Andrew Montgomery

Georgia, Armenia & Azerbaijan

This thrillingly mountainous, scenically spectacular and culturally diverse region is where Asia and Europe rub up against each other, with often unpredictable and fascinating results.

The Great Caucasus

The vast mountain range forming a natural border between the South Caucasus and Russia, the Great Caucasus runs from the Black Sea to the Caspian and provides the most astonishing scenery in the region, its sequence of dramatic peaks fronted by green river valleys and unbelievably picturesque villages. The mountain regions are strung with spectacular walking and riding trails where ruined fortresses, watchtowers and ancient churches are often perched in achingly picturesque locations. Each country has superb day hike potential, but high in the Great Caucasus, Georgia’s Svaneti, Kazbegi and Tusheti regions are particularly ideal for longer distance village-to-village treks.

Exhilarating Landscapes

Elsewhere, the Lesser Caucasus in Georgia and Armenia and the Talysh Mountains in Azerbaijan have glories of their own. At lower altitudes you'll find idyllic farms, vineyards and woodland as well as arid semi-deserts, rocky gorges and even some alluring beaches. Each of the three nations has modern ski resorts, while rafting and paragliding are possible in Georgia, where climbers can also scale Mt Kazbek and several other 5000m peaks. Delve underground in Armenia’s many caves, or explore Azerbaijan's Caspian hinterland, where natural curiosities include mud volcanoes and even water that catches fire.

Asia Meets Europe

While the South Caucasus is a relatively small region, it's made up of three highly diverse countries, features three ethnically distinct breakaway republics, one isolated exclave and at least 16 different languages, all within an area smaller than the UK. This is a cultural crossroads where Europe meets Asia and where influences from Russia, Iran, Turkey and Central Asia have been absorbed over the centuries into proudly distinctive local cultures. Here social attitudes remain traditional and family networks rule supreme despite three decades of fast-paced change since the end of the Soviet Union.

Multifaceted Cultures

Antique forts, monasteries, churches and ruins pepper the region. History buffs can disentangle their Bagratids from their Bolsheviks, while the region's bigger cities boast some excellent museums, splendid galleries and a rich theatrical heritage. Savour all this with deep-rooted hospitality, wonderfully varied food made from some of the best natural ingredients on earth and reinvigorated wines from the original home of viniculture. The ever-improving tourism infrastructure in the South Caucasus may seem modest by European standards, but come here soon, before these ancient lands lose their rough edges, and you'll discover what's been keeping visitors coming for centuries.

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