Scheduled Caucasus Tour 2020-2021

Caucasus Food & Wine Tour14 Days | Azerbaijan, Georgia, Armenia

Caucasus Food & Wine Tour

Join us for a full gastronomic experience “from farm to table” on this food and wine tour of Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Armenia. Enjoy the region’s legendary hospitality as you visit farms, local markets, family homes, restaurants, and wineries. Taste a vast range of traditional dishes – such as khachapuri (“Georgian pizza”), pilaf, piti, and sweet baklava – while discovering the rich traditions surrounding the preparation and consumption of the food. Explore the culture around Azerbajiani dolma and Armenian lavash, both of which are on UNESCO’s lists of intangible cultural heritage, and share home-cooked, home-grown foods at the tables of local families. Participate in masterclasses to learn about each country’s culinary traditions, including recipes passed down through the generations and the secrets held by local cooks, and try making local specialities like khinkali, dolma, churchkhela, and different types of bread. Visit wineries in all three countries, immersing yourself in winemaking traditions that are thousands of years old while sampling the local wines and enjoying the views of beautiful vineyards surrounded by the Caucasus Mountains. Setting the food and wine in their broader context, this Caucasus food and wine tour also showcases the history and geography that have influenced the cuisine – and still do today – with visits to ancient churches and monasteries, beautiful waterfalls and canyons, and many other historical and scenic attractions, as well as three vibrant capital cities.

If you happen to be in eastern Georgia in late-September, a highlight of your trip will be joining the locals in celebrating Rtveli. One of the country’s most important traditional rural harvest holidays, Rtveli gathers the whole family together to harvest the grapes, feast on traditional foods, drink wine, and share songs, dances, and jokes.
If your tour dates coincide with the Rtveli period, we can arrange for you to participate in the celebrations, including helping pick the grapes and pressing them in a winepress, as well as tasting the newly made grape juice.

Caucasus Food & Wine Tour

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 the city. Walk along Martyrs’ Lane, known by the locals as ‘Shehidler Khiyabany’, and find a beautiful view overlooking Baku’s coastline. Move to Icheri Sheher, the old part of the city. Enjoy a tea break at a local café, where you’ll get to taste baklava (a sweet pastry filled with chopped nuts and honey). Then visit the Shirvanshah's Palace, Caravanserai, Maiden Tower, and main market square, which has numerous art studios and souvenir stalls. Have lunch at a traditional restaurant, where your main dish will be Azerbaijani dolma (grape leaves filled with lamb, rice, onion, mint, and coriander). Dolma making in Azerbaijan was added to UNESCO’s lists of Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2017. After lunch, explore Nizami Street and Fountain Square, before visiting 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. After the sightseeing tour, participate in a masterclass on Azerbaijani cuisine at Shah Restaurant, learning how to make – and then tasting – qutab (flatbread stuffed with lamb, onion, and pomegranate syrup). Finally, the restaurant will serve you a special welcome dinner. This is a great place to try national dishes like lyulya kebab and Shah pilaf – a signature dish of Azerbaijani cuisine that is served at wedding ceremonies and consists of rice cooked with aromatic herbs, fried meat, and vegetables placed inside a bowl lined with lavash (a soft, thin flatbread). Overnight at the hotel.
Duration: 6-7 hours
Driving distance: 10 km
Meals: lunch, dinner
Day 2: Baku – Gabala
 
