Join us on an exciting journey to the three cultural countries of Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia in the fascinating Caucasus, the area between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea, and the borderland between Europe and Asia. The Caucasus offers incredible nature experiences and the area’s rich historical heritage and different ethnic groups have given this region cultural features that you will not find anywhere else. However, the countries are very different from each other and the round trip therefore provides an interesting insight into the cultural diversity that characterizes the entire Caucasus. The trip offers fantastic views, spectacular historical and religious buildings, ancient relics and idyllic vineyard landscapes in what must be one of the world’s most scenic, interesting and hospitable areas.
Day 1: Travel to (Baku) Azerbaijan
You fly to Baku – the capital of Azerbaijan and the largest city on the Caspian Sea. After arrival in Baku transfer directly to the hotel. Overnight in Baku.
Day 2: Shirvanshaher Palace, Virgo Tower
The day begins with a visit to the Old Town of Baku. The old city provides evidence of Zoroastrian, Arabic, Persian, Ottoman and Russian influences that together have left a unique cultural heritage. There will be visits to the Virgin Tower and the Shirvanshaher Palace, which is one of Azerbaijan’s architectural gems. The area with its historical sights is on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Then there will be an opportunity to visit the Baku Carpet Museum and be captivated by the beauty of the Azerbaijani carpets. The country is widely famous for its beautiful rugs and in 2010 the Azerbaijani rugs were also included on the UNESCO World Heritage List as outstanding cultural objects. Overnight in Baku.
Day 3: Gobustan Rock Art Cultural Landscape
Then departure from Baku to Gobustan Rock Art Cultural Landscape with its unique archeological sites. The cultural landscape with its exciting rock art is on the UNESCO World Heritage List and in the area there are more than 6,000 rock carvings depicting people, animals, war scenes and ritual dances. The pictures provide a fascinating insight into how life took shape in the prehistoric Caucasus 5,000 – 40,000 years ago. After the visit, continue on to the small town of Sheki, beautifully situated on the slopes of the Caucasus Mountains in northwestern Azerbaijan. Overnight in Sheki.
Day 4: Sheki – Georgia
In the morning, the journey continues across the border to Georgia. Then visit the castle in Gremi – once a large trading town and royal residence. Overnight stay in the central town of Telavi.
Day 5: Mtskheta
Early in the morning we visit a local agricultural market and then visit a farm with its own wine cellar (“marani” in Georgian). Wine has been grown in Georgia since time immemorial and there will be an opportunity for tastings of locally produced wine produced in the traditional way. Then continue the journey to Mtskheta, one of Georgia’s oldest cities. Mtskheta was during ancient times the capital of the Caucasian Kingdom of Iberia and the city has since Christianity was introduced in the 300s been a religious center in the country. The Georgian Orthodox Church has even declared the city sacred. Visit to the Jvari Monastery and the Svetitskhoveli Cathedral, probably the complex best known for the many religious buildings with World Heritage status in the city. The journey continues along the famous Georgian military road and the one to the city of Gudauri among the dramatic Caucasus mountains.
Day 6: Kazbegi
From Gudauri, the journey continues along the river Tergi to the central town of Kazbegi. The route is spectacular with amazing views. From the town of Kazbegi we travel by four-wheel drive cars through valleys with magnificent nature to the Gergeti Triniy church, located 2,170 meters above sea level. Weather permitting, you can get a glimpse of one of the highest glaciers in the Caucasus – Mt. Kazbegi (5047 m). In the central town of Kazbegi, there will be a visit to a local art and culture house where you will learn how Georgian felt production is done. Overnight in Kazbegi.
