The countries of Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan are some of the last nations in Europe to have been fully “discovered” by mass tourism. While the three countries have been popular to visit for Eastern Europeans and citizens of the former Soviet Union for decades, travellers from further west are still waking up to the delights that these three nations have to offer. And because they are still considered to be off the beaten path destinations, there isn’t a heap of information available online about them. If you’ve been intrigued by the nations of the Southern Caucasus and are wondering whether to visit Georgia or Armenia or Azerbaijan, or simply debating between which capital city of Baku or Tbilisi or Yerevan to visit then I am here to help you out.
If you’re on a tight schedule and only have a short period of time to devote to your Caucasus itinerary, then we would recommend to only concentrate on visiting one country rather than trying to cram in two or three in your limited time. While deciding between Georgia vs Armenia vs Azerbaijan can seem difficult, all three are vastly different nations with unique things to offer visitors.
So, without further ado, let’s figure out whether visiting Georgia, Armenia or Azerbaijan is right for you!
Georgia is the most visited of the Caucasus countries and has the most information available about tourism available online. Bordering Russia to the north, Azerbaijan to the west, Armenia to the south, and Turkey to the southwest, Georgia has a culture drawn from many influences.
Boasting both incredible mountain ranges and a lovely Black Sea coastline, a delicious local cuisine gaining more and more international attention, and the oldest wine culture in the world, Georgia has a lot to offer travellers and is a great option if you’re struggling to decide between it, Azerbaijan or Armenia.
When comparing Georgia vs Azerbaijan or Armenia and you want to know the easiest country to reach, then Georgia will likely take the award.
The Georgian government has taken great strides in encouraging tourism to this small nation and part of that has been making the country incredibly easy and affordable to access from Europe and the rest of the world.
There are three international airports in Georgia serving a number of destinations in the country’s three largest cities: Tbilisi, Batumi, and Kutaisi. The latter airport also serves as a hub for budget airline Wizzair and offers incredibly affordable flights to Georgia from many European destinations, making it accessible for most anyone to reach Georgia. There is also talk about major budget airline Ryanair offering flights to Tbilisi or Kutaisi in the future.
Once you are in Georgia, you will find that it is reasonably easy to get around the country, as well. While it doesn’t have the most developed train network (there are only a few trains running between major cities — they can be painfully slow and haven’t been updated since Soviet times), Georgia is very well-served by an extensive bus network.
While traditional coach-style buses aren’t as common in any Georgian, Azerbaijan or Armenia, there are minibuses (called marshrutka) that are very easy and affordable to take to most destinations. This is going to be the cheapest options for transport in Georgia save for hitchhiking.
Alternatively, it is also very easy to get around Georgia using taxis — even long distance. You can either share these taxis with other travellers or hire one on your your own, the latter of which is going to be more expensive. However, compared with most western European countries, travelling by taxi in Georgia can be quite affordable.
It is also popular amongst travellers to hire a car in Georgia, however, this isn’t altogether necessary. The country is very well-served by public transportation but if you only have a short amount of time or want to have the most flexibility with your itinerary, it can work out to be a good choice to rent a car. While car hire prices can be comparable to Western prices, we recommend using RentalCars.com to find the best prices across all available companies.
All in all, when comparing Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan, Georgia is the most accessible of the three nations. This includes both the convenience of getting to the country and the ease of getting around.
If the affordability of the country is a determining factor when it comes to choosing between Georgia vs Armenia vs Azerbaijan to visit then it might make your decision a bit more difficult.
On the whole, Georgia is an incredibly affordable country for Western travellers and you can easily travel in the country for less than €30 per day. However, all other countries have similar pricing and no one country is more affordable than the other.
It is worth knowing that, depending on the season you are travelling, the coastal city of Batumi can get fairly expensive for accommodation compared to other destinations within Georgia and the Caucasus as a whole. This is because it is a popular seaside retreat among many international tourists.
All in all, if you’re wanting an affordable destination in the Caucasus, then Georgia is a good bet. However, so are Armenia and Azerbaijan.
