I always visit and explore the destinations I recommend to my luxury travel clients, and on my last trip to the Caucasus region(Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia), I was thoroughly enchanted. In my recent blog I wrote about the food and wine, but the Caucasus mountains are not only beautiful and awe-inspiring, they also offer fine winter sports and trekking opportunities. In fact, this region had been the playground for the Soviet “aristocracy” for many many years. It is now open to all, and the governments of all three countries are investing in sport tourism, and luxury travel. You will find elegant lodges and hotels nestled in pristine snow covered mountains; all accessible via local airports, ski lifts or roads. The hotels welcome single travelers or entire families with equal grace, and offer several levels of accommodation from splendid to spectacular.
These lands also offer a look into a fascinating past. Armenia, Ajerbaijan and Georgia have stories to tell, and archeological and architectural sites to fire the imagination. And they are also forward thinking, with stunning new buildings designed by world class architects. Nowhere is this more evident in the capitol city of Azerbaijan, Baku. Stand in one place in the Old City and you can observe the12th century Maiden tower; turn around and you will see the iconic Flame Towers, a group of three sleek skyscrapers that stand guard over the harbor and its environs. In the Capitol of Georgia, you can look out over the battlements of an ancient fortress and onto the petal-like roofs of Massimiliano Fuksas’ Public Service Hall across the river.
Christianity arrived early in Armenia and Georgia, and churches abound there. The object of their devotion may be similar but their locations and histories are distinctive. I visited Gergety Trinity Church, on its lofty peak in the clouds. It is a staggering example of spiritual dedication, whose workers had to haul stone up a mountainside to build it.
(I even witnessed a wedding there, and the bride had an amazing traditional dress!) The Geghard Monastery in Armenia, by contrast, was carved entirely out of the base of a mountain, and the Khor Virap Monastery is set against the beauty of Mount Ararat—an iconic symbol in its own right, where the arc of Noah is said to have finally rested.
And I have saved the best for last- the music! From the sophisticated mugham and energetic dances of Azerbaijan, the religious and composed music of Armenia, to the extraordinary folk polyphonies of Georgia, it is like hearing the heartbeat of each country. Each is so different, and each is so wonderful!
As always, I have hand picked every location of Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia, and every guide. Our guides know all the best places, both iconic and off the beaten path because they are locals. But I also choose people who care, and want to make your luxury travel experience the best it can be. From a VIP greeting at the airport to a lavish welcome and farewell dinner, it will be a treasured memory you will never forget.