The breakaway republics of Abkhazia and Karabakh via Georgia and Armenia
Yerevan – Stepanakert – Shushi – Tbilisi – Gori – Kutaisi – Tskaltubo – SukhumI
This tour is offered on a regular monthly basis. Let us know your desired departure month by clicking on the learn-more button below: we will match your preferences with the next relevant scheduled group departure. If you are still unsure about your desired departure date, then simply tell us a period or a season of the year and we will provide you a range of scheduled group departures: just pick up yours!
Our scheduled group departures don't suit your plans? If you are travelling with more than 4 friends, you can set your own departure date: we will arrange a bespoke tour just for you for the same price per person advertised below. If you are travelling solo or with less than four companions, we will then organise a slightly more expensive tailored tour according to your time schedule and specific geographical preferences.
DAY 1 - Armenia: Yerevan
In the morning you will meet our tour guide in the lobby of the designated hotel (exact hotel address and meeting time will be communicated well in advance per email; private airport pickup and shuttle service available for a small additional fee).
Introductory briefing about the region, the route and the set of rules to observe while travelling in the Southern Caucasus.
Soviet Yerevan full-day sightseeing: modernist architectures, Stalinist Empire Style masterpieces, Soviet statues and memorials, bustling bazaars and little-known urban hinterlands.
Lunch, dinner and overnight in Yerevan.
DAY 2 - Armenia: Etchmiadzin, Aknalich and Geghard
In the morning we'll drive to the nearby town of Etchmiadzin, the spiritual capital of Armenia and home to a vast religious complex now included in the UNESCO World Heritage list.
Moving on from the sacred to the profane, we'll then visit the semi-abandoned Etchmiadzin Sport Compound, an impressively vast remnant of Soviet glory full of somber nostalgic memories and crumbling concrete structures.
Just outside Etchmiadzin we’ll also have the chance to see traditional villages inhabited by the secretive Yazidis, a strictly endogamous ethnoreligious group sadly known for the persecutions they recently endured in Syria and Iraq under the barbaric rule of the so-called Islamic State.
In Aknalich, the main Yazidi settlement in the area, we’ll pay a visit to one of the largest Yazidi temple in the world and have a chat with the friendly locals, always eager to show the place to the curious foreigner.
We'll then head back to Yerevan and drive east to admire both the world-famous Hellenic temple of Garni and the gorgeous rock monastery of Geghard, before eventually returning to the capital for the night.
Dinner and overnight in Yerevan.
DAY 3 - Armenia: Khor-Virap, Noravank and Goris
We will leave Yerevan early in the morning for the 6-hour-long journey to the southern city of Goris, close to the border between Armenia and the internationally unrecognised but de-facto independent Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh.
Besides the routine pauses for food, toilet and random landscape pictures, we'll break the journey in Khor-Virap, an ancient Armenian monastery-cum-Ararat-mountain-view located near the closed border with Turkey, and in Areni to admire the marvellous church of Noravank, set against a background of flaming red mountains.
In the afternoon we’ll eventually reach Goris, where we’ll visit the quintessentially Soviet downtown and the curious rock formations surrounding this pretty little southern city.
Dinner and overnight in Goris.
DAY 4 - Nagorno-Karabakh: Shushi and Stepanakert
In the morning we’ll finally enter the internationally unrecognised but de-facto independent Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh.
Border Crossing: before dinner we'll cross the border into Nagorno-Karabakh. Unrecognised states are much safer and friendlier than you might think and we will take care of all the border formalities; however, this is a very sensitive area and you shall strictly follow the (rather simple) instructions your guide will brief you about. After entering Karabakh we'll head straight towards its capital: pleasant and lively Stepanakert.
Stepanakert sightseeing: Stepanakert Dramatic Theatre, Martyrs Museum, Karabakh Cultural Centre, Parliament, Central Bazaar, Soviet-era amusement park, Sport Complex, WWII Memorial and other socialist architectonic gems.
After lunch we'll drive to the nearby town of Shushi, which witnessed one of the fiercest battle during the recent conflict against Azerbaijan.
In Shushi we'll visit the ruins of the ancient part of the town, some melancholic Soviet remains, a newly built impressive church and the abandoned central mosque.
We'll also have the unique chance to meet with a local war veteran, who will guide us around town and tell us more about the bloody war that lead to the unrecognised independence of this narrow strip of land.
Dinner and overnight in Stepanakert.
DAY 5 - Nagorno-Karabakh: Agdam, Gandzasar and Vank
After a morning pilgrimage to the national symbol of Nagorno-Karabakh, the oddly looking Tatik-Papik (We Are Our Mountains) monument, we'll drive to Agdam or the "Hiroshima of the Caucasus", a once thriving and now completely abandoned town located directly on the frontline with Azerbaijan.
This is an extremely sensitive area so you shall strictly follow the instructions your guide will brief you about.
Along the road and in the area surrounding Agdam we'll catch the sad glimpse of the minefields dotting the fertile but unusable pastures of Karabakh.
We'll then head north shortly stopping en route in Tigranakert to admire the local fortress.
