Scheduled Caucasus Tour 2020-2021

18-day Caucasus Tour: Best of Azerbaijan, Georgia & Armenia18 Days | Azerbaijan, Georgia, Armenia

Discover even more of the fascinating history, culture, and hospitality of the South Caucasus on this 18-day Best of Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Armenia Tour. In addition to visiting the most famous historical and cultural attractions, including three national capitals and six UNESCO World Heritage Sites, explore some of the region’s more unusual destinations. Getting ‘off-the-beaten-track’, you’ll visit ancient fortresses, an old German settlement, the stunning Lake Goygol, the first church in the Caucasus, and the Soviet architecture of Armenia’s second largest city, along with many other unique sights.

Tour map

Tour itinerary:

Day 1: Baku – Arrival – City Tour
 
Arrive in Baku and transfer to the hotel (check in is possible from 12:00). After a short break, start a guided sightseeing tour of Baku. Walk along Martyrs’ Lane, known as ‘Shehidler Khiyabany’ among locals, and find a beautiful view overlooking Baku’s coastline. Move to Icheri Sheher, the old part of the city. Visit the Shirvanshah's Palace, Caravanserai, Maiden Tower, and main market square, which has numerous art studios and souvenir stalls. Finish the sightseeing tour by exploring Nizami Street and Fountain Square. In the evening visit a traditional local restaurant for a welcome dinner. Overnight at the hotel.
Duration of sightseeing tour: 4-5 hours
Day 2: Baku – Ateshgah – Heydar Aliyev Centre – Gobustan – Baku
 
After breakfast, drive to Ateshgah, located in the village of Surakhany. Zoroastrians from India used to travel thousands of kilometres to Ateshgah to worship the fire coming out of the earth. Return to Baku to visit the iconic Heydar Aliyev Cultural Centre, which is in a quirky building designed by Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid. The Centre showcases examples of a wide spectrum of Azerbaijani culture, with national costumes, musical instruments, and carpets providing a good insight into local craftsmanship. In the afternoon, drive to Gobustan to visit the Petroglyphs Museum and explore petroglyphs dating back to 10,000 BC. The Gobustan Rock Art Cultural Landscape is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Weather permitting, switch to a 4x4 vehicle and continue to the mud volcanoes (Gobustan is home to almost half of the world’s mud volcanoes). Return to Baku for overnight at the hotel.
Duration of sightseeing tour: 8-9 hours
Day 3: Baku – Shamakhi – Lahich – Sheki
 
Breakfast. Depart Baku and drive towards Sheki. On the way, stop at the Diri Baba Mausoleum in Maraza village. Continue to Shamakhi to visit the historical Juma Mosque, which was restored in 2013. Weather permitting, this will be followed by a scenic drive through the Girdimanchay River Canyon to the 5th century village of Lahich. Lahich is rich in historic and cultural value, with charming cobbled streets. It is famous for its medieval water supply and sewage systems and its many traditional workshops where jewellery, copperware, carpets, pottery, daggers, and iron tools are made. Continue driving to Sheki, a pleasant and easily walkable medieval town set in a lush mountainous area, which is particularly famous for its sweet baklava. Arrive in Sheki at about 19:00 and spend the night at a hotel.
Duration of sightseeing tour: 10-11 hours
Day 4: Sheki – Kish – Mingechavr – Ganja
 
At 08:30, after breakfast and hotel check-out, visit the colourful Sheki Bazaar. Here, you can find virtually everything you may want to eat, including local fruits and berries, spices, freshly-baked bread, honey, cheeses, and Sheki sweets. Continue to the Sheki Khans Palace, which is surrounded by medieval fortress walls, and then explore the handicrafts workshops and the famous caravanserai. In nearby Kish village, see the first church in the Caucasus (1st century). Then drive to Ganja town (160 km, 2-3 h). On the way, take a short drive around Mingachevir, passing by the riverside, city centre, and beautiful reservoir. Overnight at a hotel in Ganja.
Duration of sightseeing tour: 6-7 hours
Day 5: Ganja – Helenendorf – Lake Goygol – Ganja
 
