Armenia & Georgia Explorer

Armenia | Georgia

Culture | Silk Road

Journey through the rich history of Armenia & Georgia

12 days £1,995 pp This is the per person group tour price, based on 2 sharing. The price is subject to change with exchange rate and flight cost fluctuations.
Dates & Prices

Intro

Discover the rich history of Armenia and Georgia as you journey across the stunning landscapes of these two fascinating countries, exploring the abundance of medieval fortresses and spectacular churches and monasteries. Experience Armenia’s warm hospitality as you begin your tour in the capital of Yerevan before visiting UNESCO-listed sites, from Etchmiadzin Cathedral to Zvartnotz Temple. Uncover Armenia's traditions as you learn how to make authentic Armenian dishes and sample award-winning brandy in Ararat Brandy Factory. Continue to the wonderful rock formations at Garni and observe the beautiful views from Sevanavank Monastery over Lake Sevan before crossing over into Georgia. Wander the narrow streets of Tbilisi’s Old Town, visit a traditional Georgian wine cellar in Kakheti and taste “Kakhetian” wines at Kindzmarauli Wine Factory. Explore the magnificent Svetitskhoveli Cathedral and the ancient cave towns of Uplistikhe and Vardzia before learning about Georgia’s Soviet history in Gori's Stalin Museum. Finally, travel up to the stunning Caucasus Mountains and marvel at the spectacular natural beauty this wonderful region has to offer.

TOUR HIGHLIGHTS

  • The 'Pink City' of Yerevan
  • The ruins of Zvartnotz Temple
  • Pay your respects at the Armenian Genocide Museum
  • 'Symphony of the Stones' at Garni
  • Lake Sevan, the largest lake in the Caucasus
  • Narrow streets of Tblisi’s old town
  • Visit Kvaleri, the heart of the Kakheti wine-producing region
  • Stunning views from the sacred pilgrimage site of Jvari Monastery
  • Inspect the sturdy 14th century Khertvisi Fortress
  • Soviet history displayed at the Stalin Museum

Places Visited

Yerevan - Garni - Tbilisi - Lake Sevan - Sighnaghi - Velistsikhe - Kvareli - Mtskheta - Uplistsikhe - Borjomi - Gori - Vardzia - Rabati Castle - Kazbegi

What's Included

Arrival & departure transfers
Ground transport with driver
Domestic flights (if relevant - refer to itinerary)
Accommodation
Meals (refer to itinerary for meal plan)
English-speaking guides
Entrance fees to sites & parks
Itinerary
Image 3

Day 1 : Arrival

Arrive into Yerevan where you will be met by a Travel The Unknown representative and transferred to your hotel. Overnight in Yerevan. 

Meal plan: n/a

Image 3

Day 2 : Yerevan - Etchmiadzin - Zvartnotz - Yerevan

Enjoy a morning tour of Yerevan, including visits to the Republic Square, the Opera House and the Cascade Complex. Continue to the Armenian Genocide Memorial Museum before visiting the History Museum of Armenia. A homemade lunch will be served in a local Art School where you can observe the children's artwork in the art salons. Later, take part in a cooking class and learn how to make the Armenian traditional dish “Dolma”. Drive to the Armavir region to visit the UNESCO-listed Etchmiadzin Cathedral, St. Hripsime Church and Zvartnotz Temple. Return to Yerevan, stopping at Maran Winery on the way. Overnight in Yerevan. 

Meal plan: Breakfast & lunch

The capital of Armenia, Yerevan, sits on the Hrazdan river surrounded by picturesque hills and snow-capped mountains. It is often referred to as the 'Pink City' due to the 106 shades of tufa lava stone used on the city's buildings. During the Soviet years, Russian architect Alexander Tamanyan completely reconstructed Yerevan to resemble the neo-classical city styles of Paris and St. Petersburg. 

The 4th-century Etchmiadzin Cathedral is the central authority of the worldwide Armenian Apostolic Church. Its name translates as 'where the Only Begotten descended' in reference to Gregory the Illuminator's vision of Christ descending from heaven and striking the ground with a golden hammer. The Cathedral was then built on that exact spot. The complex consists of the Mother Cathedral, the monastery with a residing brotherhood, the Catholicos residence, the Kevorkian Theological Seminary and a museum. 

The Maran Winery, founded in 1991, uses a combination of Armenian tradition and French technology to produce new and exciting wines. Interesting variations include pomegranate, apricot and cherry wines. Classic dry, semi-dry, semi-sweet and sweet grape wines are also produced. 

