Now if there is something I love more than traveling a new place, is exploring on a Road trip.
11 Days - 3 Countries - 4 Cities - 1000 Kms
Wait a minute, before I disclose the details, let’s have a look at my route map and run through my travel itinerary:
Day 1 : Starting Point - Armenia
Day 2 & 3 : Explored Armenia
Day 4 : Crossed the Border to Tbilisi, Georgia
Day 5 & 6 : Travelled through beautiful mountains and streets of Georgia
Day 7 : Crossed the Border to Sheki, Azerbaijan
Day 8 : Transfer from Sheki to Baku, the capital city
Day 9 & 10 : Baku Tour
Day 11 : Takeoff to home
As easy as it may look, trust me it was one hell of a trip. Crossing the land borders was the most challenging part.
It isn’t easy to enter Azerbaijan if you have Armenia in your itinerary and vice-versa
The best & cheapest way to travel in Azerbaijan is to use Uber Cabs. Download the App before your travel
I always recommend carrying US Dollars for any trip
Currencies: Armenia Dram; Georgian Lari; & Azerbaijani Manat
You got to be flexible with your taste buds for this road trip as you’ll find only local cuisines on the highways
Long hours on the road
Do carry your travel insurance as they might ask at the borders
One of the best bag packers trip
You can find many hotels and hostels at a cheap price.
An average meal in these countries would cost between $3 - $8.
All the countries are quite safe with welcoming people, so don’t be afraid to hitchhike.
Language is a barriers outside the cities, most of the people speak only their local tongue but they do understand Russian
Where did I stay?
Hotel National - in Yerevan City Center, Armenia
Ambassadori - in Tbilisi, Georgia : One of the most luxurious hotels in Tbilisi.
Marxel Resort and Spa - in Sheki, Azerbaijan : This Resort is heaven in the valley
Boulevard Autograph Collection - in Baku city center, Azerbaijan
Armenia, I had been here before so it was more like returning home. This. time stayed in the ‘National Hotel’, a 5* Star property in the heart of the Yerevan city center. Window overlooking the lively street was the best thing to set the evening mood. For the month of May, it was still cold.
This time Armenia was lush green, cloudy and rainy. A good season and a great place for nature lovers and hikers. I went to all the places again where I had been in last December but everything seemed so different this season. The weather was so perfect for long walks, nightlife gets more active in summer and due to the protest for the new government in Armenia, the streets were more lively.
To know more about Armenia, read my blog "Armenia in 5 Days : Budget | Tips | Guide
View From Garni Temple
En Route Armenia to Georgia
It’s a straight scenic drive of 5 hours from Yerevan to Tbilisi, but there is so much to explore on the way that you’ll need almost a day. En route you can explore - Lake Sevan & Tsaghkadzor, the travel gems of Armenia. Before you cross the border visit the beautiful small town called Dilijan, also known as Switzerland of Armenia.
Georgian Immigration was pretty organized, clean and systemic. This was my first experience to cross an International border by land. Crossing this International border was way too different from crossing borders within Europe. Here you get the feeling of entering another country, you got to scan your luggage and get the immigration stamp on your passport.
Roads were rainy, gorgeous landscapes, it was a breathtaking drive across the borders.
Tbilisi is one of the most picturesque cities in the world, not simply a hill city of winding cobblestone streets but because it is a city of the mountains. Nestled in a river valley where the Northern and South Caucasus Mountain ranges almost meet, it has spectacular views from innumerable locations and a short drive from downtown you are in the alpine meadows above.
Tbilisi is a vibrant city with an amazing nightlife. Since it’s a wine country so you can enjoy good quality wine at a shoddy price.
Transportation is no issue at all, but you got to bargain with the taxi drivers. The most favorite local food in Georgia is ‘Kachapuri’ and ‘Khinkali’ and there's no way you can esacae Georgia without tasting these.
Places to visit/experience in Georgia that I explored on this trip:
1. Georgian Folk Dance Show with Georgian cuisine : Suggestion - “Mravaljaamieri Restaurant”
2. Aghmashenebeli Street - Cafe’s and Restaurants
3. Shardeni Street - Pub, Clubs and Sheesha Parlors
4. Gudauri & Kazbegi - For Hikers and Nature lovers
5. Gergeti Trinity Church in Kazbegi
6. Mksheta - its a homelike small town, 30 mins far from Tbilisi. You may fall in love with it. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, has been inhabited since before 1000 BC. Best place for souvenir and handicraft shopping.