Things to Do
Out of all three of the Caucasus countries, Georgia easily has the most variety to offer visitors and the most developed tourism infrastructure. However trite the phrase, Georgia really has something to offer everyone.
Interesting in scaling epic mountain peaks? Georgia’s got some of the tallest in the Caucasus and some, like Mt Kazbek, are steeped in ancient legend. Are you an aspiring sommelier or just a fan of knocking back a glass of red or white? Georgia is teeming with wine country and the oldest winemaking tradition in the world. Are you after a seaside escape? Batumi is one of the most popular retreats on the Black Sea.
There is a lot to do in Georgia, so much that travellers could easily have every day of a three-week itinerary fully packed with activities and still not exhaust all there is to see in the country. Filled with fascinating history, beautiful scenery, and incredible food, it is remarkable that Georgia doesn’t see nearly the amount of tourist crowds of comparable destinations.
If you’re looking for a destination that has the most things to do and it is easy and accessible to do them, then Georgia is a great choice over Armenia or Azerbaijan.
If you’re one of those people who chooses destinations mainly because of their food, then Georgia is an excellent choice for you. In recent years, Georgian food has been clawing its way into international recognition, with our Instagram feeds filled with images of photogenic khachapuri adjaruli and steaming khinkali soup dumplings. And while these things are certainly both iconic and delicious, there is a lot more to Georgian cuisine than these two dishes.
Filled with delicious salads, vegetable dishes, garlicky sauces drizzled over chicken, and some of the most creative uses of fruit for savoury endeavours — Georgian cuisine is diverse and delicious. As the best-known out of the cuisines of the Caucasus, if you are into food — then visiting Georgia is the clear answer.
Another perk of Georgian cuisine is that it is very accessible to vegetarians, with many popular dishes not containing meat at all. Look for things like ajapsandali, lobio, and eggplant with walnut paste. All very delicious and meat-free!
When it comes to the flavours and traditions of Georgian cuisine compared to Armenia or Azerbaijan, Georgian is the most diverse and flavourful in my opinion. I will say, however, it can be difficult to find a restaurant serving anything other than Georgian food, especially outside of Tbilisi. So if you crave some international fare once in a while, Georgia may not be the best option for you.
Armenia, located to the south of Georgia, sees fewer visitors than its neighbour to the north, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not worth visiting at all. Quite the contrary, Armenia boasts beautiful mountain scenery, a sophisticated capital city, and incredibly friendly locals who are keen to show you the best of their country.
Bordered by Georgia to the north, Turkey to the south, Azerbaijan to the east, and Iran to the southeast, Armenia has been influenced by many cultures throughout the centuries and has a fascinating and at times heartbreaking history.
So if you’re wondering whether you should visit Armenia or Georgia or Azerbaijan, here are the merits to Armenia:
Compared to Georgia or Azerbaijan, unfortunately, Armenia can be the least accessible — especially if you only want to visit one country during your time in the Caucasus.
There are a few airports in Armenia, but the only real international airport is in Yerevan, which does serve 30-odd international destinations directly, many of which lie in Russia and other Eastern European countries. Therefore, if you fly into Armenia, it is almost certain that you will need to make a connecting flight and it will probably be fairly expensive.
You can also reach Armenia via bus or train from Georgia, which can certainly work out to be less expensive than flying direct into Yerevan. It is also possible to reach the country from the southern border in Iran. You cannot, however, enter Armenia from either Azerbaijan or Turkey as the land borders to both countries are closed. The former country also has absolutely no diplomatic relations with Armenia due to the Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh) conflict.
Once in Armenia, your best bet to get around via public transport is by marshrutka — much like in Georgia. These bus routes operate in the same way as mentioned above and can be incredibly affordable and convenient if you are embarking on a well-trodden route.
It can be difficult to find the proper transport information in Armenia, however, as most international tourists tend to visit the country via organised tour. This can make getting around the country tricky for independent travellers.
