Discover how the former Soviet republics of Georgia and Armenia have blossomed into cosmopolitan visitor-friendly destinations on this action-packed tour of the Caucasus. Contrast Georgia’s buzzing capital Tibilsi with its wine-producing areas including the oldest winery in the world, admire UNESCO-listed churches and monasteries in the worlds first Christian country – Armenia. Enjoy a vast variety of scenery from alpine slopes to dramatic gorges, dense forest to serene lakes, mineral-rich waterfalls to the barren slopes of Mount Ararat.
- 13 nights in hotels
- 33 meals: 13 breakfasts, 11 lunches and 9 dinners
- VIP door-to-door travel service
- Optional travel insurance underwritten by Great Lakes Insurance SE, UK Branch and additional cancellation rights on overseas holidays for over 50s, or a price reduction if not required (cover is subject to medical questions)
- Return flights and transfers
- Saga tour manager
- Welcome drink reception
- Porterage at all hotels.
Day 1: UK to Tbilisi, Georgia
Fly to Tbilisi and transfer to the locally rated 4-star Rooms Tbilisi, for a two-night stay. Due to your late arrival dinner this evening will be a cold plate on arrival in your room. D.
Day 2: Tbilisi, Telavi, Signage
After breakfast you have free time to acclimatise and find a local restaurant for lunch. Depart for your sightseeing tour of Tbilisi at 1300. Tbilisi has been the capital of Georgia since the 5th century and endured a turbulent history, having been conquered by both the Persian and Ottoman Empires, undergone internal power struggles and been ruled by Russia. On a walk through the old city, visit the 13th-century Metekhi church, the Sulphur Baths, and take the cable car up to a reconstruction of the 4th-century Narikala fortress. You’ll pass 18th-century Caravanserai – roadside rest stops used by traders – the Sioni cathedral built in the 7th century and the 6th-century Anchiskhati Basilica. Enjoy dinner in the hotel. B, D
Day 3: Tbilisi to Kazbegi
Check out after breakfast and travel to Mtskheta, the old capital of the Kingdom of Iberia – now Eastern Georgia. You’ll visit the 6th-century Jvari monastery, a fine example of early Georgian medieval architecture, and the 11th-century Svetitskhoveli cathedral and Samtavro convent. Drive along the Georgian Military Road, an ancient route high into the Caucasus Mountains offering stunning views and connecting the south Caucasus countries with Russia. Visit the Ananuri fortress complex with its two castles and churches dating from the 16th-17th centuries. After lunch in a local restaurant continue to Kazbegi, arriving this evening. Transfer to the locally rated 4-star Rooms Kazbegi, where you’ll stay for two nights. The hotel occupies a stylishly converted Brutalist building in the alpine former Russian resort of Kazbegi in the Caucasus Mountains. B, L, D
Day 4: Kazbegi
This morning, mount 4x4 vehicles to ascend to the 14th-century Gergeti Trinity church at 2180 metres with amazing views of Mount Kazbeg: The ride is bumpy and lasts 30 minutes each way, so we don’t recommend it for customers with back problems. Descend to the village of Kazbegi where you’ll visit a local family home. Here you’ll enjoy a cookery demonstration of local Mokhevian dishes with your host and afterwards have lunch. Later, you’ll drive to the Dariali Canyon near the Russian border and take a 30-minute walk to the Gweleti waterfalls. Return to your hotel in Kazbegi for dinner and overnight. B, L, D
Day 5: Kazbegi to Tbilisi
Check out after breakfast and travel to the village of Chardakhi in the Inner Kartli province. Visit the local winery for a tour and introduction to Georgian Qvevri wines. You’ll also take part in making the Georgian delicacy of Churchkhela: Long strings of nuts are dipped in concentrated fresh grape juice then dried, with the process repeated until a sweet and chewy coating is created. Look forward to lunch in the winery with Georgian dishes, wines and chacha – Georgian grappa. Travel back to Tbilisi and the Rooms Tbilisi hotel for a two-night stay. To ensure you have the opportunity to try the local cuisine this evening you are free to make your own arrangements for dinner. Your tour manager is on hand to make recommendations. B, L.
