Caucasus: Georgia, Armenia & Azerbaijan
Below please find the day-by-day itinerary for this expedition. Unless otherwise noted, daily excursion options are included in the cost of the trip. We do our best to adhere to the scheduled itinerary, but in the spirit of our expeditionary style of travel we may deviate slightly to take full advantage of encounters with the destination and its people, culture, and wildlife.
Depart USASeptember 21
Board your independent overnight flight to Armenia.
Yerevan, ArmeniaSeptember 22
Upon arrival, transfer to the Armenia Marriott Hotel Yerevan for overnight.
YerevanSeptember 23 — September 24
The capital of Armenia, Yerevan has been continuously occupied since 6,000 BC. After an orientation tour of the city center, continue to the 1st-century Temple of Garni, the only pagan temple to survive in Armenia. The remains include an ancient fortress, palace, and baths. After lunch at a local home, visit the medieval Geghard Monastery; set at the head of the Azat Valley, many of its numerous churches and tombs are cut into the surrounding cliffs. This evening, gather at the hotel for a welcome cocktails reception and dinner.
The next day, visit the 4th-century Echmiadzin Cathedral, Armenia’s first and oldest cathedral. Continue to the ruins of Zvartnots Temple, a splendid example of 7th-century architecture. Enjoy fantastic views of Mt. Ararat and the surrounding pastures and vineyards from Khor Virap Monastery. Return to Yerevan for a tasting at the Ararat Brandy Factory.
Yerevan / Lake Sevan / Tbilisi, GeorgiaSeptember 25
En route to Georgia, make a stop at stunning Lake Sevan, one of three “seas of Armenia.” Continue to the Monastery of Haghpat, built between the 10th and 14th centuries. The monastery’s beautiful location, set on a verdant promontory above the Debed River, creates an atmospheric backdrop for its important St. Astvatsatsin Church. Arrive in Tbilisi, and check in to your Club Deluxe room at The Biltmore Hotel Tbilisi. This evening, enjoy a Georgian folk show and dinner at a local restaurant.
Today, tour Georgia’s capital city, once an important stop on the Silk Road. Despite a number of wars and fires, the old part of the city still retains much of its original layout. Its spider’s web of winding streets and narrow back lanes leads you to the Abanotubani, or “bath district,” the 13th-century Metekhi Temple, the 5th-century Sioni Cathedral, and the 6th-century Anchiskhati Basilica. Walk along central Rustaveli Avenue to Freedom Square, then browse the treasures housed in the National Museum of Georgia.
Tbilisi / Mtskheta / KazbegiSeptember 27
This morning, visit Mtskheta, the capital of Georgia from 500 BC - 500 AD. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is a treasure-trove of ancient monuments. Nearby, Gori was founded in the 7th century AD, and is the birthplace of Joseph Stalin. Visit the small house where he lived as well as the huge, palace-like Stalin Museum. Continue on to the famous cave city of Uplistsikhe; carved into a rocky plateau, it dates from the 6th century BC. Explore the huge echoing halls, meandering corridor-streets, theater, and 9th-century church. Then take a drive into the Caucasus Mountains along the historic Georgian Military Highway, enjoying dramatic views of the Aragvi River and Jvari Pass. Arrive in Kazbegi and check in to your Front View room at the Hotel Kazbegi for dinner and overnight.
After breakfast, take a hike up to Gergeti Trinity Church, located on an isolated hilltop with gorgeous views of the valley and Mount Kazbek. After lunch with a local family, take 4x4 vehicles through the beautiful Sno Valley to the tiny village of Juta. A short hike reveals stunning vistas of the Chaukhi Mountains. Return to Kazbegi with the afternoon at leisure.
Kazbegi / TbilisiSeptember 29
Today, return to Tbilisi, with a stop en route at the spectacular Ananuri Fortress. Continue to the historic estate of a Georgian prince, Chateau Mukhrani. Take a tour of the castle and wine cellar before joining our chef for a demonstration of how to prepare several Georgian delicacies. Enjoy your lunch accompanied by Georgian wines that are produced on site. Upon arrival in Tblisi, ride the funicular to the stunning Mtatsminda Plateau overlooking the city. Enjoy dinner at the Restaurant Funicular before checking in to The Bitlmore Hotel Tbilisi for overnight.
Tbilisi / TsinandaliSeptember 30
After breakfast, set out to discover some of the splendid churches set in the lush vineyards just outside of Tbilisi. First, visit the St. Nina Monastery, then continue to Sighnaghi, a beautiful hill-town with panoramic views of the Alazani Valley and Eastern Caucasus Mountains. Enjoy a delicious lunch in town, before heading to a wine cellar to sample local vintages. Then take a tour of Alaverdi Cathedral and embark on a short walking tour of the tiny town of Telavi. Check in to your view room at the Radisson Collection Hotel Tsinandali Estate Georgia in Kvareli for dinner and overnight.
Tsinandali / Sheki, AzerbaijanOctober 1
This morning, depart overland for the Azerbaijan border. Make a stop en route at the Gremi architectural complex, a church and castle dating from the 16th century. Cross the border and enjoy your first meal in Azerbaijan. Arrive in Sheki, an important stop on the Silk Road and a center for silk production. Visit the 18th-century summer palace of the Sheki Khans, the Museum of History, and a local handicrafts workshop, ending at a panoramic viewpoint overlooking the town. Check in to the Marxal Hotel & Resort for dinner and overnight.
Sheki / BakuOctober 2
Today’s drive takes you over the Muganly Pass where you will make several photo stops for stunning mountain vistas. Visit the Diri Baba mausoleum, historic Juma mosque, and Yeddi Gumbez, or Mausoleum of Seven Domes. Arrive in Azerbaijan’s capital, Baku, this evening and check in to your Deluxe Caspian room at the Four Seasons Hotel for dinner and overnight.
BakuOctober 3 — October 4
Baku lies on the western shore of the Caspian Sea. Visit the fortress of Icheri-Shekher and the 90-foot tower of Kyz-Kalasy, dating from the 12th century. Stroll the old town’s maze of narrow alleys to view the 11th-century Palace of the Shirvan-Shahs, now a museum. Other notable historic architecture includes the Law Court (Divan-Khan), the Dzhuma-Mechet Minaret, and the mausoleum of the astronomer Seida Bakuvi. Close to Baku is the Gobustan Rock Art Cultural Landscape, where 4,000 rock drawings of people and animals were found. In the afternoon, take a cruise on the Caspian Sea, with free time to explore Baku on your own.
The next day, visit the Apsheron Peninsula, including the Temple of the Fire Worshippers—Ateshgah. Continue to the Yanardag Mud Volcaonos and Gala Village. Return to Baku with time at leisure before a farewell cocktail party and dinner.
Baku / USAOctober 5
Transfer to the airport this morning for your independent flight, arriving home the same day.