THE CASPIAN: FROM BAKU TO TEHRAN
Cultural tour of Azerbaijan, Georgia, Armenia & Iran

This 27 days journey covering a part of the historical silk road and today crossing into 4 countries is a unique experience of the culture and people of "greater Central Asia". This is where Europe and the Middle East meet with Central Asia. We go through historical and scenic sites, meet the people and feel their hospitable culture in Azerbaijan, Georgia, Armenia and Iran. This tour can also be taken in the reverse manner starting in Tehran, Iran and ending in Baku, Azerbaijan.

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Tour Information
Tour Duration : 27 days
Min. Tour Size : 02 persons
Max. Tour Size : 08 persons
Includes international air
Tour Price (from) : US$
Day 01: Arrive Baku (AZERBAIJAN)
Day 02: Baku
(B, D)
Day 03: Absheron Peninsula
(B, D)
Day 04: Baku/Sheki/Kish Village  
(B, D)
Day 05: Sheki/Lagodekhi (GEORGIA)
(B, L)
Day 06: Telavi/Signagi/Gareji/Tbilisi
(B, L)
Day 07: Tbilisi City Tour
(B, D)
Day 08: Tbilisi/Mtskheta/Kazbegi/Gudauri
(B, D)
Day 09: Kazbegi/Gudauri/Gori/Uplistsikhe/Kutaisi (Tskaltubo)
(B, D)
Day 10: Kutaisi (Tskaltubo)/Gelati/Akhaltsikhe
(B, D)
Day 11: Bavra/Gyumri/Dzoraget (ARMENIA)
(B, D)
Day 12: Haghpat/Sanahin/Sevan
(B, L)
Day 13: Sevan/Noraduz/Selim Caravansaray/Noravank/Khor Virab/Yerevan
(B, L)
Day 14: Yerevan Echmiatsin/Zvartnots/Geghard/Yerevan
(B, D)
Day 15: Yerevan/Karahunj/Tatev/Agarak
(B, D)
Day 16: Agarak/Tabriz (IRAN)
(B, D)
Day 17: Tabriz/Anzali
(B, D)
Day 18: Anzali/Rasht
(B, D)
Day 19: Rasht/Tehran
(B, D)
Day 20: Tehran
(B, D)
Day 21: Tehran/Shiraz (Flight)
(B, D)
Day 22: Shiraz
(B, D)
Day 23: Shiraz/Esfahan
(B, D)
Day 24: Esfahan
(B, D)
Day 25: Esfahan
(B, D)
Day 26: Esfahan/Tehran
(B, D)
Day 27: Tehran/Depart
(B)
B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner

Day 01: Arrive Baku (AZERBAIJAN)

Xosh gälmìsän! We are welcomed at the airport of the capital Azerbaijan and transferred to our hotel.  Check in time starts from 1500 hrs.
Overnight: Atropat Hotel, Baku (3 nights)

Day 02: Baku

This morning we tour the Gobustan Rock Art Cultural Landscape, which covers three areas of a plateau of rocky boulders rising out of the semi-desert of central Azerbaijan, with an outstanding collection of more than 6,000 rock engravings bearing testimony to 40,000 years of rock art. The site also features the remains of inhabited caves, settlements and burials, all reflecting an intensive human use by the inhabitants of the area during the wet period that followed the last Ice Age, from the Upper Paleolithic to the Middle Ages. Next we visit the Walled City of Baku, built on a site inhabited since the Palaeolithic period, the Walled City of Baku reveals evidence of Zoroastrian, Sasanian, Arabic, Persian, Shirvani, Ottoman, and Russian presence in cultural continuity. We explore the Inner City (Icheri Sheher), which has preserved much of its 12th century defensive walls; the 12th century Maiden Tower (Giz Galasy), built over earlier structures and the 15th century Palace of the Shirvanshah, one of the gems of Azerbaijan's architecture. (B, D)