Constructed in the 7th century, the UNESCO-listed Zvartnots Temple originally stood at a height of 49 metres, making it one of Armenia's tallest structures during that period. It consisted of three stories in a cylindrical shape and was crowned with a dome. While all that remains now are the ruins of the lower walls and individual fragments, details including floor mosaics and intricate stone carvings indicate how the temple was once beautifully decorated from top to bottom. It is still questioned as to what caused the temple's fall in the 10th century, though theories include destruction by a powerful earthquake or the temple's cornerstone being removed during an Arab invasion, causing the building to collapse in on itself. 

Opened in 1995, the Armenian Genocide Museum commemorates the victims of the Armenian massacre  from 1915 to 1922 in the Ottoman Empire, told through photographs, newspaper reports and films. Built into the side of a hill, the museum has a simplistic concrete design so not to distract from the 40-metre-high Genocide Monument nearby, reached via a path from the museum flanked by a 100-metre-long wall engraved with the names of the massacred communities. Visits to the museum are now part of the official State protocol, with many foreign official delegations paying their respects, highlighting the importance of remembering such tragedies so they will never repeat themselves. 

Read more
Image 3

Day 3 : Yerevan - Garni - Geghard - Yerevan

In the morning, visit the house-museum of Armenian filmmaker Sergey Parajanov, famous for his extraordinary art and collages. Continue to the pagan Temple of Garni and observe the wonderful rock formations in Garni Canyon along the Azat River. After a short walk (1 - 1.5 hours) in the river valley, reach the portion of Garni Gorge commonly known as the "Symphony of Stones". Enjoy lunch at a local house with a baking demonstration on how to make Armenian flatbread “lavash” in an underground stove called a ‘tonir’. Later, travel northeast of Garni to the magnificent Geghard Monastery before returning to Yerevan for your overnight stay.

Meal plan: Breakfast & lunch

Garni Temple is a picturesque monument of the Hellenistic period and an impressive piece of ancient Armenian architecture built in the 1st century A.D. After Christianity was proclaimed as a state religion in 301, the temple was used as a summer residence of the kings. The Garni canyon, which is a one-hour walk away along the Azat River, is particularly interesting. Its walls are formed of hexagonal rock strips, which is a natural formation known as the 'Symphony of Stones'. The gorge is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

The Geghard Monastery is a magnificent monument of medieval Armenian architecture that is partially carved out of a mountain. It was founded in the 4th century by  Gregory the Illuminator when a  sacred spring was found inside a nearby cave, but the  main chapel was built only in 1215. The name is translated as 'Monastery of the Spear', named after the spear that pierced Jesus on the crucifix. Apostle Jude supposedly brought this spear into Armenia and it is now displayed in the Echmiadzin treasury. However, churches in Rome, Vienna and Antioch also claim to possess this spear. Geghard has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Read more
Image 3

Day 4 : Yerevan - Khor Virap - Yerevan

After breakfast, visit the Megerian Carpets Company, a showroom and factory of handmade Armenian rugs. Enjoy a unique experience watching and even participating in the carpet making process, learning about the different colours and designs of the rugs. After, drive to the Aragatsotn region to visit the Armenian Alphabet Monument, where giant stone letters are dedicated to the founder of Armenia's alphabet, M. Mashtots. Continue to Ararat region and stop at Khor Virap Monastery, the closest point to Mt. Ararat. Return to Yerevan, visiting the local craftshop of a "Duduk" maker en route (Duduk is a traditional Armenian instrument made of apricot wood). Lunch will be served at a local house or restaurant. The afternoon is free at your leisure. In the evening, enjoy dinner in a traditional Armenian restaurant with live folk music. Overnight in Yerevan.

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

The 'Armenian Alphabet Monument', also known as 'Letter Park', is located in the Artashavan village, set against a backdrop of Mt. Aragats. It features 39 giant stone letters dedicated to the founder of the Armenian alphabet, Mesrop Mashtots. The alphabet was introduced in the 5th century  to translate the Bible and is still used to this day. The park has plenty of great photo opportunities. 

The Khor Virap Monastery, located in the Ararat plains, is the closest point to biblical Mt. Ararat. It is a prominent pilgrimage site, as it is where the first Armenian Catholicos resided and where Gregory the Illuminator, Armenia's patron saint, was imprisoned for 14 years. The monastery holds regular services to this day.

