Georgia and Azerbaijan (11 days / 10 nights)
DAY 01: ARRIVAL IN TBILISI
Depart for Tbilisi. Pick up from Tbilisi international airport and transfer to the hotel.
DAY 02: TBILISI
Arrival in Tbilisi. Transfer from the airport to the hotel. After the short rest sightseeing tour of Old Tbilisi, a charming town built in the 5th century along the twisting valley of the Mtkvari River. Start the tour in Old Town at the 13th century Metekhi church. Continue to the Synagogue, Syoni Cathedral and Anchiskhati Basilica. Afterwards a car will take us up to the 4th century Narikala Fortress, from which you can enjoy a picturesque panoramic view of Tbilisi.
Then we walk to the brick-domed Sulfur Baths. After lunch we visit the stunning treasury of the Georgian National Museum, before taking a walk along Rustaveli Avenue - the main street in Tbilisi. Visit "dry bridge market" - here you'll find all kinds of knick-knacks and charming sundry from art, accordions, samovars and electrical gadgets, glass and silver being sold off by impoverished old folk. Dinner in a local restaurant followed with folk show program. Overnight at a hotel in Tbilisi.
DAY 03: TBILISI - MTSKHETA - GORI - UPLISTSIKHE - TBILISI
After breakfast we drive to visit the ancient capital and religious center of Georgia - Mtskheta (3000 years old) and see its historical places: Jvari church (6th century) and Svetitskhoveli Cathedral (11th century) where the Robe of Christ is buried. Both Jvari and Svetitskhoveli are UNESCO World Heritage sites. After lunch we drive further the Cave Town of Uplistsikhe - one of the main points along the Silk Road.
It's includes different structures dating the Early Iron Age. On the way visit Gori - the heart of Kartli region. Gori is the birthplace of the Soviet leader Joseph Stalin. In the heart of the city there is a house where Stalin was born, his personal railway carriage and the Museum of Stalin. Return to Tbilisi and overnight.
DAY 04: TBILISI - ANANURI - KAZBEGI - TBILISI
Breakfast at the hotel. We'll start our very scenic drive up through the High Caucasus Mountains along the Georgian Military Highway, which is the major route linking Georgia with Russia. En route we'll visit Ananuri, a 17th century architectural complex, overlooking the Zhinvali reservoir. Arrive in Kazbegi - the main town in the region. From here we plan to take a walk for about 2 hours up through beautiful valleys and forests to the Gergeti Trinity church (14th century) located on top of the mountain (2170m) and one of the country's most iconic images. Weather permitting, we may also be able to catch a glimpse of one the highest glaciers in the Caucasus - Mt. Kazbegi (5047m). Return to Tbilisi and overnight.
DAY 05: TBILISI - QAZAX - GANJA
After breakfast drive to Georgia-Azerbaijan border (Red Bridge). Start to explore Azerbaijan by visiting Nizami Mausoleum, built in honor of Nizami Ganjavi. The mausoleum was originally built in 1947 in place of an old collapsed mausoleum. It attracts nearly 35000 visitors per year. Continue the excursion to visit Shah Abbas Caravanserai and Juma (Shah Abbas) Mosque, which is the biggest mosque of the city.
After lunch visit the Bottle house - the perfect example of this synthesis. A whole house allegedly constructed entirely out of glass bottles, this housing is unlike any most will ever see. Continue to Khan Bagi - the 17th century built garden and Chokak Bath, center of the applied art. Hotel accommodation and overnight in Ganja.
DAY 06: GANJA - BAKU
Breakfast at a hotel. Drive to visit Xanlar, Elenendorf - the city was founded as Helenendorf in 1819 by Germans from Wurttemberg, brought as a colony under orders of Czar Alexander. Continue to Hacikend (village) in Goygol - you will come across a beautiful forest on the hillside. Arrival in Baku. Hotel accommodation and overnight.
DAY 07: BAKU
After breakfast at the hotel today we'll spend a day in Azerbaijan having an excursion to Icheri Sheer, which was the title of the Muslim rulers of Shirvan, situated in modern Azerbaijan, from the mid-9th century to the early 16th century. Continue to explore Maiden Tower and old baku - The Maiden Tower set in the south-east part of IcheriSheher, has mystique and hoary history and legends. It's a symbol of Baku. Memorial Park for the victims of 1990 - A memorial park with an excellent panoramic view stretching from the Caspian Sea across the entire city dedicated to the victims of the Soviet army crackdown on January 20, 1990 and the Armenian intrusion right after independence.
