Jim O’Brien from our supplier Native Eye on key differences between Caucasus countries:
“A lot of people want to ‘do’ the Caucasus countries in the same way as they want to ‘do’ the ‘Stans. Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan have each developed and diverged in different, fascinating ways. Armenia and Georgia were some of the first countries to adopt Christianity as their state religion, whereas Azerbaijan and Turkey are predominantly Muslim. Azerbaijan has been influenced more by Persia, Georgia more by Russia, Armenia is somewhere in between. All have completely different languages and Armenia and Georgia have their own alphabets. Given their relatively compact nature a multi center trip over several weeks makes sense to really appreciate the complexities of this region.”
Why take a Caucasus overland tour?
Multi country Caucasus vacations enable to you to appreciate the interesting ways that cultures have diverged in the neighbouring countries, from culture to religion, as well as the contrasts of landscapes in each. The Caucasus region is quite out of the way, so it is a smart tactic to visit several of them in one trip.
Our Armenia Vacations
Typically these are small group vacations, with numbers up to around 16. You’ll be traveling from point to point with likeminded travelers, so it is usually quite a sociable affair. In terms of accommodation, expect a mix of hotels in cities, and family run guesthouses in the countryside, with restaurant lunches or picnics most days. Private vehicles are the principal form of transport, either minibuses or small coaches, and groups are accompanied by knowledgeable local guides. Ambitious itineraries involve lots of time on the road, in countries with few motorways, so besides your camera and hiking boots you’ll need to bring patience, camaraderie and energy.
Because Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan all share borders, there are various routes available. A good example might be an itinerary that starts in Armenia with a few days in Yerevan and its surrounds, before heading south to see Tatev Monastery and Jermuk, and crossing the border into Georgia via Lake Sevan and Sevanavank Monastery. After seeing the capital, Tbilisi, you might continue west to Gori, birthplace of Stalin, and Kutaisi, over into Azerbaijan via the renowned Kakheti wine region. In Azerbaijan you travel through historic Shaki before finishing in Baku, with a visit to the amazing ‘Flaming Mountain’.
Every trip takes a slightly different approach, but you’ll see plenty of ancient religious architecture mingled with utilitarian Soviet factories and tower blocks, and of course all of it framed against the stunning mountainous scenery that characterises the Caucasus region.
Note that, due to the ongoing tension over the Nagorno-Karabakh region, overland crossings between Armenia and Azerbaijan are not currently possible, so most itineraries that feature both countries will travel via Georgia.
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If you'd like to chat about Armenia or need help finding a vacation to suit you we're very happy to help.
How long do I need?
A multi country tour is best suited to travelers with at least three or four weeks at their disposal. Even with two weeks, the itineraries are necessarily brisk just to cover the main highlights, and little time can be spared to properly interact with local people or explore on your own. If you want to really get under the skin of the Caucasus region, consider either a longer, perhaps tailor made trip, or focus on just one or two countries. Allowing at least a week for each country lets you take things at a more relaxed pace, and build in some free time. It’s also worth considering a few extra days at the start or end of the trip, so that you can take a closer look at the capitals, Yerevan, Tbilisi or Baku.
Natalie Fordham, from our supplier Wild Frontiers, recommends a multi-country trip:
“You’ve got all the Silk Road and Soviet Union history, and it’s really interesting to explore the similarities and contrasts between the three countries, as each is growing into independence in different ways. Of course, this part of Eurasia is not somewhere you just ‘pass through’ so if you’re visiting one country it makes sense to see the others at the same time. To do even the highlights of three countries though you need at least two weeks.”
More about Armenia
The most popular time of year to visit Armenia in terms of climate and scenery tends to be autumn.
Armenia is where East meets West.
Almost every trip to Armenia will feature a sprinkling of the key monasteries, some light hiking, and a day or so in Yerevan.
Armenia is more than just ancient monasteries – although they are, of course, the focus of many trips here.
If you've always wanted to explore in the furthest reaches of Eastern Europe but didn't know where to start then read on as we explain why visiting Armenia and Georgia together is a really worthwhile experience.
Armenia is great for families, allowing for a mix of outdoor activity, interesting cultural excursions and relaxation.
You don't have to be deeply devout to be curious about the churches and monasteries in Armenia.
The Armenian capital of Yerevan is home to a third of the country’s population, and dates back to the 8th century (making it just a smidge older than Rome).
What’s the food like? Don’t all the monasteries look the same after a while? What do we need to pack? Plan your Armenia vacation in confidence with expert guidance from our suppliers, and trustworthy feedback on trips from those who know them best – previous travelers.
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