While driving to the north of the country we will pass several traditional Karabakhi villages along the road: don’t hesitate to ask the driver to stop whenever you see something you like!
In the afternoon we'll visit the majestic Gandzasar Monastery, the biggest in the country, and the nearby village of Vank, where an eccentric Armenian oligarch built a Titanic-shaped hotel, a surreal amusement park and a rather somber little zoo.
Dinner and overnight in Stepanakert.
DAY 6 - Armenia: Didavank, Lake Sevan, Hayravank and the Sevan Peninsula
We'll start the day early and head to back to Armenia.
We'll enter Armenia via its backdoor through a little-used but very scenic mountain road.
Before crossing back into Armenia, we'll stop at the ancient Dadivank monastery, close to the contested border with Azerbaijan.
Once in Armenia we'll find ourselves in Vardenis, a rather desolate Soviet town (our kind of stuff) close to the mighty Lake Sevan.
We'll drive along the rocky shores of the lake and slowly head to the Sevan Peninsula.
Besides the routine pauses for food, toilet and random landscape pictures, we'll break the long haul twice: in Hayravank to visit a not-to-be-missed lakeside monastery and in Noratus, a thousand-year-old cemetery located in one of the most beautiful area of the whole country.
In the afternoon we'll finally arrive in Sevan, an archetypical Soviet town, which we'll briefly tour (Soviet-architecture geeks will love this) before heading the world-famous namesake peninsula.
On the peninsula we'll enjoy stunning views over the lake while admiring the gracious shapes of the Sevanavank monastic complex and the modernist and constructivist architecture of the House of Recreation for the writers and artists of Soviet Armenia.
Dinner and overnight on the Sevan Peninsula.
DAY 7 - Armenia-Georgia: Dilijan, Fioletovo and Alaverdi
Early in the morning we'll head north towards the border with Georgia.
Our final goal is Tbilisi but we’ll allow ourselves plenty of time to for photo stops and and several visits along the way.
After entering the Tavush province, we’ll pause in idyllically-located city of Dilijan, a once famous retreat for Soviet poets, painters, scholars, writers and politicians alike.
In Dilijan we’ll take care to avoid the heavily-restored, fake-looking and über-touristic Sharambeyan Street, and tour the refreshingly authentic Soviet downtown instead.
We’ll also pay our tribute to the Soviet Soldier Memorial and visit a Soviet-era sanatorium just outside town.
Close to Dilijan we’ll then tour the little-known hamlet of Fioletevo, one of the last thriving Molokan communities in the Southern Caucasus.
The Molokans are rather friendly but extremely shy members of an Orthodox spiritual sect who live in almost complete isolation from the rest of society, far from modern comforts and technologies: the Russian answer to the Amish communities in rural Pennsylvania.
After lunch we’ll then travel further north to the Soviet mining town of Alaverdi, where we'll admire eerie post-industrial atmospheres around the old post-and-telegraph office and pay a visit to the hilltop village of Sanahin, where we’ll tour both its splendid UNESCO-inscribed monastery and the arguably more interesting Soviet Air Force museum dedicated to Artyom Mikoyan, a local aerospace engineer and one of the main designers of the legendary MiG.
In the late afternoon we’ll cross the border into Georgia and head straight to its capital Tbilisi.
Dinner and overnight in Tbilisi.
DAY 8 - Georgia: Soviet Tbilisi
Full day exclusively devoted to the Soviet and unseen sides of Tbilisi: crumbling buildings, brutalist concrete shapes, Stalinist classicist masterpieces, Soviet modernist gems, Soviet mosaics, bustling bazaars, improvised street stalls, hidden bakeries and not a single tourist around!
If you are keen to visit some classic tourist sights too, such as the recently-renovated and kitschy-looking “old town”, we will obviously (albeit reluctantly) meet your needs.
Lunch, dinner and overnight in Tbilisi.
DAY 9 - Georgia: Gori, Chiatura and Kutaisi
We will leave Tbilisi early in the morning and head westwards to Kutaisi, Georgia’s juridical capital.
We'll break the long journey twice to visit the notorious city of Gori, the birthplace of Stalin, and the surreal mining town of Chiatura, a steampunk city famous for his extensive network of rickety but still functioning cable cars from the 50s.
Once in Kutaisi, needles to say, we’ll focus our visit on both the Soviet architectural-monumental heritage and the traditional facets of the city, such as the extremely photogenic central bazaar.
We’ll then move on to the former Soviet resort town of Tskaltubo for the night.
Dinner and overnight in Tskaltubo.
DAY 10 - Georgia-Abkhazia: Tskaltubo, Tkvarcheli and Sukhumi
In the morning we’ll visit Tskaltubo’s architecturally grandiose Soviet Sanatoriums and meet the unwilling dwellers inhabiting them: the internally displaced refugees (IDPs) who escaped the secessionist territory of Abkhazia during the dark days of blood and war that followed the tragic disintegration of the Soviet Union.
After such a touching prelude, we’ll head to Zugdidi, the last Georgian town before the contested border with the Republic of Abkhazia.
