Best of Armenia and Georgia
Yerevan (1 night) - Goris (1 night) - Southern Caucasus (2 nights) - Lake Sevan (1 night) - Vanadzor (1 night) - Gyumri (1 night) - Kutaisi (2 nights) - Tbilisi (2 nights) - Tsinandali (1 night) - Tbilisi (1 night)
Available tour dates: 2 - 15 May, 2021 (free 10 spots)
Day 1, Sunday
Welcome to Armenia!
On your way from airport to city we will bring you to the Tsitsernakaberd monument, overlooking the city, with Mount Ararat in the distance. We will check in at our super comfortable Alexander hotel in the centre of the city. Some time to rest. For those with energy after their flights, we can go and explore the History Museum and the Carpet museum, both within an easy walk of our hotel. In the afternoon we will have a walk and drive to explore Yerevan’s many faces and sights. We will start with a stroll along the Republic Square and the Vernisage (famous for its flea market), the Mirzoyan library of photography, and the Central Yerevan market. We will have a look at the curious Sergey Parajanov museum - dedicated to the most famous Armenian film directory. We will continue our walk to nearby Kond, Yerevan’s oldest area, with houses tightly packed next to each other. We will be led by a local resident who will show us how people in Kond live in a changing city. In the early evening we will drive to the top of the Cascade, and head down to our dinner in a modern Armenian/wine restaurant.
Overnight in Yerevan, two nights, Alexander hotel. Dinner.
Day 2, Monday
After an early breakfast we wave goodbye to Yerevan, and start our drive south, along the Turkish and Azeri borders (it is important to start early before dozens of tour buses have descended on Khor Virap! We will be the first to visit for the day). Our first stop will be at the pretty Khor Virap monastery, located right at the border - and with stunning views to Mount Ararat, on the Turkish side. Let’s soak in the views, and explore some of the secret chambers and chapels of the monastery. Then we head to Areni. We will quickly stop at the fascinating Areni-1 cave, where recently archaeologists unearthed the world’s oldest leather shoe (3500 BC) and winery (4000 BC). We will stop for lunch with a local family at the pretty Yeghegis valley. This is one of the most interesting old villages in Armenia. Let’s explore its old houses and old churches - with amazing views of the southern Caucasus! In the afternoon we continue to Goris, and stay the night in a lovely eco-resort.
Overnight in Goris, one night, Harsnadzor Eco resort. Breakfast, lunch, dinner.
Day 3, Tuesday
After breakfast we will explore the nearby monastery of Tatev, perhaps Armenia’s most beautiful, and then take the long cable car down. We will then continue to Old Khndzoresk, with its hundreds of caves that were inhabited until not long ago (it used to be the largest village in southern Armenia, with 15,000 inhabitants). We will have a picnic lunch with some of the prettiest views of the southern Caucasus. The road will wind up and down some amazing scenery. We will have Armenian coffee in the home of a curious man who has collected a treasure throve of old things. We will check in at our cosy hotel, have some time to rest, and then have a walk and take a good dinner. If you want to know more details for these days, just drop us a line and we will get back to you.
Overnight in a cosy small hotel, two nights. Breakfast, lunch, dinner.
Day 4, Wednesday
We head for a very interesting and thought-provoking day. We will drive through some of the most isolated villages in the Caucasus. We hope to visit HALO, a UK-organisation that removes mines from the area. Some free time to explore or rest. For dinner we will go to a lovely nearby cafe, where the creative minds of the area meet. We will also learn how to make Djangalov hac!
Overnight in cosy small hotel, second night. Breakfast, lunch.
Day 5, Thursday
This morning we start early, even before sunrise. We will meet the sunrise over the spectacular mountains and monastery of Gandzasar, where we will also take our packed breakfast - and tea in the monastery. At the nearby village of Vank we will have a look at some local oddities - a local millionaire has built a Titanic-like hotel, Lion statues, and more kitsch. Then we continue our drive out of Karabakh. We have the options to visit another monastery or go to some wild mineral springs - where we can take a dip. Or do both. We will have picnic lunch at the high pass out of Karabakh. Then the roads will straighten - we are on the shores of lake Sevan! We will check in at this gorgeous little hotel owned by Armenia’s carpet king. We will have dinner at the local restaurant.
Overnight in Tsapatagh, one night, Tufenkian Avan Marak. Breakfast, lunch, dinner.
Day 6, Friday
After breakfast we continue driving on the lake shore for a while. We turn inland into a pretty, rarely visited valley. We will venture to the small, isolated village of Antamarej, on probably the worst road on this trip. We will have a walk and a Mongolian home-cooked lunch in Antaramej. Then we continue on the main road to Dilijan, stopping for a coffee in this student town. We will stop at Vanadzor to see the workshop of a khachkar (cross-stone) maker - he is a real character! Then we continue to Alaverdi, near the Georgian border. We will sleep at a new cosy hotel, located near the pretty Debed canyon, and owned by a children-aid foundation.
Overnight near Alaverdi, Concept hotel by COAF. Breakfast, lunch, dinner.
Day 7, Saturday
After breakfast we head west: towards Gyumri. On the way we will stop at Spitak, entirely destroyed in the 1988 earthquake, and rebuilt completely with joint Soviet and UN efforts. The new town is a curious mix of modernist and functionalist architecture. Then we continue to Gyumri, Armenia’s second largest city. It’s a quiet, charming place, which also received much damage from the Spitak earthquake. We will check in at the cosy Villa Kars, where our host will be the Italian consul in town. We will enjoy a light lunch at a local cafe. In the afternoon we will explore Gyumri’s art and culture. Some free time. Dinner at a local restaurant.
