We had originally planned to use my five week sabbatical to visit Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. 

When looking into the feasibility of this, we realised it was cheaper to fly into Turkey, so added that to the itinerary. Then when we actually went to book the flights, it turned out it was even more cost effective to go to Bulgaria first, so we'll now actually be starting in Sofia.

Likewise, for the return trip, it actually cost less to fly from Georgia to Hungary then Hungary to the UK, than it does to go direct. This was reason enough to add Budapest to our list of destinations.

Just last week while checking the entry requirements for each of the countries we'll be visiting, we discovered that a visa for Azerbaijan would be £100 per person. I'm not sure how it took so long to realise this; I assumed as there is no visa required for Georgia and Armenia, this neighbouring country would be the same.

Our plans for Azerbaijan had simply involved exploring the cities and towns with the strangest names we could find; Ganja and Mingecevir were top of the list so far. Was this worth £100 per person, more than we had spent on all the flights put together? No, probably not.

As you can see, our plans have evolved over time, and I'm sure they'll continue to change before we go and even once we're on the road. Nonetheless, this is what we've got so far...



On the 1st January we'll forgo the usual New Year's celebrations in favour of getting a train to the airport in the middle of the night. It's just a three hour flight to Sofia, so by midday local time we'll be ready to explore. We're allowing three days to experience as much of the Bulgarian capital as possible, before getting the night train to Istanbul, Turkey.



There's so much we want to see and do in Turkey, and with everything spread out across the country it's going to be hard to fit it all in. Alongside exploring the markets in Istanbul, top of the list is visiting the World Heritage site Cappadocia and the hot springs in Pamukkale. Since recently discovering that Istanbul is not actually the country's capital city, I'd also like to stop by the official capital, Ankara, too.



Armenia was the world's first Christian nation, so I imagine our time here will involve visits to a good number of churches and monasteries. Other than that I'm looking forward to the food; mezes of meats, pickled vegetables, cheeses and dips; soups, stews and barbecued meats; nut filled pastries, cakes and biscuits. What's not to love?



In Georgia it's all about exploring the winding streets of the capital Tbilsi, as well as getting out into the countryside to enjoy the mountain scenery. Georgian people are apparently some of the friendliest out there, so I'm looking forward to interacting with the locals too, and getting their top tips on the best things to do in the country.



When my brother and sister returned from interrailing trips across Europe, they were both quick to agree that Budapest was by far the best city they visited. I've since been very intrigued as to what makes this city so amiable and am glad I will finally get to find out for myself. We've got just three days here between our flight from Georgia and our flight to the UK, so we'll be cramming in as many ruin bars and thermal baths as possible!

Have you got any tips for visiting these countries?

PS. There's more ideas for things to do in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia over here.