Gudauri & Kazbegi
I did a day tour from Tbilisi to Mount Kazbegi (160 Kms, approx. 4 hours drive) and en route visited Gudauri which is an ideal spot for nature photographers and a treat for adventure lovers. Gudauri is known as the winter ski resort but in summer it offers you adventure sports like paragliding, horse riding, and quad biking. Moving upwards to the north, you’ll land up in Kazbegi. Stepantsminda, commonly known as Kazbegi, is a small town in the north-east Georgia, close to the Russian border. It is one of the must see places in Georgia, mostly due to amazing hiking routes, stunning nature, and cozy homelike feeling. Take a stroll of the this town - cafe’s, small casinos, bars, iconic mountain peaks, and valley view hotels. One must stay minimum 2 nights in Kazbegi. Kazbegi is ideal for hikers and if hiking doesn’t interest you, go for an aimless drive instead. This area will leave you hypnotised, irrespective of the direction you choose.
Georgia to Azerbaijan
There are 2 land borders from Georgia to Azerbaijan: 1) Lagodekhi/Balakan and 2) Tsiteli/Red Bridge. I picked the second one for my journey. As I was coming from Armenia so I knew its not gonna be easy. I was prepared for the hassle. Well, it wasn’t smooth, but I kind of enjoy such little hurdles as they spice up the journey and adds an exciting flavor to it. My advise, if you are ever doing this trip, makes sure you have your hotel bookings in advance as at immigration they may ask for hotel reservations as they did to me.
My first stop in Azerbaijan was Sheki. Sheki is a small town and Azerbaijan’s true travel gem, famous for silk production and surrounded by lush green Caucasus mountains. Rich in Islamic architecture and friendly people. I stayed in Marxal Resort and Spa, one of the finest luxury resorts in Sheki. Staying in their villas in itself is an amazing relaxing experience, discover an astounding selection of treatments, luxury massages, softening and energizing body treatments, Turkish hammam. The Resort have bowling centre, billiard club, Gym and Pool for sporty people. It’s recommended to stay here for minimum 2 nights if you are going to Sheki.
Baku, The Capital City
It’s about 5 hours drive from Sheki to Baku. Baku is a rich and well constructed city, it has a mixture of both European and Arabian Culture.
The best way to commute in this city is through Uber Cabs or Metro. You may find it hard to negotiate with normal taxi drivers, so for tourists Uber is the best choice. This city is a great place for nightlife lovers. Remember “Nizami street” if you are a foodie.
If you are a sporty person, then I may suggest you bicycle tour of the city corniche with a amazing view of the city. You can rent a bicycle for $3 per hour and enjoy the sightseeing on wheels. Food is not an issue here, you can find your cuisine and taste at an ease.
Among these 3 countries, I would say Baku is the most urban city and it’s Early 20th-century European Architecture gives the city a European look. The Inner City (Icheri Sheher) or you can say the Old Baku gives you flavor of Islamic architecture. The Inner City dates to the 12th-century. You’ll see lots of Islamic styles like the Palace of the Shirvanshahs, old mosques and former bathhouses. Streets branch and twist as the old town rises gently up the hill. Vendors sell traditional Azerbaijan carpets and souvenirs here. This historical center of Baku reveals its tumultuous past, from its roots as a Persian capital.
Azerbaijan is rich with Oil and Gas so after the oil boom they invested well in their city architecture with modern skyscrapers and designs.
Places to visit in and around Baku:
1. Highland Park in Baku
2. Nizami Street
3. Old Baku - Icheri Sheher
4. Heydar Aliyev Museum
5. Day Tour to Absheron & Gobustan
6. Day Tour to Mud Volcanos
7. Shardag - Ski Resort.
8. Gabala Tour
End of Tour!
It was a scenic road trip in the Caucasus Mountains Range with a diverse experience of history, language, culture, food, hospitality, architecture, nature sights, and lifestyle. Immerse yourself in the beauty of nature, take halts at the small cafe’s on the highways and enjoy the local cuisine and wine with the view to beautiful valleys and mountains, travel back in time with cultural sights and monuments dated from 1st to 16th century, experience different lifestyles, and transformation of these countries from medieval days to the modern life today.