After lunch we will take a stroll inside Memorial Park for the victims of 1990 - A memorial park with an excellent panoramic view stretching from the Caspian Sea across the entire city dedicated to the victims of the Soviet army crackdown on January 20, 1990 and the Armenian invasion right after independence. Dinner in the restaurant and overnight in Baku.
DAY 08: BAKU-SHEKI
Breakfast at a hotel. This day we will visit the Gobustan reserve. Gobustan is an open-air museum littered with Neolithic rock drawings. About 65km south of Baku, Gobustan has some 4000 inscriptions that go back 12,000 years (with some 2000 year old Latin graffiti to boot). Stone Age folks sporting loin cloths pose hunt and boogie down. Their dances are considered to have been accompanied by the melodious strains of the Gaval-Dashy (Tambourine Stone) - a rock that has a deep, resonating tone when struck.
The well-preserved sketches display ancient populations travelling on reed boats; men hunt antelope and wild bulls, women dance. The famous Norwegian anthropologist Thor Heyerdahl returned many times to Azerbaijan between 1961 and his death in 2002 to study the site, which he argued to be proof that modern-day Scandinavians migrated north through the Caucasus in prehistoric times. He found resemblance in the drawings to those found in Scandinavia, specifically some in Alta, Norway.
According to Icelandic Sagas, written in the 13th century, the Norse God Odin (Wotan) migrated from the Caucasus in the first century AD. We will also have a chance to visit quite a unique site where 300 of the planet's estimated 700 mud volcanoes sit Gobustan, Azerbaijan and the Caspian Sea. Many geologists as well as locals and international mud tourists trek to such places as the Firuz Crater, Gobustan, Salyan and end up happily covered in mud which is thought to have medicinal qualities. In 2001 one mud volcano 15 kilometers from Baku made world headlines when it suddenly started spewing flames 15 meters high. Drive to Sheki. Hotel accommodation and overnight.
DAY 09: BAKU - SHEKI - KVARELI - TELAVI
After breakfast we will see the main sightseeing of Sheki, which is one of the most famous and ancient places of Azerbaijan. We'll start our Sheki tour from visiting the 18th century Khan's summer palace with magnificent frescos and exquisite stained glass work. Sheki History museum is well-known with artifacts from several periods.
Also visit the Albanian church situated in Kish village. Legend says that the church was constructed in 78 AD, but the researchers place it a few centuries later. Transfer to the Lagodekhi checkpoint and cross over into the Kakheti winegrowing region of Georgia. We will visit the unique old wine-cellar in a farmer's house where people still keep wine the same way as their ancestors did centuries ago.
Here visitors will be given the chance to participate in the baking process of traditional bread "Shoti" in the clay oven and taste "Chacha" (Georgian vodka). At lunch alongside other dishes you will taste the Georgian delicacy "Mtsvadi" - meat barbecued on burning vine branches. Afterwards we'll walk up to visit the Nekresi Monastery (4th century), once on the Silk Road, and pass by the photogenic fortified complex of Gremi. In the evening we arrive in Telavi.
DAY 10: TELAVI - SIGHNAGHI - TBILISI
After visiting the local farmer's market, we'll take a short drive to Tsinandali - a village noted for the estate and its historic winery which once belonged to the 19th-century aristocratic poet Alexander Chavchavadze. We will have an excursion in the family museum and a walk in the park beautifully laid out in an English style with fine views and exotic plants.
Afterwards continue to Signagi - a small beautiful city in Kiziqi (part of Kakheti region), famous as "City of love". Signagi is a rare example of historic city which kept its style during the centuries with open traditional balconies, extraordinary fortress with churches built in it and towers. The city looks into the Alazani valley and opens to visitors the magnificent views of the Great Caucasus Range. In the evening drive to Tbilisi. Hotel accommodation. Overnight in a Tbilisi hotel.
DAY 11: DEPARTURE
Transfer to the hotel for departure.