Check out of the hotel and drive to the ancient city of Gabala (Qabala). Upon arrival, have lunch with a local family, sharing their culture and home-cooked food. Then head to the Savalan Aspi Winery, which produces Azerbaijan’s best-known wines. The “Savalan” wines are named after the Savalan Plain, where the grapes are harvested and the wine is produced. At the winery, learn about traditional Azerbaijani wine-making techniques, walk around the vineyards, and enjoy a wine tasting session. Continue touring the Gabala region, visiting the ruins of an ancient town, Kabalaka, and the stunning Nohur Lake. Qebele-Xanlar Istirahet Merkezi, a restaurant in a scenic location on the slope of the Greater Caucasus Mountains, is an ideal choice for dinner (not included). It offers many dishes from the Gabala region and wider Azerbaijan, such as Gabala pilaf, Gabala dolma with nuts, and dovga (a soup made from yoghurt and various herbs). For dessert, you may want to try uchgulag (cookies made with wheat flour, vanilla, sugar, sour cream, salt, cottage cheese, and raisins). Overnight at a hotel in Gabala.
Duration: 10-12 hours
Driving distance: 230 km
Meals: breakfast, lunch
Day 3: Gabala – Sheki
 
Check-out of the hotel and drive to Sheki, which some travellers consider the “gastronomic capital” of Azerbaijan. Sheki, a pleasant and easily walkable medieval town set in a lush mountainous area, is particularly famous for its sweet baklava and Sheki piti (lamb and vegetable soup cooked in a clay pot). Visit the Sheki Khans Palace, which is surrounded by medieval fortress walls, and then explore the handicrafts workshops and the famous caravanserai. Have dinner at a local restaurant and try Sheki piti. Overnight at a hotel in Sheki.
Optional activity: Wine tasting at Sheki Palace Wine House
Duration: 6-7 hours (not including the optional wine tasting)
Driving distance: 90 km
Meals: breakfast, dinner
Day 4: Sheki – Georgian border – Kvareli – Akhasheni
 
After checking out of the hotel, 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. After exploring the bazaar, drive to the border with Georgia (115 km, ~2 hours). Say goodbye to your Azerbaijani guide, complete the border formalities, and cross the neutral territory on foot (0.5 km). Upon entering Georgia, meet your local guide to start exploring the eastern part of the country, which is famous for its viticulture and winemaking traditions. You’ll receive a warm welcome to Georgia with a traditional lunch in a local family-run guesthouse in the town of Lagodekhi. In this cozy environment, you’ll experience genuine Georgian hospitality and a home-cooked meal. The next stop will be the Khareba Winery, near the town of Kvareli. On the way there, enjoy the picturesque landscapes with vineyards and wine-producing villages. Khareba’s unique wine cellar is in a tunnel carved out of the rock. Originally built for military purposes, today the tunnel is used to store Kakheti’s finest wines. Enjoy a winery tour and a tasting session. Then transfer to Akhasheni Wine Resort, which is surrounded by beautiful vineyards and offers stunning views of the Caucasus Mountains. At the Kakhetian Corner restaurant, learn how to make khinkali (Georgian dumplings), churchkhela (Georgian candy made from natural grape juice and different kinds of nuts), and shoti (a type of Georgian bread) in a masterclass with an expert chef. End the day with dinner at the restaurant, where you can enjoy dishes made from locally produced bioproducts, along with traditional Georgian wines. Overnight at the resort.
Duration: 9-10 hours
Driving distance: 180 km
Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner
Day 5: Akhasheni – Sighnaghi – Bodbe – Tbilisi
 
Check out of the hotel. Then 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. Have lunch at the family-owned Kakhetian House Vakirelebi, where you’ll experience the famous Georgian hospitality with organic food grown on the family farm, accompanied by home-made wine. The aubergine (eggplant), spinach, and cabbage rolls with walnuts will surely be a highlight of your meal. This is a beautiful area for photography, and an ideal location to enjoy the company of kind-hearted local people. The hosts will be pleased to show you around their farm so you can see the vegetables growing and various fruit trees (depending on the season). Continue to Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia. Overnight at a hotel.
Duration: 8-9 hours
Driving distance: 160 km
Meals: breakfast, lunch
Day 6: Tbilisi – City Tour
 