Day 03: Absheron Peninsula

We travel around the Absheron Peninsula, visiting the Ateshgyah Zoroastrian Temple of Fire, which for centuries has been an important center of worship. Visiting of “Gala” historical ethnographic reservation area.  One of the oldest settlements in Absheron is Qala village situated in North East of the peninsula.  There are 215 architectural and archeological monuments in Qala village and the surrounding regions.  The environment, which is dated back to 3rd millennium BC is preserved here. In 2008, “Open Air Archeological Ethnographical Museum Complex” was created in the territory of Qala Historic – Ethnographical Reservation. Archeological, architectural monuments found in the territory of Absheron were gathered and restored in the Museum Complex.  Excursion to the 14th century temple in Mardakan and the Yanardag Flaming Mountain, burning with an eternal flame fed by the underground naphtha and gas. In the afternoon time at leisure walking throughout the central part of the city and exploring local shopping centers, a perfect opportunity to meet and mingle with the local people. (B, D)

Day 04: Baku/Sheki/Kish Village  

We begin this day with a scenic and relaxed drive to the town of Sheki. Here we will visit the Museum of Applied Arts, "Shebeke" manufacturing workshops, and view the magnificent Sheki Khan's palace (view from the outside only). The evening is free to enjoy and stroll around Sheki.  Trip to village Kish near Sheki town – twenty minutes by bus.  Visit the first church in Caucasus 1 c.
Overnight: Sheki Saray, Sheki (1 night) (B, D)

Day 05: Sheki/Lagodekhi (GEORGIA)

In the morning we leave Azerbaijan as we are driven to the border where we will meet with our Georgian guide and transport for our transfer to Telavi.    Kakheti region - Georgia’s famous wine district lies due east from Tbilisi in a land dotted with fine old churches and vineyard after vineyard. Historically Kakheti was often the centre of political turmoil however some of the most beautiful and important buildings were erected here and the church architecture is as diverse as wines in the region.  En-route to Telavi visit Gremi architectural complex - which consists of the Church of the Archangels Michael and Gabriel (16th c.), a three-story castle, a bell tower and a wine cellar. After that, visit Alaverdi Cathedral (11th c.) – the tallest Cathedral of Kakheti region and Tsinandali Estate - House-museum of Chavchavadze family and taste a glass of local Tsinandali wine.
Note: As you will be in the wine producing part of Georgia it is possible to arrange wine sampling at one of the wineries for an extra charge.
Overnight:Chateau Mere Hotel, nearby Telavi (1 night) (B, L)

Day 06: Telavi/Signagi/Gareji/Tbilisi

In the morning excursion to New Shuamta Monastery (16th c). En route to Gareja stop in the hill-town Signagi. Weather permitting there are fine views of the Kakheti area and eastern Caucasus summits. It is an eclectic mix of old and new. The old section has narrow cobbled streets lined with typical houses complete with wooden balconies and shuttered windows. We will have lunch here at one of the local restaurants.  After that, proceed to Gareja. Excursion to David Gareji Monastery which is situated in Gareji semi-desert. The monasteries were founded in the 6th c. Visit Lavra and Peristsvaleba monasteries. Walk up to Udabno Monastery to explore some of the fine frescos of the 8-13th c. and cave architecture.
Note: The path to Udabno can be unstable and visitors must wear sensible footwear and proceed carefully. Iit will take about 40 minutes to walk up, about the same to see the caves and walking back to the car will take 45 minutes.
Overnight: Courtyard Marriott Hotel or Sheraton Metechi Palace, Tbilisi (2 nights) (B, L)

