Small Group Tour in Georgia: Culture in the High Caucasus
This 14-day small group tour in Georgia - accompanied by Amelia Stewart - showcases the stunning Georgian countryside in a carpet of spring wildflowers or a blaze of autumnal colours depending which dates you choose. Renowned for its superb food you won't go hungry whilst exploring Georgia - nor thirsty, and there are plenty of opportunities for wine tasting, exploring remote monasteries, national parks and artistic Tbilisi.
Itinerary at a Glance:
- Explore Tbilisi's churches, markets, galleries and museums
- Enjoy polyphonic singing, wine tasting and delicious food
- Explore the mountains and landscapes of Kazbegi
- Enjoy the churches, museums and estates of the Kakheti region
- Marvel at the rock -hewn cave city of Uplistikhe
- Walk in the beautiful Becho Vvalley and enjoy the village of Ushguli
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Day 1: International Flight
Today your small group tour in Georgia begins. After meeting at the airport you will boardyour morning flight from the UK to Tblisi via Istanbul to arrive in the evening. It's a 30-minute drive to your hotel in the capital, where you will be staying for the next three nights.
Day 2: Welcome to Tbilisi
Today you will be immersed in the artistic cultural capital of the country, Tbilisi. An excellent local guide will accompany you for a tour of the city to cover the highlights and some hidden gems. With its dramatic setting in the deep valley of the Mtkvari River, Tbilisi has a picturesque architecture and a great arts and culture scene and it's the ideal place to start our small group tour in Georgia.
After a relaxed morning, the city tour will include visits to Metechi church, the district of Sulfur bathhouses and the Sioni Cathedral. You will explore the city on foot on cobbled streets through the Old Town and up to Narikala Fortress. There will be visits to the main museum and also the beautiful botanical gardens
Days 3: To Mtskheta
Today you'll be heading west from the capital to Mtskheta, which is one of the oldest towns in and the cultural and religious centre of Georgia, as well as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Enjoy browsing the Dry Bridge Market, a wonderful flea market stocked with curios and antiques from the Soviet era. Once you're done bartering, it's a short distance from Tbilisi to Mtskheta. Once a crossroads of many trade routes from the third century BC, this small town has a wonderful 11th century Eastern Orthodox cathedral where you can often hear local choirs, before you head off to the sixth century Jvari mountaintop monastery nearby. After all of this exploration, it's time for lunch at the wonderful Chateau Mukhrani with its glorious restored castle before returning to the capital for some polyphonic singing.
Day 4: Up to Kazbegi
For the next leg of your small group tour in Georgia, depart the capital for Kazbegi, a valley town instantly recognisable by the towering Mount Kazbek and the silhouette of the Gergeti Holy Trinity Church.
In the morning, you will leave the capital to make your way up to Kazbegi on the old Russian Military Highway; a fantastic journey of hairpin bends and glorious views. On the drive, stop off at Ananuri Architectural Complex, which was the former residence of the splendidly-named Dukes of Aragvi. Stop for lunch with a local family and learn to make khinkali, a delicious local speciality, before continuing on to check in to your lovely hotel for two nights.
Days 5: Explore Kazbegi
Today you can enjoy an active day in the mountains. Start by exploring the small town of Kazbegi, which has great views of Mount Kazbek - the seventh highest peak in the Caucasus Mountains. While exploring, your guide will be able to tell you more about the mythical stories surrounding Mount Kazbek, including the Greek myth that Prometheus was chained to its slopes as punishment for having stolen fire from the gods. Then, after some time in the town, enjoy a scenic three hour walk to the 14th century Gergeti Holy Trinity Church, soaking up the fantastic mountain scenery before returning to relax in the comfort of your gorgeous hotel with a sundowner on the huge terrace overlooking the mountains.
Day 6: Head south into the Kakheti Region
Time to pack your bags to meet your driver and travel to the next stop on your small group tour in Georgia, the Kakheti region. This part of Georgia is famous for its wine producing (and wine drinking) culture, but before you get too into that, make a few cultural stops including at the Bodbe nunnery complex and the town of Sighnaghi, reminiscent of Tuscany with its red brick roofs and old town.
Then, after lunch you will head onto the city of Telavi to check in for two nights.
