Azerbaijan’s cosmopolitan capital of Baku is a city of contrasts. Enjoy a guided walking tour around the city’s World Heritage-listed Old Town then stroll past waterfront parks and modern architectural wonders.. Relax among the Kyareli Mountains after a day of travel in your Georgian premium Feature Stay accommodation, with elegant interiors, wellness facilities and panoramic views of the countryside.. Be serenaded by traditional singers in Georgia’s Kakheti region while sampling local food, understanding the importance of bread in a Georgian diet, and learning traditional methods of winemaking.. See the historic sights of Georgia at Mtskheta – its 3000-year-old ancient capital and centre of religious culture – and the magnificent cave town of Vardzia, complete with 12th-century frescoes.
Watch arid landscapes give way to verdant hillsides and majestic snow-capped mountains on this eye-opening 15-day adventure through Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia. Explore a land where the walls speak of centuries of rich history and where ancient traditions intersect with a modern way of life. Journey with local leaders and a small group of keen adventurers through forests and past tall mountain peaks to find medieval mosques and villages. Wander through cosmopolitan Baku and Tbilisi, make friends with the friendly Georgian locals over a glass of Qvevri wine and end up in Yerevan – Armenia’s centre of culture.
Salam eleykim! Welcome to Azerbaijan. On arrival at Baku Airport, you'll be met by a representative and transferred to your hotel (approximately a 40-minute drive). Baku certainly is a city where old meets new – ancient fortified buildings standing next to Russian imperial-style squares and ultra-modern architectural wonders. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm in the evening, where you will meet your local leader and fellow travellers joining you for this adventure. Relax and enjoy a restful evening, with your welcome dinner scheduled for tomorrow evening to allow all travellers to attend.
Get to know Baku with a tour of the city, taking in a visit to the Old City, including time at Shemakha Gate, the Palace of the Shirvanshahs, Maiden Tower and Old Market Square. Be sure to bring your camera as there will be some panoramic views of Baku's varied skyline to enjoy. Afterwards, embark on a tour of the Absheron Peninsula, visiting the Ateshgah Fire Temple, Mardakan Medieval Fortress and the eternally burning Yanar Dag (Fire Mountain). Return to Baku in the evening and enjoy a local dinner with your leader and small group.
This morning, head out of the city on a day trip to Qobustan, located around 60 kilometres south of Baku. Visit one of the world's largest open-air archaeological museums and wander past ancient rock art dating back some 40,000 years. The prehistoric carvings depict scenes of hunting, fishing and gathering. Return to Baku in the afternoon and finish your day with a visit to the much-loved Carpet Museum located on the waterfront. Afterwards, perhaps continue to walk along the waterfront to find a restaurant for dinner, keeping an eye out for the Baku Eye and Flame Towers that light up the city skyline at night.
Baku – Sheki
Leave Baku and head for the Caucasus Mountains in the northwest of Azerbaijan. Watch arid landscapes slowly give way to densely forested mountains. En route to Sheki, there will be stops at an active mud volcano, Diri Baba Mausoleum in Maraza, the Yeddi Gumbaz Mausoleum, and the Juma Mosque in Shemakha. Also, stop in to visit a family to learn traditional yoghurt making methods and enjoy some local snacks. On arrival in Sheki, stop at a local craft workshop where the famous shebeke – stained-glass windows with intricately carved frames – are made by hand. You will also visit the acclaimed Palace of Shaki Khans to see its magnificent frescoes and stained glass. After a long day of driving and activities, enjoy a relaxing night in Sheki.
Sheki – Kvareli (Azerbaijan–Georgia border)
Enjoy breakfast at the hotel and visit the local Sheki bazaar before driving to Lagodeckhi – a town at the Azerbaijan–Georgia border – to meet your Georgian leader and change transportation. From here travel to Georgia's Kakheti region, known for its winemaking. There will be a visit to the Gremi Architectural Complex and its museum, followed by lunch with a local family, which includes delicious homemade cuisine and wine. Discover the importance of bread in the Georgian diet and discover how they bake this staple before continuing to a winery to sample different kinds of the Georgian varietals. There will also be time to listen to unique Georgian polyphonic songs – a traditional style of music prevalent in the Kakheti region. Afterwards, travel to your Feature Stay accommodation in Kvareli – Royal Batoni castle – located in a picturesque area on the banks of Ilia Lake, between the Kvareli Mountains and the Duruji River. Spend time relaxing by the outdoor swimming pool overlooking the lake, or in your elegant room with lake or mountain views.