Day 7: Uplistsikhe and Gori
Uplistsikhe (“Fortress of the Lord”) in eastern Georgia is an abandoned city, partly carved out of the rocks by the river Mtkvari. Archaeologists and historians believe that Uplistsikhe is one of Georgia’s earliest urban formations that had great political and religious significance during antiquity. With the Christianization of the region, however, the city began to lose importance. During the 13th century, the city was finally abandoned. What remained was the stone architecture that had emerged over the centuries. After the visit to Uplistsikhe, the journey continues to Gori, Josef Stalin’s hometown. Here will be a visit to the Stalin Museum which, among other things, preserved the wooden cottage where Stalin was born and spent his first years. Late in the afternoon we arrive at Akhhaltsikhe where we will spend the night
Day 8: The cave monastery in Vardzia and Echmiadzin
The day begins with a visit to the cave monastery in Vardzia, excavated from the slopes of Mount Erusheti in southern Georgia. The monastery is nowadays maintained by a small number of dedicated monks. After an hour’s drive, you cross the border into Armenia. The program includes visits to the Echmiadzin Cathedral, Armenia’s oldest Christian shrine built in the early 300s. Overnight in Armenia’s capital Yerevan.
Day 9: Garni and Geghard
Today we plan a visit to the Matenadran Museum in Yerevan, known for its unique collections of ancient documents, manuscripts and books. After a visit to the Tsitsernakaberd memorial, dedicated to all those who died in the Armenian genocide of 1915. Continued journey to the village of Garni with its well-preserved Hellenistic temple, probably built during the first century AD. You then go on to the monastery in Geghard, built during the 300s. The monastery complex has been given its current design over time and has a main chapel from the early 13th century. However, the site with its shrines and tombs, many directly carved out of the rock, is especially known for its well-preserved medieval Armenian monastery architecture, surrounded by steep cliffs in a scenic landscape. Geghard is on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Day 10: Khor Virap and Areni
Departure from the capital and journey through villages, vineyards and the beautiful surroundings of the high mountain Ararat (5,137 m). According to Genesis, Noah’s ark was stranded on top of the mountain, and Noah was the first to build a vineyard. After visiting the Khor Virap monastery not far from the Turkish border, you will visit a vineyard in the village of Areni, especially known for its wine production. After lunch visit the Noravankk monastery from the 13th century, beautifully situated in a narrow mountain pass with steep rock walls. Overnight in the town of Goris.
Day 11: Khndzoresk, Tatev
After breakfast departure to the cave village in Khndzoresk. The village consists of both natural caves and those carved out of the rock. The cave village was completely abandoned during the 1950s, but was once inhabited by thousands of people. The village even had two churches and a number of schools. Some parts of society could only be reached via ladders or ropes. Then continue on to the Tatev Monastery at the edge of a deep river valley. The monastery complex from the ninth century is the largest in Armenia. “Wings of Tatev”, a cable car between Tatev and the small community of Halidzor, is the world’s longest cable car built in one section. In the afternoon return to Yerevan. Overnight in Yerevan.
Day 12: Sevan and Haghpat
Departure to Lake Sevan – the world’s second largest freshwater lake. After a short stop at the Sevanavank Monastery to get a fantastic view of the lake, the journey goes to Haghpat. The monastery complex in Haghpat, built in the late 10th century, is one of the best examples of Armenian architecture and is on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Then continued tour and in the late afternoon we arrived at the Georgian capital Tbilisi where we spend the night.
Day 13: Tbilisi
The day begins with a tour of Tbilisi’s old town. Walk along the small winding alleys and past Metekhi Church, the Synagogue and the Cathedral of Zion. We arrive at the Bridge of Peace which stretches across the river Kura. Then a bus to the statue Kartis Deda (“Mother Kartlien”), which has become something of a symbol of the city. Then walk down the slopes to the ancient fortress of Narikala and a beautiful view of Tbilisi’s ancient city. Then a visit to a sulfur bath and the day ends with a visit to a retirement home where we can have the opportunity to hear the stories of older Georgians. Overnight in Tbilisi.
Day 14: Return from Tbilisi
After breakfast transfer to the airport for return to the destination.