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The Travelator Diaries: Armenia & Georgia

The Travelator Diaries: Armenia & Georgia

We are sharing our personal travel diaries! We started keeping these so our family and friends could keep up with our travels, and get some laughs at our expense. Here is our entry for Georgia & Armenia, covering our rather eventful road trip in October 2016.

We had just finished up 2 weeks in Iran, and while we absolutely loved it, Tom was hanging for a beer and KG was ready to rip off her hijab. We crossed the border in northern Iran, and one shifty taxi ride later, we were in Meghri, Armenia. We checked into a gorgeous little family guesthouse, and had a quick homemade vodka with the owner, then headed to a local restaurant for a beer, BBQ pork and unrestricted wifi. Luxury!

Meghri Armenia
The view over Meghri, Armenia

We caught a minibus from Meghri to Armenia’s capital, Yerevan. We were promised that we would be dropped at our hostel, but (predictably) we were dropped at a random metro stop and told to make our own way. This would normally be fine, but the Armenian language looks like spaghetti thrown at a wall so we had no friggin’ idea where we were. As it turns out, the metro is a single line and we were at the last stop, so we didn’t have too many options to choose from and found our hostel eventually.

Armenian language
The Armenian language – good luck reading this!
Noy Yerevan Brandy Factory
KG enjoying her brandy tasting at Noy Yerevan Brandy Factory… or not.

The road trip begins…

After three days in Yerevan overeating and drinking wine, we hopped in our hire car – Marcel the Nissan Micra. Marcel was everything you look for in a man – good looking, reliable and a great money saver. Unfortunately, the roads in Armenia are better suited to Toyota Landcruisers than Nissan Micra’s, and poor Marcel was regularly put through his paces.

Marcel the Micra
Marcel the Micra
Nissan Micra
Also handy for storing extra bred for feeding stray animals.

Some highlights include: running into a sheep (to be fair, we had stopped and the sheep ran into us), five closed roads, two speeding tickets (in one day) and a day of snow driving. But in addition to the shitty driving conditions were some of the most picturesque and stunning monasteries in the world, so we forgave Armenia for its terrible roads.

Noravank Monastery
Noravank Monastery
Sevanavank Monastery
Sevanavank Monastery

Entering Georgia

After about a week, we crossed the northern border of Armenia into Georgia. The roads were better, but the signage was not unfortunately. We loved our time in Georgia – we visited the huge cave city of Vardzia, hilltop monasteries and even Stalin’s hometown. Stalin was born to a poor cobbler in the small town of Gori in central Georgia. Now you can visit his childhood home, fancy train carriage and a museum about his life. The museum kind of glosses over the less appealing parts of his rule (i.e. the millions who died from famines, purges, political persecutions etc) but if you can look past this, it was quite fascinating to learn more about his personal life and family.

Cave complex of Vardzia
Cave complex of Vardzia

Next it was time for WINE! Yay! We spent four days in Georgia’s wine region of Kakheti, tasting wine and lazing around. It was also KG’s 28th birthday, so we booked ourselves into a fancy wine chateau and spa for a bit of a treat. There was also a super cute kitten (see below).

Schuchmann Chateau
Schuchmann Chateau – our digs for KG’s birthday
Georgia cats
Tom with the very cute resident kitten at Shumi Winery

We finished up our time in Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia. We said a sad farewell to Marcel, and by some miracle got our security deposit back. Next stop: the Balkans!

Selfie overlooking Tbilisi
Selfie overlooking Tbilisi

Have you visited the Caucasus? What did you think? Tell us more in the comments below!

Guide to Backpacking in Armenia

Guide to Backpacking in Armenia

In this guide we will tell you all about backpacking in Armenia on a budget, including what to see, where to stay and how to get there.

Why Visit?

Armenia has the perfect combination of ex-Soviet charm mixed with a rich history of art, religion and architecture, plus some amazing nightlife! It is one of our favourite places in Eastern Europe. Who would think that such a small country could pack in so many things to see? The cosmopolitan capital of Yerevan, the remote hilltop monasteries and quaint villages will undoubtedly make it one of your favourite destinations too.

Must-See Places

Yerevan

Armenia’s stunning capital Yerevan has an intriguing mix of nouveau riche and old world charm. With modern wine bars and fast cars to ancient manuscript museums and grand Soviet architecture, it has something for everyone. We honestly talked about moving to Yerevan we loved it so much! The culture and the history come together to make it a really infectious city.

