(Tbilisi, Kutaisi, Gudauri)
Including one of the world’s longest inhabited cities, as well as the oldest known wine region, our Grand Tour of Georgia & Armenia is rich in cultural experience. Explore the cosmopolitan capital cities of Tbilisi and Yerevan, with enthralling history both ancient and modern. Pass through alpine meadows, and ancient rock cities, as you explore what the countryside of these up-and-coming destinations has to offer. These are countries packed full of UNESCO sites, with remote mountaintop monasteries and iron age ruins. An adventure for the truly intrepid, this year it is time to visit the South Caucasus.
This is a tour for those that want to see it all, from the bustle of Armenia's capital city, to the snow-capped mountain peaks and vineyards of Georgia, welcome to the South Caucasus!
Transfer by private vehicle between the airport and your hotel.
This morning you will embark on a ½ day sightseeing tour of Yerevan, including all of the major sites of Armenia’s capital city. The history here, one of the oldest continually inhabited cities, dates back to the 8th century BC. Most of the old town historic sites will be seen on foot, then finish your guided tour at the History Museum, where all manner of Armenian culture, and rare antiquities, are on display.
Today you will day trip outside of Yerevan to Echmiadzin, the religious center of Armenia. Echmiadzin Cathedral is the countries “mother church”, as well as being the oldest cathedral in the world, thought to have been originally built between the years 301 and 303. You will also visit St. Hripsime church, a prime example of Armenian style architecture. This day of touring UNESCO World Heritage Sites concludes as you return to Yerevan and stop at Zvartnots temple, which are Byzantine era ruins.
This morning your day starts with a visit to Matenedaran, the Institute of Ancient Manuscripts. This is a research facility and museum in Yerevan that contains one of the world’s richest collections of medieval books. Next, drive Tsitsernakaberd, a memorial dedicated to the Armenian genocide, located in a revered hilltop position overlooking the city. Head onward to the village of Garni, where you will see the sole remaining pagan temple from the first century Hellenistic period – all other relics from this era were destroyed in the 4th century when the region underwent Christianisation. Finally before returning to your hotel, you will stop at the monastery of Geghard, a complex dug out of rock, located beside the Azat River and surrounded by towering cliffs.
Today you will first drive to the Ararat region to visit Khor Virap, a monastery with a commanding view of biblical Mount Ararat. Next head into the Vayots Dzor region, the most sparsely populated area of Armenia, and one that borders Azerbiajian on the east and the west side. Visit Noravank monastery which is located at the base of a narrow gorge. On your way back to Yerevan you will stop in the village of Areni, and sample some locally produced wine.
Today you will embark on your journey from Yerevan, Armenia to Tbilisi in Georgia. Start by travelling through the Gegharkunik region, home to Sevan Lake and monastery. Pass by the Tavush region – known as the Armenian Switzerland – with its alpine meadows and snow-capped mountains. Stop in the spa town of Dilijan, a hot spot for local artists, and shop the many boutique shops. Visit the Haghpat monastic complex, a UNESCO site, located in the Lori region. Finally reach the Georgian-Armenian border at Sadakhlo/Bagratashen where you will pass through security and meet your Georgian guide and vehicle on the other side. Transfer onward to Tbilisi. Driving time is roughly 6.5 hours. This is a full day excursion with multiple stops.
Today you will explore both the Old and New Town of Tbilisi. The city offers a great variety of sights, most of them very ancient. In the Old Town many of the sites are within walking distance of each other; start on foot from the Metekhi Church, a riverside structure dating back to the middle ages, with a commanding cliff side location. Continue to the Great Synagogue, and then on to Sioni Cathedral and Anchiskhati Church. Next move into Tbilisi's New Town and visit the National Museum of History (note the museum is closed on Monday). Stroll Rustaveli Avenue – the main thoroughfare of the city, and home to many important architectural sites such as the Opera and Ballet Theatre, and former Parliament buildings. In the late afternoon, take a cable car ride to Narikala Fort, which was built in the 4th century, and overlooks the city. Finish your day of Tbilisi touring with a walk towards the brick-domed Sulphur Baths.
