DAY 1 KUTAISI ARRIVAL – GORI – TBILISI CITY TOUR
Arrival to David the Builder Kutaisi International Airport in the morning. Meet your Phoenix Tour representative in Georgia. Drive to Tbilisi. Stop at Gori, the town where the Joseph Stalin was born and went to school. Breakfast. Visit the large museum devoted to Stalin, the Gori’s best known attraction.
Continue to Tbilisi. Arrive in Tbilisi. Start exploring Tbilisi, the capital and the largest city of Georgia. Stop by one of the city’s iconic spots, the Abanotubani District, renowned for its sulfur baths. These subterranean bathhouses date back to the 17th century and have been a favorite for travelers to the city.
Take a cable car to the 4th century Narikala Fortress, and get a superb panoramic view of Tbilisi, with its hanging houses, the historic 13th century Metekhi Church and the gold-topped modern Sameba Cathedral. Views also sweep down to the glass Bridge of Peace, the gorge of the Mtkvari River (Kura River) and the picturesque spurs of the Trialeti Range. Take a walk along the fortress, and you’ll pass by the feet of the Mother Georgia monument, the celebrated symbol of Tbilisi.
Visit the Holy Trinity Cathedral, commonly called Sameba ("Trinity" in Georgian). With its gold-topped roof, it’s easy to spot the Sameba in most places in the city and catch its golden light. The Holy Trinity Cathedral is the largest religious building in the area of the South Caucasus, and it’s the main cathedral of Georgia with the seat of the Catholicos Patriarch of All Georgia.
Visit the 6th century Sioni Cathedral. The most significant relic of the cathedral is the venerated Grapevine Cross, which, according to a tradition, was forged by Saint Nino, a Cappadocian woman who preached Christianity in Georgia in the early 4th century. The Cross of St. Nino, according to legend, is made from the vine branches bound with the saint’s own hair. Visit on a Sunday morning and enjoy the singing by the Sioni Boys’ Choir.
Visit the 5th century Anchiskhati Basilica, the oldest of the surviving city churches. Check into a hotel. Overnight in Tbilisi.
DAY 2 TBILISI – MTSKHETA – ANANURI – GUDAURI – KAZBEGI – GERGETI – TBILISI
Breakfast. Take the historic Georgian Military Road across the Caucasus Mountains to Kazbegi - a major route through the Caucasus from Georgia to Russia.
Drive to Mtskheta and Jvari Complex. Mtskheta is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, and has been Georgia’s spiritual heart since Christianity was established here in about 327 AD, and holds a near-mystical significance in Georgian culture.
Visit the 17th century Jvari Monastery, visible for miles around on its hilltop, overlooking Mtskheta from the east (UNESCO World Heritage Site). The Jvari stands on the spot, where the King Mirian erected a sacred wooden cross, soon after his conversion by St. Nino in the 4th century.
Visit the splendid 11th century Svetitskhoveli Cathedral, where the Robe of Jesus Christ is believed to be buried (UNESCO World Heritage Site).
Visit the 17th century Ananuri Castle, the seat of power of medieval Georgian dukes of Aragvi, and one of the most scenic fortresses of Georgia. You may 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. Stop at the Jvari Pass (Pass of the Cross) - the highest point of the Georgia Military Road, where it reaches its maximum altitude of 2,379m above the sea level. The views are magnificent, and the air is of a purity that will make city dwellers weep!
Drive to Kazbegi, a valley town at about 1,750m above sea level, and just a few miles short of the Russian border. Near the village of Gergeti, take a local 4x4 jeep to make it up the hill to visit the 14th century Gergeti Trinity Church. During the dark times, the precious relics from Mtskheta, including the St. Nino's Cross were taken here for safekeeping. Enjoy the views of the snowy peak of Mt. Kazbek. Return to Tbilisi. Overnight in Tbilisi.
DAY 3 TBILISI – BAGRATASHEN – HAGHPAT – SANAHIN – DILIJAN – LAKE SEVAN – YEREVAN
Breakfast. Check out from hotel. Drive to the Georgia-Armenia border and arrive at the Sadakhlo-Bagratashen border crossing. After border formalities, change the guide and transportation and start the Armenian part of the tour. Drive to Alaverdi, the largest city in the Debed Canyon, an area rich with historical monuments and natural beauty.
