Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan small group tour

“Remarkable small group tour of the Caucasus including centrally located city hotels and rural guesthouses in between travelling overland in search of UNESCO sites and lesser-known cultural and natural highlights.”


Baku | Absheron Peninsula | Gobustan | Guba | Krasnaya Sloboda | Shamakha | Lahic | Qabala | Shekhi | Kish | Tbilisi | Mtskehta | Gudauri | Gori | Uplistiskhe | Kutaisi | Svaneti | Ushguli | Tbilisi | Yerevan | Khor Virap | Noravank | Sevan | Dilijan | Haghpat | Echmiadzin | Zvartnots | Geghard | Garni |

Description of Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan small group tour

This three week small group tour of the Caucasus takes you through three of the region’s most fascinating countries: Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan, where tales of the past provide an incredible cultural back story in addition to the developing cities that you’ll discover today.

From the Ottomans to the Soviets, this region in the furthest reaches of Europe, has long been hidden from the glare of the modern world and still a sense of mystery prevails to tempt curious, culture hungry travellers into what is, for many, still deemed as the 'unknown'.

Starting in Azerbaijan opens up a land of fire where spluttering, steaming volcanoes set the scene for dramatic natural encounters in direct contrast to the more hospitable nature of everyday Azeri communities living amongst the mosques and mausoleums tucked away in the mountains.

The next stop on this 20 day tour, Georgia, takes your small group of cultural adventurers into the mythical mountains of the High Caucasus where tales of Greek heroes abound around Mt Kazbek whilst the UNESCO monuments of Mtskheta create cultural contrasts close to the capital, Tbilisi.

Trips into Georgia’s northwest region of Svaneti provide a quintessential glimpse at life within the wilds of Europe where mountains, dotted with defensive towers, make for a unique opportunity to meet local Svan people and learn more about life surrounded by snowy peaks and deep gorges.

Last, but by no means least, is Armenia which offers ecclesiastical excellence in places like Dilijan, Yerevan and Haghpat where traditional Molokan people and ancient monasteries, and churches, such as those at Echmiadzin, provide insight into the importance of religion within Armenia’s cultural fabric.

From old fashioned Kurdish and Yazidi villages to the precariously placed Geghard monastery, Armenia is rife with religious relics and historical treasures with a homestay in a small village near Garni offering travellers the chance to really get under the skin of this remarkable region.

Extensions to this 20 day small group tour of Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan can take adventurous travellers into the land-locked region of the South Caucasus, Nagorno Karabakh, where forest covered mountains hide a multitude of cultural secrets and a notorious past waiting to be uncovered prior to finally heading for home.

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05 Sep 2021
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01 May 2022
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04 Sep 2022
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Responsible tourism

As the pioneers of responsible tourism, we screen every trip so you can travel knowing your holiday will help support conservation and local people.

A lot of the time on this tour is spent in towns and cities, but we do spend a significant proportion of the trip exploring the countryside and wilder areas of the region. We also visit the extraordinary landscapes of Gobustan, where mud volcanoes belch from the earth to create a very unusual phenomenon. We brief our travellers to stick to the trails so as not to disturb this unique landscape and leave it for others to enjoy. Elsewhere at Gobustan are a remarkable collection of petroglyphs and prehistoric rock art, which are particularly susceptible to damage, and again we ensure our travellers do not damage these. These countries were part of the Soviet Union and as such western European norms regarding the environment are not so well entrenched, therefore it is quite common for local people to dispose of rubbish simply by throwing it out of the window. We operate a strict no litter policy on our tours, and work to educate our drivers and other service providers so as to avoid contributing to this problem.

Similarly, in conjunction with our local team we work with hotels and guesthouses to implement best practices when it comes to environmental matters – in some places this is far behind what we might be used to in other parts of the world. This includes basic things like not replacing towels - small things but the Caucasus especially outside of the capital cities is not as used to tourism as countries in western Europe.

In Svaneti we stay in small guesthouses which make a point of using local produce for the meals it provides – local in the sense of being from the village and surrounding area, not from elsewhere. Not only is this a great introduction to the culinary culture of Georgia but it helps in a small way to cut down on food miles.