Depart today from Tbilisi for your final destination Kutaisi. On route, you will stop off to visit some fascinating places. First is Mtskheta; the ancient capital and religious centre of Georgia. This site dates back 3000 years and houses many historical buildings including Jvari Monastery and Svetitskhoveli Cathedral (known as the burial site of Christ's mantel) dating from the 6th and 11th centuries respectively. Both are UNESCO world heritage sites, and both are venerated places of worship to this day. Continue to the town of Gori, the heart of the Kartli region, birthplace of Joseph Stalin and home to the Stalin Museum. Finally, drive to your final destination for the day - Kutaisi - which is the ancient town from the legend of Jason and the Argonauts.
Today you will explore all of the history that Kutaisi has to offer. In the morning pay a visit to Gelati Monastery and Academy, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and long-time intellectual centre. Visit a local agricultural market, for some insights into the farming and industry that prevail in this region. Later head to Bagrati Cathedral, a masterpiece of medieval architecture. On this site you can also see the beautiful underground grotto, which are full of unique rock formations. Finish your day with some free time to explore independently.
Today while driving between Kutaisi and Gudairi, you will visit Uplistsikhe, a place where the Great Silk Road used to pass. This ancient rock town contains structures dating from the early iron age. There are ancient dwelling quarters, wine-cellars, bakeries, and a three-nave basilica church hewn out of rock. Continue along the Georgian Military Highway with a stop to see Ananuri castle complex, home to the ruling dynasty of the 13th century, and place of many battles. Finally arrive into Gudauri ski resort, and settle in for some time to relax amongst the dramatic mountain scenery. Driving time is roughly 4.5 hours.
Today is an active one, as you day trip from Gudauri to Kazbegi. In the morning you will embark on a stunning drive along the Tergi River. Once in Kazbegi, begin your leisurely 2 hour walk, passing through beautiful valleys and forested woodlands. At 2170m you will reach Gergeti Trinity Church, a symbol for Georgia, because of its isolated mountain location. Weather permitting you may catch a glimpse of one of the highest peaks in the Caucasus; Mt Kazbegi. Hike back down to meet your vehicle, and drive through Dariali Gorge, all the way to the Russian border. Finish your day back in Gudauri.
Return to Tbilisi today, stopping along the way to visit an open air ethnographic museum (closed on Monday) which showcases some original rural houses. Pass by Turtle Lake, a popular weekend vacation spot for local Georgians, and one of the largest churches in the Caucasus, Trinity Cathedral. This evening you will have some time to explore the cobbled streets of Tbilisi on your own. Driving time is roughly 2 hours.
Today take a day trip from Tbilisi to Kakheti, the famous wine-growing region. Explore the regions incredibly unique traditions and culture, taste Georgian wines, and indulge in some delicious food. Archaeologists believe Georgia is the oldest wine producing country in the world, and this trip is not to be missed. Visit Gremi, a 16th century architectural monument set against the stunning backdrop of the Great Caucasus (please note Gremi is closed on Mondays). This site was once a stop along the Silk Road. Drive next to Kvareli to visit a local winery, and of course taste some Georgian wines. Stop for lunch with a local family and enjoy homemade dishes. Afterward, continue to a local village to see a unique wine-cellar and taste more wine, this time of the home-made variety. Before returning to Tbilisi for the evening, discover romantic Sighnaghi, one of Georgia's smallest, and most well preserved towns.
The new member of Tufenkian Heritage Hotels, Tufenkian Historic Yerevan Hotel (4*) opened its doors in September 2012 and has already accommodated hundreds of tourists who came to visit one of the oldest cities in the world. The new Tufenkian city center hotel is located on the crossroads of Hanrapetutyan and Buzand streets. Tufenkian Historic Yerevan Hotel offers 82 rooms, bar/lounge, conference center, 2 level underground parking, as well as features a traditional Kharpert Restaurant, which offers age-old Western and Eastern Armenian cuisine.
Choose the Marriott Tbilisi Hotel (4.5*) for a luxurious stay in one of the world's most unforgettable cities. Once you enter the grand atrium-style lobby adorned with crystal chandeliers, you're greeted with renowned Georgian hospitality. Overlooking the Main Avenue or patio, their 127 luxury Tbilisi hotel accommodations and suites feature a safe, mini-bar, individual climate control and broadband internet. Enjoy galleries and theatres, all within walking distance in the centre of Tbilisi, Georgia. Dine in Parnas restaurant or have a light snack, or a cup of coffee and fresh danish at Parnas Café & Lounge. Visit their Fitness Gym for your workout and relax in the sauna.
