Let the alluring spirit of the land of fire, Azerbaijan, take you back in time. Wander around the ancient Medieval Icherishahar, the Old Town of Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan. Get inspired by the iconic contemporary landmarks, including the Zaha Hadid’s famous masterpice, the Heydar Aliyev entertainment centre. Explore the architecturally diverse city of Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia. The ancient wine growing region of Kakheti in the east of the country, which is believed to be the birthplace of wine! Drive to the UNESCO World Heritage site of Haghpat Monastery in the Lori region in Armenia. Enjoy the serenity of the freshwater Lake Sevan. Explore the stunning landscape of Yerevan, known as the Pink City.
The Caucasus Escape is designed to allow you to explore the best of Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia over 16 days. Our small groups are perfect to cater for those seeking to travel in groups, yet prefer the customised experiences that would leave memorable impressions for years to come.
|Start||Baku – Arrival (AZE)|
|Finish||Yerevan – Departure (ARM)|
|Group size||Min 4, Max 12|
Arrival in Baku
Transfer to the hotel for check in at 14:00 pm. Meet your local guide at the hotel lobby. We are having a welcome dinner at a local restaurant.
We have a full day of Baku city sightseeing ahead of us. Starting at 9:00 am, we are visiting the Martyrs lane along the stunning coastline of Baku. Heading to the old part of the city, ‘’Icheri Sheher’’ there is quiet a bit to explore. Visiting the ancient Shirvanshahs Palace, Caravanserai and the Miaden Tower are a must. We are going to walk through the main market square, where you can find numerous art studios and colourful souvenir stalls. Moving towards the new part of the city, the Nizami street and the Fountain Square, where there are lots of shops, modern cafes and restaurants all around.
After lunch, we are driving to Gobustan National Park. We shall visit the Petroglyphs Museum and check out ancient rock carvings dating back to 10,000 BC. If weather permits, we are changing cars and driving to mud volcanoes in Gobustan Reserve. Half of the world’s mud volcanoes are found in Gobustan.
Today, we have about 4-5 hours of sightseeing all together. We are going to drive to Absheron peninsula to visit the holy Ateshgah, which is a temple that has been burning for many decades in the village of Surakhany. The second part of the day is dedicated to visiting the Heydar Aliev Arts centre masterpiece, by the famous Iraqi-British architect, Zaha Hadid.
After breakfast, we are departing towards Sheki, a small medieval town set in luscious mountains. We can stop at Diri Baba Mausoleum in the village of Maraza. Continue to Shamakhi and visit the historical Juma Mosque.
If weather permits, we shall enjoy a scenic drive through Girdimanchay River Canyon. You can visit Lahich village with its cobbled sidewalks, its famous medieval water supply and sewage system and the traditional jewellery, carpets, pottery and iron tools workshops.
Overnight stay at the designated hotel in Sheki.
Starting at 8:30 am, you can find local delicacies, sweet home-baked baklava, fresh bread, fruits and berries at the colourful Sheki Bazaar. Continuing on to visit the Palace of Sheki Khans surrounded by medieval fortress walls and checking out the handicrafts workshops and caravanserai.
Then, we shall hit the road for a 2hr drive towards the borders of Georgia. Enjoy the scenic landscape of vineyards and wine-producing villages along the path. Driving past the Eastern part of Georgia, we will stop by the Khareba Winery. Khareba’s wine cellar is located in a tunnel, carved out of rocks. Originally built for military purposes, the tunnel is used to store a selection of fine wines. Enjoy the wine tasting and tour. By 17:30 – 18:30 pm, we shall arrive at our magnificent overnight point, Akhasheni Wine Resort. Surrounded by luscious vineyards, offering stunning views of the Caucasus mountain, feel free to enjoy two nights here.
Today we are visiting Tsinandali, residence of Dukes of Georgia. The breathtaking English garden, the museum and the wine cellar which all belonged to prince Chavchavadze, the poet of the 19th century. We shall be back at Akhasheni Wine Resort by noon to enjoy the rest of the day as you wish. From immersing in nature, checking out some vineyards for wine tasting, outdoor swimming or on-site Traditional Georgian culinary master classes, the choices are countless. Be prepared for a traditional feast at a local Georgian family home.
Today, we are exploring Kakheti by visiting Sighnaghi Royal Town, an important trading centre on the Silk Road. It is surrounded by defensive walls with 23 towers. Then continuing on to visit the burial place of St. Nina, Bodbe Convent, who converted Georgia to Christianity in the 4th century.
We will arrive in Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia by 17:00 pm for an overnight stay.
Tbilisi sightseeing tour of 4-5 hours is on the itinerary. Visiting the Metekhi Church and the monument of Vakhtang Gorgasali, the legendary founder of Tbilisi. Enjoy the panoramic views of the city from above the Narikala Fortress. Check out the Sulphur bath houses, Sioni Cathedral, Anchiskhati Basilica and the famous Rezo Gabriadze Theatre’s clock tower. Stroll through the Sharden area, which is a street full of quirky cafes and wine tasting bars, as well as souvenir stores. Lastly, we are crossing the Bridge of Peace to Rice Park before our welcome dinner around 19:00 pm.
