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Top 5 reasons to visit the South Caucasus this summer

Written by Fiona

May 27 2019

The South Caucasus region is a land of fascinating natural beauty, majestic mountains, friendly locals, ecologically clean food, quaint villages and hot sun. It is a region worth visiting at least once in a lifetime. 

The South Caucasus includes three countries, Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan, two of which are Christian and one is Islamic. One of the distinctive features common for all three countries is the contrast of modernity and antiquity, old and new, luxury and poverty.

Here top-of-the-range cars share the road with old Soviet ones, chic buildings are neighbours to non-renovated old ones, and on the streets you can see both fashionable passers with iPhones and beggars.

So, why do we think that the South Caucasus should be your next travel destination? Keep reading and you will find out 5 strong reasons:

1. Food for the mind

Armenia is the first country in the world to adopt Christianity as a state religion. That happened in 301AD and after this important historical event many religious monuments were founded all around the country.

Many of them have survived to the present day and welcome pilgrims from around the world. Be sure to admire the architecture of Echmiadzin Cathedral, Khor Virap Monastery, Tatev Monastery and Geghard Monastery.

The sites are majestic in their modesty and are filled with an indescribable reverent atmosphere. The national church in Armenia is Apostolic, which is the part of Oriental Orthodoxy.

Georgia adopted Christianity some time later after Armenia. Most of the local population confesses Orthodox Christianity.

You will discover a number of unique religious sights belonging to the ancient times. In Georgia, first of all head to the city of Mtskheta where the main religious sights of the country can be seen. Explore the Svetitskhoveli Cathedral, climb to Jvari Monastery and visit Samtavro Monastery.

In Azerbaijan, you will plunge into the Islamic culture. In Baku, walk through the Old Town. Here you will see the Maiden’s Tower, the Icheri Sheher Fortress and the Palace of the Shirvanshahs.

It would be better to explore Caucasus sights with experienced guides. Choose excursions from local agencies. Maybe here you will be able to find some suitable options 

Ajara beach in Georgia.

2. Beach holiday options

The South Caucasus is neither the Maldives, nor Bali, but here your summer holiday may be even more interesting than on the islands. Let’s start with Armenia.

Armenia has no access to the sea but there is an amazing azure lake in the country, Sevan, which is so large that the locals refer to it as the small sea. Located at an altitude of 1900 m above sea level, Sevan is considered one of the largest freshwater high-altitude lakes in the world.

This gem of Armenian nature is surrounded by the Geghama mountain range and its snow-capped peaks. The beach season on the lake begins in late June and lasts until mid-August.

You can combine your beach holidays with a cultural programme as the area is known for such ancient sights as Sevanavank Monastery, Hayravank Monastery and Noratus cemetery of cross stones.

In Georgia, for beach holidays head to the Autonomous Republic of Adjara – the most popular Black Sea resort of the South Caucasus. The centre of Adjara, Batumi city, is one of the most beautiful in the region.

Batumi is a city of contrasts, including unique buildings of modern designers, luxury hotels, casinos, bars and restaurants. But as soon as you enter the local courtyards, you will be amazed at the simplicity of the life of the locals who live quite poorly. Almost the entire Black Sea coast on the territory of Adjara is suitable for a beach holiday.

Azerbaijan is known for the Caspian Sea coast. The country is investing huge resources in the resort areas and now each of them offers a high level of service and clean golden beaches.

Novkhan, Mardakan, Bilgah, Zagulba and Lenkoran are the most popular beaches. They are located near Baku and you can easily combine a beach holiday with sightseeing in Baku.

Watermelon Festival, Armenia.

3. Heaven for gourmets

The South Caucasus has always been famous for its delicious, saturated, spicy dishes. In summer, the region is laden with the sweetest seasonal fruits and vegetables.

Summer is also the beginning of barbecue season. In every country of the Caucasus, and even in every region, the barbecue is prepared with a unique recipe and you should definitely try Armenian khorovats in tandyr (national oven), Georgian BBQ with tkemali sauce and Azerbaijani lamb barbecue. At Lake Sevan, one of the main summer dishes is a trout and whitefish BBQ.

From June, you can taste the sweetest apricots, peach, watermelon and melon, plums, cherries and wild berries in the region. Armenian apricots are said to be the best in the world. It is not just a fruit, but a true national value. And Azerbaijan is famous for its sweetest melons.

Mtirala National Park is a protected area in Adjara region, Georgia. 

4. Outdoor activities

Nature is the greatest value of the South Caucasus. The endless potential of mountain ranges, rocky canyons, crystal clear lakes and rivers, waterfalls and alpine meadows attract a huge number of lovers of ecotourism, trekking, mountaineering and rock climbing.

The beginning of summer is the most suitable season for trekking in the mountains. In June, the days are not so hot and the nights are cool.

There are several popular trekking directions in Armenia: Sevan, Dilijan, Lake Parz, Areni, Noravank, Goris, Azhdahak Mountain, Akna Lake, Aragats Mountain and many other interesting trekking routes of various levels of difficulty. 

Georgia surprises with its lush and rich nature. There are subtropical parks, desert mountain peaks, dense coniferous forests, lakes, and rivers on the territory.

The most popular trekking routes are in national parks and reserves such as the national park of Borjomi-Kharagauli, Svaneti, Kakheti and national parks in Adjara.

Trekking in Azerbaijan is a new type of tourism for the country and it is just beginning to gain popularity. The best routes are from the village of Khynalyg and in Gobustan reserve with mud volcanoes.

Tbilisi city for fun nightlife.

5. Nightlife in the capitals

There is a misconception that Armenia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan are typical post-soviet countries with little in the way of a fun nightlife. But this is not the case.

Yerevan, Tbilisi and Baku are European cities that offer all kinds of service and entertainment to their guests. In terms of comfort, all three cities are perfect for Russian and English-speaking guests.

There is a huge selection of luxurious five-star hotels and affordable guesthouses, entertainment, cultural life, all kinds of cafes, restaurants and, of course, active nightlife.

Yerevan does not sleep at night. On warm days, people walk along the streets, have an aromatic cup of coffee in cozy summer open-air cafes and chat. Head to Republic Square for an evening stroll and enjoy the amazing show of singing fountains. After the show head to the Cascade observation area and enjoy the lights of the whole city from on high.

It is also worth visiting Pushkin Street (the street of pubs) and Saryan Street with wine bars in Yerevan.

In Tbilisi in evening time, walk along Kura River; visit the Bridge of Peace, which is illuminated at night; stroll around Rike Park; and fly to Narikala Fortress by the rope way. Don’t ignore the Shardeni Street full of cafes.

In Baku, the centre is brightly lit, and bars, cafes, restaurants and night clubs operate until the morning. Head down Baku Boulevard, officially known as the Seaside Park.

The famous Flame Towers of Baku are also very beautiful during the night time.

Where will you choose to go in the South Caucasus region this summer?

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