Georgia Explorer

Georgia

Culture | Silk Road

Medieval fortresses, ancient wine culture & charming locals

12 days £1,945 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 Georgia's charms on this comprehensive tour of the country exploring its stunning landscapes, its spectacularly set churches, sprawling medieval fortresses as well as its UNESCO heritage sites, and its wonderful cuisine and hospitality. Trace the paths of invading armies from Persians to Ottomans, and the more recent imprints of Soviet occupation. Learn how to write your name in Georgian, make traditional bread and sweets and cook some traditional Georgian recipes.

TOUR HIGHLIGHTS

  • Leisurely wander through the picturesque narrow streets of Tblisi’s old town
  • Explore the beautiful wine-country of Kakheti
  • Stunning views over Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park.
  • Appreciate the intricate Georgian architecture of the Svetitskhoveli Cathedral
  • Inspect the sturdy 14th century Khertvisi Fortress
  • Marvel at the centuries-old artwork within the Gelati Monastery
  • Listen to traditional Georgian polyphonic singing
  • Admire the synthesis of medieval and modern architectural styles at Bagrati Cathedral
  • Head just south of the Russian border for panoramic views of Mount Kazbek
  • The Soviet era Stalin Museum
  • Amble on a mountaintop around the iconic Gergeti Trinity Church
  • Georgian felt-making workshop

Places Visited

Tbilisi - Sighnaghi - Tsinandali - Telavi - Kakheti region - Gremi - Kvareli - Mtskheta - Uplistsikhe - Borjomi - Vardzia - Rabati Castle - Kutaisi - Martvili - Gori - Kazbegi

What's Included

Accommodation as mentioned
Transportation by AC vehicle
Non AC 4WD vehicle to Juta
Meals as mentioned
Entrance fees 
Small bottle of water per day
Guide and driver
Itinerary
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Day 1 : Arrive in Tbilisi

Arrive at Tbilisi airport where you will be met by a Travel The Unknown representative and transferred to your hotel. The rest of the day is free. Overnight in Tbilisi.

Meal plan: n/a

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. 

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Day 2 : Tbilisi

After breakfast take a tour of the old city including Narikala Fortress and the Mother of Georgia statue.  Later take a stroll along the famous Rustaveli Avenue, and visit the National Museum (closed on Mondays) and the Dry Bridge flea market. Take in the views from the funicular before going for dinner in a local restaurant. Overnight in Tbilisi. 

Meal plan: Breakfast & dinner

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.  

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Day 3 : Kakheti Region

In the morning we begin exploring the Kakheti region, enjoying superb views of the Great Caucasus Mountains and valleys. We visit Sighnaghi and the Tsinandali estate. Visit a 300-year-old wine cellar and learn how Georgian wine-making differs from that of other parts. Stop off to try your hand at making traditional bread and traditional Georgian sweets before driving to Telavi for dinner and overnight.

Meal plan: Breakfast & dinner

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.

Georgia’s easternmost region, Kakheti, justifiably boasts of history, nature and wine.  Ancient monasteries, cathedrals and fortresses are folded into a beautiful and diverse landscape featuring the formidable snow-capped Caucasian mountains, expansive fertile valleys and rugged stretches of sparse vegetation.  Kakheti is synonymous with wine throughout Georgia.  Archaeologists have dated grape remains from 8,000 years ago, crowning Kakheti and its unique Qvevri tradition as the world’s oldest wine culture – though many different techniques are employed today. Warm-hearted locals enjoy educating visitors at wine cellars and wineries.

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Day 4 : Telavi - Gremi - Kvareli - Tbilisi

In the morning visit Telavi market and then continue to Gremi to visit the site. Afterwards drive to Kvareli and visit a winery before having a traditional Georgian lunch. Later drive back to Tbilisi. Overnight in Tblisi.

Meal plan: Breakfast & lunch

Telavi is a historical city in Kakheti, an eastern region of Georgia and is considered to be one of Georgia’s most ancient cities. With fascinating museums, well-preserved religious buildings and a castle, Telavi offers visitors a unique insight into Georgian history and culture.