Visit the outstanding example of Armenian medieval religious architecture, the 10th century Haghpat Monastery (UNESCO World Heritage Site). There is a number of splendid khachkars standing on the territory the monastery, among them is the best known “Amenaprkich” (All-Savior) khachkar, which has been standing there since 1273.
Visit the moss-covered 10th century Sanahin Monastery, a fascinatingly detailed monastery complex, packed with ancient graves, darkened chapels and medieval gallery schools (UNESCO World Heritage Site).
Drive to Dilijan, a resort town renowned for its charming nature and some traditional Armenian architecture. Stroll through the cobbled Sharambeyan Street, with its collection of stone and wooden traditional buildings, restaurants, souvenir stalls and workshops.
Continue to Lake Sevan. Sevan is one of the largest high-mountain freshwater lakes in the world. The lake's proximity to Yerevan, combined with cooler summer temperatures, picturesque coastline and historical sights, make it one of the key places to visit in Armenia. Walk up to the 8th century monastery of Sevanavank on Sevan peninsula, one of Armenia’s iconic landmarks.
Drive to Yerevan. Check into a hotel. Overnight in Yerevan.
DAY 4 YEREVAN – KHOR VIRAP – ECHMIADZIN – ZVARTNOTS – YEREVAN
Breakfast. Drive to Khor Virap Monastery, located on the foothills of the Biblical Mount Ararat, where it reveals its breathtaking size and splendor. Khor Virap, located a few hundred meters from the border with Turkey, is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Armenia, primarily because it was here, that the Saint Gregory the Illuminator, the future head of the Armenian Apostolic Church, was imprisoned in a deep dungeon for 13 years. To this day you can visit this dungeon, located under the St. Gevorg Chapel.
Continue to Echmiadzin, the heart of Armenian Christianity and the administrative center of the Armenian Apostolic Church. Visit the churches of St. Hripsime and St. Gayane.
The 7th century St. Hripsime Church is one of the famous ecclesiastical buildings in the city of Echmiadzin (UNESCO World Heritage Site). The church is notable with its architectural simplicity and loftiness, and the tomb of the Christian martyr Virgin Hripsime is located in the small mausoleum beneath the sacristy of the church.
The 7th century church of St. Gayane was constructed over the tomb of Virgin Gayane, who was martyred for preaching Christianity in Armenia (UNESCO World Heritage Site).
Visit the Echmiadzin Cathedral, one of the oldest Christian churches in the world, built by St. Gregory the Illuminator in 303 AD (UNESCO World Heritage Site). On Sundays you can take part in the colorful service of the Holy Liturgy, which attracts many visitors and pilgrims from all over the world.
Visit the Echmiadzin Cathedral's Museum, where amongst other relics, you can see the Holy Spear, with which Jesus Christ was pierced on the Cross, a fragment of Noah's Ark, the kneecap of John the Baptist, a particle of the Cross on which Jesus was crucified, and the fragment of the Savior's crown of thorns.
Drive back to Yerevan. En route to Yerevan visit the ruins of the 7th century Zvartnots Temple (UNESCO World Heritage Site). Originally built to be the tallest church in the world at the time, and to last for 1,000 years (a projected date for the second coming of Christ), the Zvartnots was destroyed by a powerful earthquake in the 9th century.
Arrive in Yerevan. Take a tour of the legendary "Ararat" Brandy Factory, featuring degustation of the two types of the world renowned Armenian brandy. The Yerevan Brandy Factory, the only and constant producer of "Ararat" brandies, is one of the key stops for official visits of delegations, cultural figures and tourists from all over the world.
Stop at the popular farmers market “Gumi Shuka” to buy traditional sweets and dried fruits. It's a fun place to meet vendors and spend time, sampling their foods. The aromas and colors of the local produce will add up to a wonderful and unique experience. Overnight in Yerevan.
DAY 5 YEREVAN – GEGHARD – GARNI – YEREVAN
Breakfast. Start exploring Yerevan, the Armenia’s capital city and one of the oldest cities in the world. Stop at the Victory Park and Mother Armenia monument to get a spectacular view of the Biblical Mt. Ararat with a panorama of central Yerevan.
