Embark on a culinary journey like no other as you explore the gastronomic treasures of Georgia and Armenia, guided by none other than the illustrious Hoda Alzubaidi, affectionately known as the Cake Queen.
With an insatiable passion for both food and travel, Hoda brings a unique perspective to this remarkable expedition. As a semi-finalist on The Great Australian Bake Off, she has earned a well-deserved reputation for her culinary prowess and an innate ability to infuse love and creativity into her dishes when she travels.
Hoda invites you to join her on an extraordinary quest to uncover the culinary secrets and traditions of Georgia and Armenia, two enchanting countries nestled in the heart of the South Caucasus. Together, you will delve deep into the rich tapestry of these nations, where centuries-old recipes, time-honoured cooking methods, and the warm embrace of hospitality converge to create an unforgettable food-focused expedition.
Prepare to tantalise your taste buds with the flavours of these ancient lands, where every dish tells a story and every meal is a celebration of life. Join Hoda on this remarkable gastronomic adventure as you savour the delectable dishes, uncover the hidden gems, and forge lasting memories in the company of a true culinary artist, Hoda Alzubaidi, and your fellow food enthusiasts.
Welcome to Georgia! On arrival at Tbilisi airport, you will be met and transferred to your hotel. The remainder of the day is yours at leisure. Your hotel sits above the city offering spectacular views and an incredible rooftop restaurant offering local cuisine. The remainder of the day is at leisure.
3 nights Makmani Hotel Tbilisi or similar
Today you will explore the capital of Georgia, Tbilisi. Wander in the old districts of the city which are structured like terraces. Take a walk in the narrow streets to view the colourful houses, patterned balconies and wonderful samples of modern architecture. You will start from Metekhi Church (13th century) with magnificent views over old Tbilisi. A stroll along winding little streets takes you to the main sights of the city. Afterwards take a cable car up to the ancient Narikala fortress (4th century) to enjoy the panoramic views of the whole town and then walk down to the historical domed sulphur bath area.
Continue to a local restaurant, where you`ll try delicious Georgian cuisine. Bia offers the most delicious food, coming from a chef who truly understands the art of the bean. The simple and original interior of the restaurant provides a calm backdrop to your culinary adventure, as here you can taste forgotten and revived traditions. The restaurant is located on Rustaveli avenue – the main street of Tbilisi, in the building of the legendary Rustaveli Theatre.
In the evening, visit a wine bar. As the world’s oldest known wine-making culture, Georgia is home to hundreds of native grape varieties. Here you will taste a varied selection of the county’s finest wines while learning about the stories behind the wines and the history of the county by sommelier itself. You will gain a broad understanding of the region and the featured wineries. There will be ample opportunity to ask questions about all things wine-related, from the county and beyond. Enjoy the dinner with traditional Georgian appetizing dishes. (B,L,D)
In the morning, transfer by metro to the farmer`s market. Here you will meet your local host – Teona. She is a cook and together, you will choose the best available ingredients for your lunch. Afterwards, head to her house in the suburbs of Tbilisi and start cooking with her. During the cooking class, you will try your hand in making eggplants with walnuts and Pkhali, dish of chopped and minced vegetables, paired with spinach. Beetroot or white beans are combined with ground walnuts, vinegar, onions, garlic, and herbs. Get acquainted with the local way of life and enjoy your well deserved meal. Afterwards, return to Tbilisi and spend the evening at leisure. (B,L)
In the morning, visit the ancient capital and religious centre of Georgia – Mtskheta and its historical sights: Jvari Monastery (6th century) and Svetitskhoveli Cathedral (11th century) – both UNESCO World Heritage sites. Afterwards, drive to the northern part of the country, to the village of Aragvispiri, where you will enjoy the lunch with locals. Savour the authentic tastes of freshly harvested products from the host`s garden. Sit at the local`s table, share a delicious meal prepared with family recipes. Experience how to live like a Georgian and eat like a Georgian! Here you will also participate in cooking Georgian dishes. Then, drive up to the famous Georgian Military Highway. On the way, visit Ananuri architectural complex (17th century), the two churches and the fortress which overlook the Zhinvali water reservoir. The carvings on the churches are one of the best samples of the Georgian art. The drive is very scenic through high Caucasus Mountains. Arrive in Stepantsminda – the main town in the region. (B,L)
Overnight Rooms Kazbegi or similar