Sighnaghi – Tbilisi
Following breakfast, journey to the beautiful 18th-century town of Sighnaghi, known for its quaint stone walls, small houses with terracotta roofs and decorated balconies. After some time to admire the picturesque views of Alazani Valley and Great Caucasus Mountains, drive to Tbilisi. Once arrived, wander the old districts of Georgia’s capital, which are structured like terraces, and walk through the narrow streets to appreciate the colourful houses, patterned balconies and revamped modern architecture. Get to know the city on a walk beginning from the 13th-century Metekhi Church, with its magnificent views over old Tbilisi, before visiting the main sights of the city. In the afternoon enjoy some free time.
Enjoy panoramic views of the whole town from the ancient Narikala Fortress, then head to the historic domed sulphur bath area. Visit the stunning treasury of the Golden Fund at the Natural History Museum (closed on Mondays), which will prove that Georgia is truly the land of the Golden Fleece. From here, visit a local art studio and become acquainted with Georgian cloisonne enamel – also known as Minanqari – and see how it is made. This afternoon is free for you to continue your independent exploration, so why not treat yourself to a spa treatment at one of the thermal bathhouses around the city? This is a traditional experience, and there are many bathhouses to check out around back in the the Abanotubani area of the city.
Mtsheta – Borjomi – Akhaltsikhe
Today visit Mtskheta – the ancient capital and religious centre of Georgia. Visit World Heritage-listed sites such as the sixth-century Jvari Monastery and the impressive Svetitskhoveli Cathedral, where the Robe of Christ is purported to be buried. Afterwards, visit a wine cellar in the village of Chardakhi and taste unique BIO wines, produced using traditional Georgian methods. Meet the owners of the wine cellar over a delicious lunch and Qvevri wines. In the afternoon, drive to the south-western part of Georgia and visit Borjomi Spa Town, famous for its mineral water Borjomi. Spend the night in Akhaltsikhe, with dinner included at your hotel.
Vardzia – Akhaltsikhe
Today, drive to the magnificent cave town of Vardzia, which stretches over half a kilometre along the river Mtkvari and has 19 tiers of winding cobbled streets. There is a church hewn out in rock with amazing 12th-century frescos, and the complex also includes dwellings quarters, small hall-type churches, refectories and wine cellars. En route to Vardzia, you'll also visit the 10th-century Khertvisi Fortress. In the afternoon return to Akhaltsikhe and visit the multicultural complex of Rabat (closed on Mondays). Spend the evening with your group at an included dinner at your hotel.
Uplistsikhe – Gudauri
In the morning visit the town of Gori, home to the Stalin Museum, and historic Uplistsikhe Cave Town. Uplistsikhe was a stop on the Great Silk Road, and is a fascinating complex with dwelling quarters, wine cellars, bakeries, a three-nave basilica church hewn out in rock and even a theatre! Afterwards, drive up the renowned Georgian Military Highway, which eventually leads to the Georgia–Russia border. On the way, you'll visit the Ananuri architectural complex – two churches and a fortress that overlook the Zhinvali water reservoir. The carvings on the churches are one of the best surviving examples of Georgian art. Enjoy a scenic drive through the Caucasus Mountains, and arrive at your hotel in Gudauri. Dinner is included at your hotel this evening.
Enjoy a stunning drive from Gudauri along the Tergi River before arriving in Kazbegi. From here, take the mountain road to Gergeti Trinity Church, located at 2170 metres above sea level. Weather depending, you may catch a glimpse of Mt Kazbegi – one of the highest glaciers in the Caucasus. Better yet, it may be possible to return part of the way by cable car – your driver can you drop you at the station in Kobi and you can travel the 7.5 kilometres to Gudauri in a gondola for a bird’s eye view of this landscape. Return to Gudauri this afternoon for time to relax in your hotel. This is the perfect opportunity to enjoy the mountain air and views. Your hotel has many facilities including a bowling alley and a wellness centre, and dinner this evening is included at the hotel.
Dilijan (Georgia–Armenia Border)
Enjoy a final breakfast in Gudauri before driving to Sadakhlo – a village at the Georgia–Armenia border. Here, your group will change leaders and transportation. Begin the Armenian leg of your adventure with a visit to Haghpat Monastery, listed as a World Cultural Heritage Site. Haghpat stands as an example of one of the most outstanding works of medieval Armenian architecture. Continue on to the picturesque resort town of Dilijan, often referred to as the ‘Little Switzerland of Armenia’. Dilijan's central Sharambeyan Street has been preserved and maintained as a charming old town, complete with craftsman’s workshops, a gallery and a museum. Stay overnight at a hotel in Dilijan.