Scheduled Caucasus Tour 2018-2019

Caucasus In-Depth21 Days | Azerbaijan, Georgia, Armenia

Tour map

For those that take traveling seriously and want to go deep into every place they visit, the Caucasus In-Depth Tour is the best tour. More than just the most popular places in each country, this tour is designed to bring you in close to the local lifestyle and hidden spots of Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Armenia. Azerbaijan is a land of contrasts, best experienced going from the sharp lines of modern Baku to the rough stone houses of mountainous Khinalug, the highest village in Azerbaijan. Finish up the Azerbaijan portion with a stop in Sheki, where you can immerse yourself in the master artistry of the city’s many beautiful buildings, before passing into the rich flavors and warm hospitality of Georgia. You’ll feel Georgia’s long history and strong character for yourself as you visit the monasteries, churches, and mountains. Highlights are the Gergeti Holy Trinity Church, a defiant little building in the shadow of Mount Kazbegi, and Winery Khareba, a cellar featuring some of Georgia’s most famous wines, with wines stored in stone tunnels cut into the side of a mountain. The final country in the Caucasus is Armenia, an ancient country built on strong traditions and stronger faith. For such a small country, there’s so much to explore: the picturesque shores of Lake Sevan, the rocky mountainsides, the churches around every corner, each looking as old as time. The Caucasus In-Depth Tour is the best Caucasus tour for those who love to go off the beaten path and discover new places for themselves.

Tour itinerary:

Day 1: Baku – arrival
 
Arrival in Baku. You will be met by our driver and transferred to hotel for overnight.
Day 2: Baku
 
At 09:00, start sightseeing tour in Baku. Visit Martyrs’ Lane, called ‘Shehidler Khiyabany’ among locals. When you walk through Martyrs’ Lane, you will find a beautiful view overlooking Baku’s coastline. Continue touring new Baku and exploring architecture of 19-20th centuries: Nizami Street, Fountain Square, Nizami Ganjavi monument. Pay a visit to Azerbaijan History National Museum and move to Icheri-Sheher, the old part of the city. Visit Maiden's Tower, Shirvanshahs’ Palace, Caravanserai, and market square with numerous art studios and souvenir stalls. Overnight at the hotel.
In the evening, enjoy dinner at a traditional Azeri restaurant. Overnight at the hotel.
Day 3: Baku – Khinalug – Baku
 
In the morning, meet your guide and the driver at your hotel in Baku. Depart the capital city to the northwest of the country. Drive through Red Village (Krasnaya Sloboda), the biggest settlement of Mountain Jews in Azerbaijan. The road to Khinalug is a picturesque mountain road at an altitude of 2,000 m. Enjoy breathtaking views of the landscape. Khinalug is one of most ancient settlements in the country where people have been continuously living for more than 5,000 years. Return to Baku. On the way back stop at Quba mass grave. Arrive in Baku.
Day 4: Baku – Absheron Peninsula – Gobustan – Baku
 
Today you will visit the area of the Greater Baku and Absheron Peninsula. Start with Gobustan National Park. Pay a visit to the Petroglyphs Museum and explore petroglyphs dating back to 10,000 BC. Continue to the mud volcanoes in Gobustan Reserve. Gobustan is home to almost half of the world’s mud volcanoes. Later drive to Ateshgah – a temple of fire worshippers located in Surakhany village. Zoroastrians travelled thousands of kilometers from India to Ateshgah to worship fire coming out of the earth. Drive to Yanar Dag Mountain, where natural gas has been burning for several thousands of years.
Return to Baku. Overnight at the hotel.
Day 5: Baku – Lahij – Kish – Sheki
 
