After our 3-month trip around the Caucasus, I created a condensed Georgia Armenia Azerbaijan itinerary to help my readers experience the best of the region.
But not everyone has the luxury of spending 6 whole weeks in the Caucasus.
So, in response to emails and comments from a number of you (thanks for your feedback – please keep it coming!), I thought I would offer an abridged Georgia Azerbaijan itinerary for anyone who is travelling on a tighter schedule.
If you’re planning your first trip to the Caucasus, Georgia and Azerbaijan make for a nice combination. But that’s not to say Armenia isn’t worth travelling to. Just to make things harder for you (!), I’m also putting together a Georgia Armenia itinerary as well as a set of more in-depth itineraries exclusively for Georgia. Look out for those in the coming weeks.
You’ve landed on this page because you’re interested in travelling to Georgia and Azerbaijan. I sincerely hope you find this itinerary for 10 or 14 days overland in the Caucasus useful!
In the past two years, I have researched and written a lot about the Caucasus. Before you continue with this itinerary, I recommend opening up these links in a new tab. These posts are what I consider ‘essential reading’.
- 12 things to know before you go to the Caucasus (and trust me, you won’t read these in any guide book)
- What to pack for Georgia – a no-nonsense guide to packing for the Caucasus
- How travelling to the Caucasus restored my faith in humanity – all the feels!
- Overland travel in Azerbaijan – many of these tips are also applicable to Georgia (if you’ve never heard the word ‘marshrutka‘ before, you must read this!)
- A guide to family run guesthouses in Georgia – what they’re all about, and how to choose the best one
- My Tbilisi Airport guide – everything you need to know before arriving in Tbilisi
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About this itinerary
Since most people start their Caucasus travel in Georgia, this itinerary starts and finishes in either Tbilisi or Kutaisi. Using the overnight train from Tbilisi to Baku to speed up one leg of the journey, you’ll then loop back overland, making a few stops along the way.
The itinerary includes 2 full days in both capital cities, Tbilisi and Baku. I’ve incorporated some flexibility into the schedule by giving you a choice of day trips, plus two options for the second half of the trip.
At day 10, the itinerary branches off into two routes: Either heading north of Tbilisi into the mountains around Kazbegi (Stepantsminda), or hanging east in Georgia’s Kakheti wine region. Since it’s not really practical to do both on such a tight schedule, the idea is for you to choose one depending on your interests. Whichever you pass on, you can visit (for a much shorter period) as a day trip from Tbilisi on day 3.
I count Georgia and Azerbaijan (and Armenia, for that matter) among my favourite countries on earth. I am wholeheartedly passionate about encouraging more people to travel to this part of the world, and am currently planning a return trip myself for summer 2019.
Believe me when I say that it’s extremely difficult – almost impossible – for me to suggest a Georgia Azerbaijan itinerary that I feel adequately represents the region. Travel is so subjective – the best I can do is show you what I consider to be the most efficient and rewarding travel route.
I’ve revised this itinerary literally dozens and dozens of times. It follows the same basic path that we took on our first trip to the region, with a few adjustments to factor in new transport options. It’s epic, but it’s by no means ‘complete’ or ‘perfect’.
This itinerary is fast-paced for sure – it packs a lot in – and because of that, it does necessitate a few full days of travel. Moving around the Caucasus isn’t as fast or as easy as travelling in Eastern Europe, for example. But I firmly believe bumpy marshrutka rides are part and parcel of the Caucasus experience!
Don’t let the long travel days put you off. I’ve tried to make sure there’s enough time in between to enjoy each destination to the fullest.
Georgia Azerbaijan itinerary: Overview
A brief overview of my recommended Georgia Azerbaijan route.
- Day 1: Arrive Tbilisi or Kutaisi – overnight in Tbilisi
- Day 2: Full day in Tbilisi – overnight in Tbilisi
- Day 3: Day trip from Tbilisi – overnight in Tbilisi
- Day 4: Full day in Tbilisi + overnight train to Baku
- Day 5: Full day in Baku – overnight in Baku
- Day 6: Full day in Baku – overnight in Baku
- Day 7: Day trip to Gobustan – overnight in Baku
- Day 8: Baku to Sheki by marshrutka – overnight in Sheki
- Day 9: Full day in Sheki – overnight in Sheki
If you only have 10 days to spend in the Caucasus, on day 10 you would travel from Sheki back to Tbilisi/Kutaisi for your return flight. If you have 14 days, you can continue with one of the two options outlined below.
