the Garni and Geghard Monastery combo, and the day trip to Echmiadzin and Zvarnots. For something slightly more adventurous, try a day trip to Areni and the Orbelian Caravanserai.
Day 27, 28 – Lake Sevan & Dilijan
Travel from Yerevan to the shores of Lake Sevan (1.5 hours). The jewel of Armenia and a great source of national pride, Lake Sevan is the second largest alpine lake in the world. Noratus Village on the lake’s edge is home to a cemetery known as the ‘Forest of Khachkars’—stunning examples of Armenia’s carved stone crosses. Sevanavank Monastery lies 12km from the town of Sevan. Sitting on a peninsular in the lake, the location of this 9th-century church is unbeatable.
From Sevan, continue on to the town of Dilijan (40 minutes). Spend the next day hiking in Armenia’s ‘Little Switzerland’, visiting Haghartsin and Goshavank Monasteries.
Day 29 – Vanadzor & Dzoraget
From Dilijan, travel north by marshrutka to Vanadzor (1.5 hours; 500 AMD). Armenia’s third-largest city sits on the Debed River and features a number of noteworthy churches and museums. After lunch at, continue on to Dzoraget (30 minutes) and check into the stunning Turfenkian Heritage Avan Dzoraget Hotel.
Day 30 – Alaverdi to Tbilisi
Continue 25km north to Lori Province and the town of Alaverdi. From the town centre, pick up a taxi to visit the nearby Haghpat and Sanahin Monasteries. In the afternoon, jump on a marshrutka bound for Tbilisi (3 hours) and overnight in Georgia’s capital before continuing east to Kakheti the next morning.
Days 31-44: Kakheti (Georgia) & Azerbaijan
If you just want to visit Georgia and Azerbaijan, stitch these two sections together to create a Georgia Azerbaijan itinerary.
Days 31, 32 – Kakheti (Sighnaghi & Telavi)
From Tbilisi’s Ortachala Station, it’s easy to find a marshrutka (3 hours; 8 GEL) or shared taxi (under 2 hours; 10 GEL per seat) departing for Sighnaghi. This pretty little walled city in the heart of Georgia’s wine-making region is the best place to base your stay in Kakheti. From Sighnaghi, it’s easy to access the many monasteries and wineries that stud the Kakhetian countryside. The easiest way to get around is on a tour, which can be organised by your guesthouse. I highly recommend Zandarashvili Guest House. Don’t miss Bodbi Monastery, which is an easy walk from Sighnaghi town. Apart from winery hopping and visiting Kakheti’s stunning churches, top activities include eating, drinking and relaxing.
Telavi, the biggest town in the Kakheti region, lacks the charm of Sighnaghi, but is better networked in terms of transport. There are many monasteries and churches around Telavi as well. The gorgeous Tsinandali Estate is located just outside Telavi and is a must-see.
Day 33 – Telavi to Sheki (Azerbaijan)
If you’re staying in Sighnaghi, your first leg of travel is to go by marshrutka from Sighnaghi to Telavi (3 hours; 6 GEL). From Telavi, take another marshrutka to Qax in Azerbaijan (4 hours), passing through immigration at Lagodekhi. In Qax, transfer to a local bus bound for Sheki (1.5 hours).
On arrival in Sheki, find a room at the incredible Karvansaray Hotel (an historic Silk Road stone caravanserai) before heading out for a life-affirming bowl of piti, Azerbaijan’s signature dish and a Sheki specialty.
Need more inspiration? Here are my favourite photos of Azerbaijan.
Days 34, 35 – Sheki & Kis
Take your time exploring Sheki, a charming little town and by far my favourite place in Azerbaijan. The Sheki Khan’s summer and winter palaces, with their miniature paintings and shebeki stained glass, are some of the finest buildings you’ll see anywhere in the Caucasus. Sheki itself is a very pleasant town, with plenty of green space, interesting architecture, and a Soviet-built silk factory.
Just 5km outside Sheki, the tiny settlement of Kis is a sweet town with a beautiful stone church. You can easily visit in a few hours from Sheki—try hiking, or just pick up a taxi from Sheki’s main square.
