From Baku to Yerevan, step off the tourist trail in the Caucasus

TRIP CHANGES FOR 2016:
From 1st August 2016 we have adjusted the route of our travels from Baku to Sheki to include a stop at Lahij village on Day 4. This is replacing the stop at the mud volcano as a result of passenger feedback on this activity.

TRIP CHANGES FOR 2017:
This trip will be discontinued in 2017. From 1st January 2017 we will be offering 2 exciting new itineraries in this region: KFSB Highlights of Azerbaijan & Georgia (10 days) and KFSI Tbilisi to Istanbul (15 days). These will also be available as a combination trip. Please check online for our new trips which are now published.

Start
Baku, Azerbaijan
Finish
Yerevan, Armenia
Countries
Armenia,
Azerbaijan,
Georgia
Themes
Explorer
Code
CPKC
Physical rating
Cultural rating
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 1 Max 12
Carbon offset
355kg pp per trip


Highlights

  • Azerbaijan's cosmopolitan capital of Baku is often referred to as the 'new Dubai'. Enjoy a guided walking tour around the city's World Heritage-listed Old Town
  • Ancient mosques, lush forests and tall peaks – the Caucasus Mountains will take your breath away
  • Experience Georgian hospitality as you're invited into a local home to share a traditional meal, before sampling Georgian wine from clay jars during a wine making demonstration
  • See the historical sights of Mtskheta, Georgia's 3,000-year old ancient capital and religious centre
  • Explore the city of Yerevan in Armenia with a local guide and gaze at the majestic Mt Ararat

Itinerary

Welcome to Azerbaijan! On arrival at Baku Airport you'll be met by one of our representatives and transferred to your hotel (approximately 40 minute drive). Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm this evening. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask reception where it will take place. If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader.
Azerbaijan's capital is a cosmopolitan oasis of East meets West and old meets new. Begin the day with a guided walk around Baku's World Heritage-listed Old City, visiting the Palace of the Shirvanshahs, Maiden Tower and former caravanserai. Next, take a tour of the Absheron Peninsula, checking out the Ateshgah Fire Temple, Mardakan medieval fortress and Yanar Dag Fire Mountain, a natural gas fire which burns continuously on a hillside. Afterwards, return to Baku for the evening.

Total driving distance today will be 100km, approximately 2 hours driving time.
Today take a drive to Qobustan. 60 kilometres south of Baku, this is a popular day trip from the city. Stopping en route to view old oil rigs and seascapes, you'll see scenery like nowhere else. On arrival into Qobustan National Park, visit the open-air museum, which features 6,000 UNESCO World Heritage-listed rock engravings. The prehistoric carvings, which are thought to be between 5,000 and 40,000 years old, depict scenes of hunting, fishing and gathering. You will also have the opportunity to see the on-site archaeological museum before returning to Baku.

Total driving distance today will be 130km, approximately 2 hours driving time.
Today will be a full and fascinating day. Leave Baku behind and head for the Caucasus Mountains in the northwest of Azerbaijan. Enroute stop in at Lahij, a village situated at 1300m in the slopes of the Caucasus Mountains and famous for its copper handicraft masters.

On arrival into Sheki, stop at a local craft workshop where the famous ‘shebeke’ (stained-glass windows with intricately carved frames) are made by hand. The group will also drop in to the well-known Sheki Khan’s Palace, where you'll be able to see its magnificent frescoes and stained glass. Tonight will be spent in Sheki.

Total driving distance today will be 350km, approximately 7 hours driving time.
This morning you have the opportunity to visit a traditional bazaar. From here, drive towards Azerbaijan's border with Georgia, where you'll bid farewell to your Azeri leader and meet your new Georgian one. You'll also be changing vehicles at this point.

Enjoy a rare and intimate experience as you stop at a local’s house for a lunch, where you'll indulge in traditional homemade food and wine. Next, continue to another village where you'll visit a farmer’s house and see a unique old wine cellar. Here you'll become acquainted with the Georgian method of winemaking, which is quite different to the European method, and drink typical Georgian wine straight from clay jars. Afterwards, drive to the 18th-century fortified town of Sighnaghi, where you'll spend the night in a hotel. This well-preserved romantic village offers stunning views of the surrounding Caucasus Mountains.

Total driving distance today will be 175km, approximately 4 hours driving time.
In the morning, drive to the 6th-century David Gareja cave complex, which is located among stark, semi-desert landscapes. After seeing Lavra Monastery, take a steep 50 minute-walk uphill to Udabno Monastery, where you can explore its wonderful painted caves and enjoy dramatic views across the border into Azerbaijan.

Afterwards, continue on to the historic Georgian city of Tbilisi. You'll be spending the next two nights here.

