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Mountains and Monasteries

Departing: Baku - 21 days
Countries visited: Azerbaijan, Armenia & Georgia

Retrace old caravan routes, discover ancient pagan temples lost in time, see monasteries carved into solid rock, and marvel at a collection of mysterious stones 3,000 years older than Stonehenge. You'll find them all in the stunning high Caucasus Mountains.

  

 

Itinerary

Days 1-4. Exploring medieval Baku
Spared destruction by the Mongols, Baku’s medieval walled city is the first of many UNESCO World Heritage sites we visit. Narrow streets lead to the Shirvanshahs’ Palace, Silk Road Caravanserai and Maiden Tower, while beyond the city we visit a Zoro-astrian Fire Temple and Yanar Dag Fire Mountain and the UNESCO listed rock engravings at Gobustan.

Days 5-8. Beautiful Historic and Scenic Georgia
An overnight train brings us to the charming Georgian capital of Tbilisi, with its 5th century origins. We visit Metekhi Church, Sioni Cathedral and the synagogue, before strolling into the new town for Freedom Square and the National Museum of History. Beyond Tbilisi we find delicious food, excellent wines and stunning mountain views in the Kakheti region. At Mstskheta we learn that this is one of the world's oldest inhabited cities and the centre of the Georgian orthodox Church. We visit Jvari Church and the Svetitskhoveli Cathedral - both UNESCO World Heritage Sites, prior to travelling to Kazbegi where we set out on challenging and rewarding walk to Gergeti Trinity Church (at 2170m), high in the Caucasus Mountains. 

Days 9-14. The High Caucasus and Svaneti
At Gori, we visit Stalin's birthplace and a museum dedicated to the father of the Soviet Union, but there's no mention of his purges which cost millions their lives. Beyond we find the rock-hewn town of Uplistsikhe once an important centre along the Silk Road. Driving on to Kutaisi, we visit the UNESCO listed Gelati Monastery where Georgia's most revered king, David the Builder is buried. Climbing deep into the Caucasus Mountains to Svaneti we see unique ‘watchtower’ constructions which provided protection from would-be conquerors so successfully that the Svan tribes became isolated in their mountain fortresses. Today Upper Svaneti is a UNESCO Heritage site, where locals retain their old unwritten language and are known to practice blood-feuds from time to time. Svan offers some of the best views in Europe across the surrounding peaks and glaciers of the High Caucasus, and if weather conditions are right, we'll have the opportunity to see them.

Days 15-20. Armenia -  Majestic Monasteries and Pagan Temples
In Armenia, we come to Echmiadzin, the site of the nation's first church and the world's oldest cathedral - a masterpiece of Armenian architecture. Later we realise that we are following the trails of old caravans as we locate a stone caravanserai high in the hills. 

Arriving in the capital of Yerevan we explore a delightful city with beautiful tree-lined streets and vistas of snow-capped Mount Ararat where some believe Noah's Ark lies. Beyond, we find a pagan temple at Garni of indeterminate origin, and farther on a monastery carved into solid rock at Gerhard. We observe the stone constructions at Karahunj and marvel at the fact that this site predates Stonehenge by 3,000 years. The scenery and mountainous setting provides a perfect canvas and backdrop to such a unique and impressive array of history, carved in stone. Naturally being Armenia we'll taste some of its fine brandy before the journey comes to an end. 

Day 21. Journey concludes
Today your incredible Caucasus adventure comes to an end in Tblisi. Want to linger longer? Our Travel Advisors can tell you how!




 

Essentials

Group Size
15 maximum

Accommodation
Hotels & Guesthouses - 19 nights (twin share)
Trains - 1 nights Baku to Tbilisi (4 berth)

Meals
Breakfast (19), Lunches (6) & Dinners (11)

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.

Sightseeing
Scheduled Sightseeing is part of the itinerary and includes all transport, entrance fees and English speaking local guide.

Baku: City Tour, Ateshagah Fire Temple, Absheron Peninsular, Yanardagh Fire Mountain,Mardakan Fortress & Gobustan rock paintings.

Tbilisi: Old Town, Metekhi Church, Synagogue, Sioni Cathedral, National History Museum and Sulphur baths. 

Sighnaghi/Kakheti Region: Gremi Complex, wine tour 

Gudauri/Kazbegi Region: Mtskheta World Heritage Sites Jvari Church & Svetitskhiveli Cathedral, Ananuri Complex, Gergeti Trinity Church.

Gori: Uplistsikhe Cave Town, Stalin's House and Museum.

Mestia (Svaneti): Ushguli Village tour, Lamaria Church and Watchtowers.

Kutaisi: Cable car up Mt Zuruldi, Duke Damiani Palace & Gelati Monastery.

Akhaltsikhe: Natural Grotto 'Prometheus', Rabat Multicultural complex

Gyumri: Vardzia underground city, Hovhannes Church, Aruch Cathedral & Caravanserai, Echmiadzin Cathedral and Zvartnots Temple. 

Yerevan: City Tour, History Museum, Cognac factory, Kotak region excursion including Gerhard Monastery & Garni Pagan Temple.  

Goris: Khor Virap, Noravank Monastery, Tatev Monastery and ropeway (one way) plus Satan's Bridge.

Visas
Required for Armenia, Georgia & Azerbaijan - Sundowners Overland will provide full visa support, including detailed visa guidelines.