|I am just preparing the Armenian tour between 2 and 10 May, I will publish the exact route and costs (more or less the same as that of the Georgian tour) on 20 February. Nevertheless, as the flight tickets are inexpensive now, therefore if you have firmly decided to come, buy it now. However, write me before it, because the minibus for the first week is already almost full.|
In last year’s excursions we toured the entire country from the northwestern mountains of Svaneti to the eastern wine region of Kakheti and the southern cave monasteries of Samtskhe. This year we will spend less time in the bus, and more in the most beautiful parts of the country, in Svaneti and the Georgian military road, and take more time to explore Tbilisi. We will also visit some extraordinarily beautiful and famous regions, for which we had no time last year: the monastery church of Gergeti under the northern border mountain of Kazbegi, the ropeways of Chiatura left to us from socialist times, and the hermitage of Katskhi. We travel with air conditioned modern van, in Tbilisi and Kutaisi we stay in four-star hotel, and in Svaneti and Kazbegi in family guesthouses. The planned cost of the trip is about 550 euro (hotels with breakfast, and in the guesthouses also traditional dinner, bus and guide), which I will exactly tell in this weekend, in the knowledge of the final number of participants.
To the preparation, you are recommended to read the announcement of last year’s tours as well as our collected posts on Georgia (which will be continuously increased). Below we outline the route and program of its seven days, so that those who have already registered for it can browse it in the armchair and prepare for it, and those who have not yet done so, might be enticed to join now.
The maps can be enlarged to full screen by clicking on the “More options” link in the upper left corner. Only the most important stops are indicated, but we well also stop at many other sites, at beautiful views and historical sights. If you get any ideas from browsing the map, let us know.
Mze Shina: Shairebi. Folk music from Svaneti. From the album Ushba.
1. From Kutaisi to Svaneti
Our plane arrives in the dawn at Kutaisi. To save time, we immediately depart for Svaneti, one of the most archaic and most beautiful mountainous regions of Georgia. We have two extra hours for sleeping in the bus, and the morning will dawn upon us already in the Inguri valley, next to Europe’s deepest reservoir, where we also have our first Georgian breakfast. On the way we also stop elsewhere, at painted medieval churches and villages with thousand-year-old watchtowers. On the winding mountain road we arrive in the afternoon at our lodgings in Mestia. We look around in the old town with residential towers, and visit the rich museum of ethnography. Traditional Georgian dinner in the family guest house.
2. In the mountains of Svaneti: from Mestia to Ushguli
A full day excursion into the mountains, to Europe’s highest-lying (2100 m) settlement, Ushguli, the land of medieval residential towers. We will ride an off-road minibus, and will cover the 45-km distance in 3-4 hours, while enjoying breathtaking mountain scenery. A walk in the three parts of Ushguli village, traditional Georgian lunch. In late afternoon, on the way back home we will go up by ropeway to the look-out tower above Mestia, from where we will see the highest peaks of the Caucasus. Back to Mestia, home-made dinner in the evening.
3-4. From Mestia to Tbilisi and a full day Tbilisi sightseeing
The longest road of our trip at one stretch: in seven hours we come down from the mountains to the valley of the Mtkvari/Kura river and along the river to the capital. On the way, we stop a few times to rest and for sightseeing, including at the legendary Surami Fortress and in Gori at Stalin’s museum. In Tbilisi, our hotel will be in the center of the old town, so in this and the next evening you can explore the city on your own, too. The next day we will tour the old town, the former palace district around the Metekhi church, the Muslim quarter with the Turkish baths and the mosque, the old Armenian merchant district, the Kala, and above it the medieval churches of the Bethlehem district. In the evening, traditional dinner in an excellent Georgian restaurant in the Jewish quarter, to which I will again invite the folk band composed of three Svaneti college girls, who fascinated us so much last year.
5-6. From Mtskheta along the Georgian military highway to Kazbegi and back
We start the day in the ancient Georgian capital, Mtskheta, not far from Tbilisi, which is still the center of the Georgian church. After visiting the cathedral and the Jvari (Holy Cross) church – Georgia’s first Christian church – on the hilltop at the other bank of the river, we set out on the former Georgian military highway, which leads via breathtaking serpentines and passes through the Greater Caucasus ridge across the border to Russia. At halfway we will stop at the Ananuri fortress monastery, one of the most beautiful Georgian monasteries, and in a few other places, including the Jvari Pass, with stunning views on both sides of the Caucasus. Across the mountain pass, we descend to the foot of the Kazbegi mountain, the highest peak in Georgia, where we spend the night. The next day we go with jeeps to the Gergeti monastery church, the only church of Georgia built before the Flood :) On the way back we stop at the Sioni church, we cross again the Jvari Pass, and by the evening we come back to Tbilisi.
7. From Tbilisi through Chiatura and Katskhi to Kutaisi
In our last day in Georgia we visit two great points of interest which were not included in last day’s program: the canyon of Chiatura with the multitude of ropeways criss-crossing the mining town built around it, and the monastery of Katskhi with the thousand-year-old hermitage built on top of a forty-meter-high monolith. The last stop and crowning of our trip will be the royal monastery of Gelati, one of the most beautiful Georgian monasteries, the burial place of the Georgian kings. This night we sleep in Kutaisi, and in the dawn we go to the airport.