Sunday 14 April 2019: Armenia: Yerevan Start of Tour A.
In the morning you will meet our tour guide in the lobby of the designated hotel.
Introductory briefing about the region, the route and the set of rules to observe while travelling in the Caucasus.
Central Yerevan walking tour: Opera House, Cascade Sculpture Park, Republic Square, Soviet Victory Park and Mother Armenia Statue.
Traditional Armenian lunch with delicious Armenian wines.
Temples and Monasteries: after lunch we'll drive to the nearby village of Garni the impressive ruins of a 2000-year-old pagan temple and the stone monastery of Geghard, an architectonic gem entirely carved out of a mountain.
Genocide Memorial: once back in Yerevan, we'll head to the Armenian Genocide Memorial and Museum, one of the most significant places in the whole country. We'll learn about the tragic fate millions of Armenians endured during the last years of the Ottoman Empire, visit the Soviet-style concrete monumental complex and admire stunning sunset views over resilient Yerevan.
Visit to Wine Works to learn about the Armenian wine industry and taste some truly unique local wines!
Blind tasting at the Invivo wine bar.
Dinner and overnight in Yerevan.
Monday 15 April 2019: Armenia: Yerevan and Etchmiadzin Mosques and Bazaars: morning visit to the colorful central market, a Soviet-era covered bazaar thriving with loud and friendly sellers that will tempt you with all sort of local delicacies: from fresh vegetables to pickled cockscombs. Still inebriated by exotic scents and flavors we'll head to the Iranian Mosque, a hidden jewel of Islamic architecture.
Holy Cities and Soviet Nostalgia: we'll drive to the nearby town of Echmiadzin, the spiritual capital of Armenia and home of a UNESCO World Heritage site: The Angels of Sky Cathedral and the surrounding religious complex.
Moving on from the sacred to the profane we'll then visit the abandoned Soviet sport complex, an impressively huge place full of nostalgia and brutalist concrete forms.
If you are more into ancient stuff and less into Soviet heritage we'll head instead to the Ionic temple of Garni and the gorgeous rock monastery of Geghard east of Yerevan.
Quick lunch in Echmiadzin.
Visit to Van Ardi winery in Sasunik - Armenia wines with a California twist!
Visit to the ArmAs winery in Nor Yedesia - an impressive winery with state-of-the-art technology and the largest winemaker in the region.
Coffee Culture and Flea Markets: once back in Yerevan we'll stroll around town and enjoy the calm pace of its daily routine sipping a warm coffee or a fresh juice in one of the many cafés dotting the central area. We'll then shop around the bustling Flea and Art Market, the very place in Yerevan to find all kind of Soviet paraphernalia. Start honing your haggle skills, you'll need them!
Dinner and overnight in Yerevan.
Tuesday 16 April 2019: Armenia: Goris, Tatev and Noravank We will leave Yerevan early in the morning for the 8-hour-long journey to the internationally unrecognized but de-facto independent Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh.
On the will stop in Areni to admire the ancient monastery of Noravank, set against a background of flaming red mountains and also in Goris, to visit the curious stone pillars surrounding this pretty little Soviet town and take a vertigo-inducing cable car ride to the magnificent Tatev monastery.
We will also have time to visit two local wineries:
Hin Areni winery, Areni - quirky winemaking with impressive white wines.
Old Bridge Winery, Yeghegnadzor - tiny production and delighted to welcome Western visitors!
Border Crossing: before dinner we'll cross the border into Nagorno-Karabakh. Unrecognised states are much safer and friendlier than you might think and we will take care of all the border formalities; however, this is a very sensitive area and you shall strictly follow the (rather simple) instructions your guide will brief you about. After entering the Republic we'll head straight towards its capital: pleasant and lively Stepanakert.
Dinner and overnight in Stepanakert.
Wednesday 17 April 2019: Nagorno-Karabakh: Shushi and Stepanakert Stepanakert walking tour: Stepanakert Dramatic Theatre, Martyrs Museum, Karabakh Cultural Centre, Parliament, Central Bazaar, Soviet-era amusement park, Sport Complex, WWII Memorial and other socialist architectonic gems.
Traditional Karabakhi lunch with local wines.
After lunch we'll drive to the nearby town of Shushi, which witnessed one of the fiercest battle during the recent conflict against Azerbaijan. We'll visit the ruins of the ancient part of the town, some melancholic Soviet remains, a newly built impressive church and the abandoned central mosque. We'll also have the unique chance to meet with a local veteran, who will guide us around town and tell us more about the bloody war that lead to the unrecognised independence of this narrow strip of land.
Visit to the Domaine Avetissyan winery in Togh - famous for the Kataro wine which is produced from Khnodgny (also known as Sireni) an indigenous grape variety.