We recommend spending a couple of days exploring the city. Don’t miss the sobering Armenian Genocide Museum and the History Museum of Armenia to gain a better understanding of Armenia’s tragic history and relations with its neighbours. Spend some time wandering through Republic Square and the rather touristy Vernissage Market, before settling in for an afternoon glass of wine and tapas at Wine Republic (our favourite restaurant!). A great way to see the city is by joining the Yerevan Free Walking TourThis awesome three hour tour with Varko, a local artist, takes you to heaps of sights including the Blue Mosque, Yerevan Cascade, the Opera, and St. Sarkis Cathedral.

The beautiful Yerevan Cascade sculpture park at night.
The beautiful Yerevan Cascade sculpture park at night.

TRAVELATOR TIP: Yerevan has an awesome bar scene. This is where Yerevan locals hang out, smoke (a lot!) of cigarettes, drink beer and listen to music. The ‘dive’ pubs are our favourite – they have a great laid back vibe with cheap beer and good music. Our pick is Calumet Ethnic Lounge Bar (56A Pushkin St).

Geghard Monastery

The spectacular rock-cut Monastery complex at Geghard is a great example of Armenian medieval architecture. The enormous surrounding cliffs make it one of the most visually stunning monasteries in Armenia – and it’s only an hour’s drive outside of Yerevan! The main complex was completed in 13th century, but the oldest sections of the Monastery date back to 1177 AD. The complex once housed numerous religious buildings, plus a school, scriptorium, library and houses for clergymen. It also once held important relics, including the spear that wounded Christ on the Cross.

10 kilometres away is Garni Temple, which was a pagan temple built in 77 AD. To be honest, it is nowhere near as impressive as Geghard, but if you’re in the area you may as well have a look.

Geghard Monastery Armenia

TRAVELATOR TIP: We do not recommend self driving to Geghard. When we drove there, we copped a speeding fine (no speed limit signs but plenty of cameras!), hit a few potholes and had to take two detours driving from outside Yerevan. It makes more sense to visit as a day trip from Yerevan by taxi, tour or public transport. Most hostels, like Envoy Hostel, can organise cheap tours and taxis. Otherwise you can  catch a minibus from the Gai bus station (near the Mercedes Benz shop) to Garni, then catch a taxi or walk to Geghard. The first bus leaves Yerevan at 11am and costs 300 dram.

Noravank Monastery

Noravank Monastery is set among stunning red cliffs in a remote spot off the Yerevan-Goris highway. The monastery was founded in 1205, and served as a residence for bishops and princes. The Monastery was raided by Mongols in 1238 but thanks to a truce was able to be largely rebuilt, meaning much of its medieval charm remains. The isolated hilltop location can make for a really peaceful visit if you are early enough to miss the tourists.

Noravank Monastery is best visited on a tour or with your own car. This way you can easily combine a trip to Noravank Monastery with a visit to Khor Virap and a winery in Areni. However, marshrutky from Yerevan or Yeghednadzor can drop you off at the turn off just outside Areni (at Edem Restaurant). From there you can walk or hitchhike the 6km to the Monastery.

Noravank Monastery Armenia

Tatev Monastery

The Tatev Monastery is set on a stunning clifftop location overlooking a huge valley. It is quite remote, but this makes it all the more special. The Monastery dates back to the 9th century and still has much of its original charm. It is still a working Monastery, and when we visited we were able to watch a religious ceremony which was really haunting and beautiful. The views across the valley are wonderful.

It is difficult to reach the Monastery by public transport, but there are a couple of mashrutkas to Tatev village that leave from the market on Syuniki St in Goris. Most people hire a taxi from Goris to the ‘Wings of Tatev’ cable car in Halidzor village. Otherwise, we met a couple of travellers who had successfully hitchhiked. Minibuses from Yerevan to Goris depart from the Kilikia bus station.

Tatev Monastery Armenia

TRAVELATOR TIP: If you are driving up to Tatev Monastery by taxi or your own wheels (rather than catching the cable car), check out Satan’s Bridge and the nearby lookout on the way. Satan’s Bridge is only around 6km from Tatev Monastery.

Lake Sevan

Lake Sevan has a dramatic backdrop of snowcapped mountains and is surrounded by quaint fishing villages. While it has a slightly strange ‘Soviet resort’ feel, we think it is still worth a night or two -watching the sun set over the lake is quite relaxing with a beer. It is the largest lake in Armenia and the Caucasus, and also has great snow skiing nearby in Tsaghkadzor if you are visiting in winter. We stayed in the small lakeside village of Chkalovka near Sevan. You will find most accommodation options are on the western side of the lake.