Take a sightseeing tour of Tbilisi, starting with Metekhi Church and the monument to Vakhtang Gorgasali, the legendary founder of Tbilisi. Then visit Narikala Fortress to enjoy a breathtaking panoramic view of the city. Walk past Tbilisi’s only mosque, down to the district of sulphur bath house. 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. Next, explore Dezertirebi Bazaar, a market brimming with natural, local products such as churchkhela and other Georgian sweets, dried fruits, and various kinds of nuts, spices, and Georgian cheeses. After some free time, go for dinner, where you’ll have the opportunity to taste a myriad of Georgian dishes: mushrooms cooked on a hot clay pan (ketsi), lamb chakapuli (stew made with lamb or beef and many green vegetables), traditional bread, and pkhali (chopped and minced cabbage, aubergine, spinach, beans, and beets combined with ground walnuts, vinegar, onions, garlic, and herbs). Dinner will be accompanied by a traditional folklore show. Overnight at the hotel.
Duration: 4-5 hours
Driving distance: 20 km
Meals: breakfast, dinner
Day 7: Tbilisi – Mtskheta – Uplistsikhe – Kutaisi
 
Check out of the hotel and 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 Kartli from the 3rd century BC. Visit Svetitskhoveli, which is Mtskheta’s main cathedral and a sacred place where the robe of Christ is kept. Continue to Merebashvili’s Marani, to discover a family’s century-old winemaking traditions. These include the use of qvevri, amphora shaped clay vessels that are buried in earth to ferment, store, and age wine – a method recognised by UNESCO. As well as the most famous wines of the Shida Kartli region – Chinuri and Tavkveri – Merebashvili`s Marani produces wines from rare endemic grape varieties such as Goruli Mtsvane and Shavkapito. After lunch and a wine tasting session, continue to the cave town of Uplistsikhe. This dates to the Hellenistic period and is notable for its unique combination of various styles of rock-cut architecture, including both pagan and Christian. Then drive to Kutaisi, the central city of Western Georgia. The road goes over the Rikoti Pass and through Georgia’s longest tunnel (1,722 m). A good option for dinner in Kutaisi (not included) is the cozy Palaty bar-restaurant, which offers a wide variety of dishes and wines in a friendly atmosphere with live music in the evening. You may like to try the beef steak with red wine, as well as the restaurant’s speciality – khachapuri (cheese-stuffed flatbread, also known as “Georgian pizza”). Here, the khachapuri is made with ham and Imeretian cheese (a curd cheese made from cow’s milk, with a soft texture and a salty taste). To finish, try the excellent curd and sour cream dessert. If you wish, pair your dinner with Imeretian wines such as Tsitska and Tsolikouri, which are lighter than other Georgian wines. Overnight at a hotel in Kutaisi.
Duration: 10-12 hours
Driving distance: 255 km
Meals: breakfast, lunch
Day 8: Kutaisi – Prometheus Cave – Martvili Canyon – Salkhino
 
After checking out of the hotel, drive to the famous Prometheus Cave to see its numerous stalactites and stalagmites. Afterwards, head to Samegrelo, a region well known not only for its beauty, but also for its tasty and distinctive cuisine, which includes hot and spicy dishes that usually incorporate delicious cheese. There are several good local restaurants where you can try this food for lunch (not included). At Martvili Canyon, take a short trip on a small boat to experience the contrast between the tranquil river and the dynamic waterfalls. Afterwards, enter the canyon from the other side and explore the walkways, bridges, and observation platforms that allow you to take excellent photographs. Continue to the town of Salkhino, passing local villages and homes with the charming and eye-catching gardens unique to this area. Visit the 17th century Dadiani wine cellar and enjoy a traditional dinner accompanied by three different local wines. Taste the most popular dishes of the Megrelian region: elarji (grits mixed with Megrelian sulguni cheese), gebjalia (cheese rolls dipped in a mix of sour cream and milk), and Megrelian khachapuri (which has more cheese than other types of khachapuri found across Georgia). Overnight at a hotel in Salkhino.
Duration: 6-7 hours
Driving distance: 80 km
Meals: breakfast, dinner
Day 9: Salkhino – Okatse Canyon – Kinchkha Waterfall – Tbilisi
 
