5 reasons to travel to the Caucasus

5 reasons to convince you to travel to the Caucasus. Easy peasy.

Apart from the SEO thing (5 reasons to…), in my 15 years career as a traveler, I rarely found a destination so easy to reach but at the same time more underrated.

I confess that I would like to remain as such: I love the feeling of being the only tourist on a bus and the pleasant disorientation that is felt when there is not a waiter who speaks English. On the other hand, if I just wanted this, the blog, this blog, would be clearly contradictory and somehow inconsistent. In fact it is both, but in any case, let’s just leave philosophy and move on, otherwise, we will get lost.

So, why travel to the Caucasus? What is exactly the Caucasus?

To answer this question I would like to highlight 5 reasons that could push a hardened traveler, or even a simple tourist, to visit the Caucasus. But before this list, I would like to try to define the region we are talking about. As anyone heard anything, recently, on the Cabardino-Balcaria?

The Caucasian geographical area. The map comes from Wikipedia and was made by the CIA, so watch out. South Ossetia and Abkhazia are here marked as belonging to Georgia, although in reality they are de facto independent for several years. The situation of Nagorno-Karabakh, here assigned to Azerbaijan, is also problematic.
The Caucasian geographical area. The map comes from Wikipedia and was made by the CIA, so watch out. South Ossetia and Abkhazia are here marked as belonging to Georgia, although in reality they are de facto independent for several years. The situation of Nagorno-Karabakh, here assigned to Azerbaijan, is also problematic.


The Caucasus is divided between Russia, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia. The Russian side is actually formed by a series of Republics that enjoy a more or less broad degree of autonomy and which are not touristically on top of the LP list as countries to visit in 2018.

Ingushetia, Chechnya, Dagestan, Cabardino-Balcaria, Circassia, North Ossetia, (without mentioning the problematic situations of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, even if you can enter the first without too much difficulty), are perhaps more known for political problems, guerrillas and bearded terrorists than for the tourist appeal. Now things seem to have calmed down but I do not feel able to provide you with information on these countries that I have not yet visited.

Travel to the Caucasus. This is the nearest point to Azerbaijan I've ever been. I was in Georgia.
Travel to the Caucasus. This is the nearest point to Azerbaijan I’ve ever been. I was in Georgia.



As for Azerbaijan, I can tell you that at the moment it requires a visa (like Russia), which can be obtained through 2 different procedures:

  • standard, not overly complex, but requiring the delivery of the passport to the Azeri Embassy in Rome.
  • electronic, through the site https://evisa.gov.az/en, not tested by me but that seems to be quite simple.

At the moment I have not been in Azerbaijan and from the stories that I have heard it seems that Baku deserves absolutely the visit, but besides the capital, I have very few useful indications. On the other hand, Formula 1 has just made its annual Grand Prix so…how can you ask for more?


Armenia is perhaps the most isolated of the Caucasian nations. For obvious historical reasons (the 1915 genocide and the disappearance of historical Armenia, dismembered by the Russian and Turkish empires) the border with Turkey is closed (even if Turkish goods pass through Georgia). The war with Azerbaijan for the control of Nagorno-Karabakh, never finished, still marks the very problematic (to say the least) relations with the Azerbaijani and makes this border theorically impenetrable.

At the moment my choice would be to reach Yerevan passing through Georgia, even if Austrian Airlines had some good offer on the Wien-Yerevan route. Moreover, the huge street protests that led to the resignation of Prime Minister Sargsyan are very recent news. If I were you I would monitor the situation constantly (here Al Jazeera).


Then there is dear old Georgia. The closest Caucasian state to the EU, where tourism is developing quite quickly also thanks to low-cost air connections. On the blog there are a lot of articles on Georgia, but most of them are in Italian. Sorry.

5 reasons to travel to the Caucasus.

1 – Landscapes

The landscapes. About 3 million people live in Armenia and 3.5 in Georgia. In both cases there are about 1.2 million inhabitants in Yerevan and Tbilisi, the capitals. Vast spaces are simply uninhabited and human presence is much less perceptible than in other European countries.