Many hostels will arrange day tours to Lake Sevan and surrounds from Yerevan. You can also catch the train from Yerevan between 15 June and 1 October. Otherwise, marshrutky from the Hyusisayan bus station in Yerevan can drop you at the lake en route to Dilijan or Ijevan.

TRAVELATOR TIP: The hilltop monastery of Sevanavank is situated on a peninsula just north of Sevan, and offers fantastic views of the lake and mountains.

Lake Sevan Armenia

Debed Canyon

We’re not going to lie – the road to Debed Canyon is shithouse. Our poor Nissan Micra hire car really struggled. The ‘main road’ is closed thanks to works on a tunnel (expected to be finished in 2018), which requires a rough and long detour. But… we promise the crap roads are worth it! The Sanahin Monastery and Haghpat Monastery were real highlights of our trip (I know there have been a lot of monasteries, but these ones were great). We stayed in the small village of Alaverdi, which was in a great central location close to the highway and the monasteries.

Marshrutky depart for Alaverdi from Kilikia bus station in Yerevan  daily. If you can’t find a direct connection, you can also catch a marshrutka to Vanadzor then catch another to Alaverdi. You can flag down a bus onwards to Tblisi on the highway – speak to your guesthouse about the best pick up location.

Sanahin Monastery Armenia
Exploring the eerie Sanahin Monastery near Alaverdi.

TRAVELATOR TIP: For a small tip, you can get an official guided tour of Sanahin Monastaery which is really worthwhile. You get a look inside the Monastery library and hear all about the queen who commission both monasteries.

Where To Stay

There are heaps of hostels in Yerevan, but outside the capital you will probably be staying in guesthouses and homestays. Here are a few we recommend:

  • Yerevan JR’s House – Great value rooms with a huge communal kitchen and dining room. Located just outside the city centre but easily accessed by metro and marshrutka.
  • Goris Aregak B&B – Your host Marieta is what makes this place really special. It’s like staying with your aunt, who happens to be an awesome cook.
  • Yeghednadzor – Guesthouse Nataly – Spotlessly clean house with a comfy communal living room, spacious bathroom, fast wi-fi and excellent heating. Worth the extra dram.
  • Lake Sevan Lavash Hotel – Good value lakeside bungalows with excellent hot water. One of the few decent budget options around Lake Sevan.
  • Alaverdi Iris B&B – Welcoming husband and wife team who cook up a mean breakfast and love to chat. Rooms are comfortable and well heated.

Must Eats

Khorovats

Basically this is just barbecued meat. But it’s delicious! Pork BBQ has been our favourite. It goes perfectly with a nice cold Armenian beer. It is usually paired with bread or rice and a tasty salad.

Patlijan

This yummy dish is eggplant cooked up with tomatoes, onion, basil and parsley. Great with bread on its own, or as a side to your kebab or khorovats.

Kyufta

These meatballs mixed with egg and onion are ridiculously more-ish. Usually the meatballs are served in a delicious tomato-based sauce which is great with rice or bread, and some traditional Armenian salad.

Getting Around

In Yerevan: Yerevan has a very simple one line metro system. Buy tokens (100 dram) at the ticket booths at the station entrance. The metro is really poorly signed, so take a metro map with you. There are also plenty of marshrutky (100 dram). Pay the driver when you get off the minibus. Taxis are also pretty cheap, but be prepared to bargain.

Between cities: Hiring a car is a great option if you are brave enough to face Armenia’s shite roads! Hire fees cost between 10,000 to 25,000 dram per day, depending on the car and length of hire. Marshrutky are a cheap option, although some towns may only have one connection per day with Yerevan (for example, the border town of Meghri). Taxis can also be hired for long distance journeys, but can be expensive. Many hostels and tour operators offer good value day tours from Yerevan, which can work out cheaper than a taxi. We also met a few people hitchhiking quite successfully across Armenia.

Getting In and Out

Armenia seems to mainly be accessed by land, as cheap flights seem hard to come by.

By Air

Yerevan is your best bet if arriving by air. You can find direct flights from Turkey, Russia, Georgia, Greece and the UAE for $100-$200. However, many people opt to fly in and out of Tblisi (Georgia), and visit Armenia by land as a cheaper option.

