ARMENIA & GEORGIA GUARANTEED DEPARTURE TOUR 2017
ARRIVAL TO YEREVAN (OR TBILISI) & DEPARTURE FROM TBILISI
MIN 2 – MAX 15 PAX
9 DAYS | 8 NIGHTS
Though distinctly different, Armenia and Georgia bring its own brand of laid back leisure in the region. From the beautiful Yerevan to the colorful Tbilisi and all the way to the picturesque Caucasus Mountains, this 9 days/8 nights tour is designed to feed your thirst for travel and discovery, with many fascinating stops along the way. Delight yourself with unparalleled views and incredible food, get ready to sip superb Armenian and Georgian wines, surround yourself with wonderful local people, that are sure to create a warm and friendly atmosphere of this unique adventure.
Visit one of the richest depositories of manuscripts and books in the world, the Matenadaran Institute of Ancient Manuscripts. The Matenadaran stands like a cathedral at the top of Yerevan’s grandest avenue. At the base of the building there is a statue of Mesrop Mashtots teaching his alphabet to a disciple, while six other statues of great scholars and writers stand by the door.
Take a walking tour of Cascade Complex, with its Sculpture Park and Cafesjian Center for the Arts. See Fernando Botero’s sculpture of “The Black Cat” and other renowned artist’s works decorating the Park. The Cascade is an Art Deco version of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, a massive white stairway up a hillside of central Yerevan, decorated with green stretches, fountains and waterfalls, that run uphill and crowned with the obelisk of the Revived Armenia.
Visit the magnificent building of the Opera House, the postmodern Northern Avenue and the city’s main Republic Square, the centerpiece of the architect Alexander Tamanian’s master plan for Yerevan. The Republic Square is ringed by the National Gallery, National History Museum and several government buildings. Be sure to return to Republic Square after dark to see the “Dancing Fountains”, a choreographed water show synched with lights and music.
Continue to the Armenian Genocide Memorial Complex on the hills of Tsitsernakaberd. The Armenian Genocide Memorial Complex houses both the Armenian Genocide Museum, and the Tsitsernakaberd Genocide Memorial. The museum offers an account of the 1915 genocide in which as many as 1.5 million Armenians perished while Armenia was part of the Ottoman Empire. Overnight in Yerevan.
Visit the Main Cathedral of Echmiadzin, the oldest state-built church in the world, having been built by St. Gregory the Illuminator in 303 AD (UNESCO World Heritage Site). Attend the colorful service of the Holy Liturgy on Sundays, which attracts a numerous visitors and pilgrims from around the world. Visit the Cathedral Museum, where amongst other relics, you can see the Holy Lance, with which Jesus Christ was pierced on the cross.
Drive back to Yerevan. En route to Yerevan visit ruins of the 7th century Zvartnots Temple (UNESCO World Heritage Site). Zvartnots Cathedral was destroyed by an earthquake in 930 AD, and was lost to history until its discovery in the early 20th century. The Armenian and Arab historians alike marveled at the beauty of Zvartnots, calling it one of the most beautiful buildings ever built. Originally built to be the tallest church of the world at the time, and to last for 1,000 years (a projected date for the second coming of Christ), the Zvartnots Cathedral has been only partially reconstructed.
Return to Yerevan. Take a tour of an open air “Vernissage” market, where you can buy some gifts, souvenirs, jewelry and other handicrafts made of wood, semi-precious stones, silver and other materials. It is open year round, though only on the weekends, except for a rump vernissage held daily at the end of the usual “Vernissage” venue where it meets Khanjian Street. The “Paintings Vernissage” is located at Martiros Saryan Park, near the Opera House.
Stop at the popular fruit market “Shouka” to buy traditional sweets and dry fruits. You will be greeted by vendors of all types asking you to sample their goods – from delicious homemade dried fruits stuffed with nuts, paper thin fruit lavash and grape sujukh (local walnuts threaded on string and dipped in grape molasses) – right through to fresh lavash bread, an organic fruit and vegetables. Overnight in Yerevan.