In the morning, depart Baku and drive to Sheki. On the way, visit the Diri Baba Mausoleum in Maraza. Continue to Shamakha and see the historical Juma Mosque, Yeddi Gumbez Mausoleum, and the Shirvan Shah's family grave yard. Drive through the Girdimanchay River Canyon to visit Lahij, a 5th century place rich in its historic and architectural values. Lahij is an ancient village with charming eye-catching sidewalks inlaid with stones. It is famous for its medieval water supply and sewage systems, as well as traditional jewelry, copperware, carpets, pottery, daggers, and iron tools workshops. Continue driving to Sheki. On the way, visit the first Albanian church in Caucasus in the village Kish dating back to the 1st century AD. Arrival in Sheki for overnight.
Day 6: Sheki – Georgian border – Kvareli – Gremi – Telavi
 
Check out from hotel and start sightseeing tour in Sheki. Visit Sheki medieval fortress, Sheki Khans Palace, local History Museum, handicrafts workshop, mosque-madrassah, and local bazaar. Depart Sheki and head towards border with Georgia (115 km, ~2 h.). Cross the border, meet your Georgian guide and start exploring the eastern part of Georgia, famous for its viticulture and winemaking traditions.
We will pass through the beautiful landscapes of vineyards and wine-producing villages. First stop will be at Winery Khareba 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. Wine tour and wine tasting. Continue to Gremi architectural complex, 16th century royal residence and the capital of Kakheti Kingdom. Then reach Telavi, administrative center of Kakheti region. Overnight at the hotel.
Day 7: Telavi – Tsinandali – Shumi – Bodbe – Sighnaghi
 
After breakfast, have a short drive around the town. Continue exploring Kakheti by visiting Tsinandali, residence of dukes of Georgia, with beautiful English garden, museum, and wine cellar which belonged to prince Chavchavadze, public figure and poet of 19th century. Then visit Shumi winery. Continue to Bodbe Convent and Sighnaghi Royal Town, one of the crossroads of the Great Silk Road surrounded by defensive walls with 23 towers. In the afternoon, Overnight in Sighnaghi.
Day 8: Sighnaghi – David Gareja – Tbilisi
 
In the morning depart towards Tbilisi. On the way make a tour to semi-desert area near Gareja. On the way stop at a local market to take some snacks. Arrive in David Gareja Monastery and start walking up to explore the Lavra Cave Monastery, founded in the 6th century. The Lavra Monastery is an inhabited complex of caves with a courtyard, church and other buildings. Continue walking up to Udabno (takes around 1,5-2 hours) where you can have some rest and enjoy the view of Azerbaijan from Georgian side. Udabno is famous for its wall-paintings dating from the end of the 12th century. The thousand-year-old frescos at Udabno depict such scenes from the Bible like “The Last Supper” and “The Exaltation of the Cross”. After some rest, walk down along another path. Drive to Tbilisi for overnight.
Day 9: Tbilisi
 
In the morning, start a sightseeing tour in Tbilisi. Start at Holy Trinity cathedral, one of the largest orthodox cathedrals in the world. Continue to Metekhi church and the monument to Vakhtang Gorgasali, the legendary founder of Tbilisi. Take cable car to Narikala Fortress to enjoy breathtaking panoramic view of the city. Walk down to the district of Sulphur bath houses passing by the only mosque in Tbilisi. Stroll through the Sharden area full of narrow streets with cozy cafés, wine tasting bars, souvenir shops, and breathe in the living past. Visit Sioni Cathedral, Anchiskhati Basilica, and the clock tower of famous Rezo Gabriadze Theatre. Cross the Bridge of Peace leading to Rike Park and head to Open Air Museum of Ethnography, a miniature model of Georgia. In the evening, visit a local restaurant to taste dishes of traditional Georgian cuisine. Overnight in Tbilisi.
Day 10: Tbilisi – Mtskheta – Ananuri – Kazbegi – Gudauri
 
