Eastern Georgia – Site of the Iberia kingdom, were among the first nations in the region to adopt Christianity (in AD 337). The wealth of history is wordlessly shown by the numerous monuments: religious buildings of the early Christianity – ancient churches and monasteries, lost in the Caucasus mountains.
Day 1. Arrival
Arrival at the Tbilisi International Airport. Transfer to the hotel. Time at leisure. Dinner and overnight at the hotel.
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. 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.
Overnight in Tbilisi. dinner. Time free
Day 4. Tbilisi -Ujarma-Shuamta -Ikalto -Alaverdi - Telavi
After breakfast drive to east Georgia. Today we will make Wine tasting Tour in Kakheti region. Udjarma is a fortress-town located between Tbilisi and Telavi, 40 km away from the Georgian capital. The road there lies through beautiful Gomborinek mountain pass. For a long time it has been hidden from the eyes of tourists, until 2010 when a new road to Telavi passing by the fortress was built. Since then Ujarma has become one of the major attractions and a must-see spot in the bucket list of many tourists. The fortress is one of the most important Georgian architectural monuments of Early Middle Ages, due to its strategic location and value in the past. It was built in the 3rd century AD, as one of the Georgian kings’ and prince’s main residencies.
Near Telavi in the village of Shuamta you will see the fragments of Dzveli-Shuamta and Akhali Shuamta monasteries (old Shuamta and new Shauamta). These two monasteries absolutely differ from each other in architecture and were built at different times. Dzveli Shuamta monastery is more ancient. It is a complex of several ancient churches. The small church standing in the foreground is dated the 5th century, the other two – bigger and smaller domical churches – the 7th century. The bigger church is very similar to Mtskheta Dzhvari temple. The churches have the 12th-century paintings. Akhali Shuamta Monastery was built later in the 16 th century. This monastery is still active. The big temple, the bell tower, the fencing parts of the monastery complex.
Drive to Ikalto Religious Academy. Late in the 6th century Saint Zenon, one of the “Syrian Fathers”, founded the Ikalto Monastery 7-8 km west of the town Telavi. The Monastery was famous as one of the most significant cultural-scholastic centers of Kakheti as well as of the whole of Georgia because of the Spiritual Academy in which outstanding Georgian philosopher Arsen Ikaltoeli used to live and work. Archaeological excavations revealed numerous workshops, wine-cellars, a smithy, store-rooms and other household rooms grouped around the Academy building. The Academy of Ikalto trained its students in theology, rhetoric, astronomy, philosophy, geography, geometry, chanting, etc. Besides the theoretical courses, the students were skilled in pottery making, metal work, viticulture and wine making, pharmacology, etc.
Alaverdi Monastery was founded by the Assyrian monk Joseph (Yoseb, Amba) Alaverdeli, who came from Antioch and settled in Alaverdi – a small village and former pagan religious center dedicated to the Moon. At the beginning of the 11th century, Kakhetian King Kvirike the Great built a cathedral, today known as Alaverdi Cathedral, in the place of a small church of St. George. At a height of over 55 meters, Alaverdi Cathedral is the second tallest religious building in Georgia, after the recently consecrated Sameba Cathedral in Tbilisi.
Telavi is the main city and administrative center of Georgia’s eastern province of Kakheti. It’s population of some 21 800 inhabitants (as of the year 2002). The city is located on foot-hills of Tsiv-Gombori Range at 500-800 meters above the sea level. The landscape of Telavi is scenic. The city is wrapped in picturesque landscapes from all sides. Telavi faces the Tsiv-Gombori Range to the south and south-west and borders on Alazani Valley to the north and east. The Greater Caucasus Mountain Range, which runs to the north of the Alazani Valley, can be seen from most of Telavi. Excursion to the residence of the King Erekle the II .
Overnight in Telavi. Dinner. Free time.
Day 5. Telavi – Gremi – Kvareli –Tsinandali - Telavi
Breakfast at the hotel. Trip to Gremi. Gremi is a 16th century architectural monument – the royal citadel and the Church of the Archangels. The complex is what has survived from the once flourishing town of Gremi and is located east of the present-day village of the same name. The complex was built by King Levan on a rocky hill. In the 16th century Gremi was the capital of Kakheti Kingdom, it functioned as a lively trading town on the Silk Road and royal residence until being razed to the ground by the armies of Shah Abbas I of Persia in 1615. The town never regained its past prosperity and the kings of Kakheti transferred their capital to Telavi in the mid-17th century.
