The fascinating Caucasus

Azerbaijan and Georgia - the Caucasian land of hospitality. Visit the capitals of these three countries is the perfect introduction to their great culture, rich spirit and diversity. We make the way from Baku, Azerbaijan to Tbilisi, Georgia, through the rolling hills and lush valleys, beautiful and scenic Caucasus Mountains and lakes, ancient architectural monuments and fascinating villages.

Day 1- Excursion across Baku

Start exploring Azerbaijan with a city tour of Baku, which is one of the oldest and biggest cities in the East for antiquity, territory and population. We’ll visit the Walled City of Baku with the Shirvanshah Palace and Maiden Tower, UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Inner City (Icheri Sheher) has preserved much of its 12th century defensive walls. The 12th century Maiden Tower , built over earlier structures dating from the 7th to 6th centuries BC, and the 15th century Shirvanshah' Palace, one of the pearls of Azerbaijan's architecture. Juma Mosque and the Carpet Museum. We will have a walk in Naberezhny Park and along Baku Boulevard, the second largest one in Europe. On Boulevard we’ll get a boat and make trip on it along Baku Bay. We’ll be introduced with the interesting facts and legends of the largest lake in the world better known as Caspian Sea. Overnight in Baku.

Day 2: Baku / Absheron Peninsula

Leaving for a tour in Absheron Peninsula. Ateshgah, the Fire Worshippers' Temple is located in the village of Surakhany. It was built on the land where natural gas burned eternally and worshipped by Zoroastrian believers who travelled from the province of Multan in India to visit this sacred place. These ancient fires are believed to have given Azerbaijan its name, which is thought by some researchers to mean the “Land of Fires”. Visit also well preserved ancient castles of Absheron Peninsula dated 12th-13th c.c. There are several fine medieval castles - one each at Amirajan and Nardaran and two at Mardakan - apparently built for defense by the Shirvan Shahs in the 14th century. Overnight in Baku.

Day 3: Baku / Sheki (360 KM)

Sheki is one of the most famous and ancient places of Azerbaijan. Situated 700 m (2297 ft.) above sea level like an amphitheatre surrounded by the mountains and forests of oak trees, this ancient city was long famed as a silk centre and an important stop on the Great Silk Route. There is an assumption that the name of the town goes back to the ethnonym of the Saks, who reached the territory of Azerbaijan in the 7th century BC. We’ll start our Sheki tour from visiting the 18th century Khan's summer palace (entrance fee: 4 USD) with magnificent frescos and exquisite stained glass work. Sheki History museum is famous with artifacts from several periods. Also visit the Albanian church located in Kish village. Legend says that the church was built in 78 AD, but the researchers place it a few centuries later. Upon our checking-in at the hotel, we’ll enjoy the farewell dinner, tasting traditional Azeri cuisine dishes. Overnight in Sheki.

Day 4: Sheki / Gremi/ Telavi/ Sighnaghi (370 KM)

Depart from Azerbaijan to Georgia. Change transport at the border in Lagodekhi. Drive to Gremi and visit Gremi monastery complex which was a very important place on the silk road. Drive to Telavi and then to Tsinandali and visit Palace of Al. Chavchavadze, famous Georgian poet (entrance fee: from USD 3 to USD 12). Tasting of the Georgian wine here. Finally we will drive to Sighnaghi to Love town. Overnight in Sighnaghi.

Day 5: Sighnaghi / David Gareji / Tbilisi (300KM)

After breakfast have Sighnaghi tour. Afterwards visiting the Bodbe Monastery of the 9th century, we’ll take our way to David Gareji Monastery Complex, one of the most important landmarks of Georgia. This site is characterized by a unique combination of the historic architecture, prehistoric archaeological sites, rich paleontological fields and important bio-geographical features. Finally drive to Tbilisi. Afterwards drive to Tbilisi. Overnight in Tbilisi.

Day 6: Tbilisi tour

We will visit the Old Tbilisi Sulfur Baths, Georgian Orthodox and Armenian Gregorian 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, the Tbilisi Sameba Cathedral, the largest cathedral in the Caucasus. Tour includes following sights: Metekhi Church is erected on the cliff, overlooking the Mtkvari River. There is a statue of King Vakhtang Gorgaslani, founder of Tbilisi, in front of the church. The church dates back to the 12th century and has a diverse history, connected with Mongol invasions and political repressions of the Soviet Empire. The colorful Darejani Palace is also situated on the cliff, like the nest of a swallow. The Sulfur Baths are located in Old Tbilisi, on the other side of the river, opposite Darejani Palace. Tbilisi was named after the natural Sulphur springs. Have lunch in Georgian restaurant. The Orthodox Narikala St. Nikolas Church is in the same district. The church is furnished with frescoed portraits of martyrs and scenes from the Bible. It is wrapped in a defensive Narikala fortress, established in the fourth century. We can walk up the stairs of the fortress and overlook Tbilisi. Walk down the path from the hill and on cobbled Leselidze Street, we come across the 13th century Armenian St. George Church and a Jewish synagogue with an elegant facade.On the opposite side of the street is Sioni Church, leading to the bank of the Mtkvari. Here you discover Shardeni Street with its fashionable cozy cafes and art galleries. Walking we will come across the Anchiskhati church, the oldest church in Tbilisi keeping the miraculous icon of Jesus Christ. Finally the tour takes you to Rustaveli Avenue, where attractions such as the Tbilisi Opera and Ballet Theatre, the Parliament, Rustaveli Theatre, different art galleries and cafes will draw your attention and provide a cosmopolitan atmosphere. Drive to Open Air Ethnographic Museum, place, where are built all kinds of Georgian national old country-houses and castles (entrance fee: USD 1, 70). Overnight in Tbilisi.