Option A: Greater Caucasus mountains
- Day 10: Sheki to Tbilisi via Qax by marshrutka – overnight in Tbilisi
- Day 11: Tbilisi to Kazbegi via Georgian Military Highway – overnight in Kazbegi
- Day 12: Full day in Kazbegi – overnight in Kazbegi
- Day 13: Kazbegi to Tbilisi – overnight in Tbilisi
- Day 14: Depart Tbilisi or Kutaisi
Option B: Kakheti wine region
- Day 10: Sheki to Sighnaghi by marshrutka/taxi – overnight in Sighnaghi
- Day 11: Full day in Kakheti – overnight in Sighnaghi
- Day 12: Day trip to Davit Gareja – overnight in Sighnaghi
- Day 13: Sighnaghi to Tbilisi by marshrutka – overnight in Tbilisi
- Day 14: Depart Tbilisi or Kutaisi
Georgia Azerbaijan itinerary: Day by day
A detailed breakdown of my recommended Georgia Azerbaijan itinerary, including transport information and things to do.
Day 1: Arrive Tbilisi or Kutaisi
Tbilisi, Georgia’s capital, is my favourite city in the region and the perfect place to kick off your Caucasus itinerary. If you’re arriving at Kutaisi airport, connect to a marshrutka to take you to Tbilisi on the same day. (If you have more time in the region on either end of your itinerary, I highly recommend staying in Kutaisi for a couple of nights and trying some of the delicious Imeretian food on offer!).
Spend your first night in Tbilisi hopping between wine bars or taking in a traditional dance performance. Needless to say, both these activities should be accompanied by copious amounts of delicious Georgian food.
Where to stay in Tbilisi: Fabrika Hostel is my top choice of accommodation in the city. It offers both mixed dorms and private doubles. For something more upmarket, my favourite boutique accommodation in Tbilisi is Museum Hotel. Alternatively, choose one of these family run guesthouses.
Day 2: Full day in Tbilisi
After breakfast, start your first full day in Georgia with a walking tour of Tbilisi. Look for a tour that takes in the main tourist sights (including the fortress), or opt for something more niche.
Get stuck into more scrumptious Georgian food for lunch (I highly recommend Keto & Kote), then spend the afternoon souvenir shopping, browsing the Dry Bridge Market, or exploring one of Tbilisi’s photogenic suburbs by foot. My favourite neighbourhoods are Betlemi Street and Vera.
Day 3: Day trip from Tbilisi
Tbilisi is perfectly positioned for day trips around Georgia. The easiest and closest option is visiting Mtskheta (Georgia’s old capital) and Gori (Stalin’s birthplace). This post outlines five recommended day trips.
Remember to also factor in the second half of your Georgia travels. If you opt to spend two nights in Kazbegi at the end of your trip, then I highly recommend taking a day trip to the wine region. Vice versa if you decide to head to Kakheti on day 10.
Day 4: Full day in Tbilisi (+ overnight train to Baku)
Use your last full day in Tbilisi to tick off anything you missed first time around. This list of unique and unusual things to do in Tbilisi has more than enough to keep you occupied. Make sure the Dezerter Bazaar, Tbilisi’s biggest green market, is on your list.
Day 5: Full day in Baku
This itinerary includes 2 full days in Baku, so you have time to rest on your first morning if you need it.
If you want to hit the ground running, drop off your bags and head straight to Icherisheher, Baku’s charming and perfectly preserved Old Town. The Palace of the Shirvanshahs, the Maiden’s Tower and the Zoroastrian Temple are just some of the highlights. Eat lunch in a restored caravanserai then stretch your legs with a walk along the Bulvar, a huge pedestrian park that runs along the Caspian waterfront.
Conclude the day with a traditional Azeri meal (you can’t go wrong with pilaf) and a drink at one of Baku’s bars.
