Top things to do in the South Caucasus

Mountains in Georgia, the South Caucasus

Mountains in Georgia, the South Caucasus

Have you ever heard about the South Caucasus region? It’s a pity that this amazing hospitable and sunny region is less discovered in comparison to other travel destination of Europe and Asia.

The South Caucasus region is located on the border of Eastern Europe and Western Asia. Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan are the countries that make up the Caucasus. It is a place of majestic mountains, exotic cuisine, warm and friendly people and rich cultural traditions.

With all that being said, we highly recommend it as your next travel destination.

To help you organize your trip, we have created the list of the top things to do in Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan accordingly. The list was made with the help of locals who shared their tips and ideas. Thus you will get a unique guide for your travel in the Caucasus.

Those who want to have a combined journey but don't want to waste time on tour arrangements can try Arara's Classical Tour to Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan.

Top 10 things to do in Armenia

1. Take a photo on the background of Ararat

Ararat is the sacred mountain for Armenia that was the part of historical lands, and now it is lost. Every Armenian dreams of getting back the lands and the mountain that is why Ararat is more than a mountain: it is the symbol of their glorious past. Besides, Ararat is a biblical mountain where Noah’s arch landed. To take a picture on the background of Ararat is a must.

2. Taste Armenian cognac from the cellars

Armenian cognac is a national value with the history as rich as the culture itself. In the cellars of Ararat brandy factory, you can taste the best kinds of Armenian cognac and warm your heart with its deep aroma. The tour to Ararat brandy factory is not only about tasting but also an interesting presentation of brandy production and its storage in barrels. The cellars of the factory are full of huge wooden barrels that preserve the aroma of all the brandy ever kept in them.

3. Drink wine in Areni cave

Did you know that the oldest winery was found on the territory of Armenia? The earliest known winery has been found in the chambers of Areni cave. According to the archeologists of the University of California, it is the most reliable evidence of wine production dating back 6100 years. Impressive, isn’t it? What about tasting Armenian wine in the cradle of winemaking? It will be no less interesting and memorable. 

Areni Cave in Armenia Caucasus.jpg

4. Fly on a Zipline

For adventure lovers, there is an interesting activity in Armenia that is quite popular among the locals. Ziplines are located in the mountainous regions where you can enjoy the best views. The longest and the most extreme zip line track is located in Yenoqavan, Yell Extreme Park with the flight height of 300 meters.

5. Bargain in Vernissage

Vernissage is the largest open-air market with handmade souvenirs in Yerevan. This is the best place to buy a present. Take your time to get around all the counters and look closer at those handmade silver accessories, wooden souvenirs, and carpets. And, of course, try to bargain.

6. Get blessing in Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin

Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin is the religious center of Armenia. Priceless treasures not only for Armenians but for the whole Christian world are kept there. Make a small pilgrimage to Etchmiadzin to see this holy church and get a blessing.

7. Try popular national dishes

Armenian cuisine and traditional dishes are popular far beyond the borders of Armenia. Maybe you have already tried some of them. Now it is time to taste true Armenian dishes in the local environment. Start with meat dishes and finish with traditional mulberry vodka and refreshing tan.

Armenian trout barbeque in Armenia Caucasus.jpg

8. Take a night walk around Yerevan

The reason why we love Yerevan so much is neither its beautiful pink buildings nor kind-hearted people. It is the rhythm of the city that never slows down. Even at late night streets are full of locals and tourists enjoying warm evenings. Plus, it is absolutely safe in the city.

9. Go down the pit in Khor Virap

Khor Virap Monastery is the place where the history of Christianity started. In pagan Armenia, there was a prison with deep pits filled with snakes and scorpions. No one could survive there and only Gregory the Illuminator (sentenced to death for preaching Christianity) lived there for 13 years, survived and earned the mercy of the king. Now Khor Virap is a monastery with pits open for visitors. The deepest one where Gregory the Illuminator lived has a narrow passage and steep stairs. It is a real challenge to get into the pit so dare to overcome those stairs.

