See frozen conflict zones and unrecognised countries in one of the most underrated parts of the world – the Caucasus.
Group A takes you to Armenia, the breakaway rebel republic of Nagorno-Karabakh and the place they call “Europe’s Hiroshima” before finishing in Tbilisi, Georgia. Group B moves on to Stalin’s hometown of Gori, before entering the war-torn republic of Abkhazia, formerly the pearl in the Soviet summer calendar, and another unrecognised country.
YPT has truly pioneered travel to the Caucasus and the “other NK”; the frozen conflict zone that is Nagorno-Karabakh. This region suffered a horrific war after the fall of the Soviet Union, and despite being de jure part of Azerbaijan, is in fact a de facto unrecognised independent nation state.
You will also be travelling through Armenia and Georgia proper of course, two countries with stunning scenery, post-Soviet relics in abundance and a local people and culture certainly worth a visit in their own right.
Both trips can be combined with our Iran Classics Tour, or done as Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh only, or Georgia and Abkhazia only, with prices being amended depending on where you join the trip. You could also go for the complete adventure and also go to Nakhchivan, the off-the beaten path Armenian exclave!
This tour will be split into two parts. Group A will cover Armenia and Group B, Georgia. You can choose to do both groups or only one.
Arrival at your convenience in Yerevan, capital city of Armenia.
Meet up with the rest of the group starting from Armenia at your accommodation for the night.
Overnight in Yerevan.
Wednesday 30th March – Goris
Morning departure to Goris using private vehicles organised for you via the scenic route crossing mountains.
Meet up with the group coming from Iran and your YPT guide and go for lunch at an Armenian Borat house for home brewed coffee, roast chicken, and for those brave enough…vodka.
Arrive at the Mirha hotel.
Visit the “old village” cave city on the outskirts of Goris, Capadocia of Armenia.
Dinner in an all-Soviet collectors house for traditional Armenian dishes and wine with a chance to buy Soviet memorabilia
Overnight in Goris.
Thursday 31st March – Goris/Stepanakert
Breakfast in the hotel.
Head out to take the longest cable car in the world to visit the Tatev Monastery, the cable car is 5,700 metres long!
Traditional Armenian lunch in Goris.
Met by our trusty fleet of vans for the highlight of this trip, the transfer to Nagorno-Karabakh, one of 4 unrecognised breakaway frozen conflict zones in the former Soviet Union.
On arrival we will check into the Jazz Club Hotel
Visit the foreign affairs department and get our Nagorno-Karabakh visas. This is optional to get it in your passport, as this stamp means you cannot enter Azerbaijan.
Leisurely walk into town for a walking tour of Stepanakert, one of the smallest and slightly quirkier capital cities of the region.
We also take the time to visit the fabulous Soviet-era amusement park and drive the dodgems!
Visit to the national stadium for a look around where the Republic of Artsakh play their home matches
In the evening we’ll go for a local dinner and drinks in town
Overnight in hotel.
Friday 1st April– Stepanakert surroundings
Visit the extremely disturbing museum to the fallen soldiers during the war with Azerbaijan. This museum contains a variety of objects and photographs and tells horror stories about the war.
Next we head for a private tour of the brand new but never properly used Stepanakert airport
Drive by a military base with the chance to see tanks on a training course
We then go to the Tank monument, the first captured tank of the war, which is a fantastic photo opportunity
TRIP HIGHLIGHT picked up by our Lada fleet to visit the “DMZ” abandoned town, Agdam, AKA “The Hiroshima of the Caucuses”, situated at the front line of this frozen conflict zone – very off the beaten track.
#NOTE# Technically it is not permitted to visit here, so the situation will be judged when we arrive. People will have to strictly follow instructions here.
Quick lunch stop along the way to Gandzasar.
Visit the Gandzasar monastery, one of the oldest monasteries in the world, tracing its roots to 600 AD, it survived multiple bombing attempts by Azerbaijan during the conflict.
