This extraordinary 16-day tour takes us to an extremely complex and fascinating part of the world. Persians, Khazars, Arabs, Huns, Turko-Mongols and Russians have all invaded and migrated into the Caucasus, each contributing to the region’s intricate history and astounding architecture. As if this diversity were not enough, the Caucasus also offers a variety of pristine landscapes and stunning vistas just waiting to be discovered.
|UNESCO World Heritage Sites covered in this tour|
|1.||Gobustan Rock Art Cultural Landscape||6.||Mestia|
|2.||Walled City of Baku||7.||Ushguli|
|4.||Bagrati Cathedral||9.||Archaeological Site of Zvartnots|
|5.||Gelati Monastery||10.||Monastery of Geghard and the Upper Azat Valley|
|Tour Duration||:||16 days|
|Min. Tour Size||:||02 persons|
|Max. Tour Size||:||08 persons|
|Includes international air|
|Tour Price (from)||:||US$|
Day 01: Arrive Baku (AZERBAIJAN)
Xosh gälmìsän! We are welcomed to the airport at Baku, the cosmopolitan capital of Azerbaijan, and transferred to our hotel. Check in time starts from 1500 hrs. Azerbaijan, known as the ‘Land of Fire’, provides a rich mix of ancient monuments, dramatic landscapes, glitzy petro-funded towers and people renowned for their hospitality.
Overnight: Atropat Hotel, Baku (3 nights)
Day 02: Baku
Take a step back in history as we enjoy a morning tour of Gobustan Rock Art Cultural Landscape*, a plateau of boulders offering 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 intensive human use by the inhabitants of the area from the Upper Paleolithic to the Middle Ages. Next we discover the Walled City of Baku*, built on a site inhabited since the Paleolithic period. The city’s core provides a tantalizing combination of Zoroastrian, Sasanian, Arabic, Persian, Shirvani, Ottoman and Russian influences. 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: Baku
We travel around the Absheron Peninsula, visiting the Ateshgyah Zoroastrian Temple of Fire, which for centuries has been an important center of worship. We also explore the “Gala” historical ethnographic reservation area. One of the oldest settlements in Absheron is Qala village, situated in the northeast of the peninsula. There are 215 architectural and archeological monuments dating back to 3rd century B.C. in Qala village and the surrounding regions. Archeological and architectural monuments found in the area were gathered and restored at the Open Air Archeological Ethnographical Museum Complex, which we will have a chance to discover. Then embark on an excursion to the 14th century temple in Mardakan and the Yanardag Flaming Mountain, burning with an eternal flame fed by underground naphtha and gas. In the afternoon, time is spent 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 (Drive)
Scenic and relaxing journey to the town of Sheki. Here we will visit the Museum of Applied Arts, "Shebeke" manufacturing workshops and the magnificent Sheki Khan's palace (view from the outside only). We travel to the nearby village of Kish to visit the first church in Caucasus. The evening is free to relax or stroll around the charming town.
Overnight: Sheki Saray Hotel, Sheki (1 night) (B, D)
Day 05: Sheki/Lagodekhi/Signagi/Tbilisi (Drive) (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 at 10:00 hrs Georgia time. 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 the wines in the region. En route to Tbilisi, visit Gremi architectural complex, which consists of the Church of the Archangels Michael and Gabriel (16th century), a three-story castle, a bell tower and a wine cellar. Lunch is taken with a local family, where we can enjoy a traditional home-cooked meal complete with Georgian wines. Learn to make ‘churchkhela’, a traditional Georgian sweet made with grapes and various nuts. Next, visit the fortified, walled hill-town of Signagi. Weather permitting, enjoy 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.
Overnight: Rooms Hotel, Tbilisi (2 nights) (B, L)
Note: Please be aware that our Azerbaijan guide and driver will NOT cross the border. Therefore, we should be ready to cross the border on foot through no man’s land. As we 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.