10. Step back into pagan times

In the country of thousand churches and monasteries, there is the only preserved temple from the times when Armenia was a pagan nation with a pantheon of gods and goddesses. Garni temple was devoted to the Sun god and every sunrise and sunset was celebrated with a special ritual in the temple. Of course, you won’t see the ritual today but you can still admire the majesty of the ancient temple.

Top 10 things to do in Georgia

1. Take a walk around Old Tbilisi

Tbilisi will make you fall in love with it from the very first moment. The contrastive colors, the mind-blowing mixture of futuristic and medieval architecture immediately captures attention and the deep contrast is seen everywhere. To feel the flair of the city, take a walk around Old Tbilisi to admire the ancient architecture, the houses with decorated walls and narrow streets.

2. Have a bike ride on the beach

The Black Sea coast is a popular summer destination in Georgia. Clean beaches of modern Batumi, the capital of Adjara, are great for a beach holiday. Take a morning ride along a comfortable bike path that stretches along the beach and this will be a wonderful start of a new day.

3. Imagine yourself a caveman

Want to feel yourself a caveman? Vardzia is a real Time Machine that transports you back to the Middle Ages. The unique cave town is carved in the rock with more than 600 premises, streets and passages connecting “houses”. Believe us, it will be an unimaginable experience.

Vardzia caves in Georgia Caucasus

4. Taste traditional Georgian wine

This tip should have been on the first place because wine tour is a must-try and to-do thing in Georgia. Whether you choose wine tour in the region of winemaking or the winebars of Tbilisi you will definitely enjoy it.

5. Get drunk with chacha

Getting drunk with Georgian wine is easy, but when you taste chacha you realize what it means to be drunk. And it’s fun! Chacha is made of residues of grapes after they have been smashed for wine production. In fact, chacha is homemade grape vodka, strong alcoholic beverage for the bravest ones. Besides being very strong, chacha is healthy and more often it is used as a homemade remedy. Traditionally, you should drink chacha with small portions before dinner.

6. Take a gastro tour and try all the tastiest dishes

A trip to Georgia should start with a tasting of national dishes and finish with the same sacred ritual of tasting those khachapuris, khinkali, spicy meat sauces and sweets. If you are keeping your weight under control, relax and enjoy life because Georgian cuisine is too tasty to resist.

Georgian pakhlava in Georgia Caucasus.jpg

7. Meet the dawn on Kazbegi Mountain

Georgia is all about the noise of drums, feasts and people making great toasts. However, there are times when you simply want to enjoy the silence and nature. In terms of isolation and secluded places, Georgia has so many wonderful places to visit. One of the best locations is Stepantsminda with the best view of Kazbegi Mountain. For a comfortable stay choose Rooms Hotel Kazbegi, modern venue with a super cool interior and large terrace overlooking Kazbegi.

8. Spa therapies in the Sulphur Baths

No, no, no, we are not going to discuss modern spa centers with cool spa procedures and aromatherapies. Instead, we are going to visit one of the oldest places in Tbilisi. Abanotubani is located in Old Tbilisi and it is one of the most colorful and exclusive architectural and historical monuments in the capital. Baths are built on top of natural sulfur springs, there are several springs of different temperature and they all have healing properties. Spa therapy in Abanotubani is must-do in your list.

9. Find the dinosaur footprints

You won’t believe but the dinosaur footprints have been found in one of the caves of Georgia. Sataplia is a karst cave with stalactites and stalagmites but what is more interesting – 200 dinosaur footprints have been found on the territory of Sataplia reserve.

Sataplia cave in Georgia Caucasus.jpg

10. Spend a night in a chateau

In the land of winemaking, there are so many interesting and cozy chateaus to enjoy the beautiful Alazani valley and taste the best Georgian wine. From all the beautiful chateaus you may choose Chateau Mere near Shuamta forest. The fresh air of the mountains, historical monuments nearby, beautiful hotel and, of course, an interesting wine tour in chateau will be a wonderful memory.