Explore the ancient cemetery around the monastery.
Drive to the wacky village of Vank to see the Titanic and Seastone hotels, strange places built by a local eccentric billionaire, and a real weird treat of the trip.
Return to Stepanakert to have dinner at Ureni – a traditional Karabakhi restaurant.
Overnight in Stepanakert.
Saturday 2nd April – Stepanakert-Yerevan
After breakfast we bid farewell to the first unrecognised country of our trip and make our way to the capital of Armenia, Yerevan.
During our drive we’ll visit the Papik and Tatik monuments and stop at the Armenian Stonehenge, which is twice as old as the English one!
Roadside lunch on way to Yerevan.
Visit Khor Virap, an ancient monastery overlooking Mount Ararat.
On arrival into Yerevan we will check into Envoy Hostel where there will be a chance for some R&R in the hostel.
Dinner in a traditional Armenian Restaurant.
Night on the town in Yerevan. Yerevan is a very young party town and will provide for a great night out!
Overnight at the hostel.
Sunday 3rd April – Yerevan
After a longer lie-in than usual we’ll head out this morning to the Vernissage flea market which is usually bustling on a Sunday to pick up some Soviet memorabilia!
We set off on more of a walking tour of Yerevan with a visit to the Republic Square and the alleys of Abovian Street
Next stop is Freedom Square complete with cascades waterfall art installations and the opera house, as well as parks where we can grab a coffee and people watch, lazing on a Sunday afternoon!
Visit the cascades waterfall art installation as well as the opera house and parliament
Dinner in a famous traditional Armenian restaurant in downtown Yerevan.
Overnight in Yerevan.
Monday 4th April – Yerevan, End of Group A
This morning we head out of the city to visit the Geghard monastery, one of the oldest churches in Armenia, carved entirely out of the mountain!
We then head to the town of Garni and site of a 2000-year-old pagan temple
Lunch at one of the outdoor restaurants in the hills of Yerevan.
This afternoon we will visit the Armenian Genocide monument and museum on a hilltop overlooking the city
END OF GROUP A
Dinner in Yerevan before a few hours where you’re free to go for a wander or grab a coffee or stock up on supplies for tomorrow’s road trip.
Overnight in Yerevan.
Tuesday 5th April – Tbilisi, Start of Group B
Early morning departure as we take our car to go to Tbilisi.
After going through customs and driving some more, arrival in Tbilisi and we go for a breakfast at a traditional Georgian restaurant
Group B group, arrival in Tbilisi at your own convenience
Check into Envoy Tbilisi Hostel and free time/rest time until lunch
Lunch in a most hard to find local gem, a place called Sofia Melnikova café, for a variety of Georgian specialties, like the best hand-made khinkali in the city – a type of Georgian dumplings
In the afternoon we go on a walking tour of Tbilisi; first stop Independence Square! We then head on to the parliament and the ‘dry bridge’ market, an all-Soviet memorabilia market with the chance to buy military hats, medals, pins, stamps, and caucuses-style swords and knives!
Next we get on another cable car and go to visit Narikala Fortress overlooking Tbilisi. We’ll also see the Kartlis Deda (Mother Georgia) monument above Tbilisi
Dinner in a local restaurant in the Old Town before we go for a relaxing time in traditional Georgian/Turkish sulfur baths with local beer (extra charge)
Overnight in Tbilisi.
Wednesday 6th April – Gori-Tbilisi
After breakfast we depart for Gori – the hometown of the infamous Joseph Stalin! The journey takes only a few hours, and you’ll find that Stalin is still very heavily regarded here, which makes for some interesting conversations with the locals.
Visit THE Stalin Museum and Stalin Statue. The museum tour includes his former train and the house he was born in.
Head to the Akhaltsihe cave city, a 3000-year-old settlement overlooking the Potshovi river.
