Get to the heart of the Caucasus’s capitals with experienced local leaders – enjoy guided city tours and marvel at Baku’s diverse architecture, explore Tbilisi’s winding narrow streets, and uncover the history of ancient Yerevan.. Enjoy a serene evening at your feature stay hotel. Tucked away at the foot of the Tsiv-Gombori mountains, your hotel offers a fabulous swimming pool and unforgettable mountain views.. Visit the Tserovani Refugee Settlement in Georgia where you will visit a jewellery making workshop aimed at providing employment to displaced women within the camp, create a piece yourself and learn about the issues surrounding long-term displacement.. Experience the region’s diverse cuisine, from learning traditional yoghurt making methods in Azerbaijan to a home cooked meal with a local family and a lunch of regional specialties in a refugee settlement in Georgia.
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 a local leader 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 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. 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. If you arrive with time to spare, perhaps take a walk down the charming Nizami Street and observe its Baroque, Neo-Gothic and Neo-Renaissance architecture. After your meeting, enjoy a local dinner with your leader and small group. In Azerbaijan, sharing bread is thought to seal a bond of friendship, so perhaps break some bread with your new travel companions.
This morning, embark on a tour of the city with a local guide. Pay a visit to the fortified Old City, once the Medieval capital, where your guide will weave together the history of Baku, from the rule of the Shirvanshahs to the cosmopolitan city you see today. Stop by the Shemakha Gate, Maiden Tower (visit optional), Caravanserai, Old Market Square and end outside the Palace of the Shirvanshahs. Be sure to bring your camera as there will be some panoramic views of Baku's varied skyline to enjoy. The rest of the day is free to explore – perhaps enter the Palace of the Shirvanshahs to uncover more of its history, or visit the much-loved carpet museum.
Absheron Peninsula / Qobustan / Baku
This morning, head out of the city on a day trip to the Absheron Peninsula and Qobustan. Visit the Ateshgah Fire Temple, Mardakan Medieval Fortress and the eternally burning Yanar Dag (Fire Mountain). Continue to Qobustan, located around 60 kilometres south of Baku. Stop off along the way to view old oil rigs and learn how Azerbaijan was one of the birthplaces of the oil industry. On arrival to Qobustan National Park, visit one of the world's largest open-air archaeological museums where a local guide will share the stories of 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. This evening you may like to take a 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.
Shamaki / 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 Diri Baba Mausoleum in Maraza (subject to renovations completed), the Yeddi Gumbaz Mausoleum, and the Juma Mosque in Shamakhi. Make a special stop to visit a family to learn traditional yoghurt making methods and enjoy some local snacks. On arrival in Sheki, visit 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. Arrive in Sheki and enjoy a final evening of Azerbaijani cuisine during an included dinner at a local restaurant.
Sheki / Kakheti Region / Telavi
Enjoy breakfast at the hotel and visit the local Sheki bazaar before driving to Lagodeckhi – a town at the Azerbaijan–Georgia border – where you will 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 a wonderful lunch with a local family, which includes delicious homemade cuisine, wine and chacha, a local brandy. Discover the importance of bread in the Georgian diet and learn how they bake this staple. 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 Telavi. Tucked into the foothills of the Tsiv-Gombori mountains, the Savaneti Hotel offers a chic aesthetic in a serene location. Enjoy a lovely swimming pool, a marvellous on-site restaurant and unbeatable views of the Alazani Valley and Caucasus mountains.
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. Here you will meet with an expert local guide who will explain the history of the intriguing town. After some time to admire the picturesque views of Alazani Valley and Great Caucasus Mountains, drive to Tbilisi with your leader and local guide. Once arrived perhaps 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. Enjoy a free afternoon – your leader will have some wonderful recommendations for local restaurants to head for dinner.
