The Caucasus Countries, located in Europe’s southeast corner, is a sparsely populated and little-known part of the globe. In stark contrast to other parts of Europe like Scandinavia, the United Kingdom, and even the Balkans, this area is where Europe joins the Middle East & Western Asia.
The Caucasus Countries
Four Caucasus nations make up this enigmatic—some could even say exotic—section of Europe: Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Russia. Many individuals don’t know anything about this area. In reality, since the word “Caucasian” is frequently used as a substitute for white race or ethnicity in the United States, it may be the term Americans are most familiar with. That could be more accurate for a variety of reasons. One is that the majority of Caucasians aren’t even white.
Later, we’ll go into greater detail regarding the Caucasus countries and diversity of cultures and ethnic groups. This central Asia Caucasus region shows you the amazing world heritage sites and most complex linguistic regions in the entire Caucasus region.
1. Diversity in it’s Variety
Even though the area is relatively small, there is a wide variety of diversity there. Its location sandwiched between the Black Sea & the Caspian Sea, and the Caucasus Mountains makes it highly diversified geographically.
2. Geographical Caucasus Region
In actuality, there are two distinct mountain ranges inside the Caucasus Mountains. It is usually believed that the Great Caucasus Mountains, also known as the North Caucasus or Ciscaucasus, which are located primarily in Russia, form the natural barrier between Eastern Europe & Western Asia.
Mount Elbrus, the tallest mountain in Europe at 5,642 meters, is part of this magnificent mountain range. On the other hand, the South Caucasus or Transcaucasus Mountains, sometimes known as the Lesser Caucasus Mountains, parallel that massive range and pass into Georgia, Armenia, & Azerbaijan. The Caucasian Riviera also includes wine districts, verdant valleys, and beach resorts.
3. Language of the Caucasus Countries
The languages spoken in the Caucasus are likewise incredibly varied. It is one of the world’s most diverse and difficult language regions. There are more than three primary language families present, including Semitic, Turkic, and Indo-European. There are many regional languages & dialects spoken in each of those.
Russian is the predominant language in the Caucasus. Nevertheless, you’ll likely come across a lot of English speakers in the popular tourist locations described later in the Caucasian travel blog post.
4. The Caucasus Countries Cultures
The area is home to more than 50 distinct ethnic groups, which has historically led to serious political conflict and still does in some places today. Despite the fact that there are four independent nations in the Caucasus, many more nation-states aspire to independence or, at the very least, autonomy. Many of them currently operate on their own.
Dagestan, Chechnya, Ingushetia, & Stavropol Krai are just a few of the regions in this region of Russia. Three regions in particular currently assert their independence, despite few other nations do. They are Abkhazia, Artsakh, and South Ossetia.
But this is simply some background knowledge for you. While the vast majority of the Caucasus region is politically stable, a few tiny pockets of it may be avoided by travelers. Two, you can take advantage of the wonderful chance to plan an eye-opening journey to one of the places with the most cultural, geographic, and linguistic diversity in the world.
The latter choice will be viewed as the best by all intrepid travelers. If you need clarification on whether visiting the Caucasus is secure enough, we can assure you that it is! The Caucasus’ most well-known tourist locations have all seen a fair amount of travel.
Simply put, there are some places you should avoid visiting as a tourist. You’ll be alright as long as you stay away from them.
5. Overview of the Countries in the Caucasus Region
We’ll go into more detail about each Caucasus nation in this review, giving a succinct explanation & some of its most popular attractions.
1. Armenian Turkish Border
Landlocked Armenia is a classic example of a mountain nation, with the Armenian Highlands inside the north as well as the Lesser Caucasus Mountains in the south. 90% of the nation is located at an altitude of at least 1,000 meters. It has breathtaking canyons, valleys, and mountain views.
Additionally, Armenia has a lot to offer in terms of history and culture. Although its busy nation’s capital of Yerevan is among the most contemporary in the region, its culture is literally thousands of years old. Discuss contrast! Armenia has a rich religious heritage and outstanding UNESCO World Heritage Sites. (It was the first nation in Europe to recognize Christianity as the national religion formally.) The Armenian folks are also among the kindest and most relaxed individuals you’ll ever encounter while traveling.
The cities of Dilijan, the Church of Echmiadzin, as well as the Tatev & Khor Virap monasteries are among Armenia’s most popular tourist destinations and attractions.