The stunning Bagrati Hotel (3*) is located on the left bank of the river Rioni and is situated in the city’s tourism and shopping district. Sixteen comfortable and beautifully decorated rooms will satisfy the guest of any taste. The hotel restaurant offers a great variety of Georgian traditional dishes and European cuisine for you to enjoy. Or relax in the hotel bar with a refreshing cocktail.
Gudauri Marco Polo (4*) is located in Gudauri, Georgia and is approximately an hour and a half away from the capital city Tbilisi. This hotel is surrounded by the stunning Caucasus Mountain Range that provides beautiful scenery and plenty of outdoor activity. There are 121 rooms equipped with all the amenities to make your stay as comfortable as possible. Marco Polo also has three different types of dining areas to cater to your needs. Billiards, ping pong and tennis are just a few of the recreational activities that you can participate in during your visit, as well as going swimming and getting a massage.
Vanessa Oquendo ,
April 21, 2014
"Melissa Field was extremely helpful! She was courteous, professional, knowledgeable, and friendly! She kept me updated on the status of everything and provided timely correspondence. She took ownership for any problems I had and remedied them. I had the most amazing time of my life in Iceland and Paris! I would not have experienced everything without the help of Kensington Tours."
Marilynn Weaver ,
April 21, 2014
"All of our guides were beyond fabulous! Our time in Dublin was much too short, would have loved to stay there at least one more full day. Would recommend extending this package to 15 days for any future visits. The train to Edinburgh was super! Beautiful scenery and great steak pies!"
Ann Saxon ,
November 06, 2013
"Our trip was fantastic!!! I cannot say enough good things. Lianne worked with our exact dates and time frame beautifully.Our drivers were prompt and friendly. The private guides were so knowledgeable. We left with an appreciation of the history, the culture, and the beauty of Andulasia. We were very pleased and will certainly recommend your company to friends and family."
Coby Scherr ,
November 05, 2013
"Everyone involved in our Portugal trip made it terrific. Exactly as advertised. Every event on time and most pleasant. Guides were well-informed, courteous and friendly. Really made for a great journey every time. Each hotel was clean, upgraded and staffed with knowledgeable and friendly folks. Breakfasts were complete -- almost too much to eat. It will always be a wonderful memory thanks to Kensington Tours."
Couples Dellinger & Hubbell ,
November 06, 2013
"We've been raving to everyone about the food, the friendliness of the people and the amazing history and sites in Turkey. Yes, we want to go back."
John Edstrom ,
October 22, 2013
"Overall, our tour in Spain was very enjoyable, and well planned and executed. Our private tour of the Alhambra was excellent. Virginia, tour guide for royal palace ruins outside of Cordoba, was also excellent. In Seville, we went to the Flamenco Show/dinner, and the Flamenco was outstanding!"
Kevin Wilshere ,
October 19, 2013
"Great trip to Spain! Thanks again for all your help, Lianne. The destinations, hotels, guides and everything were all top notch."
Chery Westlund ,
November 07, 2013
"My husband and I took a 3 week vacation to southern Europe and North Africa and had a great time. All the guides were very knowledgeable and bent over backwards to accommodate us. The arrangements made by Kensington went off without a hitch. This is our second trip with Kensington (we went to Peru in 2009) and we will certainly book with them again."
Randy Gramlich ,
October 07, 2013
"Thank you for your follow up, we both loved our time in Croatia. It’s really a beautiful place, especially the coast. Your choice of hotels was great. It was an incredible view from the Bellevue hotel in Dubrovnik and the Vestibule in Split was in the best possible location. We were able to relax in our room listening to the wonderful singers in the courtyard and its central location made it so easy to walk anywhere we wanted to see with ease. "
Jay Steffan ,
September 24, 2013
"We just returned from a 10 day trip to Paris and Normandy. We spent three nights in Paris and then enjoyed a seven night cruise on the Seine to Normandy with AMA Waterways. The time in Paris was well spent and has piqued our interest to return for a more thorough visit. Guide Wafaa Lankey was superb in our visit to Versailles. The Seine cruise was relaxing and beautiful. So many wonderful little towns and we wished we had more time in each one to explore and enjoy.
We traveled to Croatia and Slovenia using Kensington earlier this year which was a fantastic trip."
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