Nekresi Monastery complex is standing on a hill and facing a beautiful view of the Alazani Valley. Although it was founded by St. Abibo Nekreseli, one of the Thirteen Syrian monks who came to Georgia in the 6th century to strengthen Christian faith but already in the 4th century one of the first Christian churches was built here. Thus Nekresi Monastery ensemble includes several structures built in different times. The main church of Assumption of the Virgin was built in 6-7th CC.
Kvareli is a town in northeastern in Kakheti Province. Located in the Alazani Valley, near foothills of the Greater Caucasus Mountains. The area is in the center of the Kakheti wine-producing region, and the town itself is known for its Kindzmarauli wine, a semisweet red variety. The current range of products of Kindzmarauli Marani includes over 23 brands of high-quality wines, including red dry and white dry“Samepo Kakhuri” (Kakhetian Royal) and naturally red semi sweet “Kindzmarauli Original” are an exclusive brands of our company that developed its production process using the ancient Kakhetian grape varieties and traditions of vineculture.
Kvareli Lake Resort is rather comfortable for the adults as well as for the children. Here you can find all conditions to enjoy peace, nature, silence and fresh air
Next we will head to Tsinandali the well-known wine-growing settlement where the patrimonial estate of Chavchavadze princes is. In the manor there is Chavchavadze Museum with furniture and personal things of the princes. The museum is surrounded by magnificent park with a chapel where Alexander Griboedov married Nina Chavchavadze.We will visit the oldest winery, where we will hold tasting the best wines.
Transfer to Telavi. Dinner. Free time.
Day 6. Telavi – Bodbe – Signagi – Davit Gareji – Tbilisi
After breakfast the group will start journey and the first place which they willhave to visit is the grave of St. Nino held here in a Bodbe monastery (4th century) and taste the water from the spring which is considered to be miraculous. The Monastery of St. Nino at Bodbe (commonly called Bodbe Monastery) is a Georgian Orthodox monastic complex and the seat of the Bishops of Bodbe located 2 km from the town of Sighnaghi. Originally built in the 9th century, it has been significantly remodeled, especially in the 17th century. In the 16-17th centuries Bodbe was the important educational centre.
A small Kakhetian town of Signagi, is originated in the current form of a town on the ruins of a previously existing fortress in the second half of the 18th century during the reign of King Erekle II. He has ordered to build a town with the fence in the place of an old stronghold. The fortress occupied nearly 40 ha of land and was able to harbor whole population of Kiziki in case of enemy invasion. Besides the mentioned fortress, which is listed among one of the major and famous Georgian fortresses, today Sighnaghi impresses travelers with its unique charm, because a couple of years ago the main part was fully reconstructed and now it looks like a sweet fairy tale town with colorful houses, wooden balconies, flowers and amazing view to Caucasus Mountains. Sighnaghi is also known as town of festivals – folk music, dances, food and, of-course one of the biggest autumn wine festival is hosted exactly in this pretty town. Moreover Signagi is called town of love – once decided you can have a wedding there any time, day and night.
The next place which we will visit is David Gareji cave complex. It was one of the major spiritual centers which wereused to house even 6000 monks on special religious days.David Garedji is a rock-hewn Georgian Orthodox monastery complex located in the region of Kakheti, surrounded by impressive landscapes of desert colors. The complex was founded in the 6th century by St. David Garejeli, one of the thirteen Assyrian monks who arrived in the country at the same time. The complex includes hundreds of cells, churches, chapels, refectories and living quarters hollowed out of the rock face. Despite the harsh environment, the monastery remained an important centre of religious and cultural activity for many centuries.
Afterwards the group will return back to Tbilisi.
Overnight in Tbilisi. Dinner. Free time.
Day 7. Tbilisi – Gori – Ateni – Ufliscikhe – Akhaltsikhe.
After breakfast we will visit the Orthodox cathedral in Gori, and the Gori fortress in the hilltop. The territory of Gori has been populated since the early Bronze Age. According to the medieval Georgian chronicles, the town of Gori was founded by King David IV (r. 1089-1125) who settled refugees from Armenia there. However, the fortress of Gori (Goris-Tsikhe) appears to have been in use already in the 7th century, and archaeological evidence indicates the existence of an urban community in Classical Antiquity.
