Georgia & Armenia - Caucasian Discoveries: Mountains, Churches & Monasteries

Majestic mountains, medieval monasteries and mouthwatering dishes made with delicious herbs and spices, accompanied by an endless amount of wine – this is what you can expect on your trip to Georgia and Armenia. Discover first-hand these fairly untouched countries, from countless antique and medieval structures that survived hundreds, even thousands of years, to historical artifacts, legends, and ruins. Join this epic journey and attempt to untangle the tempestuous history of the first two Christian nations which are scenically stunning, culturally diverse, historically fascinating and squeezed in between the bigger, noisier neighbors of the Caucasus.

Degree of Difficulty - Three Paws

Moderately Active. May involve some moderate hikes in forests and nature reserves, getting in and out of vehicles and rocking boats, and walking in uneven pavement in archaeological sites, in some cases in extreme weather conditions, heat, high elevation and humidity

Weather Reports - When To Go

Located in the mountainous south Caucasus region of Eurasia, Georgia straddles western Asia and eastern Europe, between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea. For such a small country, it has a varied topography and ecosystems and the climate is heavily influenced by proximity to the Black Sea and by altitude. Coastal Black Sea is dominated by a subtropical climate with high humidity and heavy precipitation, while the plains have a continental climate with less humidity and rainfall. Our program includes the Caucasus where the elevation presents more alpine conditions. Best times to visit are in the Spring and early Fall. Summers can be quite hot and humid.

The best season to visit Armenia is in mid-spring and Fall. May and September are the ideal months as the weather is warm but not too hot during this period. Springs are short, while Falls are long and noted for mild and sunny weather, bright colors of landscapes and abundance of autumn fruit. Summers can be quite hot, particularly in Yerevan, but sunny and dry.

Days 1/2/3 USA/ISTANBUL/BATUMI, GEORGIA

Your journey begins as you board your flight to Batumi. Settle into your hotel and enjoy a welcome dinner. Next day, tour Batumi’s seaside park and old-city district; Gonio Aphsaros Fortress, one of the first citadels of the Roman, and then Byzantine Empires; and the beautiful Batumi Botanical Gardens. SHERATON BATUMI. (Meals Aloft, D;B,L,D)

Days 4/5 SVANETIA: ENGURI GORGE/ZUGDIDI/MESTIA/USHGULI

A scenic drive towards Enguri Gorge to learn about the Svan culture, cut off from the outside world by the high and inaccessible mountains, keeping their ancient culture almost intact. Head to Mestia, the cultural and religious center of Svanetia, and discover unique medieval architecture, now part of the UNESCO World Heritage sites. Walk through the cobblestone streets, visit the ultramodern Mestia History and Ethnographic Museum, and Laghami Saint George’s Church whose exterior murals depict the ‘Banishment of Adam and Eve from Paradise’. Next day, drive to Ushguli, a fortified settlement from the Middle Ages surrounded by the imposing Caucasus mountain range, at 7,200 feet above sea level – one of the highest peaks of the Major Caucasus, surrounded by glaciers and skyscraping peaks. Visit Lamaria Church, built in the 11th century and the Ushguli Historical Museum. A highlight of your day will be sharing lunch with a local family. TETNULDI HOTEL. (B,L,D Daily)

Day 6 KUTAISI

Enjoy the scenery as you drive to Kutaisi, Georgia’s second largest city, via Becho Valley, one of the most beautiful sites in Svanetia with numerous mineral water springs. This is the capital of the kingdom of Colchis as early as the 2nd millennium BC – the land of the Golden Fleece and the myth of Jason and the Argonauts. Here, visit the remarkable 12th century complex of Gelati Monastery, a UNESCO World Herirage Site, founded by one of the greatest Georgian kings, David the Builder (1184-1225). Continue to the Bagrati Church of the Assumption of the Virgin, built by King Bagrat III in 1003 AD. AEETES HOTEL (B,L,D)

Days 7/8 TBILISI

Start with the impressive rock-cut town Uplistsikhe dating from the first half of the first millenium, situated near the town of Gori, birthplace of Joseph Stalin, and retrace his life at the museum, from his humble beginnings to his death. The house where he was born and raised is in front of the museum itself. Arrive in Tbilisi in the late afternoon and next day enjoy a tour of the vibrant Old Town with its narrow alleys and big crooked houses built around courtyards. Sites explored include the Metekhi Church dating from the 12th and 13th century – part of the Royal residential complex; the Sioni Cathedral of the Dormition, built in the 6th -13th centuries; the recently built Holy Trinity Cathedral, the third-tallest Eastern Orthodox Cathedral in the World; walk Rustaveli Avenue with its impressive cache of important buildings and museums; stop by the Sulfur bathhouses; discover either the Museum of Georgian Fine Arts or the Simon Janashia Museum of Georgia featuring animal fossils dating back to 40 million years, including the prehistoric 1.8 million-year-old Homo Ergaster – the oldest sign of human existence outside of Africa. Enjoy a farewell dinner at a local restaurant followed by a traditional folk show. MARRIOTT TBILISI. (B,L,D Daily)