By Land

Armenia shares land borders with Iran, Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Turkey. However, border crossing between Armenia and Azerbaijan are closed as a result of ongoing hostilities. Border crossings with Turkey are also closed, despite ongoing negotiations. Information on crossing from Iran and Georgia below:

  • Iran: Didar Seir Gity run an overnight bus from Tehran to Yerevan via Tabriz. You can buy tickets at the Tabriz bus station, over the phone or at Didar Seir Gity offices in Tehran or Tabriz. We understand that the bus costs between US$45-50 per person. You can also catch a taxi from Tabriz to the border for US$24, then catch a minibus to Yerevan.
  • Georgia: Marshrutky from Tblisi to Yerevan depart from Ortachala, Avlabari and Sadguris Moedani bus stations in Tblisi (30-35 GEL). If you want to stop in the Debed Canyon on the way, catch the buses from Ortachala or Sadguris Moedani stations.

Budget

Our budget for Armenia was higher than usual as we chose to hire a car. We spent approximately US$90 per day (for two people), which included our car hire costs, petrol, parking, entrance fees, private rooms in guesthouses, and most meals in restaurants. We estimate you would spend around US$70 per day (for two people) if travelling by public transport.

Best Time to Visit

The high season in Armenia is in the summer months (June to September), when you can expect hot and dry days. While there is great snow skiing, winter is usually best avoided. Autumn is quite pleasant, with cool and crisp days. however, during our visit in October it was freezing and even snowed! So be prepared for variable weather.

Are you planning to visit Armenia? Tell us your plans below!


Yay for transparency! This page contains some affiliate links. This means that if you book your accommodation through a link on this page, we get paid a small commission. Don’t worry – you don’t pay anything extra! And we promise that we only recommend places that we have truly enjoyed staying at.

Armenia & Georgia: The Ultimate Road Trip

Armenia & Georgia: The Ultimate Road Trip

Here is our guide to the ultimate two week road trip through Armenia & Georgia. We will explain our itinerary from October 2016 (with a few modifications), how to organise your car and what to expect whilst driving through both countries.

Armenia and Georgia have an incredible amount to see and do. Both countries are spoiled for ancient monasteries, stunning scenery, fascinating history and delicious wine. We didn’t have much time so we decided that we should hire a car. This would allow us to see everything we wanted and would cut out days spent on public transport, plus give us plenty of flexibility.

For our road trip we started off in Yerevan, so for a look at what to do with your time there have a look at our Guide to Backpacking in Armenia.

Recommended Itinerary

Day One: Yerevan to Goris

Driving Time: 6 hours inc. stops

Your first day is a perfect introduction to Armenia and the roads you will encounter over the next 2 weeks. Drive out of Yerevan on the the highway running south to Goris. Along the way, stop in at  the serene Khor Virap and Noravank Monasteries. Grab some supplies from Yerevan for a picnic lunch along the way. There are plenty of good places to stop, but we loved Spandarian Reservoir.

Noravank Monastery
Noravank Monastery

Where to stay: Aregak B&B in Goris – a great introduction to Armenian hospitality. Marieta will welcome you in to her home with a big hug and great cooking. It doesn’t look like much from outside, but inside there is everything you need.

Day Two: Goris to Yeghegnadzor

Driving Time: 5 hours inc. stops

Today you will backtrack towards Yerevan, but detouring to see the incredible hilltop Tatev Monastery in the morning. For lunch, Tatev has a couple of options but we suggest another picnic!

TRAVELATOR TIP: The cable car at Tatev (‘the Wings of Tatev’) is 4000 dram return ($8USD) but can often be clouded by fog. If you’re super keen to catch the cable car, visit around lunch and hopefully the fog has lifted.

Spandarian Reservoir
The Spandarian Reservoir

Where to stay: Guesthouse Nataly in Yeghegnadzor – huge rooms, a beautiful sitting room, spotless bathroom and great food. The view from the balcony is fantastic as well.

Day Three: Yeghegnadzor to Lake Sevan

Driving Time: 4 hours inc. stops

A shorter day today as you drive over the stunning Selim Pass towards Lake Sevan. Lake Sevan is the largest body of water in Armenia, and is surrounded by quaint fishing villages. Allow time for a few photo stops along the way. We would recommend a roadside lunch again, as some of the views along the way are sensational.

Note: If travelling in winter, ask your accommodation in Yeghegnadzor whether the pass is open as it can be closed due to heavy snow.

