Armenia. I don't see many people talking about this part of the world to visit, but I have to say I absolutely loved it.
My wife and I started in Moscow, then drove south. Stayed in Rostov for a night then continued from Russia into Georgia onward to Tbilisi and stayed there for three days. From there we continued south into Armenia, driving to Dilijan. We stayed in Dilijan for a few days, then spent the rest of the time in Yerevan and the surrounding sites/areas.
My thoughts about the three countries, as it was my first time in all three.
Russia - had some amazing things to see in Moscow, but overall felt like another city to me (I live in NYC).
Georgia - Absolutely beautiful scenery, we drove into Georgia during sunset and the mountains were spectacular. Tbilisi was a great city to explore, as well was incredibly cheap. I honestly don't think I spent more than $20-25 USD for food for the three days. I would love to go back for a longer duration.
Armenia - Insanely beautiful. When we returned home I told people it was a complete hidden gem, and that everyone should go see it. The history of the various churches and historical sites are a marvel to see. Dilijan was perfect weather even in the summer. Yerevan was pretty nifty, although much much hotter. I really enjoyed the center of Yerevan. Armenia as a whole was incredibly cheap. Also, Armenians are overly hospitable. We went to go buy Lavash (thin bread) from a local farmer in Dilijan and he gave us a ride back to our apartment and a bottle of some homemade vodka.
If anyone is interested, I can dump some pictures.
I hitched a ride from Tbilisi to Yerevan back in July of 2013 with a German couple who were staying at the same hostel as me and a friend. I didn't spend nearly as long in Armenia as I did in Georgia but I still impressed with the country's natural beauty and the hospitality of its inhabitants. Maybe this sounds silly, but I've never been somewhere where fucking borders guards seemed so genuinely happy to see a visitor from a faraway place - this one guy shook my hand, had this huge smile on his face, and kept telling me how much he hoped I enjoyed Armenia.
Same thing. Armenian border guards were overly friendly, welcomed me to their country and told me I was the first American to come through their post (I took a weird route, not the normal entrance).
In Russia I'd say knowing some Russian is a 100% must. Hardly anyone spoke English. Luckily my wife speaks fluent Russian.
In Georgia, most people at attractions/stores speak English well enough. All signs are also available in English.
In Armenia almost every single person I met spoke English, even villagers spoke some. In Yerevan everyone I met spoke quite good English, and I found a ton of fluent people.
Totally. We walked around late into the night in Tbilisi and never felt like we were in a rough area. However, like most places, just keep your wits about you.
Armenia = crazy safe. So safe that a lot of people in Yerevan just leave their apartment doors open so neighbors/family can easily come visit any time.
Family restaurant below our hostel. A meal for four including beer cost us about $12ish
I didn't mean to say don't post, just thought maybe you didn't realize you were posting those.
If you have some good photos of southern Russia I'd love to see them. What was your itinerary like for this trip?
That's bread. No him, but I recognize that from being posted all the time over in /ck.
It's like cheese pizza with an egg on top. Heavy on the dough.
It's Bread/Egg/Cheese/Butter and it's fucking delicious. The name of it is Adjarian khachapuri. You can find it in Brooklyn too.
I'll dig those up. I have a few from Rostov and from Vladikavkaz. We got pulled over just north, but luckily the cop just wanted to shoot the shit and talk about life.
Dilijan. It's pretty much a "large village" but was once a pretty heavy financial center during the Soviet Union. Armenia got pretty fucked after the fall.
Lake Sevan, also known as Armenia's Ocean. The monastery sits atop a hill overlooking this. It was extremely serene, and I can understand why they chose that spot.
Wife's parents live in Moscow, used theirs. We planned out the trip about a month in advance. Used Google Maps, random forums that people had posted info on, and various Government websites. The only thing I'd do differently is take the normal route from Georgia -> Armenia, as the route we took the road became absolute shit about 15km from the border and it took a few hours to get through it.
My Russian visa was kind of a hassle, I had to pay $50 to a travel company to give me a fake invitation number. Georgia doesn't
I've always wanted to travel to this region, I was going to last spring but I went to Bulgaria and Romania instead.... still a good trip though.
Do the people drive crazy there too? Did you sense any hostility from anyone? Would it be hard to travel alone without knowing the language? Looks like a fun trip though.
Sorry, got cut off. Georgia doesn't require a visa for US citizens. Armenia's visa I was able to do online for ~$15.
Semi crazy, not awful. Lots of Traffic in Yerevan though. Zero hostility, everyone I met was crazy open, even the younger generation.
I don't think it would be, if you're talking just Georgia and Armenia. As long as you can speak one of the following languages you're fine: Russian, Armenian, English.