All this gives the mountains, the valleys and some plains, a fascinating and wild feeling. Monasteries on top of mountains, isolated villages and even a desert on the border between Azerbaijan and Georgia. You will have the chance of taking exceptional photographs and plenty of time to contemplate your future without a soul visible on the horizon. The mountain landscapes of Svaneti, Kakheti, and Armenia are then almost untouched compared to the coming and going of tourists on the Alps and the Pyrenees.

This is the “beautiful” part but then there are other landscapes, intriguing as well, especially in Armenia. Landscapes witness of the industrial history of the region and which now remain as dinosaur skeletons, evidence of an era that is not ours. In some cases the plants, such as the Alaverdi mine (see photo below) remain partially active and continue on the one hand to be a source of income for some thousands of people, on the other to be a source of pollution for a large area.

Caucasus, Armenia, Monastery of Haghpat
Caucasus, Armenia, Monastery of Haghpat
Caucasus, Georgia. A view of Mestia in the Svaneti region.
Caucasus, Georgia. A view of Mestia in the Svaneti region.
Caucasus, Armenia. A view of the Alaverdi copper mine/foundry.
Caucasus, Armenia. A view of the Alaverdi copper mine/foundry.

5 reasons to travel to the Caucasus

2 – prices

Prices. A trip in the Caucasus using public transport, eating local food, using just a few illegal drugs, and keeping to a minimum the strip clubs visit, is generally inexpensive. Do not look at me like this, I’m joking.

The point is that even traveling alone you might be able to keep your daily expenses around 20 euros (even less if you cook and sleep in the hostel). Then, of course, prices can go up to where you want. Certainly, I will not tell you that you will have to eat boiled potatoes for two weeks or give up on the Armenian brandy after only 3 shots. The hostels are widespread, but the guest houses are even more.

The food is generally excellent and cheap, transportations very cheap provided you have some time and a little patience. In Georgia there is also a railway line that crosses the country and connects Tbilisi to Batumi and you know that the train is always the train.

5 reasons to travel to the Caucasus

3 – food

Food. I cannot hide the fact that with time I learned to appreciate good food. Fortunately, I do not come from a family that assigns an essential value to food: we do not spend hours discussing how much to cook the steak or lobster and the almost veganism of my mother has significantly reduced the already scarce options on Sunday lunches. In any case, as the great life_nomadic says on Instagram, “I went from alcohol-based evenings to coffee-based mornings, the best decision of my life”.

About the best decision part I still have some doubts, at least more than life_nomadic (if you are on IG follow him because he is a great traveler) but in any case when I travel, I spend much more time and money looking for a good restaurant than a good disco or a good bar. In the Caucasus, with some surprise I must admit it, I found very good things to eat (have you ever heard about Georgian cuisine? no right?).

Did you say bread?

First, they have bread and for bread, I mean real bread baked in an oven, not square slices of something that has more sugar than cereals. If you travel to Georgia you will learn to appreciate the different versions of Khachapuri, with cheese, meat, eggs or a mix of the three, and then you will appreciate the fact that tomatoes and cucumbers are always present in the menu of each restaurant. Pasta lovers will appreciate khinkali, large ravioli stuffed with potatoes, mushrooms or meat. There is no shortage of beans, mushrooms, meat, and cheese of various kinds.

As you may have guessed it is generally a relatively unrefined but very substantial cuisine (I challenge you to finish a Khachapuri with cheese filling and then continue your lunch). In Armenia, dolma are quite popular vine leaf rolls filled with rice, spices, and meat. In both Georgia and Armenia, you can find a sort of cheese lasagna called Achma, which can go from almost acceptable to very good, depending on the restaurant you happen to choose.

Food porn?

