Travel from the Azerbaijani capital of Baku to the Turkish city of Istanbul on this 30-day overland group tour which also takes in the highlights of the Caucasus. Stay in an ancient caravanserai in Sheki, see the bubbling mud volcanoes of Gobustan and marvel at the Vardzia Caves in Georgia. Explore ancient Yerevan in Armenia and take in the highlights of Turkey including Cappadocia, the Sumela Monastery and the ruins of Ephesus.
Welcome to Baku!
Welcome to Azerbaijan! On arrival in Baku there’s a 18:00 pre-departure meeting at our joining hotel. The rest of the day is then free to explore the city at leisure. Baku is a fascinating contrast of old and new, with glistening skyscrapers and ancient architecture such as the Maiden Tower.
Free time in Baku
Today is free to explore Baku. This oil-rich city is an emerging player on the world scene and has hosted international sporting events in recent years, including a Formula One Grand Prix and the Europa League football final in 2019.
There's also plenty of cultural experiences to be found in Baku - head into the Old City where you walk down narrow streets, with a glimpse every now and again of a towering skyscraper, a reminder of the city's newfound wealth.
Gobustan & Lahij village
Baku - Lahij. Leaving Baku today, we drive to Gobustan, near the Caspian Sea coast. See the ancient petroglyphs and bubbling mud volcanoes that the area is famous for. We continue to the ancient mountain village of Lahij, which is known for its copper and arms production. Explore the site at leisure and we camp with facilities tonight.
Overnight: Lahij | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Sheki & caravanserai stay
Lahij - Sheki. Today we drive to the old city of Sheki. Explore the pretty Khan’s Palace before we arrive at our accommodation for the night. We spend the night in a hotel which has been built inside an ancient caravanserai, once an important stopover for weary travellers on the Silk Road.
Overnight: Sheki (caravanserai)
Lagodekhi National Park
Sheki - Lagodekhi National Park (Georgia). Today we say goodbye to Azerbaijan and cross the border into the next country in the Caucasus - Georgia. We spend the night camping, most likely in the beautiful scenery of Lagodekhi National Park.
Overnight: Lagodekhi NP | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Lagodekhi National Park - Telavi. We head into the Alazani Valley this morning and visit the impressive Gremi Citadel en route to Telavi. We base ourselves in this famous wine region for the next couple of days.
Overnight: Telavi | Breakfast, Dinner
Telavi & wine tasting
Today we exploring the town of Telavi and introduce ourselves to some famous Georgian wine. We visit some local vineyards and watch aspects of the production process including grape harvesting. Lunch will be served at a local family-run winery and of course there will be included wine tasting.
Overnight: Telavi | Breakfast, Dinner
Telavi - Stepantsminda. Leaving Telavi behind, we drive to Stepantsminda, which is nestled in the beautiful scenery of the Georgian Caucasus. During our stay here we enjoy a trek up to the tiny Tsminda Sameba Church. There’s also an optional cooking class where you can learn how to make delicious Georgian kinkhalis (meatballs).
Overnight: Stepantsminda | Breakfast, Dinner
Stepantsminda - Mtskheta. This morning is free to relax in Stepantsminda, or we hike up to the Tsminda Sameba Church if there wasn't time yesterday. Later in the day we head to the town of Mtskheta, where we visit the beautiful 11th century Svetitskhoveli Cathedral.
Overnight: Mtskheta | Breakfast, Dinner
Borjomi National Park & Vardzia
Mtskheta - Vardzia. We head out of Mtskheta and make our way to Borjomi National Park. Enjoy a short hike in the ancient forest and opt to ride a cable car up the mountain before we continue to the incredible Vardzia cave city.
First inhabited during the Bronze Age, the network of caves is one of the highlights of the Caucasus. Though the site was mostly abandoned in the 16th century, a handful of monks still reside in the Vardzia Cave Monastery and they ring the bells at 07:00 every morning. We either explore the site today or tomorrow, depending on how long it takes to reach Vardzia. Tonight, we wild camp nearby.