Total driving distance today will be 245km, approximately 4 hours driving time.
Special Information
You will need good shoes for the hike today. The hike usually takes a total of around 2 1/2 hours for people with average fitness and involves changes in height of up to 400m.
Take a sightseeing tour of Tbilisi this morning, which includes a walk through the fascinating Old Town. Here you will find a myriad of different religious buildings – churches, synagogues, mosques – as well as 19th-century houses with colourful wooden balconies. Your leader will take you on a journey back through the city's history, from the earliest centuries of its existence to the present-day.

You will also visit the famous sulfur baths, which made a deep impression on writers such as Alexander Pushkin, Mikhail Lermontov and Alexandre Dumas. Enjoy a panoramic view of the Old Town before seeing the stunning treasures of the Georgian National Museum. Finally, take a stroll along Rustaveli Avenue – the main street in Tbilisi. In the evening, you are free to explore and relax.

Total waking time today is approximately 3-4 hours.
Special Information
The Georgian National Museum is closed on Mondays. We will include a visit there the following or previous day if the tour falls on a Monday. 
Today visit Mtskheta, the 3,000-year-old ancient capital and religious centre of Georgia. Here you will see historical sights such as the 6th-century Jvari Church and the 11th-century Svetitskhoveli Cathedral, where the robe of Christ is reportedly buried. Both Jvari and Svetitskhoveli are World Heritage-listed. Continue up the famous Georgian Military Highway, which heads towards the country's border with Russia. Along the way, stop in at the 17th-century Ananuri architectural complex, two historic churches and a fortress overlooking the Zhinvali water reservoir. This scenic drive will take you right into the heart of the high Caucasus Mountains to Gudauri, where you'll spend the next two nights.

Total driving distance today will be 115km, approximately 2 and a half hours driving time.
Special Information
Our accommodation in Gudauri is at an elevation of 2200m.
In the morning, embark on a stunning drive along the Tergi River to Kazbegi, the main town in the region. In Kazbegi, enjoy a 3-hour hike through beautiful valleys and woodlands to the Gergeti Trinity Church, which is located 2,170 metres above sea level. Weather permitting, you may be able to catch a glimpse of one of the highest glaciers in the Caucasus – Mt Kazbegi.

Afterwards, walk back to town before getting back in the vehicle for the return drive to Gudauri, visiting a local art studio on the way. Here you will see how traditional 'Teqa' felt is made, and try some delicious homemade jam.

Total driving distance today will be 75km, approximately 1 and a half hours driving time.
Special Information
A 4WD vehicle can be hired (optional and at an extra cost paid on ground) to transport those who are unable to do the hike today. The hike involves changes in elevation of up to 470m.
Your journey continues today to the town of Gori, located in the heart of the Kartli region. Next, explore Uplistsikhe cave city, which dates back to 1,000 BC and was once a stop along the Great Silk Road. Here you can see remnants of an ancient complex, with old dwelling quarters, wine-cellars, bakeries, a theatre and a three-nave basilica church hewn out of rock. After a photo stop at Joseph Stalin’s house, head southwest to Akhaltsikhe, where you'll spend the night.

Total driving distance today will be 270km, approximately 5 hours driving time.
Special Information
Please note that the Stalin Museum is not included on this trip and is an optional activity only, with a visit needing to be negotiated with the leader and other members of the group.
As we drive to Vardzia we have the chance for a photo stop at the 11th-century Khertvisi Fortress. Stretching for over half a kilometre along the Mtkvari River and consisting of 19 tiers, the magnificent 12th-century cave town of Vardzia is sure to be one of the highlights of your trip. There were once about 3,000 caves here, as well as a church hewn into the rock. The complex includes dwelling quarters, small hall-type churches, refectories, wine cellars, a pharmacy and more.

After your visit, continue towards the Georgia-Armenia border at Bavra, where you say goodbye to your Georgian leader and meet your new Armenian leader and drive on to Yerevan for the night.

Total driving distance today will be 355km, approximately 6 hours driving time.
Today enjoy a city tour around Yerevan. Established in 782 BC, Armenia’s capital is one of the oldest cities in the world. On the tour you'll see Republic square, Freedom Square, the Opera house, North Avenue and the Cafesjian Center for the Arts, which is dedicated to bringing the best of contemporary art to Armenia. You'll also visit the Genocide Museum and Tsitsernakaberd Memorial Park, where a continuously burning 'Eternal Flame' commemorates the victims of the nation's first 20th century genocide. Finally, head to the Brandy Factory for a tour and to sample some of the finest examples of celebrated Armenian brandy. Spend the night at a hotel in Yerevan.

Total driving distance today will be 60km, approximately 2 hours driving time.
This morning, head to the Echmiadzin Cathedral, which is known as the spiritual centre of the Armenian Apostolic Church. Next, visit the ruins of the Zvartnots Temple, a 7th-century UNESCO listed site. Zvartnots is an outstanding example of ancient artistic and engineering ingenuity. Back in Yerevan, check out the Armenian History Museum, which contains an important collection of archeological artefacts dating from the Stone Age through to Medieval periods.

