Georgia and Armenia - Caucasus Discovery


Georgia and Armenia - Caucasus Discovery

Style: TravellerCultural discovery away from the crowds
Duration: 16 days
Type: GroupTravel with a small group of other travellers

Dossier

Georgia and Armenia are two of the least known nations of Europe – in fact most people aren’t even sure whether they’re actually in Europe. Hidden away and often eclipsed by their monumental neighbours, these two countries hide a wealth of diverse secrets. This trip encompasses the very best of the region. We spend time in Tbilisi and marvel at the various cultures that have left their mark on this city, from Imperial Russia to Ottoman Turkey and beyond. We travel into the High Caucasus at Kazbegi and walk up to a dramatically situated ancient church. Explore the remote and mystical land of Svaneti, home to an intriguing culture and some of Europe’s most remote villages overlooked by imposing stone built watchtowers and see the cave town of Vardzia. To top it off in Georgia experience local hospitality and taste wine in the charming region of Kakheti. Armenia is the world’s oldest Christian nation with an astounding collection of ancient churches and monasteries which will captivate you. In contrast is the capital Yerevan, a lively and engaging city which embraces modernity yet manages to retain its traditions, and is packed full of some of the best Soviet style architecture to be found anywhere. This is a busy tour with lots of fabulous history, culture and scenery to enjoy. Isn’t it time you learned more about this intriguing region?


Tour Rating 

Fitness ●●●○○ | Off the Beaten Track ●●●○○ | Culture ●●●●● | History ●●●●● | Wildlife ●○○○○

Tour Pace

Busy 

Tour Highlights

  • Explore the mystical cave towns of Vardzia and Uplistsikhe
  • Marvel at the view of Mt Ararat from Khor Virap Monastery
  • Wander through the delightful streets of old Tbilisi
  • Get off the beaten track in Svaneti to see some of Europe’s most remote villages
  • Walk up to the Gergeti Trinity Church under the dramatic Caucasus peak of Mt Kazbegi
  • Wine tasting and local hospitality in Kakheti
  • Fascinating pagan and Christian architecture

Tour Essentials

Accommodation: Mix of comfortable hotels and locally run guesthouses
Included Meals: Daily breakfast (B), plus lunches (L) and dinners (D) as shown in the itinerary.
Group Size: Maximum of 12
Start Point: Tbilisi
End Point: Tbilisi
Transport: Minibus or coach
Countries: Georgia & Armenia
Optional Extension: Tusheti region of Georgia

Tour itinerary notes

While our intention is to adhere to the day-by-day itinerary as printed below, a degree of flexibility is built in. Overnight stops may vary from those suggested and on occasions alternative accommodation, of a similar standard to that named below, will be used.

Tour Guide

Our guides are a key strength, chosen for their knowledge of and passion for the areas in which they work. All of our guides are carefully hand-picked, and are not just passing through these countries, but are usually locally born. Unlike some companies it should be noted we do not send a guide or tour leader from Undiscovered Destinations in the UK as we have every confidence in our locally appointed representative who is responsible for operating the tour on our behalf. In Georgia and Armenia you will have a different local English speaking guide for each country. On the Tusheti extension if the group size is small you may have a driver/guide.

 

Day 1: Tbilisi

Arrive in Tbilisi and transfer to the hotel (this should take around 45 minutes). The rest of the day is at leisure. We will stay in a central location near the old town where you can explore delightful Old Tbilisi. Overnight Hotel Kalasi or similar.

Tbilisi

Surrounded by mountains on three sides, Georgia's capital feels neither European nor Asian but rather a fusion of both. Founded in the 4th century by King Vakhtang Gorgasali on the site of its warm mineral-water springs, it developed into the main city of the Caucasus. By the 12th century Tbilisi was one of the most important political, economic and cultural centres of the region. It stood as a key stop on the famous Silk Road - right on the border between Europe and Asia. The city has a vaguely southern feel to it, with a relaxed atmosphere and an easy charm. In the old town, known as the Maidan, wooden houses with a distinctly Balkan feel overlook the Mtkvari River, and in the city centre there are imposing neo-classical and Art Nouveau buildings mingling with the inevitable Soviet-era concrete blocks. Gorgasali Square, on the opposite bank of the river to the Metekhi Church, was once the site of the old bazaar, and is a good place to start a walk taking in the sights of the city. A road from the Armenian Church on the south Middle Eastern influence, and there are plenty side of the square leads to the Narikala Citadel, built in 360 AD by the Persians, and ruined by an earthquake in the 19th century. You can walk along the battlements of the citadel which offer good views across the city. Tbilisi has a good range of restaurants and cafes strung out along both the left and right banks of the river where you can sample some of the local delicacies and watch the life of the city pass you by.

