Khor_Virap_Monastery5

The tour departs from South Africa on 05 October 2014 on Turkish Airlines flying via Istanbul to Baku in Azerbaijan where one night will be spent before heading off to Sheki town, in Gobustan, famous for its archaeological monuments. Here we will be able to see ancient petroglyphs and amazing landscapes filled with mud volcanoes which provide a quasi-lunar effect far as the eye can see.

From Sheki, the group will proceed across the Lagodekhi border into Georgia visiting the Kizikhi area and the Sighnaghi Royal Town. We will also experience a wine-tasting en route to Tbilisi. Nowhere better blends the romance of Georgia’s past with its striving for a new future than Tbilisi’s Old Town. Here we will spend two nights with time to explore the winding lanes, bohemian bars, casual cafes and world-class museums.

The itinerary then moves on to Kazbegi in the high Caucasus. En route we’ll visit Mtskheta, one of the oldest towns and the cultural and religious centre of Georgia and Ananuri, a 16th century fortress and church.

Our tour will explore the Kartli province heart of the country, known for its numerous architectural monuments and archaeological sites. In Gori, birthplace of Joseph Stalin, we’ll visit the museum which traces his life from his humble beginnings to his death. We’ll also visit Uplistsikhe, an ancient cave town dating from the first half of the 1st millennium BC. The entire town is a complex of rock-hewn streets, homes, churches, secret tunnels, markets, theatres and water passages.

One night will be spent in Kutaisi prior to heading on to Mestia, famous for its UNESCO World Heritage sites. Deeper into the Great Caucasus we will explore the Enguri Canyon where the Svan ethnic group evolved, cut off from the outside world by the high and inaccessible mountains.

In Mestia we will visit the Ethnographical and Historical Museum and take an excursion to the village of Ushguli visiting remote villages and churches en route. With more than 20 ancient Svan towers, Ushguli has been on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1996. This is a superbly picturesque and atmospheric spot.

The journey from Mestia to Akhaltsikhe takes us through the Samtskhe-Javakheti region, known for important historical events, numerous fortresses, churches and some of the oldest settlements.

The 60km drive into the wilderness from Akhaltsikhe to the cave city of Vardzia is as dramatic as any in Georgia outside the Great Caucasus. There will be time to visit Vardzia before proceeding across the border at Bavra into Armenia from where we will transfer to Guymri for overnight.

From Guymri the tour proceeds to Yerevan, capital of Armenia where we will base ourselves for 3 days with time to explore the city and surrounds with all its wonderful museums and UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

We will follow the Great Silk Route through to Goris visiting majestic monasteries in the mountains, the ancient megalithic settlement at Karahunge and the historic Selim Caravanserai.

We’ll spend some time exploring the wild beauty of Lake Sevan and continue on to the spa town of Dilijan, the Little Switzerland of Armenia before overnighting in Dzoraget.

On our last day, we’ll visit the monasteries of Haghpat and Sanahgin, before heading back across the border to Tsilibisi to catch our connecting Turkish Airlines flight back to South Africa via Istanbul.

Liz Cotton will be accompanying the group from South Africa and professional local guides will be escorting the group from arrival in Baku, Azerbaijan through Georgia and Armenia and back to Georgia. This will be a unique and unforgettable experience for every member of the group.

With breathtaking natural beauty, wonderfully hospitable people, quaintly charming architecture and cosmopolitan capitals, the three small South Caucasus nations are just waiting to be explored. Don’t miss this wonderful opportunity. Space is limited to 18 guests..