The Caucasus region is the gateway between Southwest Asia, Europe and Central Asia. It is a mountain range stretching from the Black Sea to the Caspian Sea. The highest peaks, Mount Elbrus and Mount Kazbek are covered with snow almost all year-round. Explore the architectural diverse city of Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia. The ancient wine growing region of Kakheti in the east of the country, is believed to be the birthplace of wine. Relax and enjoy the beauty of one of the largest high-mountain freshwater lakes in the world, Lake Sevan. Explore the oldest capital city in the South Caucasus, Yerevan and its rich history and architecture. This vibrant Caucasus tour of 12 days is designed to show you the best of what Georgia and Armenia have to offer to keen global travellers in small intimate groups.
|Finish||Yerevan – Departure (ARM)|
|Group size||Min 4, Max 12|
Arrival in Tbilisi
Transfer to the hotel for check in and overnight at hotel
After breakfast, meet your guide and depart towards the Kakheti, the Eastern part of Georgia. Kakheti wine region is famous for its viticulture and winemaking traditions. Beautiful road to Kakheti lies through Gombori pass. Our first stop is Telavi, the administrative and historic centre of the region. Have a short walk in the old Telavi and have a photo stop at the monument to King Erekli II. Visit the local bazaar selling fresh fruits and vegetables, cheeses and dried fruits. Drive to Tsinandali, residence of dukes of Georgia, with beautiful English garden, museum, and prince Chavchavadze wine cellar. Our next stop is ‘Khareba’ winery. Enjoy the picturesque landscape of vineyards and wine-producing villages. This unique wine cellar is located in the tunnel carved out of the rock. Originally built for military purposes, today the tunnel is used to store Kakheti’s finest wines. At 18:00, we will visit a local family to enjoy a traditional feast over Georgian toasts.
At 10:00, we continue exploring Kakheti by visiting Sighnaghi Royal Town, which is surrounded by defensive walls with 23 towers and was an important trading centre on the Great Silk Road. Continue to Bodbe Convent, the burial place of St. Nino, who converted Georgia to Christianity in the 4th century. Arrive in Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia at about 16:00–17:00. Overnight at the hotel.
After breakfast, we are embarking on 4-5 hours of Tbilisi sightseeing tour.
Starting at Metekhi Сhurch and the monument to Vakhtang Gorgasali, the legendary founder of Tbilisi. We are then visiting Narikala Fortress to enjoy a breathtaking panoramic view of the city. Walk down to the district of sulphur bath houses and pass by the only mosque in Tbilisi. Stroll through the Sharden area, full of narrow streets with cozy cafés, wine tasting bars, and souvenir shops. Additionally, visiting Sioni Cathedral, Anchiskhati Basilica, and the famous Rezo Gabriadze Theatre’s clock tower, before crossing the Bridge of Peace to Rike Park. Enjoy a welcome dinner with the group tonight.
Today we will explore the North of Georgia. The first stop is a visit to an architectural masterpiece of the Early Middle ages, Jvari Monastery. The Monastery is perched above the confluence of the Aragvi and Mtkvari Rivers.
We then head to Mtskheta, one of the oldest towns in Georgia and the country’s cultural and religious centre. Mtskheta was the capital of the Eastern Georgian Kingdom of Iberia from the 3rd century BC. Visit Svetitskhoveli, the main cathedral of Mtskheta and a sacred place where the robe of Christ is kept. Next, drive over the Cross Pass and make a short stop at the Soviet-era “People’s Friendship” mountain view point, which overlooks a deep gorge of the Caucasus Mountains. In Kazbegi, switch to a four-wheel drive vehicle to reach Gergeti Holy Trinity Church (located at an altitude of 2,170 m) and enjoy breathtaking views of Mount Kazbegi. Reach Gudauri at about 19:00 for overnight at the hotel.
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. Arriving in 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:
Georgian National Museum on Rustaveli Avenue – to visit the “Archaeological Treasury” exhibition;
National Gallery on Rustaveli Avenue – to see the works of the famous Georgian artists Niko Pirosmani, David Kakabadze and Lado Gudiashvili;
Tbilisi flea market at Dry Bridge – where you can find antiquities (many of which are from the Soviet era), paintings by local artists, and handmade Georgian souvenirs;
David Agmashenebeli Avenue – a recently renovated pedestrian street full of historical buildings that have beautiful facades in the art nouveau, pseudo gothic, and classicist styles with a mix of typical Georgian ornamentation and balconies. All along the street there are plenty of cozy art cafés, galleries, shops, and wine bars;
Dezertirebi Bazaar – which sells local, natural products including Georgian sweets (such as churchkhela); various types of dried fruits, nuts, and spices; and Georgian cheeses;
Funicular railway to Mtatsminda Mountain – which offers a beautiful view of Tbilisi
Wander in Sololaki – a neighborhood full of art nouveau houses.
For nature lovers, we offer a day hike to Birtvisi Canyon and Fortress. Contact us to find out more.
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:
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.