Day 2: Tbilisi – Armenia border - Haghpat

We begin our day by travelling from Tbilisi to the border with Armenia. This journey should take around 1.5 hours to the border. After completing border formalities, we drive to Haghpat monastery, a journey of around 2 hours from the border through beautiful scenery. Haghpat, (10th century UNESCO Heritage site) which used to be a spiritual, cultural and educational centre of the region. The monastery is one of the masterpieces of Armenian medieval architecture. We also visit Sanahin monastery a further masterpiece and UNESCO side dating to the same century. For those that wish, it is possible to walk between the two monasteries. Later we can take a walk in the village and then transfer to your accommodation for the night which is blessed with fantastic views over Dedbed gorge. Overnight Qefo Hotel or similar. (BLD)

Optional walk between Sanahin and Haghpat

A drive of approximately one hour takes us to the UNESCO World Heritage site of Sanahin, and from here we’ll be walking to another UNESCO World Heritage site at Haghpat. We’ll take the route linking these two important monastic masterpieces of Armenian architecture. During the walk we’ll pass through rural villages typical of the Lori region and meet the locals and observe their way of life observing the typical Armenian rural houses and gardens with orchards along the way. We then head through the woodland that brings us to the edge of the Dedbed gorge. The views across the gorge are incredible with beautiful forested hills and meadows. The descent to the valley floor is relatively short, but steep on a sometimes muddy trail. Its then up to Haghpat and this is a mostly gradual ascent. The anticipated walking time is approximately 3-4 hours with 300m of ascent and 400m descent. Please note that the walk can be cancelled if the trekking guide feels that the weather conditions are not suitable.

Day 3: Haghpat – Dilijan – Lake Sevan - Yerevan

We begin our day driving through wonderful scenery to Dilijan known as the little Switzerland of Armenia. We have a short stop to have a look around the old part of the town. En route to Dilijan we can visit a village home to the minority Molokan (milk drinkers) people who were exiled to Armenia from Russia in the 19th Century. Visit Haghartsin monastery beautifully nestled in the heart of the forest. We then travel on to the picturesque Lake Sevan and the Sevanavank monastery which is a 9th century monastery founded on the peninsula that used to be an island. The monastery affords a panoramic view of the alpine lake. We then continue to Yerevan. Tonight, we will enjoy some traditional food in a local restaurant in Yerevan. The journey time in the vehicle today is around 3.5 hours. Overnight Royal Plaza Hotel or similar. (BLD)

Day 4: Yerevan - Geghard Monastery - Garni Temple – Yerevan

This morning we drive around 1 hour to Kotayk province to explore Geghard Monastery and Garni Pagan temple. Admire the outstanding views of the Armenian Highlands stretched out before you. From Garni, enjoy breathtaking views down into the canyon and to the strategically located Geghard Monastery below. Garni dates back to the 1st century AD and is the only pagan temple that remained after the adoption of Christianity. Attend a lavash-baking master class in the village of Garni. The master-class is held in the yard of a local house where you’ll also have lunch. After exploring these magnificent sites we return to Yerevan and the rest of the day will be at leisure for you to familiarise yourself with the city of Yerevan.  Overnight Hotel Royal Plaza or similar. (BL)

Geghard

Geghard means 'spear', and this church set in a narrow gorge is reputed to have once contained the spear which pierced the side of Christ on the cross; the spear now lies in the treasury at Echmiadzin. Built up against a cliff face, the main cathedral was constructed in 1215, but the first monastery on the site is thought to date from the 4th century AD. The monastery is decorated with reliefs depicting animals, crosses and geometrical shapes.