2. South Caucasus Azerbaijan
One of the world’s most geographically diversified nations, Azerbaijan is located on the Caspian Sea’s coast and contains a portion of the Lesser Caucasus Mountains. It is sufficient to note that this relatively tiny nation is home to at least 9 of the planet’s 13 different climate zones to demonstrate this point.
The most prosperous of the minor Caucasus nations is Azerbaijan. This is due to its substantial oil reserves, the majority of which are located in the Caspian Sea and around the affluent capital city of Baku.
In actuality, oil has been essential to this nation’s economy for more than 2,000 years. Additionally, Marco Polo described the centuries-ago oil harvesting and transportation methods used by the inhabitants.
Azerbaijan is rich in a variety of architectural styles, varied cuisines, and many different cultural characteristics as a result of centuries worth of foreign influences, including Turkish, Arab, Russian, and others.
The Court of the Sheki Khans, Baku’s ultramodern buildings, and the historic Gobustan Petroglyphs are the country’s highlights.
Georgia is among the most traveled to of the Caucasus nations and is located in the region’s center. This is yet another nation with a diverse range of scenery. From the Black Sea’s palm-lined coastline to some of the oldest wine regions in the world, there are many beautiful places to visit in Georgia, which is home to the Caucasus Mountains and their soaring peaks.
It is also a very culturally varied country, with no less than 26 distinct ethnic groups living there. The majority of Georgians are ardent, hospitable, and fiercely committed to upholding their long-standing customs and culture.
Georgia boasts a huge array of cultural landmarks in addition to its unmistakable natural beauty. Many of them are religious structures like monasteries, cathedrals, and churches. Some of them are genuinely amazing vistas and have been given UNESCO World Heritage status. On the other hand, the Caucasian Riviera, just on the Black Sea, is home to wonderful beaches and lovely seaside resorts like Batumi.
Despite the fact that the Russian Caucasus is an incredibly gorgeous region, decades of political upheaval and violence have made much of it currently unattractive as a holiday destination. That’s truly too bad because the area’s distinctive hilltop communities, breathtaking river gorges, and majestic mountains have a lot of potential for tourism.
You’re encouraged to concentrate on the western portion of this Russian territory, which is home to the tropical Caucasian Riviera and Mount Elbrus, Europe’s tallest mountain. The Black Sea coast city of Sochi, well-known for holding the 2014 Olympic Winter Games & serving as one of the host cities for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, is a popular travel destination.
In the Greater Caucasus Mountains, the Dombay Ski Resort is a well-liked spot for winter activities.
Although there are enough sights to keep you busy for a month, we’d advise giving yourself at least three days to see the most famous ones, including the Red Square, the Kremlin, GUM, & Sparrow Hills, which are actually fact among the best places to see in all of Russia.
The Tretyakov Gallery & Pushkin State Museum for Fine Art are just two of the many museums in which you can pass the time on chilly or wet days.
When deciding where to travel in Russia during the summer, Knowing that Moscow is a very walkable city is helpful. You may therefore meander along Tverskaya Street, shop on Arbat Street for traditional Russian trinkets like ushanka-hats and matryoshkas, and take a stroll around Gorky Park.
As a result, Moscow is not only one of Russia’s top vacation spots but is also fantastic all year long.
There is some rivalry between Moscow and Saint Petersburg, with Saint Petersburg proclaiming to be the city of intellect, culture, and art. Moscow is also the hub of virtually every other sector, including banking, education, and entertainment.
Peter, as the locals name it, is a gorgeous city with several canals, bridges, and structures that resemble palaces. There are also real palaces. Since you can go on a few day trips, make sure to stay at least 3 to 4 days. Visit Tsarskoe Selo, for instance, and marvel at the Catherine Palace’s Amber Room, which is renowned across the world, as well as see the college wherein Alexandr Pushkin, perhaps Russia’s most famous poet, spent its formative years.
Many of the most well-known attractions in Russia may be found in Saint Petersburg, one of the top Russian tourist cities. A wonderful thing to know if you’re a nervous visitor is that it is also among the safest spots to visit in Russia.
A group of historic cities, known as the Golden Ring of Russia, can be found northeast of Moscow. These cities include Yaroslavl, Kostroma, Suzdal, Vladimir, Pereslavl-Zalessky, & Rostov Veliky. Additionally, you can stop by a number of smaller towns along the path that are regarded as being a part of the Golden Ring, including Palekh, Plyos, Murom, Yuriev-Polsky, and Kaluga.