After breakfast, drive to Mtskheta, one of the oldest towns and the cultural and religious centre of Georgia. Mtskheta was the capital of the Eastern Georgian Kingdom of Iberia from the third century BC. Visit Jvari, a true architectural masterpiece of the early Medieval Period built on a hilltop. You will enjoy the views of the confluence of Aragvi and Mtkvari rivers. Visit Svetitskhoveli Cathedral, the main cathedral of Mtskheta and a sacred place where the robe of Christ is being kept. Continue to Ananuri Complex, a former residence of Argveti Dukes. The complex features churches and towers dating back to the 16-17th centuries, beautifully overlooking the Jinvali reservoir. Continue driving on Georgian Military Highway passing through the highest point of it at 2379 m above sea level. En-route, make a stop at the mineral water spring flowing down from a hilltop. Arrive at Kazbegi, a small town with the views of Mt. Kazbek (or Mkinvari) 5033 m, the seventh highest peak in the Caucasus Mountains. Visit Gergeti Holy Trinity Church located at an altitude of 2170 and enjoy breathtaking views to Mt Kazbegi. Overnight at the hotel in Gudauri.
Day 11: Gudauri – Gori – Uplistsikhe – Kutaisi
 
After breakfast at the hotel drive to Gori and visit the Stalin Museum. The museum includes more than 60,000 artifacts, the tiny house where Stalin was born, and impressive bulletproof train Stalin used to travel to Yalta and Potsdam. Explore the cave town Uplistsikhe, dating back to Hellenistic Period and notable for the unique combination of various styles of rock-cut cultures and the co-existence of pagan and Christian architecture. Drive to Kutaisi, the central city of Western Georgia once called "Aia". The road to Kutaisi will take you over Rikoti pass and through the longest tunnel of Georgia (1,722 m). The tunnel is also considered as a border between western and eastern parts of Georgia.
On the way make a stop to visit Ubisa Monastery, famous for its well preserved and colorful frescoes dating from the 9th century. Have another stop at the village Shrosha, where you will have a chance to see the versatility of Georgian pottery:"doqi" - jug,"piala" - bowl,"ketsi" - plate and many more, made from clay that is extracted from the soil of the area. Arrive to Kutaisi for overnight at the hotel.
Day 12: Kutaisi – Prometheus Cave – Mestia
 
In the morning, drive to the Prometheus Cave, where you will walk in a 1.5 km long tunnel and enjoy breath-taking views of stalactites, stalagmites, petrified waterfalls, underground rivers and lakes along the cave. The underground light system is filled with LED lights of all the colours of the rainbow, marvellously highlighting the natural beauty of the Prometheus Cave. In the afternoon, head to mysterious Svaneti, passing through the Inguri Gorge. This region is the birthplace of the Svans, a unique ethnic group, who are distinguished by their amazing old culture and traditions. Svaneti is also famous for its original and authentic architecture and is dubbed “the land of thousand towers”. Those towers used to play an important economic and defensive role in the history of Svaneti. There are still dozens of the towers – stone houses from the Middle Ages with fire watchtowers, and churches from the 10-14th centuries. Overnight at the hotel.
Day 13: Mestia – Ushguli – Mestia
 
After the hotel breakfast, drive to Ushguli village, the highest standing settlement in Europe (2200 m). The Ushguli architectural complex is a valuable architectural and historical monument, included in the UNESCO World Heritage List for its exclusiveness. There are about 70 families (around 200 people) living in Ushguli. Spend time in Ushguli strolling through the old narrow streets. Visit Lamaria Church complex, with impressive 12th century wall frescoes. Locals believe that Queen Tamar was buried under this church. Enjoy picturesque view of the Mount Shkhara. Return to Mestia. Overnight at the hotel.
Day 14: Mestia – Zugdidi – Kutaisi
 
After breakfast check out from the hotel. Visit the Mestia Ethnographic Museum, with an original Svan house “machubi” and “koshki” tower. Drive back to Zugdidipax to visit the Dadiani Palace (Western Georgia's royal family). Drive to Kutaisi for overnight.
Day 15: Kutaisi – Gelati – Motsameta – Tbilisi
 