Yerevan

Set on the edge of a ravine above the River Hrazdan, Yerevan is a mixture of architectural styles, with some imposing Soviet-era buildings as well as residential homes where different types of stone are used. Concentric boulevards spill outwards from the city centre interspersed with parkland, and this sense of space and greenery gives Yerevan an almost rural feel at times. The main street of bars, restaurants and shops is Abovian, running north from Republic Square. The cathedral of St Gregory the Illuminator was built with money from the enormous Armenian diaspora to celebrate 1,700 years of Christianity in Armenia. The covered market stands opposite the Blue Mosque, which has been recently restored. A range of museums cover everything from art to natural history – one of the most impressive is the Matenadaran, devoted to ancient manuscripts.

Day 5: Yerevan - Khor Virap Monastery – Echmiadzin - Yerevan afternoon at leisure  

An early start today at around 08:00am travelling south to the spectacular Khor Virap Monastery which affords excellent views to impressive Mt Ararat. This monastery has long been an important place of pilgrimage for Armenians. After the tour of the monastery we return to Yerevan and discover Echmiadzin home of the mother cathedral and the spiritual centre of the Armenian Church. The driving time today is around 3 hours. Later we enjoy a gastronomic master class of Armenian food followed by lunch on your way from Echmiadzin to Yerevan. We will be back in Yerevan by approximately 2pm and you will have the rest of the afternoon at leisure in Yerevan. Overnight Hotel Royal Plaza or similar. (BL)

Please contact us if there is anything specific we can help to organise for your leisure time on Days 5 and 6 in Yerevan.  

Khor Virap

Standing on a hill in the middle of Ararat Plain, Khor Virap, which translates as 'deep dungeon', is a monastery with great historical significance as it was the place where St Gregory the Illuminator, patron saint of Armenia, was imprisoned by King Trdat III in the 3rd century. Most of the monastery dates from 1661, but in St George's chapel you can still see the cell where the unfortunate monk was held - a pit 6m deep which can be reached by ladder.

Echmiadzin

The spiritual centre of the Armenian Church, Echmiadzin was the setting for a series of visions by St Gregory the Illuminator, where columns of fire turned into churches. The first monastery was built, like many others in Armenia, on the site of a pagan temple in the 4th century, rebuilt in the 5th century in a different style and then renovated in the 17th century. The cathedral treasury is a museum of religious relics, and is where the spear from Geghard that is said to have pierced Christ as he hung on the cross is stored. The treasury also contains a piece of wood said to be from Noah's Ark, which came to rest on the summit of Mt Ararat, today situated in Turkey but long part of Armenia.

Day 6: Yerevan

We start at around 08:30am this morning and enjoy a city tour of Yerevan including visits to a high-scale view point over the city, City Park, Abovyan Street, and Republic Square. Visit the Genocide Memorial and also the museum dedicated to the victims of the Great Genocide that took place in 1915 and the memorial with eternal fire. Then we visit the interesting cascade and the Gafeschian Centre of Art, dedicated to bringing the best of contemporary art from all over the world to Armenia and presenting the best of Armenian culture to the world. Inspired by the vision of its founder, Mr. Gerard L. Cafesjian, this establishment offers a wide variety of exhibitions, the majority of which are derived from Mr. Cafesjian’s own extensive collection of contemporary art. We also have short visit of Matenadaran – a Museum and Scientific Institute of ancient manuscripts, hosting the treasures of Armenian science and around 20.000 ancient manuscripts – the largest collection in the world. The short tour in Matenadaran will be exclusively guided by the most prominent specialists of the Institute. Visit the Yerevan Brandy Factory for a guided excursion to the cellars and a degustation of 2 types of local brandy. Lunch will be at your own leisure and this afternoon is yours to further explore Yerevan or relax before we embark on the next stage of our adventure tomorrow. Overnight Hotel Royal Plaza or similar. (B)

Day 7: Yerevan - Amberd Fortress – Gyumri – Bavra – Vardzia

An early start around 08:00am and our first stop today is Amberd fortress. The fortress is situated at an altitude of 2300m above sea level which once again affords fine views of Mt Aragats. We may also get the opportunity to meet some of the minority Yazidis who inhabit this area. Continue to Gyumri with its excellent 19th century Tsarist architecture which suffered greatly in the 1988 earthquake. If time allows we will have a short stop in Gyumri before crossing the border into Georgia at Bavra and travelling on to Vardzia. The overall driving time from Yerevan to the Georgia border is approximately 4 hours. The journey time from the border to Vardzia in Georgia is around 2 hours and we aim to arrive by sundown. Overnight Valodia Cottages or similar. (BLD)