Duduk is a traditional Armenian instrument made of apricot wood. Duduk and its music is inscribed on the UNESCO Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Read more
Image 3

Day 5 : Yerevan - Lake Sevan - Fioletovo - Tbilisi (Georgia)

In the morning, depart for Lake Sevan. Climb up Sevan Peninsula and see Sevanavank Monastery before proceeding to Dilijan town. Continue to Fioletovo village mainly inhabited by local "molokans" (translated as “milk drinkers”). Enjoy some sweets and tea or coffee with your host and get an insight into the lives of this unique spiritual sect. After, drive to Lori region to visit the UNESCO-listed Haghpat Monastery. Transfer to the Armenian-Georgian border Sadakhlo where you will change transportation and guide, and after some border formalities continue to Tbilisi in Georgia. In the evening, have dinner in a local restaurant. Overnight in Tbilisi.

Meal plan: Breakfast & dinner

The Sevanavank monastic complex sits on a picturesque peninsula off the shore of Lake Sevan. It was founded in 874 AD for monks from Etchmiadzin Cathedral who had sinned against God. 

Lying at 1900 metres above sea level with an area of 940 square kilometres, Lake Sevan is not only the largest lake in the Caucasus, but it's also one of the largest freshwater high-altitude lakes in the world.  It holds a large variety of fish, including crayfish and the endangered 'ishkhan' (prince trout). Considered the "jewel" of Armenia, the lake scenery is beautiful, with the water often changing colour depending on the weather, from deep blue and turquoise to bright azure. 

Built between the 10th and 13th centuries, the UNESCO-listed Haghpat Monastery was Armenia's largest centre of science during this period, holding a rich collection of books and manuscripts within its library. Along with the nearby Sanahin Monastery, Haghpat became the religious centre of the Lori region in the mid-11th century. It is a beautiful example of medieval Armenian architecture, with many well-preserved structures within the site showcasing wonderful detailing and craftsmanship. 

Read more
Image 3

Day 6 : Tbilisi

After breakfast, enjoy a sightseeing tour around Tbilisi. Explore Tbilisi's Old Town, walking down the narrow streets of the city and observing the religious and secular architecture. Take a cable car ride (if available) to Narikala Fortress and then walk downwards to the sulfur baths. During the tour, you can enjoy superb panoramic views over the Old Town. Afterwards, visit the stunning treasury of the Georgian History Museum (closed on Mondays) before taking a stroll along Rustaveli Avenue – the main street in Tbilisi. Dinner is at a local restaurant with a folklore dance show. Overnight in Tbilisi.

Meal plan: Breakfast & dinner

Tbilisi, formerly known as 'Tiflis', is Georgia's capital and the largest city of Georgia. It lays on the banks of the Mtkvari River and has a population of roughly 1.5 million people. Founded in the 5th century by the monarch of Georgia's ancient precursor, the Kingdom of Iberia, the city was invaded by different invaders over the centuries. The increase of Armenian population was noticed in the 19th century. Tbilisi has many narrow streets and a mixture of religious and secular architecture. There are many churches, synagogues, mosques and 19th-century houses with multi-coloured wooden balconies. 

Tbilisi’s old town stands in the shadow of Mother Georgia’s silvery statue, perched on a hill overlooking a mosaic of multi-coloured houses constructed in the 19th century. Nestled together on narrow streets, the homes feature wooden balconies that allow residents to revel in the fresh air. Established in the 4th century and fortified over hundreds of years, the ruins of Narikala Fortress also tower over Georgia’s capital, offering visitors spectacular panoramic views.  

Read more
Image 3

Day 7 : Tbilisi - Sighnaghi - Velistsikhe - Kvareli - Tbilisi

Travel to the Kakheti region, famous for its wine production and welcoming hospitality. Visit the 9th century Bodbe nunnery where St. Nino, the woman from Cappadocia who brought Christianity to Georgia in the 4th century, is buried. Continue to the 18th century town of Sighnaghi, where there are picturesque views of Alazani valley and the Caucasus mountains. Later, visit a traditional Georgian wine cellar and taste wine made in a "Kvevri" (clay vessel), a method of wine making included in the UNESCO heritage list. Enjoy a homemade lunch with a local family and explore their gardens and vineyards. Afterwards, visit Kindzmarauli Wine Factory and try different kinds of famous manufactured "Kakhetian" wines. Return to Tbilisi for your overnight stay.

Meal plan: Breakfast & lunch

Sighnaghi was once the cultural centre of Eastern Georgia and, following extensive renovation, the town has reclaimed its heritage as a hub of workmanship and trade - the town is famous for  its wine and carpet-making culture.  Known as a 'town museum', its unique architecture has been preserved or recreated. Enjoy walking through Sighnaghi's narrow streets in the shade of balconies richly decorated with lace-y carved ornamentation. Sighnaghi was instrumental in defending King Erekle II from the Lekis in the 18th century due to its geographic location and its city wall, whose 23 towers span nearly 5 kilometres. A short climb up the restored portion of the wall provides a sweeping panorama of the Alazani Valley and the Caucasus Mountains.