Visit to the Stepankert Brandy Factory - you will be amazed by the quality of the brandy here!
Dinner and overnight in Stepanakert.
Thursday 18 April 2019: Nagorno-Karabakh: Agdam, Gandzasar, Vank and the Minefields After a morning pilgrimage to the national symbol of Nagorno-Karabakh, the oddly looking Tatik-Papik (We Are Our Mountains) monument, we'll drive to Agdam or the "Hiroshima of the Caucasus", a once thriving and now completely abandoned town located directly on the frontline with Azerbaijan. This is an extremely sensitive area so you shall strictly follow the instructions your guide will brief you about.
Along the road and in the area surrounding Agdam we'll catch the sad glimpse of the minefields dotting the fertile but unusable pastures of Karabakh.
We'll then head north stopping by in Tigranakert to visit the local fortress and in some pretty villages along the route to admire the natural rhythms of rural life and enjoy a hearty lunch with a local family with plenty of delicious local wines.
Finally we'll visit the majestic Gandzasar Monastery, the biggest in the country, and the nearby village of Vank, where an eccentric Armenian oligarch built a Titanic-shaped hotel, a surreal amusement park and an exotic zoo.
Dinner and overnight in Stepanakert.
Friday 19 April 2019: Armenia: Didavank, Lake Sevan, Noratus, Hayravank and the Sevan Peninsula We'll start the day early and head to back to Armenia.
We'll enter Armenia by the backdoor through a little-used but very scenic mountain road.
Before crossing back into Armenia we'll stop at the ancient Dadivank monastery, close to the contested border with Azerbaijan.
Once in Armenia we'll find ourselves in Vardenis, a rather desolate Soviet town near the mighty Lake Sevan.
We'll drive along the rocky shores of the lake and slowly head to the Sevan Peninsula. Besides the routine pauses for food, toilet and random landscape pictures, we'll break the long haul twice: in Hayravank to visit a not-to-be-missed lakeside monastery and in Noratus, a thousand-year-old cemetery located in one of the most beautiful area of the whole country.
In the afternoon we'll finally arrive in Sevan, an archetypical Soviet town, which we'll briefly tour before heading the world-famous namesake peninsula (formerly an island).
On the peninsula we'll enjoy stunning views over the lake while admiring the gracious shapes of the Sevanavank monastic complex and the modernist and constructivist architecture of the House of Recreation for the Writers and Artists of Soviet Armenia.
Dinner and overnight on the Sevan Peninsula.
Saturday 20 April 2019: Armenia-Georgia: Alaverdi, Sanahin, Haghpat and Tbilisi Early in the morning we'll head to Georgia and say goodbye to biblical Armenia.
We'll drive north to Tbilisi and break the journey in the historical city of Dilijan, where we'll tour the well preserved city centre, and in the Soviet mining town of Alaverdi, where we'll enjoy slightly eerie post-industrial atmospheres, admire pretty hilltop churches (Haghpat and Sanahin) and pay a visit to the Soviet Air Force museum dedicated to Artyom Mikoyan, a local aerospace engineer and one of the main designers of the legendary MiG.
Visit to the Alaverdi Monastery Cellars where the monks will talk to us about Georgian winemaking and the importance of qvevri!
Border crossing into Georgia and late afternoon arrival in Tbilisi.
Dinner and overnight in Tbilisi.
End of Tour A.
Sunday 21 April 2019: Georgia: Tbilisi and Mtskheta Start of Tour B.
Old and Soviet Tbilisi walking tour: ancient churches, crumbling buildings, brutalist concrete shapes, photogenic Tsarist façades, Turkish-style old houses and a fascinating labyrinth of narrow alleys and steep stairs.
Cable ride to the Tbilisi Fortress and visit to the Soviet-era statue of Kartlis Deda (Mother of Georgians).
Traditional Georgian lunch with local wines.
Nostalgia and Bazaars: after lunch we'll visit the Soviet Flea Market, an open street market where you can find everything from Stalin's busts to SS knives, and the Central Bazaar, a surprisingly exotic place where Eastern European flavours mix with Middle-Eastern scents.
In the afternoon we'll enjoy a beer, a cup of tea or a refreshing cocktail in one of the many lovely cafés dotting Tbilisi centre.
Tasting at the Tears of Metekhi restaurant where you will discover the delights of Rkatsiteli, Tsolikouri, Kisi, Mtsvane and Vardisperi!
Dinner and overnight in Tbilisi.
Monday 22 April 2019: Georgia: Gori, Chiatura and Kutaisi We will leave Tbilisi early in the morning and head westwards to Kutaisi, the second biggest city in the country.
Visit to the Château Mukhrani in Mtskheta - a leading Georgian wine company. The wines here are epic!