Check out of the hotel and drive to Okatse Canyon, one of the most picturesque sights in the Kutaisi area. Take a walk through the historical Dadiani Forest and follow a 780m hanging trail that offers breathtaking views of the canyon and the forest. Continue to Kinchkha Waterfall, a cascade of three waterfalls in the Satsikvilo river gorge that offers stunning views. Then return to Tbilisi. For dinner (not included), you may wish to try the Barbarestan restaurant. Considered one of the city’s best restaurants, it offers exceptional service and uses recipes from the recipe book of the 19th century Georgian princess, author, and women’s rights advocate, Barbare Eristavi Jorjadze. The restaurant is decorated with black and white photos and vintage furniture, and visitors enjoy the 19th century atmosphere. To start, you could try aubergine satsivi (baked aubergines/eggplants with stuffing, walnut and herb sauce, fresh greens, fresh pomegranate, and ghomi – a traditional porridge that usually contains Sulguni cheese) or dambalkhacho (a traditional dish from the Pshavi and Tianeti areas that’s made from mint, nutmeg, dry white qvevri wine, and tarragon). Excellent options for the main course are abkhazura with pumpkin elarji (duck in blackberry and wine sauce, accompanied by pumpkin elarji, green ajika, tarragon, and Georgian greens) or Gurian style chicken (braised chicken with walnuts, spices, asparagus, and greens). For dessert, try pelamushi, a Georgian favourite made from pressed, condensed grape juice (badagi) and flour. Overnight at the hotel in Tbilisi.
Duration: 10-12 hours
Driving distance: 340 km
Meals: breakfast
Day 10: Tbilisi – Armenian border – Lake Sevan – Sevanavank – Noratus – Yerevan
 
After checking out of the hotel, meet your driver and transfer to the Georgian-Armenian border crossing point, Sadakhlo-Bagratashen. Cross the border and meet your Armenian guide and driver to start your journey to the land of ancient traditions and exquisite Armenian cuisine. 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 surrounded by mountains. Nearby, in the small village of Noratus, is the Mikayelyan Family Farm, which has been producing unique Armenian cheeses for almost a decade. Visit the cheese factory and learn about Armenian cheesemaking traditions, see the cheesemaking process, and enjoy a cheese tasting session with wine and cognac. Have dinner at a local restaurant where you can taste seega shashlik (kebabs made from a fish found in Lake Sevan) while enjoying a breathtaking view of the lake. Reach Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, in the late evening. Overnight at a hotel.
Duration: 11-12 hours
Driving distance: 390 km
Meals: breakfast, dinner
Day 11: Yerevan – City Tour
 
Take a sightseeing tour of Yerevan, nicknamed the “Pink City”, which impresses visitors with its grand Soviet architecture. The first stop will be the Cascade Monument, a 500-metre high, 50-metre wide limestone staircase with more than 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 you’ll see as you walk the streets of Yerevan with your guide (~2 km walking). Time permitting, visit Yerevan’s GUM market, which is filled with dried and candied fruits, nuts, herbs and spices, fresh and pickled vegetables, and Armenian cheeses. As vendors usually offer plenty of free samples, we recommend you go there hungry! The last stop on the city tour is the Ararat Brandy Factory. The culture of winemaking in Armenia goes back centuries, and the Armenian brandy that is famous around the world today appeared at the end of the 19th century. After touring the factory, taste three types of Armenian brandy. End the day with dinner at the Megerian Carpet Factory Restaurant, where you’ll learn about Armenian cuisine, as well as carpet weaving traditions, and have the chance to participate in a masterclass on making Armenian dolma. Overnight at the hotel.
Duration: 7-8 hours (including masterclass and dinner)
Driving distance: 25 km
Meals: breakfast, dinner
Day 12: Yerevan – Amberd Fortress – Voskevaz Winery – Oshakan – Yerevan
 