Visite the Joseph Stalin Museum – The main corpus of the complex is a large palazzo in Stalinist Gothic style, built in 1951 ostensibly as a local history museum, but clearly intended to become a memorial to Stalin, who died in 1953. The exhibition is chronologically divided into several rooms, which keeps a lot of exhibits that are actually or allegedly owned by Stalin, including furniture, personal items and gifts. There are also exhibits on display in the form of documents, photographs, drawings and newspaper articles
Drive to Ateni Sioni Church which is an early 7th-century Georgian Orthodox church some 10 km (6 miles) south of the city of Gori, Georgia. It stands in a setting of the Tana River valley known not only for its historical monuments but also for its picturesque landscapes and wine. The name “Sioni” derives from Mount Zion at Jerusalem.
Afterwards the group will visit Ufliscixe Cave Town (1st millennium BC) . Uplistsikhe – “King of the castles” – is an ancient rock-hewn town in eastern Georgia, some 10 kilometers east of the town of Gori, Shida Kartli. Built on a high rocky left bank of the Mtkvari River, it contains various structures dating from the Early Iron Age to the Late Middle Ages, and is notable for the unique combination of various styles of rock-cut cultures from Anatolia and Iran, as well as the co-existence of pagan and Christian architectureUplistsikhe is identified by archaeologists as one of the oldest urban settlements in Georgia. Strategically located in the heartland of ancient kingdom of Kartli (or Iberia as it was known to the Classical authors), it emerged as a major political and religious center of the country.
Dinner and overnight in Akhaltsikhe.
Day 8.Akhaltsikhe – Xertvisi – Vardzia – Akhaltsikhe
The oldest sources mentioning the town of Akhaltsikhe date back to the 12th century B.C. Its ancient part, called Rabati, still remains on the left bank of the Potskhovi River. Buildings seen here include numerous altered fortress, a former palace belonging to the rulers of Akhaltsikhe, a mosque built by the Ottomans in 1752, a palace-like structure, and more. The citadel is surrounded by old residential buildings, hall-like chambers, and a bathhouse.
Khertvisi fortress is one of the oldest fortresses in Georgia and was functional throughout the Georgian feudal period. It is situated in Southern Georgia, in Meskheti region on the high rocky hill in the narrow canyon at the confluence of the Mtkvari and Paravani Rivers. The fortress Khertvisi was first build in the 2nd century BC, the church – in 985 while the present walls – in 1354. As the legend says, Khertvisi was destroyed by Alexander the Great. In the 10th-11th centuries it was the center of Meskheti region. During the 12th century it became a town. In the 13th Mongols destroyed it and until the 15th century it lost its power.
The last destination the group will visit this day is cave town Vardzia, a rock-hewn complex on the left bank of the river Mtkvari was founded in the 12th -13th c.c., during the reign of Giorgi III and Queen Tamar. Initially planned as a town-fortress, the complex became a well fortified monastery, which had a significant role in political, cultural, educational and spiritual life of the country. In the middle of the complex there is a Church of Assumption, richly decorated with mural painting.
Drive to Akhaltsikhe. Dinner. Free time.
Day 9. Akhaltsikhe – Sapara Monastery – Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park – Tbilisi
Breakfast at the hotel. Visite to Sapara Monastery – about 10-12 km outside of Akhaltsikhe up into the mountains. The monastery was established in the tenth century, but the principal church, St. Sabas, was built sometime in the thirteenth century. Until the twentieth century, the monastery had been perfectly preserved, as its hidden location saved it from Ottoman discovery throughout the empire’s three-century long control of southwestern Georgia. Alas, the Soviets found it, and abused it in the usual soulless fashion, albeit not to the same extent as many other Georgian Orthodox establishments—the frescoed walls were not whitewashed, and remain in good condition (especially following a recent restoration). During a visit, make sure to climb up the nearby slopes towards a rocky outcropping to get lovely views over the monastery and the valleys in the distance.