Day 07: Tbilisi City Tour

We start the city tour of Tbilisi with visits to the Old Town – the original settlement of Tbilisi with winding roads, alleys and wooden balconies; Metekhi Church standing proudly above the river on a cliff-top; Sulphur baths (Abanotubani) – according to legend responsible for giving the name to the city and for the king Vakhtang Gorgasali’s (5th c.) decision to move the capital from Mtskheta; Narikala Fortress – impressive ruins located above the  Old Town a landmark of the city and excellent for views of the swirling river Mtkvari (Kura) and the Old Town; Sioni Cathedral the beating-heart of Georgian Orthodoxy; Anchiskhati Church a yet more ancient style of Georgian church with a choir to match – if lucky we will witness a service at this church; Excursion to the State Museum of Georgia which houses an extraordinary collection of gold filigree work dating from the 6th century BC among other items of repoussé work and jewellery.Then we walk along Rustaveli Ave. – The main 1 500 meter-long artery of the city decked out with elegant Renaissance and neoclassical buildings. Here you find the city’s most  important theatres and the Opera House. Funicular, Mtatsminda (Holy Mount or Father David’s Mount) Pantheon & Park – railway built in 1903 with two stations – the lower stopping at St. David's church and the Pantheon of Writers and Public Figures and the upper station takes you to the Panoramic Park which provides spectacular views of the city. We end the day with visit to Sameba (Holy Trinity) Cathedral – Recently built magnificently dominating Cathedral of Georgian Orthodox Church. (B, D)

Day 08: Tbilisi/Mtskheta/Kazbegi/Gudauri

Today we head north up the Georgian Military Highway towards Gudauri & Kazbegi visiting Mtskheta en route, which lies in a lush valley on the confluence of two rivers, the Aragvi and the Mtkvari. It was founded 2,000 BC and was the capital of the Georgian Kingdom of Iberia between 500 BC and 500 AD. Georgians adopted Christianity in the 4th c. and thereafter Georgians, Byzantines, Persians, Arabs and Mongols traded control of the territory until the Russian annexation in the 19th century. It is overlooked by the marvellously simple church of Jvari (6th c.), a perfect example of early Georgian Christian architecture. We also visit Svetitsikhoveli Cathedral (11th c.), Georgia’s largest remaining Cathedral and burial place of the Georgian kings, notably members of the Bagrationi family. It has an extraordinary interior combining paintings, frescoes and a domed chapel used for the Christmas service. They are both UNESCO sites. En route to Gudauri visit Ananuri Fortress (16th – 17th cc). The one time home of the tyrannical Aragvi dynasty it sits in a green valley overlooking the Aragvi Valley and Zhinvali Reservoir. After that, we continue drive on the sides of the dramatic Aragvi River Valley. Continue driving over the Jvari Pass (2395m) and down into Kazbegi (1700m). Arrive in Kazbegi. Surrounded by gigantic mountains, Kazbegi / Stepantsminda is a picturesque settlement overlooked by the biggest peak of all - Mount Kazbek (5047m) - one of the six 5000 metre peaks of the Caucasus. Change transport on to the 4X4 vehicles to drive up to the Sameba (Trinity) Church at Gergeti, which is the main attraction. After that, either we stay in Kazbegi or drive back to Gudauri, the most famous ski resort in Georgia, set in a spectacular location high in Greater Caucasus. The resort’s southern facing slopes ensure plenty of sunshine and good snow conditions during the whole skiing season (December until mid-April).
Overnight: Rooms Hotel in Kazbegi or Marco Polo Hotel in Gudauri (1 night) (B, D)

Day 09: Kazbegi/Gudauri/Gori/Uplistsikhe/Kutaisi (Tskaltubo)

After breakfast check-out of the hotel and drive to Gori. Today the town is mainly known as the birthplace of J. Stalin. En-route visit Samtavisi Cathedral (11th c). Excursion in Stalin’s Museum in Gori. Visit Uplistsikhe (‘the Lord's citadel’), a cave town hewn into the living rock, 8 kms south-east of Gori. The citadel dates back to the 7th century BC.  It served as a strategic point on the ancient Silk Road from ancient times until the 15th century AD. It contains a large central hall for pagan rituals, living rooms and a 9th century church. Arrive in Tskaltubo. Hotel.
Overnight: Tskaltubo Spa Resort Hotel, nearby Kutaisi (1 night) (B, D)