I'd say there are a lot of hidden gems in Georgia and Armenia for sure. Not so much Moscow, as it's incredibly well known.
Didn't see a lot of Tourists in Moscow, Georgia or Armenia. Saw I'd say about 98% locals in Armenia. Absolutely zero tourists in Dilijan. Like I said earlier, the border I came through the guards had never seen an American come through.
The border we left through (Russia) actually held us up for almost an hour because they were passing around my passport because none of them had seen an American passport and said to me "We didn't know how it was supposed to look."
Also this is Garni.
Oh also, we stayed in Russia for two weeks, Georgia for 3 days, and Armenia for almost two weeks.
Mount Ararat. Hard to see that day. This used to be Armenia's then Turkey decided it was theirs.
Nope. She is an architect and worked for a client of mine in NYC.
Wings of Tatev, longest aerial tram in the world.
Old observation field. They used to hand drill holes in stones after lining them up with stars.
This was incredibly high up (as you can see by the ice). There is an observatory near lake Kari.
Eating khash up on the mountain. It's an incredibly heavy soup, but delicious.
So...interesting story behind this. This is a local mayors office in a small town bordering Turkey, west of Yerevan. We met up with him and the local police chief and a few others. They invited us over to their house for a huge meal, and tons of vodka. They toasted me for visiting their small town, and for the relationship between Armenia and America.
What you're looking at is Turkey, but it used to be Armenia's capital city, as well as one of the oldest churches, Ani. This was taken from the no mans land between Armenia and Turkey...The mayor we met knew a guy who knew a guy etc etc and we were able to cross the border from Armenia into this no mans land without passports.
For those who don't get it. . . .
This photo >>937597 is of some pedophile who got caught because of all the photos he took of himself screwing kids. The police used image processing to de-swirl the swirly-face stuff.
The poster is probably posting it to comment on this photo >>937577 using a sort-of-similar swirling distortion to hide faces.
We had a connecting flight in Abu Dhabi. We landed during Ramadan, but luckily they didn't really care about foreigners eating.
Chances of meeting someone who speaks English outside Tbilisi are pretty small. I'd recommend knowing some basic Russian to get by.
Also, how much can you still see of the landslide at the Russia/Georgian border? Was there in late June, when the road had finally been cleared a few days before. Had to make the most batshit insane detour (Mineralnye Vody - Moscow - Brussels - home - Brussels - Istanbul - Tbilisi - Kazbegi in 48 hours) to cover ~300km.
Hah, we went through it very early July and it was pretty fucked up.
And you are right, but I have to admit, why are you saying Russian? Almost every Georgian I met spoke Georgian and English and absolutely zero Russian.
I heard it took a month or so before they actually cleared the road so it could be used again. Also looked up the glacier that cause the landslide - Devdoraki - turns out it's no less than SEVEN fucking kilometers from the road. Must've been a monstrours landslide to cause such destruction. Were the mangled vehicles still there?
I've seen a few different regions in Georgia, but outside Tbilisi we hardly met anyone that spoke functional English. Or maybe we just didn't bother enough, because my two companions spoke decent Russian, which almost everyone turned out to speak, and I was starting to pick up bits by that time.
Pic is Didi Abuli near Ninotsminda, about as close to Armenia as I got. Going back to Georgia later this year to climb Kazbek and Tetnuldi, but not sure if Armenia will fit in. I do hope so.
Good timing OP. I have in a very advanced stage my decision of visiting Armenia plus Nagorno-Karabakh. This thread has convinced me a little bit more (if possible).
My plans are moving around using taxis or public transport and would be there around 9-10 days. Initially, it seems enough time to get around as the country is pretty small but would like to hear your feelings.
I don't speak any Russian or Armenian but I've been to difficult places when it comes to the language so I guess I could survive.
Also, where is this >>937572 ?
Good to hear!
Taxis are very cheap. I paid about $2 USD to get across Yerevan. They will also take you to the sites if you want. We actually left the car at the apartment one day and and took a bus tour (http://www.hyurservice.com/eng/trips_reg_eng.php) for 15,000 AMD ($30 USD).
And that's http://www.armeniapedia.org/wiki/Amberd_Fortress
I just got back from a trip through that area in November - I started in Trabzon, Turkey and flew out from Baku, Azerbaijan after taking a side trip to Armenia.
BTW, the border guys on the train from Tbilisi to Baku don't give a single shit if you've been to Armenia, only Nagorno Karabakh.
Hey OP, here is a pic of the Georgian Military Highway just south of the Russian border with snow on it.
