Georgia and Armenia

Georgia and Armenia

Armenia and Georgia - the world’s oldest Christian nations, are a treasure trove of ancient ruins, churches and monasteries combined with centuries-old folk traditions.

Europe meets Asia in this spectacular region of the Caucasus Mountain range, where visitors will find spectacular scenery, excellent food and wine and a friendly welcome. On this tour we showcase the history and natural beauty of this region. We will stroll the narrow streets of old towns, visit ancient monasteries, view massive mountain ranges and meet with friendly locals. We will also visit an interesting variety of museums and a great selection of some of the more than 10,000 monuments, including many listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites, all the while soaking up the exotic atmosphere of this under-explored area.

We begin and end in Tbilisi, Georgia – a key station on the famous Silk Road. The Old Town is renowned for its wonderful mix of cultures which are reflected in the splendid Georgian architecture. The wooden houses with carved balconies and sulphur baths have hosted poets, writers, musicians and kings through the centuries. Also in Georgia we will discover incredible cave villages carved into the side of a mountain, historical towns and of course the breath-taking Great Caucasus Mountains. Highlights include the unique Gergeti Trinity Church sitting isolated on a hill surrounded by spectacular scenery, dining with local families serving local specialties and wines from some of the world’s oldest vineyards, and wandering through incredible architectural complexes, noble residences and amazing monasteries and churches.

Armenia is the only country remaining from 3,000-year-old maps of Anatolia, and became the world’s first Christian country more than 1700 years ago. It is a country of beautiful mountains and valleys, and so the scenery constantly changes between arid land and lush forest. Yerevan is the capital and one of the world’s oldest continuously inhabited cities. We will tour the city, including the Genocide Memorial and Museum and most important monuments, visit Khor Virap Monastery with fantastic views of Mt. Ararat, explore medieval Haghartsin in Dilijan and marvel at Lake Sevan – the largest lake in the Lesser Caucasus mountain range.

** Those joining any of our tours to Asia must be able to walk fairly long distances and climb stairs easily.

Tentative Itinerary

Day 1: Departure

We board our flight for Istanbul.

Day 2: Istanbul

We arrive in Istanbul and transfer to an airport hotel for a rest and dinner before continuing to Tbilisi.

Day 3: Tbilisi, Georgia

We arrive in Tbilisi and transfer to our hotel. Morning at leisure. This afternoon we begin touring Tbilisi - capital of Georgia since the 5th century AD, and one of the most important cities in the Middle East during the Middle Ages. We will visit the Old Town, Metekhi Temple, the baths, the main fortress, the 11th century Sioni Cathedral and the “Peace Bridge”. Tonight is our Welcome Dinner.

Day 4: Tbilisi

We continue our sightseeing of Tbilisi with a visit of Holy Trinity Sameba Cathedral, Freedom Square, the National History Museum and the main street - Rustaveli Avenue. Later we’ll take a funicular for wonderful views of the city and surrounding areas. Afternoon at leisure.

Day 5: Haghpat / Dilijan, Armenia

We cross into Armenia and proceed to Haghpat to visit the famous Monastery standing on a high plateau against the background of steep forest-grown slopes. Besides the Monastery there are churches, sepulchers, bell-towers, galleries, bridges and other monumental structures. Later we continue to Dilijan to visit another famous Monastery and one of medieval Armenia’s main cultural centres.

Day 6: Lake Sevan / Garni / Geghard / Yerevan

We head for Lake Sevan - one of the world’s highest mountain lakes at 2000 metres above sea level. We will stop at Garni Temple (Temple of the Sun), built in the 1st century soon after Armenia adopted Christianity, and which became the summer residence of Armenian royalty. Lunch will be at a family home in the village of Garni - a chance to learn about local traditions (including a demonstration of making the delicious bread “Lavash”). Later we visit Geghard Cave Monastery for a concert of spiritual music by the local choir, before continuing to Yerevan - Armenia’s capital, for a 2-night stay.

Day 7: Khor Virap / Yerevan

We travel through the fertile Ararat Valley and visit the medieval monastery Khor Virap (Deep Dungeon) with its incredible view to glorious Mount Ararat. We then return to Yerevan for a city tour including the Matenadaran Museum which houses a unique collection of 18,000 ancient manuscripts, and the Genocide Memorial and Museum. Later we see the famous statue "Mother Armenia" in Victory Park, “The Cascade” of flowers, the Opera House and Republic Square with its huge fountain. We finish our day with a tasting at the Yerevan Brandy Factory.

Day 8: Zvartnotz / Echmiadzin / Tbilisi

We visit the ruins of Zvartnots Temple, then continue to Echmiadzin - former capital of Armenia and now a religious centre. We will visit the Cathedral founded by St. Gregory in 303 BC, and the unique Church of Hripsime. Then we cross back into Georgia and on to Tbilisi.

Day 9: Mtskheta / Gori / Uplistsikhe / Borjomi

We go to Mtskheta - Georgia’s ancient capital founded in the 2nd century - a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We’ll visit the 6th century Jvari Monastery and 11th century Svetitskhoveli Cathedral. On to the historical town of Gori, known for its huge fortress as well as being the birthplace of Stalin. We will visit the Stalin Museum then drive to Uplistsikhe - a cave town dating back to the 7th century BC. We then proceed to our hotel in Borjomi, in a beautiful mountain setting, for a 2-night stay.

Day 10: Vardzia / Borjomi

We first stop at the medieval Khertvisi Fortress, then travel through the scenic Kura Valley to Vardzia - a unique example of a Georgian Renaissance town. After some time to explore we return to Borjomi.

Day 11: Greater Caucasus Mountains / Kazbegi

We travel on the Georgian Military Road with photo stops at the spectacular viewpoints. We’ll visit the 16th century architectural complex of Ananuri, then cross the Greater Caucasus Mountains at the Jvari Pass (2395m) before proceeding down to fairy-tale Kazbegi for our overnight.

Day 12: Kazbegi / Tbilisi

Kazbegi is a picturesque town set beneath the biggest mountain in Georgia - Mount Kazbek. We’ll visit the picturesque Gergeti Trinity Church situated on a lone hilltop surrounded by spectacular views, then enjoy the walk back down to Kazbegi. Lunch will be with a local family, followed by an excursion with 4x4 vehicles to beautiful Sno Valley and the mountain village of Juta. Here we can enjoy another walk above the village for views of the beautiful Chaukhi Mountains, before returning to Tbilisi.

Day 13: Kakheti / Kvareli

Georgia is one of the world’s oldest wine producing countries, so we travel to Kakheti - the famous wine district dotted with fine old churches within the vineyards. The ancient traditional winemaking method here is on the UNESCO Cultural Heritage list. We stop at the beautiful hill-town of Sighnaghi overlooking the Alazani Valley and the mountains, visit one of the popular wine cellars and sample a variety of Georgian wines, and enjoy a local lunch and some free time to explore the charming town. We overnight in Kvareli.

Day 14: Kakheti / Tbilisi

We first visit the 16th century architectural complex of Gremi, followed by Alaverdi Cathedral, Telavi town and the residence of the noble Tsinandali family. We then return to Tbilisi for our Farewell Dinner.

Day 15: Istanbul / Home

We fly home via Istanbul. We will enjoy a city tour of Turkey’s capital during our layover between flights.

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Cost per person: $5197
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