Day 10: Kutaisi (Tskaltubo)/Gelati/Akhaltsikhe

The city of Kutaisi dates back to the Argonauts’ time (13th -12th centuries B.C). Formerly capital of old Colchida, Kutaisi then ruled all of Western Georgia. The nearby Gelati Monastery was founded in the 12th century by Georgia’s most famous king, David the Builder (1073 – 1125 AD). Its walls are covered in splendid floor-to-ceiling murals of Georgia’s saints and monarchs. Visit Bagrati Cathedral (11th c). These sites are listed as the World's Cultural Heritage site by UNESCO. Arrive in Akhaltsikhe. Excursion to the recently restored 13th century Rabati Castle.
Overnight:Rabath, Akhaltsikhe (1 night) (B, D)

Day 11: Bavra/Gyumri/Dzoraget (ARMENIA)

We bid farewell to our Georgian friends and are met and welcomed by our new Armenian friends in the border Bavra then continue onto Gyumri, the second city of Armenia. Gyumri has a distinct look  in style and its own dialect.  Drive to Dilijan via city Spitak and Vanadzor accompanied by beautiful sceneries of forests and mountains.
Overnight: Avan Dzoraget hotel, Lori region (1 night) (B, D)

Day 12: Haghpat/Sanahin/Sevan

Tour to Sanahin Monastery which is within the limits of Alaverdi city and Haghpat is to the north-east of it, in the village of the same name. Standing on a high plateau, amidst low structures, they raise sharp against the background of steep forest-grown slopes. The ensembles are complemented by small churches built near them. Among them :churches and chapels, four annexes, sepulchers, bell-towers, the building of the Academy, book depositories, refectories, galleries, bridges and other monumental structures.   Lunch in Dilijan then explore surroundings of city Dilijan and historical monuments of the area.  Ramble in the art street of Sharambeyan, chat with the carpenter and pottery master, see them at work and choose one lovely souvenir from there to keep memories forever.  Our next stop is at Lake Sevan famous for its emerald water and delicious fish. This mountainous lake covers approximately 5% of Armenia’s surface area and is 2000 meters/2187 yards above sea level.
Overnight: Hotel Harsnaqar, Lake Sevan (1 night) (B, L)

Day 13: Sevan/Noraduz/Selim Caravansaray/Noravank/Khor Virab/Yerevan

The first stop is Noraduz cemetery of cross stones (khachkars). Proceed to Noravank by Selim pass, on the way visiting Selim Caravanserai, situated in the Selim (Sulema) mountain pass, 2410 m above the sea level, on the old road that connected historical Gegharkunik with Vayots Dzor. According to the two building inscriptions (one of which is in Arabic) the caravanserai was built in 1332 by Prince Orbelyan Chesar. The tour culminates with a visit to the 12th century Monastery of Noravank set in a canyon rich with rare flora.  Visit Bird's Cavern where the world's oldest shoe was found.  Lunch in Noravank. We take an excursion to Khor Virap Monastery, one of the most popular tourist destinations in Armenia. Its location, near the closest point to Mount Ararat within Armenia, offers a spectacular view of the mountain, the national symbol of Armenia. It is also significant as being the place of Gregory the Illuminator's 13 years imprisonment, after which Gregory made Armenia the first country to adopt Christianity as its official religion in the year 301.
Overnight: Golden Tulip hotel, Yerevan (2 nights) (B, L)

Day 14: Yerevan Echmiatsin/Zvartnots/Geghard/Yerevan

We explore Armenia’s capital visiting the Sergey Parajanov Museum, which is a tribute to one of the greatest figures [or auteurs] of 20th-century world cinema. Comprising some 1,400 exhibits, the museum’s collection includes installations, collages, assemblages, drawings, dolls, and hats. The museum also showcases unpublished screenplays, librettos, and various artworks which Parajanov created while in prison. Parajanov’s visionary films, such as “The Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors,” “Sayat-Nova,” and “The Legend of Suram Fortress,” earned him international acclaim and led to lifelong persecution by the Soviet regime. Followed by an excursion to the Cathedral and churches of Echmiatsin and the Archaeological Site of Zvartnots* that graphically illustrate the evolution and development of the Armenian central-domed cross-hall type of churches, which exerted a profound influence on architectural and artistic development in the region.
Time to visit the Monastery of Geghard and the Upper Azat Valley*, which contains a number of churches and tombs, most of them cut into the rock that illustrate the zenith of Armenian medieval architecture. The complex of medieval buildings is set into a landscape of great natural beauty, surrounded by towering cliffs at the entrance to the Azat Valley. (B, D)