Day 06: Tbilisi (Drive)
We start our city tour of Tbilisi with visits to Sameba (Holy Trinity) Cathedral, the recently built, magnificently dominating Cathedral of the Georgian Orthodox Church. After that, visit the Old Town, the original settlement of Tbilisi, with its winding roads, alleys and wooden balconies; Metekhi Church, standing proudly above the river on a cliff-top, and the sulphur baths (Abanotubani), which legend says are responsible for the name of the city and for king Vakhtang Gorgasali’s 5th-century decision to move the capital from Mtskheta. We also discover Narikala Fortress, impressive ruins located above the Old Town which are a landmark of the city and provide excellent views of the swirling river Mtkvari (Kura) and the Old Town. Later explore Sioni Cathedral, the heart of Georgian Orthodoxy, and Anchiskhati Church, a yet more ancient style of Georgian church with a choir to match. If we are lucky, we will witness a sermon here. Then enjoy an excursion to the State Museum of Georgia, which houses an extraordinary collection of gold filigree work dating from the 6th century B.C., among other items of repoussé work and jewelry. Next walk along Rustaveli Avenue, the main 1,500-meter-long artery of the city decked out with elegant Renaissance and neoclassical buildings. Here we find the city’s most important theatres and the Opera House. We then see the funicular, Mtatsminda (Holy Mount or Father David’s Mount) Pantheon & Park, a railway built in 1903 with two stations. The upper station takes us to the Panoramic Park, which provides spectacular views of the city. (B, L)
Day 07: Tbilisi/Mtskheta/Gori/Kutaisi (Drive)
Today we drive to Kutaisi, experiencing Mtskheta* en route. Mtskheta lies in a lush valley on the confluence of two rivers, the Aragvi and the Mtkvari. It was founded in 2,000 B.C. and was the capital of the Georgian Kingdom of Iberia between 500 B.C. and 500 A.D. Georgians adopted Christianity in the 4th century 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 century), a perfect example of early Georgian Christian architecture. We also visit Svetitsikhoveli Cathedral (11th century), Georgia’s largest remaining cathedral and burial place of the Georgian kings. It has an extraordinary interior combining paintings, frescoes and a domed chapel used for the Christmas service. Both are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. After that, stop in Gori to visit Stalin’s Museum. Arrive in Kutaisi, a city dating back to the Argonauts’ time (13th to 12th century B.C). Formerly capital of old Colchida, Kutaisi then ruled all of Western Georgia. Visit Bagrati Cathedral* (11th century), another UNESCO site.
Overnight: Argo Hotel, Kutaisi (1 night) (B, L)
Day 08: Kutaisi/Mestia (Drive)
In the morning, visit Gelati Monastery*, founded in the 12th century by Georgia’s most famous king, David the Builder (1073 to 1125 A.D.). Its walls are covered in splendid floor-to-ceiling murals of Georgia’s saints and monarchs. After exploring this UNESCO World Heritage Site, we drive to Mestia. At first, we pass Colkhida lowlands with charming villages, driving along Enguri river valley and stopping at the Enguri Reservoir. Through the mountain road, we get to Mestia* (1400m), the provincial centre of Svaneti.
Mestia is a small provincial settlement surrounded by huge Caucasian Mountains, the most impressive of which are Mountains Ushba (4710m) and Tetnuldi (4975m), some of the most severe and beautiful summits of the Caucasus. Today, we also visit the towers and traditional Svan House.
Overnight: Tetnuldi Hotel, Mestia (2 nights) (B, D)
Day 09: Mestia/Ushguli/Mestia (Drive)
Today we drive to Ushguli* (2400m) – Europe’s highest permanently inhabited village. Visit the village, its medieval towers and Lamaria Church (11th century). Enjoy the views of Mt. Shkhara (5201m), the highest summit in Georgia. Return to Mestia, where we visit the Mestia Museum. This museum houses more than 4,000 items, including archaeological objects discovered in Svaneti region, unique samples of engraved and painted icons, manuscripts, weapons, adornments, silverware, textiles and more. (B, D)
Day 10: Mestia/Zugdidi/Borjomi (Drive)
This morning, travel down to Zugdidi to visit Dadiani Palace, one of the most eminent palaces in Caucasus. Later, arrive in beautiful Borjomi, famous for its mineral springs.
