As a key area of Georgian History, Kartli is inseparable from the national chronicles. Region gave its name to the Georgian ethnos, hence the spread of Christianity throughout the county began. Kartli is the most interesting place for exploring the stone age. The whole Georgian stone age is here – both Dmanisi settlement and Trialet barrows etc.
Day 1. Arrival
Arrival at the Tbilisi International Airport. Transfer to the hotel. Time at leisure. Dinner and overnight at the hotel.
Day 2. Tbilisi
Breakfast at the hotel. We will visit the Old Tbilisi. Established more than 1500 years ago it is known that the first settlers arrived much earlier. The course of its history has been hard and never smooth. Tbilisi is a multicultural city. It is the home for more than 100 different ethnic groups. The architecture in the city is a mixture of local (Georgian), with strong influences of Byzantine, European/Russian (neo-classical), and Middle Eastern architectural styles. Tbilisi has a great number of important landmarks and sightseeing locations: churches, museums, and parks.
Visiting one of the symbols of Tbilisi. Sameba (Holy Trinity Cathedral) is the main cathedral of the Georgian Orthodox Church. Sameba is one of the main sacred places for Georgians. It is one of the highest churches in Europe with the height of 101 meters. It is also a unique building, the catherdral is build on top of another temple (Lower Church). Sameba is surrounded by a garden with beautiful flowers. There is a small pond with swans and ducks in the garden. And in the evening, this place is so lighted up that the church resembles fire, rushed to the sky.
You will visit the oldest and the most important temple in Tbilisi. Metekhi Church is erected on the cliff, overlooking the Mtkvari River. There is a statue of King Vakhtang Gorgaslani, founder of Tbilisi, in front of the church. The church dates back to the 12th century and has a diverse history, connected with Mongol invasions and political repressions of the Soviet Empire. The colorful Darejani Palace is also situated on the cliff, like the nest of a swallow.
Ascending by cable car to the Narikala Fortress – the heart and soul of Tbilisi. The fortress was established in the 4th century. An old odd masonry of its walls, observation towers and winding narrow paths, all tells about the antiquity of the building. From the many towers you will have a great panorama over the city, the old part as well as the modern part. Just behind Narikala you will find the Botanical Garden with its waterfalls, millions of species of flowers and trees. This is a favorite place to have a family rest or a walk for lovers.
One of the main attractions of Tbilisi is the famous sulfur baths. Here you can use all kinds of “bath services”, taking a bath and swimming in the water of natural hot sulfur springs. Exactly here Tbilisi started. “Tbili” in Georgian means “hot”. In finding these sources King Gorgasali ordered to build the city here. In time immemorial the magic properties of healing attributed to these sources, but now everyone knows the benefits of sulfur baths. An interesting design of these baths made in the oriental style and they are often called “Turkish baths”.
Sioni Cathedral was named in honor of Jerusalem’s Mount Zion. The cathedral is one of the main cathedrals in Tbilisi. Before the construction of the cathedral Sameba the Church Council of Georgian Catholics was in this cathedral. Sioni was founded in the 6th century and was rebuilt many times. Sioni is a repository of Georgian Patriarchs remains. According to available historical data St. Evstani Mtsheteli, saint of Georgia, is buried here. The church kept a cross made of vine that belonged to St. Nino, which brought Christianity to Georgia.
The Peace Bridge is a pedestrian bridge across the river Mtkvari. The bridge is 156 meters long. It is made of a metal frame and is completely covered with glass. The bridge is beautiful at day time as well as at night time because it has a very special interactive display system. On the two parapets of the bridge you find 30.000 led lights operating with 240 sensors to transmit their message every hour. The universal messages are relayed in Morse code. “This message celebrates life and peace between people”. The Peace Bridge of Tbilisi is in the list of the great bridges in the world.
Anchiskhati Church – In the Old Town there is the ancient acting St. Mary Church constructed during the reign of Dacha Udzharmeli, the successor of Vakhtang Gorgasali, in the 4 th century. The beautiful rectangular building of the church was build under the influence of ancient Palestinian architecture. The doors of Anchiskhati church are decorated with traditional Georgian cross similar to the one made by St. Nino.
In the carriages of the funicular you will go up to the mountain Mtatsminda, where in any time of the day you can enjoy great views of Tbilisi. You will have a walk in the Bombora Park (the former name of the park was Stali’s) here you can see the whole city at a glance from the Ferris wheel, try a popular Georgian lemonade “Lagidze Waters” in a variety of flavours and sit in a lovely restaurant with a great view, which according to a legend was built for Stalin.
Visit the Pantheon, the burial place of famous writers, artists and heroes of Georgia.
Finally the tour takes you to Rustaveli Avenue, where attractions such as the Tbilisi Opera and Ballet Theatre, the Parliament, Rustaveli Theatre, different art galleries and cafes will draw your attention and provide a cosmopolitan atmosphere.
