Azerbaijan & Georgia Experience

Azerbaijan & Georgia Experience

From $ 4,320 AUD

Description

Visit two countries that have taken a big leap into the 21st century, where historical old towns and monasteries sit comfortably alongside towering skyscrapers. Stop by one of Europe’s largest open-air rock museums, warm your hands against a mountain that is forever on fire, walk through the gardens of a local Kakheti family and talk about provincial life over a hearty lunch. Uncover the centuries-old recipe for producing Georgian wine and learn how to make your own yogurt. Reconnect with nature on hikes through wooded forests and past the Chaladi glacier. Indulge your inner history buff as wander the ramparts of the Narikala Fortress and learn the secrets of Georgian cheese making. This all-encompassing trip takes you from eccentric Baku, to the lush green slopes of Georgia’s Mestia valley and ancient alleyways of Tbilisi

Trip Name
Azerbaijan & Georgia Experience
Last Updated
2019-07-25
Days
20
Capacity
12
Highlights
  • Azerbaijan's cosmopolitan capital of Baku is often referred to as the 'new Dubai'. Enjoy a guided walking tour around the city's World Heritage-listed Old Town.
  • Mud volcanoes, ancient mosques, lush forests and tall peaks – the Caucasus Mountains will take your breath away
  • Journey to the Svaneti region of Georgia, the remote and alluring land of snow-capped mountains, medieval-style tower-houses and a fascinating local dialect.
  • Far from a mere sightseeing tour, this trip is active and hands-on. You'll try your hand at preparing delicious local food and have plenty of chances to hike and explore.
  • With a strong historical focus, this trip is perfect for history buffs.

Itinerary

OPTIONAL ACTIVITIES: A selection of optional activities that have been popular with past travellers are listed in the day-to-day itinerary. This isn't an exhaustive list and should be used as a guide only for some of what might be available. Prices are approximate, are for entrance only, and don’t include transport to and from the sites or local guides unless indicated. All activities are subject to availability. It may not be possible to do all the activities listed in the time available at each destination, so some pre-planning for what you are most interested in is advised. When it's recommended that travellers pre-book these activities, look for a note in the Special Information section of the day-to-day itinerary. For most, they can either be organised independently on the day, or let your leader know you are interested and they can assist. Where activities are considered medium or high risk, we work with operators whose safety and credentials we have sighted and assessed. Although it is possible that you may find the same activity cheaper with another operator on the ground, we cannot vouch for the safety or quality of that operator. Medium and high risk activities not listed above have not been assessed by us and as such our staff and leaders are unable to assist you with organising these activities. Activities that contravene our Responsible Travel policies are also not listed. Please remember that the decision to partake in any activity not listed is at your own discretion and risk.