Visit of the Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park.The first National Park in the Caucasus region implemented according to international standards. It was created in 1995 with the support of WWF and German government in order to preserve the region’s extraordinary nature, especially its virgin forests. The Park possesses several natural zones in its ascent from 800 to 2700 meters. These zones display the differences in their trees from broad-leafed groves located in the lower zones to evergreen, beach and mixed coniferous groves and sub-alpine trees in the higher ones. Visitors can experience the stunning variety of blossoming plants, breathtaking views and magical forests via parks wide network of 11 trails.
Tourists are given an opportunity to enjoy a day or a several day hike that can span the altitudes from 800 to 2,642 meters. In addition the National Park lies on the migration route of many birds and during the spring and fall visitors can view the large flocks of beautiful yellowish bee-eaters that visit the park. Also the Park’s amazing virgin forests are homes to semi-permanent populations of brown bear, wolf, lynx, red deer and chamois. During the spring the Park offers many pleasant surprises including encounters with alpine meadows full of flowers. And in addition to all these the Park’s surrounding villages are rich with medieval history, local-cottage industries and legendary Georgian hospitality.
Drive to Tbilisi. Dinner. Free time.
Day 10. Tbilisi – Mtskheta – Tbilisi
Breakfast. Excursion in Mtskheta – the town-museum, included to the UNESCO World Heritage Site List. Mtskheta is one of the oldest cities of the country of Georgia (in Kartli province of Eastern Georgia), located ~ 15 kilometers north of Tbilisi at the confluence of the Aragvi and Mtkvari rivers. Due to its historical significance and numerous ancient monuments, the “Historical Monuments of Mtskheta” became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994.
Visit of the ancient temple – monastery Jvari (VI c.). Djvari Monastery stands on the rocky mountaintop at the confluence of the Mtkvari and Aragvi rivers, overlooking the historical town of Mtskheta. According to traditional accounts, on this location in the early 4th century Saint Nino, a female evangelist, credited with converting King Mirian III of Iberia to Christianity, erected a large wooden cross on the site of a pagan temple. The cross was reportedly able to work miracles and therefore drew pilgrims from all over Caucasus. A small church was erected over the remnants of the wooden cross in 545 named the “Small Church of Djvari”. Djvari was included in the UNESCO World Heritage Site list.
Visit of Svetitskhoveli Cathedral (1010-1029), at the bottom of which is buried one of the major Christian relics Lords chiton, one of the most important sacred artifacts of the New Testament that after the crucifixion of Christ was brought to Mtskheta by Elioz – one of the witnesses of his death on the cross, and it is also the burial place of many of the Georgian kings. Here is also the part of life-giving pillar.
Visit of Samtavro monastery, where year round grow, flower and fruit blackberry bush, near of which in the IV century lived and preached St. Nino- enlightener, the first preacher of Christianity in Georgia. The official adoption of Christianity in Georgia in 324 is associated with the name of St. Nino, with the assistance and participation of the King St. Miriam and Queen St. Nana. It was St. Nino who persuaded the king Miriam and queen Nana to adopt Christianity in Georgia. Woderworking icon of Iberian Mother of God, woderworking icon of St. Nino, grave of St. Tsar Merian and Tsarina Nani, hallows of St. Abibos Nekresky, St. Shio Mhvimskoho are inside.
Visite of Shio Mghvime Monastery Complex representing one of the remarkable religious and cultural centers of feudal Georgia, is located on the left embankment of the Aragvi river in Mtskheta District, some 40km away from Tbilisi. Based on historical sources, the monastery was founded in the middle of the 6th century by John Zedazneli’s pupil Shio. Father Shio spent the last years of his life in a dark deep cave where he was buried according to his will after he passed away. His tomb is recognized as the holy place in Shio Mghvime Monastery. Shio Mghvime Monastery Complex consists of John the Baptist’s domed church, the upper church built in 11 c., the dining hall and the chapel near the monastery. John the Baptist’s church with plain and strict features is almost plunged in earth. It represents one of the most remarkable examples of Georgian dome architecture built by St. Shio’s initiative in 550-560s.
Drive to Tbilisi. Dinner. Free time.
The price per person $ US Dollars
Price Includes: Transfers, Transport throughout all round, Accommodation in Tbilisi (6 nights) Telavi (2), Akhaltsikhe (2). Breakfast in the hotel (10) , Services of the guide, Insurance.
Not included: Air Tickets. Meals and Drinks not mentioned in the program.