A Road Less Travelled
Discover where Europe and Asia meet, and explore the spectacular landscapes of three distinct nations – Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan.
Set between the Black and Caspian Seas, and surrounded by the old empires of Russia, Persia and Turkey, the peoples of the Caucasus have developed proud, independent traditions of their own, with a rich and complex mix of religion, language and art that has fired the imagination of travellers for centuries. Discover the ancient Byzantine monasteries and churches of Armenia, wander through the golden treasures in the galleries and museums of Georgia, and explore the old palaces, mosques, and markets in Azerbaijan. Enjoy the fascinating blend of ancient tradition and contemporary cosmopolitan life in today’s three capital cities of Yerevan, Tbilisi and Baku.
This tour is part of the World Art Tours program organised by the Art Gallery Society of NSW in partnership with Renaissance Tours.
Suggested evening departure from Australia on Emirates to Yerevan via Dubai.
Overnight in flight.
Late morning or afternoon arrival in Yerevan, the capital of Armenia. Transfer to the hotel.
Enjoy a welcome briefing and dinner with Liz.
Following a morning talk, walk to National History Museum for a guided tour.
After lunch, visit the Matenadaran, a rich repository of medieval manuscripts.
Evening is at leisure, optional concert at Armenian National Opera & Ballet Theatre.
This morning walk to the National Art Gallery for a guided tour of the collection.
Following free time for lunch, visit the Genocide Memorial Museum.
The remainder of the day is free to explore the Vernissage open air flea market.
Evening reception at Sergey Parajanov Museum in a traditional Caucasian style noble house, with a unique collection of lively, and diverse art forms created by Soviet Armenian film director and artist, Sergey Parajanov.
Morning visit to the 1st century Hellenistic Garni Temple, Armenia’s only surviving pagan temple. Continue to the nearby Geghard Cave Monastery, built into towering basalt cliffs and founded in 4th century by Gregory the Illuminator.
Following lunch, visit Etchmiadzin, the mother church of the Armenian Apostolic Church.
Return to Yerevan. Free time to visit the Yerevan Cascade, a popular meeting place for locals with an impressive display of international sculptures donated by the Cafesjian Centre for the Arts.
Depart Yerevan and drive to the Artashat archaeological site. Artashat was a large commercial city and the capital of the Kingdom of Armenia. For over 600 years, Artashat was one of the most important cities of the East and remained a primary cultural and political centre until the 4th century.
Continue to Khor Virap monastery where Saint Gregory the Illuminator (who was responsible for Armenia becoming the first Christian nation in 301) was imprisoned. Visit the monastery and enjoy the view to Armenia’s beloved Mt Ararat, located in Turkey.
Enjoy a picnic lunch and then drive to the mountain spa town of Jermuk.
Enjoy a morning drive to Vorotan and take a cable car across a spectacular deep gorge to the 9th century Tatev Monastery ensemble, located on a large basalt plateau. Enjoy free time in this peaceful complex, with views over the Canyon of the Vorotan River.
Return by cable car to Vorotan and continue to Goris for a night at a charming local hotel.
Early morning depart Goris and drive to ancient Karahunj (Armenian ‘Stonehenge’) with over 200 Menhirs (standing stones).
After lunch by the Orpa River in Vayk, drive through the Selim Pass and stop at the 14th century Caravanserai on the Armenian Silk Road.
Continue past Lake Sevan, the largest lake in the Caucasus, to Dzoraget located on the banks of the River Debed.
Depart Dzoraget and drive to Haghpat. Visit the striking 10th century basalt Haghpat Monastery, a beautiful blend of Byzantine and traditional Caucasian architecture. Also see some impressive medieval Khachkars (Armenian Cross Stones).
Following lunch, drive to the Georgian border and continue onto Akhaltsikhe, Georgia.
(B,L –picnic, D)
Morning drive to the extensive remains of the Vardzia cave monastery located on the Kura River. The monastery highlight is the 12th century Church of the Dormition with an outstanding series of frescos depicting aspects of the Golden Age of Georgia, including paintings of Georgia’s beloved Queen Tamar. After lunch return to Akhaltsikhe to explore the medieval Rabati Castle complex, once capital of the Georgian feudal principality of Samtskhe.
Evening at leisure.
Early morning departure from Akhaltsikhe for the town of Gori, an important military stronghold in the Middle Ages and birthplace of Joseph Stalin. Following a brief visit to the Stalin museum, continue to the 17th century Ananuri architectural complex, overlooking the Zhinvali water reservoir. The carvings on the two Ananuri churches are some of the finest examples of Georgian art.
Enjoy a picnic lunch and then drive along the Georgian Military Highway, through the spectacular High Caucasus Mountains to Kazbegi.
Dinner at hotel.
Following breakfast, weather permitting take a 4-wheel drive trek up to the picturesque 14th century Gergeti Trinity Church, perched on top of a steep mountain looking up to Mount Kazbegi.
Drive back along the Georgian Military Highway, to the ancient capital and religious centre of Georgia – Mtskheta (3000 years old), one of the world’s oldest continuously inhabited cities. After free time for lunch, visit the 11th century fortified Svetitskhoveli Cathedral – the headquarters of the Georgian Orthodox Church – and the nearby 6th century Jvari Monastery perched on a rocky mountaintop, overlooking the Mtkvari and Aragvi rivers.
Continue to Tbilisi.
Evening is at leisure.
Following a morning talk, begin your exploration of Tbilisi. Drive to the 13th century Metekhi Church and nearby equestrian monument of Tbilisi’s founder, King Vakhtang I Gorgasali.