Nah I didn't go to NK as we were visiting Armenia prior to Azerbaijan and I didn't want to fuck up my chances of getting in since that was where my departing flight was leaving from. If I could do it again, I'd fly into Baku and out from Trabzon, but it had a worse flight schedule when I was doing my bookings, like it would waste an evening by going to Baku. I'm American, so I only had a 10 days to do the trip, so the thought of wasting time in transit is off putting, and I might not have had time to go to NK anyway in the grand scheme of things.
For the Armenia section, we departed Tbilisi by Mashrutka, took about 7 hours on the minibus to get to Yerevan, a lot of snow on the road. We went out for dinner, walked around the city a bit after arriving. Second day did pretty much everything there is to do in Yerevan: went to the two main museums - the library and the national history museums - the cascade, saw a music performance etc. Next day woke up ass early to go to the bus station and head back, a 6 hour trip.
Spent a few hours in the old section of Tbilisi before catching a night train to Baku.
Pic related is from some small town in Armenia where we stopped in the minibus on the way down from Georgia.
I want to go there during summer so I guess I wouldn't have problems with transportation. However, I don't want to spend a lot of time in Yerevan but rather around the country and if possible visit NK (Agdam to be more precise).
While there did you hear about issues at the border NK-Azerbaijan? I know last year there was some cross-fire and honestly if I can't go to Agdam I might even not go to Armenia at all.
Kobi village, if memory serves me correctly, with the entrance Truso gorge on the right. Sure looks lovely in winter.
People keep cows in what used to be someone's living room there.
At the bus station I saw a lot of people heading from Yerevan to NK. I don't know about your region in particular. I'd say just go for it, the chances of you having any problems there are slim-to-none
Damn, looks really nice in winter. Too bad I'm returning in summer.
how far up did you hike, was that the highest you went? thats a great shot. I did look up there on that hill towards the tall mountain and wondered what a shot from up there would look like, but it was cold as fuck and me and my wife were walking back down the hill and already cold.
Pretty correct I'd say, maybe just a little higher. We tried to climb Kazbek, so we hiked up to the Betlemi hut that day. Forced to turn back around 4200m due to persisting bad weather for at least three days. Nobody made it to the summit.
Too bad you didn't make it up to the pass, the view on the other side sure is worth it. Shot is looking back to the pass, in the direction of the church.
holy shit! thats epic. didn't even know there was a pass over there. We only went up as a day trip from Tbilisi.
Actually slid off the road in our rental Pajero and slammed into the protective barrier on that pass between Kazbegi and Gudauri due to a blizzard that blew in in the late afternoon and froze the road. Scary as shit looking over the crevasse there, wife was crying, drove like an old man all the way down the mountain after that. All good though, paid $80 US and the rental company said no big deal.
So yeah, if you couldn't make it up there, imagine us! We didnt even plan to see the mountains originally, we were going to stick to cities.
how crowded was it in the summer?
Yup, there's a pass, see pic. Quite an end, a bit too much for a day hike in winter. Kazbegi and the church receive a few hundred visitors per day easily.
Passed Gudauri twice too, obviously. I was happy the metal barrier looked solid, they didn't look like a luxury.
>paid $80 US and the rental company said no big deal.
Got to love Georgians.
I have a preliminary (aka it's all in my head for now) plan to hitch-hike to Georgia and Armenia all the way from Italy. How is the hitch-hiking situation there? Also, is it essential to learn both Georgian and Armenian alphabets before coming to those countries?
are you Russian?
I tried hitchhiking in Siberia once. It's not easy man, but there are loads of Mashrutkas around.
you really don't need to know their alphabets, a lot of people speak some english. the best tool is the app Maps With Me on a smartphone. you dont need anyone or anything after that.
Easy as fuck in Georgia. We picked up a hitchhiker that was heading to Yerevan, coming from Moscow. Took him 20km further, saw him get his next ride in less than two minutes. Pretty sure he made it to Yerevan that day, meaning he covered 2500km in three days. Can't comment on other countries though.
It's handy to be able to read place names, but otherwise not very helpful, because you'll be reading a bunch of letter without any meaning to you.
Can't quite recall every single picture I've posted here, but there's a good chance that one was amongst them - I find cows in living rooms amusing.
That would be me indeed - but my mates both shared names with one another, not I with them.
So yes, if you remember the picture that clearly, I've posted it before.
Ah that's the one. Well I've said it before and I'll say it again - amazing photos of your trip.
Also shout out to OP, respect for heading to this area and posting about it. Has always intrigued me and hope I'll be able to get there some day.
Because its a breakaway province of Azerbaijan that thinks its a republic, but its basically occupied by Armenia.
I think they think that if you have an NK stamp in your passport, you are tacitly supporting the occupation of a part of Azerbaijan, and therefore no friend of the Azeri people.