Delve into the historic lands of Georgia and Armenia, where you will discover age-old towns, delightful mountain valleys and trade-routes which have been used for millennia. Unravel layers of history in Yerevan and Tbilisi, visit medieval stone churches with jaw-dropping views, and marvel at some of the oldest-known hominin fossils discovered outside of Africa. During this 11-day expedition, experience first-hand the vibrant cultures, and traditions which have been passed through the generations. Taste the wonderful local cuisine of the South Caucasus and be joined along the way by local historians, winemakers, artists, and chefs.
Examine early Homo erectus skulls at the Georgian National Museum with a National Geographic grantee, and visit Dmanisi—the archaeological site where they were discovered.
Step into Georgia’s rock-hewn Vardzia cave monastery, and trace the roots of Christianity in Armenia at the monastery of Khor Virap.
Visit the charming Silk Road town of Akhalts’ikhe, and learn about Georgia’s ancient natural wine-making method from a local vintner.
Enjoy a lively Armenian folk performance by a Yerevan-based ensemble, with a chance to meet the performers after the show.
Itinerary - 11 Days
1 Yerevan, Armenia
Arrive in Yerevan, the capital of Armenia and one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. Check in to our elegant hotel, located within walking distance of the central Republic Square.
Grand Hotel Yerevan
Set out on a walking tour of charming Yerevan, where modern café culture thrives alongside Persian and Soviet vestiges of its long and tumultuous past. Wind your way through Old Yerevan, then admire the monumental architecture of Republic Square. Climb up the Cascade, a grand stairway harbouring an art gallery and adorned by manicured gardens. Then visit a wind instrument studio and hear demonstrations of traditional instruments, like the double-reed duduk. Pay your respects to victims of the Armenian Genocide at the Tsitsernakaberd Memorial Complex before gathering for a welcome dinner.
Grand Hotel Yerevan (B/L/D)
3 Khor Virap/Yerevan
Venture south from Yerevan to the verdant pastures of the Ararat Valley, arriving at Khor Virap—an early Christian monastery dedicated to Armenia’s patron, Saint Gregory the Illuminator. Visit the dungeon where the pious Gregory was held prisoner for 13 years by Armenian King Tiridates III until, as the legend goes, Gregory cured the pagan king of illness and converted him to Christianity. Tiridates then imposed the religion on his people, and Armenia became the world’s first Christian nation. Back in the city, enjoy a performance by the Nubar Folk Ensemble and spend some time with the traditional song and dance troupe. The evening is free to explore Yerevan at your leisure.
Grand Hotel Yerevan (B/L)
4 Gyumri/Vardzia, Georgia
Drive towards the Georgian border, stopping in the city of Gyumri for a delicious lunch of freshly caught fish and Armenian flatbread, called lavash. Arrive in Vardzia, situated on the banks of the Kura River across from the fabled Vardzia cave monastery. End the day with a regional wine tasting and traditional Georgian dinner.
Vardzia Resort (B/L/D)
Join a local historian to explore the ancient wine-producing village of Chachkari, where the imprints of centuries-old wine presses can still be seen in the chalky cliffs. Continue to the Vardzia cave monastery, a dramatic rock-cut fortress built in the 12th century as a stronghold against the Mongols. Enjoy a delectable meal at the farmhouse of a local chef, and spend the afternoon wandering through the megalithic, lichen-covered ruins of Saro village. Visit a darbazi, a subterranean home typical of the region, with an opening in the roof for light and smoke ventilation. Return to Vardzia for dinner and an evening at leisure.
Vardzia Resort Hotel (B/L)
Drive to Borjomi, stopping at the Silk Road city of Akhalts’ikhe. Tour the fairy-tale-like old town with a local historian, then enjoy a wine tasting and talk with a vintner about ancient natural wine-making methods. In Borjomi, a beautiful resort town nestled into the folds of the lush Borjomi Gorge, taste Georgian mineral waters and learn about the unique qualities of this sought-after tonic, one of the country’s major exports.
Hotel Borjomi Likani (B/L)
Start the day with a walking tour of Borjomi. Explore the tranquil gardens of the regal Romanov Palace, a summer retreat for Russian royalty. Then visit the Borjomi Mineral Water Park, where mineral springs were discovered over one thousand years ago. Head towards Step’antsminda, formerly known as Kazbegi, in the Greater Caucasus Mountains, stopping at a contemporary art centre to have lunch with local artists. Continue along the spectacular Georgian Military Highway, a centuries-old road that winds through mountainous landscapes dotted with feudal fortresses and the occasional herd of sheep.
Rooms Hotel Kazbegi (B/L/D)
From the stunning valley town of Step’antsminda, set out to explore the environs of Gergeti Glacier. Drive to Gergeti village and ride a 4x4 vehicle to the 14th-century Holy Trinity Church, or hike up to the mountain-framed church with a guide. Visit a local family in the tiny village of Tsdo and learn to cook up khinkali, a savoury dumpling filled with meat and spices. Later, head to Sno Valley to meet an artisan carpenter at his studio.
Rooms Hotel Kazbegi (B/L/D)
Travel south to Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia. At the Georgian National Museum, marvel at some of the earliest known hominin remains found outside of Africa and meet a member of the team that discovered them, led by museum director and National Geographic grantee David Lordkipanidze. Later, take a walking tour of the art nouveau Sololaki district with a local architect. Enjoy dinner at the charming Cafe Littera at the Writers’ House of Georgia, an early 20th-century mansion turned cultural centre. Meet the centre’s director and the restaurant’s celebrity chef.
Tbilisi Marriott Hotel (B/L/D)
Meet with an expert archaeologist at the site of Dmanisi, where the 1.8-million-year-old Homo erectus skulls on display at the Georgian National Museum were unearthed. Back in Tbilisi, explore its enchanting old town, a labyrinth of narrow streets housing Arabic and European influenced buildings—some crumbling and others beautifully restored. Round off the trip with a special farewell dinner: a six-course Georgian feast with regional wine pairings, accompanied by a story-telling tamada, or toastmaster, and folk performances.
Tbilisi Marriott Hotel (B/L/D)
After breakfast, transfer to the airport and fly home. (B)
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