The Impacts of this Trip

On all of tours we strive to include a strong focus on local communities and we are firm believers that tourism should have a positive impact on the places visited. On this tour we try to allow our travellers to gain a real insight into the traditional customs of the region; a good example of this is when we stop in a small village near Garni, where we have lunch in a village house and can help to prepare the food. Not only is this a great experience for travellers but it means that small scale community based tourism projects, often ignored by mainstream tourism, are able to benefit from our visit.

On this tour we spend time in the remote province of Svaneti, tucked away in the High Caucasus mountains. We stay at locally owned guesthouses and hotels and where appropriate employ the services of local people in order not only to gain a greater insight into the complex traditions here but to ensure that they gain financial benefit from our visit, rather than just being ‘exhibits’. The communities here do not have a wealth of opportunities to earn money, and tourism helps to bring vital income to the region. It also helps to ensure that there is employment for young people – a key problem with many of the more isolated communities in this part of the world is that younger generations migrate to the cities due to a lack of employment opportunities, and this has a negative impact upon such places, meaning that traditions start to die out. The presence of tourism helps, in a small way, to keep the traditional ways alive.

These are very traditional areas with certain codes of behaviour, and the people here are not that accustomed to outsiders. We ensure that our travellers are appropriately briefed in order so as not to offend local sensibilities. This can include appropriate behaviour in front of local shrines, and the customs of Georgian hospitality. This also applies to the numerous churches and monasteries that we visit on this trip; all three are deeply religious countries and it is important that we respect these traditions.

We also stop to visit communities of Armenia’s ethnic minorities including the Molokans, Kurds and Yazidis. We only visit villages that are pleased to receive us – it is important that we do not treat such communities just as ‘exhibits’, and we recognise that some traditional groups prefer to be left alone.

We visit a number of sites and monuments on this tour that do not necessarily receive much funding from other sources; the entrance fees that we include help to maintain the heritage of this country for future generations – not just western travellers but more importantly to local people to whom they have far more cultural and historical significance. We use locally owned suppliers and our partners here are deeply involved with the preservation of the culture and heritage of the country. Many of the region’s sites have been poorly maintained in the past and entrance fees play an important part in their restoration and conservation.


6 Reviews of Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan small group tour

4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed on 01 Jun 2019 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

We enjoyed getting familiar with the capital cities in all three countries: Baku, Azerbaijan; Tbilisi, Georgia; and Yerevan, Armenia. Our hotels were very well located. We could walk around to areas of interest in our free time very easily. Local people were welcoming. We were impressed with the progress made in these countries since the break up of the Soviet Union.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

May was a good time to travel to these countries. The weather was great for sightseeing. Glad that we did some reading before we went so we had some background about the places we would be visiting.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

We visited small villages and areas in the mountains. When we stayed in guest houses and ate in local retaurants, we think the local people benefited.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?

Outstanding trip. We had a guide for each country. Their knowledge added to the total experience. The itinerary was very complete. We learned a lot about the culture and political situation as well.

Reviewed on 29 May 2019 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

There were so many highlights, the scenery, the food, the experiences!

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

Fitness is pretty important as there's lots of walking and climbing stairs and some rough ground. The weather was really hot too, hotter than I expected!

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

I think so. We used a lot of plastic water bottles but that was because there were very few places to refill reusable bottles, but hopefully in time this will change.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?

I loved it! It was really amazing! Unfortunately the guide in Azerbaijan was very disorganised and this was highlighted even more as the other two guides were sensational! Such fantastic countries, well worth the trip!

Reviewed on 12 Oct 2019 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

Gobustan, Sheiki palace, Tbilisi, Svaneti and the mountains and Yerevan for its arts, outdoor areas, sculptures and music

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

Lots of steps and steep inclines - be prepared. Good food, great local experiences very knowledgeable guides proud of their countries. Driver in Georgia was sensational

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

Engagement with local experiences and community people was great.
Very busy days left little time for browsing, conversations with local artists and spending money. Enjoying supporting artists but little time to check out their work

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?

Very good and felt most at ease as a solo traveller in Georgia and Armenia

Reviewed on 29 Sep 2019 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

Experiencing 3 very different cultures.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

Clarify everything with the travel agency before travel starts. Information was somewhat spotty.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?

Good experience.