After breakfast start sightseeing in the second biggest city of Georgia – Kutaisi, which according to the legend was the ultimate destination of the Jason and Argonauts searching for the Golden Fleece. Visit Bagrati Cathedral (11th century), one of the best samples of medieval architecture towering over Kutaisi and visible from almost any point in the city. Next stop is the Gelati Academy, built by King David the Builder in the 12th century. Gelati was the center of spiritual and scientific life of the Middle Ages, the tomb of Georgian kings a cult place for pilgrims. It is under UNESCO protection as an object of cultural and historical legacy. Continue to Motsameta Monastery to enjoy fantastic views over the Rioni river gorge. After city tour, drive to Tbilisi for overnight.
Day 16: Tbilisi – Armenian border – Haghpat – Lake Sevan – Sevanavank – Yerevan
 
At 09:00, our driver will meet you at your hotel in Tbilisi and transfer to “Sadakhlo-Bagratashen” Georgian-Armenian border point. Cross the border, meet your Armenian guide and driver and start the journey to the land of ancient traditions and oldest temples. Drive to Lori region and visit Haghpat Monastery, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This stunning example of Armenian traditional architecture was erected in 10-13th centuries. Standing on a hillside, Haghpat beautifully overlooks the Debed River. The location of the monastery was chosen to protect the peace and seclusion of its monks. Drive through Dilijan and to Lake Sevan, “The Jewel of Armenia” and one of the largest high-mountain freshwater lakes in the world. The coastline of Lake Sevan is rich with thick woods, white bare steep rocks, mountain steppes and Alpine meadows. Stop at a Sevanavank to visit the remnants of the monastery that include two temples – Surb Arakelots and Surb Astvatsatsin standing among numerous khachkars - carved cross-stones. The buildings were constructed from black tuff which probably gave the monastery its name Sevanavank – “the Black Monastery”. The view from there is simply magnificent: the mountains surround lake from all sides and snow tops are seen almost on the entire perimeter and disappear behind horizon. Continue to Yerevan for overnight.
Day 17: Yerevan
 
One of the oldest cities of the world, Yerevan is famous as a pink city and calls visitors with its humble and at the same time splendid landscapes. Start city tour visiting the Cascade Monument, which was the main symbol of the cities 2780th anniversary with the equivalent number of stairs. The mega scale staircase is 500 meters high and 50 meters wide. A panoramic view from the monument opens up breathtaking city view with Opera House, Mount Ararat, Swan Lake, Republic Square, and posh Northern Avenue around, which you will also walk by during the tour. The next spot is Matenadaran – the Mesrop Mashtots (founder of Armenian alphabet) Institute of Ancient Manuscripts famous for being one of the world’s richest banks of medieval manuscripts with more than 300,000 archive documents.
Continue to the Armenian Genocide memorial complex on the hill of Tsitsernakaberd. An excellent round-up of the tour will be a visit to the Brandy Factory in Yerevan to taste renowned Armenian cognac. The legend says that Noah planted the first vine in the abundant Ararat valley; afterwards winery was pioneered all over the country. Tasting of two types of Ararat brandies (Ararat 3 stars and Akhtamar, 10 years old). In the evening, enjoy dinner and traditional folklore show. Overnight at the hotel.
Day 18: Yerevan – Garni – Geghard – Etchmiadzin – Yerevan
 
Depart Yerevan and drive to Garni, one of the major villages in Armenia famous for its fortress. The fortress is the only pagan sacred place from the 1st century that survived aggressive introduction of Christianity in the 4th century. Next stop is at the monastery complex Geghard (“spear”). The beautiful landscape of Geghard is framed with towering cliffs. Decorative art cut into rocks reflects and explains Middle Ages development throughout the region. The complex was introduced to the history in the 4th century as a sacred spring inside a cave. Continue to the Holy See of Armenia, Etchmiadzin. Visit Etchmiadzin Cathedral, which is the residence of the head of the Armenian Apostolic Church, the Catholicos of All Armenians. Return to Yerevan for hotel.
Day 19: Yerevan – Khor Virap – Areni – Tatev – Goris
 