Border crossing: after a quick lunch in Zugdidi we'll cross the border into Abkhazia. Unrecognised states are much safer and friendlier than you might think and we will take care of all the border formalities; however, this is a very sensitive area and you shall strictly follow the (rather simple) instructions your guide will brief you about.
After entering Abkhazia we'll drive to Tkvarcheli and Akarmara, captivating and eerie half-abandoned coal-mining Soviet towns surrounded by the green mountains of Easten Abkhazia.
We'll then continue our journey to Sukhumi, the capital of Abkhazia, where we’ll eventually arrive in the early evening hours.
Dinner and overnight in Sukhumi.
DAY 11 - Abkhazia: Sukhumi
Full morning devoted to central Sukhumi: Stalinist palaces, Soviet-era promenades, war-torn buildings, botanical gardens, Soviet sanatoria, rickety piers and subtropical flavours.
After lunch we'll drive to the city hills to visit the Space Monkeys Sanctuary, a very peculiar place that still harbours space-race-era apes and their descendants.
In the afternoon we’ll then hit the city beach for some quality time to be spent either trying to spot the surprisingly common Black Sea dolphins or just swimming and sunbathing like a lazy post-Soviet seal.
Lunch, dinner and overnight in Sukhumi.
DAY 12 - Abkhazia: Ritsa and Gagra
We'll start early in the morning and head up north to the fresh air and the magical atmosphere of the Abkhaz Mountains.
We'll travel along the scenic road running parallel to the Bzipi river and before lunch we'll reach Ritsa, a deep-blue mountain lake surrounded by thick forests and subalpine meadows.
For the athletic ones: challenging trek around the lake.
For the lazier ones: easy hike in the woods.
For the laziest: chill-out time with the locals (aka beer and shashliks on the lakeshore).
We will also have the opportunity to visit Stalin's favourite lakeside dacha and feel like a true Soviet apparatchik on holiday.
In the afternoon we’ll descend back to the coast and head to the Soviet resort town of Gagra for the night.
Dinner and overnight with a Gagra.
DAY 13 - Abkhazia: Soviet Riviera
Full day devoted to Abkhazia’s Black Sea coast: the once renowned Soviet Riviera.
Main stops will be: Gagra, Gaudata, Pitsunda, Novy Afon and Likhni.
Highlights of the day will include: brutalist, modernist and Soviet resorts, Stalinist architectures, Soviet mosaics, Soviet bus stops, pristine pebble beaches, delicious seafood, melancholic marinas and some truly fancy dachas.
In the late afternoon we’ll return to Sukhumi for a last night out with the locals.
Dinner and overnight in Sukhumi.
DAY 14 - Flight back home or transfer to further destinations
After enjoying a last lavish Abkhaz-style breakfast together we'll head back to Georgia.
After completing the border crossing formalities we'll take care of the transfer to your airport/train station of choice.
For those flying out: transfer to any of the following transportation hubs in Georgia: Kutaisi International Airport, Batumi International Airport, Tbilisi International Airport.
For those wishing to take the train/bus to reach further destinations: transfer to the train/bus station in Zugdidi (Georgia).
End of the tour.
3 to 8 participants: 1950 € per person
The price includes: double/twin room accommodation (breakfast included; single supplement: 20 euro/night), private transport in the region (jeep or minivan), entrance fees to the attractions listed in the itinerary, guiding and translation service.
The price does not include: international flights and any other flight not explicitly included in the tour price and itinerary, meals, drinks and tips, transport to and from the airport of arrival/departure (35 euros/ride), visas if required, entrance to attractions not listed in the itinerary, insurance.
The route of this tour has been carefully designed after several research trips in the region. It is, however, always possible to slightly modify the itinerary according to the needs and the suggestions of the participants. Our motto is flexibility. It is also possible to make the tour the other way around, starting from Tbilisi and finishing in Yerevan, if an Iran trip is planned.
Please note: It’s advisable to arrive in Yerevan one day before the actual tour begins. You should notice, however, that you’ll have to take care of your accommodation for any day and night preceding the actual start date of the tour. Without any additional charge we will reserve a room for you at our hotel of choice and you’ll be able to pay for it by cash or credit card once you check-in. If your flight lands on the same day as the tour begins and you prefer to rest a bit before going out sightseeing, you will then meet your tour guide and the rest of the group at the designated hotel in the late afternoon.
Airport pickup/transfer in Yerevan and Tbilisi is available for just 35 euros per ride.
Disclaimer: the designations employed and the presentation of the material on this website do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of our company concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries. The territory of the Autonomous Republic of Abkhazia is internationally recognised as integral part of Georgia. Regardless of your/our position on the issue and for all travel-related intents and purposes, however, the territory of the Autonomous Republic of Abkhazia is no longer under the control of Georgian authorities. The territory of the former Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region is internationally recognised as integral part of Azerbaijan. Regardless of your/our position on the issue and for all travel-related intents and purposes, however, the territory of the former Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region is no longer under the control of Azerbaijani authorities.
WHERE THE HECK AM I TRAVELLING TO?
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POSSIBLE TOUR COMBINATIONS FOR THIS ITINERARY INCLUDE
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