Day 1 - Baku
Welcome to Azerbaijan! Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6pm this evening. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask reception where it will take place. If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader.
Day 2 - Baku
Get to know Baku with a tour of the city, taking in a visit to the Old City, including the Shemakha gate, Shirvanshakhs` Palace, Maiden Tower,  and the Old Market Square.  Don't forget your camera as you'll also see panoramic views of Baku's skyline. After lunch head out on a tour of the Absheron Peninsula, visiting the Ateshgah fire temple, Mardakan medieval fortress and Yanardagh Fire Mountain (literally on fire!). Return to Baku in the evening.  We suggest checking out ,Nizami Street (Targoviy Street) this evening, there are many local restaurants to choose from and at night this busy boulevard comes to life; ask your leader where to find the best "Lavangi" - walnuts, dried fruit and onions are stuffed inside either chicken and roasted to create a tantalising fusion of flavours. 
Day 3 - Gobustan - Baku
Drive to Qobustan and visit the open-air rock paintings museum, a UNESCO heritage site with its own archaeological museum. Return to Baku and head to Baku Boulevard to the architectural masterpiece that is the Carpet Museum. Carpet weaving in Azerbaijan dates back more than 3000 years and plays a huge part in the local identity.  Later maybe stroll back to your hotel along the 3.5 kilometre boulevard checking at the Caspian Sea
Day 4 - Caucasus Mountains / Lahij
Have breakfast at the hotel before leaving Baku today. Drive to the Caucasus Mountains in the northwest of Azerbaijan through a dry landscape that gives way to a densely forested mountain area. Take part in yoghurt-making in a local home in Shamakhi. Afterwards, head to Lahij where you'll visit a copper workshop and get to know some locals over a cup of tea. Tonight, enjoy dinner with your group and stay overnight at a guesthouse or homestay in Lahij.
Day 5 - Nidj / Sheki
After breakfast, head to Nidj village, the village is home to the native Udin people, the direct descendants of ancient Caucasian Albanians, we take a stroll through the local bazaar and stop of tea and perhaps a chat with the locals before visiting the Albanian church that belongs to the Udi people, there are perhaps only a few thousand Udi people in the world today and the majority, approx 4.000 live in this area and village in Azerbaijan.  Continue on to Sheki and visit Sheki Khans Palace.   The facade of the palace is richly painted with drawings displaying scenes of hunting and war, in the center is a huge stained-glass window made from multi-colored glass mosaics, walk across rainbow-coloured floors created by the frescoes and stained glass and discover the history behind the Palace. Spend the night at a hotel in Sheki.
Day 6 - Kish / Sheki
Visit nearby Kish village and its old pointy spired Christian church this morning one of the oldest churches in the Caucasus. Return to Sheki and check out a workshop, where famous 'Shebeke', intricate handmade vitrages, are produced. The afternoon is free to discover Sheki, it is the kind of town where you can just wander around the strange mixture of architecture, stop of tea and enjoy some famous Sheki halva and  fill your instagram account with local scenes.  There is also silk production here in Sheki, ask you Leader to organise a visit to a local workshop if you like, these guys are masters. Dont forget to ask your Leader where to get the best Sheki Piti - stew made of lamb, sheep fat, chickpeas, onions, chestnuts, saffron and spices that is cooked in a claypot and eaten in a particular way.  
Day 7 - Border Crossing / Sighnaghi
After breakfast at the hotel, drive take a walk with your Leader through the Sheki market, perhaps grab some halva, nuts and dried fruit for the journey to Lagodekhi on the Azerbaijan-Georgia border.  Time to farewell Azerbaijan and meet your Georgia Leader.  From Lagodekhi, travel to the Kakheti region, famous for its wine making and welcoming hospitality. From here, both the snowy Caucasus Mountains and bountiful green valleys are visible. Visit a local family, explore the gardens and vineyards and then enjoy a lunch of delicious homemade food, wine and Georgian 'Chacha'. Later, visit a 300-year-old Georgian wine cellar and taste Georgian wine produced using Qvevri, large earthenware pots. This method of wine making is protected on UNESCO's heritage list and Georgian farmers have used this method for centuries. Continue to the beautiful 18th-century town of Sighnaghi, known for its quaint stone walls, small houses with terracotta roofs and decorated balconies. Admire the picturesque views of the Alazani Valley and Great Caucasus mountains. Stay overnight at a hotel in Sighnaghi.
Day 8 - David Gareja Caves / Tbilisi
In the morning drive to the David Gareja caves, a rock-hewn monastery carved into the stark semi-desert landscape in the sixth century. After seeing the Lavra Monastery, walk for about 50 minutes up a steep hill to the Udabno Monastery. This monastery features wonderful painted caves and dramatic views across to Azerbaijan. Spend a free afternoon in Tbilsi.
Day 9 - Tbilisi
Today, explore the capital of Georgia, Tbilisi. Wander the old districts of the city, which are structured like terraces, and walk through the narrow streets to appreciate the colourful houses, patterned balconies and revamped modern architecture. Start the tour from the 13th-century Metekhi church, with its magnificent views over old Tbilisi. A stroll along winding little streets takes us to the main sights of the city. Afterwards enjoy the panoramic views of the whole town and climb the battlements at the ancient Narikala fortress. Later explore the historical domed sulphur bath area and learn how this precinct is connected to the name of the city. Take the afternoon to continue exploring, perhaps visit the Museum of History and see the treasury as an optional extra, or why not try a spa for yourself. Spend the night at a hotel in Tbilisi.