Take a walking tour of the Cascade Complex, with its Sculpture Park and Cafesjian Center for the Arts. The Cascade is a massive white stairway up a hillside in 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. Be sure to return to Republic Square after dark to see the "Dancing Fountains", a choreographed water show synched with lights and music (the fountains are on from May until the end of October).
Visit 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.
Breakfast. Drive to one of the most beautiful monasteries in Armenia, the 13th century cave monastery of Geghard (UNESCO World Heritage Site). The name of the monastery originates from the spear, which had wounded Jesus at the Crucifixion, allegedly brought to Armenia by Apostle Jude, and currently stored amongst many other relics in the Echmiadzin's Cathedral Museum.
Drive to the masterpiece of Hellenistic architecture in Armenia, the pagan temple of the Sun in Garni. Garni Temple was built in the 1st century AD by the Armenian King Trdat with the money he received after visiting the emperor Nero in Rome, and was dedicated to the Sun God Mithra. The temple was destroyed in 1679 in an earthquake, but was reconstructed in Soviet times. Return to Yerevan. Overnight in Yerevan.
DAY 6 YEREVAN – GYUMRI – BAVRA – KHERTVISI – VARDZIA – AKHALTSIKHE
Breakfast. Check out from hotel. Drive to the Armenia-Georgia border. Pass through Gyumri, the second largest city in Armenia and the capital of Shirak Province in Northern Armenia. Arrive at the Bavra-Ninotsminda border crossing. After short border formalities, change the guide and transportation and start the second Georgian part of the tour. Drive to Akhaltsikhe.
Stop at the 14th century Khertvisi Fortress. According to the legend, Khertvisi was one of the first fortresses that was destroyed by Alexander the Great. The part of the fortress, the tunnel leading to the river, and a high tower have remained unharmed.
Continue to Vardzia, the most picturesque monument of medieval Georgia. Vardzia rock-carved cave complex was dug into the side of the Erusheli Mountain and was founded by Queen Tamar in 1185 (UNESCO World Heritage Site). At its zenith, the complex had more than 600 rooms on 8 levels that served all kinds of purposes - as sleeping quarters, defensive structures, chapels and pharmacies. In 1283, an earthquake destroyed most of the complex, shaving away half of the cliff to reveal the site’s inner workings. It was completely abandoned in the 16th century and left untouched until excavations began in the Soviet era. In 1988, the monks moved back in.
Continue to Akhaltsikhe. Throughout its history, Akhaltsikhe has been under the control of many different groups of people, notably the Ottomans during the 17th and 18th centuries, and the Russian Empire for the most part of the 19th century and the first part of the 20th century.
Visit the 13th century Rabati Castle, which overlooks the town of Akhaltsikhe. The entire site contains a museum, a castle, a church, a mosque with minaret and a synagogue - which is really all fascinating to see them lined up side by side. Check into a hotel. Overnight in Akhaltsikhe.
DAY 7 AKHALTSIKHE – BORJOMI – KUTAISI CITY TOUR
Breakfast. Check out from hotel. Drive to Kutaisi. En route to Kutaisi visit Borjomi, the major health resort of Georgia. Stop at the “Borjomi Mineral Water Park” and taste the world renowned “Borjomi” mineral water.
Continue to Kutaisi, the second largest city of the country. It is widely believed by historians that, when Apollonius Rhodius was writing about Jason and the Argonauts and their legendary journey to Colchis - Kutaisi was the final destination of the Argonauts and the residence of King Aeëtes.
Arrive in Kutaisi. Start exploring Kutaisi. From the Jachvis Khidi (Chain Bridge), walk up cobbled streets lined with attractive houses and gardens to the splendid 11th century Bagrati Cathedral on Ukimerioni Hill.
Visit the 11th century Gelati Monastery, the masterpiece of the Golden age of Georgia, and one of the largest medieval Orthodox monasteries in the country (UNESCO World Heritage Site). Gelati was founded by King David the Builder in 1106 as a center for Christian culture and Neoplatonist learning. Many Georgian rulers were buried here, including David himself and Queen Tamar. Check into a hotel. Free time for your own exploration of Kutaisi's old town. Overnight in Kutaisi.
DAY 8 KUTAISI DEPARTURE
Early check out from hotel. Transfer to David the Builder Kutaisi International Airport. Departure from Kutaisi.