Overnight in Gyumri, one night, Villa Kars. Breakfast, dinner.
Day 8, Sunday
After breakfast we will head north, crossing the border with Georgia. We will enter the most beautiful and remote part of Georgia - this is where a curious mix of Russian duhobory (“spirit-warriors”), Muslim Ajaras and Armenians live. We will visit a Duhobory temple and learn more about their beliefs. Then we continue towards Central Georgia, and stay overnight at Kutaisi, Georgia’s second largest city, for two nights.
Overnight in Kutaisi, two nights, Best Western Kutaisi. Breakfast, lunch.
Day 9, Monday
We will have a walk in Kutaisi, including Bagrati cathedral, and the nearby Gelati monastery, both inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage list. In the afternoon we will go to nearby Tskaltubo, home to numerous crumbling Soviet sanatoriums, some of which in ruins, others still in use as resorts, and some inhabited by refugees from the Abkhaz war. We will visit a family of refugees, and have lunch together, listening to their stories.
Overnight in Kutaisi, second night, Best Western Kutaisi. Breakfast, lunch.
Day 10, Tuesday
After breakfast we depart north. We will have a look at the nearby medieval Surami fortress, before continuing to Chiatura. Chiatura is the most interesting town in Georgia, and the least visited by foreigners. It is famous for its Stalin-era cable cars which connect various neighbourhoods and coal mines. We will meet the miners, have a look at people using and operating the old cable cars, and wander the streets and market of town. Chiatura is Georgia you won’t see in the travel brochures: rough, raw and unpretentious. We will have packed lunch today. In the afternoon we head back to Tbilisi. On the way we will pass through Gori to have a look at the Stalin museum. Arrival in Tbilisi. Check in at our cosy Communal hotel. Traditional supra dinner in a nearby restaurant.
Overnight in Tbilisi, Communal Sololaki, two nights. Breakfast, lunch.
Day 11, Wednesday
After a hearty breakfast we will have a walk in the old town, stopping to explore some of the hidden, secret bits of Tbilisi, including the Narikala fortress and the sulphur baths. We will visit a family of puppet makers in their home, and then head to lunch in a lovely small local restaurant housed inside the ticket office of an abandoned theatre. In the afternoon we will have a look at the former Ministry of Highways in Tbilisi, one of the most iconic Soviet buildings ever made, the Chronicles of Georgia monument, high atop a hill above town. Free time to wander the city on your own.
Overnight in Tbilisi, Communal Sololaki, second night. Breakfast, lunch.
Day 12, Thursday
After breakfast we depart to the region of Kakheti, in eastern Georgia. We will stop for a stroll in the pretty Sighnaghi town (recently polished, manicured for tourists) and then continue to a nearby village (so you can see what Sighnaghi used to look like before tour buses arrived). We will have a home cooked lunch and tour of the village, led by the village priest - a real character! He will also show us traditional wine making We will stay overnight at the newly opened Radisson Tsinandali Estate, learning more about Alexander Chavchavadze, the original owner of the estate - and first landscaped park in Georgia. A fine dinner at the estate.
Overnight in Tsinandali, Radisson Collection hotel, one night. Breakfast, lunch, dinner.
Day 13, Friday
After a good, hearty breakfast (the best in Georgia, in fact) we depart towards the nearby Pankisi valley, where ethnic Chechen and Kist Muslims live. This is really off-the-beaten track - a very conservative (but friendly) society, completely separated from the rest of Georgian society. We will visit the most unique private ceremony in the Caucasus - the Friday female dervishes (the only female dervishes in the world!) as they gather for their Friday prayers in the beautiful old mosque of the Pankisi valley. Afterwards we will stay for the male ceremony, and have lunch with a Chechen family. In the afternoon return to Tbilisi using a different, scenic route through the mountains. Farewell dinner in a good Tbilisi restaurant.
Overnight in Tbilisi, Stamba hotel, one night. Breakfast, lunch, dinner.
Day 14, Saturday
End of tour. Breakfast and transfers to the airport.
Available tour dates:
2-15 May, 2021
- Accommodation in carefully selected hotels in Yerevan, Goris, Vanadzor, Tsapatagh, Kutaisi, Tbilisi, Tsinandali and Gyumri. Yes, we’ve stayed at all these hotels, and we love them.
- All meals according to program (tips for the waiters included, alcohol mostly not included).
- Transportation with an air-conditioned minibus, with all border and toll taxes and bribes, parking fees, daily allowance and accommodation for the driver.
- English speaking guide throughout the tour, including guide-accommodation and daily allowance.
- Local tour guides in (tips included) Yerevan, Gyumri, and Tbilisi.
- Tickets for all museums and sights according to the itinerary.
- Mineral water on the bus.
- A welcome pack including maps, brochures, gifts, etc.
Price does not include:
- Tips for driver and guide.
- Any other additional personal costs: laundry, phone calls, etc.
- Independent meals according
to the itinerary.
- Flights in and out of the region.
€3260 per person, €470 single supplement.
The cost is per person sharing double or twin room.
The number of participants is limited to ten. We accept payment by bank wire and credit card.