Day 10 - Tbilisi
Today is yours to explore more before a group meeting tonight to begin the second part of this combination trip.
Day 11 - Tbilisi
After breakfast take part in a sightseeing tour of Tbilisi. The locals like to call their capital the "Balcony of Europe", placing it on par with many of Europe's graceful old cities. All the sights in the Old Town are very close to each other and within a few minutes’ walk. We start our visit to Old Tbilisi from Metekhi Church, and then walk to the Synagogue, Sioni Cathedral and Anchiskhati Basilica. From here, visit Narikala Fortress and the Sulphur Baths. Afterwards, you'll have free time to further explore the capital. The evening is also free for you to enjoy. Perhaps indulge in Tbilisi's lively theater scene and witness some of the energetic and acrobatic dance that Georgia is known for.
Day 12 - Mtskheta - Kutaisi
Today, drive approximately 1 hour to Georgia's ancient capital and religious centre – the town of Mtskheta, which is over 3000 years old. Visit Mtskheta's top historical sights: Jvari church (6th century) and Svetitskhoveli Cathedral (11th century), where the Robe of Christ is said to be buried. Both Jvari and Svetitskhoveli are UNESCO World Heritage sites. Afterwards, continue to the pretty city of Kutaisi, the second largest in the country (approximately 3 hours). Kutaisi is more than 3000 years old, connected to the legend of Jason and the Argonauts, along with his mythical (or is it?) Golden Fleece. Here we visit another significant historical site, the Gelati Cathedral. There may also be time to explore the cobbled streets of the town as you make your way up to the ruins of Bagrati palace and citadel.
Day 13 - Mestia
After a restful night, visit a local farmers market and a natural grotto filled with stalagmites and stalactites. After lunch get ready for the next part of the tour: a journey to the remote Svaneti region. Svaneti is the highest inhabited area in the Caucasus and is divided in two parts: Upper Svaneti and Lower Svaneti. Arrive into Mestia (approximately 5 hours), the centre of Upper Svaneti. Mestia is surrounded by mountains, medieval-type villages and disctinctive tower-houses. The famous tower-houses were built to accommodate villagers at times of invasion and violence during the 9th -13th centuries. Around 175 towers still stand today, although many are uninhabited. The area is home to the Svans, a proud people with a long history of survival in this isolated part of Europe, who speak their own language. Spend the night in a local guesthouse with shared facilities.
Day 14 - Mestia
Drive to Lakhiri village (approximately 20 minutes) and start our walk (approx walking time 4-5 hours) in the direction of Mestia. After little uphill walking we descend to the beautiful valley full with blooming flowers and enjoy an amazing view of Chalati Glacier (2300m) and of Mestia Valley with its watchtowers. The paths can be steep and the ground uneven so you will need good fitness and appropriate footwear for this walk. Those not wishing to hike can stay in the village or in Mestia. Today we also witness the making of Georgian cheese. Cheese is found in many Georgian dishes and is a key ingredient in the famous khachapuri, a traditional Georgian dish of cheese-filled bread which you will no doubt eat plenty of during your time here! Participate in the preparation of another traditional meal called kubdari, a filled bread dish filled with pork and beef that originates from this region.
Day 15 - Ushguli
Today, visit the World Heritage-listed village of Ushguli, a town around 50 kilometres southeast of Mestia (approx 3 hours drive). The village is located at 2,200 metres above sea level, and is one of the highest inhabited villages in Europe. Ushguli is most famous for its abundance of watchtowers – this is where you'll see the famous view of the towers set to the highest mountain in Georgia, the snow capped Mt Shkhara (5,068 metres). Visit the 12th-century Lamaria Church and walk to Queen Tamar’s tower. Total walking time is 2-3 hours depending on fitness and trail conditions. Those not wishing to walk may stay and explore Ushguli, where there are a few small ethnographic museums in the watchtowers. In the evening you can walk around the village and become familiar with the daily life of the local people. Spend the night in a family-owned guesthouse with shared facilities.
Day 16 - Mestia
Today's walk starts from the guesthouse. The route takes us along the river to the base of Mt Shkhara. Fingers crossed for great weather! We will have a picnic lunch today. The walking trail ends at the Shkhara glacier, where the Enguri river originates below. In the afternoon, return to Mestia and stay overnight in the guesthouse. Approximate walking time is 5-6 hours. If you do not wish to walk, please discuss options with your leader in advance.
Day 17 - Batumi
From the mountains to the sea today with a long drive to Batumi (approximately 7-8 hours) on the Black Sea coast. While past its Soviet heyday where it was one of the premiere seaside resorts, it is still popular with holiday makers from all over the region for its waterfront parks and beaches. Stay in a hotel tonight.
Day 18 - Batumi
In the morning take part in a short tour around the city. Then drive to the nearby Makhuntseti waterfall. Return to Batumi for an afternoon of free time. Batumi has a relaxed atmosphere, great restaurants and nightlife. Stroll the boulevard, cool off in the musical fountains on the square or see the touching Ali & Nino statue lit up at night. There's also art and ethnographic museums or a cable car to panoramic views over the city.
Day 19 - Tbilisi
Depart from Batumi and transfer back to Tbilisi (approximately 5-6 hours) by private vehicle. Stop at local winery on the way for tasting and toast our time in Georgia together. Enjoy our final night in the nation's capital, perhaps with one last group dinner and night out together.
Day 20 - Tbilisi
Your trip comes to an end today and your are free to depart at any time.

