The South Caucasus is a great travel destination for tourists of all ages. In this post we want to tell you about top 7 must do things in Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan for people from 35 to 50.
1. Explore the sights of contrasting capitals
Start your acquaintance with the three colorful countries of the South Caucasus with exploring their hearts - Yerevan, Tbilisi and Baku – contrasting, hospitable capitals.
You can stick to visit all the main sights of Yerevan within two days. Yerevan is a small, cozy, sunny city, where Soviet buildings intertwine with luxury hotels, restaurants and beautiful parks and squares. Climb to the top of the Cascade and admire the view of Mount Ararat and the city from a height, stroll along the heart of the city – Republic Square (make sure to come here again in the evening to admire the singing fountains), visit the Historical Museum and art gallery or Matenadaran – the largest in the world repository of ancient manuscripts.
For exploring Tbilisi, you will need no less than two days, preferably more. During these days, walk along the streets of the old city, visit the Metekhi Church and the Zion Cathedral, see the beautiful Botanical Garden, take the cable car to the Narikala Fortress, visit the sulfur baths. If there is time left, you can go to the local Gabriadze puppet theater. Souvenirs can be found on Shardeni Street. Be also sure to take a tour of one of the brightest and most colorful districts of old Tbilisi – Sololaki.
It is better to start a sightseeing tour of Baku from one of the main attractions of the capital – a long avenue stretching along the embankment (23 km of a well-maintained pedestrian zone). Here baobabs and the alleys of cacti grow, and steps descend to the sea. Don't miss the National Carpet Museum, located right on the waterfront. The museum itself has an original design in the form of a carpet and offers a huge exposition of carpets from different parts of the country. See also the amazing Heydar Aliyev Cultural Center.
2. Plunge into the historical past
Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan are countries not only with beautiful landscapes and delicious national cuisine, but also with a rich historical heritage.
Despite the fact that Armenia is a small country, it has a very ancient history, which is proved by a large number of centuries-old cultural, historical and architectural monuments. In order to feel deeply the soul of the country, we recommend making a trip to the main historical corners of the country. Be sure to visit Echmiadzin – the Armenian Vatican. This place is cult for all Armenians, because it was here in the 4th century after the adoption of Christianity that one of the first Christian cathedrals in the world was built (a UNESCO site). The residence of the Catholicos of all Armenians is also located in Echmiadzin. It is also worth to visit Khor Virap, where the founder of Christianity, Gregory the Illuminator was imprisoned for 13 years. The most beautiful view of Mount Ararat opens from this very site. Do not miss the opportunity to see Geghard, Haghpat, Sanahin, Goshavank, Haghartsin and Tatev.
In Georgia, you should definitely visit Mtskheta, a cozy town founded in the 5th century. Mtskheta is a significant town for all Georgians, because it was the first capital of Georgia for over 800 years, and it also hosts the largest number of important religious and historical monuments, many of which are included in the UNESCO heritage list. Climb also to the temple of Jvari, which is located on a hill near Mtskheta. It was on this place that Nino of Cappadocia placed the Holy Cross, which marked the adoption of Christianity by Georgia. Visit also the temples of Gelati, Bagrati, located in Kutaisi.
In Azerbaijan, from a historical point of view, the city of Sheki is of great interest. In 2019, its historical part was included in the UNESCO heritage list. During the Middle Ages, the city occupied an important position on the Great Silk Road. Be sure to see the Palace of the Sheki Khans, which is a valuable architectural monument of the 18th century, as well as the Sheki Fortress and Caravanserai, which was the center of exchange and negotiations for traders and other people traveling along the Silk Road. Sheki has also long been famous for its silks and silk products – "kelagays" – colorful women's scarves.
3. Visit national restaurants
To finally fall in love with the South Caucasus region you should try its national dishes. Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan offer a huge selection of colorful national restaurants with delicious dishes and traditional interiors.
One of the most popular and worthwhile places in Yerevan is the Tavern Yerevan restaurant, where you can eat your fill for $ 10. Another no less colorful restaurant is Lavash where national bread lavash is baked just on the ground floor in a tonir. A more budget option is the Karas National Food chain which has 11 branches throughout Yerevan. The menu here is varied: there are snacks, salads, hot dishes, including those for vegetarians, most of the dishes of traditional Armenian cuisine. This restaurant will be a great choice if you want to have a quick and affordable meal. Whichever restaurant you choose, be sure to try dolma in grape leaves, spas, harisa, rich fragrant khash soup (during the cold season), traditional lavash, a dish of liver and vegetables tzhvzhik and other delights of local gastronomy.
