Georgia and Armenia is situated in the Caucasus region and is truly culturally and historically treasures. Both countries offers rich and varied landscapes. The northern part of Georgia is covered by the mountain range of Caucasus (Upper Caucasus) with snowy peaks and south-facing hillsides. This area is characterized by isolated mountain villages (e.g. Shatili, Mestia) which offers stunning beauty. The highest peaks in Upper Caucasus rising to over 5,000 meters. Armenia is known for its grasslands situated at high altitude. Armenia is part of the Southern Caucasus. In between these major mountain ranges several scattered strato volcanoes rises over the plateau (e.g. Mount Ararat, Mount Aragat). I am really fascinated by the varying Armenian and Georgian nature.
Recently, I have traveled in Georgia and Armenia and I would highly recommend it. It is indeed a natural and cultural treasure. You will not be disappointed at all. Many travel experts and travel agencies also recommend the region and predicts the area a massive growth in tourism. In this blog post I will present some of my travel tips for Caucasus including the countries of Georgia and Armenia.
Very few people know much about Georgia and Armenia as well as the Caucasus region in general. The concentration of tourist is indeed also very low. The region has historically been characterized by instability and wars – but it is now very safe to travel to these countries. The region has a very interesting culture, since it lies on the border between Russia and the Middle East, Asia and Europe – leaving a mixture of many cultures and traditions. You can discover small local villages together with ancient civilization as well as awesome churches and monasteries overlooking amazing mountains and grassland sides. Both countries are famous for its many churches, monuments and monasteries (e.g. Geghard monastery, Garni Temple, Khor Virap). Some of them are World Heritage Sites preserved by UNESCO.
In Tbilisi, I would recommend Sameba Cathedral, the old district of Tbilisi and Narikala (Tbilisi Fortress) from where you have a magnificent view over the entire capital and the surrounding mountainous landscape.
Read also: List of the World’s Most Amazing Monasteries
It is very safe to travel in the region and actually Georgia has one of the lowest crime rates in Europe. During the week I traveled I felt very safe. The locals are very helpful if you for instance get lost or need help. A big issue in Georgia and Armenia is drunk drivers which is very common. It might be a challenge for foreigners to drive around on their own. Instead of renting a car I decided to get around in taxi. It turned out to be a very safe, comfortable and infact a cheap solution.
Gergeti Trinity Church Georgia
For instances, I took a taxi to a spot near the over 5,000 meters massive strato volcano of Mount Kazbek in Upper Caucasus close to the Russian border. From the nearby Gergeti Trinity Church you have a magnificent view of Mount Kazbek and the Kazbegi village. The road between Tbisili and Kazbegi is an old military highway and the landscape along this road is absolutely stunning.
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Georgia Country Pictures
A major challenge when traveling in the Caucasus region is the definitely language. I was ready for the lack of English-speaking people but it was actually worse than expected. Even the youngest people don’t speak one single word of English. Hence, it is a very good idea to have a Russian dictionary with you. Due to their own unique alphabet (Georgian Alphabet) is might be very difficult to read a simply map or a traffic sign.
The best season traveling to Caucasus is during spring and autumn where the temperature is moderately. A lot of snow falls during winter and during summer the temperature exceeds 30 degrees Celsius. Some of the villages in Upper Caucasus might be inaccessible during winter and under any circumstances you need a jeep or off-road viechel to reach these remote places.
The Russian city of Sochi which is hosting the Winter Olympics in 2014 is also situated in the Caucasus region just around 40 kilometers from the Georgian border.
Armenia Georgia border crossing
Be aware of border crossing issues in the region. However, from Georgia you easily can get access to the neighboring countries. The border between Armenia and Turkey is completely closed. If you visit Azerbaijan you might have trouble getting into Armenia. Please research the specific border conditions before departure since it might change due to geopolitical issues. I passed the border between Georgia and Armenia twice without any problems.
Read also: Crossing borders in Caucasus
I stayed in Yerevan for a couple of days, which is the capital of Armenia. It turned out to be a very positive experience. Yerevan is a busy westerly metropolitan with beautiful avenues and architecture. I can highly recommend a visit to Yerevan. In my opinion, Yerevan is much more attractive relatively to Tbilisi in Georgia.
A top landmark in Yerevan is the giant stairway of Cascade from where you have a stunning view of Yerevan and Mount Ararat. The traffic in Yerevan is really chaotic and I will not recommend driving on your own. The taxi services are cheap and organized.
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