Travelling in the Caucasus has been increasing in popularity in recent years, as the more intrepid of travellers begin to seek new and unique destinations beyond the well-trodden tourist trail. Situated on the edge of Europe, straddling Turkey, Russia, the Black Sea and Iran, the Caucasus are a culturally rich and diverse region and an absolute delight to travel through. However, visiting this region can pose its own unique challenges and the goal of this Caucasus travel guide is to help you navigate these.
Packed with history, beautiful natural scenery and some of the friendliest people in the world, travelling in the Caucasus is an incredibly rewarding and fulfilling experience that you’re sure to remember for decades to come.
In order to plan the absolute best trip possible through the countries of Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan, we’ve taken the time to put together this detailed Caucasus travel guide to provide you with all of the necessary information that you’ll need before visiting this region.
Whether you’re after an adventure hiking through one of the world’s most stunning mountain ranges or are interested in exploring some vibrant and gloriously underrated cities (or a little bit of both!), the Caucasus are sure to both thrill and delight.
The Caucasus countries are made up of the nations of Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. Nestled on the cusp of Europe and Asia, all three countries have unique customs and cultures that it is definitely worth visiting all three to really get a feel for this fantastic region.
This Caucasus travel guide will give you some general information about travelling to all of the three countries, however, if you’re interested in more country-specific information, make sure to browse through our specific pages for Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan by clicking the images below.
Planning a Caucasus Route
Planning a route through the Caucasus can be an incredibly difficult process, with so much to see and do in the region and not a whole lot of information out there about how to get to all of it. Do you visit all three countries or only one or two? Do you have a month or more to devote to your trip or are you strapped for time?
Mapping out the ideal itinerary for Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia can be a bit daunting, especially if you want to travel independently and are relying on public transit. That doesn’t mean that it’s impossible, however!
While getting around and figuring out where to go may be a bit different in this area of the world compared to others, we have compiled a number of resources to help from everything to the choice of which countries to visit to the best itineraries through those countries so you have the best trip possible.
If you need help planning your Caucasus itinerary, make sure to browse through the articles below for our top advice and tips.
Places to Visit in the Caucusus
When thinking of the Caucasus, many potential visitors’ minds will simply jump to the eclectic streets of Tbilisi, the cafe-lined sidewalks of Yerevan or the grand architecture of Baku and not realise how much more lies beyond the capital cities.
While these cities are very much worth exploring and spending a lot of time in, there is so much to see in all three Caucasus countries beyond the capitals.
Whether you want to explore smaller cities, natural areas, historic monasteries or the vibrant capitals, we have countless guides available to help you plan out your time no matter where you choose to visit. Browse through the articles below to figure out where you want to visit in the Caucasus!
Best Time to Visit the Caucasus
Figuring out just when you want to head to Georgia, Armenia and/or Azerbaijan can prove to be just as difficult as planning out your route, and the goal of this Caucasus travel guide is to help you plan the perfect trip to the region. So now it’s time to discuss when to visit!
Situated in a unique area on the east side of the Black Sea sandwiched between Turkey, Russia and Iran, the Caucasus have a varied climate and very much see four distinct seasons, however, there are countless different climate zones that can be surprising for such seemingly small countries.
We’ll start with the most common season to visit in, summer. Located in the northern hemisphere, the height of the summer months in the Caucasus take place in June, July and August, however, depending on where you are, you can even expect warm temperatures to linger well into September and for the mercury to begin creeping to high levels in mid-May.
Summers in the Caucasus, if you stray away from the high mountain areas, can be very hot. Expect high temperatures to land over 30°C (86°F) with many days even hitting temperatures of around 40°C (104°F). And while many places will be air-conditioned, don’t expect this everywhere and it certainly doesn’t extend to lots of public transit and smaller guesthouses, especially in more rural areas outside of the bigger cities.
