The what? The Caucasus is a stunning area lying between South-Eastern Europe and South-West Asia. Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan live within it and here’s why you’re going to want to visit them, writes Andy Davidson.
You’ve got two ways into the Caucasus: Russia or Turkey. Most adventure bike riders don’t bother with Russia, getting visas are a pain and there’s a whole load of unadventurous nothingness to ride through (until you get to the far east and Siberia). And most riders from the UK and Europe fall short of visiting eastern Turkey. That leaves Caucasia relatively untouched…
Between the Black Sea and Caspian Sea, the three countries are an old patchwork blanket of ancient and modern wars, melting pots of culture, jaw-dropping mountains, natural phenomenon and incredible hospitality. Think of it as a perpetual frontier town. Its jagged mountains separate east from west and it has remained a centuries old battle ground for strategic power.
But, after the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1990s, the three countries have rapidly become more accessible to the outside world and now it’s easier than ever to visit. Here’s what you need to know about riding there…
But what’s so special about it?
It’s a raw, untouched and wild part of the world. The three countries boast some of the most beautiful backdrops on earth. The riding is epic and the Caucasus Mountains are gorgeous. Chase the Georgia Military Road up to 2,379m in Kazbegi on the border with Russia and you’ll see what we mean.
Loop around and explore Tbilisi and its famous cheese pies before slicing your way down into Armenia to check out its many monasteries and ancient history. Head back to Tbilisi and then scoot over to Azerbaijan. You’ll find one of the world’s most remote and highest villages there, mud volcanoes, thousand-year-old petroglyphs and eternally burning flames.
The only tricky thing about visiting the Caucasus is that you really do need to visit all three of them. They’re completely different from one-another and so diverse that you’d never guess that they’re neighbours.
How do I get there?
Head through Europe and into Turkey. You’ll need to cross the entire country (an adventure in itself) before heading to Georgia’s coastal town of Batumi.
Where should I go when I’m there?
Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan are easy countries to enter, however, you can not go from Armenia into Azerbaijan and vice versa because the two countries are bitter enemies. Enter Georgia from Turkey, cross the border into Armenia, go back into Georgia, then into Azerbaijan and back to Georgia before exiting back into Turkey.
What paperwork do I need for Georgia?
Overlanding through Georgia is a piece of cake – apart from the terrible road conditions and maniac drivers. That aside, borders are smooth, there’s very little cost and it is easy getting in and out. Brits don’t need a visa and we can stay up to a year. You only need a passport, driver’s licence and the V5 for your bike. You will need to buy insurance from a kiosk near the border.
What about Armenia?
Armenia is a beautiful country with an incredibly sad history. Its people are warm and welcoming, the roads seem to be under permanent construction (but they are getting there) and the standard of drivers are better than in Georgia. Petrol is super cheap but make sure you carry cash! Brits can enter visa-free for up to180 days within a year.
It’s the trickiest of the three but the friendliest of the bunch. You can get your visa online for 30 days, which costs around £20. It’s straightforward and easy to apply for (just don’t make any spelling mistakes). If you’re planning on staying longer than 10 days you will need to register your stay within the first nine days (either online or your hotel can do it) and you also need insurance at the border for about £10.
Are they expensive?
Travel through the Caucasus is cheap and easy. Food is well priced and delicious and there’s plenty of accommodation or places to camp if you prefer.
Is it safe?
Yes. The Caucasus are very safe to travel through. You’re going to love it!
About the author
Andy and his partner Alissa gave up their lives in the UK to travel round-the-world indefinitely. They left on January 1 2018 and have so far ridden 25,000 miles to Japan. Follow their adventures at www.madornomad.com or on social media as Mad or Nomad.