A visit to Stepantsminda is not possible without a visit to Gergeti Trinity church. With its special location and centuries-old history, it really represents the face of Georgia. The green slopes decorated with mountain flowers and the great Caucasus leave an unforgettable impression on all who visit. This morning walk up through the picturesque valleys and woodland to Gergeti Trinity Church located at 2170m. Weather permitting, you may catch a glimpse of one of the highest glaciers in the Caucasus – Mt Kazbegi (5047m). Afterwards, return to the town and drive along the beautiful Dariali gorge. Return to Stepantsminda and visit a local family, where the host will get you very excited with making “Khinkali”, Georgian dumplings which originated in mountainous regions of Mtiuleti, Pshavi and Khevsureti. You will participate in making your own “Khinkali”. Later, visit the art house, where you will have an opportunity to see how the traditional Georgian felt “Teqa” is made, before you enjoy several kinds of homemade jams with local herbal tea. Drive to the village of Chardakhi. Visit `Iagos Wine Cellar` and taste unique BIO wines made with traditional Georgian methods in Kvevri. This method of wine making is inscribed on the UNESCO Intangible Heritage List. Notably, you can find this wine on the Ritz London`s unique wine list. Drive back to Tbilisi and enjoy the dinner with various kinds of Khinkali, along with Georgian dishes. (B,L,D)
Overnight Makmani Hotel or similar
Today, you will travel in the Kakheti region, famous for its wine making, as well as being associated with welcoming hospitality. Here, you can see both the snowy Caucasus mountains and fertile valleys. Visit the 18th century beautiful, small town of Sighnaghi which will impress you with its small houses and decorated balconies. From here, you can see the picturesque views of Alazani Valley and Great Caucasus mountains.
Continue to Kisiskhevi and enjoy a lunch of Georgian traditional dishes and wine tasting. From here, drive to Tsinandali to visit Duke Alexander Chavchavadze`s estate and the garden created in the 19th century. The park and the house used to be the gathering place of all poets and artists of the 19th century. Later, you will visit BIO winery Kondoli which is a traditional Georgian wine cellar. Here, you will taste wine made by the traditional way in Kvevri (clay vessels under the ground). Drive to Telavi. (B,L)
Overnight Kviria Hotel or similar
This morning, visit the local farmers market in Telavi. This is a place where you become an integral part of local daily life. Here you will find Georgian spices, fruits, vegetables, cheese and other natural products. Then, drive to visit Alaverdi Cathedral (11th century), the highest church in the Caucasus for many centuries. Continue to village Naphareuli, visit wine museum `Qvevri`, which introduces the whole process of winemaking in detail. A visit to Kakheti is improbable without a local family lunch.
Here you will become acquainted with local farmer`s life. Here you will taste homemade food, enjoy the natural vegetables and fruits from the home garden, interact with local families and experience Georgian hospitality. Taste traditional Kakhetian dish `Khashlama` and will also participate in baking Georgian bread and making Georgian sweets, Churchkhela. Afterwards, drive to Tbilisi. You will visit the restaurant Archive in the building of ancient caravansary. Restaurant Archive includes a wine museum and wine bar. The Georgian chef Levan Kobiashvili researched historical books and travelled around Georgian villages in order to collect old unique recipes on traditional snacks and dishes. The restaurant offers exquisite variations of the chef`s signature snacks (khemsi) and plates. (B,L,D)
Overnight Makmani Hotel or similar
This morning you will transfer to the Georgian-Armenian border. After border formalities, you will continue to Haghpat Monastery. At 1.30pm, enjoy lunch today in a local restaurant where you will enjoy a traditional Pork BBQ, soup and local fruits. Pork BBQ is one of the traditional feasts of Armenian culture. Ancient Armenians wrapped their pork in lavash (bread) and this is known as Khorovats which is still a popular dish today. Khorovats is great to eat in any season.
From here, make your way to Dilijan, one of the most important resorts in Armenia, often referred to as the ‘Little Switzerland’ of Armenia, with magnificent views to the forested surroundings.
Participate in a hands on master class where you will make Tolma, a stuffed vegetable dish, most often wrapped in grape or cabbage leaves with a meat-and-rice filling. You will also make Sujukh, a traditional sweet where walnuts are threaded onto a string, dipped in thickened grape juice or apricot/pomegranate juices and dried in the shape of a sausage. Try your hand at making gata as well. Gata is an Armenian pastry or sweet bread, similar to a coffee cake. There are many variations of gata and typically specific towns or regions will have their own version. It can be found in a variety of shapes, sizes and may be decorated or left unadorned. Long ago, gata was baked in a tonir but is now baked in ovens. The bread is often baked to coincide with the feast of Candlemas (known as Tiarn’ndaraj in Armenian), but is not limited to the holiday and is eaten year around.