Vardzia

Vardzia is an impressive site, with hundreds of caves hewn into the rocks to function as monasteries and churches. The cave city was first constructed in the 12th century by King George III but is nowadays mostly associated with Georgia’s most famous woman, Queen Tamar, who turned it into a monastery. In its heyday Vardzia contained stables, barracks, and stores, but it has suffered over the years from earthquakes and invading armies. What is left is still fascinating to wander around, with the Church of the Assumption being the main highlight and containing detailed frescoes of Queen Tamar herself.

Day 8: Vardzia – Akhaltsikhe – Kutaisi

Our first stop today is Khertvisi Fortress built in the Middle Ages before exploring the fascinating cave town of Vardzia dating back to the 12th century. We then travel for 1 hour to visit the recently restored Rabati Castle dating from the 13th century before continuing to Kutaisi. The journey to Kutaisi will be around 3 hours. Overnight at a family run guesthouse with private bathroom. (BLD)

Day 9: Kutaisi – Zugdidi – Mestia

This morning we drive to Zugdidi (journey time 2 hours) passing through the Colkhida lowlands and some typical local villages. We visit Dadiani palace and its museum housing some fine natural exhibits of Georgian culture. From Zugdidi we start climbing through the Enguri river valley and the Enguri reservoir up to Mestia situated at 1400 metres above sea level. Mestia is the provincial centre of Svaneti. On arrival we will visit the iconic Svanetian towers. The journey time from Zugdidi to Mestia is around 4 hours with time for photo stops of the wonderful scenery. Overnight at a family run guest house with private bathrooms. (BLD)

Svaneti

Svaneti, the mythological western province of Georgia, land of the ‘Golden Fleece’ (where locals still sift for gold through sheepskins) lies high up in the Greater Caucasus. Several 5000 metre plus peaks thrust glaciers down into this beautiful and remote region, where amazing stone towers rise up beside homesteads, some dating back to the 12th century. Never far away is one of Svaneti’s numerous, richly frescoed churches, focal points for lively communities where traditions have been preserved for two thousand years. Unique icons and manuscripts are on display in Mestia’s museum, overlooked by huge hanging peaks. Mestia is a well-known climber’s launch point and the dramatic trekking trails will appeal more to the adventure traveller. The village of Ushguli, the highest permanently inhabited settlement in Europe, gives a stunning view of Mt. Shkhara (5201m) the highest peak in Georgia. Its ragged stone towers and the ongoing resilience of its population have led it to being declared a World Cultural Heritage Site by UNESCO.

The Svans

The inhabitants of Svaneti make up their own distinct ethnic group, the Svans, with indigenous religious beliefs intertwining with Christianity to give them a very separate identity. The Svans have traditionally been fiercely independent, to such an extent that they expelled the local governor under the Tsar and functioned as an autonomous state for many years prior to Soviet rule. They have their own complex set of traditions and customs, and in the past have been known as an aggressive and hostile group, suspicious of outsiders. This is reflected in typical Svanetian architecture – huge watchtowers to watch for signs of intruders dot the landscape, most of which are 800-1000 years old. Svanetian hospitality is legendary within Georgia and while staying in local houses we can be sure to be treated to excellent food, and obtain a real glimpse into a lifestyle that is seldom seen by visitors.

Day 10: Mestia - Ushguli – Mestia

A morning drive to Ushguli village, the highest permanently inhabited village in Europe at 2400 metres. On the way we visit Nakipari church. On arrival in Ushguli we explore on foot, visiting the stunning medieval towers as well as Lamaria Church. Those who wish can take an easy hike (subject to weather conditions) along the valley leading to the foot of Mount Shkhara (5201m). We return to Mestia in the afternoon. Please note that the road today is of a very poor quality and as such it is necessary to drive very slowly to avoid damage to the vehicle. However, the scenery is worth the effort! The overall travelling time should be around 4 hours but the distance is only 90km in total. Overnight in Mestia at a family run guesthouse with private bathroom. (BLD)

