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Why go to the Caucasus

by Martha Hales

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If you’re looking for natural beauty, hospitable hosts, enchanting history, amazing food and hardly any tourists... Look no further. The Caucasus region is bursting with all this and more. It is a part of the world which has been at the crossroads of various cultures for millennia, and today the legacies of all these diverse influences make it a thrilling place to discover.

Read on to discover why you should put Armenia and Georgia at the top of your travel wishlist.

The Blue Mosque in Yerevan, Armenia

Escape the crowds

One of the constants in the Caucasus is the surprisingly low tourist footfall, which is all the more remarkable when you see firsthand just how incredible and unique the scenery and culture really are. You may share some of the most popular sites with a few other curious visitors but venture even a touch off the beaten track and you are unlikely to meet other tourists at all.

Pretty streams running through Racha, Georgia

Discover early Christian history

Saint Gregory the Illuminator converted King Tiridates III to Christianity in 301 AD, making Armenia the first nation to officially embrace the religion. Georgia was not far behind, and this religious legacy is evident in the many ancient monasteries and churches scattered throughout the Caucasus nations. Khor Virap and Geghard are two standout sites in Armenia, while the Gergeti Trinity Church and the Svetitskhoveli Cathedral are important churches in Georgia.

Khor Virap monastery in Armenia

Eat, drink and be merry!

Although it is slowly gaining an exemplary reputation internationally, the cuisine of the Caucasus is still relatively unknown outside its borders. The food and wine of the Caucasus is a mouthwatering revelation to the uninitiated. These are among the world’s oldest wine growing regions, where wine (and brandy) is still often made on a small scale, family basis without the use of chemicals. The food is equally legendary, so if you are lucky enough to be invited to a ‘feast’ - a highlight of the social calendar particularly in Georgia - don’t miss the chance. You won’t regret it!

Georgia and Armenia are two of the oldest winemaking nations in the world

Explore the peaks

If highland scenery, mountain villages and flower speckled meadows are your idea of heaven, the Caucasus nations can oblige. Crisscrossed with hiking trails and home to the highest permanently inhabited villages in Europe, Georgia’s Svaneti region is a hiker’s dream with soaring mountain scenery, hospitable locals and time-worn villages that will charm your socks off. In Armenia, hardy hikers might like to conquer Azhdahak, a volcanic peak in the Gegham Mountains complete with a crater lake at its 3,597 metre summit and ancient petroglyphs on its lower slopes.

A view of Azhdahak from the shores of Laka Akna

Stunning scenery

With a general backdrop of snowy peaks, much of the Caucasus region is extraordinarily scenic, but there are some places that deserve a particular mention for their natural beauty. Lake Sevan sits at around 2,000 metres altitude and occupies 16% of the Armenian territory. Not only is it serene and wonderfully peaceful, but it boasts an extremely picturesque monastery at Sevanavank on the shores of the lake. Similarly charming, Georgia’s Kakheti region is one of gentle hills striped with vines and dotted with historic winemaking towns.

The historic town of Signagi in Georgia's Kakheti region

Bring your binoculars

Nearly half the total number of bird species present in Europe have been recorded in Armenia. Luckily, some of Armenia’s most interesting historic churches and monasteries are located in remote corners of the country precisely where many birds are found, allowing you to birdwatch and incorporate some important sights at the same time. From wetland species present around the ponds near Yeghegnadzor to the chance to spot golden eagles and lammergeiers in the upland areas, there is a huge variety here; the Western Palaearctic list is particularly well represented.

A colourful hoopoe bird found in Armenia's Syunik Province

Urban attractions

From the artistic flair and spacious city squares of Yerevan to the historic Narikala Fortress overlooking Tbilisi, the Caucasus region also offers many urban distractions. Cultural sights such as museums, churches and art galleries are top of the list for sightseeing, but you can equally enjoy the pleasures of strolling the parks, admiring the historic street scenes and indulging in some of that wonderful food and wine. Seek out the renowned Armenian brandy when in Yerevan, and enjoy a soak in the hot springs when in Tbilisi.

The sun sets over Tbilisi, Georgia

Make it happen

You can plan your Caucasus holiday in Georgia or Armenia around a single theme such as hiking, historic churches, food or birdwatching, or combine a number of these into one trip. Our handpicked local experts are ready and waiting to help you make your trip uniquely suited to your requirements. Get in touch with our Georgian or Armenian experts today, or to speak to someone in the TravelLocal office please call +44 (0)117 325 7898.

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