Mountains and Monasteries in Georgia
Food, wine, mountains and monasteries; this ten-day journey includes the highlights of Georgia - a gem of a country - including the capital and mountainous regions of Kazbegi and Svaneti. If you're looking for culture with a sprinkling of adventure and a dash of cool, you've found it right here.
Itinerary at a Glance:
- Enjoy the culinary delights of Tbilisi
- Journey through the heartland of the wine growing region of Kakheti
- Step back in time in the high mountains of the Svaneti region
- Take a tour of the ancient cave town of Uplistsikhe
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Day 1: Fly to Georgia
After being fast-tracked through the airport, catch your five-and-a-half-hour flight from London to Tbilisi, via Istanbul, to begin your Highlights of Georgia trip.
When you land you'll be met by our representative on the ground before being privately transferred to your hotel just a short drive away in the city centre. Take the rest of the day to relax, settle in and get an early night ready for a busy day exploring tomorrow.
Day 2: Tour Tbilisi
This morning you will be met by your private guide for a sightseeing tour of Tbilisi, with visits to the 13th century Metechi Church, the district of sulphur bathhouses (the thermally heated waters coined the city's name - 'tblisi' means warm place in Georgian) and Sioni Cathedral - the capital's main church.
Enjoy a bird's eye view of the city from the ancient Narikhala Fortress followed by a wander around its beautiful botanical gardens where you can admire over 4,500 species of flora from Georgia and the rest of the world.
Come back down to earth for a walking tour of Tbilisi's pretty-as-a-picture Old Town. Wander along winding cobbled streets and admire age-old architecture, then continue on to Rustaveli Avenue to get a feel for daily life in the city among the bustle of shops and restaurants.
Once you're pleasantly exhausted, refuel with a tasty lunch before filling your afternoon with visits to some of the capital's top museums and galleries; a great end to your first day enjoying the highlights of Georgia. Our Concierge is on hand to recommend and book restaurants for this evening.
Day 3: From Tbilisi to Sighnaghi
This morning you will be met by your driver and guide for the third day of your Highlights of Georgia trip. You will then depart the capital, heading east to the region of Kakheti, famous for its wine producing (and wine drinking) culture.
Stop for lunch and some wine tasting with a local family before moving on to visit Bodbe Monastery, where St Nino, the fourth female evangelist of the Georgian Orthodox Church, is buried.
Next stop is the beautiful town of Sighnaghi, where you can take your time wandering through its romantic old town with its red-brick roofs and pretty pastel-coloured balconies that are reminiscent of Tuscany.
Carry on towards your hotel where you will be staying for the next two nights and enjoy a relaxing evening with a good meal and a sundowner cocktail on the terrace.
- Wine tasting
- Quevri wine making (during harvest season)
- Pony trekking
Day 4: Explore More of the Kakheti Region
Begin the day bright and early with a visit to Gremi - an impressive architectural complex dating from the 16th century when it was founded by King Levan of Kakheti. The present complex - perched scenically on a hill - used to be a citadel and consists of a tower (which you can climb), king's chambers, defensive walls and a central-dome church built of square bricks.
Journey on to the local farmers market in Telavi and marvel at the fantastic fresh produce before heading to the Tsinandali Family Estate and wine cellar, which once belonged to the 19th century aristocratic poet Alexander Chavchavadze. Enjoy the peace and quiet in the gorgeous gardens and sample some of the wonderful wines.
Savour a tasty lunch with a local family or at a winery with wine-tasting before heading back to your hotel via the beautiful cathedral of Alaverdi.
Day 5: Visit the Cave City of David Gareja
This morning prepare for a bumpy ride as you head into the semi-desert area of south-eastern Georgia to visit David Gareja, a magnificent rock-hewn Monastery located in the southern Kakheti region; one of the absolute highlights of Georgia.
