Hiking and trekking in the Caucasus mountains tend to revolve around Armenia and/or Georgia. Both countries are well set up for tourism, have some stunning hiking country and are well prepared for visitors. There are a good range of long-distance (inn-to-inn) hikes, as well as numerous places for a centre-based hiking trip.

Georgia is perhaps the best-known walking destination, and has welcomed an influx of tourists in recent years. This is an excellent place to try out some long-distance routes, with high mountain peaks, splendid valleys and isolated stone villages. Look out for the many churches and monasteries that frame Georgia’s mountaintops.

Armenia is less about high peaks and more about day-hikes and easier routes. Dilijan National Park has several trails that can be hiked in a day, while the Tatev Monastery hike is picturesque.

With fewer marked trails than either Georgia or Armenia and a less-developed hiking tourism industry, trekking in Azerbaijan isn't quite so easy. Head to Quba for trails between mountain villages – this is a place to experience the culture as much as the scenery.

Here's our essential guide to trekking in the Caucasus mountains.

Hiking & trekking in the Caucasus

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Georgia Tusheti

The forests of Tusheti, Georgia

The best treks in the Caucasus

Unless you’re planning on hiking across the entire mountain range, you should expect a trek in the Caucasus to last anywhere from a single day to a couple of weeks. Most travellers opt for guide-led small group tours, with accommodation and essential logistics all pre-organised.

Here are a handful of the best treks and hikes in the Caucasus Mountains.

Georgia Svaneti Mestia snow

Mestia covered in snow

Mestia to Ushguli (Georgia)

Distance: 60km (37 miles)

Duration: Two to four days

Start point: Mestia

End point: Ushguli (can be hiked in reverse)

Difficulty: Moderate – lots of climbs & descents with high elevations (max. 2740 metres)

The hiking trail from Mestia to Ushguli is one of the most popular multi-day hikes in Georgia. Best hiked in the summer months of July and August, the Mestia-Ushguli hike takes three to four days to complete.

The trek offers superb views and goes through several traditional villages in Georgia’s northwestern Svaneti region, with excellent home stays – so no tent required.

Facilities on this trek are as good as it gets for a remote mountainous region. Most of the lodges even have free wi-fi. In Mestia, you can also find apartments to rent. Hosts at home stays serve breakfast, dinner, and can even prepare lunchboxes for the road.

Read more: The best hikes in Georgia

Stepantsminda to Gergeti Glacier (Georgia)

Distance: 20km (12 miles)

Duration: Seven to eight hours

Start point: Stepantsminda

End point: Stepantsminda

Difficulty: Challenging – a long day of pretty relentless climbing

Stepantsminda, also known as Kazbegi, is a popular destination for day or weekend hiking trips from Tbilisi due to the graceful Gergeti Trinity Church found at the foot of Mount Kazbegi. Hiking to the Gergeti Glacier from Stepantsminda is a popular day hike passing by the church and Kazbegi.

Read more: The best hikes in Georgia

Truso Valley to Kelitsadi Lake (Georgia)

Distance: 28km (17 miles)

Duration: Three days

Start point: Truso Valley

End point: Kelitsadi Lake

Difficulty: Challenging – self-supported with wild camping

This picturesque and remote trek starts from the scenic Truso Valley, near the border with South Ossetia. Here, you can explore abandoned villages, ancient towers and mineral lakes. The route traverses the Keli volcanic plateau – an arid, rocky land situated west of the Georgian Military Highway. Few hikers come here as it's very close to the separatist territory of South Ossetia and the track is quite challenging. However, the highlight of the hike – crossing two 3,400m high mountain passes and the glacial Kelitsadi lake itself – make the trek worthwhile for hiking in Georgia.

Read more: The best hikes in Georgia

Tusheti to Khevsureti

Distance: 78km (48 miles)

Duration: Five days

Start point: Omalo

End point: Shatili

Difficulty: Challenging

This spectacular five-day hike connects the regions of Tusheti and Khevsureti – starting from the village of Omalo and ending in Shatili.

Tusheti is one of the most stunning mountainous areas of Georgia, located just behind the main ridge of the Caucasus. Both areas are still unspoiled from tourists and commercial buildings due to poor roads, which also gives another charm to the whole trip.

Read more: The best hikes in Georgia

The Transcaucasian Trail (TCT)

In development since 2015 and led by a team of volunteers and adventure travellers, the Transcaucasian Trail (TCT) will be a long-distance hiking trail more than 3,000km in length, following the Greater and Lesser Caucasus Mountains. Pioneer trekkers who would like to contribute to the trail's development can join summer projects and group treks. You can learn more here: www.transcaucasiantrail.org.

Armenia Dilijan National Park Haghartsin Monastery

Dilijan National Park, Armenia

Dilijan National Park (Armenia)

Known as the ’Switzerland of Armenia,’ Dilijan National Park is a mountainous area covering 240㎢ that offers the best and most care-free hiking in the country. You’ll find beech and oak forests populated with brown bears, wolves, deer and eagles as well as an abundance of fresh fruit including apricots and berries. The town of Dilijan is a wonderful place to recharge in between hikes with plenty of quality accommodation and delicious restaurants.

