Next year...caucasus?

Mar 15th, 2007, 10:54 AM
  #1  
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Next year...caucasus?

So mom gets talking and decdes she wants to visit Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia, and hopefully a jaunt to Turkmenistan as well...


Anyone been to these places before? Tour suggestions? Must See's?

Mark-
zengeos is offline  
Mar 15th, 2007, 06:22 PM
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you might try the europe board
rhkkmk is offline  
Mar 15th, 2007, 06:24 PM
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I probably will, but Azerbaijan is in Asia as is Turkmenistan....sigh
zengeos is offline  
Mar 15th, 2007, 07:05 PM
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You might also try Lonely Planet's thorntree.
thursdaysd is offline  
Mar 15th, 2007, 11:04 PM
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I've been to Turkmenistan (and other Central Asian republics).

It's definitely worth visiting, specially now Niyazov has died recently. Not sure how much longer his cult of personality will last but if you want a surreal trip, Turkmenistan is definitely there.

As you may be aware, you have to be accompanied by a tour guide to visit Turkmenistan - it's the North Korea of Central Asia: secretive, oppressive, police state, bizarre laws. Really weird. Big difference is that it has oil and gas, but the money's just pumped into the capital Ashgabat and a few elite. The mass of the population are dirt poor.

If you like archaeology though, this is a great place to visit. The people still maintain spiritual animalistic beliefs mixed in with Islam. There are ancient cities of the Silk Road like Merv. Lots of history involving Genghis Khan and Alexander the Great.

We visited Darvaza gas crater which is wild - a massive crater full of fire in the middle of the desert. We also visited Ashgabat (the Tolkuchka market is well recommended, as are the bizarre monoliths to Niyazov), and Merv/Mary.

An unforgettable experience.
bkkmei is offline  
Mar 16th, 2007, 01:01 AM
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Keep in mind that Azerbaijan and Armenia are not on the best of terms these days and it may be difficult traveling between those 2 countries.

What is it your mom wants to do?

Tbilisi, Georgia is a lovely town - worth a full day or maybe 2 exploring the old city. There are lots of other thing to do outside the city - but this would require a car/guide and some of them are somewhat "adventurous" and maybe more than your mom wants.

Similar comments for Azerbaijan. The Old City in Baku is quite fascinating - intact city walls, winding alleyways full of carpet and copper shops. The carpet museum is supposed to be quite interesting as well, altho I haven't been. The main part of Baku can be done in 1-2 days of wandering. But there is other stuff to do outside the city. Again, these will require a car/guide and some physical activity.

South of Baku - the mud volcanoes (about an hour by car) are quite interesting. The petroglyphs (near the volcanos) are interesting, but require some careful walking to view.

North of the city you've got the Candy Cane Mts (iron in the rock gives the hills a striped appearance), the ruins of Chirax Castle which dates back to the 1400s, and then some beautiful scenery and waterfalls up in the mtns. There there are the cool mtn village. Again - these can be physically challenging at times.

Can't tell you anything about Armenia. And don't know about Turkmenistan, but some friends of mine have done Uzbekistan and really liked it. That was done on a more formal tour, which I think is required.
Grcxx3 is offline  
Mar 16th, 2007, 02:12 AM
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Azerbaijian sounds interesting!

For Uzbekistan, no formal tour needed. Lots of independent travellers and tour groups alike.
bkkmei is offline  
Mar 16th, 2007, 04:02 AM
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Thanks for the info, I appreciate it. Difficult terrain/walking is no problem.

zengeos is offline  
Mar 16th, 2007, 04:04 AM
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Is it feasible to take a ferry/boat between Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan?

If so, how long does it typiclly take?

Mark-
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Mar 16th, 2007, 05:04 AM
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I don't know of any ferries that go across. The folks fly - but I can't give you any advice/opinions on the airlines. AZAL (the Azeri airline) isn't bad - just be sure to fly the Airbuses....not the little prop planes.

Keep in mind - at least I speak for Azerbaijan - the tourist infrastructure is pretty limited. Some degree of English is spoken by most folks in Baku (especially the younger generation), but once you get out into the country, it's pretty much Russian or Azeri.

If you can find it - there is a book on Azerbaijan (and parts of Georgia) by a guy named Mark Elliott. It was published by Trailblazer Publications. It's a little difficult to follow at times because he has a lot of handdrawn maps....but it has a lot of useful info in it.
Grcxx3 is offline  
Mar 16th, 2007, 05:40 AM
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There is supposed to be a ferry from Baku to Turkmenbashi, but the schedule seems to be erratic and the conditions on board pretty dire. Lonely Planet publishes a guide to Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia, and one to Central Asia. There are also Odyssey Guides and maybe Bradt guides to some of the places.
thursdaysd is offline  
Mar 16th, 2007, 06:02 AM
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Okay - let me qualify my answer.....
I don't know of any ferries that I would take!!!!!
Grcxx3 is offline  
Mar 16th, 2007, 08:43 PM
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Thanks for the input folks.

Right now we are stillconsidering Syria, Lebanon and Iraq as a possible trip, and India and Bangladesh as a trip, along with the Caucasus area.

Mark-
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Mar 16th, 2007, 11:06 PM
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Iraq? wow you guys like adventure!

I've been to Syria too and would highly recommend it - excellent historical sights, atmosphere, food...

BTW for Turkmenistan, the people are really friendly which I think makes a trip special. The Bradt guide is written by the former UK ambassador to the country (and freely states hotel rooms are routinely bugged!)
bkkmei is offline  
Mar 17th, 2007, 04:11 AM
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Yeah, Iranians are very friendly too...they love Americans. It's the American govt they dislike.

We've got 18 months to decide and make the arrangements, so that should be enough time to prep.

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