The countries of Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan have until recently been highly underrated places to visit. The three countries making up the Caucasus region have suddenly become one of the most sought after destinations in Eurasia. And I can understand why. The Caucasus is one of the most rewarding trips that I’ve ever taken.
The Caucasus is a region situated between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea and dominated by the mighty Caucasus Mountains. It has incredibly diverse landscapes, cultures and people that makes it one of the most unique places to visit in the Northern Hemisphere. After spending nearly two months across the three countries, I’ve rounded up the 12 must-see places to visit in the Caucasus.
If you’re planning on travelling to this incredibly beautiful part of the world, this blog post will help you plan your ultimate Caucasus trip.
Why visit the Caucasus?
I could write an entire blog post on reasons why you should visit the Caucasus. The countries of Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan really combine all of the best things that I enjoy about travel.
The people are very friendly and some of the most hospitable I’ve ever encountered. It was a real joy to explore the region as a solo traveller.
The countries all have a really fascinating history. From the former Silk Road to the Soviet Union, history is pervasive in the Caucasus which makes it a really interesting place to explore.
The food (and wine, of course) is to die for. I enjoyed the cafe and wine bar scene in Yerevan and Tbilisi, which reminded me a bit of Melbourne.
The region is also sitting in one of the most incredibly beautiful places in the world. The dominant Caucasus Mountains running in the north are simply breathtaking, but the rolling hills and valleys even down to the south of Armenia are beautiful. I found that the hiking opportunities in the region are also a real appeal and completely underrated.
The region is slightly off the beaten track but also starting to become more popular. I met some great travellers during my time there but not too many that it felt crowded or commercialised.
Best places to visit in the Caucasus
Here are the 12 must-see places to visit in the Caucasus region, separated by country. Whether you’re planning on visiting Georgia or the entire region, these are the places you won’t want to miss.
I fell in love with Tbilisi and a lot of people do. It’s one of the coolest cities I’ve been, with an edgy vibe that perfectly straddles both the history of the city with new modern trends. The architecture is incredibly picturesque with rundown buildings, washing hanging from balconies and brand new cutting edge designs all blending into one.
The cafe and bar scene and nightlife in Tbilisi are especially intoxicating and you can find yourself spending days just going from one local haunt to another.
It’s also one of the most affordable places to visit in the Caucasus, and there are plenty of things to do in Tbilisi for budget travellers. You’ll also find a variety of accommodation options from backpacker hostels to high-end hotels.
I would recommend a minimum of three days in Tbilisi to really appreciate the old town, vintage markets, trendy bars and quirky streets.
Read more: 11 Free Things to Do in Tbilisi
Kazbegi, in the far north of Georgia, is one of the most popular places to visit in the Caucasus. The small town, which is known as Stepantsminda, is situated in the magnificent Caucasus Mountains and is home to the Gergeti Trinity Church. The church is perched on the edge of a hill above town and has become an iconic Georgian attraction, with crowds of people coming to visit from Tbilisi.
The church itself is beautiful, but the real appeal is the spectacular location. The surrounding mountain backdrop of the church is what makes for such incredible photographs. The best way to visit Gergeti Trinity Church is by hiking up to it from town. You can also continue further and hike up to the Gergeti Glacier, for one of the best day hikes in Georgia.
I would recommend spending at least one night in Stepantsminda to have enough time to do some hiking in Kazbegi. If you have limited time, it’s possible to visit on one long day trip from Tbilisi as well.
Read more: A Guide to Hiking in Kazbegi
The Svaneti region is another top place to explore in the Caucasus Mountains. The area is in the north-west and is one of the most popular places to visit in Georgia. It was once a remote, secluded part of the Caucasus and the villages in the valley are still dotted with the old defensive Svan towers.
The boom in tourism has made the region feel slightly less secluded and hotels and restaurants have popped up all over the area. Still, the stunning mountainous landscape is one of the best places to visit in the Caucasus for hiking, with the popular four-day trek from Mestia to Ushguli being incredibly worthwhile.
I would recommend setting aside at least a couple of days in Svaneti. Mestia is the main town and hub of activity and is where most of the comfortable accommodation is found. From there, you can explore by car or on foot. A popular day trip is to Ushguli, the highest village in Europe, and day hikes can include out to Chaladi Glacier.
Batumi is a port city on the Black Sea coast and is known as the ‘summer capital’ and party town of the country. It’s the closest you’ll get to tropical in Georgia with a much warmer climate than the rest of the country and a beach-strewn esplanade.
The architecture is quirky and you’ll find interesting artwork and sculptures around, but the construction boom is bringing more modern buildings to the cityscape.
I recommend a couple of days in Batumi. There’s not exactly any show-stopping attractions there but the party atmosphere and calming waters of the Black Sea make it worthwhile.
Vardzia is the largest of the ancient cave cities in Georgia. It’s found in a remote valley of southwestern Georgia and dates back to the 12th century. It’s one of the most unique places to visit in the Caucasus, with the montage of hollow windows in the rock face quite striking to see.
