Azerbaijan - Georgia - Armenia
( 19 days )
August 29 – September 16
October 1 – October 19
* Reveal the secrets of the Caucasus - a hidden land, from Baku to Tbilisi and Yerevan to dramatic Caucasus Mountains and Silk Road sites frozen in time.
* Experience the uncommon Caucasian hospitality at its best, visit wineries, sample Armenian cuisine and Georgian polyphonic singing
* Cruise on the Caspain Bay in Baku
* Explore Yerevan, the most dynamic capital in the Caucasus.
* Participate in making the Armenian bread "lavash" in Garni village.
* Visit UNESCO World Heritage Sites
* Ride the world's longest aerial tramway taking to Tatev Monastery
* Marvel at the beauty of the biblical Mount Ararat, where the Noah's ark landed after the Great Flood
Itinerary in details
Day 1: Arrival in Baku
Upon arrival in Baku you will be met at the airport and transferred to your hotel. Free day to explore the city on your. Overnight in Baku.
Day 2: Baku
After breakfast we explore the oldest district of the city – “Old Baku” or “Icheri Shey-Har” (UNESCO World Heritage Site) with its maze of narrow, cobblestone streets lined with small mosques nestled between terraced cafes and grand turn-of-the-century architecture. Dozens of historical- architectural monuments are found here such as the Shirvan Shahs Palace, the Maiden Tower which is the symbol of Baku city, the Caravanserai – the rest stop of the merchants. The Old Baku is inhabited by 1300 families.It’s an ancient city inside the modern city of Baku. We end our sightseeing this day with a leisurely cruise on the Caspian Bay (weather permitting). Overnight in Baku.
Day 3: Absheron Peninsula
In the morning we drive to the Absheron Peninsula which was the site of the some of the world's first petroleum production in the 19th century and shows the ravages of its oil-rich history to this day in the many rusting oil derricks that still dot the landscape. Our journey today offers excellent views of the Caspian Sea as well as providing several unique sightseeing stops. We will visit Gobustan (UNESCO World Heritage Site) where over 4000 stone and Iron Age petroglyphs have been discovered in the hill caves above town depicting scenes of hunting and dancing rituals and a varied repertoire of animal figures along with thousands of artifacts and tools. Later we visit the temple of fire worshippers called “Ateshgah”. Thousands of years ago the ancient supporters of Zoroaster religion worshipped the fire here. At the museum complex of Ateshgah you will learn a lot about the lifestyle, traditions and the customs of the Zoroastrian people living here. Then we continue to the “burning mountain” of Yanar Dag. Here you can witness an amazing natural phenomenon - the incessant natural gas burning process. Overnight in Baku.
Day 4: Baku to Shemakha and Sheki
Today we head northwest along one of the most scenic routes in Azerbaijan. We will pass through stark, arid landscapes dotted with mud volcanoes, before reaching Diri Baba Mausoleum built precariously into the side of a cliff.
Continuing past small villages nestled among steep mountains and lush valleys dotted with vineyards, we will also stop in Shemakha, the capital of Shirvan Kingdom for several centuries. Nearby sit the famed Yeddi Gumbaz (Seven Tombs), of which only three remain completely intact. These were the royal tombs of the last Shirvan Khans to rule before the region became part of the Russian Empire. In town, we will stop at Juma Meschid or Grand Mosque whose 10th century foundations are part of the first mosque built in the Caucasus. Later continue to Sheki and overnight.
Day 5: Sheki to Telavi, Georgia
This morning enjoy a tour of Sheki. The main attraction of this charming town is the exquisite Khan's Palace set in the midst of dilapidated fortress walls and adorned with detailed mosaics and Shebaka windows made from fragments of colored glass and hand-shaped wooden cross-pieces. Later, we will have the opportunity to visit a Shebaka workshop as well as the local bazaar where we will wander among street peddlers and artists selling everything from local handicrafts and souvenirs to halva, a sweet confection flavored with cinnamon, fennel or saffron.
In the afternoon arrive in the Kakheti region of eastern-Georgia , a synonym of wine, as a fitting place to begin our introduction to the world-renowned Georgian hospitality and delicious food. Overnight in Telavi.