Day 11: Mestia - Svaneti – Gelati - Kutaisi

A morning drive of around 3.5 hours to Zugdidi passing the Colkhida lowlands with some picturesque villages. From Zugdidi we journey to Kutaisi (around 2 hours) along the Enguri River valley. Enjoy some photo stops and great views of the mountain summits. Continue the journey to Kutaisi. Kutaisi, dated back to the Argonauts time, was the capital of old Colchida and later of Western Georgia. We visit the Gelati monastery (UNESCO), founded in the 12th century by Georgian King David the Builder (1073 – 1125). It was here that he founded an academy and monastery, which became the foremost centre of education in Georgia. Unique murals of saints and Georgian monarchs can be found inside the main Cathedral. Overnight in Kutaisi at a family run guesthouse private bathroom (BLD)

Kutaisi

Kutaisi, dating back to around the 13th century BC, was the capital of the ancient Kingdom of Colchis, and it is believed that this was the final destination of the Argonauts on their quest for the Golden Fleece. The town today is home to a number of outstanding monuments. The Gelati Monastery was founded in the 12th century by the most famous Georgian King David the IV, the Builder (1073 – 1125). Here he founded an academy and monastery, which became the foremost centre of education in Georgia. Sacked by various invaders over the centuries, it was closed under communist rule but re-opened in 1988. The monastery contains some excellent murals of saints and Georgian monarchs and an incredible mosaic, and the site is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Day 12: Kutaisi – Gori – Uplistsikhe - Gudauri

This morning we drive to Gori (journey around 3 hours) a town almost entirely known as the birthplace of Joseph Stalin. Visit the museum where you can explore Stalin’s personal train carriage and also see the small house where he spent his early years. Gori train station is also worth a stop for its imposing waiting room. Then we drive a short distance to Uplistsikhe, a cave town dated to 7th Century BC. It is then time to turn on to the Georgian Military Highway and snake our way up into the Caucasus Mountains. Visit the castle complex of Ananauri attractively situated on the Aragvi River. We continue to climb through dramatic scenery until our destination for the evening which is Gudauri. The driving time from Uplistsikhe to Gudauri is approximately 3 hours. Overnight Hotel Alpina or similar. (BLD)

Gori

A few kilometres off the main Tbilisi to Kutaisi highway, Gori is an undistinguished place with one main claim to notoriety; Stalin was born here, and the town has done its best to cash in on Georgia's most infamous son. The museum itself is enormous, and presents an interestingly skewed version of 20th century events. Stalin himself, we learn, was something of a prodigy, a talented poet, former editor of Pravda (a publication not known, admittedly, for its journalistic merits), and an all-round decent chap. Gori itself, like most of Georgia, glosses over any inconvenient facts about him, ignoring any genocidal qualities he may have had, and preferring to recall him as a strong leader.

Ananauri

The Georgian Military Highway has existed as a route since ancient times, but until the 19th century it was little more than a track. The Russians made it into a major road as an aid to suppressing rebellious tribes in the Caucasus, and the highway bores through mountains in a sequence of tunnels and climbs over passes frequently blocked by snow in winter. A viaduct leads to the churches of Ananauri, the larger of which was built in 1689, with elaborate carvings decorating the exterior. Overlooking the church is a 12th century watchtower.

Kazbegi

The most sizeable town in Khevi province, Kazbegi is nevertheless a small place with just over 4,000 inhabitants. There are a few shops and market stalls which mainly seem to sell knitwear, and one solitary restaurant. The real draw in Kazbegi is the Holy Trinity Church, sitting high on a ridge overshadowed by the looming bulk of Mt Kazbek, third-highest in Georgia with a summit reaching 5,047m. A cable car was constructed in 1988 but did not have the support of the local population, who saw it as an assault on the sanctity of the church, and it has since fallen into disrepair. The church itself is surprisingly large given the location - it sits 2,170m above sea level - and the main body of it was constructed in the 14th century, the tower added in later years.