Continue to the masterpiece of medieval Armenian architecture, the 14th century Noravank Monastery. Set in a spectacular valley of red rocks, the monastery built out of the local stone, blends into the background of the molten red gorge, that contrasts with the stark blue sky. In the 13th–14th centuries the monastery became a residence of Syunik’s bishops and, consequently a major religious and cultural center of Armenia, closely connected with many of the local seats of learning.
Continue in the Vayots Dzor Province, which is Armenia’s most storied wine growing region. Armenia is considered one of the most ancient cradles of grape growing and wine making, as the Bible states: “Noah descended from Mt. Ararat and he planted the first vine, and made wine from it.” Stopover for wine tasting at the local winery in Areni Village, which is famous for its rather delicious dry red wine. Areni is marked by spectacular cliffs and caves, where archaeologists found evidence in one of the caves of the very first winery in the world, along with the world’s first shoe. Return to Yerevan. Overnight in Yerevan.
Continue to the oldest surviving building on the territory of Armenia, the 1st century Garni Pagan Temple. The Garni Temple was built by the Armenian King Tiridates with the money he received after visiting Emperor Nero in Rome, and was dedicated to Sun God Mithra. After adopting Christianity in 301 AD, the pagan temple lost its significance and the fortress of Garni became the summer residence of the Armenian kings. The temple was destroyed in 1679 in an earthquake, but was reconstructed in Soviet times.
Continue to Lake Sevan. Lake Sevan is one of the highlights of a visit to Armenia. The lakeshore is lined with sandy beaches, some teeming with activity and resorts, offering water sports such as sailing, jet skiing and windsurfing, and some quiet and secluded. The lake’s proximity to Yerevan, coupled with its cooler summer temperatures, outstretched blue waters and historic sights make it one of Armenia’s key places to visit.
Walk up to the 8th century monastery of Sevanavank on Sevan Peninsula, one of Armenia’s iconic landmarks. Sevanavank is perhaps the most photographed part of the lake. The conical towers of the monastery set against the backdrop of the turquoise lake and blue sky may look idyllic, but it was once a place of penance, a place of exile for monks from the religious capital of Echmiadzin who were guilty of sinful acts.
Continue to Dilijan, a resort town renowned for its charming nature and some traditional Armenian architecture. Stroll through the Dilijan’s Historic Center, the cobbled Sharambeyan Street, with its collection of stone and wooden traditional buildings, shops, restaurants, souvenir stalls and workshops.
Continue to Alaverdi, the largest city in the Debed Canyon, an area rich with historical monuments and natural beauty. Visit the 10th century Haghpat Monastery (UNESCO World Heritage Site). This pearl of a monastery, perched on the lip of the Debed Canyon, is among the most outstanding examples of Armenian religious architecture. There is a number of splendid khachkars (cross-stones) of the 11th-13th centuries standing on the territory of the monastery, the best known among them is the “Amenaprkich” (All-Savior) khachkar, which has been standing there since 1273.
Drive to the Armenia-Georgia border and arrive at Bagratashen-Sadakhlo border crossing. After border formalities, start the Georgian part of the tour and continue to Tbilisi. Check into a hotel. Overnight in Tbilisi.
Visit the 17th century Ananuri Castle. This fortress with its churches, was the seat of power of medieval Georgian dukes of Aragvi, and presently, it is one of the most scenic fortresses of Georgia. It’s lovely to walk around it, as well as on the walls of the castle. You may even climb up to the tallest of the fortress towers for fine views.
Continue to the ski resort of Gudauri, whose bare hillsides make for Georgia’s best downhill ski runs, and stop at the Jvari Pass. The Jvari Pass starts about 4 km after Gudauri, at 2,379m above sea level, and takes its name from a cross placed here by King David the Builder. The present red stone cross, about 500 meters to the east above the road, was erected by Russian General Yermolov in 1824.