Georgia is also a paradise for gourmets. In Tbilisi, do not miss the Tsiskvili Restaurant, which has been open for over 10 years and does not lose ground. It offers one of the best music programs in the city - every day ат 20.00 the Ethno hall offers performances of the national dance ensemble and the Georgian choir - an indescribable atmosphere! Moreover, the restaurant has been given the status of a museum, as national costumes and instruments are exhibited here. Furth more the hallmark of the city can be also called the Funicular Restaurant, which is located on Mount Mtatsminda. On the first floor you can taste the most delicious donuts in the city or visit the khachapuri bakery, and on the second floor you can enjoy Georgian-European cuisine and views of the city. Be sure to try the platter of cheeses (Imeruli, suluguni, nadugi), khachapuri, khinkali, Georgian salad (tomato-cucumbers with nuts), fried trout in pomegranate sauce, barbecue of pork, veal, lamb (served very effectively with fire), mushrooms with sulguni on ketsi.
One of the must-see places in Baku is the Shirvanshah Restaurant (86 Salatyn Askerova St.), which has been given the status of a museum. There are a large number of halls, the interior is made in the national style, and national dishes are served. Live music plays in the evening. Another atmospheric place is the Firuza restaurant (14 T. Aliyarbekov St.), where you can taste national dishes and take photos in national costumes against the backdrop of colorful carpets. Be sure to try pilaf, summer dovga soup, piti soup or bozbash, and baklava for dessert.
4. Feel Adventurous
The South Caucasus region has all the necessary conditions for those who want to get some portion of adrenaline.
In Armenia, you can zipline in Yenokavan in Yell Extreme Park, ski and snowboard in Tsakhkadzor, fly in a balloon or paragliding, conquer mountain peaks such as Aragats, Khustup, as well as go on hiking trails that include many historical and cultural attractions. Professional travelers can conquer the hiking trail called "the Trail of Legends", which is part of the Transcaucasian trail and stretches for 154 km in Syunik Region. Read more about adventure travel in Armenia here.
In Georgia, the longest zipline with a length of 800 m is located in Sairme - a resort town in the western part of Georgia. You can also zipline to Sighnaghi, Pshavi and Pasanauri. Skiing can be enjoyed in Gudauri and Bakuriani, paragliding in Gudauri, Kazbegi, Bakuriani, Svaneti, Mestia and Batumi. Georgia is ideal for fans of mountaineering and trekking. Among extreme lovers the most popular are the following mountain ranges Ushba (4710m), Shkhara (5201m) and Kazbegi (5068m). Trekking at the foot of Mount Kazbek is also very popular, the route of which passes through very beautiful places, villages, gorges and waterfalls. Read more about extreme tourism in Georgia here.
Azerbaijan also has many options for active holidays. Ski lovers can visit the resorts towns of Shahdag and Tufandag, which offer many ski slopes of different difficulty levels, safe lifts, and equipment rental. Fans of extreme hiking and trekking in the mountains can climb the Shahdag Range or Mount Babadag. You can also enjoy trekking and hiking in the Goygol, Zangezur and Shahdag National Parks famous for their breathtaking views of mountain ranges, rocky cliffs and dense forests.
5. Taste local wines and cognac
The slopes of the Caucasus Mountains and the Armenian Highlands are the oldest center of wine-making culture on earth. In Armenia, in the village of Areni, the remains of a 6100-year-old winery were found, and to this day excellent wines are produced in the village. Armenia is also famous for its cognac, which is known all over the world. Georgia is called “the cradle of winemaking”, as the history of grape cultivation and winemaking in the country stretches back to 8,000 years. Azerbaijan has also been growing grapes and producing wine for many years, and winemaking in the country has recently experienced a revival.
In Yerevan, cognac connoisseurs should definitely visit the ArArAt Factory, where they can learn about the history of the legendary cognac, witness the stages of brandy production and try various samples of ArArAt cognacs right on the spot. The tasting is carried out in a special hall, where guests are offered several samples of cognac. Prices vary depending on which kind you want to try: a museum tour and tasting of the most famous brands – Akhtamar, Nairi, Dvin – will cost about 10,000 drams ($24). Read more about Armenian cognac here. For wine tasting, you can go to the village of Areni – one of the most popular destinations among tourists. Here, at the eponymous factory, you can taste local wines, as well as visit the Areni-1 Cave, which we mentioned above. Read more about winemaking in Armenia here.
Tbilisi is famous for its huge number of wine bars and shops where you can taste local wines, as well as buy one as a gift. The most famous are the Wine Gallery store (39 Tsinamdzgrishvili Ave.), the Vino Underground shop-bar (27/15 Kote Apkhazi St.), the Vinotheca wine boutique (31 Kote Abkhazi Ave.), the Tbilvino factory (2 Sarajishvili Ave.) If you want to visit the wine cellars and see the traditions of wine making, then it is better to go to Kakheti - the center of winemaking in Georgia. One of the largest wine producers in Kakheti is the Khareba Winery, one of the most famous among tourists. Tours and tastings are held here. Read more about winemaking in Georgia here.