Breakfast, followed by a tour of Ganja. Start by visiting the Shah Abbas Mosque; the mausoleum of the last khan of Ganja, Javad Khan; and Chokek Hamam (a medieval bath house). Then walk by the Central Square, Khan’s Garden, Alexander Nevsky Russian Orthodox Church, and Agvan Kilsasi Christian church.
Drive out of the city to the small town of Goygol to visit the settlement of Helenendorf. In the winter of 1818-19, 194 German families moved here from Swabia, and the German-style houses they built (which now have wineries inside) are still there to be explored. Switch to a 4x4 vehicle and drive to Goygol National Park. Admire the scenery, including Lake Goygol, a picturesque lake surrounded by dense forests, with several stops for photos. Return to Ganja. Overnight at the hotel.
Duration of sightseeing tour: 6-7 hours
Day 6: Ganja – Shamkir – Azerbaijan border – Tbilisi
 
After breakfast, drive to the border with Georgia (150 km, ~2.5 h). On the way, visit the historic city of Shamkir in western Azerbaijan. Since its foundation in the 5th century, this town has been involved in many battles and has withstood many enemy attacks. Drive along the streets of Shamkir and see the ruins of the medieval fortress. Visit the 19th century breweries and wineries founded by the Germans who came from Swabia. Continue driving to “Red Bridge” on the Azerbaijan-Georgia border. Cross the border, meet your Georgian driver, and transfer to Tbilisi (1 h). Free evening in the city and overnight at a hotel.
Duration of sightseeing tour: 6-7 hours
Day 7: Tbilisi – City Tour
 
Breakfast, followed by a sightseeing tour of Tbilisi. Start at Metekhi Church and the monument to Vakhtang Gorgasali, the legendary founder of Tbilisi. Visit Narikala Fortress to enjoy a breathtaking panoramic view of the city. Walk past Tbilisi’s only mosque, down to the sulphur bath house district. Enjoy a stroll through the Sharden area, which is full of narrow streets with cozy cafés, wine bars, and souvenir shops, and breathe in the history of Old Tbilisi. Also visit Sioni Cathedral, Anchiskhati Basilica, and the famous Rezo Gabriadze Theatre’s clock tower, before crossing the Bridge of Peace to Rike Park.
In the evening, visit a local restaurant for a traditional dinner with a folklore show. Overnight at the hotel.
Duration of sightseeing tour: 4-5 hours
Day 8: Tbilisi – Free Day
 
Breakfast. Free day in Tbilisi (guide and transportation are not provided). Overnight at the hotel.
Advantour offers an optional culinary masterclass on traditional Georgian food. The masterclass includes 3-4 dishes and snacks and takes 4-5 hours. It should be booked in advance and the price is US$60 per person.
Otherwise, we suggest the following activities and places to visit in the city:
  • 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.
Day 9: Tbilisi – Telavi – Tsinandali – Sighnaghi – Bodbe – Tbilisi
 
After breakfast drive to eastern Georgia, which is famous for its viticulture and winemaking traditions. Drive to Telavi on a beautiful road that crosses Gombori Pass. Take a short walk through the charming streets of Old Telavi, stopping for photos at the monument to Erekle II and the giant plane tree that is more than 900 years old. Continue to Tsinandali Palace, the former residence of Georgian dukes. Prince Chavchavadze, a 19th century public figure and poet, turned the Estate into what it is today, with a beautiful English-style garden, a museum, and a wine cellar. Continue exploring Kakheti by visiting Sighnaghi, the Royal Town and “City of Love”. This city, surrounded by defensive walls with 23 towers, was an important trading centre on the Great Silk Road. Continue to Bodbe Convent – according to legend, this is the burial place of St. Nino, who converted Georgia to Christianity in the 4th century. Since 1889, following a decree by Tsar Alexander III of Russia, Bodbe Convent functions as a nunnery. Return to Tbilisi. Overnight at the hotel.
Duration of sightseeing tour: 10-11 hours
Day 10: Tbilisi – Jvari – Mtskheta – Ananuri – Kazbegi – Gudauri
 