Days 36, 37, 38 – Ismaili & Lahic
From Sheki, take a marshrutka to Ismaili (2.5 hours). The town has seen better days, but there are a few points of interest in the area. At Ivanovka, you can visit and even overnight at Azerbaijan’s last remaining kolkhoz (Soviet collective farm), which is managed by a Molokan Russian couple. Beyond the concrete buildings of Ismaili’s town centre, into the surrounding villages, you’ll find a couple of historic fortresses and bath houses that are worth visiting.
Despite being only 30km away, the journey from Ismaili to Lahic takes about an hour via a single-lane dusty, rocky, windy road. Once you reach the village, you’ll be rewarded with charming cobbled streets lined with blacksmiths, coppersmiths, carpet weavers, and other artisan shops. Lahic can get overcrowded on weekends with daytrippers from Baku, so you’d do well to coincide your arrival with a weekday.
There are a number of homestays offering accommodation and meals in Lahic, some with lovely views of the gorge and surrounding countryside. Lahic is a small town, so don’t worry too much about booking in advance.
Days 39, 40, 41, 42, 43 – Baku + Day trips of your choosing
Return to Ismaili (1 hour) before boarding another marshrutka for Baku (4 hours). Azerbaijan’s biggest city and capital is a far cry from the rural north—grand boulevards, beautiful gardens and fountains, and a mix of Belle Epoque facades and flashy skyscrapers give downtown Baku a very Paris-in-the-springtime feel. The mix of old and new, wealth and tradition in Baku is absolutely stunning. Sure, it’s a bit more expensive than Tbilisi or Yerevan—but Baku is one of the most beguiling cities I’ve ever visited. If you can budget for it, Baku warrants at least 3 days of your time.
Spend at least one morning exploring Baku’s historic core, the exquisitely preserved Old City, including the Palace of the Shirvanshahs, the old Ateshgah fire temple, and the iconic Maiden Tower. Once you’ve brushed up on your history, visit some of Baku’s more modern and equally impressive architectural projects, the Heydar Aliyev Center being the crowning jewel.
Recommended day trips from Baku:
Just a few hours’ drive from Baku via the oil rig-lined coastline, the otherworldly landscape around Gobustan, with its mud volcanoes, is a must-visit in Azerbaijan. I recommend organising a day excursion through BagBaku, which also includes a guided tour of the nearby petroglyphs. There are more geological wonders (including a flaming hillside) to be found across the Absheron Peninsula, which extends east of Baku into the Caspian Sea.
If you’re intereted in textiles and handicrafts, head two hours northwest of Baku by marshrutka to the little town of Quba. Quba is home to one of Azerbaijan’s seven schools of carpet weaving, and there are a few workshops you can visit to see the master weavers plying their craft. The Qadim Quba carpet weaving workshop on Quba’s main street is one of the most popular. There’s not a lot else to do in Quba, and it doesn’t really warrant staying overnight—unless of course you want to extend your day trip into a multi-day excursion by visiting Khinaliq, a high-altitude village located 50km inland.
Day 44 – Depart Baku or Tbilisi
Fly out of Baku or alternatively, take an overnight train from Baku to Tbilisi on Day 43, arriving back in Georgia on the morning of Day 44 for your return flight home.
A Quick Georgia Armenia Azerbaijan Itinerary: 2 Weeks in the Caucasus
This is an abridged version of the above itinerary, trimmed down to fit in 2 weeks. Unless you’re OK with a very rushed, superficial brush with the Caucasus, I wouldn’t recommend trying to travel to all three countries in less than 15 days. In my opinion, this is the absolute minimum amount of time you’ll need to do the region justice.
Days in-country: 15 days Georgia (6 days), Azerbaijan (5 days), Armenia (3 days)
Route overview: Tbilisi – Kazbegi – Kakheti – Sheki – Baku – Yerevan (via Tbilisi)
2 Week Georgia Armenia Azerbaijan Itinerary: Day-by-day
Refer to the 6 week Georgia Armenia Azerbaijan itinerary above for full details and transport information.