Overnight: Vardzia | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Vardzia - Armenian Highlands (Armenia). This morning we visit Vardzia if there wasn't time yesterday. We then set off for the Armenian border, finding a suitable spot to camp in the dazzling scenery of the Armenian Highlands.
Overnight: Armenian Highlands | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Khor Virap Monastery & Yerevan
Armenian Highlands - Yerevan. On day 12 we visit the Khor Virap Monastery, near the Turkish border. This important pilgrimage site is set in the shadow of Mt Ararat and on a clear day there are incredible views of the snow-capped peak. After our visit we continue to ancient Yerevan, capital of Armenia and one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world.
There’s free time to relax or explore Yerevan at leisure during our two night stay here. Perhaps join an optional excursion to the Ararat Brandy Museum.
Geghard Monastery, Garni Temple & Lake Sevan
Yerevan - Lake Sevan. Say goodbye to Yerevan as we make our way towards Lake Sevan. There are included stops en route at the UNESCO-listed Geghard Monastery and Garni Temple. The Geghard Monastery was carved into the rock face of the Azat River Gorge, whilst Garni Temple is an impressive Graeco-Roman structure that wouldn't look out of place in the Athens Acropolis.
We arrive at Lake Sevan, home to the only beaches in landlocked Armenia. The evening is spent camping on the shore of the lake.
Overnight: Lake Sevan | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Lake Sevan - Tbilisi (Georgia). Today we cross back into Georgia and pass through the amazing scenery of Dilijan National Park to reach Tbilisi, Georgia's endearing capital city. The rest of today is free to explore the quaint Old City as you please. Consider heading up to Narikala Fortress for amazing views over Tbilisi.
Overnight: Tbilisi | Breakfast
Gori & Kutaisi
Tbilisi - Gori - Kutaisi. This morning we set off from Tbilisi and head to Gori, the Georgian city that is famous as the birthplace of former Soviet leader Josef Stalin. There's a guided tour of the city and an included visit to the Stalin Museum, where we can learn more about the complicated dictator.
After exploring Gori, we continue to ancient Kutaisi. Here we can visit the beautiful Bagrati Cathedral, which has recently been restored to its full glory with its turquoise roof intact. There's also a stop at the Gelati Monastery before the evening is at leisure.
Overnight: Kutaisi | Breakfast, Dinner
Kutaisi - Batumi. Today we drive to the hospitable port city of Batumi. Sitting on the Black Sea coast, Batumi is a popular summer getaway destination for Georgians and travellers alike. There’s free time to explore the city and an optional visit to the Batumi Archaeological Museum. Batumi has earned the nickname of the "Las Vegas of the Black Sea" and there's plenty to be done in the evening, with numerous bars and casinos to be found in the city.
Overnight: Batumi | Breakfast
The incredible Sumela Monastery
Batumi - Sumela (Turkey). Today we say goodbye to Georgia and the Caucasus, as we cross into Turkey. We make our way to the incredible Sumela Monastery, which clings to rugged cliffs 1,200m up.
The Sumela Monastery was founded in the year 368CE, during the reign of the Roman Emperor Theodosius I. We get to explore this amazing site and gaze out at the green forests and mystical swirling mists in the valley below. We spend the night at a campsite near the monastery (weather permitting).
Overnight: Sumela | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Sumela - Zara. Today we have a full day's drive through central Turkey towards the magical landscape of Cappadocia. We break the journey at the village of Zara, where we camp.
Overnight: Zara | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Zara - Goreme. On day 20 we arrive at the small town of Goreme, nestled in the heart of the magical Cappadocia Mountains. During our two days here we enjoy guided sightseeing in this enchanting subterranean landscape. Explore the underground city of Kaymakli and the ancient valley of Ihlara, strewn with rock-hewn churches. There’s also the opportunity to take an optional hot air balloon ride over the valley if you wish.