Continue to Kazbegi. Kazbegi is a valley town at about 1,750m above sea level, just a few miles short of the Russian border, with the famous hilltop silhouette of Gergeti Trinity Church and the snowy peak of Mt. Kazbek towering to the west. Mount Kazbek is associated in Georgian folklore with Amirani, the Georgian version of Prometheus, who was chained to the mountain in punishment for having stolen fire from the gods and having given it to mortals.
Visit the 14th century Gergeti Trinity Church, near the village of Gergeti. During the dark times, the precious relics from Mtskheta, including St. Nino’s Cross were taken here for safekeeping. Hiking to Gergeti takes between 1 and 2 hours one way, and the difficulty depends on the path. For those, who prefer not to walk, you can rent a Jeep for an extra charge to make it up the hill. Return to Tbilisi. Overnight in Tbilisi.
Visible for miles around on its hilltop, overlooking Mtskheta from the east, the Jvari Church is to many Georgians, the holiest of holies. The Jvari stands where the King Mirian erected a sacred wooden cross, soon after his conversion by St. Nino in the 4th century. Between 585 and 604 AD, the Stepanos I, the duke of Kartli, constructed the church over the cross.
Visit the 11th century Svetitskhoveli Cathedral, where the Robe of Jesus Christ is believed to be buried. Apparently a Mtskheta Jew, Elioz, was in Jerusalem at the time of the Crucifixion, and returned with the Robe to Mtskheta. Christ’s robe is believed to be buried in the nave beneath a square, and one of the greatest religious holidays of Georgia, the Mtskhetoba-Svetitskhovloba is dedicated to the Svetitskhoveli and the Robe of Christ. Both Jvari and Svetitskhoveli are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Continue to Joseph Stalin’s birth place in Gori. Gori has long been synonymous with just one man: this is the town where the Joseph Stalin was born and went to school. The large museum devoted to Stalin, is still Gori’s best known attraction, but there are also several intriguing older historical attractions close by.
Visit the cave town of Uplistsikhe. Uplistsikhe is an ancient rock-hewn town, which played a significant role in Georgian history over a period of approximately 3,000 years. Back then, the complex was a very important cultural center of pagan worship in the Kartli (Iberia) region. Archaeologists have unearthed numerous temples and findings relating to a Sun Goddess, worshipped prior to the arrival of Christianity. Return to Tbilisi. Overnight in Tbilisi.
Visit the 11th century Bagrati Cathedral. From the Jachvis Khidi (Chain Bridge), you can walk up cobbled streets lined with attractive houses and gardens to the splendid Bagrati Cathedral on Ukimerioni Hill. The cathedral was commissioned by the first king of a unified Georgia, Bagrat III. In 1692 a Turkish explosion brought down both dome and ceiling to leave the cathedral in a ruined state. The cathedral is now being completely restored, with the aim of returning it to its original form.
Visit the 11th century Gelati Monastery (UNESCO World Heritage Site). Gelati was founded by King David the Builder in 1106 as a center for Christian culture and Neoplatonist learning, and its academy became, according to medieval chroniclers, ‘a second Jerusalem’. Many Georgian rulers were buried here, including David himself and Queen Tamar. In 1510 the Ottoman Turks set fire to the complex, but Bagrat III of Imereti subsequently restored it. Check into a hotel. Overnight in Kutaisi.
TOUR PACKAGE PRICE PER PERSON | 940 USD
all transfers according to a program in a car or minivan with A/C; accommodation in a DBL room in 3 star hotels (8 nights with an early check-in on arrival day: 3 nights in Yerevan, 4 nights in Tbilisi, 1 night in Kutaisi); meals (breakfasts); foreign language speaking guide services; 1 country map per person; 1 bottled water per person per day; entrance fees to museums and temples; wine tasting in Areni.
PRICE DOESN’T INCLUDE
airfare; entry visas; insurance; alcohol during the meals; Kazbegi Jeep rentals ($10 p/p); all additional tours not mentioned in the program; tips.