Day 9 SADAKHLO/HAGHPAT/SANAHIN/LAKE SEVAN/YEREVAN, ARMENIA

Bid Georgia farewell and cross the Sadakhlo border into Armenia. Visit the 10th-13th century’s monasteries of Haghpat and Sanahin, combined into a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and see how different Christianity is in Armenia than in Georgia. Drive via an area in Armenia affectionately known as the ‘Little Switzerland’ and reach Lake Sevan commanding panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and a 9th century monastery perched high on the rocks above the lake. End your day at Yerevan, Armenia’s capital. MARRIOTT HOTEL YEREVAN. (B,L,D)

Day 10 ETCHMIADZIN/COGNAC FACTORY/GARNI/GEGHARD

First stop is Etchmiadzin – the holy seat of the Supreme Patriarch-Catholicos of all Armenians. Founded in 303 AD on the site of a pagan temple after the adoption of Christianity as a state religion just two years earlier by St. Gregory the Illuminator, this is the oldest state-built church in the world. Visit St. Hripsime Church (7th century); see the ruins of the 7th century Zvartnots Cathedral; tour the Ararat Brandy Factory and taste Armenian cognac in all its different aromas. Then travel through canyons with steep cliffs and fast-running gorges to the Hellenistic Garni Temple, build in the 1st century AD. Spectacular towering cliffs surrounding the Azat river gorge lead to The Cave Monastery of Geghard, built in the 12th –13th centuries, one of the most sacred sites in Armenia, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Enjoy Armenian hospitality and taste some of the traditional cuisine at a private house near Garni before returning to Yerevan. MARRIOTT HOTEL YEREVAN. (B,L,D)

Day 11 KHOR VIRAP MONASTERY/ARENI WINE FACTORY/NORAVANK MONASTERY/ZORATS KARER

Start your day with a visit to the monastery of Khor-Virap (4th -17th cc), situated within a vast plain casting views across to Turkey and the peaks of Mount Ararat. It is here that Grigor Lusavorich, who later became Saint Gregory the Illuminator (c. 257 – c. 331) was imprisoned for 13 years in a ‘deep pit’ by order of King Tiridates III. Raise your glass of Armenian wine at the Areni Wine Factory – 6,000-yearold prints of ancient grapevines were discovered in the clay of the nearby river Eghegis. Then drive to the 12th century monastery complex of Noravank, set in a steep canyon of brick-red cliffs. You truly feel at the end of the world here, surrounded by the high mountain walls. Discover Armenia’s Stonehenge – the archaeological site Zorats Karer, located on a rocky promontory near the city of Sisian, encompassing 223 large tomb stones. Tonight, you’ll stay in Goris at the charming MIRHAV HOTEL. (B,L,D)

Days 12/13/14 OLD GORIS/TATEV/NORADUZ/YEREVAN/ISTANBUL/NEW YORK

See Old Goris town, and at Halidzor Village, take in the worlds’ longest tramway to the stunning Tatev Monastery. Enjoy lunch at Lake Sevan, located on an altitude of 6,200 feet above sea level, the largest lake in Armenia and the Caucasus region, and one of the largest freshwater highaltitude lakes in the world. Stop by the medieval Noraduz Cemetery which has the largest cluster of khachkars (stone crosses) in Armenia. Return to Yerevan and check into the MARRIOTT YEREVAN. Next day, visit the Vernissage, a large open-air market, and enjoy a guided walk by the Museum Curator of the Armenia History Museum, founded in 1919. A farewell dinner is served at a local restaurant, and an Armenian Folklore Show concludes the night. Very early in the morning, you’ll be escorted to the airport for your flights home. Say one last time, “ts’tesutyun” and “sh’norhakal em,” (Good bye, and Thank you), bringing home amazing memories. (B,L,D Daily, Meals Aloft)

YOUR JOURNEY INCLUDES:

  • Superior accommodations and meals as indicated in itinerary.
  • Complimentary bottled water throughout.
  • Sightseeing by deluxe, air-conditioned motorcoach.
  • Services of a highly-trained English-speaking guides – one in Georgia and another in Armenia.
  • Private visits to homes and museums as indicated in itinerary.
  • All entry fees to visited monuments.
  • All applicable hotel tips and taxes, plus gratuities for baggage handling.
  • Complimentary passport wallet and baggage tags.
Prices starting at $4,995. For further booking, date, and pricing info please contact info@classicescapes.

Does not include international or domestic flights. Prices are based on 10 or more travelers, and are subject to change.