Goreme - Egirdir. Today we leave Cappadocia behind and continue south towards Egirdir, finding a suitable camping spot en route.
Overnight: Egirdir | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Termessos, Olympos & Chimera Fire Mountain
Egirdir - Termessos - Olympos. On day 23 we drive to the impressive Pisidian ruins of Termessos, which sit at an altitude of more than 1,000m. After exploring the site, we continue towards Olympos, where we spend the next two nights.
Olympos is a popular Turkish beach town and we have free time over the next two days to relax on the beach or explore the local area. On day 24 you may wish to join an optional sea kayaking adventure and at nightfall we take a short hike up to the mystical Chimera Fire Mountain. Here natural gas rises from underground and bursts into flame when reaching the outside air. We can toast some marshmallows on the never-ending fires.
Olympos - Pamukkale. Driving inland, we reach the small village of Pamukkale, which is famous for its mineral rich hot springs and white terraced travertines. Take a walk along these beautiful terraces and opt for a dip in the thermal springs. Tonight, we either camp near Pamukkale or stay in a local hotel.
Overnight: Pamukkale | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Selcuk & Ephesus
Pamukkale - Selcuk. On day 26 we drive to our next destination, Selcuk. We spend the next two nights here. The evening is free to relax in one of the many tea bars in the area.
The next day sees us exploring the legendary marble ruins of Ephesus, including the Terraced Houses. Ephesus is considered one of the world’s best-preserved classical cities and highlights include the Library of Celsus and the Temple of Serapis.
Selcuk - Troy - Eceabat. Today we drive along the coast to the ruins of the fabled city of Troy. See the replica Trojan Horse here before we board the ferry to cross the Dardenelles, arriving in Eceabat this afternoon.
Battlefields of Gallipoli & Istanbul
Eceabat - Gallipoli - Istanbul. This morning we drive to the Gallipoli peninsula. Here we take a guided tour of the region and can pay our respects at some of the WW1 battlefields and memorials. We also visit ANZAC Cove, the site of some of the fiercest fighting during the war.
After paying our respects at Gallipoli, we board our overland truck for the final time and complete our journey to Istanbul, the only city in the world which sits in two continents - Europe and Asia. Your final evening in Turkey is free to explore Istanbul.
Overnight: Istanbul | Breakfast
Our adventure comes to an end today. If you wish to stay in Istanbul for a few extra days to partake in some of our optional activities, then please contact our sales team.
Is Overlanding Right For Me?
Overlanding is not a style of travel that suits everyone so please carefully read the Trip Notes before selecting this tour to realistically check if this your style is right for you. If you’re the adventurous type who’d rather spend a night roughing it in a rainforest than luxuriating in a boutique hotel, then overlanding is for you. You just need the right attitude, an open mind, and a desire to participate fully in the trip.
Overland travelling can be demanding and challenging. On our trip we travel in a purpose-built expedition vehicle on an off-the-beaten-track adventure along rugged roads, sometimes across vast distances. You will find the drive times noted on the Trip Notes.
On an overland journey you are more than just a passenger, these are full participation trips and everyone gets involved and pitches in! You are also expected to erect your own tent and help with camp chores including cooking meals for the group on a rota basis. Like all great adventures, the more you put in the more you get out!
The type, variety and standard of accommodation can vary greatly from very basic rooms without electricity or running water to comfortable hotels with good facilities. Generally in hotels most rooms are twin-share, but some may be triple/quad-share. Hostels and yurts are nearly always multi-share and may be mixed sex.
The campsites we use range from basic to those with excellent facilities, including swimming pools, restaurants and a bar. On occasions we wild camp with no facilities, which means there are no toilets - just the vast expanse of the great outdoors and a shovel!
Our overland journeys are designed to offer freedom, and many of our routes have a large degree of flexibility rather than a strict hour-by-hour or even day-by-day itinerary. We intend to follow the planned route but exact night stops and inclusions cannot be guaranteed and it sometimes happens that we decide to make a change to our planned itinerary.