The 16th-century Numisi Wine Cellar in Velistsikhe is a traditional winery that also acts as an ethnographic museum. There is a permanent exhibition that showcases ancient wine-making culture and artifacts.

Located in Kakheti province’s northeast is the town of Kvareli.  Nestled near the foothills of the Greater Caucasus Mountains, this town is known as the heart of the Kakheti wine-producing region and as the birthplace of the influential Georgian author Ilia Chavchavadze, who sought to revitalize the Georgian language and to spread literacy.  Wine houses abound in Kvaleri, but the repurposed defensive Kvaleri tunnel provides a unique experience.  The 8 kilometre stretch inside of a mountain naturally chills the 25,000 stored bottles of wine at 7 degrees Celsius.  

Read more
Image 3

Day 8 : Tbilisi - Mtskheta - Gori - Uplistsikhe - Borjomi

Drive to the ancient capital and religious centre of Georgia, Mtskheta, and explore the UNESCO-listed 6th century Jvari Church and 11th century Svetitskhoveli Cathedral where the Robe of Christ is buried. Continue to the town of Gori and explore Uplistsikhe Cave Town. Afterwards, proceed to mineral water town Borjomi for your overnight stay.

Meal plan: Breakfast & dinner

Mtskheta is one of Georgia’s oldest cities, located roughly 20 km north of Tbilisi at the confluence of the Aragvi and Mtkvari rivers. Within the city (which is itself a UNESCO World Heritage Site) is the Svetitskhoveli Cathedral, one of Georgia’s largest places of worship. The site, surrounded by a defensive wall, has housed churches since the 4th century, but the standing building was constructed in the early 11th century and artfully restored in the 1970s. According to Biblical canon, Christ’s robe was carried to Mtskheka after his crucifixion and buried beneath the cathedral. Inside, a painting illustrates the buried garment and the miracle of a pillar rising into the air during the church’s construction.  

Uplistsikhe (meaning 'Fortress of the Ruler') is a rock-hewn town that dates back to 1000 BC and covers an area of approximately 8 hectares. The town is divided over three levels that are connected by a series of narrow tunnels. Uplistsikhe used to be a main point on the Silk Road, but was abandoned in the 17th century.

The city of Gori is famously known as the birthplace of Joseph Stalin. The city is home to the Stalin Museum, which was originally built in 1951 as a local history museum. It later became a memorial museum to Stalin, following his death in 1953. Visitors to the museum can delve into the dictator's past, seeing the house where he spent the first few years of his life, his personal armored train carriage and many items that once belonged to Stalin - including hand written texts, office furniture and a bronze cast of his death mask.

The cross-shaped Jvari Monastery precipitously tops a mountain, peering over the city of Mtskheta and the three-pronged intersection of the Mtkvari and Aragvi rivers below.  This UNESCO World Heritage site was built on the site where St. Nino erected a cross outside of a Pagan temple, symbolising Iberia’s shift to Christianity in the 4th century. The Small Church of Jvari was built to the north of the cross, 60 years before the Jvari Monastery was completed, and can still be identified as ruins. Relief sculptures survive on the sacred pilgrimage site’s exterior, and a giant wooden cross still adorns the small monastery today.

Read more
Image 3

Day 9 : Borjomi - Vardzia - Borjomi

In the morning, travel to the magnificent 12th century cave town of Vardzia. Stop at Khertvisi fortress, stretching out along the river Mtkvari. Explore the complex and amazing 12th century frescos in the rock-hewn church. Close to Vardzia, taste the local yogurt "Matsoni". On the way back to Borjomi, visit Rabat Citadel (closed on Mondays) in Akhaltsikhe. Overnight in Borjomi.

Meal plan: Breakfast & dinner

Founded in 1829, Borjomi is a resort town that was popularised when the Russian royal family built a summer residence here in 1895. Today, Likani Palace belongs to the Georgian president, and the town remains famous as the source of Georgia’s number one export - naturally carbonated mineral water. This water is exported to over 40 countries and is said to have medicinal and restorative properties. Borjomi is known for its picturesque location and setting within the protected Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park, one of the largest national parks in Europe. The town of Borjomi is also home to the most extensive ecologically-themed amusement park in the Caucasus.

With most construction taking place during the second half of the 12th century, Vardzia is a complex of cave dwellings set over 13 levels that centre around a main church and throne room. The Church of the Dormition, which dates back to the 1180s, is decorated with religious and royal murals. The site at Vardzia, however, was destroyed beyond repair by an earthquake in 1283.