Reviewed on 28 Sep 2019 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

The drive to Ushguli as the sun shone brilliantly lighting up the snow-capped mountains.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

Be prepared for a lot of "minibus miles" and large numbers of tourists at all the major sites. "Guesthouse" means a hotel run by a family, rather than by a
company. Some of us were expecting to stay in a family house as a guest, which was not the case.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

Difficult to tell. We were transported and guided by local staff so a few were supported directly by employment. Difficult to see how travelling so many
minibus miles reduces environmental impact, We saw no evidence of any activities supporting conservation.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?

It was worth visiting because of the splendid scenery: snowy mountains, wide open high grasslands, steep-sided wooded valleys and gorges. However it was
very disappointing in many respects. None of us were prepared for the volume of tourists visiting the major sites, which was very frustrating. Our minibus had to queue to get into Mestia, where we were expecting to see a little-known region. We did not "meet the Svan people and get to know their unique way of life" . What we did learn about them came mainly from watching a film drama being shown in Mestia about people in Ushguli.

Read the operator's response here:

Dear Will,

Thank you for taking the time to send your feedback to Responsible Travel about your recent trip to the Caucasus region.

I am so glad to hear that you enjoyed the tour overall and that the beautiful mountainous scenery of Ushguli was a real highlight for you as it is for many of our travellers.

With regards to the guesthouse in Svaneti, Georgia, this is a family-run guesthouse. There are several of these in Svaneti and the family not only live in the same property but also prepare the meals. These guesthouses are often larger than the typical family home and this is so that they can cater for groups, such as the one you were part of. It would be extremely difficult to find a home that doesn’t operate as a guesthouse, yet would open their doors to visitors and be able to accommodate a group of 12. The other guesthouse is in Kutaisi and again, we don’t list this as a homestay either and so I’m really sorry if it was interpreted in this way. Georgia in general is becoming increasingly popular as a destination and so whichever hotel you stay in - and there are few to choose from - you will inevitably come across other tourists and nationalities. We have revised our trip dossiers to say 'family-run guest-houses’ where appropriate, in hope that this will avoid any further confusion for our travellers.

The same applies to Svaneti as a region, with regards to increasing numbers of tourists - Mestia in particular - and so we are working with our local team on the ground to try and make some changes here to enhance the experience in this region. We have recently looked into whether we could stay in Ushguli - as opposed to Mestia - but it doesn’t look as though this could be an option without increasing the duration of a tour that is already 20 days long. The drive to Mestia is quite long as I’m sure you’re aware, and the drive back to Tbilisi even longer and so to travel to Ushguli and then back to Tbilisi from here, would add an extra 2 hours to both journeys - there and back.

There are also fewer accommodation options in Ushguli and the few options that there are, are of a lower standard than those in Mestia which we don’t necessarily feel that our travellers would be happy with. We will be extending the amount of walking we do in Ushguli for 2020 though, and will also be including a visit to a family home to gain a more in-depth insight into Svan life. I’m really sorry if you found this aspect of the trip to be unfulfilling and we have taken all of your feedback on board with the aim to make this better for future travellers.

I do understand that there are a lot of miles involved on this trip but unfortunately there is no way to cover the highlights of these countries without covering some long distances. We have considered flying between countries but this wouldn’t reduce environmental impact unfortunately. The other reason we haven’t included flights from country to country is because we would usually have to be at the airport 2 hours before a flight, then we have the flight itself and getting out of the airport on the other side and so it doesn’t necessarily mean that time would be saved either. With regards to flying to Georgia from Azerbaijan, we finish the trip in Sheki which doesn't have an operating airport and so for the moment it makes more sense to drive to the Lagodekhi border and then onwards to Tbilisi, with the option of visiting the Sighnaghi hill town en route.

We work with local teams on the ground in all three countries that you visited, who employ local guides and drivers, therefore directly contributing to local people and the local economy. We also avoid large hotel and restaurant chains, therefore contributing to smaller local businesses.

We are extremely grateful that you have taken the time to share your constructive feedback and would like to assure you that we have taken all of your points on board. This kind of feedback really does go a long way when improving our tours for future travellers and so we’re pleased that you’ve taken the time to share your views with us and Responsible Travel.

Kind Regards,


Reviewed on 26 May 2018 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

The part of the trip in Svaneti.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

Its a good trips and they should book it

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

It benefitted local people in The Svaneti region because it creates work.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?

I will give it 4 stars because the guide in Azerbaijan didn't speak English very well. He didn't understand our questions and could answer something completly
wrong which proved that he hadn't understood the question.

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