• Michael Knock

Azerbaijan & Georgia - 20 Day Explorer (Virtual Tour) - Day 1

Updated: May 21, 2020

We were due to be heading to Aerbaijan & Georgia @ this time of year, however, COVID-19 restrictions have required us to suspend all tours for the rest of 2020.

On this virtual Tour, you can travel with us as we explore two emerging countries - Azerbaijan & Georgia. On this Tour, we fly into Baku, Azerbaijan and out of Tbilisi, Georgia and bus, hike & funicular our way around these amazing cultures.

Azerbaijan bills itself as the "Land of Fire" and this is apt in both the historical and modern sense - the countryside is dotted with mud volcanoes, fiery mountains, a Fire Temple and Baku's Flame Towers whilst the shallow Caspian Sea and land around Baku is littered with oil derrecks. The energy, literal and real, of this country is incredible.

Georgia, is often acknowledged as one of the most beautiful countries on earth. It is a place regarded as the birth-place of wine and where guests are treasured and hospitality is raised to an artform. Certainly, in our experience, Georgia has been one of the most welcoming and friendliest countries we have ever visited.

The maps (below) gives you an idea of where these countries are located - the Caucasus Region - neither Europe nor Asia nor, for that fact, the Middle East.

Azerbaijan borders the Caspian Sea, has a total land area of 86,600 sq km and a population of @ 10million (2019).

Georgia is bordered by the Black Sea, has a land area of 69,700 sq km and a population of @ 3.7million (2019). To put these into perspective....

Land Area – sq km Population - Million

Portugal 92,000 10.2

Azerbaijan 86,600 10.0

Austria 83,800 8.9

Czech Republic 78,800 10.6

Ireland 70,200 4.9

Georgia 69,700 3.7

Lithuania 65,300 2.7

Day 1 ex-Australia

We had a number of options to get to Baku including:

1. Qatar Airways ex BNE/SYD-DOH-GYD & TBS-DOH-SYD/BNE

2. Emirates ex BNE-DXB-GYD & TBS-DXB-BNE (the flights to Baku and from Tbilisi were with FlyDubai)

3. Singapore Airlines or Qantas ex BNE-SIN-IST-GYD & TBS-IST-SIN-BNE (the flights to Baku and from Tbilisi were with Turkish Airlines).

Other options included:

1. Qantas or Virgin Australia/Delta - to New York and then Azal Airlines (Azerbiajan's flag carrier) to Baku - no flights from Tbilisi though.

2. Multiple airlines to Europe ie London, Frankfurt, Paris and then back-tracking to/from Baku & Tbilisi

We travelled with Qatar, even though they don't have direct flights from Brisbane, as we had flown with them before and been impressed, the transit times gave us a chance for a Doha Stopover on our return and the prices were extremely competitive. The flights between Sydney & Doha were also on the Qatar A380 which is a great way to travel - plenty of room, great meals and a real chance at a sleep.

We were able to choose bulkhead seats in the small economy section at the rear of the upper deck (behind Business Class) and this was excellent. If there was a downside it was that, when boarding, you had to walk the entire lenght of the lower deck and then up the rear stairs to access this cabin whereas disembarking was a much shorter route through the Business Class Cabin.

Qatar's A380 have an all-Economy section on the Main Deck (405 seats) with First Class (8 seats/beds), Business Class (48 seats/bed) and Economy (56 seats) on the Upper Deck. Qatar will be retiring their A380s between 2024 & 2028 (ie not keeping them beyond 10 years of age), so if you get a chance to get yourself on board, do so.

Qatar currently uses the A380 between Doha, Frankfurt, London, Melbourne, Paris, Perth & Sydney and is the only aircraft in their fleet to feature a First Class cabin.

Qatar's QR909 departs Sydney @ 9.45pm (Sydney is 7 hours in front of Doha) so we choose to eat a meal as though it were a late lunch (ie 3pm Sydney time), stay up and use the excellent Oryx in-flight entertainment system, and then sleep as much as we could ahead of a 5am arrival into Doha the next morning (total flight time of 15hr 20min) so plenty of time to do anything and everything.

Qatar's meals, even in Economy, are first-class and there is plenty of tasty choices - the top photo is of a vegan option - including a good selection of wines & spirits.

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