Routes to popular tourist attractions don’t necessarily leave frequently if there isn’t much local demand, so there also can be little option. The best resource we found in Armenia when it came to finding bus routes and timetables was from the helpful people at the tourist information centres across the country.
If you want to get the most out of your Armenia itinerary while still travelling independently, then we would recommend renting a car. This will give you the flexibility to go where you want when you want without being beholden to bus timetables.
However, if you’re deciding between visiting Armenia or Georgia and you want to travel independently, then Georgia might be the better option for you.
Like mentioned in the affordability section under Georgia above, all three countries in the Caucasus can be very affordable to travel in for western travellers.
Therefore, if you’re trying to choose between visiting Armenia vs Georgia or Azerbaijan and affordability is a determining factor, you might want to move onto other considerations. Armenia is affordable, but not really any more or less so than the other three countries.
Like in Georgia, it is possible to travel in Armenia for less than €30 per day if you are on a tight budget, while a mid-range budget might be somewhere closer to €50 per day.
Things to Do
There is not much help in denying it, out of the three countries of Georgia, Armenia, or Azerbaijan, Georgia definitely has the most things to do. That doesn’t mean, however, that Armenia is lacking in tourist sites or beautiful nature to explore.
The capital city of Yerevan is a cosmopolitan metropolis that is easy to spend a number of days in. Filled with streetside cafes and wide avenues, it is easy-to-navigate and interesting to explore. There are lots of museums, historical sites, and markets to visit and there is also a very good restaurant scene to check out as well.
Outside of Yerevan, the most popular sites to visit in Armenia are monasteries. Armenia is known to be the very first country to adopt Christianity as a state religion and there are countless historic Christian sites, cathedrals, and churches to visit in Armenia — some of which are truly spectacular.
Armenia is also a largely mountainous country and a real heaven for outdoor lovers. There are ample hiking opportunities throughout the country and beautiful views to be seen as well.
All in all, you could easily spend a week or two in Armenia and not get bored, however, it doesn’t have quite as much to offer as Georgia — especially when it comes to diversity in landscape and climate.
Armenian food isn’t all that well-known internationally and has none of the acclaim as Georgian cuisine, however, the food in Armenia is quite diverse and delicious and definitely worth sampling.
The local cuisine uses an interesting mix of influences from its surrounding neighbours and puts a unique twist upon them. In parts of Armenia, you will see very similar foods to what you would find in Georgia — dishes like khinkali, for instance, also have roots in Armenia.
You will also find some Levantine dishes in Armenian cuisine, like tabouleh and hummus, for instance.
Perhaps because of the amount of returning diaspora or just and internationally-minded population, there is ample choice for international food in Yerevan — far more than we found anywhere in Azerbaijan or Georgia. In Yerevan, you can easily find delicious, spicy Thai food or chow down on buffalo wings in an American-style bar. There is definitely a lot of food options in Armenia that is well worth exploring.
Only very recently has Azerbaijan been a somewhat easy destination for many international tourists to reach, having only loosened visa regulations a couple of years ago. As the oil-capital of the Caucasus, Azerbaijan is an eclectic nation that is worth visiting if you get the chance.
Its capital city of Baku is a grand and sophisticated metropolis, combining classic European-style architecture with brand new futuristic buildings. Styling itself as something of a “new Dubai,” this is where the bulk of tourism in Azerbaijan is concentrated.
Outside of the capital, the country changes drastically, making it a fascinating nation to visit and adding even more confusion to those trying to figure out whether or not to visit Azerbaijan, Armenia or Georgia.
When it comes to accessing Azerbaijan, it is easier than getting to Armenia as the Baku airport is a bit higher-traffic (they have ambitions to be a hub much like Dubai or Doha), though it still isn’t as affordable to fly here as it is to get to Georgia.