One popular variety is gata with koritz (khoriz), a filling that consists of flour, butter and sugar. Gata can have other fillings such as nuts, most commonly walnuts. Some variations include placing a coin inside the dough before the gata is baked, and it is said that whoever receives the piece with the coin is to be blessed with good fortune. You will also enjoy a degustation of Muraba – different fruit preserves like jam. All of these foody experiences will be in a private home with a local family.
This evening, enjoy a street tour through Sharambeyan which is the old town of Dilijan complete with craftsman’s workshops, a gallery and a museum. (B,L,D)
Overnight Old Dilijan Hotel or similar
After breakfast, drive to Lake Sevan, the second largest alpine lake in the world and known as the ‘Emerald of Armenia’. You will visit Sevanavank, a beautiful monastery on the peninsula, once a strategic shelter for Armenian Kings.
Drive to Tsaghkunq Village for lunch where you will enjoy a fish BBQ and a peach BBQ masterclass.
After lunch drive to Yerevan where you will begin exploring the vibrant city with your guide. Originally established in 782 BC, Yerevan is a thriving city with the excitement, hustle and bustle of a modern capital. You will start your exploration from the Republic Square, the masterpiece of the architect Alexander Tamanian, and then continue to the Opera House, a stunning architectural piece and the hub of Yerevan. You will then visit Cascade Complex, an open-air museum of modern art with a massive stairway. The complex links the historic residential and cultural centres of the city with a vast area of waterfalls and outdoor gardens. Next stop is the Ararat Brandy Factory where you will learn about the process of Armenian brandy and of course enjoy a tasting. Dinner this evening, is in a local restaurant. (B,L,D)
Overnight at Ani Central Inn Hotel or similar
This morning you will visit Khor Virap, a medieval walled monastery cutting a silhouette against the snow-capped flanks of Mount Ararat. Continue to Noravank monastery – a great religious and cultural centre of 12th century which is located in a seemingly inaccessible location amidst impressive red cliffs and stunning mountains.
Lunch today is under a Walnut tree, outside in nature. Here, you will participate in a masterclass preparing a traditional chicken BBQ, as well as a degustation of homemade vodka and wine.
Once your stomach is full, you will continue to Areni Cave 1, a 6100-year-old winery that was discovered in 2007. This series of Armenian caves held the oldest brain, shoe, and winery in the world. First investigated by archaeologists in 2007, the ever-giving Areni caves consist of a number of burial sites dating back to 5000 – 4000 BCE. The miraculous finds began almost as soon as digging begun. Among the artifacts the Armenian-Irish excavation team discovered were a series of clay pots, each containing the skull of a pre-teen corpse. Remarkably, one of these skulls still held a piece of well-preserved brain tissue, making it the oldest example of the Neolithic brain ever discovered. But the amazing finds didn’t stop there. In 2010, excavators discovered a sewn leather shoe dating back to the Copper Age. While sandals and other primitive footwear have been discovered from era’s farther back, the foot wrap is the oldest example of its kind in existence. Shortly after finding the ancient footwear, the researchers then discovered what seemed to be an ancient wine press. The wine-making site is, unsurprisingly, also the earliest proof of wine-making ever found.
Drive back to Yerevan where dinner this evening is in a local restaurant. (B,L,D)
This morning you will visit Geghard Monastery. The spectacular towering cliffs surrounding the monastery are part of the Azat River Gorge, and are included together with the monastery in the UNESCO World Heritage Site listing. Some of the chambers within the monastery complex are entirely dug out of the cliff rocks, others are little more than caves, while others are elaborate structures, with both architecturally complex walled sections and rooms deep inside the cliff.
Continue to Garni Temple dating back to the 1st century. The citadel and pagan temple of Garni is a picturesque monument of the Hellenistic period and an impressive piece of ancient Armenian architecture. Here you will have an opportunity to enjoy the charming melodies of Armenian ‘duduk’ by a local performer. Duduk and its music are inscribed in the list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. The architectural peculiarities of the temple were designed in a way to produce an authentically holy and mysterious reverberation of sound, almost a divine echo.