Where to stay in Baku: Boutique 19 Hotel just outside the Old City walls and MalakHan Hotel (located inside an old trader’s inn) are my top choices for boutique accommodation in Baku. For something budget-friendly, Khamsa Hostel is centrally located and recieves great reviews.
Day 6: Full day in Baku
Baku is an awesome example of old and new, Ying and Yang. Once you’ve seen the city’s historical side, get acquainted with equally enthralling modern architecture. The Heydar Aliyev Center and Flame Towers should be at the top of your list. If you’re interested in textiles and material culture, pay a visit to the Carpet Museum (the first of its kind in the world), where you can see examples of Azerbaijan’s seven schools of weaving.
In the evening, take a taxi to Yanar Dagh to check out the famous ‘flaming hillside’ before eating dinner at Salam Baku.
Day 7: Day trip to Gobustan
Baku doesn’t offer as many day trip opportunities as Tbilisi; but the most popular side trip destination, Gobustan (Qobustan), really shouldn’t be missed.
We visited Gobustan on an organised day trip that combines a visit to the mud volcanoes with a guided tour of the nearby petroglyphs and museum. This ‘hands off’ tour is a very affordable way to travel and a great option for independent travellers.
For something different, the same company also organises single-day treks around Xinaliq north of Baku. As with the Gobustan trip, the price includes transport to and from the city in a private van.
If you want to save some time and you’re not averse to overnight train travel, you have an option here to take a night train from Baku to Sheki. By all accounts, it’s not the most pleasant travel experience ever – but it will mean you have an extra day up your sleeve for either Sheki, Baku, or something else.
Day 8: Baku to Sheki by marshrutka
If you opt to spend night 7 in Baku, day 8 will see you travelling from Baku to Sheki. It’s a long drive, but in my opinion (and for the majority of other travellers I speak to), Sheki is absolutely worth it.
Get an early start so you can catch one of the first marshrutkas to Sheki (4 hours; 7 AZN per person). As long as you leave by 10am, you’ll arrive in Sheki in time for a late lunch of piti. Take a walk around the cobbled old town before having drinks at the Buta Bar.
Where to stay in Sheki: Sheki’s Karvansaray Hotel is one of the most atmospheric accommodations in the Caucasus – and honestly one of the most memorable hotel experiences I’ve had in my life. Rooms are located in the old sleeping chambers of a stone Silk Road inn and guests have unfettered access to the most beautiful internal courtyard.
If it’s not available or you want something a little more luxurious, Sheki Saray Hotel above Buta Bar is also a fine choice.
Day 9: Full day in Sheki
The Sheki Khans’ summer and winter palaces – adorned as they are with stained shebeki glass and miniature paintings – are reason enough to visit Sheki. You’ll also find a few good museums, a green market, and remnants of the town’s past life as a thriving centre of silk production. My full list of things to do in Sheki can be found here.
If you only have 10 days to spend in the Caucasus, on day 10 you would travel from Sheki back to Tbilisi/Kutaisi for your return flight. If you have 14 days, you can continue with one of two options outlined below.
OPTION A: Kazbegi mountain region
Day 10: Sheki to Tbilisi via Qax by marshrutka
If you’re opting to spend more time in the Greater Caucasus, you’ll first need to transit back through Tbilisi in order to get to the mountains. This involves taking two marshrutkas, first from Sheki to Qax, then from Qax to Tbilisi. The journey takes the better part of the day. You can find more details, including bus times and fare information, here.
When you get to Tbilisi, seek out some comfort food – either a juicy burger or a bowl of ramen – at Fabrika.
Day 11: Tbilisi to Kazbegi via Georgian Military Highway
If you spent day 10 on a bus, it’s a good idea to hire a taxi for the trip north to Kazbegi. By car, it takes around 3 hours, including stops at Ananuri Fortress and the Georgia-Russia Friendship Monument. A seat in a shared taxi from Didube Bus Station costs between 20 and 30 GEL, while a marshrutka ticket to Kazbegi costs 10 GEL.
When you arrive in Kazbegi, check into your accommodation before taking a stroll around town.
Where to stay in Kazbegi: Red Stone Guest House is a lovely family run lodging with spacious rooms and a full home-cooked breakfast included in the rate. Rooms Hotel, housed in a refurbished sanatorium, is one of the Georgia’s best boutique accommodations.