The formation of the Russian Orthodox Church was greatly influenced by all of these wonderful Russian tourist destinations. Onion-domed cathedrals, gingerbread mansions, and kremlins are only a few examples of the exquisite architecture from the XII-XVIII centuries that may be seen there.
Purchasing the Golden Ring trip via a travel company is the most straightforward way to visit most (if not all) of these intriguing Russian locations. They will lead you to the main sights and discuss their backgrounds. As an alternative, you can rent a car and travel independently from one city to the next, stopping at a few of these interesting locations to visit Russia along the way.
The northwest of Russia is home to a collection of cities known as The Silver Ring. The Silver Ring, a far more recent and less well-traveled route than the Golden Ring, is really more alluring if you favor the path less taken. Additionally, it includes some of Russia’s top tourist destinations.
The Silver Ring of Russia does not, however, contain a single list of Russian cities. Every travel agency in Russia provides a unique vacation. Despite the appearance that the Golden Ring & the Silver Ring contain numerous cities, you would only spend up to one day in each one, and occasionally you can visit multiple smaller villages in a single day.
The mountainous region of Siberia, which borders Kazakhstan, China, and Mongolia, is home to more than 7,000 lakes, Mount Belukha, Siberia’s highest peak, and a rich biodiversity.
The Altai region is consistently ranked as one of Russia’s top tourist destinations. If you like adventure sports like snowboarding, go in the winter. If you enjoy hiking, horseback riding, & lake swimming, schedule your trip for the summer.
The numerous baths, Siberian therapeutic practices, and Russian banyas (saunas) with locally foraged herbs and berries are all excellent reasons to visit Altai.
The simplest method to reach the Altai region is to fly from Moscow to Gorno-Altaisk, the territory’s capital, and then rent a car to drive around independently while spending the night in picturesque cabins and eco-resorts. This is undoubtedly one of the most enjoyable sites to visit in Russia due to all of these factors.
6. Where to Visit in the Caucasus: A Travel Guide
Now that we’ve covered all four Caucasus nations let’s focus on each of the region’s top travel destinations. Cities, mountains, structures, and other important historical locations are among them.
1. Georgia’s Tbilisi
The capital and largest city of Georgia is Tbilisi, which is historically and geographically the Caucasus’ geographic center. This served as the regional administrative center for more than a century while under Russian authority. Today, the city is breathtakingly stunning from top to bottom. While the region’s surroundings are made up of mountains and wineries, it features unique architecture, a large number of sites, and museums.
In terms of Caucasus travel advice, a trip to the region would only be complete with a few days in Tbilisi. Tbilisi is home to numerous ancient landmarks and beautiful buildings, as well as a thriving nightlife. The city is home to a number of renowned clubs, some of which have recently caught the eye of the worldwide press.
The whole Old Town, the Narikala Fortress, the Anchiskhati Basilica, as well as the Sioni Cathedral, are all significant landmarks in Tbilisi.
2. Georgia’s Vardzia
You will need to go out of your way to go there (to a little community in central Georgia), but it’s one of Georgia’s most intriguing locations. A cave and tunnel network was built in the 12th century that is 17 stories high and spans a nearly 500-meter-wide slope.
What’s best? There are hardly any visitors around as you wander inside these cave chambers and try to envision what life would have been like for this skilled digger. We had the entire site to ourselves and were essentially by ourselves when we arrived. It is fantastic for photos!
3. The Thermal Baths in Tbilisi
Tbilisi is a fantastic city with almost every kind of wonder you can think of. Take a stroll through the Old Town, cross one of the city’s futuristic bridges, climb one of the local mountains, ride the cable car to the summit for stunning views of the city, or take a bath in the renowned thermal spas in the Georgian capital city.
Whatever you choose to do, this city will keep you occupied the entire time you’re here. It is one of the most undervalued and beloved Balkan locations.
4. Middle East Georgia’s Batumi
The capital of the autonomous region of Adjara in southwestern Georgia is Batumi, the second-largest city in Georgia. This city of 160,000 inhabitants is situated on the Black Sea coast and at the base of the Lesser Caucasus Mountains. It is the southernmost city on the Caucasian Riviera, a very well-liked travel destination in the Caucasus.