Where to stay: We found the range of accommodation options in Sevan to be a bit thin so stayed in Ch’kalovka instead. Lavash Hotel has a quirky Soviet resort feel to it, but the rooms are great, the restaurant serves up delicious food and it’s great value for money.

Day Four: Sevan to Alaverdi

Driving Time: 5 hours inc. stops

Today you will head north towards the Georgian border and the beautiful village of Alaverdi in the Debed Canyon. In the morning, visit the hilltop monastery of Sevanavank, which is just off the main highway between Sevan and Dilijan. After settling in to your accommodation in Alaverdi, head out to the Sanahin Monastery.

Sevanavank Monastery
Sevanavank Monastery

NOTE: When we completed this trip (October 2016) a section of the main road to Alaverdi was closed so we had to take a detour through Dsegh. We were advised by locals that the road could be closed for another 2 years. Take a right off the M6 onto the H22 (here) and head across the bridge and up to Dsegh. Head through the village and then towards the east, where the road winds back down to the M6. The road is terrible but there is no other way for the moment.

Where to stay: Iris Guesthouse in Alaverdi – this was one of our favourite guesthouses in Armenia. The owners are incredibly welcoming and always up for a chat, the facilities are great and the food is absolutely delicious.

Day Five: Alaverdi to Vardzia Cave City

Driving Time: 7 hours inc. stops & border crossing

A longer day in the car today as you cross the border into Georgia. As you leave Alaverdi in the morning, stop off at the beautiful Haghpat Monastery. From the Monastery, it is a fairly short drive to the border. After the border the roads improve, but they are quite windy. Expect another 4 hours of driving onwards to Vardzia. Near Vardzia stretch your legs with a visit to the Khertvisi Fortress.

Crossing the border: We found the border crossing to be an absolute breeze. You will need your passports, the car passport (the car hire company will provide this) and any relevant visas. The crossing is not well signed but the border guards will point you in the right direction. Passengers need to walk through the border crossing terminals, while the driver completes all formalities in the car. You will clear Armenian border first, then drive through another passport check and over a bridge to the Georgian border.

Where to stay: We (foolishly!) booked online and wouldn’t recommend the hotel we stayed at. There are a few guesthouses in the area, so just try your luck on arrival.

Day Six: Vardzia Cave City to Akhaltsikhe

Driving Time: 3 hours inc. stops

Your first stop this morning is the incredible cave complex of Vardzia. Allow at least one hour for your visit to do the complex justice. There are several cafes at the bottom if you need a snack before heading off.

Vardzia Cave Complex
A small section of the Vardzia Cave Complex

Back on the road, make your way north towards Akhaltsikhe. As you enter Akhaltsikhe, detour south to check out the gorgeous Sapara Monastery. Once you arrive in Akhaltsikhe, settle in to your accommodation and then check out the superbly renovated Rabati Castle.

Where to stay: We didn’t sleep in Akhaltsikhe but in hindsight we definitely should have. Travelling from Vardzia to Kutaisi in one day was just way to long. Akhaltsikhe is the perfect spot to break the journey up and has a lot of accommodation and restaurant options.

Day Seven: Akhaltsikhe to Kutaisi

Driving Time: 4 hours

A pretty uneventful morning as you head to Georgia’s second largest and surprisingly cool city, Kutaisi. No stops along the way today so you will have plenty of time to explore Kutaisi in the afternoon. Check out the town square and grab a glass of Georgian wine or beer.

NOTE: There is a road that connects Akhaltsikhe to Kutaisi travelling through the Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park: avoid it! The road is in terrible condition and is often closed due to snow. Take the longer route via the highway through Khashuri.

Where to stay: Hostel Lviv in Kutaisi – located within walking distance of some great restaurants and the centre of town, Hostel Lviv is a great option. The host does not speak much English but will help you with anything you need, the shower is piping hot and the beds are comfy. Oh, it’s also incredibly cheap.

Day Eight: Exploring Kutaisi

Driving Time: Minimal

Kutaisi has plenty to see within a short drive from the city. Make sure you check out the Gelati Monastery, Prometheus Cave (closed on Mondays) and the Bagrati Cathedral.

Bagrati Cathedral
Bagrati Cathedral (and some cows)

TRAVELATOR TIP: For some cheap food, great music and even cheaper drinks, head to Enso Restaurant in Kutaisi. Great for anyone who loves rock music.