The cave city housed up to 50, 000 people at its peak with a fully functioning monastery at its heart. However, an earthquake destroyed much of it and it was later abandoned when the region came under Ottoman rule in the 16th century.
To explore the network of tunnels and rooms in the rock-cut complex, some people take a day trip from Tbilisi. However, it’s possible to visit independently. An independent trip to Vardzia is best done with an overnight stay in Akhaltsikhe, the nearest major town which is also home to the Rabati Castle.
Read more: How to Plan a Day Trip to Vardzia
Sighnaghi and the Kakheti region
Sighnaghi is often referred to as Georgia’s prettiest town. This walled settlement is perched on a high plateau facing the snowcapped Caucasus Mountains in eastern Georgia. Its preserved 18th and 19th-century architecture is very picturesque and even though it’s becoming more popular with visitors, Sighnaghi is still a charming place to visit.
Its other appeal is that it lies inside Georgia’s Kakheti region which is also the country’s prime wine-producing area. You can easily combine a couple of days in Sighnaghi with a visit to some of the nearby wineries.
On any trip to the region, you can’t miss the Armenian capital, Yerevan. It’s one of the must-visit places in the Caucasus. While some people get bogged down in comparisons with Tbilisi, it seems a little unfair. Yerevan is a cool city in its own right.
It certainly won’t capture your attention as quickly as Tbilisi, but if you give the city some time, you might agree that it’s one of the most underrated destinations in Eurasia. The city has countless museums, art galleries, wine bars and trendy cafes, flea markets and grand old Soviet architecture.
You could easily spend at least three days in Yerevan.
With Armenia’s chaotic marshrutka network, many prefer to use Yerevan as their base for exploring the rest of Armenia. You can easily take day trips from the capital to various other destinations in the country.
Read next: The Ultimate Travel Guide to Yerevan
Dilijan National Park is one of the best places to visit in the Caucasus for outdoor enthusiasts. This national park in northern Armenia is a beautiful area of forest-covered hills, snow-capped peaks in winter and ancient monasteries. There are endless opportunities for hiking and biking with marked trails and one of the most well-organised tourist information centres I’ve ever come across.
You could easily spend anywhere from two days up to four or five depending on your interests and how much time you have. The main town of Dilijan is a great base with good value guesthouses to stay. There are plenty of day hikes and a multiday trail that you can tackle during your stay. If you’re not into hiking so much, you can still visit a couple of the more well-known monasteries like Haghartsin which is reachable by taxi.
Read more: The Ultimate Guide to Dilijan National Park
Goris & Tatev Monastery
The road from Yerevan to Goris is enough to warrant a visit to the south of Armenia. However, it’s worth spending a couple of days in Goris to explore the surrounding area.
You can hike up to Old Goris from town which offers incredible views over the volcanic landscape which appears similar to the fairy chimneys found in Cappadocia, Turkey.
Another old cave city known as Old Khndzoresk is just 10km from town and was inhabited up until the devastating earthquake in 1931. You can easily spend a couple of hours exploring the old remnants of this ghost town.
For independent travellers, Goris is also the best base for getting to Tatev Monastery. This 9th-century church stands on the edge of a deep gorge of the Vorotan River. It’s an incredibly beautiful place to visit and is accessed via a ropeway which is the longest non-stop double track cable car in the world.
Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, is still a mystery to many people. It flew under the radar for even the most intrepid of travellers until recently. It’s now finding itself as one of the new must-visit metropolises in the world with a sudden fascination with the city’s unique architecture.
It’s described by Lonely Planet as an architectural love child of Paris and Dubai and I couldn’t describe it better myself. The booming oil wealth has meant an incredible construction boom which has brought cutting edge designs to the cityscape. However, the old city also hides remnants of the former Silk Road, which makes it a fascinating city to wander around.
Three days in Baku is the ideal amount of time. You can explore the main parts of the city as well as head out on a day trip as well.
Read more: Best Things to Do in Baku in 3 Days
Sheki is a small town in far north Azerbaijan at the base of the Caucasus Mountains. Its appeal lies in that it was a popular resting place on the fabled Silk Road, connecting East and West. Remnants of this time can be found in the town’s architecture with an old caravanserai and former palaces open to visitors.
The town itself is otherwise quiet and it seems a world away from the cosmopolitan city of Baku.
It’s also a convenient stopover if you’re travelling by marshrutka from Tbilisi to Baku. Many travellers stay for at least a night so they can take the time to wander around the streets, before continuing their journey.
Gobustan National Park
Gobustan (or sometimes written Qobustan) National Park is a popular day trip from Baku. The area is characterised by an almost apocalyptic landscape of mud volcanoes.
More than half of the world’s mud volcanoes lie in Azerbaijan and the ones in Gobustan National Park are some of the most accessible. They’re not dangerous as such but rather mounds of cold bubbling mud created by gases underneath the earth’s surface.
Another attraction of the area is the rock caves decorated by petroglyphs or rock art drawn around 40, 000 years ago by early humans. There’s a dedicated museum and protected drawings which you can visit.
Looking to tie all these places together into the ultimate Caucasus travel itinerary? Click here!