Like so many other sizable Caucasus cities, Batumi has an intriguing blend of the old and the new. In the Old Town, there are both newly built high-rise buildings and recently renovated 19th-century structures. This is a location that is rich in history and culture but is also susceptible to the attractions of the modern world.
5. Monastery in Georgia’s Davit Gareja Cave
The amazing Davit Gareja Cave Monastery is located in the Kakheti region close to Georgia’s southern border. On the foothills of Mount Gareja, there is a vast complex with several residential quarters, cells, chapels, cathedrals, and refectories that have been hewn out of solid rock.
This monastery was established by St. David Garejeli in the sixth century. In this dry area, it developed into an important center for religion and culture. A hike will get you to the caves. You can get to this place, despite the fact that it’s somewhat isolated and less usually visited, by bus from Tbilisi to nearby Udabno.
6. Georgia’s Gelati Monastery
There are several old churches and monasteries in Georgia, but the Gelati Monastery may be the most impressive. The early 12th century saw the construction of this medieval monastic complex, which was ordered by Georgia’s King David IV.
It is a cluster of well-maintained churches and other structures that is regarded as a masterpiece of Georgia’s Golden Age. It was once a hub for philosophy, theology, science, and the arts in the region.
7. Georgian Svaneti Defensive Towers
Svaneti, a highland area in northwest Georgia, is populated with little mountain towns and villages. Defensive towers, which are located in quite significant numbers, are a defining feature of those settlements.
Mestia is arguably the best & most accessible tourist site in Svaneti. This historic town, which is located at the base of a huge mountain range, is littered with numerous defense towers, sometimes known as “Svan towers.” They are little castles made up of a home, a tower next to it, & a few other structures that are all enclosed by a strong wall. The towers are a component of the UNESCO World Heritage Site in Upper Svaneti.
A must-see site in Mestia is the Historical-Ethnographic Museum. It’s also a great starting point for hikes and mountaineering expeditions.
8. In Azerbaijan, Baku
The capital of Azerbaijan is the biggest city in the Caucasus and on the Caspian Sea coast, with a population of more than 2.2 million. Intriguing world records are also held by it; Baku, the world’s lowest capital city, is 28 meters below sea level. On the other hand, it’s one of the Caucasus’ oldest and most contemporary cities.
This region has been inhabited for approximately 3,000 years, which accounts for the vast number of historical sites, old structures and ruins, and fortifications that are present. Since 2000, Shirvanshah’s Palace, as well as the Maiden Tower, have been a part of Baku’s Inner City, which is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Fountains Square, the 13th-century Mosque, and several medieval humans are additional highlights.
Baku is recognized for being a significant oil hub in addition to its historic buildings and first-rate museums. Baku has a number of ultra-modern structures as well, and it is surrounded by oil wells and the affluence they bring.
9. Azerbaijan’s Gobustan Petroglyphs
Another UNESCO-listed World Heritage Site & a top attraction in Azerbaijan is the Rocky Art Heritage Landscape of Gobustan. On a rocky plateau in the country’s dry middle, it includes three distinct regions.
A stunning collection of more than 6,000 rock sculptures, dating back no less than 40,000 years, may be found at the location. From the Neolithic Era through the Iron Age and as recently as the Middle Ages, this distinctive rock art has been discovered. It provides a fascinating window into the history of humanity in Eurasia.
10. Azerbaijani Sheki
Sheki, in northwest Azerbaijan, was once a key stop on the Silk Road and is today one of the nicest cities in the nation. The historic city center’s cobblestone streets are surrounded by medieval buildings.
The Palace of a Sheki Khans is arguably Sheki’s main draw. The Sheki Khans, who ruled over this area from the middle of the 1700s until the early 1800s, had their summer house in this late-18th-century structure.
It is a work of architecture that is dripping with elaborate ornamentation, including Iranian mirrors, stained glass from France, timber from Russia, and pottery from the Ottoman Empire. Her history museum & the genuine Karavansaray Hotel, which dates back to the 18th century, are two other must-see attractions.
11. In Armenia, Yerevan
Yerevan is a place worth visiting and is frequently referred to be the friendliest and most relaxed major city in the Caucasus. With a history that dates back to the eighth century B.C., it is also one of the world’s oldest towns that have always been inhabited.
