The Caucasus: Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia

August 30 – September 13, 2013

$4595 pp/do, land only

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Join us for a fascinating tour of the countries of Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Armenia. We will experience their unique cultures, natural beauty, traditions, cuisine, and much more!

Aug 30: Arrival

Welcome to Azerbaijan! Upon our arrival at Baku airport, we will be met and assisted, then transfer to our hotel for overnight at the Park Inn Hotel at the heart of the City.

Aug 31: Baku

After breakfast we will depart for full day tour of Baku including light lunch (sandwich + water). Baku, Azerbaijan’s capitol city has a cosmopolitan air about it with oil wealth used to create a unique blend of Soviet and Islamic architecture. Oil has been a part of Baku for many centuries but the city did not become an oil “boom town” until the late 1800’s. Tour includes visit of open-air museum Gobustan (rock paintings), Old City with Shirvan Shah Palace and Maiden Tower, visit of local Teza Bazaar and walking tour of pedestrian zone. Dinner at a local restaurant famous for its delightful cuisine prepared on the basis of old Azerbaijan and Georgian culinary recipes. Transfer to the hotel after dinner. (B/L/D)

Sept 1: Baku

After breakfast we will continue to explore the area of Baku and surroundings. We will visit Martyrs Avenue, the History Museum and Tagiyev’s Mansion. After lunch we will go to see Yanar Dag, or the Burning Mountain. Azerbaijan is known as the land of fire and this spectacular sight will show you why. Flames seep from the ground here, fed by natural gas rising out of the porous sandstone rock. We will also see the Ateshgah Zoroastrian Temple, then return to Baku for dinner and overnight. (B/L/D)

Sept 2: Baku – Sheki

After breakfast we will depart Baku for the mountain town of Sheki via Shemakha, the royal seat of the Shirvan Shahs from the 9th century to the 18th century. A light lunch and sightseeing en-route (see Diri Baba, Yeddi Gumbaz in Shemakha). Continue to Sheki. Upon arrival in Sheki, visit the Kish Albanian Church then check in at Sheki Saray Hotel. Dinner and Overnight in Sheki. (B/L/D)

Sept 3: Sheki – Telavi

After breakfast we will check out and depart for a half-day tour of Sheki including visit of magnificent Khan’s Palace, Panorama point, shabaka shop, sweet shop, and the local bazaar. Depart Sheki for the Georgian / Azerbaijan border (Lagodekhi) via Zakatali where we will stop for lunch/sandwich + water. Zakatali is located at the confluence of several rivers that come down from the Caucasus Mountains to the north. Meet at the border with our Georgian partner and exchange bus / guide. Welcome to Georgia! Change onto Georgian bus and drive to Telavi. Overnight in guesthouses or 3* hotel. (B/L/D)

Sept 4: Telavi – Tbilisi

After breakfast we depart for Tbilisi with stops on the way. We will visit the town of Tsinandali and a noble family house/museum of the 19th century with a beautiful park. In Signaghi we will see the 16-17th century mountain town, renovated, so called town of love, all surrounded by a wall. We will have a chance to wander around and to explore the city. There are nice cute restaurants there as well and we will have time for independent lunch. Continue on to Tbilisi for dinner and overnight at the Holiday Inn or similar. (B/D)

Sept 5: Tbilisi – Mtshkheta – Tbilisi

After breakfast we will have a city tour of Tblisi which will include the Art Museum of Georgia, which has a vast collection of icons and metalwork. We will visit the old quarter and walk along Sharden Street. Afterwards we will drive to Mtskheta, the ancient spiritual capital of Georgia. Visits will include Svetitskhoveli Cathedral (11th century) and Jvari Church (7th century). Return to Tbilisi for overnight. (B/D)

Sept 6: Tbilisi – David Gareji – Tbilisi

After breakfast we will depart for David Gareji, one of Georgia’s most important and remarkable ancient religious sites. The area contains several monasteries carved out of the limestone rock, and built in the 6th century by the Davit, one of the 13 Syrian fathers. The area had fallen into neglect and was even used by the Soviets for military exercises, but the 19 known monasteries in the area are now being restored. Return to Tblisi for overnight. (B/L/D)

Sept 7: Tbilisi – Alaverdi

After breakfast we will depart for Armenia by bus. Upon our arrival at the border crossing of Bagratashen, proceed through usual immigration and customs formalities and change to Armenian bus. Welcome to Armenia! Drive to the Haghpat Monastery, perched on the edge of the Debed Canyon. The monastery has UNESCO World Heritage status and the view alone with worth the visit. Built by Queen Khosrvanuch in 976, it is a splendid architectural monument in a spectacular natural setting. Also visit another UNESCO site – the Sanahin Monastery. Overnight in Alaverdi. (B/L)

Sept 8: Alaverdi – Tsakadzor

Check out from the hotel and continue your Armenia trip from Alaverdi, Vanadzor to Dilijan (visit Haghartsin and Goshavank Monasteries in Dilijan -magnificent and beautiful ecclesiastic monuments which are the highlight of the medieval Armenian architecture. Continue to Lake Sevan. Visit the peninsula and enjoy your lunch here – fresh fish from sweet waters of the lake! Spend some time exploring the wild nature and sunshine as well as visit 9th c AD Sevan Monastery. Head to the hotel and check in for overnight in Tsakadzor. (B/L)