Summer is also the most popular season to visit the region and you can expect tourist crowds to be at their peak in these months. While the Caucasus certainly aren’t as visited as other areas of Europe, there are still a fair few crowds that do keep increasing each year and if you want to avoid the high season tourist crowds, then summer may not be the best season to visit.
Winter in the Caucasus, conversely, is the least popular time to visit but can also be well worth it, especially if you don’t mind a bit of cold. Because of the vast variety of climate zones in the region, it is impossible to say exactly the kind of weather to expect in the winter, but do expect temperatures to hover around freezing.
If you’re keen to visit the mountain regions in the Caucasus, then winter may not be the best time of year to visit. Many of the more remote areas are completely closed off in the winter months and even if they’re not, if you are keen to do some proper trekking, they will likely be far too snowy to be able to do this safely.
One great reason to travel to the Caucasus in winter is to go skiing for very affordable prices. Particularly in Georgia, there are a number of ski resorts where you can hit the slopes at a fraction of the cost of elsewhere in Europe or Asia.
In the shoulder seasons of spring and autumn, you will see milder temperatures and fewer tourist crowds, meaning that these might be the best times to visit the Caucasus. Winter temperatures can linger into April, but you also can experience some beautiful warm days, as well.
The autumn is similarly lovely, with the cold lows not setting in until early- to mid-November. September and October are particularly pleasant months in which to visit and also have the added benefit of being the time for wine harvest, as well.
However, no matter what time of year you choose to visit the Caucasus, you’re sure to enjoy the time you spend in this inimitable region.
Cost of Travelling to the Caucasus
One of the main things that travellers want to know before visiting the Caucasus region is the average cost of travelling here. Well, luckily for visitors, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan can be quite affordable to visit and your money can go a long way in these countries.
Of course, how much you spend really depends on your travel style or habits, but it is incredibly easy to maintain a tight budget while travelling in this region.
If you travel by public transit, stay in family-run guesthouses and eat at cheaper restaurants, you will find that you will likely have enough cash to spare on the occasional day tour or a more expensive experience.
If you’re interested in seeing a far more detailed breakdown of prices in some of the Caucasus countries, make sure to have a look at the articles below to better budget for your trip!
Currency in the Caucasus
Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan all use their own unique currency that have different exchange rates. Georgia uses the Georgian Lari, Azerbaijan the Azeri Manat and Armenia the Armenian Dram.
In all three countries, you will find that credit cards can be widely accepted in the bigger cities, however, most everywhere is still largely cash-based so it’s always a good idea to take out enough cash to cover your expenses.
Like most everywhere else in the world, we recommend withdrawing cash from an ATM as you need it rather than carrying around large amounts of cash or planning to rely on exchange booths, where you will almost always get an unfavourable rate.
Cash machines are prevalent even in quite rural towns and if you are able to find a bank card that doesn’t charge foreign exchange fees, then there really is no need to go to an exchange booth ever again. Make sure to keep abreast of the exchange rates as they can change and be a bit volatile.
And now we get onto a subject that is of vast importance to many a traveller, myself included: food! Food in the Caucasus is varied and delicious and each country has its own culinary traditions, influences and speciality dishes that are very much worth sampling.
Though the most famous of the cuisines in the region hails from Georgia, it would be remiss of me if I didn’t discuss the cuisines of Armenia and Azerbaijan in the Caucasus travel guide, as well. Each country has its own unique flair and flavours that make it a joy to experience.
Azerbaijan has a number of influences both from Turkish cuisines and from neighbouring Iran. Expect plenty of dolma, plov and, for those with a sweet tooth, halva and baklava.
The town of Sheki in Azerbaijan is particularly famed for its unique halva so it’s a great place for those looking for a sugar fix! One dish that I think is particularly worth mentioning in Azerbaijan is dushbara, a hearty dumpling soup that is perfect for any occasion!
Armenia also has a number of different influences in its cuisine, sharing some similarities with neighbouring Georgia while also embracing some Levantine flavours. You will find bright, fresh salads, lots of lavash, delicious dumplings and countless other great dishes. If you’re after some sweets, make sure to try gata, a sweet rolled pastry that is absolutely delicious.
