26th August 2015
Sales consultant Natalie has recently returned from our two week Across the Caucasus group tour, travelling around Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia. We asked her about the highlights of her trip, from hiking to Gergeti Trinity Church to sampling colourful fruit leathers.
The Georgian Military Highway – an unforgettable drive! The long and windy passage takes you through the breathtaking Greater Caucasus that Georgia is famous for. The whole drive is incredibly scenic with some picture perfect photo stops along the way, including the 17th century Ananuri complex overlooking the Zhinvali reservoir, as well as the Russian-Georgian friendship monument.
On our way to Lahic in Azerbaijan we stopped off to explore a roadside suspension bridge – before we knew it a small crowd had gathered and a local man began playing his saz, singing mournfully of his home in Nagorno-Karabakh. It was a wonderfully impromptu and authentic moment that showed us a snippet of the reality behind the country's conflict with Armenia and its effect on the people.
All of the food was fresh, healthy, full of flavour and definitely plentiful! I suppose the obvious choice for my favourite dish is the mouth-watering Khachapuri cheese bread found in Georgia. However, if you have a sweet tooth like me then definitely try one of the colourful fruit leathers or Churchkela, aka ‘Snickers’, found throughout all three countries.
Not getting up earlier each day to explore. Covering three countries in two weeks means you have a lot to see and take in, so I didn’t find myself with itchy feet to go off exploring further as I usually do. However, when others on my tour reflected on their early morning adventures during our last meal, I couldn’t help but feel jealous – there is nothing like the early morning hustle and bustle of a town or village to give you a real taste of local life.
My favourite excursion by far was the morning hike to Gergeti Trinity Church overlooked by snow-capped Mount Kazbegi. It was nice to wake up to a cool morning, (with a view of Mount Kazbegi from the bedroom window!) and make our way through the local village, where women were working the fields and the men were setting off on their horses. With the local dogs hot on our heels we walked up through the woodlands to the vast open space surrounding the picturesque church setting.
Tips for travellers
All of the people we met were extremely warm, friendly and happy to engage with us, but when they're busy haggling at the market or trying to go about their day, it is always polite to ask before taking a photo – often this can be done with a simple smile and a nod. In addition, don’t forget to take a shawl and, for Georgia, a long skirt or sarong to wrap around your legs when visiting churches.