Day 13: Gudauri - Kazbegi – Mtskheta – Tbilisi

This morning we cross the Jvari Pass at 2395 metres above sea level and into Kazbegi (journey time around 1 hour) situated at 1700 metres above sea level and surrounded by 5000 metre peaks. You will have the opportunity to take the walk up to the Sameba Church (subject to weather conditions) with its stunning setting below Mt Kazbek. For those that do not want to walk it is possible to hire jeeps for an extra charge to go by up via a track. Later we drive to Mtskheta (journey time around 2 hours), the ancient capital of Georgia. Mtskheta is packed full of historical monuments and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We explore the 11th century Svetitskhoveli Cathedral and the 6th century Jvari Monastery before taking the short trip back to Tbilisi (journey time 0.5 hours). Overnight Hotel Kalasi or similar. (BL)

The cost for the optional jeep to Sameba Church is USD 30 per vehicle (max. 4 persons per vehicle)

Mtskheta

Pronounced like 'skater' with the first two letters silent, Mtskheta is Georgia's spiritual heartland. Occupied for over 3,000 years, there is evidence of Greek, Hittite and Sumerian civilizations, and the hilltops around the town were the setting of several pagan shrines, which in later years had churches built upon the sites. The main cathedral of Sveti Tskhoveli was built in 1010 AD, but the first church on the site was constructed of wood in the 4th century AD. All the other churches in the town are on the UNESCO World Heritage list.

Day 14: Tbilisi

A guided walking tour around old Tbilisi, taking in the fascinating history of this long overlooked region. We spend the day discovering sites such as the National Museum, home to many of the treasures that inspired the legend of the Golden Fleece, as well as the Narikala citadel, Metekhi Temple and the Sioni Cathedral, among other sites. A walk across the modern Bridge of Hope (pedestrian only) gives a great perspective of the mix of old and new and fine views. Tonight, enjoy traditional Georgian food at a local restaurant. Overnight Hotel Kalasi or similar. (BLD)

Day 15: Tbilisi – Kakheti – Tbilisi

Visit Kakheti, Georgia’s famous wine district which lies due east from Tbilisi in a land dotted with fine old churches and vineyard after vineyard. First, we visit Signaghi (journey time 2 hours), a beautiful hill-town providing panoramic views of Alazani Valley and the Eastern Caucasus Mountains. Then continue to a local farmer’s house to taste home-made wines. Enjoy a lunch with delicious home-made food. A fitting way to end your time in Georgia. Return to Tbilisi (journey time approximately 2 hours). Overnight Hotel Kalasi or similar. (BL)

Day 16: Departure from Tbilisi

Pick up from the hotel and transfer to the airport on due time for your flight. (B)

 

TUSHETI EXTENSION

Tusheti 5 Day 4 night Optional Extension (post tour itinerary for June and early September) – contact us for pre tour option for the late season departure)

Important Information 

Tusheti is a wild and remote destination. Weather conditions are unpredictable even in summer. The itinerary below is our goal but it may be necessary to change the itinerary at little or no notice due road conditions and/or adverse weather.

Day 15: Kakheti - Telavi 

After lunch the group will depart back to Tbilisi. Those on the extension will travel to Alaverdi and visit the beautiful cathedral of St George, built in the 11th century with an idyllic setting amongst vineyards overlooking the lower slopes of the Caucasus mountain range. If time allows we can visit a winery before continuing the short distance to Telavi. Overnight Old Telavi or similar. (BL)

Alaverdi 

Set in the wide and sunny Alazani Valley dotted with vineyards and overlooked by the Caucasus Mountains, the star attraction of Alaverdi is the Beautiful Cathedral of St George. The present church was built in the 11th century and is one of the largest medieval churches in Georgia. It is particularly notable for its impressive dome, rising to a height of 50 metres, and also frescoes dating from the 11th - 15th centuries, only recently uncovered and restored after they were whitewashed by the Russians in the 19th century.

Day 16: Telavi - Abano Pass - Tusheti (driving time approximately 6 hours) 

We depart early at around 8am and journey into the spectacular Greater Caucasus range. The journey is incredibly scenic and we will stop at various points to stretch our legs and soak up the views and also to enjoy a picnic lunch. The journey into Tusheti is a real adventure passing first through lush forests, then gorges and canyons carved by raging torrents. There are also numerous waterfalls to admire and in Spring many different wildflowers. After crossing the spectacular Abano Pass (2927m), continue down into Tusheti. Approaching Omalo the sheer beauty of this wild region is immediately apparent. After checking into our guesthouse we will visit the villages of Diklo and Shenako before returning to Upper Omalo for an evening meal of traditional Georgian fare prepared by your local hosts. Overnight guesthouse. (BLD)

Kindly note that the guesthouse in Omalo is comfortable but phone reception is patchy and at the time of inspection in 2018 there is no WiFi.