Day Nine: Kutaisi to Gori

Driving Time: 3 hours

Back in the car this morning as you head west to Gori, the birthplace of Josef Stalin. After you arrive in Gori, spend the afternoon visiting the strange yet incredibly interesting Stalin Museum. You will get a guided tour of the museum, plus a chance to see Stalin’s train carriage and childhood home. There is no mention of the atrocities Stalin was responsible for, so keep your expectations low on this front. However, it is fascinating to learn more about Stalin, his family and his relationship with them. The Uplistsikhe cave city just outside of Gori is well worth a look as well.

Statue of Stalin
A Statue of Stalin inside the Stalin Museum

Where to stay: Guesthouse Levani in Gori – the hosts here are the highlight. Incredibly friendly, knowledgeable and helpful, they will make your time here memorable.

Day Ten: Gori to Sighnaghi

Driving Time: 4 hours inc. stops

Today you make your way further west to Georgian wine country. We recommend a night in the picturesque village of Sighnaghi. Along the way, be sure to stop at Mtskheta and check out the beautiful Svetitskhoveli Cathedral and the perfectly located Jvari Church. In Sighnaghi, visit St Nino’s final resting place at the Bodbe Monsatery and walk the old city walls. If you’re in the mood for wine, head to Pheasant’s Tears where you can taste 4 wines for 15 GER.

Sighnaghi, Georgia
Scenic Sighnaghi

TRAVELATOR TIP: While in Sighnaghi don’t miss the chance to visit Georgia’s only Mexican restaurant, Pancho Villa. The delicious meals here are a great change from Georgian cuisine and the host is incredibly friendly.

Where to stay: Maya Guesthouse in Sighnaghi – the host, Maya, is the highlight of this small guesthouse. Maya and her family are very friendly and welcoming and she prepares a great breakfast. The guesthouse itself is in a great location in the heart of town, is spotlessly clean and incredible value for money.

Day Eleven: Sighnaghi to Telavi

Driving Time: 1 hour

From one wine village to another, a short day in the car today as you make your way to Telavi. In Telavi, you can visit the city fortress and relax with a few glasses of Georgian wine at Bravo cafe.

Where to stay: If you have a little cash to play with we would highly recommend staying at the Schuchmann Wines Chateau. The grounds are beautiful, the rooms and perfect and the service is fantastic. Guests get a free tour and wine tasting, plus a discount at the onsite spa. The restaurant also serves up delicious Georgian fare at reasonable prices.

Schuchmann Wines Georgia Kakheti
The gorgeous Schuchmann Wine Chateau near Telavi

Day Twelve: Exploring Telavi

Driving Time: Minimal

Telavi is a charming town to stroll around in with some great architecture and excellent restaurants. Jump in your car and head to the Chavchavadze Estate for the English tour of this famous aristocrat’s manor. The history of the manor, Chavchavadze and his family is really interesting. After the tour, head down to the cellar for a glass of wine (entrance and wine 7 GEL). Afterwards, head next door to Shumi Winery for their free tour and 4-wine tasting. Schuchmann Wines Chateau is a great spot for some more wine and a spot of lunch. Afterwards, take the short drive out to Alaverdi Cathedral.

Shumi Winery Telavi Georgia
Enjoy a great value wine tasting at Shumi Winery near Telavi.

Day Thirteen: Telavi to Tbilisi

Driving Time:

Your final day of driving today as you finish off your time in Georgia in the vibrant capital of Tbilisi.

Visit Tbilisi Georgia
The view over Tbilisi from the top of the funicular

Hiring Your Car

We started our road trip in Yerevan and looked at various car hire companies. We eventually chose Travel Car. They gave us the cheapest daily rate, beating the closest competitor by almost $5USD per day, and had a competitive one way hire fee. The service in their Yerevan office was fantastic, they spoke perfect English and answered any questions we had. Travel Car also offers roadside assistance in Georgia and Armenia, and provided insurance with a US$300 excess.

There are a few must do’s when hiring a car – to see them all check out our Backpackers’ Guide to Car Hire.

What car did we use?

Say hello to our trusty steed Marcel the Micra:

Marcel the Micra
Our trusty steed, Marcel the Micra.

Marcel may not look like much but he took us everywhere we needed in comfort. Plus, he was great on petrol as well!

Did we use GPS?