Total driving distance today will be 60km, approximately 1 and a half hours driving time.
After breakfast today, take a drive through villages and vineyards, enjoy amazing views of the sensational Mt. Ararat. Your first stop today is Khor Virap monastery near the border of Turkey. Enjoy a sightseeing tour of the monastery, which is situated on top of a hill amidst stunning scenery. Continue on to Noravank Monastery. Wedged into a tall, brick-red gorge, Noravank was an important cultural centre in the 13th century. At the end of the day, return to Yerevan.

Total driving distance today will be 250km, approximately 4-5 hours driving time.
Today it's an early departure to the citadel of Garni. Garni hails from the Hellenistic period and is an impressive example of ancient Armenian architecture. The Armenian King Tiridates built it in the first century AD, most likely as a dedication to the heathen god of the sun - Mithra. From the temple, it's an easy one-hour hike to the canyon of Garni, famous for its unique rock formations. These giant basalt pillars are often referred to as a 'Symphony of stones'. Higher up the gorge of the Azat River is the World Heritage-listed Geghard Monastery, which is partly carved out of a mountain.

In Garni, you may have a chance to enjoy an optional lunch at a house and watch locals prepare traditional “lavash” bread and barbecue in an underground stove called a “tonir”.

Afterwards, continue to Lake Sevan, which is about 70 miles north of Yerevan and the second largest alpine lake in the world. After some photo stops and sightseeing along the peninsula, the rest of the afternoon is free.

Total driving distance today will be 220km, approximately 4 hours driving time.
After breakfast at the hotel, head to the ruins of Amberd Fortress. Translating to "fortress in the clouds", Amberd used to be one of the Armenian Kingdom's primary military-defensive points. Continue on to the ancient town of Byurakan, where you can take an optional one-hour hike through the untouched beauty of Byurakan Gorge. After driving back to Yerevan, visit a market to sample some delicious traditional fare. The rest of the day is free to explore the city in your own time.

Total driving distance today will be 110km, approximately 2.5 hours driving time.
Your adventure comes to an end after breakfast today. There are no activities planned and you are free to leave the accommodation at any time.
View trip notes to read full itinerary

Inclusions

Meals
15 breakfasts, 1 lunch, 3 dinners
Transport
Private Bus, Metro
Accommodation
Hotel (16 nights)
Included activities
  • Baku - Maiden's Tower
  • Baku - Shirvan Shah Palace
  • Baku - Caravanserai
  • Baku - Absheron Peninsula Tour
  • Qobustan - Petroglyphs
  • Sheki - City Tour
  • Chardakhi - Georgian Wine Tasting & Home Cooked Lunch
  • David Gareja - Monastery Complex & Hike
  • Tbilisi - Old Town Walking Tour
  • Tbilisi - National History Museum
  • Mtskheta - City Tour
  • Kazbegi - Gergeti Trinity Church Hike
  • Uplitsikhe - Cave Complex
  • Vardzia - Cave Town
  • Yerevan - Guided City Tour
  • Yerevan - Armenian Genocide Memorial Complex
  • Yerevan - Brandy Factory
  • Vagarshapat - Echmiadzin Cathedral
  • Armavir - Zvartnots Temple
  • Yerevan - Armenian History Museum
  • Noravank - Monastery
  • Khor Virap - Monastery
  • Azat River Gorge - Geghard Monastery
  • Garni - Village Tour
  • Lake Sevan - Sightseeing Trip
  • Amberd - Fortress
  • Byurakan Gorge - Hike
  • Yerevan - Market

Dates

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Important notes

1. An arrival transfer is included.
2. The Azerbaijan E-Visa is included in the trip cost - you must arrange this before travel. Please see specific visa information for more detail.
3. For the duration of this trip you will have three local leaders, one in each country.
4. In the case of a genuine crisis or emergency, Intrepid's local operator Visit Georgia can be reached on: +995 593 99 69 68 and/or +995 599 55 89 98.
5. Please make sure you have access to an additional US$500, to be used when unforeseen incidents or circumstances outside our control (eg. a natural disaster, civil unrest or an outbreak of bird flu) necessitate a change to our planned route.
6. The Azerbaijan Ministry of Foreign Affairs requires that all travel arrangements in Azerbaijan be booked through the same provider. In order for us to process your Azerbaijan E-visa all additional accommodation must be booked through Intrepid Travel.
7. Altitudes of up to 2395m above sea level will be experienced during this trip
8. Please note for the departure on the 5th October (CPKC161005), the Armenian History Museum will be closed. Your leader will be able to suggest an alternative activity.

Trip notes

Want an in-depth insight into this trip? Your trip notes provide a detailed itinerary, visa info, how to get to your hotel, what’s included - pretty much everything you need to know about this adventure and more.

View trip notes

Reviews

Our Azerbaijan, Georgia & Armenia trips score an average of 4 out of 5 based on 8 reviews in the last year.

Azerbaijan, Georgia & Armenia , June 2016

Azerbaijan, Georgia & Armenia , June 2016