In Azerbaijan, the most attractive place for wine tourism is the Chabiant winery, located among the vineyards in the Isailly region. There is a beautiful tasting room, a huge cellar for storing wine, as well as a guest house and cottages for guests. At the end of August, the winery hosts a harvest festival, and at the end of November, the Wine Nouveau festival, similar to the French Beaujolais Nouveau festival takes place here.
6. Take part in colorful festivals
Every year colorful festivals are held in various corners of the South Caucasus region, which are dedicated to famous traditional dishes and products, as well as national symbols. This is a great opportunity to experience the countries from the inside, get acquainted with interesting traditions and dishes. If your visit coincides with one of them, be sure not to miss the opportunity and to take part. Here is some of them:
In Armenia, festivals dedicated to national dishes are organized annually. The festivals of tolma, barbecue, gata are especially popular. During them, guests can taste amazing variations of national dishes presented by chefs and amateurs, as well as enjoy songs and dances. Every autumn, the well-known wine festival takes place in the village of Areni, during which guests of the country can get acquainted with the traditions of wine production, try to trample grapes themselves in large vats and taste delicious wine.
And in summer Saryan, Tumanyan and Moskovyan Streets knowns as “wine streets” are home to “Yerevan Wine Days” event which take place during 3 days and gives an opportunity to wine producers to present their wines. More information about festivals in Armenia and their dates can be found here.
In Georgia, one of the most popular festivals is Tbilisoba – the birthday of the capital. This holiday falls on the last weekend of October and has been celebrated for more than 30 years in a row. The holiday takes place in the city center and lasts for several days. Exhibitions, concerts, treats and even a grape crush ceremony await guests. Another popular colorful festival takes place in the center of winemaking region, Kakheti, and is called Rtveli. It is dedicated to the grape harvest. After the grape harvest, the locals arrange noisy and cheerful feasts. More information about festivals in Georgia can be found here.
In Azerbaijan, one of the most popular events is the pomegranate festival which takes place annually in October or November in Goychay city. It’s no accident that he festival attracts so many visitors – the pomegranate is considered the king of fruits in the country, many songs and poems are dedicated to it. During the event, guests can try different varieties of pomegranates, buy souvenirs in the form of a pomegranate, and take part in fun contests, such as eating pomegranates. The festival ends with a concert and fireworks show. Another popular festival in Azerbaijan is the Baku International Jazz Festival founded by the Honored Artist of Azerbaijan Rain Sultanov. Now it is held annually and includes various concerts, master classes, seminars, jazz-themed competitions.
7. Visit souvenir shops and food markets
At the end of a trip to a foreign country, you always want to buy national souvenirs and all sorts of goodies for yourself and your family and friends. In Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan, everything is fine with this business – there are so many interesting and tasty things around that you want to take everything with you at once. Here is a list of must-see places:
In Yerevan, for buying souvenirs it is better to go to Vernissage – an open-air fair. Here you can find the works of artists, jewelers and potters, as well as various souvenirs, semi-precious stones, daggers, carpets and the Armenian duduk. On the central Abovyan Street you can also find souvenir shops, for example, "Dalan" and "Nina's Treasures". We also recommend visiting the local central food market “GUM”, where a special colorful atmosphere reigns. You can find everything there – fresh fruits and vegetables, dried fruits, spices, homemade wine, pita bread, basturma, different types of cheese. And, most importantly, you can try everything. Read more about shopping in Armenia here.
In Tbilisi, one can look for souvenirs at the “Dry Bridge” (flea market) or in specialized souvenir shops such as Gallery 27 or Pokany. For wine, of course, it is better to go to the wine-growing region, Kakheti, but if this is not possible, you can visit specialized stores like Wine Gallery and Vinotheca. You should definitely visit the local markets, among which one of the most modern is the Orbeliani Bazaar. It was opened recently in a historic building on the site of the old Farm Market. There is a supermarket on the first floor, on the second floor visitors can find vegetables, fruits, spices, churchkhela, honey, nuts, cheeses and other food products, and on the third floor there is a food court where you can find Georgian and international dishes. Read more about tourist shopping in Georgia here.
In Baku, for buying souvenirs it is recommended to go to the “old city” – the Icheri Sheher region. In the old quarters of this area, you can find various carpets and other national souvenirs. Just keep in mind that it will be difficult to take out old carpets from the country. For beautiful handmade souvenirs, you can go to the Sultan Exotic Store, located in the "old" city next to the Maiden's Tower. One of the most popular food markets among tourists in Baku is Yashil Bazaar (Green Market), which is open all year round. Entering the market, you will plunge into the world of spices, oriental sweets, fruits and vegetables. The Green Bazaar is located on 7 Khatai Avenue. The bazaar is open from 6 am to 10 pm local time.
Choose the Tour to Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan you like most and tour-operator Arara will organize your amazing Holiday in the Caucasus.