After breakfast at 09:00, head to Khor Virap Monastery (“deep pit”). According to the legend, St. Gregory the Illuminator, the patron saint of Armenia, was kept here in the basement for 13 years for the disseminating of Christianity until King Tiridates decided to adopt new religion. The monastery's location allows you to enjoy the best views of the Mt. Ararat.
Continue to Areni, a city known for producing famous Armenian wine from pomegranate and apricot. Have a wine tasting at a local winery.
Drive to Tatev Monastery (9-13 cent.). Approaching the jewel of medieval Armenian architecture on the longest aerial tramway in the world you will see the monastery, a powerful impregnable stronghold towering on a rock. The remote location of the monastery was strategically favorable as it played the role of religious and political centre of the region. Standing on the edge of the rock, the monastery takes your breath away: somewhere down below the river flows in the valley and crowded velvet green hills stand in silence…
Arrival in Goris at around 18:00. Overnight at the hotel.
Day 20: Goris – Noravank – Yerevan
 
After breakfast at 09:00 check out from the hotel. On the way to Yerevan visit the famous Noravank Complex, situated on the ledge above a deep winding gorge of a tributary of the Arpa River near the village of Amaghu, Yeghegnadzor District. The Noravank ensemble stands amidst the bizarre-shaped precipitous red cliffs. Built in place of an ancient cloister, it grew under the reign of Princes Orbelian of Syunik. In the 13th-14th centuries it became a residence of Syunik's bishops and, consequently, a major religious and later cultural center of Armenia, closely connected with many of the local seats of learning, primarily with Gladzor’s famed university and library.
Arrive in Yerevan, check-in to the hotel. Free time. Overnight at the hotel.
Day 21: Yerevan – departure
 
Check-out from hotel till noon. Free time till transfer to Yerevan International Airport. End of the tour.

Accommodation:

City

Economy Option

Comfort Option

Nights

Baku

Central Park, Amber, New Baku, Azcot

Holiday Inn, Intourist

4

Sheki Issam Sheki Saray, Sheki Palace 1

Telavi

Old Telavi, Alaznis Veli or similar

Château Mere, Erekle II, Savaneti

1

Sighnaghi

Solomoni 1805

Kabadoni

1

Tbilisi

River Side, Ibis, Hotel Citrus

Tiflis Palace, Mercure, Ambasadori, Rooms Tbilisi

3

Gudauri

Quadrum Hotel, Club 2100, Alpina Hotel

Marco Polo

1

Kutaisi

Old Town Hotel, Empire Hotel, Aeetes Palace

Best Western Congress or similar

2

Mestia

Chubu, Villa Mestia

Banguriani, Tetnuldi

2

Yerevan

Royal Plaza, Silk Road, Hrazdan, Mia Casa

Grand, DoubleTree by Hilton Yerevan, Opera Suite

4

Goris

Mirhav, Mina, Goris

Mirhav, Mina, Goris

1

 

  • All transfers (1-2 pax by sedan, 3-4 pax by Mercedes Vito or similar, 5-10 pax by Mercedes Sprinter passenger van);
  • Accommodation based on double/twin room sharing, breakfasts included;
  • Sightseeing tour program in each country with local English-speaking guides;
  • Entrance tickets to sights as per itinerary;
  • Dinners in Baku, Tbilisi, and Yerevan;
  • Two wine tastings in Kakheti, Georgia; one wine tasting in Areni village, Armenia;
  • Brandy tasting in Yerevan, Armenia;
  • Azerbaijan E-visa.
  • Full board (lunches and dinners);
  • Hotel charges for additional services;
  • Personal travel insurance;
  • E-visas to Georgia and Armenia;
  • International flight tickets before and after the tour.

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