Tours

colors-contrasts-Tbilisi-Old-Town_95312132
colors-contrasts-Tbilisi-Old-Town_95312132

Armenia & Georgia: Colors and Contrasts of the Caucasus

Suspended between the Black and Caspian Seas, where Europe meets Asia, are the spectacular mountain-and-steppe landscapes of the South Caucasus, home to Georgia and land-locked Armenia. Their scenery alone – from the towering snow-capped peak of Mount Ararat in Armenia to Georgia’s lush valley lowlands carpeted with ancient vineyards – presents drama and contrasts enough to justify a first visit to this ancient but largely still-to-be-discovered realm of the Silk Road caravans of old.

 

Sep 30 – Oct 14 2019 (15 days)
Price $4,950 | $950
Deposit $500

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Tour Description

For the traveler with a keen interest in antiquity and archaeology even more compelling reasons exist to be tempted by the cultural and historical treasures offered by both Armenia and Georgia – especially their exquisitely beautiful monasteries, cathedrals and churches, some clinging to impossibly steep hillsides and many dating back over 1,000 years. Armenia formally adopted Christianity as the state religion in 301 (earlier even than Rome) and preserves countless monuments and masterpieces of its ancient religious past. Our tour also visits a number of the region’s most notable archaeological locations and museums, as well as several religious UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Appealing interludes of a different kind will be offered by the vineyard visits made to sample local Georgian vintages from this, one of the world’s oldest wine-making regions!

TOUR HIGHLIGHTS

  • Admire Armenia’s delicate Graeco-Roman Temple of Garni, nearly 2,000 years old and a unique masterpiece
  • Enjoy the pleasures and friendly mood of Tbilisi – Georgia’s ‘city of light’ and capital with a lively café culture
  • Marvel at the extensive ancient rock-carved settlement of Uplistsikhe, uncovered by archaeologists and once a town of cave-houses, churches and sites of pagan sacrifices

  • Venture down the quaint cobbled streets of Kutaisi and explore the medieval complex of Gelati
  • Spend a final afternoon free in the relaxing resort town of Batumi beside the pebbled beaches of the Black Sea

WHAT TO EXPECT

LED BY

Ian Colvin

2019 Itinerary

Monday, September 30: ARRIVE IN YEREVAN
Upon arrival in Yerevan, we transfer to our hotel in the midst of the busting city and have time to relax after our flight. This evening we have a welcome dinner.
Dinner included.

Tuesday, October 1: YEREVAN
This morning we take a short drive west to Echmiadzin, otherwise known as the country’s spiritual capital. Here we find the ruins of Zvarnots Cathedral, a UNESCO World Heritage Site constructed during the Byzantine era. On site is a romantic assortment of columns and elaborate carvings, as well as remnants of structures dating back to the 7th century BC. Our next stop is Echmiadzin Cathedral, thought to have been built in AD 300 by Armenia’s patron saint, Gregory the Illuminator. The well-preserved interiors have endured a colorful, and sometimes turbulent past. Following lunch, we return to Yerevan and visit the Matenadaran, a magnificent building housing thousands of priceless books and manuscripts.
Breakfast & lunch included.

Wednesday, October 2: YEREVAN
Our first destination this morning is Geghard, a fairytale monastery rising out of the Azat River Gorge. It is home to a fascinating reliquary, within which is the spear allegedly used to wound Christ within his crucifixion. Next, we proceed down the river to the Temple of Garni. Constructed in the 1st century AD, it is believed that the temple was later converted to a summer house, only to be destroyed by an earthquake some centuries later. This afternoon we explore Yerevan’s History Museum, a national treasure boasting a vast collection of archaeological and ethnographic artifacts.
Breakfast & lunch included.

Thursday, October 3: YEREVAN
We begin at Shengavit, an enigmatic archaeological site near Lake Yerevan. We continue on to the hilltop ruins of Erebuni Fortress, home to a long line of Urartian kings, and an important stronghold against the northern territories. Returning to Yerevan, we have free time to explore the city, or join the optional excursion to the very moving Genocide Museum, which has been open since 1995.
Breakfast & lunch included.

Friday, October 4: YEREVAN – DILIJAN
We make our way to Khor Virap this morning, a 7th century monastery stunningly located on the open plains near Mount Ararat.Khor Virap, began life as a prison and is now used for religious ceremonies. Our next stop is Areni Cave, an early Bronze Age site beside the Arpa River, at which the oldest shoe, earliest winery, and even the oldest brain tissue have so far been discovered. After lunch, our journey takes us to Noravank. This 13th century monastery contains the ornately-carved tomb of Prince Tarsayich Orbelian. Later today we arrive in Dilijan, an alpine spa town known to the locals as ‘Little Switzerland’.
All meals included.

