A Road Less Travelled

Journey through the breathtaking Caucasus to three distinctive countries – Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan – to explore one of the most culturally complex and linguistically diverse parts of our world. Extending from the Black Sea to the Caspian Sea, and wedged between Russia in the north and Turkey and Iran in the south, the Caucasus occupies a strategic position between Europe and Asia. This unique location has long attracted invaders, including Persians, Mongols, Turks and Russians, resulting in a rich and complex mix of religion, language and culture.

From the ancient Byzantine monasteries and churches of Armenia and Georgia, to the Persian-style palaces and mosques of Azerbaijan, Caucasian architecture is a fascinating fusion of divergent styles. The three cosmopolitan Caucasian capital cities of Baku, Tbilisi and Yerevan will captivate you with their blend of ancient tradition and contemporary culture.

 

This tour is part of the World Art Tours program organised by the Art Gallery Society of NSW in partnership with Renaissance Tours.

RT-WEB-AGS-RT-Logos-2017-800px-100px

Suggested evening departure from Australia on Emirates to Dubai.

Early morning arrival in Dubai.

Transfer to your hotel. Following an early check-in and breakfast, the remainder of the day is at leisure. (B)

Morning transfer from the hotel to Dubai International Airport. Depart Dubai on FlyDubai flight (FZ 715) to Yerevan – 3 hours flight (Flight not included in tour price. Flight can be included in Emirates fares ex-Australia).

Mid-afternoon arrival in Yerevan, the capital of Armenia. Transfer to the hotel.

Enjoy a welcome briefing and dinner with Liz. (BD)

Following a morning talk, walk to National History Museum for a guided tour.

After lunch, visit the Genocide Memorial Museum.

Evening is at leisure. (BL)

This morning walk to the National Art Gallery for a guided tour of the collection.

The remainder of the day is free to explore the Vernissage open air flea market and the Yerevan Cascade, a popular meeting place for locals with an impressive display of international sculptures donated by the Cafesjian Centre for the Arts.

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. (BD)

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 the remains of Zvartnots Cathedral built in the 7th century when much of Armenia was under Byzantine control. Continue to the 7th century Hripsime Church constructed in the Armenian Classical style.

Return to Yerevan. Evening is at leisure. (BL)

Depart Yerevan and drive 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.

After lunch by the River Vayk, 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. Return by cable car to Vorotan and continue to Goris and overnight at charming local hotel. (BLD)

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. (BLD)

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).

After lunch, drive to the Georgian border. Continue onto Tbilisi, capital of Georgia. (BLD)

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. Continue to the remains of the Nariqala Fortress and enjoy a panoramic view of Tbilisi.

Return 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. (BL)

This morning drive to the ancient capital and religious centre of Georgia – Mtskheta (3000 years old), one of the world’s oldest continuously inhabited cities. 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.

Following lunch, drive along the Georgian Military Highway visiting the 17th century Ananuri architectural complex, where the two churches and fortress overlook the Zhinvali water reservoir. The carvings on the churches are some of the best examples of Georgian art.

Continue further through the spectacular High Caucasus Mountains to Kazbegi.

Dinner at hotel. (BLD)

Following breakfast, enjoy 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.

Following lunch in Kazbegi, return to Tbilisi.

Afternoon and evening is at leisure. (BL)

This morning travel to the Uplistikhe archaeological site, around 10kms east of Gori. Once an extensive ancient city, it comprises rock cut structures from c.1200 BCE to the 14th/15th centuries and is located in the ancient kingdom of Kartli.

Return to Tbilisi for lunch. The remainder of the afternoon and evening is at leisure. (B)

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.

This afternoon visit the National Gallery of Art and its collection of Oriental, Russian, European and Georgian art including the work of the renowned late 19th/early 20th century “primitivist” painter, Niko Pirosmani.

Evening is at leisure. (B)

Early departure for the David Gareja monastery complex located on the rocky, arid slopes of Mount Gareja, originally founded in 6th century (the impressive cave frescos involve a steep climb for the fit and adventurous).

After a picnic lunch, continue to Sighnaghi. (BLD)

Depart Sighnaghi and drive to Alaverdi and the 11th century fortified Cathedral of St George, the tallest cathedral in Georgia. Drive further to 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. (BLD)

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 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. Visit 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. (BLD)

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. (BL)

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 or visit 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. (BD)

Following breakfast, transfer from the hotel to Baku International Airport. Suggested departure on Azerbaijan Airlines for Dubai. (Flight not included in tour price. Flight can be included in Emirates fares ex-Australia).

On arrival in Dubai, transfer to hotel. (B)

Tour arrangements conclude after breakfast.

If returning to Australia today, we recommend a morning departure on an Emirates flight to Australia. Arrival in Australia, morning of Wednesday 28 June. (B)

Per person, twin-share

AUD 9,500

Single supplement*

AUD 2,200

Deposit per person

AUD 500

Reduction without Dubai stopovers

Per person twin-share -AUD 300

Single -AUD 480

*Single travellers may request to share.
Please advise at time of booking.

Final payment due

07 April 2017

Tour code

AG1707

Fitness level

Above average

Please see Terms & Conditions for fitness levels definitions.

Visas

Australian and New Zealand passport holders do require a tourist visa for Azerbaijan and Armenia. Renaissance Tours will arrange your Azerbaijan visa prior to departure from Australia. Because there is no diplomatic representation for Armenia in Australia, visas are obtained on arrival.

No visa required for Georgia.

Suggested airline

Qantas/Emirates, FlyDubai and
Azerbaijan Airlines

Please contact Renaissance Tours for current airfares and flight reservations.

Tour price includes

  • Accommodation with daily breakfast (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
  • Transfers in Dubai, Yerevan and Baku if travelling on suggested flights
  • Visa’s for Armenia and Azerbaijan
  • Gratuities for local guides and drivers
  • Hotel porterage (one piece per person)

Tour price does not include

  • Airfares
  • Items of a personal nature (e.g. telephone, laundry, minibar etc.)
  • Travel insurance

 

Your hotels
Dubai – Jumeirah Creekside Hotel*****
Yerevan – Hyatt Hotel ****+
Goris – Mirhav ***+
Dzoraget – Hotel Tufenkian Avan ***+
Tbilisi – Tbilisi Marriott *****
Kazbegi – Rooms Hotel Kazbegi****
Sighnaghi – Kabadoni ****
Sheki – Sheki Saray ****
Baku – Pullman*****

NB. Hotels of a similar standard may be substituted.