Days 1, 2, 3 – Tbilisi & day trips
Days 4, 5 – Kazbegi & Georgian Military Highway
Day 6 – Kakheti
Days 7, 8 – Sheki
Days 9, 10, 11 – Baku & day trips + overnight train to Tbilisi
Days 12, 13, 14 – Yerevan & day trips
Day 15 – Depart Yerevan or Tbilisi
7 Weeks or more in the Caucasus: Itinerary add-ons
If you have more than 6 weeks in the region, you might like to consider one or more of the following itinerary add-ons.
More places to visit in Georgia
Gudauri or Juta (2-3 days)
If you just can’t get enough of those Caucasus mountains, you might like to add Gudauri or Juta to your itinerary. Gudauri is home to a number of resorts that fill up during ski season (December to April). In summer, you can take the ski chairlifts up to access hiking routes and gorgeous views. Juta is a bit more isolated. Try spending a few nights at the Fifth Season Cabin for an off-the-grid experience and awe-inspiring views.
Gudauri is located off the Georgian Military Highway between Tbilisi and Kazbegi, so you can easily incorporate it into your itinerary on the way up or down. Drivers and buses should be able to drop you, or you can find dedicated Gudauri marshrutky departing from Didube Station. Juta and Fifth Season are located about 20 minutes east of Kazbegi and easily reached by taxi from town.
Racha (3-4 days)
Another of Georgia’s pristine highland areas, Racha-Lechkhumi and Lower Svaneti (Racha) is a prime location for hiking, including the well-known Nine Crosses Pass route. Nikortsminda church and Shaori Lake are also popular attractions. Oni is home to a few guesthouses and is an ideal place to base your stay. Since Oni is located less than 100km north of Kutaisi, it’s much better to transit to Racha from the west rather than trying to cross-country and come from Tbilisi. It’s also possible to trek to Racha from Svaneti via mountain passes.
Tusheti National Park (4-5 days)
The most remote and rugged of Georgia’s mountain regions, Tusheti National Park is one of the most rewarding travel experiences in the region. Hiking is the activity of choice in Tusheti, with most people opting to walk between the villages of Omalo, Shatili, Dartlo, Shenaqo and Diklo. Omalo to Shatili is a particularly popular route. Along the way, you’ll get to see some fine examples of stone towers and witness other aspects of Svan culture.
The best place to add Tusheti to your itinerary is between Tbilisi and Kakheti. Omalo is reached by a notoriously treacherous road, the Abano Pass, from Telavi. A 4WD and an experienced driver are highly recommended (essential, in fact). Note that the Abano Pass is only open for part of the year, usually June through September depending on weather conditions.
Lagodekhi Protected Areas (3-4 days)
Another hiking hotspot, Lagodekhi is located in the far-eastern corner of Georgia, close to the border with Azerbaijan. The three-day hike to Black Rock Lake and the Daghestani (Russian) border is the most popular trek on offer. For something a little tamer, you could chill out in a treehouse instead.
The best place to add Lagodekhi to your itinerary is after Sighnaghi (it’s less than 50km away). A stopover in Lagodekhi is also a good option if you’re heading overland into Azerbaijan next. You can easily travel by bus from the border town of Lagodekhi to Qax, onto Sheki and Baku.
Abkhazia & Georgia’s Black Sea Coast (5-6 days)
Batumi is the biggest town on the Black Sea Coast, but there’s a lot more to see if you have the time. From Batumi, head to Kobuleti, once a popular Soviet beach retreat, and Poti (where ships depart for Varna on the Bulgarian Black Sea Coast). Make a detour into Kolkheti National Park before dipping inland to Zugdidi to visit the palace. From Zugdidi, you can cross the border into the Republic of Abkhazia. Visit the capital, Sokhumi, before heading inland for hiking. See here for detailed information regarding Abkhazia visa requirements and travelling to Abkhazia.