Overnight in Tbilisi. Dinner. Free time.
Day 3. Tbilisi – Ananuri- Kazbegi – Tbilisi
Breakfast at the hotel. You will enjoy the Greater Caucasus and a trip to mountainous Georgia. Our path will run north along the Georgian Military Highway, to the border with Russia. Throughout the route you will be surrounded by dramatic mountain scenery – so do not forget to charge battery of your camera.
You will make your first interesting images on the bank of the Zhinvali reservoir. A vast expanse of water is spread among the forest-covered mountains at the confluence of two rivers – Black and White Aragvi. Eight kilometers from the dam there stands Ananuri castle. The waters of Aragvi rise to the very walls of this magnificent monument of the XVII century. The fortress walls are fortified by two large and several small towers, which offer magnificent views. Inside the fortifications there are two outbuildings and the dome churches, the main church of which is decorated with rich carvings on the facade in the form of a cross and grapes.
When ascending to the Cross Pass, we will pass famous ski resort of Gudauri. Forest zone is behind us, and we are surrounded by alpine meadows, with flocks of sheep roaming around. Next the winding serpentine leads to the highest point of the pass. Put some warmer clothes on – over the precipice, at an altitude of 2379 meters, an observation deck is erected which is very convenient for taking pictures of Aragvi Gorge and beautiful panorama of the Greater Caucasus. Meanwhile, you will see clouds float and mountain eagles fly right below.
Just a few kilometers away you can taste sour water with high iron content. This mineral spring flows from the mountain top, and over the centuries has formed a thick layer of richly-colored lime on it. From afar it seems as though the hillside is painted in bright orange colour. From this point begins the descent from the pass to the famous Dariali gorge which, even in antiquity, was called the Gates of the Caucasus. Remember these places – we just crossed the geographical boundary between Asia and Europe, moving from the South to the North Caucasus.
Gergeti Trinity Church is built against the background of the eternal glaciers of Kazbek – the very same mountains from Greek mythology, where the gods chained Prometheus for stealing fire for people. Its peak whitens at the altitude of 5034 meters, and snow never melts there. Georgian name of Kazbek is Mkinvartsveri, which means icy peak. This mountain is surrounded with lots of ancient stories and legends. A variation of the legend of Prometheus is in the folklore of all peoples living in the shadow of Mount Kazbek – Georgians, the Ingush, Chechens and Ossetians.
Overnight in Tbilisi. dinner. Time free
Day 4. Tbilisi – Bolnisi – Dmanisi- Tbilisi
Did you know that the Georgian alphabet is one of the 14 original alphabets created by the humanity? The legend tells of origination of the Georgian writing in the III century BC, scientists argue about different theories of a later period. Some of the most ancient Georgian inscriptions are found on the walls of the Bolnisi Sioni Church. This church itself is the oldest basilica in the country and with it the history of the Georgian church architecture began.
Bolnisi Sioni Church was built in 478-493 years, immediately after gaining autocephaly by the Georgian Orthodox Church. When arriving to the church you will find that in that early days architects did not seek to decorate facades. Emphasis was on the interior. Thus, exterior of the church is decorated with only lining of green tuff. While inside of the church produces monumental impression of strength and greatness thanks to its simple forms and harmonious proportions.
Another leap into the past awaits us ahead in the town of Dmanisi. Discoveries that were made here caused a sensation in the world of anthropology. During an excavation, scientists found five well-preserved remains of primitive people. Analysis showed that age of Homo Georgicus is 1.77 million years – that is, it is the most ancient man who lived on the territory of Europe. Learning more about our distant ancestors is possible in the museum, which operates in Dmanisi archaeological zone.
Among the other attractions of this place are remains of the city that emerged in the VI century – remains of walls and towers, VII century basilica and well preserved baths. Around the deserted Dmanisi settlement lie beautiful mountains and canyons, and atmosphere of antiquity flows in the air.
Overnight in Tbilisi. dinner. Time free
Day 5. Tbilisi – Mtskheta – Gori – Uplistsikhe -Akhaltsikhe
Drive to town of Mtskheta, which was the capital of Georgia before establishment of Tbilisi. Mtskheta is approximately 2,500 years-old and because of the abundance of ancient monuments – which are included in the UNESCO Heritage List – the town is sometimes called “Georgian Jerusalem”. Here you will see one of the masterpieces of world architecture – Jvari Church built in the end of VI century. The church harmoniously blends into the landscape and still amazes visitors with its perfect architectural forms. From here the beautiful panorama of Mtskheta, which lies between the peaks and the confluence of two rivers opens before our eyes.
Descending from Djvari you will walk through the picturesque streets of old Mtskheta, past shops with souvenirs and local crafts. Our goal lies ahead – majestic cathedral of XI century – Svetitskhoveli. It is the spiritual symbol of Georgia, under which the tunic of Jesus Christ was buried – a piece of clothing, in which the Saviour was clothed at the time of the crucifixion. Here you will hear the legend of Saint Sidonia and the Holy and Life-Giving Pillar, see graves of kings and ancient frescoes, here you will be able to touch the sacred relics of Georgia. This completes the tour of this day. It is time to return to Tbilisi.