After breakfast, start exploring the north of Georgia. The first stop will be at Jvari Monastery, which is built on a hilltop and is a true architectural masterpiece of the early Medieval Period. From here you can enjoy the views of the confluence of the Aragvi and Mtkvari rivers. After Jvari, visit 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 Kartli from the 3rd century BC. Visit Svetitskhoveli, which is the main cathedral of Mtskheta and a sacred place where the robe of Christ is kept. Continue to Ananuri architectural complex, a former residence of Argveti dukes, which features churches and towers dating back to the 16th and 17th centuries and beautifully overlooks the Jinvali Reservoir. Next, drive over the Cross Pass and make a short stop at the Soviet-era “People’s Friendship” viewpoint, which overlooks a deep gorge of the Caucasus mountain range. In Kazbegi, switch to a 4x4 vehicle to reach Gergeti Holy Trinity Church (located at an altitude of 2,170m) and enjoy breathtaking views of Mount Kazbegi. Continue to Gudauri. Overnight at a hotel.
Duration of sightseeing tour: 9-10 hours
Day 11: Gudauri – Uplistsikhe – Gori – Borjomi
 
After breakfast, explore the cave town of Uplistsikhe, which dates to the Hellenistic Period and is notable for its unique combination of various styles of rock-cut architecture, including both pagan and Christian. Continue to Stalin’s hometown of Gori. Visit the Stalin Museum, which includes more than 60,000 artifacts, the tiny house where Stalin was born, and the impressive bulletproof train that Stalin used to travel to Yalta and Potsdam. Continue to Borjomi and take a walk in Central Park, which is famous worldwide for its mineral water springs. Overnight at a hotel.
Duration of sightseeing tour: 9-10 hours
Day 12: Borjomi – Akhaltsikhe – Khertvisi – Vardzia
 
Breakfast. Drive to Akhaltsikhe and explore the ancient Rabati fortress, which is made of stone and stands on a small hill right on the bank of the Potskhovi River. The name “Rabati” comes from the Arabic for “fortified place”. Continue to Vardzia, making a short stop at Khertvisi Fortress (10th-11th centuries). Explore the Vardzia Cave Complex. This was erected between the 12th and 13th centuries, during the rule of George III and his daughter, Queen Tamara, to protect Georgia’s southern boundary. It is a multi-storey complex with streets, tunnels, and stairs leading to monasteries, temples, fortresses, baths, libraries, houses, and more. Overnight at a hotel in Vardzia.
Duration of sightseeing tour: 7-8 hours
Day 13: Vardzia – Gyumri
 
After breakfast, transfer to the Georgia-Armenia border point at Bavra (85 km). Cross the border and meet your Armenian guide and driver to start your journey in this land of ancient churches and traditions. Drive to Gyumri, Armenia’s second largest city, which is situated in the middle of the Shirak Plain. Take a tour of the city – including Gorky Street, with its authentic Soviet architecture; Vartanants Square, with its numerous monuments and memorials; and the Holy Saviour’s Church, Alley of Khachkars (carved cross-stones from medieval times), Victory Park, and Catholic Cathedral of the Holy Martyrs. Overnight at a hotel in Gyumri.
Duration of sightseeing tour: 7-8 hours
Day 14: Gyumri – Amberd Fortress – Oshakan – Yerevan
 
Breakfast. Then drive towards Amberd, a 7th century fortress on the southern slopes of Mount Aragats. The name “Amberd” means “fortress in the clouds”. The fortress was partly ruined during the invasions of the Seljuks and Mongols in the 11th and 13th centuries, but later restored. Continue to the village of Oshakan, which is famous as the burial place of Mesrop Mashtots, who invented the Armenian alphabet. Return to Yerevan. Overnight at the hotel.
Duration of sightseeing tour: 7-8 hours
Day 15: Yerevan – Echmiatsin – Yerevan City Tour
 
After breakfast, drive out of the city to the Holy See of Armenia, Echmiatsin, to visit Echmiatsin Cathedral (the residence of the Catholicos, the supreme head of the Armenian Apostolic Church) and the museum of Christian relics. Return to explore Yerevan, one of the world’s oldest cities. Yerevan is also nicknamed the “Pink City” and impresses visitors with its grand Soviet architecture. The first stop in Yerevan will be at the Armenian Genocide Memorial Complex on Tsitsernakaberd Hill. Next, visit the Cascade Monument, a 500-metre high, 50-metre wide limestone staircase with over 570 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 you’ll see as you walk the streets of Yerevan with your guide (~2 km walking). Transfer to the hotel. Overnight at the hotel.
Duration of sightseeing tour: 6-7 hours
Day 16: Yerevan – Khor Virap – Noravank – Areni – Yerevan
 
