Start exploring Azerbaijan with a city tour of Baku, which is one of the oldest and biggest cities in the East for antiquity, territory and population.
We’ll visit the Walled City of Baku with the Shirvanshah Palace and Maiden Tower, UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Inner City (Icheri Sheher) has preserved much of its 12th century defensive walls.
The 12th century Maiden Tower , built over earlier structures dating from the 7th to 6th centuries BC, and the 15th century Shirvanshah' Palace, one of the pearls of Azerbaijan's architecture.
Juma Mosque and the Carpet Museum.
We will have a walk in Naberezhny Park and along Baku Boulevard, the second largest one in Europe.
On Boulevard we’ll get a boat and make trip on it along Baku Bay.
We’ll be introduced with the interesting facts and legends of the largest lake in the world better known as Caspian Sea.
Overnight in Baku.
Leaving for a tour in Absheron Peninsula.
Ateshgah, the Fire Worshippers' Temple is located in the village of Surakhany.
It was built on the land where natural gas burned eternally and worshipped by Zoroastrian believers who travelled from the province of Multan in India to visit this sacred place.
These ancient fires are believed to have given Azerbaijan its name, which is thought by some researchers to mean the “Land of Fires”.
Visit also well preserved ancient castles of Absheron Peninsula dated 12th-13th c.c.
There are several fine medieval castles - one each at Amirajan and Nardaran and two at Mardakan - apparently built for defense by the Shirvan Shahs in the 14th century.
Overnight in Baku.
Sheki is one of the most famous and ancient places of Azerbaijan.
Situated 700 m (2297 ft.) above sea level like an amphitheatre surrounded by the mountains and forests of oak trees, this ancient city was long famed as a silk centre and an important stop on the Great Silk Route.
There is an assumption that the name of the town goes back to the ethnonym of the Saks, who reached the territory of Azerbaijan in the 7th century BC.
We’ll start our Sheki tour from visiting the 18th century Khan's summer palace (entrance fee: 4 USD) with magnificent frescos and exquisite stained glass work.
Sheki History museum is famous with artifacts from several periods.
Also visit the Albanian church located in Kish village.
Legend says that the church was built in 78 AD, but the researchers place it a few centuries later.
Upon our checking-in at the hotel, we’ll enjoy the farewell dinner, tasting traditional Azeri cuisine dishes.
Overnight in Sheki.
Depart from Azerbaijan to Georgia.
Change transport at the border in Lagodekhi.
Drive to Sighnaghi.
Sighnaghi is situated in the very eastern part of Georgia.
Even in the 12th-13th centuries these places had been populous.
Sighnaghi faces the Alazani field from the rising ground (750 m elevation), it is combined with the surroundings and it’s impossible to forget after having seen it.
Overnight in Sighnaghi
Visit Bodbe St.
On June 1, Orthodox Church of Georgia marks the day of St.
Nino’s entrance from Cappadocia.
Bodbe Monastery keeps her tomb.
After visiting the Bodbe Monastery of the 9th century, we’ll take our way to David Gareji Monastery Complex, one of the most important landmarks of Georgia.
Drive to Telavi, the main city and administrative center of Kakheti, eastern province of Georgia.
We’ll visit Telavi State Historical and Ethnographical Museum and Palace of the King Erekle (entrance fee; USD 1,7); Shuamta (5th-17th c.c.) and Ikalto (5th c.) monastery complexes, Alaverdi Cathedral (11th c.).
Drive to Tsinandali and visit Palace of Al.
Chavchavadze, famous Georgian poet (entrance fee: from USD 3 to USD 12).
Tasting of the Georgian wine here.
Afterwards drive to Tbilisi.
Overnight in Tbilisi.
We leave the capital this morning and drive to Mtskheta, the spiritual heart of Georgia.
Here we visit what is considered to be the most sacred place in Georgia, the Svetitskhoveli Cathedral.
The 9th century basilica contains the grave of Sidonia, who was said to have been buried holding Christ’s robe.
We also visit the 6th century Jvari church before driving via Khosuri and Surami into the hills towards the Rikoti Pass, claimed to be a watershed between Asia and Europe.
Here the road winds through narrow, forested valleys before dropping onto the fertile plains of the Rioni, Georgia’s most important river.
Arriving in Kutaisi, the ancient capital of the Kingdom of Colchis, we check into our guesthouse for a two night stay.
It was here that Jason stole King Aeetes the Golden Fleece when he fell in love with the king’s daughter Medea.
