22 days
Duration
Europe
Destination
Level 3 - Moderate
Activity

Small group tour to Caucasus

Caucasian Odyssey

This 24-day small group tour to Caucasus gives travellers an opportunity to explore Tbilisi, Baku, and Yerevan. The tour encompasses important monuments, historical and religious sites, diverse landscapes, and ancient architecture. We also see the Caucasus Mountains and the lowlands of Armenia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan. This tour is fully escorted and led by local English-speaking guides. So you’ll have the opportunity to meet locals and observe their lifestyles in both the cities and remote sections of the Caucasus.

Itinerary

Our educational tour to the Caucasus begins in Yerevan. After arrival, we have a full-day sightseeing tour of Yerevan including visits to the Memorial Complex to the Genocide Victims, Museum of the Medieval Armenian Culture – Matenadaran, and a brandy factory to taste some brandy. In the evening, we are free to explore the city on our own and discover a local restaurant at which to eat dinner.

Next, we enjoy a full-day excursion to Khor Virap. This romantically located Armenian monastery has views across a vast plain to Turkey and the twin peaks of Mount Ararat. Here, in the atmosphere of historical legend you will notice the Noah’s Ark in the snows of Ararat. Here, humankind was reborn. Theatrical ceremonies and festivals take place in a Noah’s-Ark-shaped stage against the majestic Mount Ararat. We may also enter the hole where Gregory the Illuminator was jailed for 13 years for dissemination of Christianity in Armenia (optional). We also visit the 13th-century monastery complex of Noravank set in a marvellous canyon. After this, we travel across the region to Georgia, before finishing our educational tour in Azerbaijan.

Highlights

The tour explores the various UNESCO World Heritage sites of Armenia. During the journey, you will sample the national cuisines and music at farewell dinners in each country. We also trace the “Wine Route” of Kakheti, a rich wine-growing region with magnificent vineyards and quaint villages, and discover the ancient Colchis Kingdom in Kutasi, destination for the legendary Jason and the Argonauts. We also experience diverse cultures and landscapes between Georgia’s Black Sea coast of Azerbaijan’s Caspian coast.

The small group tour to Caucasus is designed for the curious senior, mature couple or solo traveller. During this tour of the Caucasus you will be accompanied by some of the best local guides, providing excellent insights into the local culture and history of each of the three distinct Nation states visited.

For more details, click the ‘Top 5’ or ‘Itinerary’ buttons above! If you’re keen to experience this tour, please call or send an email. Or, to book, simply fill in the form on the right hand side of this page.

Tour Notes
  • Itineraries may change if flight schedules, site availability, and other inclusions have to be amended prior to departure.
  • Group size limited to 15.

PDF of Tour PDF of Reading List

1
Explore the UNESCO World Heritage sites of Armenia.
2
Sample the national cuisines and music at a special farewell dinner held in each country.
3
Trace the “Wine Route” of Kakheti, a rich wine-growing region with magnificent vineyards and quaint villages.
4
Discover the ancient Colchis Kingdom in Kutasi, destination for the legendary Jason and the Argonauts.
5
Experience diverse cultures and the landscapes between the Black Sea coast of Georgia and the Caspian coast of Azerbaijan.

Overview: On arrival, make your own way to our hotel in Yerevan. Evening welcome dinner at the hotel.

(D)

Accommodation: 4 nights at Hotel Metropol or similar.

Overview: We have a full-day sightseeing tour of Yerevan including visits to the Memorial Complex to the Genocide Victims, Museum of the Medieval Armenian Culture – Matenadaran, and a brandy factory to taste some brandy. The evening is free to explore the city on our own.

(B,L,D)

Accommodation: Hotel Metropol or similar.

Overview: We have a full-day excursion south to Khor Virap, one of the romantically located monasteries in Armenia with views across a vast plain to Turkey and the twin peaks of Mount Ararat. Here, in the atmosphere of historical legend and vivid imagination you will notice the Noah’s Ark in the snows of Ararat. Humankind was reborn here, and Noah is considered to be the first tourist in the world. Theatrical ceremonies and festivals in a Noah’s-Ark-shaped stage in the immediate vicinity of the monastery and against the majestic Mount Ararat will take us back to the Noah’s ages. We may also enter the hole where Gregory the Illuminator was jailed for 13 years for dissemination of Christianity in Armenia (optional). We also visit the 13th-century monastery complex of Noravank set in a marvelous canyon. We have an optional visit to Areni Wine cellar. Lunch will be at a local restaurant.