Day 6: Telavi - Gurjaani - Sighnaghi - David Gareji - Tbilisi
A short drive will take us to Tsinandali Museum and the former residence of an 18th century Kakhetian Prince, A. Chachavadze. A poet as well as a prince, he turned the residence into a center for Georgian intellectual life. The lovely grounds boast a beautiful English-style park filled with roses and exotic plants. It also houses one of the oldest wine cellars in existence with wine dating from 1814. Our next stop is Sighnaghi – “the love town”. En route we’ll visit Bodbe monastery of St. Nino. Later we drive to David Gareji, one of the most important landmarks of Georgia. Founded in the 6th century, David Gareja is the largest monastery complex in Georgia and was once the royal monastery. In the 1616the Persian Shah Abbas massacred 6000 monks and had the monastery sacked. The complex is known for it amazing frescoes and range of artistic and architectural styles ranging from the 6 – 18th century. Afterwards continue on to Tbilisi. Overnight in Tbilisi.
Day 7: Tbilisi city tour
A day dedicated to the exploration of Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia. Tbilisi today is one of the most modern and cosmopolitan cities in the Caucasus. It was founded in the 6th century. Since that time the city has been destroyed and rebuilt on nearly 30 different occasions following a long history of fighting off Persian, Arab, Turkmen, Mongol, Turk and, finally, Russian invaders. We begin our tour with a visit to Old Tbilisi town with its "Sulfur Baths" district, Georgian Orthodox and Armenian Apostolic churches, and a Jewish synagogue and a Turkish mosque side by side, reflecting Tbilisi's acceptance and tolerance of different religions. We can also see a recent monument - Sameba Cathedral, the largest Christian Orthodox cathedral in the Caucasus. Besides we'll visit another sites such as Metekhi Church erected on a huge cliff, overlooking the Mtkvari River. Then we'll continue our sightseeing with a visit to the Fortress of Narikala and its St. Nikolas Church. We can walk up the stairs of the fortress in order to get a bird's eye view of the magical city of Tbilisi. Walking down the path from the hill by the cobbled Leselidze Street, we come across the 13th century Armenian St. George Church and a Jewish synagogue with an elegant facade. Here we discover Shardeni Street with its fashionable cozy cafes and art galleries. While walking down we will come across the Anchiskhati Church, the oldest church in Tbilisi keeping the miraculous icon of Jesus Christ. We’ll stroll down Rustaveli Avenue, the main thoroughfare running east through the city. Visit the State Museum of Georgia displaying a wealth of pre-Christian gold, silver and precious-stone work from burials between the 3rd millennium BC and the 4th century AD. Drive to Open Air Ethnographic Museum in order to see all kinds of Georgian national old country-houses and castles. Visit the State Museum of Georgia. Overnight in Tbilisi.
Day 8: Tbilisi to Gudauri
Today we will drive north along the Georgian Military Highway, linking Georgia with Russia into the mountainous provinces of the Greater Caucasus. The first stop of our tour will be in sacred Mtskheta (UNESCO World Heritage Site), the ancient capital of eastern Georgia, at the southern end of the highway. Georgia conversion to Christianity took place in Mtskheta in 337 AD. We will visit Church of Jvari perched on a cliff overlooking the city, the Sveti-Tskhoveli Cathedral, the first Christian church to be built in Georgia and its largest functioning cathedral and the Samtavro Monastery complex.
Continuing our journey into the mountains, we will stop in Ananuri to see the incredible 16th century fortress complex built by the warring dukes of Aragvi in an attempt to control the main road.
This evening overnight in Gudauri, a popular winter mountain resort-town.
Day 9: Gudauri – Georgia Pass – Gudauri
A stunning drive from Gudauri along the Tergi River will bring us to Kazbegi – the main town in the region. From Kazbegi a leisurely 2 hour walk up through beautiful valleys and woodlands leads us 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 or 16, 500 feet). (Or we can rent jeeps in Kazbegi to drive to Gergeti church). We walk/drive back to the town and before returning to Gudauri drive to Dariali Gorge. Drive back to Gudauri. Dinner and overnight in Gudauri hotel.