Gremi was once a trading town with a population that reached 100,000, until it was destroyed by invading Persian forces in the mid-17th century. The architectural complex used to be a citadel and consists of a tower, the king's chambers, defensive walls and the Church of Archangels that was built out of square bricks. The Church is now one of the only remains of the 16th-century town. It is a fine example of Georgian architecture and its faded frescoes offer a glimpse into the religious devotion of the period. King Levan, who built this complex, is buried here.

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.  

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Day 5 : Tbilisi - Mtskheta - Uplistsikhe - Borjomi

After breakfast drive to Mtskheta and visit Jvari Monastery and Svetitskhoveli Cathedral. Later we drive to Uplistsikhe for a visit and then continue to Borjomi for dinner and overnight.

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 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.

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Day 6 : Borjomi - Vardzia - Khertvisi - Borjomi

In the morning we travel along the beautiful route to Vardzia. On our way back we visit the 10th century Khertvisi Fortress, and the Rabat complex in Akhaltsikhe, before returning to Borjomi for overnight.

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 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.  

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Day 7 : Borjomi - Kutaisi

After breakfast explore Kutaisi including Bagrati Cathedral. If we can, we will hear some local polyphonic singers performing. Continue visit at a local agricultural market and then on to Gelati Monastery. Before dinner we will have a short lesson on Georgian language and script. Overnight in Kutaisi.

Meal plan: Breakfast & dinner

Kutaisi is Georgia’s second largest city and has a history that dates back to 2000 BC, when it served as the capital city of the Kingdom of Colchis. Ottoman forces conquered the city in the early 16th century, but it was reclaimed by the Georgian king in 1770. The city possesses two UNESCO World Heritage sites and sits on the banks of the Rioni river.

The Gelati Monastery, founded by beloved Georgian ruler David IV (also referred to as ‘’David the Builder’’), consists of the main Church of the Virgin, the Church of St. George, the Church of St. Nicholas and a bell tower.  The Academy building recalls the monastery’s history as a cultural centre of ancient Georgia, which attracted great scientific and philosophical minds.  Murals and mosaics, some of which date back to the 12th century, cover the spacious interior of the buildings, arching over windows, pressing backwards into alcoves and reaching the highest stretches of the vaulted ceiling.  Despite damage from invasion and feuds, visitors can still admire the detailed enamel and metal work from a bygone era.  

Perched on a mountain that overlooks Kutaisi is the 11th century Bagrati Cathedral. Also known as The Cathedral of the Dormition, this building was completed during the reign of King Bagrat III, a man who is considered the first king of a unified Georgia. The cathedral lay in ruins for over 300 years after invading Ottomans destroyed it. Finally restored in 2012, Bagrati Cathedral now showcases medieval and modern Georgian architectural styles.

The roots of the word polyphonic translate as ''many sounds.''  Polyphonic singers are able to simultaneously produce a fundamental tone with an audible overtone.  Polyphonic singing in Georgia is a popular and treasured secular tradition, though the musical style varies by region.  Over time, polyphonic singing became ingrained into everyday life; polyphonic songs were sung by workers in the fields and by citizens hoping to cure illnesses, and the technique eventually carried over to hymns.  

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Day 8 : Kutaisi - Martvili - Okatse - Kutaisi

Explore West Georgia (Imereti and Samegrelo provinces) today. Travel to Martvili to see the canyon (closed on Mondays) named after the local royal family, Dadiani. Weather permitting, take a boat tour along the canyon. Later transfer to Okatse (closed on Mondays) and take a walk along a special bridge-way and explore the canyon. Overnight in Kutaisi.

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

The picturesque Okatse Canyon can be found in the Imereti region. Visitors can enjoy the magnificent scenery, of the snow-capped Askhi Pleateau, from the many footpaths within the canyon. The best views can be seen from Okatse bridge - which is suspended 50 metres above the canyon. 

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Day 9 : Kutaisi - Gori - Kazbegi

After breakfast drive East to stop at the Stalin Museum in Gori. After lunch continue along the Georgian Military Highway, stopping to visit Ananuri Fort and enjoying breath-taking views of the Great Caucasus Mountains up to Kazbegi. For dinner we visit a local family and learn how to prepare some traditional Georgian dishes and enjoy dinner there. Overnight in Kazbegi.

Meal plan: Breakfast & dinner

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.

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. 