(B,L)

Accommodation: Hotel Metropol or similar.

Overview: After breakfast we enjoy a brief lecture about Armenia. We tour south to Echmiadzin – the holy seat of the Supreme Patriarch-Catholicos of all Armenians. The Cathedral was built in 303 on the site of a pagan temple after the adoption of Christianity as a state religion in 301. We then visit St. Hripsime Church (7th century).

We will drive through the picturesque Avan Canyon, skirting formidable cliffs and passing exotic-looking gorges until a green plateau of the Azat River comes into view. Here, in the harmony and relief of nature we will see the pagan Garni architectural complex of the 1st century and feel the spirit of ancient ages. Lunch will be at a photographer’s house, followed by a visit to the UNESCO Heritage cave monastery of Geghard (13th century).

(B,L,D)

Accommodation: Hotel Metropol or similar.

Overview: We have a full-day tour north to Lake Sevan, the emerald of Armenia, and we visit the 9th-century Sevan Monastery. Here we can relax on the sunny and sandy beach of the lake, and if weather permits have a swim in the freshwater of Sevan.

We will visit Noradus – field of “Khach Kars” – Kross Stoness and in the afternoon we transfer to Dilijan. En route we visit Hagharstin Monastery of 13-14th cc. Lunch today will be at Lake Sevan and dinner will be at the hotel.

(B,L,D)

Accommodation: 1 night at the superior Hotel Dilijan Resort or similar.

Overview: After breakfast we drive north to visit the 10th-13th centuries Haghpat and Sanahin historical and architectural monuments set amidst forest-clad hills close to the town of Alaverdi. The monuments are preserved by UNESCO and included in the World Heritage List. We then drive on to the Georgian border where we will change vehicles and our guide for the drive to Tbilisi.

In the evening we begin our orientation tour of Tbilisi including visits to Metechi Church (12th-13th cc) and Cross Cupola Church, part of the Royal residential complex. We will also visit 19th-century Sulphur bathhouses and Sioni Cathedral, the main church of Tbilisi dated 7th-19th cc. We have a walking tour in the Old Town district of Sulphur Bathhouses. Our welcome dinner will be at a local restaurant.

(B,L,D)

Accommodation: 3 nights at the Hotel New Kopala, Sharden, GTM or similar.

Overview: We enjoy a walk along Rustaveli Avenue and visit the Treasury of the State Museum of Tbilisi. We will explore Elene Akhvlediani Museum, a favourite meeting place of Georgian pubic figures.

After lunch we will be guests in a batik studio “La Maison Bleu” where we will meet textile artists and see how they work. Today we also visit the Museum of Local Arts and Crafts. There will be some free time this afternoon.

(B,L)

Accommodation: Hotel New Kopala, Sharden, GTM or similar.

Overview: We drive across the Kartli province in the heart of Georgia. Here we visit the sacred Mtskheta, the ancient capital of eastern Georgia. Georgia’s conversion to Christianity occurred in Mtskheta in 337 AD and it is considered to be one of Georgia’s most important religious centres. We can visit several of its most important historic monuments including the beautiful Jvari church (6th-7th cc), perched on a cliff overlooking the city, and Svetitskhoveli Cathedral (11th c). In Gori, the birthplace of Josef Stalin, we visit Uplistsikhe cave-town dating back to 1st millennium BC. (1-1.5hrs walking tour). In late afternoon we arrive in the ski resort Bakuriani, where we enjoy dinner.

(B,L,D)

Accommodation: Hotel New Kopala, Sharden, GTM or similar.

Overview: After breakfast we explore Samtskhe – Javakheti province and its important architectural monuments. Today we will visit Vardzia cave-town, transformed in a well-fortified monastery, which had a significant role in the political, cultural, educational, and spiritual life of the country. En route to Varzia we have a short stop at Khertvisi Fortress (10th c).

(B,L,D)

Accommodation: 2 nights at the Hotel Gino Rabati or Lomsia in Akhaltsikhe.