Numerous historic structures, organizations, museums, top-notch dining establishments, and coffee shops can be found in Yerevan. The city served as the UNESCO World Books Capital. The St. Gregory Cathedral, the busy Tamanyan Street, the Erebuni Fortress, and the Armenian History Museum are notable landmarks.
Yerevan’s central location also makes it a great starting point for day visits to certain other Armenian tourist destinations.
12. Armenia’s Khor Virap Monastery
The Khor Virap Monastery is perched on a hill inside the Ararat Plain and is one of Armenia’s most popular tourist destinations. The renowned Mount Ararat stands over the surrounding scenery right at the Turkish border.
For ages, Khop Virap has been a significant monastery and site of pilgrimage. The fundamental reason for this is that Gregory the Illuminator was imprisoned here by an Armenian king. St. Gregory was eventually taken from his cell to provide the king with psychological support when Roman Emperor Diocletian deceived him. The king had lost all sense of reason as a result. Gregory finally took over the role of the king’s spiritual guide.
13. Armenia’s Echmiadzin Cathedral
The Echmiadzin Cathedral in Armenia is, without a doubt, one of the best Caucasus travel highlights. This was the nation’s very first cathedral and is located in the city of Echmiadzin, also known as Vagharshapat. Gregory the Illuminator, the catholic patron saint of Armenia, constructed it in the early third century, and many academics believe it to be the oldest cathedral in the world.
For Armenian Christians over the world, it is the most significant structure. It is also very important politically and culturally. The Echmiadzin Cathedral and numerous other early-medieval religious structures in the region were given the World Heritage designation by UNESCO.
14. Armenia’s Dilijan National Park
Dilijan National Park, one of the country’s few national parks, is a verdant region in the northeast of Armenia.
This is an oasis of trees, mineral water springs, numerous fauna, and vegetation, in contrast to the majority of the Caucasus scenery, which is either rough mountains or barren plateaus. Of course, there are also a number of historical and cultural attractions to explore.
Visitors may experience this serene environment up close and personal thanks to a vast network of hiking trails, giving them the opportunity to see some local species. A wide variety of species, including black grouse, and golden and bearded eagles, thrive here. Additionally, there are a lot of mammals. They range from wolves and brown bears to cougars, red deer, and even wild cats.
15. Russia’s Elbrus Mountain Ranges
The tallest mountain in Europe & the tenth most visible mountain peak in the world is Mount Elbrus, which rises 5,642 meters into the heavens. It is situated in the western region of the Georgian, bordering the Greater Caucasus Mountains in Russia.
Elbrus is a two-summit mountain with two dormant volcanoes as its summits. Only mountaineers and scientists are allowed to visit this gigantic peak. On the mountain, there are no open tourist attractions. But if you’re nearby, it’s worthwhile to see it standing tall in the distance.
16. Russia’s Dombay Ski Resort
The Dombay Ski Resort is the finest destination if you want to engage in winter activities close to Mount Elbrus. This is a significant winter sports destination in this region of Russia, drawing both domestic and international visitors. However, anticipate facilities of something other than the Alps caliber. The chairlifts are quite ancient, despite the fact that the runs on both the low and high slopes are rather good.
However, this is undoubtedly a fun and cost-effective choice if you’re looking for a “pioneering” ski experience & visiting a less popular winter area. Furthermore, given that this is Russia, the apres-ski is of world-class quality.
17. Russia’s Sochi
Of Krasnodar Krai, one of the many federal subjects and border territories in Russia, Sochi is a significant city. The city is situated on the Black Sea coast in the Greater Caucasus’s westernmost region. In close proximity to those mountains.
The most popular seaside resort in the Russian portion of the Caucasian Riviera is located here. Additionally, this is the only significant city in Russia with a subtropical climate. The city shares a latitude with the French and Italian Rivieras.
Celebrities and members of Russia’s elite enjoy traveling there. There are several attractions in this area. Along with palm tree-lined promenades, pebble and sand beaches, and towering Stalinist architecture, there are numerous green parks.
We have made this detailed guide on the Caucasus countries. You should really avoid visiting Chechnya on the Caucasus’ Russian side. Due to rebel conflict and terrorist strikes, this region has been in the headlines for more than ten years. Also affected by some spillover violence from Chechnya is neighboring Dagestan. It is preferable to stay close to the Black Sea shore as well as the western Greater Caucasus Mountains in this region of Russia.