More places to visit in Armenia
Goris (1-2 days)
Goris is a good stopover to add to your Armenia itinerary if you plan to spend more time at Tatev Monastery or if you’re heading into Iran overland. The bus ride from Yerevan takes between 5 and 6 hours; from Goris to Tabriz in Iran, it’s a relatively painless 300km (roughly 8-9 hour) journey. Apart from easy access to Tatev Monastery, Goris also offers stunning stone-crusted landscapes and some nice opportunities for trekking.
Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) (2-3 days)
The contested Republic of Artsakh (formerly known as Nagorno-Karabakh) has been disputed territory between Armenia and Azerbaijan ever since borders were drawn up after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. The area is no longer an active war zone; but landmines are still an issue, and tensions threaten to bubble over into conflict at any time. As with Abkhazia, do your research and make your own informed decision before you decide to travel to Artsakh. Be warned that if you do decide to travel to Artsakh, you will be permanently denied entry to Azerbaijan.
Please note: It’s not my intention to make a political statement by including Artsakh under the Armenia section rather than Azerbaijan section—far from it. I have chosen to include it here for the simple reason that travellers can only access Artsakh overland from Armenia side, and not from Azerbaijan.
More places to visit in Azerbaijan
Nakhchivan (2-3 days)
Somewhat comically dubbed ‘The San Francisco of the Caucasus’, Nakhchivan is an autonomous Azerbaijani enclave surrounded by Armenia and Iran. There are a couple of notable attractions, and the landscape looks absolutely stunning. But the biggest draw is getting to visit somewhere truly off-beat that sees very few non-domestic tourists.
Ganja (2-3 days)
Located west of Baku in Azerbaijan’s central interior, Ganja is the country’s second-largest city. There aren’t a whole lot of things to do in Ganja, but the city does boast some beautiful Turkish bath houses and other examples of historic architecture. You can get to Ganja by bus from Baku, by train on-route from Baku to Tbilisi, or by flying.
Lankaran (1-2 days)
A Caspian-coast city, Lankaran is an ideal stopover for anyone travelling onto Iran. This is one of the oldest cities in Azerbaijan, so historical activities (museums, cultural centres) as well as parks and bazaars are the most popular activities for tourists. From Lankaran, it’s a mere 43km (about an hour’s drive) to the Iranian border crossing at Astara. From there, you can continue onto Tabriz (500km; 9-12 hours) or Tehran (500km; 8-10 hours).
More helpful resources for planning your Georgia Armenia Azerbaijan itinerary
There aren’t a huge number of resources out there that cover Caucasus travel in detail, but there are a couple of websites and publications we found useful when planning our own itinerary.
First and foremost, the most recent edition of Lonely Planet Georgia, Armenia & Azerbaijan Travel Guide came in very handy for us, especially in the planning phase. It was less helpful when we were on the road, as a fair bit of information was outdated or just plain incorrect (as it so often is).
Caravanistan and Seat 61 both have information regarding route-planning and public transport in the Caucasus. For Georgia, the website Georgia Starts Here (which is mostly authored by Georgians or long-term residents) is a great resource for local knowledge on Tbilisi and beyond.
When you’re on the road, it’s often helpful to get real-time, on-demand advice from locals or other travellers who have recently been in the region. I’m more than happy to help out where I can—don’t ever hesitate to send me an email or leave me a comment. Even better, the 7,000 member-strong hive mind over on the Facebook Group ‘Travel to Eastern Europe, the Balkans and the Former USSR‘ is always willing to help fellow travellers out. The group is private, so you’ll need to request to join before posting a question.
Over to you! What is your favourite spot in the Caucasus? Do you have any questions about planning your own Georgia Armenia Azerbaijan itinerary? Please leave a comment below and I’ll try my best to help out.
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Those of you with a keen eye may have noticed this post uses a mix of stock and original photography. Thank you to the following photographers who generously make their images available for use here under Creative Commons: Jonathan Howard Kemp | Igor Peftiev | Tiko Giorgadze | Alexandr Hovhannisyan | Vincent Versluis | Ivars Utinsns | GeoMax
If you’re interested in seeing more of my own photography from the Caucasus, here’s a photo essay from Azerbaijan to get you started!