Overview: After breakfast we drive through picturesque Borjomi Valley and Rikoti Pass to Kutaisi, the capital of ancient Colchis. En route we have a walk in Borjomi park and taste local mineral water. Around noon we will arrive in Kutaisi, the second biggest city in Georgia. Not far from Kutaisi we will visit the Sataplia grottos.

In the evening we visit the Bagrati UNESCO site (currently under restoration). There will be time to enjoy a walking tour in the old town of Kutaisi.

(B,L,D)

Accommodation: Hotel Gino Rabati or Lomsia in Akhaltsikhe.

Overview: After breakfast we visit Bagrati Cathedral (UNESCO site) and Gelati Academy Complex (UNESCO site) before driving to Zugdidi. Here we change vehicles and drive to the Enguri Canyon where the Svan ethnic group evolved, cut off from the outside world by the high and inaccessible mountains. Their culture has been preserved almost intact with the ritual of worshiping spirits, fertility cults, legends of the wolf and the bull, and the poetic muse – Dali, the golden-haired goddess of hunting.

The Svaneti area is hard and conditions are basic. The road to Svaneti is rough and long (500 km to Mestia from Tbilisi). The climate in Svaneti is quite stern with cold winters, cool and long springs, and cool summers. Mestia and Ushguli are surrounded by snow peaks, glaciers, and alpine pastures which makes the local climate very special.

We are scheduled to arrive in Mestia late afternoon.

(B,L,D)

Accommodation: 1 night at the Lalie’s guesthouse in Kutaisi or similar.

Overview: After breakfast we explore Mestia and visit the Mestia Ethnographical and Historical Museum (currently closed for restoration), which houses a rich collection of cheesed icons and other treasury. We have a walk in Mestia surroundings, visit Svan Tower, enjoy remote landscapes, and sample the local mineral water.

There will be free time this afternoon.

(B,L,D)

Accommodation: 3 nights at a 3 star hotel in Mestia or similar.

Overview: We drive to Ushguli, a middle-age fortification surrounded by the 5,000-metre giants of the Caucasus mountain range. We enjoy a walk in Ushguli and its surroundings. En route we have short stops to visit remote villages and churches. In Ushguli a local family will host us to enjoy the local cheese – Sulguni making process. In the afternoon we drive back to Mestia.

(B,L,D)

Accommodation: 3 star hotel in Mestia or similar.

Overview: After breakfast we depart to the Black Sea shores to the town of Batumi. En route we visit Dadiani Palace, palace of the lord of the Samegrelo region, as well as its beautiful park and museum. In the evening we enjoy a short walking tour of Batumi.

(B,L,D)

Accommodation: 3 star hotel in Mestia or similar.

Overview: After breakfast we drive to the border of Turkey. Here we visit Gonio architectural complex and then drive to Batumi Botanical Garden for a walk. During our lunch we enjoy a special nave shaped “Khachapuri” and have a cup of coffee with traditional pakhlava at one of cafes on the boulevard. There will be free time in the afternoon.

(B,L)

Accommodation: 2 nights at the Hotel Villa Rcheuli or Alic or similar.

Overview: After breakfast we drive to Tbilisi. En route we visit the Vani archaeological site. According to one opinion, the town of Vani was the capital of ancient Colchis. The next site we visit is Ubisi church (9th cc), richly decorated with mural painting. In the village Shrosha we are hosted by a pottery maker’s family.

(B,L,D)

Accommodation: Hotel Villa Rcheuli or Alic or similar.

Overview: Today we drive to Kakheti along the “Wine Route” through a beautiful landscape of vineyards and wine-producing villages. We enjoy a walk in the Signagi Royal town surrounded by defensive walls with 23 towers. Each of these towers were named after nearby villages and respective families and served as a refuge in case of danger. The town was mainly inhabited by merchants and artisans. It had many gates through which numerous Silk Road travelers from Asia and Europe passed. We also visit the Signagi Historical and Ethnographical Museum.

For lunch we drive to the Gurjaani wine house to visit a wine cellar “Zaod” and centuries-old wine press “Chacha,” a Georgian grappa-making machine. We enjoy lunch with traditional Kakheti dishes and a wine tasting. In the late afternoon we visit Alaverdi cathedral (11th c). After our arrival we check in at Telavi guesthouse and observe bread-baking and traditional sweet “Churchkhela” preparation. Dinner will be at a special wine hall.