Somewhat. We used the MAPS.ME free mobile app and it worked with varying success. For the most part it was fine but it did lead us astray a few times. We would recommend cross checking your routes with Google Maps and (God forbid) a roap map. Alas, we figured this out the hard way.

What To Expect

Road conditions

Armenia – We drove on everything from newly paved 4 lane highways to dirt tracks that were allegedly main roads. Be careful with your planning and stick to major roads where possible – the route may be a further distance but will take less time due to road conditions. We have highlighted the best routes in our itinerary where possible.

Georgia – if coming from Armenia, you will find Georgia’s roads to be a gift from God. Throughout our itinerary we encountered very few dirt roads at all and most major tourist destinations were serviced by paved roads in great condition.

Road rules

Armenians and Georgians aren’t the worst drivers we have seen, but they are certainly not the best. Expect a lot of speeding, crazy overtaking and stopping in totally random locations.

Overtaking – you will see locals overtaking wherever and whenever they want. You will see signs indicating that overtaking is not permitted but they are not followed. Our guide would be to use common sense and overtake only when you feel safe to do so. However, expect to veer towards the right to allow crazy drivers to overtake you, and be prepared for cars from the other direction to be in your lane occasionally.

Speed limits – We were at a complete loss on speed limits in both countries. Some are well signed, other are not. Following the locals will most likely result in a speeding ticket, as you don’t know where the speed cameras are hiding. We ended up with two speeding tickets in Armenia! Our general rule of thumb after this was 50km/h through towns and cities and 80km/h on country roads, unless otherwise signed. Along your journey you will see signs indicating limits for speed humps, pedestrian crossings etc – these are for the obstacle only and then the limit returns to normal.

Parking – you can park pretty much wherever you like. If there are people parked there, go for it! If not, as long as there is not a cross marked on the ground you are fine. In Yerevan, you often need a parking permit (these are city-wide) so check with the car hire company whether this is included for your car.

What do you think about road tripping through the Caucases? Tell us in the comments below!


Yay for transparency! This page contains some affiliate links. This means that if you book your accommodation through a link on this page, we get paid a small commission. Don’t worry – you don’t pay anything extra! And we promise that we only recommend places that we have truly enjoyed staying at.

Iran-Armenia Border Crossing: Tabriz to Yerevan

Iran-Armenia Border Crossing: Tabriz to Yerevan

This guide will give you all the information you need to cross the border from Iran to Armenia by land. We travelled from Tabriz to Yerevan via Meghri in October 2016 using our Australian passports. Tabriz is the closest major city in Iran to the Armenian border, and is well worth visiting before you depart for Armenia.

Getting to Yerevan

Tabriz to Yerevan (via Meghri)

There is a long overnight bus from Tabriz to Yerevan (more information below), but if you hate overnight buses (like us!) we highly recommend breaking up the journey by spending a night in Meghri. Not only do you get to check out this charming little village, you also avoid a stuffy long haul bus ride.

Firstly, catch a taxi to the Marand Bus Terminal at Azerbaijan Square in Tabriz. From the Marand Terminal, you have three options to get to the Iran/Armenia border:

  1. Catch a minibus to Jolfa (50,000 rials) and from there catch a taxi to the border (US$10-15).
  2. Catch a shared taxi to Jolfa (140,000 rials per person) and from there catch a taxi to the border (US$10-15).
  3. Catch a private taxi directly to the border (850,000 rials or US$24).

We chose Option 3. Our taxi cost 850,000 rials (US$24), although you may be able to get it cheaper if you bargain harder. The journey took around 2.5 hours. We were able to leave immediately and had the car all to ourselves which was fantastic.

From the border to Meghri a taxi should cost 2000 to 3000 dram. There will be taxi drivers waiting for you at the border crossing. Be prepared to bargain hard.

From Meghri to Yerevan, there is one minibus per day which leaves at 7:30am from the Meghri Hotel. The journey takes around 8 hours. Tickets costs 5000 dram per person. The staff at your accommodation in Meghri should be able to call the driver to save you a seat the night before.

Meghri village Armenia
The beautiful hillside village of Meghri in Armenia

For a more info on Meghri, scroll further down the page.

Tabriz to Yerevan (direct)

If long haul buses don’t phase you then there is also a direct option. Didar Seir Gity run an overnight bus from Tehran to Yerevan via Tabriz. From Tabriz, the bus takes 17 to 20 hours to reach Yerevan. You can buy tickets at the Tabriz bus station, over the phone or at Didar Seir Gity offices in Tehran or Tabriz. See the Didar Seir Gity website for contact details. We understand that the bus costs between US$45-50 per person.

