Price

$7010 AUD per person

$1230 AUD Single supplement

Inclusions

  • Return airport transfers
  • 21 nights’ accommodation
  • 20 breakfasts, 7 lunches, 4 dinners
  • 1 bottle of mineral water (0.5l) per person per day.
  • Entrance Fees as per the itinerary
  • Services of English speaking local guide
  • Sightseeing as per the itinerary
  • Air-conditioned private transportation

Exclusions

  • International and domestic flights
  • Visas
  • Travel and medical insurance
  • All services, meals other than those indicated above
  • Any changes to the proposed and confirmed program.
  • All items of a personal nature e.g. drinks, laundry, telephone calls, tips etc

Sitting at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, the Caucasus - Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia are one of the most exciting regions for cultural exploration. Follow the footsteps of Silk Road traders and merchants, Crusader Knights and Ottoman Princes as you explore from the shores of the Caspian Sea, to the fascinating history of Baku, take in the stunning wine fields and spectacular High Caucasus mountains. Learn of the legends of the Golden Fleece, embrace the breathtaking scenery and welcoming hospitality of the local people. Still relatively unknown, this is the perfect trip for those who are well travelled seeking a more diverse experience in an often overlooked part of our world.

Day 1 - Arrive Baku

Welcome to Baku! Upon arrival you will be met by your guide and transferred to the hotel. The remainder of the day is yours at leisure.

Baku is the perfect combination of Dubai’s megalopolis and Paris’ chicness with a splash of Soviet history poking its head out. Here, both east and west blend seamlessly. Home to the UNESCO listed Old City surrounded by an ancient fortress wall. Tree lined streets, stone mansions and elegant boutiques are taking over the depressing Soviet apartment blocks bringing a romantic air to the city.

Overnight Sapphire Inn or similar

Day 2 - Gobustan

Following breakfast, you will visit the ancient rock paintings of Gobustan (65km from Baku) which date back between 5,000 and 40,000 years. This UNESCO Heritage Site is one of the major and most ancient museums of rock engravings in the world. The site covers three areas of a plateau of rocky boulders rising out of the semi-desert and boasts an outstanding collection of more than 6,000 rock engravings. The site also features the remains of inhabited caves, settlements and burials, all reflecting an intensive human use by the inhabitants of the area during the wet period that followed the last Ice Age, from the Upper Paleolithic to the Middle Ages.

In the afternoon, enjoy a tour through Baku’s Old City which will include the funicular to Martyrs Alley where you can take in the panoramic city view. You will also visit Shirvanshah’s Palace which dates back to 15th century and is described as ‘one of the pearls’ of Azerbaijan’s architecture. You will also see the Maiden Tower (12th century) and Mohammed’s Mosque (11th century). Later you will walk along the interesting and picturesque sea front promenade. (B)

Overnight Sapphire Inn or similar

Day 3 - Baku

Today, you will visit the Fire Temple, a castle-like religious temple dating back to 17th century which was once a place of sacrifice founded above a natural gas vent. From there, you will travel to Yanar Dagh, also known as ‘Burning Mountain’. Yanar Dagh is a volcanic hill located on top of a pocket of natural gas that constantly erupts into flames and has been burning for as long as anyone can remember.

Following lunch, it is time to visit the must see Carpet Museum which has the largest collection of Azerbaijani carpets in the world. From there, you will then go to the Museum of History which houses more than 350,000 pieces displayed in its rooms recounting the history and culture of Azerbaijan from ancient times until 1920. (B)

Overnight Sapphire Inn or similar

Day 4 – Shamakhi to Lahidj to Gabala

After breakfast you will depart towards Gabala (approx. 220km). Along the way you will stop at Juma Mosque followed by Shirvan Domes, a mausoleum and graveyard from the 15th century Shirvan Dynasty. Your last stop is at Diri-Baba, a unique two-storied mausoleum-mosque also from the 15th century.

You will then travel onto the quaint village of Lahidj (also known as Lahij or Lahic) which has preserved its medieval image, with its stone houses and cobbled streets. Lahidj is a famous centre of the craft trade and you will visit the local workshops and meet and see the local skilled copper craftsmen ply their trade. You will have time to purchase some handicrafts, as well as walk the cobbled streets before continuing onto Gabala. (B)

Overnight in a local guesthouse

Day 5 – Gabala to Sheki

This morning you will explore Gabala (also known as Qabala) which is a beautiful part of Azerbaijan with a rich and ancient history. Besides visiting the Historical Museum of Gabala which house many historic artefacts from the area, you also see the renowned ruins of the ancient walled city, Chukhur Gabala, which dates back to the 4th century BC.

From here, continue on to Nidj village and meet the native Udin people, direct descendants of ancient Caucasian Albanians. Later you will arrive in Sheki and visit Sheki Khans Palace, a magnificent work of Islamic architecture, known for its stunning frescoes and stained glass, as well as the House of Sheki Khans, famed for its beautiful internal decorations. You will also travel to the nearby picturesque mountain village of Kish (Kis) with its beautiful Albanian church.

