10 days Backpacking the Caucasus

I just returned from an amazing backpacking trip to the Caucasus. In 10 days I visited Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia. Even though I travelled with a backpack (I love my Tortuga backpack) I’m still not sure if I can call myself a backpacker? I mean I do stay in nice hotels and use taxis if they are within my budget.

 

Old Tbilisi
Old Tbilisi

The trip was educational and entertaining at the same time. I really enjoyed the overall atmosphere, traditions, colors and local cuisine (oh how much I enjoyed that!). I met so many interesting people along the journey and was humbled with the hospitality and grace of the people.

Georgian Cuisine
Georgian Cuisine

Getting there

The trip started in Baku Azerbaijan. I took off with Fly Dubai on 6th of June which was also the first day of Eid Al Fitr. The flight was short and convenient (2:30 hours from Dubai). I never imagined to be on a plane full of fellow khaleejis (GCC citizens) flying on Eid day to Baku. I mean who goes to Baku? Apparently everyone !!

Old Baku
Old Baku

 

The whole idea was to be flexible, I wanted to go with the flow and be able to make any changes to the itinerary if I wanted. I had a tentative plan to stay for a night in Baku and spend most of the trip in Georgia then end it in Yerevan Armenia. I had no specific reason for this itinerary I just went with what I felt.

 

First day of Eid in Baku
First day of Eid in Baku

 

Baku, Azerbaijan

I knew Azerbaijan was too big to explore it in few days so I figured I’ll stick to the capital Baku. And I was right. In two days I managed to see all of Baku.

Hyder Aliyev Markez
Hyder Aliyev Markez designed by Zaha Hadid

I had one night in Baku so I decided to stay at the best possible option, The Foursesons hotel. The main reasons I chose to stay there was because of the proximity to old Baku, also the building is just beautiful and it is the Fourseasons so I don’t need to look elsewhere. I was right, the hotel was perfect. I walked to Old Baku and to the other busy pedestrian streets. Baku was buzzing night and day.

My view from the Fourseasons hotel Baku
My room view from the Fourseasons hotel Baku

Then came the day of moving to Tbilisi. I bought my train ticket when I first arrived to Baku. The hotel concierge couldn’t buy my ticket online so I had to go to the train station to present my passport and buy the ticket a day in advance. I was excited to be travelling to Georgia by land.

Old Baku
Old Baku

Train: From Baku to Tbilisi

The overnight train ride was longer than what I expected. I booked a first class cabin (2 beds in the cabin). I was lucky to have the whole cabin for myself. Actually the train hostess suggested I pay her few dollars to rearrange the cabins and make sure I have it for myself. It was only few dollars so I said what the heck and accepted the offer. At the end I figured my cabin was already not booked and I would have had it all for myself either way!

 

Train from Baku to Tbilisi
Train from Baku to Tbilisi

The train moved at 8:30 pm and the night was long. I finished reading my book then tried to sleep. I never actually slept I felt I was floating till I saw the first beam of light. It was dawn already. Shortly after we stopped for immigration checks on both borders then slowly made our way to Tbilisi. Border checks were easy but I didn’t like the strict luggage inspection. I mean, couldn’t they just scan the luggage instead of going through every single piece in my bag (including toiletries) and leaving it a mess.

14 hours later I finally reached Tbilisi, exhausted hungry and dizzy after the longest train ride ever.

 

Tbilisi Georgia
Tbilisi Georgia

Tbilisi, Georgia

The minutes I saw Tbilisi I just felt home. Though I was too exhausted to notice anything I actually opened my eyes properly when I reached the hotel. I immediately felt rejuvenated when I checked-in. My hotel, Rooms hotel Tbilisi, was a beautiful boutique hotel tucked in the busy streets of Tbilisi. I spent 4 beautiful nights in Tbilisi. I explored Tbilisi in-depth and I also went on day trips to Mtskheta and Gori.

 

Mtskheta
Mtskheta

Kazbegi, Georgia

After getting familiar with Tbilisi I wanted to see a different part of Georgia so I booked to stay at the picturesque Rooms hotel in Kazbegi. I initially wanted to stay for a night but after seeing the postcard like surroundings I decided to extended for a second night. Kazbegi was beautiful as a dream.

Kazbegi
My rooms view at Rooms hotel Kazbegi

It was time for me to say goodbye to Georgia and move to my last destination, Yerevan Armenia. The journey from Kazbegi to Tbilisi was 3 hours then I took a taxi from there and continued to Yereven for another 5 hours.

Kazbegi waterfalls
Waterfalls in Kazbegi

Yerevan,  Armenia

My last two days in Yerevan were less hectic I was tired from the travels. I liked what I saw in Yerevan and I think I might want to go back to explore it further. I had a full day to explore the monasteries and get familiar with Yerevan. Travelling in Armenia was a lot cheaper than Georgia and Azerbaijan.

Khor virap monastery with Ararat mountain at the back
Khor virap monastery with Ararat mountain at the back

My hotel Tufenkian Historic hotel was overlooking a square that is used for the weekend local market called Vernissage Market. I was lucky to visit the market before going to the airport. You can find many antiques and beautiful art pieces at the market. I got few souvenirs.

Yerevan
Yerevan

It was a great experience. The whole trip was great.  I really felt comfortable travelling as a solo female. I walked the streets day and night and was never harassed or mistreated or felt cheated. In contrast I felt really welcomed. This was my first visit to the Caucasus but it sure will not be the last.

I’ll be posting in more details about each part of the trip. In summary this was my itinerary.

Itinerary

Day 1.

Arrive to Baku overnight at Fourseasons hotel. Explore old Baku

Day 2.

Explore Baku. Zaha Hadid markaz. Take the night train to Tbilisi

Day 3.

Arrive at Tbilisi. Overnight at Rooms hotel Tbilisi

Day 4.

Explore Old Tbilisi

Day 5.

Road Trip to Mtskheta and Stalin Museum in Gori

Day 6.

Guided walking tour in Old Tbilisi

Day 7.

Moving to Kazbegi. Overnight at Rooms hotel Kazbegi

Day 8.

Explore Kazbegi. Visit Trinity Church and waterfalls.

Day 9.

Back to Tbilisi and continue to Yerevan. Overnight at Tufenkian Historic hotel

Day 10.

Explore Yerevan famous landmarks. Khor Virap, Garni temple and The Monastery of Geghard

Day 11.

Vernissage Market. Then Flight home

 

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Caucasus backpacking trip