Day 15: Yerevan/Karahunj/Tatev/Agarak

Today we depart for Armenian-Iranian border city Agarak. En route we have few stops at the following places - Zorats karer named also Karahunge Armenian Stonehenge - the age of which has been estimated to be 7,500 years or perhaps older (sixth millennium BC). Scientists believe that there is a tight connection between the observatory in Armenia and Stonehenge in Britain, since the latter is much younger (about 4,000 years old).  Visit Tatev Monastery, one of the largest and the most famous monasteries in Armenia. The monument "Gavazan"("Stick"), erected in the yard, near the dwelling premises of the monastery, is a unique work of Armenian architecture.   You can admire the Vorotan Gorge through “Wings of Tatev” ropeway, which is the world’s longest cable car (5750m). The Guinness Book of World Records representative Karim Valerio officially declared “Tatev’s Wings,” which opened on October 23, 2010, the world’s longest ropeway.
Overnight: Dian Hotel or Marishok Hotel (1 night) (B, D)

Day 16: Agarak/Tabriz (IRAN)

Today we depart the Caucasus for Tabriz in Iran. Tabriz is famous for its exquisite carpets and its long history.  It has been the capital city of Iran on numerous times throughout the old history of this country. Tabriz is the birthplace of Shams Tabriz, the mentor of Jalaluddin Rumi the founder of Suffism and the city, even today, is reputed to exude an aura of serenity. This evening, one can experience this calm while walking and meeting people in the old part of the city.
Overnight: Gostaresh Hotel, Tabriz (1 night) (B, D)

Day 17: Tabriz/Anzali

This morning we tour the city of Tabriz enjoying the ancient architecture and splendid bazaars of this major agricultural center. Armenians, Turkomans, Kurds work side by side in stalls pilled ceiling-high with leather boots, woolen headgear, and many-colored fabrics. Here again you find the friendly bustle of the Oriental market with its mysterious discussions and its aroma of leather and spices. We then continue on to Anzali.
Overnight:Kadousan Hotel, Anzali (1 night) (B, D)

Day 18: Anzali/Rasht

This morning we take in a boat ride on the marshland then a visit to the caviar-processing factory.  Next stop is a visit to the stunningly beautiful village of Masuleh then onto Rasht.
Overnight: Kadous Hotel, Rasht (1 night) (B, D)

Day 19: Rasht/Tehran

A beautiful drive takes us to Tehran.
Overnight: Laleh/Homa/Espinas Hotel, Tehran (2 nights) (B, D)

Day 20: Tehran

Full day tour starts off with a visit to the Carpet Museum which has an excellent collection of Iranian hand woven carpets, followed by the Museum of Reza Abbasi. This museum named after the most famous miniaturist in the Safavid era, was opened in 1977.  It exhibits artifacts dating back to prehistoric, ancient and Islamic periods and is particularly rich in Islamic calligraphy. Lastly, we visit the Archaeological Museums with its fine collection including a stone capital of a winged lion from Susa and a 6th century B.C. audience hall relief of Darius the Great from the Treasury at Persepolis. The museum has items dating back from the Sumerian Period (4500 B.C.) to contemporary times. (B, D)

Day 21: Tehran/Shiraz (Flight)

Morning visit the Glass and Ceramic Museum and Sa'dabad Palace.   Late afternoon transfer to the airport for our flight to Shiraz, traditionally known as the city of Roses and Nightingales.
Overnight: Pars/Homa Hotel, Shiraz (2 nights) (B, D)