(B,L,D)

Accommodation: 1 night at the Lalie Guesthouse in Telavi or similar.

Overview: A short drive from Telavi will take us to Gremi and its impressive citadel complex consisting of a 16th-century domed church, tower, and king’s chamber. We then drive to Lagodekhi border and then to the town of Sheki. The jewel of Sheki is the exquisite Khan’s Palace set in the midst of dilapidated fortress walls and adorned with detailed mosaics and Shebaka windows made from fragments of coloured glass and hand-shaped wooden cross-pieces.

Later, we will have the opportunity to visit a Shebaka workshop as well as the local bazaar where we will wander among street peddlers and artists selling everything from local handicrafts and souvenirs to halva, a sweet confection flavoured with cinnamon, fennel, or saffron. We have dinner in a local family house in Sheki.

(B,L,D)

Accommodation: 1 night at the Issam Hotel.

Overview: After breakfast we drive to Shemaka through small villages nestled among steep mountains and lush valleys dotted with vineyards. We will stop in Shemakha, a city that served for many centuries as the capital and commercial centre of western Azerbaijan before being replaced by Baku in the 19th century. Here we visit the famed Yeddi Gumbaz (Seven Tombs), of which only 3 remain completely intact, the royal tombs of the last Shirvan Khans to rule before the region became part of the Russian Empire. In town, we will stop at Juma Meschid or Grand Mosque whose 10th-century foundations are part of the first mosque built in the Caucasus. Passing through stark, arid landscapes dotted with mud volcanoes, we will arrive in Maraza where just off the main road lies Pir Diri Baba Mausoleum built precariously into the side of a cliff. We have a late afternoon arrival into Baku.

(B,L,D)

Accommodation: 3 nights at the Central Park Hotel or Sapphire Inn Hotel.

Overview: After breakfast we enjoy a brief lecture about Azerbaijan. We then begin our tour of Icheri Shey Har, the old town, with its maze of narrow, cobblestone streets lined with small mosques nestled between terrace cafes and grand turn-of-the-century architecture. A highlight of our afternoon’s explorations will surely be Shirvan Shahs Palace, a royal palace built in the 15th century and the finest surviving example of Shirvan architecture.

In the evening we enjoy a boat and walking tour along Baku seaside boulevard (around 2 hours). Baku Bay is a natural harbour for the capital of Azerbaijan and the main port of Baku. It is located in the wide curve on the southern side of the Absheron Peninsula, sheltered by the Baku archipelago. Boat excursions provide us with a great opportunity to have a splendid panoramic view of Baku from the sea and to see the city’s nice beaches and the bay itself dotted with oil derricks. Our guide will discuss the history of the Caspian Sea.

(B,L)

Accommodation: Central Park Hotel or Sapphire Inn Hotel.

Overview: After breakfast we explore the Absheron Peninsula. Once the centre of a booming oil industry, this former agricultural jewel north of the capital is now a desolate landscape of semi-arid vegetation, grim industry, and forgotten oil fields. We will visit both Ateshga, the sacred Zoroastrian fire temple built on the site of a natural gas vent, and Yanar Dag or Flaming Mountain, one of few remaining natural gas flares in the area. Here we have a traditional tea in a Gala village.

We then carry on further down the Caspian coast to Gobustan where over 6,000 Stone and Iron Age petroglyphs have been discovered in the hill caves above town depicting scenes of hunting and dancing rituals, a varied repertoire of animal figures along with thousands of artifacts and tools.

(B,L,D)

Accommodation: Central Park Hotel or Sapphire Inn Hotel.

Overview: Tour ends after breakfast.

(B)

What’s included in our Tour

  • 19 nights of hotel accommodation and 2 nights of guesthouse accommodation with shared facilities.
  • Services of Tour Leader for the duration of tour.
  • Transport in comfortable and modern coaches.
  • All lectures, excursions, entrance fees, and local guides.
  • 21 breakfasts, 20 lunches, and 17 dinners.

What’s not included in our Tour

  • International airfares and departure taxes.
  • Items of a personal nature such as telephone calls and laundry.
  • Comprehensive travel insurance.

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Small group tour to Caucasus

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