Day 7: Further exploration of Kakheti
Visit the farmers market in Telavi to check out the local produce before heading over to the Tsinandali Estate, which once belonged to the 19th century aristocratic poet Alexander Chavchavadze and as such has a gorgeous summer home and garden which you can wander around.Next is a wine tasting over a long lunch at a local winery where your hosts will talk you through the key varietals in a region that's home to some 500 types of grape. eorgia is one of the oldest wine producing regions in the world (since at least the 2nd millennium BC) and you'll learn how much of the wine is still produced in the traditional way, using huge earthenware vessels called kvevri to store the wine in. Afterwards, you'll have the change to visit some of the most beautiful monasteries in the area - including Gremi Monastery and Alaverdi Cathedral - on your way back to your hotel where you'll spend the evening.
Day 8: Head west into Imreti region
It's time to leave the Kakheti region and head west into the Imreti region. En route, stop at the impressive rock-hewn town of Uplistsikhe - an ancient cave town dating from the first half of the first millennium BC. The entire town is a complex of rock-cut streets, residences, churches, secret tunnels, water passages, markets and the oldest theatre in Georgia and it's a great site to wander around. Continue onwards to Gori, the birthplace of Stalin. Here visit the museum and the house he grew up in before hitting the road one last time to arrive at your hotel in Kutaisi.
Day 9: Up to the Becho Valley
Kutaisi - the capital of several historical kingdoms within Georgia - is one of the world's oldest continuously inhabited cities. Explore the UNESCO sites of the Gelati Monastery - which was founded by Davit the Builder, one of the founding fathers of Georgia, which houses a number of preserved manuscripts dating back to the 12th century - and Bagrati Cathedral where you'll also get some lovely views down into the town and over the surrounding mountains.Next, continue the journey up into the Svaneti region and the Becho valley nestled beneath the jagged peaks of Mount Ushba.
Day 10: Becho Valley to Mestia
Enjoy a hike this morning under the shadow of Mount Ushba in glorious surroundings, taking a picnic lunch to enjoy in a lovely spot. Afterwards, continues a short distance to Mestia to check into your hotel for two nights. Mestia is dominated by a forest of ninth century defensive towers and is the starting and finishing point for many hikes and treks into the mountains. It is also home to the Svan people who speak a dialect and eke out an existence through the land having done so since the Middle Ages. There is lots to explore including the excellent Ethnographical and History Museum.
Day 11: From Mestia to Ushguli
Today is an adventure on your small group tour in Georgia, as you depart early this morning depart early in 4WD vehicles to head up the rough bumpy track high into the mountains to reach the little village of Ushguli, one of the highest continuously-inhabited villages in Europe. It's a glorious drive (weather permitting!) with stops en route at the Love Tower - a beautiful isolated defense tower near a river - and a locally-run café for the best yoghurt and coffee, before reaching the village where cows and pigs wander the muddy main thoroughfare. You will visit the church and take time to explore this extraordinary place which is pretty much cut off throughout winter. Lunch will be at a local artist's house before returning back to Mestia for the last night in the Svaneti region.
Day 12: From Mestia to Batumi
Sadly the time has come to depart Mestia, so this morning you'll start the journey back down the winding road all the way to Batumi on the Black Sea coast.. The drive time will be around seven hours with several leg stretching stops en route.
The main stop will be in the Becho Valley, which is one of the most beautiful areas in Svaneti, where pigs and cows wander in the road in front of picture perfect houses. Enjoy lunch here and then carry on before stopping again in Zugdidito to visit Dadiani's Palace, where one of Napoleon's bronze death masks is kept.
You should arrive into Batumi in the early evening and check in to your hotel for two nights.
Day 13: Explore Batumi
Today is relaxed, given the previous day's long journey, and you will see some of the main sights in the city exploring some of the monuments and sea front on foot. Explore this seaside resort town much beloved of Georgians during summer time when locals flock to the sea to cool down and enjoy the delicious fresh fish. There is also a lovely botanical garden to visit before enjoying some fresh fish for your last meal in the country.
Today is relaxed given the previous days long journey and you will see some of the main sights in the city exploring some of the monuments and sea front on foot. There is also a lovely Botanical garden to visit before enjoying some fresh fish for your last meal in the country .
Day 14: Depart
Your flight will depart Batumi in the morning and goes via Istanbul to arrive back into London in the afternoon.
Harriet and Kate L are our experts for this itinerary and as seasoned travellers they have the inside track on the most memorable adventures.