We'll break the long journey twice to visit the notorious city of Gori, the birthplace of Stalin, and the surreal mining town of Chiatura, a steampunk city famous for his extensive network of rickety but still functioning cable cars from the 50s.
Winery visits in Baghdati - here you will discover Krakhuna!
Quick lunch in Chiatura and transfer to Kutaisi, with a stop en route at the stunning Katskhi rock pillar.
Kutaisi sightseeing: Central Park, Stalinist city centre, David the Builder monument, central bazaar, panoramic cableway and Bagrati Cathedral.
Dinner and overnight in Kutaisi.
Tuesday 23 April 2019: Abkhazia: Tkvarcheli and Sukhumi Early departure from Kutaisi to Zugdidi, the last Georgian town before the contested border with the breakaway Republic of Abkhazia.
Zugdidi is also the capital of Samegrelo, a region inhabited by the Mingrelians an ethnic subgroup of Georgians particularly renowned for their cuisine.
We'll visit the central market, a slightly edgy border-zone trading place, and taste some of the local delicacies before heading to the border with Abkhazia.
Border crossing: after lunch we'll cross the border into Abkhazia. Unrecognised states are much safer and friendlier than you might think and we will take care of all the border formalities; however, this is a very sensitive area and you shall strictly follow the (rather simple) instructions your guide will brief you about.
After entering Abkhazia we'll drive to Tkvarcheli, a captivating and eerie half-abandoned coal-mining Soviet town nestled in the green mountains of Southern Abkhazia.
We'll then continue our journey to Sukhumi, the capital of Abkhazia.
Trip to the wineries of Achandara for a true time warp winemaking experience...
Monkeys and Beaches: after lunch we'll drive to the hills to visit the Space Monkeys Sanctuary, a very peculiar place that harbours space-race-era apes and their descendants. We'll then hit the beach for some quality time to be spent either trying to spot the surprisingly common Black Sea dolphins or just swimming and sunbathing like a lazy post-Soviet seal.
Dinner and overnight in Sukhumi.
Thursday 25 April 2019: Abkhazia: Novy Afon, Pitsunda and Ritza Lake We'll start the day early and drive north to the Great Caucasus Mountains.
On the way we'll break the journey twice to visit the ancient monastery of Novy Afon and the pleasant Soviet seaside towns of Gagra and Pitsunda.
Seafood lunch in Pitsunda.
Visit to Gudauta and the Argun Ashta wineries for a fascinating insight in off the beaten track winemaking in rarely visited Abkazhia!
In the afternoon we'll finally reach Ritsa, a deep-blue mountain lake surrounded by thick forests and subalpine meadows.
Dinner and overnight in Ritsa.
Friday 26 April 2019: Abkhazia: Ritza Lake and the Mountains We'll wake up surrounded by the fresh air and the magical atmosphere of the Abkhaz Mountains and start the day by doing some physical exercise like true Soviet pioneers.
For the athletic ones: early morning challenging trek around the lake.
For the lazier ones: easy hike in the woods.
For the laziest: chill-out time with the locals (aka beer and shashliks on the lakeshore).
After lunch we'll head back to Sukhum.
Free afternoon in Sukhum for souvenir shopping and gastronomic discoveries.
Dinner and overnight in Sukhum.
Saturday 27 April 2019: Flight back home or transfer to further destinations After enjoying a last lavish Abkhaz-style breakfast together we'll head back to Georgia.
After completing the border crossing formalities we'll take care of the transfer to your airport/train station of choice.
For those flying out: we will arrange transfer to any of the following transportation hubs in Georgia: Kutaisi International Airport, Batumi International Airport, Tbilisi International Airport.
For those wishing to take the train/bus to reach further destinations: we will arrange transport to the train/bus station in Zugdidi (Georgia).
End of Tour B.
TOUR PRICING GROUP A: Armenia & Nagorno-Karabakh: £995.00 GROUP B: Georgia & Abkhazia: £995.00 GROUP COMBO A&B: £1895.00
Tour Includes Accommodation on a twin share basis (single supplement £14 per night) Wine tastings Private transport (jeep or minivan) Entrance fees to the attractions listed in the itinerary Guiding and translation services
Tour Excludes International flights Meals Drinks Insurance* Airport transfers Visas (if required) Entrance fees to attractions not listed in the itinerary
Insurance* Please note that some parts of this tour involves travelling to areas where the British Foreign & Commonwealth Office advises against all travel. We take the security of our destinations very seriously indeed and safety of customers is our number one priority. We also advise that you do your own research as well to ensure that you are comfortable with the trip. 'FCO Travel Warnings' may also affect your travel insurance for these regions so please contact us for advice.
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