Top 10 things to do in Azerbaijan

1. Visit Old Baku

Icheri Sheher is the historical district of Baku with old buildings and city walls. The old town is located in the city center, on the Caspian seashore. All the buildings of Old Baku are made of polished limestone, narrow roads are clean and neat. Today in the historical district you can find: two fortress walls, the Palace of Shirvanshahs, Maiden Tower, old mosques, city baths, caravanserai, and museums. Take your time to explore all the buildings and monuments of Icheri Sheher and do not forget to take photos, a lot of photos.

2. Try local sweets

The best part of gastro tour in Azerbaijan is the traditional sweets. The national cuisine has so many colorful and tasty sweets that one can hardly resist to try yummy shekerbura, honey pakhlava, shor-gogal, mutaki, badam bura and much more. With sweets, you will be treated to a traditional black tea.

3. Watch mud volcanoes bursting

The most popular natural attraction in Azerbaijan is the mud volcano. 50% of mud volcanoes on the Earth are found in Azerbaijan. They are located in Gobustan natural reserve. Local volcanoes are smaller than those found in other places so it is safe to get closer. In Gobustan you can take an interesting photoshoot on the background of volcanoes and cracked earth.

Mud Volcano in Azerbaijan Caucasus

4. Watch the eternal fire burning in Ateshgah temple

Azerbaijan is called the land of fire and you can find so many wonders associated with fire. One of such unique places is the temple of eternal fire Ateshgah. The first temple was built by the Zoroastrians at the beginning of our era and the eternal fire has been burning in the center of this temple. After the adoption of Islam, the temple was ruined and then restored only in the XVIII century.

5. Witness the miracle of Yanar Bulag fire spring

One of the most amazing miracles in Azerbaijan is the fire spring in the city of Astara. Yanar Bulag is translated as a burning spring, the spring of fire and water. You can see water in a fire that flows from a metal pipe and you can safely touch the fire and never get burnt. This unique phenomenon is explained by the high consistency of methane in water. Locals believe that the spring water has magical properties.

6. Check out the collection of modern art in Heydar Aliyev Center

Baku is a city of contrasts. On one side you will see medieval architecture with oriental details, on the other side there is urban Baku with skyscrapers and ultra-modern futuristic architecture. Heydar Aliyev Center is one of the best and most popular examples of modern architecture. The soft lines of the buildings make it look like it is blended in the surrounding. The most interesting part of the center is the museum that should be visited for sure.

7. Enjoy the light show of the Flame Towers

The most popular building, actually a group of buildings in Baku are the Flame Towers, modern glass skyscrapers in the form of fire flames. The popular signature of modern Baku is visible from any corner of the city. In the evening the towers are illuminated with thousands of lights and you can admire a fantastic light show.

Baku Flame Towers in Azerbaijan Caucasus.jpg

8. Visit the palaces of Baku

The architecture of Baku impresses with its beautiful oriental palaces and mosques. You can visit the following places to get acquainted with the culture: The Palace of Shirvanshahs of the XII century is located in Old Baku Icheri Sheher. The palace is in absolute harmony with the old buildings of the town. Next popular place to visit is Ismailiya Palace built in honor of the son of Baron Agha Musa Naghiyev.

9. Go sunbathing in the Caspian seashore

If you are lucky to visit Azerbaijan in summer, a beach holiday is a top to-do thing for you. The beaches of Baku are not quite suitable for swimming so the best thing is to visit Absheron peninsula and choose one of the sandy beaches with a comfortable hotel.

10. Feel the flair of Venice in Baku

Can you possible believe that there is a city in Azerbaijan that looks exactly like Venice? A small town called Little Venice was built in 1960. It has several islands that are connected by small bridges. Every now and then, you can see gondolas swimming through channels. The view of the boulevard and the Caspian Sea on the background are very impressive, so this last point should definitely be included in your “to-do list”.