At the end of the day, you will return back to Sheki with a visit to the local bazaar where there is an amazing display of goods on offer and is a great place to mingle with locals and see how they shop, barter and banter as well as gain an insight to their rural lifestyles. (B)

Day 6 - Sheki to Tblisi

Following breakfast, it is time to continue to the border. Here you will change guide and vehicles and then its time to continue on and explore Georgia.

For lunch you will visit a local family, where you will learn about local peasant life. You will see the locals gardens and vineyards, and then have lunch with delicious homemade food, wine and Georgian Chacha – a strong brandy like spirit.

It is then time to visit the 18th century beautiful, small town of Sighnaghi with its old fences and small houses with tiled roofs and decorated balconies. From here, you will see the picturesque views of Alazani Valley and the Great Caucasus Mountains. Afterwards drive to Tbilisi. (B,L)

Overnight Terrace Hotel Tblisi or similar

Day 7 - Tbilisi

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.

Finally, the Golden Fund of the historical museum (closed on Mondays) will prove the fact that Georgia is truly the land of the Golden Fleece. (B)

Overnight Terrace Hotel Tblisi or similar

Day 8 – Tbilisi to Akhaltsikhe

This morning you will be driven to visit the ancient capital and religious centre of Georgia – Mtskheta (3,000 years old). Spend time visiting the cities historical sights including Jvari church (6th century) and Svetitskhoveli Cathedral (11th century) where the Robe of Christ is buried. Both Jvari and Svetitskhoveli are UNESCO World Heritage sites.

Then drive to Borjomi Spa resort, famous for its mineral water ‘Borjomi’. Visit the small park and taste the fresh mineral water. Continue to Akhaltsikhe, where you will visit the multi-cultural complex of ‘Rabath’ (closed on Mondays). (B)

Overnight Hotel Lomsia or similar

Day 9 - Akhaltsikhe to Vardzia to Kutaisi

Today you travel to Vardzia and along the way visit Khertvisi Fortress (10th century). Vardzia is a magnificent cave town from the 12th century and is one of the highlights of the trip. It stretches over half a kilometre along the river Mtkvari and has 19 tiers and used to house around 3000 caves. The complex also includes dwellings quarters, small hall-type churches, refectories, wine cellars, pharmacy, etc. There is also a church hewn out of rock with amazing 12th century frescoes.  You will enjoy lunch with a local family and then continue on to Kutaisi. (B,L)

Overnight Boutique Hotel Argo or similar

Day 10 – Okatse to Becho

In the morning you will visit a local farmers market and then continue to Okatse Canyon (closed on Mondays), which involves a 2-3 hour pedestrian route passing through Dadiani historical forest, 780 m length hanging trail and finishes with panoramic view. Here, you can explore 3 cascade Okatse waterfall, the Dadiani forest and river Satsiskvilo valley.

Afterwards, get ready for the most exciting part of your trip – a journey to Svaneti – the region of the highest mountains and glaciers and the most abiding ancient traditions. Arrive in Becho Village. (B,D)

Overnight in a local guesthouse

Day 11 – Mt Ushba to Mestia

Today is all about getting back to nature. You start your walking from the guesthouse with the aim is to get closer to Mt. Ushba (4,700m) which proudly overlooks Svaneti. After crossing deep forest, you continue to the waterfalls. Both the beauty of the waterfalls and twin peaked Mt. Ushba will make you feel like a character out of a fairy tale. You will then walk back to Becho and drive to Mestia – the centre of Upper Svaneti region. Walking time today is approx 5-6 hours.(B,Picnic L,D)

Overnight Kala Hotel or similar

Day 12 - Mulakhi to Mestia

This morning you will visit a local family were you will see how Georgians make cheese. From here, you will be driven to the village of Mulakhi and start your walk towards Mestia. Following a lengthy uphill trek (1,870m) you descend to a beautiful valley filled with flowers and you will be welcomed with a view of the Chalaadi Glacier (2,300m) and Mestia Valley with its watchtowers. After returning to Mestia, you will visit a traditional Svantian house and tower. Walking time today is approx 4-5 hours. (B,Picnic L,D)

Overnight Kala Hotel or similar

Day 13 – Mestia to Ushguli

An early start today as you depart on a three-hour drive by local 4WD which will take you to the highest permanent village in Europe – Ushguli (2,200m). Ushguli, and generally the whole Upper Svaneti region, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The village is most famous for its abundance of watchtowers and this is where you get the view of the highest mountain in Georgia – Mt. Shkhara (5068m). In Ushguli, you will walk around the village, visit Lamaria Church (12th century) and then continue walking towards Queen Tamar`s tower from where you will enjoy great views. Afterwards drive back to Mestia. (B, Picnic L,D) Walking time today is approx 2 hours.