This morning uncover the secrets of the city on a walking tour with your local guide, beginning from the 13th-century Metekhi Church, which offers magnificent views over old Tbilisi. You will take a cable car to the ancient Narikala Fortress, a former Persian citadel with a history stretching back to the 4th century. Here your guide will share the layered history of the fortress while you take in sweeping views across Tbilisi. Then make your way to a historic part of the city where you will learn a little more about Tbilisi’s past. The name Tbilisi translates to ‘warm place’ which is thought to be after the bubbling hot springs that the city was built around. This afternoon you may like to visit one of the local bathhouses for a dip in the therapeutic waters, or perhaps visit the stunning treasury of the Golden Fund at the Natural History Museum (closed on Mondays), where you’ll learn why Georgia is called the land of the Golden Fleece.
Mtskheta / Tserovani / Borjomi
Today meet with a local guide for a visit to Mtskheta, the ancient capital and religious centre of Georgia. Visit World Heritage-listed sites with your local guide on hand to share their fascinating histories, such as the 6th-century Jvari Monastery and the impressive Svetitskhoveli Cathedral, where the Robe of Christ is purported to be buried. Afterwards, pay a visit to the Tserovani Refugee Settlement, home to 8000 people displaced by the 2008 conflict between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Georgia over South Ossetia. While here you will visit an enamel jewellery workshop – a social enterprise offering training and employment to displaced youth and women within the camp. You will have the chance to meet the jewellery artists whose pieces tell the story of Georgia, and with their guidance, you will design a piece yourself. Stop for a light lunch of Georgian specialties then tour the settlement to learn about the issues surrounding long-term displacement faced by thousands of Georgia’s citizens to this day. This inspiring experience sheds light on a side of the country that few visitors get to see, and is sure to be one of your lasting memories of your time in Georgia. In the afternoon, drive to the south-western part of Georgia and visit Borjomi Spa Town, famous for its naturally fizzy mineral water. Stay overnight in another beautiful hotel, located in the former residence of the Iranian consul, a building with almost 130 years of history.
Vardzia / Akhaltsikhe / Borjomi
Today, drive to the magnificent and once mighty cave city of Vardzia, with a stop en route at the 10th-century Khertvisi Fortress. Vardzia 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. You will tour the site with a local guide who will provide historical context and explain the rise and fall of this magical city, which now serves as a working monastery. In the afternoon, stop by the city of Akhaltsikhe and visit the multicultural complex of Rabat (closed on Mondays). Head back to Borjomi and enjoy dinner at a local restaurant. As you’ll have discovered by now, eating in Georgia is a truly joyous occasion. At tonight’s included dinner, perhaps ask your leader to recommend the tastiest local dishes. You may like to try some khinkali, which are spicy dumplings, or chakapuli, a herby and flavoursome stew.
Uplistsikhe / Gudauri
In the morning visit the town of Gori, home to the historic Uplistsikhe Cave Town. Explore Uplistsikhe with an expert local guide. Once a stop on the Great Silk Road, your guide will lead you around this fascinating complex with dwelling quarters, wine cellars, bakeries, a three-nave basilica church hewn out in rock and even a theatre! Gori was the birthplace of Joseph Stalin, so you may like to pay a visit to the Stalin museum while here. 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. Your leader will explain how the carvings on the churches are some of the best surviving examples of Georgian art. Take a scenic drive through the Caucasus Mountains, and arrive at your hotel in Gudauri. Enjoy an included dinner at a fantastic local restaurant.
Caucasus Mountains / Stepantsminda / Gudauri
Enjoy a stunning drive from Gudauri along the Tergi River before arriving in Kazbegi. From here, head into the heart of the Caucasus Mountains and 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. Better yet, it may be possible to return part of the way by cable car – your driver can 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.
Haghpat / Dilijan
Enjoy a final breakfast in Gudauri before driving to Sadakhlo – a village at the Georgia–Armenia border. Here, your group will change 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 – your leader will give you an introduction to the country’s history and design. Continue on to the picturesque resort town of Dilijan where you will spend the evening, 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.