From here, lace up your walking boots and enjoy an optional two-hour hike uphill to the Udabno Monastery Complex, which houses dwellings with beautiful frescoes from the ninth to the 14th century. From the top, soak up the stunning views of the Azerbaijan valley and tuck into a hearty picnic lunch before returning to Tbilisi for the evening.
Day 6: East to the Imreti Region of Kutaisi
Today you will continue to explore the highlights of Georgia by setting off west from the capital - with your private driver and guide - to explore Mtskheta, one of the country's oldest towns and the cultural and religious centre of Georgia.
Located at the confluence of the Aragvi and Mtkvari rivers, Mtskheta was a crossroad of many trade routes from the third century BC. Today, it is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site with a generous sprinkling of architectural and historical monuments including the Jvari Church - a masterpiece of the early Medieval Period.
Next, it's on to Uplistsikhe - an ancient cave town that dates back to the first millennium BC. On a tour of the town, explore the captivating complex of rock-cut streets, residences, churches, secret tunnels, water passages, markets and the oldest theatre in Georgia.
Enjoy lunch in a local restaurant before continuing on to Gori, the birthplace of Stalin. On a museum visit, learn about his early life, see personal memorabilia - pipes, glasses and cigars - and see the elegant train carriage he travelled in with its bathtub and primitive air-conditioning system.
Arrive into Kutaisi and settle into your hotel where you will be staying for the night.
Day 7: Kutaisi and the Svaneti region
This morning, set out nice and early to explore the Kutaisi UNESCO site of the Gelati Academy complex.
Set among the trees with beautiful views over the valley, the church - built by King David the Builder in 1106 - has perhaps one of the most beautiful mosaics in the country, created with over 1.5 million pieces.
In the afternoon, drive up into the Svaneti region, an area in the High Caucasus which has only really opened up thanks to a new road that allows easier access to the region. As you climb and the road narrows, keep your eyes glued to the windows for a truly stunning road trip. Travel through dripping mountainside tunnels and pass narrow vertiginous bridges over the river on hair-pin bends. Make sure to ask your driver to stop often for photographs of the conifer covered forests as you journey upwards.
The journey takes approximately five hours and you will arrive in the early evening for two nights in Mestia.
Day 8: Explore the Svan Towers of Mestia
Today, you will be exploring the town of Mestia, a popular starting and finishing point for many hikes into the mountains beyond.
Dominated by a forest of ninth century defensive towers in the shadows of the jagged peaks of Mt Ushba, this small town is home to the Svan people who have carved out their existence in these lands since the Middle Ages. They are strong, hearty mountain people renowned for brewing a local moonshine called 'chacha' and observing a number of semi-pagan rituals and festivals that date from Roman times.
Spend a day exploring Mestia on foot. Visit some of the little museums, such as the excellent Ethnographical and History Museum, wander the backstreets and alleyways to get a sense of the real town and how its people live. Visit a Svan Tower and try the local khachapuri - the delicious hot cheesy bread you won't be able to get enough of.
Depending on the weather, you may choose to explore beyond the town along walking trails that take in the sleepy surroundings in the area.
Day 9: Return to Kutaisi
Spend the morning in this fascinating part of the country before departing to start the journey back down the winding road towards Kutaisi.
Along the way, stop off at the Becho Valley - one of the most beautiful areas in Svaneti and a real highlight in Georgia - where pigs and cows wander along the road in front of pretty houses. Enjoy a picnic lunch en route and arrive into Kutaisi for your last night in Georgia.
Day 10: Depart to Tbilisi and Return Home
Sadly your Highlights of Georgia adventure is over and it's time to head home. This morning, after checking out of the hotel, you will be transferred to Tbilisi airport via the gorgeous Ubisa Monastery, a journey that takes approximately three-and-a-half hours.
Savour a final lunch along the way and stop for some shopping in Tbilisi should you wish before being transferred to the airport for your late afternoon flight, arriving back into the UK in the evening.
Amelia is our expert for this itinerary and, as a seasoned traveller, has the inside track on the most memorable adventures.