Scheduled Caucasus Tour 2020-2021

UNESCO World Heritage Caucasus Tour16 Days | Azerbaijan, Georgia, Armenia

Visit all nine UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the South Caucasus on this fascinating 16-day tour. In Azerbaijan, explore the old walled city of Baku, ancient rock art of Gobustan, and traditional architecture of Sheki. Continue to Georgia’s Gelati Monastery, historic Mtskheta churches, and mysterious Upper Svaneti region, before discovering Armenia’s ancient monasteries and rock-cut churches. Also visit many of the region’s other historical, scenic, and cultural attractions, including mud volcanoes, mountain villages, a spa resort, and the vibrant cites of Tbilisi and Yerevan. This in-depth tour of the historical and cultural monuments of Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Armenia is perfect for fans of history and ancient architecture.

 

Tour map

Tour itinerary:

Day 1: Baku – arrival
 
Arrive in Baku, meet your driver, and transfer to the hotel. After check-in (from 12:00), enjoy free time to discover the city. Overnight at the hotel.
Day 2: Baku – city tour
 
Breakfast. At 09:00, meet your guide to 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. Visit the first UNESCO World Heritage site of the tour – Icheri Sheher, the old part of the city, which has preserved many of its 12th century walls. Tour 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, Fountain Square, and the iconic Heydar Aliyev Cultural Centre, in the new part of Baku. The Cultural Centre’s quirky architectural design by prominent female architect Zahi Hadid makes it one of Baku’s most recognizable buildings. The Centre showcases examples of a wide spectrum of Azerbaijani culture: national costumes, musical instruments, and carpets provide a good insight into local craftsmanship. At 19:00, go to a traditional local restaurant for a welcome dinner. Overnight at the hotel.
Duration of sightseeing tour: 4-5 hours
Driving distance: 10 km
Day 3: Baku – Gobustan – Baku
 
After breakfast, drive to Gobustan National Park 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, drive to the mud volcanoes nearby (change of vehicle). This area of Azerbaijan is home to almost half of the world’s mud volcanoes. Drive back to Baku and enjoy free time in the afternoon. Overnight at the hotel.
Day 4: Baku – Shamakhi – Sheki
 
Breakfast, then depart for Sheki, the newest UNESCO World Heritage Site in the South Caucasus (inscribed only in 2019). On the way, stop in Shamakhi to visit the historical Juma Mosque, which was restored in 2013. 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. Visit the old town and the Sheki Khans' Palace, which is surrounded by medieval fortress walls, and then explore the handicrafts workshops and the famous caravanserai. Make an optional visit to the colourful Sheki Bazaar where you can find virtually everything you may want to eat: local fruits and berries, spices, freshly-baked bread, honey, cheeses, and Sheki sweets. Overnight at a hotel.
Day 5: Sheki – Georgian Border – Kvareli – Gremi – Alaverdi – Telavi
 
After breakfast, leave Sheki and drive to the border with Georgia (115 km, ~2 h). Cross the border and start exploring the eastern part of Georgia, which is famous for its viticulture and winemaking traditions. Our first stop will be the Khareba Winery, near the town of Kvareli. On the way there, enjoy the picturesque landscapes of vineyards and wine-producing villages. Khareba’s unique wine cellar is located 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 wine tour and a tasting session. Then drive to Gremi architectural complex, a 16th century royal residence and the capital of Kakheti Kingdom. Visit Alaverdi Сathedral, the second-tallest cathedral in Georgia and an outstanding example of medieval Georgian architecture of 11th century. Gremi and Alaverdi are included in the Tentative List of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Continue to Telavi. Overnight at a hotel.
Day 6: Telavi – Tbilisi – city tour
 
After breakfast, take a short walk through the charming streets of Old Telavi, stopping for photos at the monument to Erekli II and the giant plane tree that is more than 900 years old. Drive to Tbilisi on a beautiful road that crosses Gombori Pass. Check in to the hotel and take a short break, before taking a guided walking tour of Tbilisi’s old town, which is included in the Tentative List of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. 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. Then, walk past the only mosque in Tbilisi down to the 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. Overnight at a hotel.
Day 7: Tbilisi – Mtskheta – Uplistsikhe – Kutaisi
 
After breakfast drive to Mtskheta, one of the oldest towns in Georgia and the country’s cultural and religious centre. Inscribed on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1994, Mtskheta was the capital of the Eastern Georgian Kingdom of Kartli from the 3rd century BC. 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. Enjoy the views of the confluence of the Aragvi and Mtkvari rivers, before continuing to Svetitstkhoveli, which is the main cathedral of Mtskheta and a sacred place where the robe of Christ is kept. Continue to Uplistsikhe, a cave town on UNESCO’s Tentative list that dates to the Hellenistic Period. Uplistsikhe is notable for its unique combination of various styles of rock-cut architecture, including both pagan and Christian. After exploring the cave town, drive to Kutaisi, the central city of Western Georgia, which was once called “Aia”. The road to Kutaisi goes over the Rikoti Pass and through Georgia’s longest tunnel (1,722 m). This tunnel is also considered to be the border between the western and eastern parts of Georgia. Overnight at a hotel.
Day 8: Kutaisi – Okatse Canyon – Mestia
 