Tusheti National Park 

Only accessible since the 1980’s and a relatively new national park covering over 16,000 Hectares, Tusheti has to be one of the most remote and wildest places in Europe. The region is only accessible during the late spring and summer, and by late September snow once again closes the Abano Pass. The villages of Tusheti are home to the Tush people, an extremely resilient and hospitable people who live off the land herding sheep and cows. You will see them often herding their livestock on horseback flanked to the front and rear by a number of protective Caucasus dogs. Don’t be surprised at some point during your visit if you are welcomed into a Tush home. The scenery in Tusheti is quite magnificent with outstanding vistas of 4000m plus peaks around every corner. Birdlife here is also very interesting so bring your binoculars. Exploring the enchanting and mystical valleys and villages of Tusheti is an experience one is unlikely to ever forge.

The road into Tusheti 

The road into Tusheti is not sealed and in places is rough. We will be using suitable 4WD vehicles for this terrain and experienced drivers. The road in places has sheer drops and so may not be suitable for those with vertigo.

Shenako and Diklo 

Situated at 2050 metres, Shenako is a small village most notable for a beautiful 16th century church. Diklo is magnificently overlooked by 4285m peak of Diklos to the north and is only a few Km’s from the border with Russia. The approach to Diklo is through a wonderful meadow which in June is often carpeted with wildflowers.

Omalo 

Comprising of a lower and upper part, Omalo is the main gateway to exploring the valleys of Tusheti. Approaching the village, wide open meadows dominate, often covered with wildflowers in June. On the approach to Upper Omalo, atmospheric medieval watchtowers loom over the village. Sunset is a particularly good time to take the steep but short walk up to towers. Good footwear is required. From the towers, one is treated to breath taking sweeping 360-degree panoramas.

Day 17: Tusheti - Omalo - Dartlo - Parsma – Omalo (driving time approximately 2.5 hours)

This morning journey into a different valley to the village of Dartlo situated at 1900 metres. Admire the interesting architecture of the local houses and the watchtower. There is a cafe next to a picturesque stream where we can take so tea and coffee. Continue by car to the next village of Chesho and start a beautifully scenic walk to the village of Parsma through the valley. The walk follows a stunning river and also affords views of many medieval watchtowers that were built to warn of invaders from the Northern Caucasus. At Parsma enjoy a picnic lunch before returning on foot to Dartlo. Back in Dartlo, it is possible to visit an abandoned village clinging to the mountainside above Dartlo with an eerie watchtower precariously teetering over the abyss. The views from here are mesmerising. Return to Omalo. Overnight guesthouse. (BLD)

Walking information

The walk to the village of Parsma is an easy grade following a dirt road through the valley. The return journey time on foot is approximately 3 hours and of course there will be plenty of time for stops to admire the wonderful scenery. The last 5-10 minutes involves a moderate ascent into the village of Parsma.

The optional walk from Dartlo to the abandoned village is a constant steep incline and takes around 40 minutes up and around 25 minutes down. Only those with good fitness and go footwear should attempt it. It is also not suitable for those with vertigo issues. Those that do not wish to do this walk can relax in Dartlo.

Day 18: Omalo - Tusheti National Park - Tbilisi (driving time approximately 7-8 hours) 

Depart early at around 8am for the journey back to Tbilisi. Depending on the road conditions expect to arrive back in the Alazani Valley by approximately 1pm. Lunch will be taken in a local restaurant overlooking the valley before continuing through fine scenery and over the Gorombori Pass back to Tbilisi. Overnight Kalasi Hotel or similar. (BL)

Day 19: Departure from Tbilisi

Transfer to the airport for your onward flight or perhaps choose to spend some extra time in delightful Tbilisi. (B) 

 

Tour inclusions/exclusions

Inclusions:

Arrival and departure transfers
All accommodation
Transportation throughout
Services of English-speaking guide / tour leader
Meals as listed (B – Breakfast, L – Lunch, D – Dinner)
Entrance fees for sites listed as part of the itinerary

Excluded:

International flights
Travel Insurance
Visas if applicable
Drinks
Items of a personal nature
Tips (Discretionary)