Crossing the Iran/Armenia Border

The border crossing is very simple. Firstly, we would recommend getting your Armenian visa before you arrive to save time at the border. You can apply for a 21 day Armenian e-visa online here. The process is super easy, costs $6USD and you will have a response within 3 business days.

Once you arrive at the Iranian border you will need to scan your luggage then pass through passport control. You may receive a question or two about your time in Iran but nothing serious. Once you have been stamped out, you can continue out of the building.

Outside the Iranian passport control building, you will come to a bridge that separates the two countries with a military check point at each end. The soldiers at the checkpoints will simply check your passport and send you on your way. Cross the bridge, follow the road to the right where you will see the Armenian passport control. Here you can apply for a visa on arrival or pass through passport control with your pre-arranged visa. Easy!

We have heard of  small electric cars shuttling people between the two borders but they were not operating when we crossed. Of course.

TRAVELATOR TIP: The exchange rates at the border are outrageously bad. Take no more rials than you need to get to Meghri. There are ATMs in Meghri to withdraw cash.

Spending a night in Meghri

We stayed one night in Meghri on our way to Yerevan, which was a fantastic decision as it gave us a chance to experience a day in a small Armenian village and enjoy the hospitality of the hosts at our B&B.

Meghri has a few sights to keep you busy for an afternoon including three beautiful cathedrals – Saint Sargis, Surb Astvatsatsin, and Meghru Vank. There is also a ruined hilltop fortress if you are up for a small hike.

Church in Meghri Armenia
Beautiful valley views of Saint Sargis Church in Meghri.

In Meghri we stayed at the amazing Haer B&B, which we highly recommend. Marieta and her family were incredibly welcoming. She is an amazing cook! You also have to try some of their homemade vodka. Rooms are 5,000 dram per person per night. Marieta also offers breakfast for 2,000 dram per person and dinner for 3,000 dram. Marieta can also organise a taxi to the Yerevan minibus pickup point for 500 dram.

Fruit drying in Meghri, Armenia
Fruit drying on the balcony of a village home in Meghri.

Outside of the B&B, Palanga is your best bet for food. There is no English menu, but staff speak enough English for you to order. They cook up a mean BBQ and do a surprisingly good pizza. You can also get your hands on a cold beer!

Our 3 Month Silk Road Itinerary

Our 3 Month Silk Road Itinerary

We are lucky enough to be travelling to many countries along the Silk Road from late July to early November 2016. We are not strictly travelling along the main Silk Road routes, which traditionally begin in China, but we are visiting many of the highlights. We will be travelling by local transport, but we have met lots of people travelling this route by bicycle, motorbike or hitchhiking.

Our Silk Road Itinerary

We have posted our rough itinerary below (we may go a little ‘off piste’ from time to time), which can hopefully help you to plan your own Silk Road adventure! Planning an itinerary for this part of the world can be a headache due to visa regulations, so we have also noted where we will be stopping for visas.

  1. Omsk – Russia
  2. Astana – Kazakhstan (apply for Uzbek visa)
  3. Almaty – Kazakhstan
  4. Shymkent – Kazakhstan
  5. Bishkek – Kyrgyzstan (apply for Iranian tourist visa)
  6. Cholpon Ata at Lake Issyl Kol – Kyrgyzstan
  7. Kochkor/Song Kul – Kyrgyzstan
  8. Osh – Kyrgyzstan
  9. Murghab – Tajikistan
  10. Khorog via Wakhan Valley – Tajikistan
  11. Dushanbe – Tajikistan
  12. Tashkent – Uzbekistan (apply for Turmenistan transit visa)
  13. Khiva and surrounds – Uzbekistan
  14. Bukhara – Uzbekistan
  15. Turmenabat – Turkmenistan
  16. Ashgabat – Turkmenistan
  17. Mashhad – Iran
  18. Isfahan – Iran
  19. Yazd – Iran
  20. Shiraz – Iran
  21. Tehran – Iran
  22. Tabriz – Iran
  23. Yerevan and surrounds – Armenia
  24. Tblisi and surrounds – Georgia

Three Month Silk Road Itinerary

NOTE: For Australians, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan are visa free. Tajikistan, Georgia and Armenia have e-visas. Visa regulations change regularly so make sure you check for updates on websites like Caravanistan and Smartraveller before you depart.