Drive to Amberd, a medieval fortress on the southern slopes of Mount Aragats. The name “Amberd”, which means “fortressin the clouds”, comes from the location of the fortress 2,300m above sea level. Its construction started in the 7th century, and it was later expanded and improved upon, with a church added. The most interesting finding of the archaeological excavations carried out here was Armenian lavash from the 12th century, which was still edible. This discovery emphasises the country’s longstanding tradition of making lavash. Next, visit the Voskevaz Winery. Established in 1932, the winery has carefully preserved many of its authentic elements, including the buildings. It produces classic wines, fruit wines, and liqueurs. Taste the products and enjoy a lunch of fish, an assortment of Armenian cheeses, potato skewers, and tabbouleh salad. Continue to the village of Oshakan, which is famous as the burial place of Mesrop Mashtots, who invented the Armenian alphabet. A cathedral named after him houses his grave, which was rebuilt by Catholicos George IV in 1875. Return to Yerevan. Overnight at the hotel.
Duration: 7-8 hours
Driving distance: 110 km
Meals: breakfast, lunch
Day 13: Yerevan – Geghard – Garni – Yerevan
 
Leave Yerevan and drive to the Geghard (“spear”) monastery complex, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The beautiful landscape surrounding Geghard is framed by towering cliffs, with decorative art cut into the rocks reflecting and explaining medieval development in the region. The next stop is Garni, the only pagan temple in Armenia that survived the introduction of Christianity in the 4th century. After sightseeing, learn about the preparation of, and traditions surrounding, Armenian lavash – which are on UNESCO’s lists of intangible cultural heritage – and have a go at baking the bread yourself. This will be followed by a lunch of traditional Armenian specialities – including, for dessert, garni gata, a sweet bread that’s usually served with tea or coffee. After lunch, return to Yerevan. Overnight at the hotel.
Duration: 7 hours
Driving distance: 80 km
Meals: breakfast, lunch
Day 14: Yerevan – departure
 
Hotel check-out (by 12:00), followed by free time until your transfer to Yerevan International Airport. Departure. End of the tour.
Driving distance: 15 km
Meals: breakfast
  • All transfers (1-2 pax by sedan, 3-4 pax by Mercedes Vito or similar, 5-10 pax by Mercedes Sprinter passenger van, 11-20 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 and lunches as per itinerary;
  • Wine tastings at Savalan Aspi Winery, Khareba Winery, Kakhetian House Vakirelebi, Merebashvili’s Marani, and Voskevaz Winery; brandy tasting at Ararat Brandy Factory;
  • Cheese tasting at Mikayelyan Family Farm;
  • Azerbaijan E-visa;
  • Bottled mineral water (500ml per person per day).
  • Full board (lunches and dinners not specified above);
  • Optional wine tasting at Sheki Palace Wine House;
  • 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 - 1 night
Azcot, Amber, Central Park or similarHoliday Inn, Intourist, Park Inn or similar
Gabala - 1 night
Qafqaz City, Qafqaz Yeddi GozelQafqaz Karvansaray
Sheki - 1 night
Ruma Qala Hotel, IssamSheki Saray, Sheki Palace, Marxal or similar
Akhasheni - 1 night
Akhasheni Wine ResortAkhasheni Wine Resort
Tbilisi - 3 nights
Kopala, Tiflis, Brigitte or similarTiflis Palace, Rooms, Ambassadori, Mercure, Shota Rustaveli Boutique Hotel or similar
Kutaisi - 1 night
Old Town, Empire or similarBest Western Congress or similar
Salkhino - 1 night
Wine House & L'Auberge DadianebiWine House & L'Auberge Dadianebi
Yerevan - 4 nights
Cascade, Silachi, Hrazdan or similarDoubleTree by Hilton, Opera Suite, Grand Hotel Yerevan, Tufenkian Hotel or similar

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