The 13th-century Rabati Castle in Akhaltsikhe stands on top of a small hill and its four towers provide excellent views over the surrounding area. The complex occupies a territory of seven hectares and its museum is of great cultural and historical importance to the region. 

The precursor to Khertvisi Fortress was purportedly destroyed by Alexander the Great; the current fortress, one of the largest in Georgia, was constructed  in the 14th century,  more than a millennium later. With 1.5-metre-thick and 20-metre-tall walls, it stretches over half a kilometre and has 19 tiers. The fortress stands guard to the current village of Khertvisi at the joining of the Mtkvari and Paravani rivers.  

Read more
Image 3

Day 10 : Borjomi - Gori - Stepantsminda

In the morning, drive to the magnificent Great Caucasus Mountains, stopping at the Stalin Museum en route. Continue to Ananuri fort with two churches overlooking Jinvali water reservoir. Arrive in Stepantsminda (also known as Kazbegi) over the Cross Pass. Overnight in Stepantsminda.

Meal plan: Breakfast & dinner

The Stalin Museum in Gori, Georgia, is dedicated to the life the Soviet Union leader, Joseph Stalin. The main museum building was constructed in 1951 as a local history museum, which later became a memorial museum to Stalin following his death in 1953. The many displays exhibit different moments in Stalin's life, including objects and items that he owned - such as office furniture and gifts. Beside the museum, visitors can also see the house Stalin was born in, along with his personal amour plated railway carriage, which was used to transport Stalin to international conferences.

Read more
Image 3

Day 11 : Stepantsminda - Tbilisi

Enjoy a 3 hour trek through beautiful valleys and woodlands to and from the Gergeti Trinity Church. Weather permitting, you may catch a glimpse of one of the highest glaciers in the Caucasus - Mt. Kazbegi (5047m). Return to Stepantsminda and visit a local master making “Teka” artifacts. Have lunch with a local family and take part in a cooking class, learning how to make the Georgian dish "Khinkali". Transfer to Tbilisi for your overnight stay. 

Meal plan: Breakfast & lunch

Kazbegi, officially known as ''Stepantsminda", is a small town located just 10 kilometres south of the Russian border. The town is 1,750 metres above sea level and has breathtaking mountain views that include Mount Kazbek (or 'Glacier Mountain'), Georgia’s third highest peak, standing at 5,047 metres high. Kazbek is associated with the myth of Prometheus, who is said to have been chained to the mountain as punishment for stealing fire from the gods and giving it to mortals. 

The isolated Gergeti Trinity Church, constructed in the 14th century, is elevated 2,170m over the Chkheri riverbank, facing Mt. Kazbek. The church holds important religious relics which were brought from Mtskheta during the 18th-century Persian invasion. Even when religious services were outlawed during the Soviet era, tourists were still drawn to the church to admire the small town of Kazbegi. 

Read more
Image 3

Day 12 : Departure

Transfer to the airport at the appropriate time for your international flight home. 

Meal plan: Breakfast

Extensions

Churches of Ethiopia & The Caucasus (21 days)

A journey through ancient, traditional and diverse Christian cultures

Essential Iran & Armenia (15 days)

Discover ancient traditions, rich culture & sublime landscapes

Armenia & Georgia Explorer (12 days)

Journey through the rich history of Armenia & Georgia

Armenia Explorer (9 days)

Ancient monasteries, traditional cuisine & stunning landscapes

Best of the Caucasus (15 days)

Charms & contradictions of Azerbaijan, Georgia & Armenia

Reviews

We had a fantastic time on our Best of the Caucasus tour. We loved eating with the families in Georgia and visiting the Molovan family in Armenia, definitely highlights of the trip. Our Georgian guide in particular was the best you could possibly have, giving a true insight into the country. He should be recommended for an award!

Pam Bowers & John Simpson , Best of the Caucasus

We asked Travel the Unknown to come up with an unusual trip to 6 counties of the Caucasus and the ex-Soviet Union countries. They did so in a tour that flowed seamlessly the whole 38 days. The most impressive part was when Ukrainian Airlines cancelled our connecting flights from Kiev to Minsk, for 2 consecutive days. We contacted Unknown that morning and asked them to arrange an overnight train with a sleeping compartment. When arrived in Kiev, we were met at the airport, driven to the train station where tickets where waiting for us. They arranged for our pickup at the station in Minsk, as we left the train, and we went on our planned tours without losing a minute. That is what I call a great service agency

Irwin Drangel & Linda Schain , Tailor-made Caucasus and Soviet Fringes
More reviews