How to travel from Sighnaghi to Sheki

I knew this was going to be a long day with a mixture of several taxis and buses to make it from Sighnaghi in Georgia to Sheki in Azerbaijan. I wanted to start early, but Georgia is not the country where they wake up when the sun rises. In the end all i could do was go with the flow.

My host lady served a delicious breakfast of fresh cheese and bread. She insisted her husband would bring me to Tsnori from where i should take a bus to Lagodekhi. The husband was still fast asleep tough. I finished three chapters of my book when he finally appeared, but he was in no hurry.

View on Tsnori from Sighnaghi

Sighnaghi to Sheki

After some tea he went to wake up his ancient lada. The car took some time to get started at this old age. It protested, screeched, squeaked and puffed, but finally gave in. The back of the car was stuffed with plastic soda bottles filled with wine and vegetables. Then we were finally ready to go for the ten minute drive down the mountain.

Instead of using expensive petrol he let gravity do its work. As we were rolling down the green hills all I could think of was whether the brakes were still working. After just two days on the road in Georgia I am somewhat alarmed by the combination of bad roads, reckless drivers, old cars, animal compatriots and the love for wine and vodka.

Crossing the border

I made it safely to Tsnori where I had to wait a while for the marshrutka (minivan) to fill up. The road to the border crossed the Lagodekhi Nature Reserve that is still full with bears and wolves. Not that i saw those on the road, but the green forests rising up on the mountains looked rather wild.

The border procedures were easy, especially when you consider that only 1 year ago getting a visa for Azerbaijan was still a complicated bureacratic procedure. Now I received a warm welcome.

First glimpse of Azerbaijan

The wild forests and green hills extended into Azerbaijan. I catched a taxi to Balaken and noticed that the Azerbaijani have the same love for speed and reckless driving. In less than 20 minutes I was at my destination and the driver dropped me off in front of the marshrutka that was ready to leave.

Already, Azerbaijan felt different from Georgia. The country is an interesting mix of influences from Turkey, Iran and Russia. With another stop in Zaqatala I continued my journey to Sheki. Green agricultural fields passed by and the snowcapped mountain peaks of the Caucasus mountains always in sight.

Nowadays, Azerbaijan is less popular than neighbouring Georgia, but if it comes to nature it is certainly no less beautiful.

Mountain scenery on the road from Sighnaghi to Sheki

Sighnaghi to Sheki Travel tips

When travelling from Sighnaghi to Sheki you travel through the Lagodekhi protected areas in Georgia and the Zaqatala region in Azerbaijan.

If you love nature you should definetly consider stopping at the Lagodekhi National Park. Lagodekhi is the last Georgian town before the border and the gateway to the national park. The Park office is the starting point for a number of hiking trails to waterfalls and lakes.

How to get from Sighnaghi to Sheki

Despite their proximity, there is no direct public transport between Sighnaghi and Sheki. For some getting from Sighnaghi to Sheki sounds daunting and they prefer to get a private taxi. However, travelling by public transport is not that difficult.

If you want to use public transport my advice is to start early, because marshrutka’s tend to be less in the afternoon. It will take you all day, but it is a smooth and scenic journey.

In Sighnaghi there is a 9 AM marshrutka to the town of Tsnori (15 – 20 minutes).

From Tsnori you can take a marshrutka to Lagodekhi (1 hour).

In Lagodekhi you should take a taxi to the border (10 minutes, 4 Lari).

Cross the border on foot (quick and smooth procedure).

Take a taxi to Balaken (20 minutes, 5 manat).

From Balaken you can take a marshrutka to Zaqatala (45 minutes).

From Zaqatala you can take a marsrutka to Sheki (2 hours).

From Sheki you can take a bus or a train to Baku. Read more about Baku in my Baku travel guide and post about the best daytrips from Baku into the Absheron Peninsula.

Entrance gate to Sheki

Border procedures

Crossing the border between Lagodekhi and Balaken was very easy. If you enter Azerbaijan you do need a visa. Most nationalities can apply for an e-visa. It’s a quick and straightforward process, but make sure you are on the official website.

If you are staying for more than 10 days in Azerbaijan you must register with the government. You can do this yourself online at the immigration department. However, you do need a local mobile number as they will send a code to confirm your application.

You can also ask your hostel to do it to make sure it is done well or go to a police station that does registration. There is a police station in Balaken that is conveniently located near the bus station. I registered myself at the police station in Sheki and it was a smooth process.

Accomodation from Sighnaghi to Sheki

Sighnaghi: I stayed in Abramichi Guesthouse. It was one of the cheapest options and I was very happy there. The people are very friendly and their balcony has a lovely view on Sighnaghi and the mountains.

It is a bit difficult to find as it is at the end of the town. After the main square, go under the old town port and walk along the street with the knitting ladies. Then the road continues along two paths. Take the right road where the pavement will stop. Abramichi guesthouse will be on your rightside.

Sheki: The Sheki panorama guesthouse offers the best view over the city. If you are travelling on a budget this is one of the cheapest options. For solo travellers they have a dormitory for bargain prices. The people are extremely friendly and helpful and prepare a delicious breakfast (included)

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