Join us to explore the North of Georgia. First stop is Jvari Monastery, an architectural masterpiece of the early Middle ages. Continue to the country’s cultural and religion centre, Mtskheta. Mtskheta is one of the oldest towns in Georgia and used to be the capital of the Eastern Georgian kingdom of Iberia from the 3rd century BC. We get to visit the sacred Svetitskhoveli, the main cathedral of Mtskheta where the robe of Christ is kept. Next, we drive over the Cross Pass and make a short stop at the soviet-era ‘’People’s Friendship’’ mountain view point, overlooking the Caucasus Mountains. Once in Kazbegi, we move into a 4WD to drive to Gerheti Holy Trinity Church. Enjoy the breathtaking view of Mount Kazbegi at an altitude of 2,170 m ). Overnight stay at our hotel in Gudauri.
Driving to the Ananuri Complex, the former residence of Argveti Dukes. It features churches and towers dating back to the 16th and 17th centuries, overlooking Jinvali Reservoir. Explore the cave town of Uplistsikhe, dating back to the Hellenistic Period. The unique architecture of this town with its various styles of rock-cut architecture from both pagan and Christian eras. Continue to Stalin’s hometown of Gori. Make sure not to miss the Stalin Museum, which includes more than 60,000 artefacts, including the bulletproof train that Stalin used to travel to Yalta and Potsdam. Reaching Tbilisi in the evening for an overnight stay at the hotel.
You have a day to yourself in Tbilisi. Please note that guide and transportation are NOT provided.
NZ Travel and Tour offers a culinary masterclass on traditional Georgian food in Tbilisi. The masterclass includes 3-4 dishes and snacks. The masterclass takes around 4-5 hours. It should be booked in advance. The price is $60 USD per person.
Furthermore, we suggest the following activities and places to visit in Tbilisi:
In the evening, you can visit the famous Tbilisi sulphur bath houses to relax in the hot, naturally sulphur-enriched water, after a long day of exploring. (both public and private rooms are available, but private ones should be booked in advance). For those who are interested in culture, we suggest visiting the State Opera House of Georgia to enjoy a ballet or opera performance (opera.ge). You can find out what other cultural events are on in Tbilisi, and book tickets at tkt.ge.
After breakfast, meet your driver at the hotel to transfer to the Georgian-Armenian border point, Sadakhlo-Bagratashen. Cross the border and meet your Armenian guide and driver to start the journey to the land of ancient traditions and the ancient churches. Drive to the Lori region and visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Haghpat Monastery. This stunning example of traditional Armenian architecture was erected between the 10th and 13th centuries. Standing on a hillside, Haghpat beautifully overlooks the Debed River Canyon. The monastery’s location was chosen to protect the peace and seclusion of the monks. Drive to Lake Sevan, one of the largest high-mountain freshwater lakes in the world. The lake’s coastline is rich with dense woods, white cliff faces, mountain steppes and Alpine meadows. Visit Sevanavank Monastery, which is situated at the lake and is surrounded by mountains. Reach Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, in the evening. Overnight at DoubleTree by Hilton hotel.
This morning, we drive out of the city to Etchmiadzin, the Holy See of Armenia and the residence of the head of the Armenian Apostolic Church – the Catholicos of All Armenians. We will visit the museum of Christian relics. Then we return to explore Yerevan, the oldest capital city in the South Caucasus.
Yerevan is known as the Pink City. It attracts visitors with its humble yet splendid landscapes. Our first stop in Yerevan is the Armenian Genocide Memorial Complex on Tsitsernakaberd Hill. Next, visit the Cascade Monument, one of the main symbols of the city. The mega scale staircase is 118 meters high and has 572 steps. From the top of the monument, enjoy a breathtaking city view that includes the Opera House, Mount Ararat, Swan Lake, Republic Square, and Abovyan Avenue, all of which we’ll see as we walk the streets of Yerevan (~2 km walking). Bus drop off at the hotel. Free evening. Overnight at the hotel.
At 08:00 am, we head to Khor Virap Monastery. According to the legend, St. Gregory the Illuminator, the Baptist of Armenia, had been kept in the basement here for 13 years for disseminating of Christianity until King Tradt decided to adopt the new religion. The monastery’s location allows you to enjoy the best views of Mount Ararat. Drive to Noravank Complex situated on a ledge of a deep winding gorge. Noravank stands amidst the bizarrely shaped, precipitous red cliffs. Continue to Areni Cave complex, where in 2010, an ancient wine storage and the earliest shoe in the world were discovered. On the way back to Yerevan, we will stop at Hin Areni winery to taste wines from local grape varieties. Arrive in Yerevan at around 18:00. Overnight at the hotel.
Today, we depart Yerevan and drive towards Garni. Garni is the only pagan temple in Armenia that survived the introduction of Christianity in the 4th century. Next stop is the monastery complex called Geghard (“spear”). The beautiful landscape of Geghard is framed by towering cliffs. Decorative art cut into the rocks reflect and explain Medieval development in this part of the world. The complex appeared in the 4th century, around the sacred spring inside of the cave.
You will have a free afternoon to explore more of Yerevan. Here are our suggestions:
Ararat Brandy Factory
Matenadaran Manuscripts Museum
Souvenirs market “Vernisage”
We meet in the evening for a farewell dinner at one of local traditional restaurants.
Check-out. Free time till transfer to Yerevan Zvartnots International Airport. End of the tour.