• 31 August 2018

Located on the border of Eastern Europe and Western Asia, lies Azerbaijan, Georgia & Armenia. These countries are nestled in the Caucasus region and promise travellers the opportunity to explore unique architecture, mesmerising history and traditions that go as far back as the 900AD. If you’re looking to travel beyond the usual European classics of France, Italy and Switzerland then look no further than the three Caucasus beauties. Here’s a little bit about each one and why they deserve a spot on your “must-visit” travel list…

Gergeti church, Kazbegi, Georgia

Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan is also known as ‘the Land of Fire’, because of the continuously burning hillsides, caused by natural gas pockets in the ground. The country’s fame for fire is evident in the trio of skyscrapers known as Flame Towers, which stand tall and proud in the city centre of Baku. This former Soviet republic is bordered by Armenia in the west, Georgia in the north, the Caspian Sea in the east and Iran in the south.

Where to go (sights to see)

Azerbaijan’s capital, Baku, is the lowest lying capital in the world at 28m below sea level. From the modern Flame Towers, to the historic Old City found within the capital, Baku offers visitors a truly unique experience. The first historical reference of Icheri Sheher, the ancient city was in 885AD, but there has been evidence of a settlement long before then. Another bucket list destination is the Gobustan National Park, which is an archaeological reserve that is home to mud volcanoes and over 600,000 ancient rock engravings and paintings. Finally, the Diri Baba mausoleum has been the subject of many myths and legends. The 15th century mausoleum appears to have been been built into the surrounding rock face of a hill, giving off the impression that it is suspended in mid-air.

Streets of Baku, Azerbaijan.
Baku, Azerbaijan.

Georgia

Firstly it must be clarified that this is not a state in the USA. Rather, Georgia is a beautiful country found at the intersection of Europe and Asia. While the country technically falls in Asia, the locals consider the country to be part of Europe. Georgia has an abundance of monasteries, cathedrals and churches and the countryside is filled with quaint villages and welcoming locals. In fact, Georgians believe that guests are a gift from God and as such treat them to hospitality that comes second-to-none in the travel and tourism industry.

Where to go (sights to see)

Tbilisi is the capital of Georgia and something to behold as it is surrounded by ravines, canyons and valleys. One of Georgia’s claims to fame is the ancient wine-growing region of Kakheti. The Georgian wine-making methods are so unique that UNESCO has listed the traditional earthenware wine-making method as a notable piece of cultural heritage. Georgia is home to three UNESCO heritage sites. The Gelati Monastery is a 12th century medieval complex, which acts as a reminder of the ‘Golden Age’ of Georgia. The historical monuments found in the ancient city of Mtskheta show what life was like during 3-5 century BC. In the early 4th century, Georgia declared Christianity as its national religion in this very city. The picturesque setting of Gergeti Trinity church has made it a must-see for anyone travelling through the Caucasus region. Ranked as one of the most beautiful churches in the world, Holy Trinity Church stands atop a mountain, over 2000m above the river below.

Armenia

Armenia is a landlocked country bordered by Turkey to the west, Azerbaijan to the east, Iran to the south and Georgia to the north. Armenia’s scenery is reason enough to add it to your list – Lake Serevan covers over 5% of Armenia’s surface area and the abundance of mountains make this small country seem much larger than it truly is. Armenia’s famously known for being the first country to adopt Christianity as its official religion in the 4th century. Not surprising, the country’s cities and towns are filled with churches and monasteries – each capturing the visitors attention in a different way.

Clay souvenirs sold in old town, Baku, Azerbaijan
Azerbaijani souvenirs found at a local market in Baku.

Where to go (sights to see)

Yerevan is the capital of Armenia, and it’s home to history-filled museums and landmarks, as well as breathtaking scenery. Or, if you prefer to sit and watch the locals go by, you’re in the right place because Yerevan is known as the City of Cafes. Framed by the volcanic peaks of Mount Aragats and Mount Azhdahak, the city is quite unlike any other. Take a trip back in time as you explore the Akhtala village, which dates as far back as the Bronze and Iron Ages. Visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Haghpat monastery complex. Built in 976, this is a place of rich and fascinating history. Finally, Echmiadzin Monastery is the Armenian equivalent of the Vatican. It’s here where the first cathedral was built and where Christianity was adopted as the national religion. Pilgrims and travellers are willing to travel far and wide to see this.

Sighnaghi (Signagi) is a georgian town in Georgia's easternmost region of Kakheti.
Sighnaghi (Signagi) is a georgian town in Georgia’s easternmost region of Kakheti.

So there you have it, these countries are off the beaten track but now you know they deserve your attention and affection! Few places will have as much history and culture as these three beauties of the Caucasus Region.

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