Day 10: Gudauri to Bakuriani
We journey down from the mountains stopping in Gori, founded by one of the greatest kings of Georgia, David the Builder in the 12th century. Visit the house museum of Joseph Stalin in Gori as this town is the house birthplace of the dictator. The town will also provide a convenient jumping off point for our explorations of nearby Uplis-Tsikhe, an ancient cave town dating from the first half of the 1st millennium BC. The entire town is a complex of rock-cut streets, residences, churches, secret tunnels, water passages, markets and the oldest theatre in Georgia. Though there are about 700 caves the visitor have access to only 150 of them. Later we will drive to famous spa resort Borjomi which boasts a temperate climate, mountain scenery and famed curative mineral waters. Drive to Borjomi. Dinner and overnight.
Day 11: Bakuriani – Vardzia Cave town – Gyumri, Armenia
Drive to Vardzia founded by Queen Tamar, Georgia’s most famous and loved royal who reigned during the 12th century. Crowned as co-ruler by her father, Giorgi III, she became the first woman to ascend to the throne of feudal Georgia and is credited with extending and unifying Georgian rule with successful defeats against Muslim and Turk forces. We will explore the monastery to view the remarkably well-preserved frescoes depicting the young queen. After visiting Vardzia we will drive to Georgian-Armenian Border at Bavra village.
After clearing customs, we will continue on to Gyumri, the second largest city of Armenia. Overnight in Gyumri.
Day 12: Gyumri – Dilijan – Sevan
After breakfast Gyumri City Tour. One of the ancient settlements of the Northern Armenia, Gyumri is a city that has a history of over 3,000 years which has preserved unique specimens of the culture of Armenian urbanization, marvelous architectural complexes, whole traditional quarters, streets, public and commercial buildings, as well as unique fortifications. Afterwards we continue driving to Fioletovo village populated by the Russian “Molokans” or “Old believers”. Then we drive to Dilijan spa town in Dilijan National Park, a protected area renowned for its serene lakes, picturesque hill trails and peaceful villages. Words alone can’t describe the natural beauty of Dilijan. Many poets used to say, "If there are woods, mountains, streams and mineral waters in paradise, it must be like Dilijan”. Due to its forested mountains and mild climate, Dilijan is named "Armenia's Little Switzerland". Walking in Old Dilijan town. Continue to the Lake Sevan, the world’s second largest high altitude lake at 1900m (6200 feet) above sea level. Climb up to the Sevan Monastery to marvel at the beautiful view of the Lake Sevan, the “blue-eyed” bride of Armenia. Hotel check in. Overnight in Sevan.
Day 13: Sevan – Selim – Tatev – Goris
Heading to the south of Armenia, we will visit the Stone Garden - Noraduz, the largest field of Armenian exquisite cross-stones (UNESCO) in the world. Driving through Selim Mountain Pass famous for its fascinating colorful mountains we reach Selim Caravanserai on the Great Silk Road at the highest point of the pass. Here little has changed since the fourteenth century. The caravanserai offered hospitality to travelers along the highway crossing the Selim mountains. We continue driving to Syuniq, the southermost region of Armenia sharing a border with Iran. We visit the miraculous monastery of Tatev riding the world’s longest aerial tramway (5.7km) built by the Swiss in 2010. Tatev is a formidable monastic complex founded in the 9th century. It’s the biggest monastery in Armenia. It's located on a rocky peninsula more than 100 meters above the Vorotan River. According to tradition the relics of the Apostles, Sts. Peter and Paul, were placed under the dome's supporting pillars. It’s surrounded by bottomless gorges. We drive to Goris town. Overnight.
Day 14: Goris – Zorats Karer – Noravank – Khor Virap – Yerevan
After a hearty breakfast we discover the spirit of the Old town of Goris. It’s a town in orchards where the houses have the same unique architecture with red tile roofs, arched windows. The town is beautifully planned in the 19th century. Later we will visit one of the most fascinating places in the world – the megalithic stone structures of Zorats Karer. 3500 years older than Stonehenge scientists believe there is a connection between this ancient observatory and its English counterpart. We crossing the Vorotan Pass we visit the most enigmatic place in Armenia – the Monastery of Noravank. an architectural gemstone nestled among brick-red cliffs, just above a deep gorge. Then we drive to Areni village, the cradle of viticulture! This is where world’s ancient winery was discovered (6000years old)! Winery tour and wine tasting. We continue to the south driving through the agricultural heart of Armenia, Ararat Plain offering a fantastic scenery of fruit orchards, endless vinyards at the foothills of Ararat Mountain where the Noah’s ark landed. The next stop of our trip is Khor Virap, the most sacred pilgrimage destination in Armenia where you’ll get the best view of the biblical Mount Ararat (5165m). Guided by the remote majesty of biblical Mount Ararat, we explore the site, its underground chambers, elegant chapels and are captivated by the ascetic atmosphere of the site. Hotel check in.