Lunch will be at a local restaurant with the presentation of the Armenian flatbread ‘lavish’ baking process in an underground stove called ‘tonir’. Following lunch, you will visit Ejmiatsin Cathedral the spiritual centre of all Armenians and the seat of the Armenian Catholicos. Ejmiatsin Cathedral is the oldest standing church in Christendom built in 303 AD over a pagan fire altar. You will also visit the ruins of Zvartnots – the pearl of 7th century architecture, inscribed in UNESCO’s World Heritage list.
Dinner is in a private home where you will participate in a masterclass and learn how to make Asrishta, a homestyle pasta similar to fettucine, but made with a bit of browned butter to give it a rich flavour. Enjoy a degustation meal with the local family accompanied with homemade walnut liquor. (B,L,D)
Today is yours at leisure until it is time to transfer to the airport for your onward flight. (B)
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**Please note that this tour can be organised on request for private departures.
* Pricing is subject to change at anytime until full payment has been received.
* A minimum of 8 adults is required to guarantee this departure.
A non-refundable deposit of $1000 AUD per person is required to secure your place. Final payment is due no later than 60 days prior to departure. Travel insurance is mandatory for travelling with Crooked Compass. For full terms and conditions, please click here.
This category of tours involves light trekking, walking, cycling, rafting or kayaking for a few hours each day with a small amount of inclines and declines. You will require a reasonable level of fitness and good health to participate. It is important to note that due to the nature of some of our trips, they may take place in remote areas (with basic facilities) and can involve long travelling days on various modes of transport.
Suggested preparation : At least 3 months prior to departure, it is recommended that you undertake aerobic exercise (this may include jogging, cycling or fast walking) for 30 minutes, three times a week. It is also advised to walk on variable terrain and in variable weather conditions. For a cycling adventure, road cycling twice a week is recommended and for adventures which involve paddling and kayaking, it is important to gain confidence and rhythm rather than speed prior to departure.
This category of tours involve trekking, kayaking and cycling for period of 6 to 8 hours a day at a fairly consistent pace. Ideal for people looking to slightly increase the heart rate. For our moderately rated tours, you must have a good level of fitness and also be in good health. It is also important to be prepared for variable weather conditions. Altitude may also come into play. This category of tours may involve visiting remote areas where facilities can be quite basic. Accommodation may also involve camping, homestays or basic accommodation where facilities may not be considered of western standards. To enjoy this style of travel, it is suggested for travellers to have a reasonable level of fitness and health, a positive attitude, as well as a fairly active lifestyle. An open mind is also required.
Suggested preparation: At least 3 months prior to departure, it is recommended that you undertake 45mins – 1 hour of aerobic exercise, three to four times a week. Some potential exercises that could be beneficial include hill walking with a backpack on over variable terrain and weather conditions, as well as running and cycling dependent on the activity you plan on undertaking.
This category of tours involves trekking, kayaking, cycling or other adventure activities in remote areas for up to 8 to 10 hours a day. It is important to note that with the remoteness of some regions comes a variety of other challenges such as variable weather conditions, accommodation as well as facilities. You must have an excellent level of fitness and good health to be able to partake in this category of tour. You must have confidence in your own ability and be in good physical condition. Includes extended periods of endurance.
Suggested preparation: At least 3 to 4 months of strenuous exercise, four times a week. When preparing for treks it would be beneficial to participate in hill walks with a weighted day pack (approximately 5-8 kg) once a week for aerobic fitness and strengthening of leg muscles. It is also important to do this on variable terrain to prepare for challenging adventures. When preparing for cycling adventures, regular bike riding (at least 4 to 5 times a week for 1-4 hours is essential). It is also important to cycle on uneven surfaces or even participate in other aerobic exercises such as running or swimming to build up strength and stamina. Altitude may also be a factor in these tours.
This category of tour often involves extreme trekking, cycling or other extreme adventure activities. It is important to expect remote and poorly defined tracks and to be prepared for variable weather conditions for 10 to 12 hours per day (may sometimes be more depending on weather and altitude). These adventures are suitable for travellers who have prior experience in strenuous travel and activities, are extremely fit and have excellent health. It is also important to note that some of the terrain on these adventures will involve trekking in snow, at high attitude levels and may require technical equipment.
Suggested preparation: It is important to note that physical fitness should be an ongoing activity, commencing around 5-6 months prior to departure, or even before if you have no prior fitness. Exercise should focus on building maximum endurance and stamina. Four to five hard sessions of 40-60 mins per week should be completed and can include exercises such as going to the gym, running, swimming or cycling to focus on building aerobic stamina. It could also be beneficial to prepare by hiking on rough terrain, in extreme weather conditions or partake in altitude training.