In genere rifuggo dal fotografare il cibo. Questo è l'ultimo limite, la linea rossa che ho deciso di non oltrepassare. In questo caso, coerentemente, l'ho oltrepassata. L'unica cosa che posso dirvi è che è un piatto (antipasto?) vegetariano. Il ristorante era il Dolmama di Yerevan. Qui in foto non fa un grande effetto, ma era squisito.
Usually I’m not a food photo lover. Photographing food is the red line which I decided not to go beyond. In this case, coherently, I went beyond. The only thing I can tell you is that I think it’s a vegetarian dish (appetizer?). The restaurant was the Dolmama in Yerevan.
Colazione a Kutaisi. Credeteci o no ma queste sono le uniche due foto di cibo che ho sul pc. Vorrà dire qualcosa?
Breakfast in Kutaisi. Believe it or not but these are the only two food photos I have on the pc.

5 reasons to travel to the Caucasus.

4 – history

History. Tbilisi, at least the old city, is dominated by a fortress that at night, all lit up, still makes a beautiful impression. Monasteries, churches and small, secluded/monastic villages, can be found throughout the territory of Georgia (I mention only the most famous ones, Vardzia and Davit Gareja).

From the churches of Gelati and Bagrati (UNESCO World Heritage Site), passing through the Debed gorge (see article here but in italian) and arriving to the temple of Garni (that perhaps looks like a bit false when you are there, but in pictures looks great) and at the monastery of Geghard, your thirst for history and spirituality can certainly be appeased.

Both Tbilisi and Yerevan have also some very interesting museums (National History Museums, but lovers of books and history can not miss the Mantenadaran in Yerevan). A lot, of course, depends on your willingness to organize excursions.

In fact, it is not always possible to understand with certainty where the bus goes and where it departs or at what time it does. In this case the language barrier complicates things, without a decent knowledge of Russian things tend to get complicated, especially if you are drunk. Yet, people are more willing to help a tourist than you can think and even hitchhiking has many chances of success.

Keep in mind that there is always a risk with hitchhiking, especially if you are a single woman.

Kutaisi, Georgia. Monastero di Gelati
Caucasus, Georgia. The Gelati Monastery in Kutaisi.

5 reasons to travel to the Caucasus.

5 – variety

Variety. No, I do not mean the vaudeville nor the US magazine. What I’m refering to is the possibility of living different holidays in just one trip. I try to explain myself better. Are you looking for a seaside resort full of casinos, cheerful nightlife and beautiful Russian women in bikinis? Then Batumi could be for you, with the possibility of reaching Turkey easily. The sea may not be exceptional but the natural views offered by the Botanical Park near Batumi and the mountains of the small Caucasus, on the border with Turkey, could still keep you busy for more than a few days.

If you are looking for your real inner-self and you believe that walking on the ridge of a mountain can lead to some results, then you are spoiled for choices: the monasteries and the mountains of Armenia or northern Georgia (Kakheti, Svaneti, Kazbegi, Debed and south of Armenia) will certainly be of help (if you really find your inner-self let me know, I’m curious).

Really a lot of different options

Are you by chance looking for some worldly level event (classical music, F1 or tennis?) Or do you like modern architecture? Baku could prove perfect or, in the absence of an Azeri visa, you could always fall back on the eccentric modern architecture of the aforementioned Batumi, which in the historic center, struggles for visual supremacy with the belle-epoque buildings of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. In short, the opportunities are many and varied.

I love cities and human interactions and I was pleasantly surprised by Yerevan and Tbilisi, while others might prefer the isolated mountain charm of Ushguli or the crowded Batumi beaches. The beautiful thing, and here I stop because otherwise I go ahead until you have to struck me down with baseball bat, is that the distances are almost always “human”. Even with public transport (marshrutka or train), it rarely takes more than 6/8 hours to reach most of the places, with the pleasant exception of the more isolated mountain resorts that would otherwise be stormed by thousands of tourists.

Here, in the upside down white house, there should be a restaurant. Let me know if you dare to try.
Here, in the upside-down white house in Batumi, there should be a restaurant. Let me know if you dare to try.
One of the examples of the architectural mix of the center of Batumi.
One of the examples of the architectural mix of the center of Batumi.
An attempt at an artistic photo in the Svaneti mountains.
An attempt at an artistic photo in the Svaneti mountains.

Did I make my point in convincing you to travel to the Caucasus?

If you want to continue reading I have a few other choices:

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