Read more: The best hikes in Armenia

Tatev Monastery (Armenia)

Since as far back as the 9th century, Tatev Monastery in the south of Armenia has commanded a bold place overlooking one of Armenia's most epic sights, the Vorotan Gorge, which dips 800m beneath stark cliffs. The gorge is a sublime destination for day hikes with trails leading to tiny villages and important cultural sights.

Read more: The best hikes in Armenia

Armenia Mount Aragats

Mount Aragats, Armenia

Mount Aragats (Armenia)

Armenia’s borders might no longer contain Mount Ararat, the country’s national monument said to be where Noah’s ark first landed, but it does have Mount Aragats, a beautiful mountain in its own right and modern Armenia’s tallest peak. On Mount Aragats you’ll find waterfalls, sheep-covered valleys and pristine snow-capped mountains. To avoid the coldest temperatures, climbing is best between July and September, but don’t be surprised if there’s snow well into August.

Read more: The best hikes in Armenia

Azerbaijan Gobustan Mud volcanoes lowres

Gobustan National Park, Azerbaijan

Gobustan National Park (Azerbaijan)

An hour’s drive from Baku near the Caspian coast, Gobustan National Park’s mud volcanoes, mountains and rock art make it the perfect place to try a few day hikes.

Gobustan is probably best known for its mud volcanoes. More than half the world’s mud volcanoes are found in Azerbaijan, and Gobustan has more than its fair share. Mud volcanoes are actually more like mud geysers, with methane and carbon dioxide being released from the holes causing the mud to bubble and boil. The hot climate causes the mud to solidify rapidly, creating cracks and fissures in the floor.

Read more: Hiking in Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan Lahij hills near the village

Countryside surrounding Lahij village, Azerbaijan

Best times for trekking in the Caucasus

The weather in the Caucasus is at its most pleasant between June and September when you can expect warm and sunny weather. Temperatures can reach 25°C (77 °F), so make sure you pack appropriate hiking gear. It’s also important to bring mosquito nets and repellant, as the summer heat sees mosquitos descend on the region. The higher you get into the mountains, the less of a problem they will be.

Winter brings heavy snowfall to the Caucasus, making trails difficult to find and impossible to trek. It’s not uncommon for the snow to stay on higher ground until late April or even May, keeping higher routes closed off, even though the lowland is green and lush.

The best time to hike in the Caucasus region is from mid-June until the end of September. The high season is July and August, when the weather is dry and warm, whereas June and September are quieter but less reliable.

Hiking in the winter snow is not possible, but some tour companies do offer ski-touring, particularly in Georgia, which is also home to several ski resorts.

Independent trekking vs organised tour

Georgia is the Caucasus country most set up for independent hiking, with some well-marked trails, plenty of villages used to visitors and a burgeoning hiking community. The Svaneti region is particularly well-suited for independent visitors, with apartments available to rent in villages, lodges preparing lunches and breakfasts and signposted trails.

Beyond that, most independent treks take place in national parks, such as Armenia’s Dilijan National Park or Georgia’s Borjomi-Kharagauli.

Independent trekking has a lot going for it: It’s cheap(er) and can be a lot of fun. Trekking lodges—though far from luxurious—are often warmer and more comfortable than tents, and an increasing number now boast hot showers, varied menus and even wifi. There’s also the option of staying in local villages, although it is difficult to book ahead, so you’re often relying on the kindness of strangers.

The biggest advantage of independent trekking is the ability to change your itinerary as you see fit. If you stay in a village and like the feel of it, you can stay for a few days. If you hear about a side trek or different route you want to try out, you can. However, this positive can also be a negative. Attempt an unusual or unmarked route, and you can end up in the middle of nowhere without a place to sleep. Trying to book accommodation in advance can be tedious and difficult. Language difficulties mean you might spend most of the trip on your own, unable to interact with the people you meet.

Organised Caucasus treks

An organised trek doesn’t have to mean a package tour-style trip with coaches and loads of people. In fact, an organised trek can involve just yourself and a guide, taking off across the Caucasus mountains.

Mostly, an organised trek will involve several hikers of varying degrees of fitness and expertise alongside a couple of guides and potentially a porter, depending on whether you’re doing a multi-day or single day hike.

A fully organised trek comes with the benefits of having your accommodation booked in advance each night. Your guide will know the best places to stop for the night and where you can eat, as well as introducing you to locals and explaining the history and geography of the places you’ll see.

An organised trek also means security. Your guide will know the route and any problems up ahead that independent trekkers would not. They’ll also be able to act as a cultural and language translator, meaning your interactions with locals will be more authentic. Finally, having someone book your accommodation along the way means that you won’t have to carry extra equipment or camping gear (note that it is possible to mix up homestays/village accommodation with an occasional wild camping experience).

In this guide:

Trekking In The Caucasus Mountains

Baia Dzagnidze

Baia is a travel writer and blogger from Tbilisi, Georgia. With a background in journalism, she has been writing travel articles about Georgia for local and international publications for more than three years. Her articles have been published in Lonely Planet, National Geographic Traveller FOOD (UK edition), Skyscanner, Georgia Starts Here, and Forbes Woman Georgia.

Trekking In The Caucasus Mountains

Joel Balsam

Joel Balsam is a Canadian freelance journalist and Lonely Planet guidebook writer.

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