Day 7: Tbilisi – Kazbegi – Gudauri(220 km)

After breakfast drive to Gudauri. Georgian Ski resort. Visit Ananuri Castle and monastery. Jinvali water reservoir. Ananuri ensemble of XVII century. It comprises a tower, small-domed church, big-domed temple and a bell-tower. The ensemble overlooks the artificial reservoir of Zhinvali built in 1971. Mtiuleti, the land of the mountains, historical province in eastern Georgia, on the southern slopes of the Greater Caucasus Mountains. Khevi is a small historical-geographic area in northeastern Georgia. It is included in the modern-day Kazbegi district, Mtskheta-Mtianeti region. Located on the northern slopes of the Greater Caucasus mountains, it comprises three gorges of the rivers Truso, Tergi and Snostsq’ali. Visit Holy Trinity Church of Gergeti of 14th century - It is built on the slope of Mt. Mkinvartsveri (top of glacier), on the left bank of the river Tergi. It is the monument built on the highest spot in Europe. Gergeti is a domed church with a bell-tower. Afterwards drive to Dariali Gorge. (NOTE: to drive to Trinity Church we need 4X4 cars, and in case of the group travel, when group is travelling by bus, we can rent 4X4 cars on the spot and price is USD 13 per person). Drive back to Gudauri. Dinner and overnight in Gudauri

Day 8: Gudauri – Uplistsikhe – Borjomi – Akhaltsikhe (300 KM)

After breakfast drive to Uplistsikhe, town in rock. Afterwards drive to Borjomi and taste famous Georgian Mineral water “Borjomi”. The next spot is Akhaltsikhe, new removed town in Samtskhe-Javakheti region. In Akhaltsikhe we will visit Rabati fortress, which includes many sights. Overnight in Akhaltsikhe.

Day 9: Akhaltsikhe – Vardzia – Kutaisi(320 KM)

After breakfast we drive to Vardzia. Our first stop on is Khertvisi Fortress, dramatically situated on a cliff above the confluence of two major rivers. Later we enjoy a leisurely visit to one of Georgia’s most significant sites: the cave town of Vardzia (entrance fee: USD 1,7). Established by King Giorgi III in the 12th century as a stronghold against the Turkish Sultanate (the Turkish border is only 10km away), Vardzia was subsequently developed by his daughter, Tamar (later to become Queen Tamar), who created a cave monastery that became a centre of Georgian culture. This network of caves above the Mtkvari (Kura) river once numbered 3,000, with up to 19 tiers in some places. Much of it was destroyed after a huge earthquake in 1456 and only 550 caves have been discovered. There are numerous churches, meeting halls, refectories and wine cellars, all interconnected by tunnels and stairways. Finally drive to Kutaisi. Overnight in Kutaisi

Day 10: Kutaisi – Batumi (180 KM)

Kutaisi is second largest and parliament city of Georgia. Arriving in Kutaisi, the ancient capital of the Kingdom of Colchis, we check into our guesthouse for a two night stay. It was here that Jason stole King Aeetes the Golden Fleece when he fell in love with the king’s daughter Medea. Kutaisi has always been an important town throughout the ages and for many years was the capital of Georgia, when Tbilisi was occupied by the Arabs. The period between the reigns of King Bagrat and Queen Tamar (roughly 900 – 1200) was the golden age for Kutaisi and most of the significant buildings date from this time. Now it is the main city of the Imereti region and here the people are renowned for their sense of humor and also a special kind of ‘khachapuri’ – the cheese bread unique to Georgia. In Kutaisi we will visit Bagrati cathedral and Gelati monastery complex, both in UNESCO heritage. Afterwards drive to Batumi. Finally we will have Batumi city tour and free time. Overnight in Batumi.

Day 11: Batumi – Mtskheta – Tbilisi (380 KM)

After breakfast we will visit Batumi Botanical Garden. Afterwards drive to Mtskheta, the spiritual heart of Georgia. Here we visit what is considered to be the most sacred place in Georgia, the Svetitskhoveli Cathedral. The 9th century basilica contains the grave of Sidonia, who was said to have been buried holding Christ’s robe. We also visit the 6th century Jvari church. Farewell dinner at the national restaurant in Tbilisi with folk show. Overnight in Tbilisi.

Day 12: Transfer to Airport.

End of tour