And, of course, no discussion about the food of the Caucasus would be complete without discussing Georgian cuisine. Increasing in international attention, Georgian food is delicious and is made up of far more than soupy khinkali dumplings and cheesy khachapuri (though you will find plenty of these in Georgia, as well! If you want to learn more about Georgia and its cuisine, have a look at the article below!
Read More: Georgian Cuisine Guide: Must-Try Dishes & Food in Georgia
Transportation in the Caucasus
Getting around Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan can be a bit of a confusing task considering that bus and rail networks don’t exist in these countries to the extent they do in the majority of Europe. That is why it is absolutely essential to discuss transportation in this Caucasus travel guide.
One thing that is great about Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan is that the public transit network is quite extensive and you can get just about anywhere you want to go while relying on it, it just happens to operate a little bit differently to a lot of other places. Namely, there isn’t a well-defined train or coach network throughout the majority of the region and, instead, you travel between places by marshrutka, which are mini-buses.
You will find rail connections between major cities, including an ultra-modern train that operates between Tbilisi and Batumi. Again, there are also some traditional coach routes between popular areas throughout the region, but these are not the norm.
If you don’t want to rely on public transit, many people opt to hire a private drive for all or part of their trips. This doesn’t usually cost nearly as much as it would elsewhere in the world and can actually work out to be fairly cost-effective if you’re splitting the price between a number of people (you usually pay for the cost of the car+driver and not for the individual travellers.).
Another common option is to rent a car and this can be a great choice if you’re an experienced driver and you’re ready to stay very alert and to drive defensively. Drivers in this area of the world can be aggressive and impatient and a lot of people are quite daunted by the prospect of driving here. It’s also worth noting that, outside of major roads, road quality can be quite lacking.
If you want to rent a car in Georgia, we recommend browsing through Rentalcars.com in order to find deals from major car hire companies. Alternatively, you can opt to use Localrent and hire a vehicle directly from an owner for affordable prices.
Accommodation in the Caucasus
Figuring out where you want to stay in the Caucasus and what kind of accommodation options are available to you is an essential topic to cover in a Caucasus travel guide. Typically, figuring out accommodation in Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan isn’t all that difficult and you have a range of options available to you, especially in the major cities and tourist areas.
Depending on your budget, you will have the choice between a typical hotel, hostels in the bigger cities, guesthouses and even Airbnb rentals depending on where you are.
One of the best accommodation options that I will recommend is a family-run guesthouse. Not only is this quite an affordable option, but it is also the most ubiquitous and will give you the opportunity to experience the region’s famous hospitality first hand.
You can book accommodation easily online and most places will have listings on platforms like Booking.com with no worries. Airbnb is also a good option in the bigger cities like Tbilisi, Batumi, Yerevan and Baku, however, options begin to thin out in the smaller cities.
If you want to know of our top picks of where to stay across a wide range of different accommodation types, check out the guides to Baku and Tbilisi linked below!
Are the Caucasus Safe to Visit?
Another pressing concern that absolutely needs to be addressed in any Caucasus travel guide is safety. Because of the fact that Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia aren’t as widely visited by western tourists as a lot of other countries can raise concern for the safety of the countries and many wonder how safe it is to travel there.
On the whole, you will be happy to find out that all three countries are actually quite safe and secure for travellers and very few risks are posed to visitors, especially when compared to some western European countries. All in all, the crime rates in all three nations are quite low and crime towards tourists is an incredibly rare occurrence.
That is not to say, however, that you should abandon all precautions when travelling in Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. It always pays to be aware of your surroundings, not to flaunt valuables or excessive amounts of cash and, in general, to be alert when in crowded and touristy areas.
It is also just worth mentioning that relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan are incredibly fraught and you may experience extra questioning at either border crossing if you have previously visited either country. This is usually the extent of it and there is nothing that prevents you from entering Azerbaijan if you’ve previously been to Armenia or vice versa.