Overnight in Yerevan.
Day 15: Yerevan City Tour
Today we explore Yerevan, the “pink pearl” of Armenia and the most dynamic capital in the Caucasus. It's a beautiful European city built of purple and pink tufa stone. Yerevan as one of the the oldest continuously inhabited cities of the world has a history that dates back 2800 years.
We'll have a panoramic tour of the city starting with the "Victory" Park offering a bird's eye view of the city. We also visit the Cascade which is a colossal white stairwell built on a Yerevan hillside in the 1970’s, with water fountains running down the sides, all reminiscent of a natural river or stream cascading. We’ll have a fascinating journey through the Armenian history with a visit to the History Museum of Armenia. Get acquainted with the rich spiritual and cultural life of ancient Armenia at Matenadaran, a unique Research Institute and museum of ancient and medieval illustrated manuscripts. Marvel at the illuminated pages of some of those manuscripts within their glass cases. Overnight in Yerevan.
Day 16: Echmiadzin
Today we embark on our journey to the lands of ancient treasures of Christian history…Vatican city of Armenia, Holy Echmiadzin with its world’s earliest Christian churches included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Visit Echmiadzin Mother Cathedral. It was originally built by Saint Gregory the Illuminator in 301-303A.D., when Armenia became the first officially Christian state in the world. Continue to St. Hripsime and St. Gayane churches built in 7th century. These churches are considered masterpieces of early medieval Armenian architecture. On the way back to Yerevan visit the Ruins of Zvartnots Cathedral. The remnants of Zvartnots, even in ruins, are a majestic sight... In Yerevan we visit Vernisage Arts & Crafts Open Air Market, the biggest in the Caucasus, where you can buy all kinds of artwork, carpets and rugs, jewelry and other typical Armenian souvenirs. Overnight in Yerevan.
Day 17: Garni, Geghard
Leaving the frantic pace of the city we are heading towards Garni Pagan Temple, the only Hellenistic Temple in the Caucasus. The Pagan Temple of Garni is the only pagan temple currently standing in Armenia. Gracing the hillside the pagan temple was dedicated to the God of Sun, Mithra. It was built in 77A.D. Proceed to Geghard Monastery (UNESCO) carved out of a huge monolithic rock. Geghard is an incredible ancient Armenian monastery, partly carved out of a mountain. It is said that the Holy Lance that pierced the body of Christ was kept here. The architectural forms and the decoration of Geghard's rock premises show that Armenian builders could not only create superb works of architecture out of stone, but also hew them in solid rock. Back to Garni village. Visiting a local house in Garni village. Traditional Armenian bread-lavash making in tonir (underground earth-stove). Overnight in Yerevan.
Day 18: Yerevan
This morning we visit the Armenian Genocide Memorial Complex and Museum dedicated to the innocent victims of 1915 massacres of 1.5million Armenians organized by the Ottoman government. Later we visit the legendary ARARAT BRANDY FACTORY (founded in 1887) where you’ll discover the secret and legends of the most sophisticated Armenian beverage, the favorite cognac of Sir Winston Churchill, the British Prime Minister. Here we’ll walk around the ageing cellar and see how the brandy spirits are preserved. Then we’ll taste Nairi, Akhtamar and 3* brandies with chocolate. Overnight in Yerevan.
Day 19: Transfer to Zvartnots International Airport near Yerevan. Departure
The rates include:
Accommodation 3* hotel ( 4* & 5* hotels are available on request)
Multi-lingual professional tourist guide
1 bottle of water per person per day
Breakfast at the hotel
The rates do not include:
Jeeps in Kazbegi
Visa to Armenia
Visa to Azerbaijan