Day 6: Tbilisi
After a leisurely breakfast today’s full-day tour starts in eastern Georgia in the Kakheti wine-growing region. En route to Telavi, visit the Shuamta Monastery complex and 11th-century Alaverdi cathedral. Tour the nearby winery, taste Georgian wines then have lunch. Continue to the Tsinandali estate to explore Georgia’s first winery, founded by famous poet Alexander Chavchavadze in the 19th century. Your next stop is Signage – a royal town built by king Erekle II, in the 18th century and surrounded by a defensive wall with 23 towers. Gates through the wall give access to trade routes to Europe and Asia. Stroll through the narrow streets and enjoy views of the Alazani Valley. Complete today’s tour with a visit to the local winery ‘Pheasant’s Tears’ where you’ll enjoy a wine tasting and dinner accompanied by Georgian folk singing before returning to your hotel in Tbilisi. B, L, D
Day 7: Tbilisi–Haghpat
After a leisurely breakfast enjoy free time to explore Tbilisi and take lunch in a local restaurant before setting off for the Georgian-Armenian border. It is worth noting that at the border you will be required to walk nearly 800 metres across the divide, so travelling with a wheelie bag is advised. Your next stop is the 10th-century Akhtala Monastery and fortress which is among the best preserved in Armenia. The monastery church is famous for its beautiful Byzantine frescoes and was once rumoured to have contained the cross with which John the Baptist baptised Jesus. Continue on to Haghpat and stay overnight in the locally rated 3-star Qefo Hotel where you’ll have dinner. B, L, D
Day 8: Haghpat–Dilijan
Today you enjoy a full day of sightseeing, beginning in the UNESCO World Heritage site of Haghpat Monastery, founded in the 10th century by Queen Khosrovanuysh. Continue to the Armenian basilica at Odzun before enjoying lunch with local beekeepers. In the afternoon take a short walk through a Molokan village and enjoy afternoon tea in a Molokan home. Your next stop is ‘Armenian Switzerland’ and the spa and resort town Dilijan. Stay overnight at the locally rated 4-star Best Western Paradise Hotel where you’ll have dinner. B, L, D
Day 9: Dilijan–Jermuk
After breakfast, travel to Lake Sevan, known as the ‘Armenian pearl’. At 2000 metres above sea level it’s the highest natural reservoir in the Caucasus. Visit the 9th-century Sevanavank monastery on the lake shores; there are 250 steps to climb but the views are worth it. If you don’t feel up to the ascent perhaps visit the market. Your next destination is the cemetery at Noraduz with its famous 13th-17th century carved cross stones or khachkars. Continue to the Caravanserai of Selim, on the Silk Road in Selim Pass, which dates back to 1332 and proceed to the Vayots Dzor region of Southern Armenia. Enjoy lunch in the town of Yeghegnadzor, then travel to the picturesque mountain spa town of Jermuk, famous for its thermal mineral springs. Here, you stay two nights at the contemporary locally rated 4-star Hyatt Place Hotel Jermuk, conveniently located in the centre of Jermuk and a short distance from the town’s famous Hot Spring Water Gallery. B, L
Day 10: Jermuk
Today’s tour starts at the Karahunge, a 7,500 year-old stone circle believed to be an ancient observatory, then continue to the 9th-century Tatev Monastery, an influential centre of the Armenian Apostolic Church as well as science and education in medieval times. It is reached by the world’s longest cable car ride – just under six kilometres long – from a local village. Return to your hotel in Jermuk for an evening at leisure. B
Day 11: Jermuk to Yerevan
After breakfast head to Areni, a village famous for wine production, and visit an archaeological site with evidence of wine making 6,100 years ago. Continue to the 13th-century Noravank monastery complex, set in a deep gorge of red sandstone cliffs, to see two interesting churches, a chapel and several khachkars. After lunch at a restaurant head to Armenia’s capital, Yerevan stopping en route at the Khor Virap Monastery complex, where Noah's Ark was said to have beached after the great flood. Legend has it that a Christian called Grigor was buried in a rock pit at this site for 13 years and fed in secret by Christian women. When he cured the King of an illness the King, and his country, converted to Christianity. The man went on to become Saint Gregory the Illuminator and a succession of churches were built on the site. Continue to the locally rated 4-star DoubleTree by Hilton in Yerevan where you’ll stay for three nights. B, L, D
Day 12: Yerevan, Echimiadzin, Zvartnots
Today you’ll visit Echmiadzin, the spiritual centre for Armenians and the residence of the Supreme Patriarch. It’s home to the first cathedral built in ancient Armenia, considered the oldest in the world – the original church was built in 303 AD! Continue to the remains of the 7th-century, UNESCO-listed Zvartnots Cathedral, which was built to rival European cathedrals but is now in ruins. Return to Yerevan for lunch in the gallery of the Megerian Carpet Museum. Enjoy a cookery masterclass using a recipe taken from ancient documents held at Matenadaran, the Institute of Ancient Manuscripts. Afterwards, you’ll tour Yerevan, which was founded in 782 BC. You’ll see Republic Square, the huge ornamental staircase called the Cascade and the historic buildings of Abovyan Street, the oldest in the city. You’ll also visit the Ararat Brandy Factory and taste various types of famous Armenian Brandy, before visiting the striking Tsitsernakaberd memorial, dedicated to the one-and-a-half million Armenians massacred by the Turkish in the 1915 genocide. Your farewell dinner tonight is at one of the best restaurants in Yerevan, which serves Western Armenian food. B, L, D.
Day 13: Yerevan
Today starts with a visit to Matenadaran, a repository of ancient manuscripts including the world’s largest collection the medieval documents. Next, explore Geghard Monastery complex, partly built in caves and partly hewn from the cliffs of the Azat River gorge, where you’ll enjoy an a cappella concert of holy music. Continue to Garni, a settlement with a fortress complex, churches and shrines, Roman baths and the 1st-century Temple of Garni, the only pagan temple remaining after the adoption of Christianity. Here you can enjoy traditional music played on duduks – Armenian flutes made from apricot wood – before you board 4X4 vehicles and drive down into the Garni Gorge. The basalt columns carved by the river are known as the ‘Symphony of the Stones’. Return to the village for lunch in a family house. You can help with making the Armenian bread, Lavash, cooked in a traditional underground oven – and learn the secrets of preparing the traditional barbecue. After lunch, return to Yerevan and enjoy a farewell drinks reception in the evening. You are free to make your own arrangements for dinner. B, L
Day 14: Yerevan to UK
Transfer to the airport for your return flight to the UK.
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