Breakfast, followed by a visit 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. In the afternoon, drive through the Inguri Gorge to the mysterious Svaneti region. Svaneti is the home of a unique ethnic group – the heroic and courageous Svans – who are distinguished from other Georgians by their culture, traditions, and customs. The Upper Svaneti region is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The region is also famous for its original architecture and is called the “Country of a Thousand Towers”. These towers historically played both economic and defensive functions. Mestia still has dozens of medieval stone houses with the fire watchtowers that were used to protect valleys and churches between the 10th and 14th centuries. Dinner and overnight at a hotel.
Day 9: Mestia – Ushguli – Mestia
 
After breakfast, drive in a 4x4 vehicle to Ushguli village, one of the highest continually inhabited settlements in Europe (2,200m). In recognition of its outstanding cultural value to humanity, the Ushguli Architectural Complex is part of the Upper Svaneti UNESCO World Heritage Site. Enjoy a stroll through Ushguli’s old, narrow streets and visit the Lamaria Church complex with its impressive 12th century wall frescoes. Locals believe that Queen Tamara was buried under this church. Enjoy a picturesque view of Mount Shkhara, before returning to Mestia for dinner and overnight at the hotel.
Day 10: Mestia – Zugdidi – Tskaltubo
 
Breakfast, followed by a visit to the Mestia Ethnographic Museum. This was established in 1936 and has one of the richest collections of artifacts in the region. At 12:00, depart for the famous spa resort of Tskaltubo. On the way, stop at Dadiani Palace in Zugdidi. After arriving in Tskaltubo, enjoy some free time. Overnight at a hotel.
Day 11: Tskaltubo – Prometheus Cave – Bagrati – Gelati – Tbilisi
 
After breakfast, drive to the Prometheus Cave and see its numerous stalactites and stalagmites. Continue to Bagrati Cathedral (11th century), one of the best examples of late-medieval architecture in Georgia. This cathedral towers over Kutaisi and is visible from almost any point in the city. Next, visit Gelati Monastery and Academy, which was built by King David the Builder (considered the most powerful king in Georgia’s history). Gelati, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was a major center of spiritual and scientific life in the Middle Ages, the tomb of Georgian kings, and a cult place for pilgrims. In the afternoon, return to Tbilisi (250 km, 5 h). Overnight at the hotel.
Day 12: Tbilisi – free day
 
Breakfast. Free day in Tbilisi (guide and transportation are not provided).
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. The price is US$60 per person.
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.
Day 13: Tbilisi – Armenian border – Haghpat – Sanahin – Lake Sevan – Sevanavank – Yerevan
 
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 ancient churches. Drive to the Lori region and visit the Monasteries of Haghpat and Sanahin, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Haghpat Monastery is a stunning example of traditional Armenian architecture, erected between the 10th and 13th centuries. Standing on a hillside, it beautifully overlooks the Debed River Canyon. The monastery’s location was chosen to protect the peace and seclusion of the monks. Sanahin Monastery is rightly considered to be a real treasure of ancient Armenian architecture. Then, drive through Dilijan 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 the hotel.
Day 14: Yerevan – Etchmiadzin – Zvartnots – Yerevan city tour
 
After breakfast, 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. Continue to the ruins of Zvartnots. This was, reputedly, the most beautiful cathedral in the world before it collapsed in the earthquake of 930. Etchmiadzin and Zvartnots are, together, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Return to explore Yerevan, the oldest capital city in the South Caucasus, which is known as the “Pink City”. Our first stop 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 no less 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 we’ll see as we walk the streets of Yerevan. Overnight at the hotel.
Day 15: Yerevan – Garni – Geghard – Yerevan
 
Breakfast. Depart Yerevan and drive to Garni, the only pagan temple in Armenia that survived the introduction of Christianity in the 4th century. The next stop is the Geghard (“spear”) monastery complex. The beautiful landscape surrounding the complex is framed by towering cliffs. Decorative art cut into the rocks reflects and explains Medieval development in this region. The complex was established in the 4th century around the sacred spring inside the cave. Geghard Monastery was added to UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites in 2000. Return to Yerevan and enjoy a free afternoon exploring more of the city or relaxing. We suggest visiting:
Meet in the evening for a farewell dinner at a traditional restaurant. Overnight at the hotel.
Day 16: Yerevan – departure
 
Breakfast and 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 2), Mestia (Days 8 and 9) and Yerevan (Day 15);
  • Azerbaijan E-visa;
  • Bottled drinking water.
  • Full board (lunches and dinners not specified above);
  • Hotel charges for additional services;
  • Personal travel insurance;
  • 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 - 3 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
Telavi - 1 night
Old Telavi, Alaznis Veli or similarChâteau Mere, Erekle II or similar
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
Mestia - 2 nights
Villa Mestia or similar guesthousePosta, Banguriani or similar
Tskaltubo - 1 night
Tskaltubo PlazaTskaltubo Plaza
Yerevan - 3 nights
Cascade, Silachi, Hrazdan or similarDoubleTree by Hilton, Opera Suite, Grand Hotel Yerevan, Tufenkian Hotel or similar

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