The Caucasus is a fascinating place to visit, especially considering the vast differences in culture, language, traditions and food in such short distances travelled. Here is our recommended places to visit based on ease of access by land and visa requirements.
Artsakh (also known as Karabakh)
This beautiful mountainous land which has been fought over in recent history is really worth seeing. Accessible mainly by car, it takes about 6 hours to reach the capital’ Stepanakert. Karabakh is known to be a disputed territory due to its recent history of war with Azerbaijan. Travellers do need a visa (unless travelling on an Armenian passport) which can be arranged easily while in the capital’ Stepanakert, Karabakh. Once there, you should allow yourself at least 2 to 3 days to explore this historical land. Location: about 6 hours south east from Yerevan by private car Highlights of Karabakh include:
- The capital city’ Stepanakert – a clean and tidy city with many newly built buildings since the war. Notice the BBQ’s hanging off the balconies – quite a unique sight! You can tell they are fond of their Khorovats (Armenian BBQ) here! They speak a different dialect of Armenian which can be hard to understand for even those who speak mainstream Armenian.
- The history museum in Stepanakert
- Iconic statue of the Papik and Tatik (Grandmother and Grandfather) on route to Gandzasar. It symobilses how entrenched the Armenians are in this land that only their heads are above the land to watch over it (their bodies remain as roots in the ground).
- Also make sure you visit the famous, Gandzasar monastery 40 km away from Stepanakert, known to house the head of John the Baptist. The once impossible road to travel on to reach the monastery has recently been repaved and is now a perfect route to travel on. This monastery, perched up on top of a hill is set in tree covered rolling hills. It is said that inside the main church, images of two angels have appeared (one on either side of the altar) which has helped to protect it during the wars. You can see the marks from the shootings during the war on the far side wall of the main church.
- The city of Shoushi is the second biggest city in Artsakh only 10 km away from Stepanakert. This cliff top city has been a focal point in the war with Azerbaijan. It now sits on Armenian territory and is very safe to visit. The winding tree lined street up to Shoushi is stunning and so is the main cathedral there known to be one of the most beautiful in the region.
- The town of Amaras is renown for the school and church established by Mesrop Mashtots, the founder of the Armenian alphabet in the 5th century. You will also find the oldest tree in the ex-soviet region at Amaras. This tree is said to have been seen by John the Baptist, Mesrop Mashtots, Khrimian Hayrik and many others.
A close and easy destination from Armenia. If you have made an effort to reach this part of the world its a must see.
- Tbilisi is a very picturesque capital city with a beautiful old town area to explore. A hub of intellectual happenings back in the 1800’s its a mini Paris scene! Pay a visit to Envoy Hostel Tbilisi nestled close to the Narikala fortress when you are there!
- Enjoy the view of the Mtkvari River from one of the bridges
- Wonder around the cobblestoned streets of the Old Town area
- Visit the domed Orbeliani Baths
- Admire the colourful Mosque close to the Baths
- Visit the dominating Narikala Fortress
- Indulge in the fine Georgian food and wine
- Take a day trip to Mtskheta
- Spend a couple of days in Kazbegi, an excellent region for hiking. Also you will see the much photographed Tsminda Sameba Church
- Take a tour or two to explore the region with Envoy Tours in Georgia and book yourself in to stay at Envoy Hostel Tbilisi!