The one aspect that will negate this is if you’ve travelled to the contented region of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh). You will be barred from ever entering Azerbaijan if you travel to this region. You also cannot enter Armenia from Azerbaijan or vice versa and if you want to visit all three countries on your trip, you must transit through Georgia (or Iran).
Another thing to consider when travelling in the Caucasus is travel insurance. World Nomads offers flexible and simple travel insurance policies with coverage for more than 150 activities that you can buy or extend while on the road.
If you’re travelling long-term and are simply looking for an affordable travel medical insurance option, then SafetyWing is also a fantastic option and another one that we personally use. Click here to get a quote from SafetyWing.
Read More: Is Georgia Safe? Top Things to Know About Safety in Georgia
Language in the Caucasus
Language in Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan is another essential item that needs to be covered in this Caucasus travel guide. Each country has its own unique language and, in Georgia and Armenia’s case, alphabets that it can seem daunting to navigate these countries.
The Georgian and Armenian languages are unrelated to each other, use their own beautiful, unique alphabets and don’t have a basis in any other world languages. Azerbaijani is a Turkik language that shares a number of similarities with the Turkish language and uses the Latin alphabet, meaning that it is a lot easier to read some signage.
English in all three nations isn’t especially widely spoken, though you will likely find the highest proportion of English speakers in Georgia, particularly in Tbilisi. We had no problem finding English speakers in Yerevan and Baku, either, but it is a lot less common.
If you want to find a common second language in all three countries, that would be Russian. As former Soviet member states, Russian is widely spoken by most of the older generation and it is still quite a common language to learn in Azerbaijan and Armenia.
If you don’t have any Russian, don’t fret too much. Though Michael speaks Russian and it has proved to be incredibly helpful throughout our travels in the Caucasus, it isn’t a necessity and we have met countless travellers who only have English to rely on that have managed to travel just fine. You will find English signage and translations in the vast majority of places, including road signs, and you will also almost be able to get an English menu at most restaurants.
Religion in the Caucasus
And finally in this Caucasus travel guide, we discuss another very important aspect to travelling in the Caucasus – religion. Though not an overly contentious subject, religion is very important to the identity to these three nations and it is a very important insight into the broader culture.
All three of the countries have different majority religions and Armenia and Georgia respectively were, in fact, the very first countries in the world to claim Christianity as their state religion.
Armenia is the most religiously homogenous of the three countries, with around 97% of the population identifying as Armenian Apostolic. This is the oldest branch of Christianity and there are some truly fascinating religious sites in Armenia to visit. Understandably, religion is a very strong cultural identity for Armenians.
Azerbaijan is the only country of the three that is not a majority Christian nation. In fact, around 84% of Azeris identify as Shia Muslim and a further 15% identify as Sunni. Despite the fact that roughly 99% of the population identify as Muslim, Azerbaijan is considered to be the most secular of Muslim nations and doesn’t list Islam as the state religion. In fact, in Baku, mosques are even banned from using loudspeakers for the call to prayer.
Georgia is the most religiously diverse of the Caucasus countries, largely due to the fact that there are a number of ethnic minorities who call Georgia home.
Despite this, 85% of the Georgian population identify as Georgian Orthodox and the Georgian Orthodox Church plays a large role in the culture of the country. The second-largest religious minority in Georgia is Islam, with about 10% of the population identifying as Muslim. Finally, there is a small population of ethnic Armenians who identify as Armenian Apostolic, at around 4%.
All in all, religion plays a big role in the identity of the Caucasus countries, with countless religious sites and a deep history to explore.
Visiting the Caucasus can be one of the most rewarding travel experiences of your lifetime. Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan have so much to offer travellers from friendly people to a rich history to beautiful nature to delicious food. Hopefully, this Caucasus travel guide will help you plan the best trip possible to these three incredible nations.