Trip Dates

StartEndPrice FromRoom Type
02-09-201921-09-2019AUD $ 4,910-
05-09-201924-09-2019AUD $ 4,735-
09-09-201928-09-2019AUD $ 4,910-
12-09-201901-10-2019AUD $ 4,910-
16-09-201905-10-2019AUD $ 4,865-
19-09-201908-10-2019AUD $ 4,470-
23-09-201912-10-2019AUD $ 4,825-
04-05-202023-05-2020AUD $ 4,320-
11-05-202030-05-2020AUD $ 4,320-
18-05-202006-06-2020AUD $ 4,320-
21-05-202009-06-2020AUD $ 4,320-
25-05-202013-06-2020AUD $ 4,320-
01-06-202020-06-2020AUD $ 4,320-
08-06-202027-06-2020AUD $ 4,320-
15-06-202004-07-2020AUD $ 4,320-
18-06-202007-07-2020AUD $ 4,320-
22-06-202011-07-2020AUD $ 4,320-
29-06-202018-07-2020AUD $ 4,320-
02-07-202021-07-2020AUD $ 4,320-
06-07-202025-07-2020AUD $ 4,320-
13-07-202001-08-2020AUD $ 4,320-
16-07-202004-08-2020AUD $ 4,320-
20-07-202008-08-2020AUD $ 4,320-
27-07-202015-08-2020AUD $ 4,320-
30-07-202018-08-2020AUD $ 4,320-
10-08-202029-08-2020AUD $ 4,320-
17-08-202005-09-2020AUD $ 4,320-
24-08-202012-09-2020AUD $ 4,320-
31-08-202019-09-2020AUD $ 4,320-
03-09-202022-09-2020AUD $ 4,320-
07-09-202026-09-2020AUD $ 4,320-
14-09-202003-10-2020AUD $ 4,320-
17-09-202006-10-2020AUD $ 4,320-
21-09-202010-10-2020AUD $ 4,320-
24-09-202013-10-2020AUD $ 4,320-
28-09-202017-10-2020AUD $ 4,320-
05-10-202024-10-2020AUD $ 4,320-

Accommodation

Hotel (13 nights),Guesthouse (6 nights)

Transport

Private Bus. Public Bus

Map