After lunch, enjoy for a walking tour through the Old City to see the Mosque, Orbeliani Baths and Synagogue. After lunch, explore the Old Town, with visits to the Sioni Cathedral housing the Cross of St Nina – who introduced Christianity to Georgia in 327 – and the 6th century Anchiskhati Basilica, the oldest surviving church in Tbilisi.
Remainder of the afternoon and evening is at leisure.
Begin with a morning visit to the Simon Janashia Museum of Georgia to see its exquisite gold treasures. The Museum houses hundreds of thousands of artefacts from the Caucasus’ archaeological and ethnographic antiquity. Valuable exhibits include the Homo Ergaster fossils discovered at Dmanisi, and the 5th century BCE Akhalgori hoard which contains unique examples of jewellery blending Achaemenid and local styles.
Early afternoon visit to the Art Museum with its collection of precious religious objects, including the iconic 12th century cross of Queen Tamar, as well as a collection of Russian and European Art. Continue to the National Gallery of Art with a focus on Georgian art including the work of the renowned late 19th/early 20th century “primitivist” painter, Niko Pirosmani.
Evening is at leisure.
Leisurely morning to enjoy more of Tbilisi including free time for lunch. After lunch depart Tbilisi for Kakheti, Georgia’s easternmost region. Drive to the charming hilltop town of Signaghi which overlooks the Alazani Valley towards the snow capped Greater Caucasus mountains.
Dinner and wine tasting Signaghi.
Depart Signaghi and drive to Alaverdi and the 11th century fortified Cathedral of St George, the tallest cathedral in Georgia. Drive further for a photo stop at the 16th century royal citadel of Gremi, once capital of the Kingdom of Kakheti, and a lively trading town on the Silk Road.
Enjoy some famous Georgian wine with lunch in Kakheti’s Khareba Winery, located in the heart of the world’s oldest wine region.
Continue to the Georgia/Azerbaijan border crossing and checkpoint. Following visa & passport check drive to the Sheki in Azerbaijan. Sheki, once a famous city of craftsmen and merchants, is located in a picturesque mountain setting.
Morning visit the 18th century Persian style Summer Palace of the Sheki Khans, renowned for its colourful frescoes, stained glass and mosaic tiles. Following a short visit to an old Caravan Seray (now a hotel) and to the bustling local Sheki market, travel through the Muganly Mountain Pass to Shamakhi, an old royal seat and one of the key towns on the Silk Road through the Caucasus. See the recently rebuilt Friday Mosque – originally built in the 8th century – and a group of 19th century Islamic tomb towers, set amidst a field of much older gravestones.
Following lunch, drive to Baku, capital of Azerbaijan.
Following a morning talk, join a local guide for a morning walking tour of the Old Walled City constructed in local almond-coloured limestone. Visit the 15th century Shirvanshakh Palace with its divankhana, mausoleum, mosque and bath-house; continue to the 12th century Maiden’s Tower, ancient hamam, bazaar and caravanserai.
After lunch visit the Heydar Aliyev Cultural Centre housed in a striking building designed by Iraqi/British architect Zaha Hadid.
Evening is at leisure.
Drive to Gobustan Rock Art Cultural Landscape – a UNESCO World Heritage Site. View the excellent museum and the vast collection of prehistoric petroglyphs in situ, dating from 10,000 BCE.
Afternoon free to visit the National Art Museum with its collection of European, Russian and Azerbaijani art; the Museum of Modern Art featuring works by Azerbaijani artists or the new Azeri Carpet Museum, designed to resemble a rolled-up Azeri carpet.
This evening celebrate the conclusion of the tour with a special farewell dinner in the Old City.
If departing today, tour arrangements conclude with a group transfer from the hotel to Baku International Airport for the suggested afternoon flight on Emirates for Australia via Dubai. Arrival in Australia on the afternoon of Wednesday, 12 June.
Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your travel arrangements, including flights and post-tour accommodation.
*Single travellers may request to share.
Please advise at time of booking.
Final payment due
25 March 2019
Please see Terms & Conditions for fitness level definitions.
Azerbaijan – Australian passport holders require a tourist visa. Visas are obtained online prior to departure. Renaissance Tours will assist you with the application process.
Georgia and Armenia – No visa required for Australian passport holders.
Please contact Renaissance Tours for current airfares and flight reservations.
Tour price includes
- Accommodation with breakfast daily (B)
- Meals as per itinerary (L=Lunch, D=Dinner). Wines with meals
- Comfortable air-conditioned coach transportation
- Comprehensive sightseeing including local guides and entrance fees as per itinerary
- Talks with your tour leader, Liz Gibson
- Transfers in Yerevan and Baku if travelling on suggested flights on the tour start and end dates
- Visas for Armenia and Azerbaijan
- Gratuities for local guides and drivers
- Hotel porterage (one piece per person)
Tour price does not include
- International airfares (please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for assistance)
- Transfers it not travelling on suggested flights on the tour start and end dates
- Items of a personal nature (e.g. telephone, laundry, minibar etc.)
- Travel insurance (a condition of travel; please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for assistance)
Yerevan – Marriott Hotel *****
Jermuk – Hyatt Place Hotel ****
Goris – Mirhav ***+
Dzoraget – Hotel Tufenkian Avan ***+
Akhaltsikhe – Lomsia***
Kazbegi – Rooms Hotel Kazbegi****
Tbilisi – Tbilisi Marriott *****
Sighnaghi – Kabadoni ****
Sheki – Sheki Saray ****
Baku – Hilton *****
NB. Hotels of a similar standard may be substituted.