Days 1-3: Baku
Spared destruction by the Mongols, Azerbaijan's capital of Baku has a walled city where narrow streets lead to Shirvanshah's Palace and the Maiden Tower, while the Caravanserai is a reminder that Silk Road caravans once stopped here. In the countryside, we find a Zoroastrian fire temple, formerly used by traders from Persia and India, while the Yanar Dag Fire Mountain is an interesting geological occurrence.
In the evening of Day 1 join your Tour Leader and fellow travellers at 5:00pm for your Welcome Meeting as detailed on your joining instructions.
Day 4: Baku and to Tbilisi
This morning we gain an insight into a way of life that once was, at the UNESCO listed rock engravings at Gobustan an outstanding collection of more than 6000 rock engravings, bearing testimony to 40,000 years of rock art. We spend the afternoon meandering Baku's elegant tree-lined streets, soaking in the dynamic and diverse culture of old and new Baku before we board our overnight train that will carry us across the border to Georgia.
Day 5: Tbilisi
Welcome to Georgia and its charming capital, Tbilisi. Situated on the Mtkvari River, Tbilisi is a delightful city to explore on foot. With 5th century origins in the Old Town we visit Metekhi Church and Sioni Cathedral then stroll along Rustaveli Avenue to Freedom Square.
Day 6: Tbilisi to Sighnaghi
Beyond Tbilisi we visit the Kakheti wine region, and the towns of Gremi and Sighnaghi, enjoying the excellent food, wine and stunning mountain views.
Days 7-8: Gudauri with Mtskheta and Kazbegi
Today we farewell our welcoming hosts and continue our journey to the UNESCO site of Mtskheta, the centre of the Georgian Orthodox Church and one of the oldest continually inhabited cities in the world. Christianity was proclaimed the state religion here in the 4th century, today the Jvari Monastery and Svetitskhoveli Cathedral are UNESCO World Heritage Listed sites. From here we join the Georgian Military Highway and continue onto the mountain resort of Gudauri.
A stunning drive from Gudauri along the Tergi River will bring us to Kazbegi the main town in the region. We set out on a challenging and rewarding 1.5 hour walk to Gergeti Trinity Church (2170m) high in the Caucasus Mountains. Weather permitting you will have a chance to see Mt Kazbegi.
Before returning to Gudauri we will visit a local master who will tell us more about Georgian icon painting and 'Teka' (felt) making.
Day 9: Kutaisi via Uplistsikhe
We continue through Gori, Stalin's birthplace, to see where it all began visiting the dictators house and museum though you will not find any reference to his purges which cost millions their lives. Beyond, we find the fascinating rock-hewn town of Uplistsikhe once an important centre along the Silk Road, then onto Kutaisi.
Days 10-11: Mestia (Svaneti)
Climbing deep into the Caucasus Mountains to Svaneti we see unique 'watchtower' constructions which provided protection from would-be conquerors so successfully that the Svan tribes became isolated in their mountain fortresses. Enjoy a cable car ride up Mt Zuruldi (weather permitting) where exceptional views of the Caucasus Mountains can be enjoyed. Continuing to Zugdidi where we join a tour of the Dadiani Palace, a testimony to the regions rich royal past, before continuing to Mestia.
Travel deep into the Svan heartland to Ushguli which at 2200 metres is the highest permanent village in Europe. Today upper Svaneti is a UNESCO Heritage Site, where the locals retain their old unwritten language and are known to practice blood-feuds from time to time. Svan offers some of the best views in Europe across the surrounding peaks and glaciers of the High Caucasus, and if the weather conditions are right, we'll have the opportunity to see them.
Day 12: Return to Kutaisi
It is Kutaisi where Georgia's most revered King, David the Builder, is buried within the UNESCO listed Gelati Monastery. Here we marvel at the wonderful mosaics and wall paintings of this well-preserved complex.
Day 13: Akhaltsikhe
We leave Kutaisi for Akhaltsikhe where we wander the Rabat Fortress (Old Town) with its rare examples of darbazebi (traditional Georgian houses), castle, mosque and synagogue. Later we visit Prometheus grotto, one of Georgia's natural wonders rich in petrified waterfalls, stalactites, stalagmites, underground rivers and lakes.
Day 14: Akhaltsikhe to Gyumri
A couple of hours outside of Akhaltsikhe we visit the remarkable remains of Vardzia, a monastery complex carved into the rocks and cliffs dating back to the 12th - 13th centuries.
Continuing to the Armenian Border at Bavra we farewell our Georgian guide and after completing border formalities we set foot in Armenia bound for the capital of the Shirak Province, Gyumri.
Days 15-17: Into Armenia and Yerevan
Armenia was the world's first state to adopt Christianity as its official religion. Winding our way to Armenia's capital we make a stop at Echmiadzin, the 'Vatican' of Armenia, the site of its first church as well as being the world's oldest cathedral. This is truly a masterpiece of Armenian architecture. En route we will also visit the archaeological remains of Zvartnots.
Whilst in Yerevan we explore the delightful city with beautiful tree-line streets, cafes and museums on our city tour including a visit to the State History Museum.
Beyond the city we visit the last surviving Pagan Temple in Garni of indeterminate origin, and farther on the UNSECO World Heritage Listed monastery of Geghard, which is carved, literally, out of the surrounding mountain.
Returning to the city we sample one of the best cognac's in the world at a brandy factory!
Day 18: Yerevan to Goris
Leaving Yerevan we stop to admire some of the region's surrounding treasures including Noravank Monastery. We will also take in the stunning Tatev Monastery as well as the breathtaking view over biblical Mt Ararat (weather permitting), the reputed resting place of Noah's Ark.
Day 19: Goris to Tsaghkadzor
Travelling northwards from Goris to Tsaghkadzor we visit the breathtaking Khndzoresk Village. Situated on the steep slopes of Khir Dzor is the thousand-year-old Khndzoresk cave village, today around four hundred natural and man-made dwellings remain etched in the hillsides. Sixty-three metres above the ground Khndoresk Swinging Bridge runs over a deep canyon connecting the old and new villages.
Continuing our journey, we take some time to uncover the mysterious Karahunge Observatory, known as the Armenian Stonehenge (predating its English counterpart by 3,000 years), Selim Caravanserai and onto Gegharkunik region to see Noratus Medieval Khachkar Field, a fascinating medieval cemetery. The scenery and mountain setting provides the perfect canvas and backdrop to such a unique and impressive array of history, carved in stone.
Days 20-21: Tsaghkadzor to Tbilisi
Today we wind our way through valleys and gorges to seek out the hidden monasteries amongst untouched nature, serenity and impressive architecture - Haghpat and Haghartsin before returning to Tbilisi. En route we pause at the serene Lake Sevan, the world's second largest, high altitude lake at 1900 metres above sea level. From here we can climb up to Sevanavank Monastery to marvel at the stunning panoramic views across the azure waters.