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Highlights of the Caucasus

Departing: Tbilisi - 12 days
Countries visited: Georgia & Armenia

Prepare to be amazed, arriving in Georgia and Armenia is like stepping through the looking glass into a completely unexpected travel destination; beautiful, welcoming and with a wild and intriguing history - add great food and wine, incredible UNESCO heritage sites and stunning scenery and you have the perfect mix for an incredible journey of discovery.

  

 

Itinerary

Tbilisi and the High Caucasus
Explore Georgia's charming capital, Tbilisi, its historic and colourful Old Town clings precariously to the cliffs above the Mtkavari River. We will visit Narikala Fortress, Metekh Cathedral and Sioni Church in the old town, these historic sites and diverse architecture reflect Tbilisi's location at the crossroads of east and west. Enjoy a stroll along Rustaveli Avenue to the excellent Georgian National Museum, which presents the fascinating history of this beguiling capital. Time too, of course, to enjoy the famous cuisine and hospitality for which Georgians are world renowned. Beyond the city are the UNESCO sites of the ancient capital, Mtskheta, and the architectural complex of Annuli - gateway to the high Caucasus Mountains. Amongst the soaring, snow-capped peaks we enjoy a walk to the hilltop church, Gergeti Trinity (2170m) and enjoy panoramic views of the Caucasus mountain range. 


Vineyards and Cave Cities
We descend from the mountains to the province of Kakheti, it was here that winemaking was invented around 8,000 years ago and the traditional Georgian wine production methods are recognised by UNESCO. We visit a traditional wine maker to learn about the traditions of Georgian winemaking, sample some of the local varieties and enjoy the renowned Georgian hospitality amongst the local vineyards. Here too the rich history of the region is discovered in the old town of Gremi, Alaverdi Monastery and the beautiful hilltop town of Sighnahgi. A small but thriving carpet and wine centre, Sighnaghi captures the spirit of the Georgian nation. 

Ottomans, Persians and Mongols vied for control of this strategic region over many centuries, and the defenders were driven underground for protection. Uplistsikhe cave town was an important centre during the time of prosperous Silk Road trade, while Vardzia grew as an underground monastery-city over many centuries of Ottoman invasion to house over 40,000 people at its zenith. Today it is one of Georgia's most significant historic sites. 


Mountain Monasteries and Caravanserai
As the first state to adopt Christianity in 303, Armenia has some of the most ancient and beautifully sited churches and monasteries in the Caucasus; many are fortified and in strategic locations serving as both religious and military installations. Many have UNESCO recognition for significant historical and cultural value and help tell the story of this unique land. 

The UNESCO heritage sites of Echmiadzin, seat of the Armenian Church, Gerhard Monastery and the archaeological site of Zvartnots are not to be missed, while the famous Ararat Brandy Factory offers some reward for the long day sightseeing. From the tree lined boulevards and cafes of Yerevan we travel south enjoying magnificent views of Mt Ararat at Khor Virap, and on through the Areni wine region to the gravity-defying monastery at Tatev. Reached by the world's longest cableway, the 5.7 kilometre journey carries us across a deep valley offering stunning views of the surrounding landscape. Ancient stone formations and petroglyphs, Silk Road caravanserai and the khachkhar field of Noratus are but a few of the fascinating relics we discover of the long and rich history still present in modern Armenia. 

 

Essentials

Group Size
15 maximum, plus Tour Leader

Accommodation
Hotels & Guesthouses - 11 nights (twin share) 

Single supplement (optional)
Available for hotel stays on this journey. Prices are available on request.

Meals
Many breakfasts (11), some lunches (4) and some dinners (4) are included. 

Travel By
A variety of private chartered vehicles and public buses are used on the non-rail overland sectors. For 'Scheduled Sightseeing' we generally use small minibuses, and for 'City Exploring' we use local taxis, public transport and go on foot. 

Transfers
All arrival transfers are included once you have joined the group.

Sightseeing
Comprehensive scheduled Sightseeing is part of the itinerary and includes all transport, entrance fees and English speaking local guide. In addition to the scheduled sightseeing you can also tailor your journey with optional activities. 

Visas
Visas are required for Armenia and Georgia although some exemptions do apply - Sundowners Overland will provide full visa support, including detailed visa guidelines.