Saturday, October 5: DILIJAN – TBILISI
After breakfast we set out to discover the sights of Dilijan, taking in its gorgeous old town streets with their workshops and museum. We then head for Haghartsin, a popular complex of 10th – 13th century churches. This afternoon we visit the monasteries of Sanahin and Hagpat, two UNESCO World Heritage Sites, both cherished as important centers for religious learning. Travelling across the border, we end our day in Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia.
All meals included.

Sunday, October 6: TBILISI
Our seventh day is devoted to the sights of Tbilisi, beginning at the heights of Metekhi Church, which looms over the city from the cliffs. We continue to Sioni Cathedral, a Georgian Orthodox building dating back as far as the 5th century, with exceptionally rich medieval frescoes and interiors. The Great Synagogue welcomes us next, a 19th century building designed by Georgian Jewish migrants. We round off the morning at Anchiskhati Basilica, the oldest extant church in the city, beloved for its weathered interiors and antique naves. We pause for lunch at a local restaurant before entering the Georgian National Museum, home to many archaeological delights.
Breakfast & lunch included.

Monday, October 7: TBILISI
We drive north to Ikalto Monastery, a complex of monastic buildings founded in the late 6th century, including churches, living quarters and the 12th century academy. We take our lunch at a winery east of Tbilisi, for a chance to sample local vintages from one of the oldest wine-making regions in the world.
Breakfast & lunch included.

Tuesday, October 8: TBILISI
We start our day with a visit to the Open Air Museum of Ethnology, which will provide us with an introduction to the country’s ethnic diversity. After, we make our way to the Museum of Fine Arts, one of the country’s foremost galleries. Here we will admire works dating from the Bronze Age to the present day. This is a spectacular encounter with the skills of the Georgian masters, as well as the finds from nearby ancient burial grounds. Following lunch, we have the afternoon to spend at leisure.
Breakfast & lunch included.

Wednesday, October 9: TBILISI – BORJOMI
This morning we discover the regal Iberian remains at Armaztsikhe-Bagineti, as well as an array of important religious buildings, including the hilltop Jvari Monastery. We also take in the impressive Svetitskhoveli Cathedral, a site famed as the burial place of Christ’s mantle. Next, we journey to the incredible rock-carved settlement of Uplishtsikhe, a unique, expansive town of abandoned cave-houses. Rising to prominence as a home of Kartlian kings after the Arab conquest, much of Uplishtsikhe was destroyed by Mongol invaders.
All meals included.

Thursday, October 10: BORJOMI
Today we visit Vardzia, an unusual cave monastery on the banks of the Kura River, within which we find a set of wall paintings dating back to the Christian Orient. In use during the Bronze Age, the caves are thought to have been abandoned during the 16th century. Next, we journey to Rabati Castle, a fortress located in Akhaltsikhe.
All meals included.

Friday, October 11: BORJOMI – KUTAISI
This morning we drive to Kutaisi, a city located in west Georgia and is home to the Bagrati Cathedral. Upon our arrival, we visit the medieval monastic complex of Gelati, a relic of Georgia’s Golden Age, and one of the first monasterys to be built in the country. In its heydey, Gelati was a celebrated center of learning and today, dazzling frescoes grab our full attention, as does the tomb of King David himself. Later, we explore Prometheus Cave. Discovered in 1984, this neon-lit cave boast a wonderful array of stalactites, stalagmites, petrified waterfalls, underground rivers and lakes.
Breakfast & lunch included.

Saturday, October 12: KUTAISI – BATUMI
We begin with a drive east to Nokalakevi, where we spend the morning exploring this active archaeological site and its fortifications. Excavations here have so far revealed extensive walls and towers, burial grounds, jewelry and weapons, indicating evidence of human habitation as long ago as the 8th century. Next, we travel along the Black Sea coast to the resort town of Batumi, one of the country’s most popular holiday destinations, and our base for the last section of our trip.
Breakfast & lunch included.

Sunday, October 13: BATUMI
The final full day of our holidays gets going at a leisurely pace, as we take in the Roman fort of Gonio-Apsaros, an archaeological site on the Chorokhi River, just north of the Turkish border. The earliest mention of Gonio comes from the writings of Pliny the Elder, and excavations continue to unearth traces if its prosperous past. We return to Batumi and have the afternoon to explore as we wish. Tonight, we come back together as a group for our last dinner; the perfect chance to toast the success of our adventures, and relive our favorite moments.
All meals included.

Monday, October 14: DEPART BATUMI
We transfer to the airport for our individual flights home or onward travel.
Breakfast included.

Additional Information

Calendar Year

2019

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