Overnight: Rixos Borjomi Hotel, Borjomi (1 night) (B, L)
NOTE: On this day, we will have a long drive of approx. 7 hours.
Day 11: Borjomi/Akhaltsikhe/Vardzia (Drive)
After breakfast, drive to Akhaltsikhe. Here we discover the recently restored 13th century Rabati Castle. Then drive to Vardzia, a thirteen-story cave town built between 1186 and 1189 by Georgia’s famous Queen Tamar. It stands as a unique example of the Georgian renaissance in an area of many medieval sites. En route, stop at Khertvisi Fortress.
Overnight: Vardzia Hotel, Vardzia (1 night) (B, D)
Day 12: Vardzia/Dzoraget (Drive) (ARMENIA)
Following breakfast, we journey to the Armenian – Georgian border of Bavra. After border crossing procedures, meet our Armenian guide and driver at 11:00 hrs Georgia time. We enjoy a city tour of Gyumri, the second largest city of Armenia. Gyumri has a distinct look, style and dialect. Next drive to Dzoraget via city Spitak and Vanadzor, accompanied by beautiful panoramas of forests and mountain.
Overnight: Avan Dzoraget Hotel, Dzoraget (1 night) (B, D)
Note: Please be aware that our Georgian guide and driver will NOT cross the border. Therefore, we should be ready to cross the border on foot through no man’s land.
Day 13: Dzoraget/Lake Sevan (Drive)
An exciting day ahead as we tour Sanahin* Monastery. Standing on a high plateau, amidst low structures, the monastery raises sharp against the background of steep forest-grown slopes. The ensembles are complemented by small nearby churches and chapels. Also present are four annexes, sepulchers, bell-towers, the building of the Academy, book depositories, refectories, galleries, bridges and other monumental structures. Lunch in Dilijan, then explore the surroundings city and historical monuments of the area. Wander in the art street of Sharambeyan, chat with the carpenter and pottery masters, see them at work and choose one lovely souvenir. Our next stop is at Lake Sevan, famous for its emerald water and delicious fish. This mountainous lake covers approximately 5 per cent of Armenia’s surface area and is 2000 meters above sea level.
Overnight: Bohemian Resort or Best Western Paradise Hotel, Lake Sevan (1 night) (B, L)
Day 14: Lake Sevan/Yerevan (Drive)
Our first stop today is Noraduz cemetery of cross stones (khachkars). We then journey to Noravank. En route, visit Selim Caravanserai, situated in the Selim (Sulema) mountain pass, 2410 meters above 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. After our lunch break 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-year imprisonment, after which Gregory made Armenia the first country to adopt Christianity as its official religion in the year 301.
Overnight: Grand Hotel, Yerevan (2 nights) (B, D)
Day 15: Yerevan
We explore Armenia’s capital, visiting the National Museum of Armenian History and the Matenadaran, 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. Next explore the Monastery of Geghard and the Upper Azat Valley*, which contains a number of churches and tombs, most of them cut into the rock and illustrating 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: Depart Yerevan
Today we depart the Caucasus. Filled with memories and unforgettable experiences, we are transferred to the airport for our departure flight. (B)
B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner
English Speaking Departures (Please contact us for information on French, German, Italian and Spanish speaking departures).
May 07; Jun 25; Sep 10
|Departure(s)||Per Person on Twin Sharing||Single Room Supplement|
|2019||US$ 6160 CA$ 8316||US$ 995 CA$ 1344|
Estimated International Airfare
(International airfare is NOT included in this tour)
This tour operates on a minimum of 02 and a maximum of 08 participants
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.
You may e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-604-264-7378. Residents of U.S.A./Canada may call us toll free at 1-800-663-0844.