Day 22: Shiraz

Shiraz is the capital of the Province of Fars.  Our visit today will include the Eram Garden, the tombs of Saadi and Hafiz - two of the most well known Persian poets, Nasirol-Molk Mosque, Afif-Abad Garden, the Church of Saint Simmon the Zealot. (B, D)

Day 23: Shiraz/Esfahan

Morning excursion to Persepolis, which in Greek literally means the capital of Persia, lies 60 kms/37 miles north of Shiraz. Persepolis is the last and final ultimate expression of the ancient Middle East. Construction began by Darius the Great (521 - 468 B.C.) as the focus of the mighty Achemenian Empire nearly 2500 years ago.  Our next stop is Naqsh-e-Rustam - tomb of the famous Rustam.  Continue by road to Esfahan, another highlight city.  Legend has it that Esfahan was founded at the time of Tahmourass or Keykavous. During the Safavid Era (16th and 17th Century A.D.), Esfahan was a city of Gardens and Palaces, a trade centre recognised by the saying, "Esfahan is half of the world".
Overnight: Kowsar/Azadi/Abbasi Hotel, Esfahan (3 nights) (B, D)

Day 24: Esfahan

Full day tour of this magnificent includes Hasht Behesht Palace (built in 1680 A.D. during the rule of Suleiman II, the Armenian Vank Church, Friday Mosque and the famous bridges. (B, D)

Day 25: Esfahan

Today visit includes Imam Square (Naqsh-e- Jahan) with its Sheikh Lotfollah and Imam Mosques, Aliqapu Palace, Chehel Sutoon Palace (40 pillars) built by Shah Abbas as a hall of audience and visit what definitely a most famous bazaar in Iran. (B, D)

Day 26: Esfahan/Tehran

On our scenic drive to Tehran we stop at Kashan, an attractive oasis town, and take in its attractive sights. We visit Tabatabaie Houses and Khan-e Borujerdi, built as a private residence, now a charming museum with a lovely courtyard. We then take in the famous Fin Garden and witness its breathtaking pools, orchards and natural springs. Next we visit Agha Bozorg Mosque famous for its lovely portals and minarets.   Next is a visit to view the Tomb of Ayatollah Khomeini.
Overnight: Laleh/Homa/Espinas Hotel, Tehran (1 night) (B, D)

Day 27: Tehran/Depart

Morning transfer to the airport for the departure flight. Check out time is by 1100 hrs. (B)

B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner

Departure Dates
English Speaking Departures (Please contact us for information on French, German, Italian and Spanish speaking departures).

2016

May 14, Jul 16 & Sep 17

Tour Price

We accept payment in US $ (US Dollars), CA $ (Canadian Dollars) or equivalent EURO (for clients outside North America). Bestway Tours & Safaris offers conversion rate protection. Once full payment has been received, and no modification has been made to the tour itinerary, we will honour that rate. For complete payment procedures, please click here

Departure(s) Per Person on Twin Sharing Single Room Supplement
2016 US$ 11,680 US$ 1695


Notes

N/A



Inclusions


Tour Price Includes
  • Domestic airfare mentioned in the itinerary Tehran/Shiraz
  • Accommodation as mentioned or similar, including hotel taxes
  • Meals as mentioned (B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner)
  • All sightseeing and transfers by private transportation
  • Services of local English speaking guides/drivers
  • Entrance fees to museums and sites included in the itinerary
Not Included
  • International airfares
  • Airport/Departure taxes
  • Insurance/visas
  • Tips/gratuities

Estimated International Airfare (International airfare is NOT included in this tour)

CANADA(West Coast)
US$ 1600

USA(West Coast)
US$ 1600

CANADA(East Coast)
US$ 1400

USA(East Coast)
US$ 1400

Participants

This tour operates on a minimum of 02 and a maximum of 08 participants

Customised Itinerary

If you would like to have a tour on dates other than the above ones or with a customised itinerary, please contact us and we will be happy to work out an exclusive program for you.

Contact Info
You may e-mail us at bestway@bestway.com or call 1-604-264-7378. Residents of U.S.A./Canada may call us toll free at 1-800-663-0844.