Overnight Kala Hotel or similar

Day 14 – Zugdidi to Kutaisi

Today you will leave the beautiful Svaneti region and drive back to Zugdidi. Here you will visit Dadiani`s Palace (closed Mondays) where the culture of the Dadiani Dynasty is on display and 41,000 museum objects are held. Most of them are unique and invaluable examples of Georgian and foreign art. Afterwards visit Gelati Cathedral (12th century) – one of the earliest academies in Europe and UNESCO World Heritage site and then drive to Kutaisi. (B)

Overnight Boutique Hotel Argo or similar

Day 15 – Gori to Tbilisi

In the morning drive to Gori and visit the historical place of Uplistsikhe Cave Town (1st millennium BC). Uplistsikhe is the place where the Great Silk Road used to pass. This is an old and interesting complex with dwelling quarters, wine-cellars, bakeries, a three-nave basilica church hewn out in rock and even an antique theatre. There is a photo stop at Stalin`s house and museum. Afterwards drive towards Tbilisi. On the way you will stop to visit ‘Iago’s wine cellar’ in the village of Chardakhi, where you will taste unique BIO wines produced by the traditional Georgian method in Kvevri (This method is inscribed in UNESCO intangible heritage list). It’s noteworthy that this wine can be found on the list of unique wines of the Ritz Hotel in London. Arrive in Tbilisi. (B)

Overnight Terrace Hotel Tblisi or similar

Day 16 – Sadakhlo to Dzoraget

This morning you will transfer to the Georgian-Armenian border Sadakhlo. After border formalities, you will continue to the monastic complexes of Haghpat and Sanahin (10th century) which are among the outstanding works of medieval Armenian architecture inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage list. You will then continue to Dzoraget along the Debet River.  Dzoraget, alternatively known as the Kingdom of Lori or Kiurikian Kingdom, was a medieval Armenian kingdom formed in 979 by the Kiurikian dynasty. (B)

Overnight Avan Dzoraget or similar

Day 17 – Haghartin to Dilijan

Following breakfast at your hotel, you will drive to Haghartsin Monastery (13th century) a stunning example of the medieval Armenian architecture nestled in lush woods. You will then enjoy lunch with a local Armenian family tasting homemade local food, before continuing to Goshavank Monastery (12-13th century) located in picturesque surroundings.

Continue 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. You can also take a photo stop at Old Dilijan, complete with craftsman`s workshops, gallery and a museum. (B)

Overnight BW Paradise Resort or similar

Day 18 – Sevan to Goris

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 and then continue to Noratus Village to visit Noratus Cemetery, known as ‘Forest of Khachkars’. ‘Khachkar’ (cross stone) is a typical monument of Armenian sculpture representing an ornamented stone with a cross in the centre.

Continue to the southern town of Goris via Selim Caravanserai, an important trading post on the Great Silk Road which has welcomed travellers along the highway through the mountains of Selim (Sulema). You will then travel to Karahunj (Armenia’s Stonehenge – also known as Carahunge), an ancient observatory 6,000 B.C. The site is rich with stone settings, burial cists and standing stones, consisting of around 223 stone basalt slabs. You will then drive to Goris. (B)

Overnight Mirhav Hotel or similar

Day 19 – Tatev Monastery to Yerevan

You will start your day exploring the complex of Tatev Monastery which is an architectural masterpiece dating from the 10th century and is often referred to as a ‘monastery built on the edge of nothing’. You will reach the Monastery via the world’s longest aerial tramway called ‘Wings of Tatev’. Afterwards, you will be driven to the Vayots Dzor region, the agricultural heart of the country, inhabited since the Bronze Age. The region also prides its old wine making traditions with history starting from the times of Noah. You will visit Areni Winery for a wine degustation with Armenia’s best wines coming from this region.

Finally, you will visit 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. You will then continue to the capital city of Yerevan. (B)

Overnight BassBoutique Hotel or similar

Day 20 – Echmiadzin to Zvartnots

Your day will begin exploring the vibrant city of Yerevan 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.

Depart for Echmiadzin, the spiritual centre of all Armenians and the seat of the Armenian Catholicos. Echmiadzin Cathedral is the oldest standing church in Christendom built in 303 AD over a pagan fire altar. This landmark is protected by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. You will then enjoy lunch at the local community and art school, where you will sample the national food and the traditional Armenian dish ‘Tolma’.

As you return to Yerevan, you will stop at the ruins of Zvartnots – the pearl of 7th century architecture, inscribed in UNESCO’s World Heritage list. You will then return to Yerevan and visit the History Museum of Armenia. (B,L)

Overnight BassBoutique Hotel or similar

Day 21 – Garni to Geghard

After your hotel breakfast, you will depart for Garni Village to visit 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 house with the presentation of the Armenian flatbread ‘lavish’ baking process in an underground stove called ‘tonir’. After a good meal, 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. You will then return to Yerevan where the afternoon is at leisure. (B,L)

Overnight BassBoutique Hotel or similar

Day 22 – Departure

Today is yours at leisure until it is time to transfer to the airport for your onward flight. (B)