Breakfast. At 08:00, drive to Khor Virap Monastery. According to legend, St. Gregory the Illuminator (who is credited with converting Armenia to Christianity) had been kept in the basement here for 13 years for spreading Christianity, until King Tradt decided to adopt the new religion. The monastery’s location allows you to enjoy superb views of Mount Ararat. Then drive to the Noravank complex, which is situated on a ledge of a deep, winding gorge and stands among bizarrely shaped, precipitous red cliffs. Continue to the Areni Cave complex where, in 2008, the world’s oldest leather shoe was found. This place was also used as a winery about 6,000 years ago and is now recognised as the oldest winery in the world. On the way back to Yerevan, stop at Hin Areni winery to taste wines made from local grape varieties. Arrive back in Yerevan at around 18:00. Overnight at the hotel.
Duration of sightseeing tour: 9-10 hours
Day 17: Yerevan – Garni – Geghard – Yerevan
 
Breakfast. Drive to Garni, the only pagan temple in Armenia that survived the introduction of Christianity in the 4th century. Then visit the Geghard (“spear”) monastery complex, which was established in the 4th century around the sacred spring inside a cave. The beautiful landscape surrounding Geghard is framed by towering cliffs, and decorative art cut into the rocks reflects and explains medieval development in the region.
Return to Yerevan, which you’ll have a free afternoon to explore. Here are some possible places to visit:
In the evening, visit a traditional local restaurant for a farewell dinner. Overnight at the hotel.
Duration of sightseeing tour: 4-5 hours
Day 18: Yerevan – Departure
 
Breakfast, followed by hotel check-out (by 12:00). Free time until your transfer to Yerevan International Airport. Departure. End of the tour.
  • All transfers (1-2 pax by sedan, 3-4 pax by Mercedes Vito or similar, 5-9 pax by Mercedes Sprinter passenger van, 10-15 pax by 30-seat bus);
  • Accommodation based on double/twin room sharing, breakfasts included;
  • Sightseeing tour programme in each country with local, English-speaking guides;
  • Entrance tickets to sights as per itinerary;
  • Dinners in Baku (Day 1), Tbilisi (Day 7) and Yerevan (Day 17);
  • Azerbaijan E-visa;
  • Bottled mineral water (500ml per person per day).
  • Full board (lunches and dinners not specified above);
  • Hotel charges for additional services;
  • Personal travel insurance;
  • Tips/gratuities for drivers and guides (although these would be appreciated);
  • Visa support letter and consular fees for Georgia and Armenia (if required);
  • International flight tickets before and after the tour.

Accommodation:

Economy Option
Comfort Option
Baku - 2 nights
Azcot, Amber, Central Park or similarHoliday Inn, Intourist, Park Inn or similar
Sheki - 1 night
Ruma Qala Hotel, IssamSheki Saray, Sheki Palace, Marxal or similar
Ganja - 2 nights
Vego Hotel or similarRamada Plaza
Tbilisi - 4 nights
Kopala, Tiflis, Brigitte or similarTiflis Palace, Rooms, Ambassadori, Mercure, Shota Rustaveli Boutique Hotel or similar
Gudauri - 1 night
Quadrum Hotel, Club 2100 or similarMarco Polo or similar
Borjomi - 1 night
Golden Tulip, Borjomi PalaceBorjomi Likani Health & Spa Centre
Vardzia - 1 night
Valodia’s Cottages or similar guesthouseHotel Vardzia Resort
Gyumri - 1 night
Hotel Villa Kars, Berlin Hotel or similarHotel Nane or similar
Yerevan - 4 nights
Cascade, Silachi, Hrazdan or similarDoubleTree by Hilton, Opera Suite, Grand Hotel Yerevan, Tufenkian Hotel or similar

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