Kutaisi has always been an important town throughout the ages and for many years was the capital of Georgia, when Tbilisi was occupied by the Arabs.
The period between the reigns of King Bagrat and Queen Tamar (roughly 900 – 1200) was the golden age for Kutaisi and most of the significant buildings date from this time.
Now it is the main city of the Imereti region and here the people are renowned for their sense of humor and also a special kind of ‘khachapuri’ – the cheese bread unique to Georgia.
Overnight in Kutaisi.
This morning we drive to the magnificent monastery complex at Gelati, which consists of a variety of churches and the Academy building.
It was founded in 1106 by King David the Builder in gratitude to God for his victories over the Turks.
The King wanted it to serve as a centre of Christendom, so as well as scholars many religious artists studied here.
Many of the treasures which were made here have been lost over the centuries, however the buildings and frescos in them are extremely well preserved, and the setting of the monastery on a hillside with views over to the distant Caucasus peaks is attractive.
Later we drive via the smaller monastery of Motsameta, spectacularly sited on a cliff-edge, back to our guesthouse in Kutaisi.
During free time this afternoon, it is possible to walk from our guesthouse through the attractive back streets to Bagrati Cathedral, completed in 1003.
As with many cathedrals, it has been added to throughout the ages and today maintains grandeur and nobility despite its ruined state.
Afterwards drive to Batumi.
Have free time to walk in beautiful Batumi boulevard.
Overnight in Batumi.
We appreciate the amazing diversity of landscape in this small country during today’s drive.
Heading for the alpine meadows of Bakuriani we retrace our route before turning south to drop into the majestic deciduous forests of the Borjomi Gorge.
Stopping briefly at Ubisi church, well known for its 14th century murals, this small complex dates back to the 9th century.
We then continue on to the picturesque mountain resort of Bakuriani which will be our base for the next two nights.
There is plenty of time this afternoon to explore the area independently.
One stop on our excursion today is a visit to Khertvisi Fortress, dramatically situated on a cliff above the confluence of two major rivers.
Later we enjoy a leisurely visit to one of Georgia’s most significant sites: the cave town of Vardzia (entrance fee: USD 1,7).
Established by King Giorgi III in the 12th century as a stronghold against the Turkish Sultanate (the Turkish border is only 10km away), Vardzia was subsequently developed by his daughter, Tamar (later to become Queen Tamar), who created a cave monastery that became a centre of Georgian culture.
This network of caves above the Mtkvari (Kura) river once numbered 3,000, with up to 19 tiers in some places.
Much of it was destroyed after a huge earthquake in 1456 and only 550 caves have been discovered.
There are numerous churches, meeting halls, refectories and wine cellars, all interconnected by tunnels and stairways.
Drive to Bakuriani.
Dinner and overnight in Bakuriani.
After breakfast drive to Gudauri.
Georgian Ski resort.
On the way visit Borjomi Park and taste “Borjomi” Mineral water.
Visit Ananuri Castle and monastery.
Jinvali water reservoir.
Mtiuleti, the land of the mountains, historical province in eastern Georgia, on the southern slopes of the Greater Caucasus Mountains.
Khevi is a small historical-geographic area in northeastern Georgia.
It is included in the modern-day Kazbegi district, Mtskheta-Mtianeti region.
Located on the northern slopes of the Greater Caucasus mountains, it comprises three gorges of the rivers Truso, Tergi and Snostsq’ali.
Ananuri ensemble of XVII century.
It comprises a tower, small-domed church, big-domed temple and a bell-tower.
The ensemble overlooks the artificial reservoir of Zhinvali built in 1971.
Dinner and overnight in Gudauri.
Drive to Gorge of Dariali (Northern gate of Georgia) - The first fortress was erected here in the first half of the 2nd century B.C.
It was repaired in the 5th century A.D.
and again in the 12th century.
A grand ecclesiastical complex is being built here nowadays.
Visit Holy Trinity Church of Gergeti of 14th century - It is built on the slope of Mt.
Mkinvartsveri (top of glacier), on the left bank of the river Tergi.
It is the monument built on the highest spot in Europe.
Gergeti is a domed church with a bell-tower.
Afterwards drive to Dariali Gorge.
(NOTE: to drive to Dariali Gorge or Trinity Church we need 4X4 cars, and in case of the group travel, when group is travelling by bus, we can rent 4X4 cars on the spot and price is USD 15 per person to drive both sights).
Drive back to Tbilisi.
Overnight in Tbilisi.