Drive to Gori. A life path of Josef Stalin and his personal belongings will appear before you in a museum in Gori – the hometown of the famous Soviet dictator. There are rooms dedicated to childhood, youth and political career of Josef Dzhugashvili. And near the museum there stands a house where revolutionary “Koba” was born. There you will also see a parked carriage in which Stalin travelled to Tehran and Yalta Conference to address issues of global importance. All this is overlooked from the mountain top by the Gori fortress walls – one of the largest fortifications in Georgia.
After Gori you are transported to 3000 years back. In the valley of the Mtkvari, on the left bank of the main river of Georgia, stands Uplistsikhe – one of the first cities in the country. It is a city carved in the rock cave history of which starts at the beginning of the Iron Age. Uplistsikhe was a religious center and capital of pagan Georgia. Later it became the scene of fierce fighting between the old beliefs and coming Chrisitanity. This unique city had experienced several ups and downs before people finally abandoned it in the XIX century. Remains of architectural and religious structures built over three millennia are still preserved in Uplistsikhe.
Overnight in Akhaltsikhe. dinner. Time free
Day 6. Akhaltsikhe – Khertvisi – Vardzia – Akhaltsikhe
Breakfast. Akhaltsikhe (old name Lomisa) is cozy situated on the both banks of a small river Potskhovi, at 1,000 meters above sea level. During a tour of this ancient city we will be able to visit Rabat Fortress. Rarely any fortress can boast of such an unusual history. Rabat – is a town in the city. The complex has many historic castles, towers, churches, and mosques cells. Halls deserve special attention which architectural performance demonstrates the great skill of the ancient masters and delicate artistic taste of the Georgian people. Impressions of the tour will remain in your memory forever, because everything in this place is imbued with the ancient majesty and rich history. In the lower part of the fortress is situated tourist information center, a restaurant, café, gift shops, all these create additional convenience for visitors.
Khertvisi fortress is situated on a high rocky hill in a narrow gorge at the confluence of the Kura and Paravani. Ancient Chronicle Leonti Mroveli wrote that Khertvisi originated during ancient times. One of the legends says that the first fortifications were destroyed during the attack of Alexander the Great. Due to the strategic importance, the fortress was constantly updated and strengthened, but, despite this, the unity of the ensemble is not broken. This is not only a first-class military installation, but also a magnificent landmark. In the center of the citadel stands 20-meter tower, also two secret passages leading to the river survived in the fortress
The legendary cave city of Vardzia is a rare historical monument, built at the turn of XII-XIII centuries. At an altitude of 1300 meters above sea level in a steep tuff rock, masters have recreated a monastery complex.
Vardzija delves into the rock half a kilometer and rises up thirteen tiers, which are connected to each other with complex system of tunnels. Total number of caves was originally 3000, but after a strong earthquake in 1283 large part was destroyed. Now there are about 600. There are preserved a large reception hall, living quarters for the nobility and the common people, the book depository, wineries, water and spring water baths. The Church of the Dormition is the central spiritual and monumental focus of the site. On the same north wall are ancient portraits of the royal founders, King Giorgi III and his daughter Queen Tamar.
Overnight in Akhaltsikhe. dinner. Time free.
Day 7. Akhaltsikhe – Borjomi -Tbilisi
The Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park is located in central Georgia and part of the lesser Caucasus. The park is the first National Park in the Caucasus; it has been open for visitors since 1999.
The Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park is one of the largest in Europe – it covers more than 76,000 hectares of native forest and sub-alpine and alpine meadows, home to rare species of flora and fauna. The Park has several natural zones from 1000 to 2200 metres above the sea level consisting of mixed broadleaved trees, evergreen, beach and mixed coniferous-broad-leafed forest groves and subalpine forests. Beyond the Park are the Meskheti and Javakheti provinces – dominated by their high plateaus at over 2000 metres. The Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park in many ways is the epicenter of everything that’s still wild and untamed in Georgia. That’s why this area is so interesting for the trekking and hiking. Tourists are offered eight tours, the easiest and shortest of them is5 km. long, the hardest and longest-42km. The Borjomi-kharagaulu national park is becoming a real center of Ecotourizm. In addition to the untouched beauty of the National Park, the surrounding villages are rich with medieval history, cottage industries and legendary Georgian hospitality.
Overnight in Tbilisi. dinner. Time free
Day 8. Departure
The price per person $ US Dollars
Price Includes: Transfers, Transport throughout all round, Accommodation in Tbilisi (5 nights), akhaltsikhe (2). Breakfast in the hotel (7) , Services of the guide, Insurance.
Not included: Air Tickets. Meals and Drinks not mentioned in the program.