Transfer back to Tbilisi where we’ll grab dinner and then visit one of the first Irish pubs in the Soviet Union called The Hangar and then on to a local hangout called Dive Bar
Overnight in Tbilisi
Thursday 7th April– Stepansminda-Tbilisi
Up early to drive towards Stepansminda, near the Russian border
Stop at Ananuri fortress overlooking Zhinvali reservoir
Visit a massive Soviet “Georgia–Russia Friendship” monument overlooking Jvari pass
Walk around the beautiful Trinity monastery with views of Mount Kazbegi (5035m)
Lunch at the house of eccentric “Mother Georgia” local grandma for variety of traditional dishes including handmade (by you) Khinkali
Transfer back to Tbilisi before we get dinner in Tbilisi and stock up on supplies for the…
Overnight train to Zugdidi in Western Georgia.
Friday 8th April – Zugdidi-Sukhum
Early morning arrival into Zugdidi and from here we will be heading to the second unrecognised country of our trip – Abkhazia!
We’ll arrive at the border crossing. This is a very tense border, where very few tourists cross, and is one of the most heavily militarised places in Europe.
Transfer to Sukhum, the capital of the breakaway republic, and until recently war-torn city.
On arrival we’ll check into our hotel and then go for a walking tour of Sukhum. During Soviet times Abkhazia was the pearl of Soviet tourism, and whilst many Russians still come here its glory days have passed.
We’ll walk along the promenade as the locals start clocking off work and people-watch with a beer
Dinner at Naartaa, a traditional Abkhazian restaurant specializing in shashlik and wine before we go out for bowling at a local nightclub.
Overnight in Sukhum
Saturday 9th April – Sukhum surroundings
After breakfast we drive to New Athos. The beautiful New Athos monastery was built in the 1880s by Tsar Alexander III of Russia
Visit the wonderfully quaint and beautiful Psyrtskha Train Station and a small Soviet hydroelectric station hidden in the cliffs.
We jump on the New Athos cave metro to visit one of the largest and most spectacular caves in the world!
Continue to the amazing Lake Ritsa with stops in Lupshara canyon bound by massive limestone cliffs
See beautiful Lake Ritsa, home of one of Stalin’s favourite dachas
Late lunch in a traditional Abkhaz house with a choice of fresh lake trout, smoked meat and cheese
More time to relax by the lake in these stunning surroundings before we return to Sukhum for dinner and a few sundowners overlooking the Black Sea.
Overnight in Sukhum.
Sunday 10th April – Sukhum
Breakfast at the hotel before we head out for an incredible day – this is extreme urbex crossed with dark tourism in a country which doesn’t officially exist!
Our first stop is the burned out Abkhaz parliament for some urban exploration from another level.
TRIP HIGHLIGHT – We then work our way through the old, half-abandoned military sanatorium and botanical garden full of Lenin mosaics and an old cinema, we find new things here every time we come!
Hit the beach before dinner in Sukhum, coupled with traditional food and drinks on the promenade.
Depart towards the border with a stop at “Istochnik”, a hot spring resort for a chance to get a water massage and a relaxing swim in many pools (extra charge)
Stop to see the “flaming” spring
We then cross into Georgia proper and get to Zugdidi where we board the overnight train to Tbilisi.
Monday 11th April – Tbilisi
Early morning arrival in Tbilisi where we end our tour. YPT can assist with onward travel or more travels in the Caucasus!
• Nagorno-Karabakh & Abkhazia visas/permits
• Accommodation in twin-share / dorm rooms as per itinerary
• Breakfasts and lunches
• All transport to complete the tour
• Experienced YPT guide throughout and local guides in each place
• Entrance fees unless specified
• International flights to Yerevan and back from Tbilisi
• Armenia and Georgia visas if required (YPT can provide visa support)
• Single Supplement (€250)
• Dinners and drinks
• Personal Expenses and tips for the local guides
We have expert guides ready to help answer any questions you may have.