Transfer to the airport and departure.
Today we explore Lower Kartli region and visit the Dmanisi Archaeological site where Europe’s oldest humans’ skulls were unearthed. Here we find different archaeological excavations from the Bronze Age settlement up to Medieval Period churches and cellars as well as 1.85 million-years-old fossilized remnants of Homo Georgicus which made Georgia the homeland of the first Europeans.
We arrive back in Tbilisi in the late afternoon
In the morning we start driving along the Tergi river up to the town of Stepantsminda (St. Stephan) – the main town of the area. Arriving there, we go for a rough drive in a 4 WD car along the forested slopes of the mountain to Gergeti Trinity church (14th century) to enjoy great views of different glaciers of the Caucasus Mountains including mount Kazbegi (5047m).
Later, we take a short walk to see Gveleti Waterfalls and then head to a local hunter’s house to enjoy home –made dishes as well as well as to learn and observe the secrets of the Georgian cuisine as we will be shown cooking and baking process of local delicacies : Khinkali and Khachapuri.
We arrive in Tbilisi and check in at our hotel.
In the morning we will visit another UNESCO World Heritage Site of Kutaisi – Bagrati Cathedral (1003y.) and then continue our trip to the Ulistsikhe – an ancient town with palaces, alleyways, streets and amphitheatres carved into the massive mountain slope. Established in the 2nd millennium B.C as a pagan temple-town, it later became an important base for the Silk Road traders on their way from China to Europe.
Later, we start to drive along the Great Military Highway of Georgia and enjoy breathtaking views of the Great Caucasus Mountains, En-route we visit Ananuri Architectural Complex overlooking a water-reservoir. The 17th -18th century complex includes several churches, bell-towers and well-preserved defensive wall with its built-in towers.
The road winds up through beautiful deciduous forests and alpine meadows till we reach one of Georgia’s most important ski-resorts – Gudauri (2200 m).
Dinner and overnight at our hotel in Gudauri
We will leave the capital of Georgia to visit the spiritual heart of Georgia – at Mtskheta – the first capital of Georgian empire from the 3rd century BC to the 5th century AD. First we drive up to the mountains to visit one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Mtskheta – 6th century Jvari (Holy Cross) monastery and enjoy the spectacular views of Mtskheta and the confluence of the two rivers below.
Then, we drive down to the town dominated by the impressive cathedral called “Life-Giving Pillar” or Svetitskhoveli in Old Georgian. According to ancient legend, the first church (4th century AD) was built on the burial site of Christ’s robe. As the church was being constructed, a wooden pillar rose into the air and a miraculous fountain of blood started to flow from it, healing all the diseases which gave its name to the church.
We continue to drive to West Georgia via Tikoti Pass which is said to be the borderline between Europe and Asia and make our first stop at 9th c. Ubisa church of St. George. The church houses a unique circle of murals painted by local artist – Damiane in the late 14th century which can rival the finest frescos in other Byzantine churches.
Later, we arrive in the town of Kutaisi-one of the oldest towns of Europe and current seat of the parliament of Georgia. Kutaisi is believed to have been the capital of the Dazzling Empire of the sun -Colchis around 3000 years ago where ,according to Apollonius of Rhodes and Euripides, a group of the Greek heroes led by Jason arrived in in search of the Golden Fleece.
First, we make our way to the 12th c. Gelati Academy-one of the country’s most treasured religious and cultural landmarks. Built by Famous king of Georgia David the Builder as a grand tribute of his victory over the Turks, the academy was one of the first institutions of higher education founded in the Middle Ages. This UNESCO World Heritage Site of Georgia is renowned for its Academy building and several churches with beautiful mosaic and rich frescos.
Overnight at our hotel in Kutaisi.
In the morning we will leave the town of Kvareli and continue our trip to Alaverdi Cathedral (11th century). This monumental, solemn-looking edifice dominates the surrounding landscape in the fertile river valley against the backdrop of the Caucasus Mountains. Famous for its façades with monumental blind arcades and opulent decorations , Alaverdi Cathedral has many times been plundered during its history.
Later, we continue to the village of Ikalto to visit a local Qvevri (clay jar) Academy and learn more about Georgia’s traditional Qvevri wine-making tradition (UNESCO Workd Heritage Intangible Site since 2013 ) which is a key element of national and cultural identity of Georgia.
After all, we drive back to Tbilisi and check -in to our hotel.
The best opportunity to acknowledge the ancient traditions of world’s one of the first wine-makers is to visit East Georgia’s Kakheti region famous for its fertile valleys, endless lines of vineyards, ancient monasteries, castles and delicious cuisine.
In the morning we drive to visit the town of Signaghi – a place of romance and love as it has been called in recent years. Perched on the mountain cliff with its 4,5 km. long defensive wall of the 18th century Sighnaghi is one of the prettiest towns of the country which still retains its original scent and style with its narrow, cobbled streets full of one or two storey houses with bright red tiled roofs and beautifully carved balconies. The city has wonderful views over the Alazani Valley to the snow capped Caucasus mountains beyond.
After our leisurely walk through the winding streets and backyards of the town, we continue to drive to a local peasant’s wine-cellar and taste different home-made wines from Qvevri (clay jar). Qvevri wines are unique for their rich chemical composition, very distinctive bouquet and for their nutritional and curative qualities. Our host will tell us the way his ancestors have preserved the Kakhetian method of wine-making from generation to generation and will propose different traditional toasts.
Our alfresco lunch will be held by a local family in their house where we will have the unique chance to taste delicious Georgian home-made dishes and drinks.
Later, we continue to drive through different villages and beautiful countryside to Gremi Complex – once a symbol of the thriving cultural and political life of Kakheti Region and the capital of the area before Persian Shah Abas razed it down to the ground. Giving an impression of floating in the air over the river, the Gremi Complex includes the church of Archangels with its beautiful frescos and adjacent royal tower as well as the ruins of different old bath-houses and watchtowers.
We overnight at our hotel in Kvareli.
Today we will explore the tremendous heritage of Georgia’s capital city as we walk through its narrow, cobbled streets, ancient twisted pathways and boulevards, marvelling at the 1500 year history of this great city.
Throughout its history, Tbilisi has been a crucial location for many different trade routes and has been famous for its multi religious and multicultural character. Its diversity and cultural richness can be seen in the magnificence of Tbilisi’s architecture which been influenced by Byzantine, European and Oriental art. In the heart of the old town we will find churches, synagogues, mosques, Caravanserai, and even a Zoroastrian temple as well as the famous Sulphur Baths and glorious ruins of Narikala castle – which was the main fortification of Tbilisi.
After lunch we will continue to visit the treasury of Georgian State museum which displays artefacts in gold and silver from the 2nd millennium B.C. Later, we will take a walk along Rustaveli Avenue – one of the major arterial streets of Tbilisi and we will wonder at elegance of 19th century palaces, secular and spiritual buildings. We will then be able to enjoy some free time in this lovely and relaxed city.
Overnight in our hotel in Tbilisi.
Arrival in Tbilisi International Airport and transfer to Hotel