Day 12: Full day in Kazbegi
Fill up on a big breakfast (complimentary if you stay at Red Stone) – you’re going to need the energy for a full day of hiking.
The walk up to Gergeti Trinity Church from Kazbegi is one of the best easy hikes in the region (provided you follow the correct route) and easily one of the highlights of any trip to the Caucasus.
If you’re a hiker, you can push on to the glacier and make a full day of it. If not, head back to Rooms Hotel for a feast and a glass of wine.
Day 13: Kazbegi to Tbilisi
After a final morning in Kazbegi, it’s time to descend the mountain and head back to Tbilisi in preparation for your flight. Take a late bus back to Kutaisi if you need to, or spend one more night in Tbilisi to cap off your trip.
If you have a late flight out of Tbilisi on day 14, you can feasibly stay an extra night in Kazbegi and travel back to Tbilisi the next morning. Alternatively, travel halfway down to Gudauri and spend your last night in a cabin at Fifth Season.
Day 14: Depart Tbilisi or Kutaisi
OPTION B: Kakheti wine region
Day 10: Sheki to Sighnaghi by marshrutka/taxi
With no direct transport available, it takes a little bit of maneuvering to travel from Sheki to Sighnaghi in Georgia’s wine region in the space of a day.
Start with a marshrutka ride from Sheki to Balakan (approx. 2 hours; 6 AZN per person). Balakan town is 15 minutes’ drive from the border – either ask the driver to take you further (which they likely will, for a small fee), or transfer to a taxi (expect to pay around 10 AZN per car).
Cross the border on foot. When you get to the Georgian side (and the town of Lagodekhi), ask one of the waiting taxis to take you to Sighnaghi (approx. 1 hour; 45-60 GEL per car or 12 GEL per person if you share the ride with other travellers).
By the time you arrive in Sighnaghi you won’t feel like doing much. Take a quick sunset stroll around the old town walls before an early dinner.
Where to stay in Sighnaghi: Zandarashvili Guest House is well-known as one of the best family run accommodations in Sighnaghi. We loved our stay here and found Georgi and family extremely helpful with planning tours and onward transportation.
Day 11: Full day in Kakheti
After a well-deserved sleep in, enjoy a much easier day exploring the countryside around Sighnaghi and Telavi. Kakheti is Georgia’s premier wine-making region; a place where you can find cellar doors and monasteries in equal measure.
My recommended Kakheti itinerary highlights the best of the region (it covers 3 full days, so you’ll need to pick and choose). Make sure you have time for Bodbe Monastery, easily one of my favourite monasteries in the region. The easiest way to get around Kakheti is to hire a car and driver through your guesthouse.
Day 12: More Kakheti or day trip to Davit Gareja Monastery
Spend a second day mulling around Kakheti’s wineries or use the day to travel to Davit Gareja Monastery, an impressive cave monastery hewn from rock on the Azerbaijan-Georgia border.
Day 13: Sighnaghi to Tbilisi by marshrutka – overnight in Tbilisi
Transit back to Tbilisi by marshrutka (2 hours; 6 GEL per person) or shared taxi (1.5 hours; 10 GEL per person) ahead of your flight. Full instructions for travelling from Sighnaghi to Tbilisi can be found here.
Take a late bus back to Kutaisi if you’re flying out of David the Builder Airport, or spend one more night in Tbilisi to cap off your trip.
If you have a late flight out of Tbilisi on day 14, you can feasibly stay an extra night in Sighnaghi and travel back to Tbilisi the next morning.
Day 14: Depart
Head back to Tbilisi airport for your flight home.
Extend your Georgia Azerbaijan itinerary
As I alluded to at the beginning, this 14 day Georgia Azerbaijan itinerary only represents a thin slice of the region.
You can easily extend your time in either country by adding some trekking in Azerbaijan, exploring more of Georgia (Kutaisi, Mestia or Tusheti, or Batumi for starters) – or even adding a short trip to Yerevan and Armenia to the mix.
For more inspiration, check out my extended Georgia Armenia Azerbaijan itinerary.