Sept 9: Tsakadzor – Yerevan

Check out after breakfast at the hotel. We depart for Noravank (UNESCO World Heritage Site) and Khor Virap via the famous Selima Pass – one of the main junctions on the Great Silk Route. We will stop to visit the caravanserai recorded as best preserved of its kind, the gather place for travelers along the Silk Road where they could re-supply, exchange news and information, and rest from their long journey. Picnic lunch nearby monastery of Noravank, known for its architecture and dramatic setting. Continue on to Yerevan with an optional visit to a local winery en-route to the capital. Arrive in Yerevan; check in at the hotel. Free evening and overnight at the hotel. (B/L)

Sept 10: Yerevan – Echmiatsin – Yerevan

Today we will have a full day of sightseeing around Yerevan, Armenia’s capital. Yerevan is a diverse city with a very intense cultural life. There are dozens of theaters, museums, concert halls, galleries, and live music clubs. People are relaxed and go at a relaxed pace. The city itself has a history dating back to 782 BC, and its past is as diverse as the present. Visit Matenadaran, the repository of ancient Armenian manuscripts (UNESCO World Heritage Site). Lunch will be at a local restaurant, then continue your tour to Echmiatsin, the Vatican of the Holy Armenian Apostolic Church, and Surb Hripsimeh. Overnight in Yerevan. (B/L)

Sept 11: Yerevan – Amberd Fortress – Yerevan

After breakfast depart for a full day tour to Ashtarak to visit the Saghmosavank (1215) and Ohannavank (1216-1221) Monasteries as well as the Byurakan/Amberd Fortress (weather permitting). Both monasteries perch on the edge of the precipitous gorge of the Kasakh River. The book repository of Saghmosavank, built in 1255 under Prince Kurd Vachutyan is among Armenia’s buildings rare in their purpose and original in their composition. Amberd Fortress is on the slopes of Mt. Aragats at 2300 meters above sea level. It was built during the 11th to 13th centuries. Return to Yerevan for overnight. (B/L)

Sept 12: Yerevan – Garni Temple – Yerevan

This morning we will visit Garni Temple, the only surviving witness of Hellenistic period in the history of the country. Dedicated to the goddess of Sun Mihr (Mythra) it dates back to the 1st c AD. We then continue our excursion and visit Geghard Monastery (UNESCO Heritage Sight), named after the lance that pierced Christ’s side at the crucifixion. The spear was once housed there but now resides at Echmiatsin. Lunch will be hosted by a local family in Garni. Return to Yerevan and visit one of the most fascinating museums – the History Museum. Return to hotel for brief rest before farewell dinner. (B/L/D)

Sept 13: Departure

After breakfast we check out and transfer to the airport for our final departure.

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AZERBAIJAN

Included:

  • 3 nights accommodation in Baku at PARK INN Hotel 1 night accommodation in Sheki Saray in Sheki based on double occupancy
  • 4 breakfasts, 4 lunches/sandwich + water only and 3 dinners in Full Board
  • All entrance fees 3 airport transfers in Baku 2 airport transfers in Nakhchivan
  • English speaking guide during the whole tour
  • Transportation during the whole tour
  • 0,5 lt bottled water per day per person
  • Guide and driver’s food expenditures along the tour
  • Visa support for US, Canadian, European and Japanese citizens
  • 18% VAT and other local taxes

Not Included:

  • Visa fee
  • Insurance
  • All alcoholic drinks during meals
  • Tips for guide and driver
  • International Air tickets

GEORGIA

Included:

  • Transportation: by minibus Mercedes Sprinter / Full size bus type with A/C
  • 2 x transfers from/to border
  • Transportation as per program
  • Accommodation: 4 x nights in 4* hotel in Tbilisi, like Courtyard Marriott**** or Holiday Inn**** 1 x night in guesthouse or new 3* hotel in Telavi based on double occupancy
  • Meals as listed: Breakfasts, 1 dinner in guesthouse in Telavi / without alcohol beverages, 4 dinners in Tbilisi traditional restaurants / without alcohol beverages, 1 picnic lunch in David Gareji
  • 5 days English speaking guide
  • Porters
  • Tea, coffee Non-gas mineral Water – 1 bottle x 0.5 lit per person per day
  • Entrance fee to one museum in Tbilisi as per program
  • Local taxes

Not Included:

  • Single room supplement
  • Singers or concerts
  • Alcohol Beverages
  • Lunches, snacks
  • Insurance
  • Wine tasting
  • Services not mentioned in itinerary

ARMENIA

Included:

  • Accommodations in Yerevan at the Hotel Aviatrans or Best Western Congress Hotel for 4 o/n, in Alaverdi at the Tufenkian Dzoraget Hotel for 1 o/n, and in Tsakadzor at 3* Hotel Kecharis for 1 o/n based on double occupancy
  • Daily breakfast at the hotels, and a total of 8 main meals (lunches and dinners as indicated) and .5 L of still or gas water and tea coffee are included)
  • All entrance and parking fees to sites and museums in the above program
  • Transfer from the border with Georgia and group transfer to the airport
  • Transport during excursions by Mercedes Sprinter VAN
  • ESG, VAT and other applicable taxes
  • 0.5 L water daily in the bus

Not Included:

  • Travel insurance
  • Air/train/other tickets
  • Visa for Armenia (can be obtained via e-visa – http://www.mfa.am/eVisa/index.htm)
  • Meals other than specified above
  • Personal expenses and driver/guide/porter tips

Single Supplement: $620

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