There are also trains connecting Azerbaijan to Georgia and many buses that run between the countries, as well. If you missed it above, it is worth repeating that it is not possible to travel from Azerbaijan to Armenia or vice versa, despite the two countries sharing a significant land border. There are no diplomatic relations between the two nations and there is a significant amount of bad blood due to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
While it is possible to enter Azerbaijan if you have previously travelled to Armenia, you are also barred from entry if you have been to the Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh) region. Azerbaijan considers this to be occupied territory by Armenia.
Azerbaijan is the only country in the Caucasus where it is almost certain that you will need to obtain a visa before arriving, as well. However, for most western nationalities including USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the EU, an evisa system is available.
You will get a decision in three days or less and the whole thing costs less than €25 USD. You do, however, absolutely need to have this before travelling to Azerbaijan, as there are only a handful of nationalities where a visa on arrival is an option.
Actually getting around Azerbaijan is about as straightforward as in Armenia or Georgia, with buses and marshrutky being the main forms of public transport. They are very affordable and connect most destinations within Azerbaijan with relative ease.
While Baku is trying to brand itself as a luxury destination and it is certainly possible to spend a pretty penny in the city with a blink of an eye, it is just as easy to stick to a tight budget in Baku and Azerbaijan in general.
While there is certainly a lot of oil money in Azerbaijan, there is also a huge wealth divide in the country, meaning that most average Azeris don’t have a lot of money to get by. This makes travelling in Azerbaijan quite affordable for westerners, even in glitzy Baku.
On average, like in Georgia or Armenia, you can plan to spend about €30 per day and live pretty well in Azerbaijan.
Things to Do
When it comes to things to do in the country as a whole and you are trying to choose between Azerbaijan vs Armenia or Georgia, then Azerbaijan might fall a bit short.
While Baku is a massive city that is filled with a number of cool and interesting things to do, the rest of the country does not have a well-developed tourist infrastructure and is somewhat lacking for sites. While there are a few things that are worth visiting in a day from Baku — for instance, the mud volcanoes or the petroglyphs of Gobustan — there aren’t a tonne of other things to see.
What Azerbaijan does have, however, is absolutely stunning natural scenery and if you’re a fan of dramatic mountain scenery and virtually untouched treks, then Azerbaijan is a great destination for you. There is also a fascinating amount of silk road history that is worth exploring, especially in the pleasant town of Sheki.
If, however, you’re not much of a hiker, then you may not find Azerbaijan to be all that interesting outside of Baku.
While Georgian and Armenian cuisines are fairly similar and even share some dishes, Azeri cuisine is in its own realm and, personally, it was my least favourite of the three.
Unlike in Georgia or Armenia, the food in Azerbaijan tends to be far more meat-heavy and fresh salads and vegetables do not play as important of a role in a balanced cuisine. The food also shares far more influences from places like Turkey and Iran than either Armenia or Georgia do.
While foods like kebabs are very popular in Azerbaijan (and its a food you can get in so many cities around the world), Azerbaijan also seemed to have the fewest international eating options compared to Georgia and Armenia.
Georgia or Armenia or Azerbaijan: The Verdict
With all the above points considered, it is now time to choose if Georgia, Armenia or Azerbaijan is the right country for you to visit.
In general, Georgia is the country that has the most to offer and the most developed tourist infrastructure. The government has invested heavily in its tourism industry and this makes it incredibly easy to visit as a foreigner. It also has the most diverse landscapes and attractions — including a coastline, beautiful mountains, great wine country, and thriving cities.
Armenia is a great destination if you want to get a bit further off the beaten path. Yerevan, however, is a very western city and is incredibly easy to navigate and easy to love. The rest of the country is filled with jaw-dropping mountains, beautiful lakes, and historic monasteries.
Azerbaijan might be the best destination for you if you only a week or less to devote to the country, or you are looking for an off-beat city break destination. Baku is a wonderful city that is full of surprises and charms, but the tourist sites and infrastructure is severely lacking outside of the capital.
Choosing between Azerbaijan or Armenia or Georgia can be a tricky decision, as each country has something unique to offer visitors.
Are you trying to decide between visiting Georgia vs Armenia or Azerbaijan? Have you visited any of these countries? Let us know in the comments!