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Day 10 : Kazbegi - Gergeti - Kazbegi

In the morning walk to Gergeti Church for superb views over the settlement (a vehicle is available for those who prefer not to walk). In the afternoon, drive to the remote village of Juta, which is cut off from the rest of the country by snow for six months of the year. Visit a local lady to taste Matsoni yogurt and honey. In the late afternoon we return to Kazbegi for overnight.

Meal plan: Breakfast & dinner

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. 

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Day 11 : Kazbegi - Tbilisi

In the morning visit a local master producing Teka (traditional Georgian felt textiles) and taste some Georgian confiture. Later transfer to Tbilisi and have some free time to explore on your own, go souvenir-shopping, or even take a steam-bath. Overnight in Tbilisi.

Meal plan: Breakfast & dinner

Visit a local craft studio to see how traditional Georgian Teka felt is made. Felting is one of the oldest and most ecologically clean ways of processing  wool; sheep do not  suffer at all when their wool is collected. Felt fragments have been found from as far back as the second millennium BC and felt is still commonly used in everyday garments and accessories to this day. The material is also a popular art medium. Every step of felting is a manual, individual and highly creative process. It takes 2 to 3 days (depending on complexity) to make one scarf. 

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Day 12 : Tbilisi - Departure

After breakfast transfer to the airport for onward travel.

Meal plan: Breakfast

Accommodation

Accommodation

All accommodation subject to availability. Final accommodation choices will be confirmed after booking.

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Iota Hotel

Located just 350 yards from Freedom Square, the modern, stylish Iota Hotel Tbilisi offers 90 air-conditioned rooms and free Wi-Fi throughout the property. There is a restaurant on the top floor with views over the city and an attractive garden in which to relax. All rooms come with a flat-screen TV, safety box, minibar and a private bathroom, and upper room categories feature a seating area, terrace and/or balcony. For your comfort, bathrobes, slippers and free toiletries are provided, and there is a 24-hour front desk where the friendly staff will be happy to help.

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Schuchmann Wines Chateau & Spa

This elegant design hotel in Telavi has its own vineyard and stunning views of the Caucasus Mountain Range. Guests can enjoy free wine tours and wine tasting in the hotel's winery, and complimentary Wi-Fi is available throughout the hotel. Rooms are furnished in a simple, contemporary style with wooden floors and a flat-screen TV. Higher room categories include a fireplace or balcony. The on-site restaurant features Georgian cuisine and a tasting room where guests can sample local wines. A buffet breakfast is provided and room service is also available. Schuchmann Wines Chateau & Spa offer an outdoor swimming pool, a sauna and spa treatments. Guests can play mini golf, table tennis, billiard.

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Borjomi Likani Health & Spa Centre

Located just 400 yards away from the Kura River, Borjomi Likani Health & Spa Centre offers a luxurious experience in an area of Georgia known for the healing properties of its mineral waters since the time of the Tsars. The hotel is set in a pre-alpine area, offering visitors tranquility with views that can be admired from one of its common areas or restaurants. Facilities include a bar, concierge service, bicycle rental, 24-hour front desk and luggage storage. Tennis, squash, billiards and horse riding can be enjoyed on-site or in the surrounding area.

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Best Western Kutaisi

Located in the heart of Kutaisi, just a few steps from the White Bridge and the historical centre, the Best Western Kutaisi is the perfect base from which to explore the city. The hotel blends a contemporary style with nods to Georgian culture, and prides itself on the high standard of customer service. Featuring a terrace and complimentary Wi-Fi throughout, the hotel offers 45 air-conditioned rooms that are equipped with a flat-screen TV and desk. Breakfast is served daily in the on-site restaurant, and there is a bar for guests to enjoy in the evenings.

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Hotel Porta Caucasia

Porta Caucasia Kazbegi is located in Kazbegi, 24.1 km from Gudauri and 40.2 km from Vladikavkaz. The hotel has a beautiful terrace and views of the surrounding mountains, and guests can enjoy a drink at the bar. All rooms include a flat-screen TV with satellite channels, and some rooms feature a sitting area for your comfort. Bathrobes, slippers and complimentary toiletries are provided to enhance your stay. There is a 24-hour front desk, hairdresser's, and gift shop at the property.

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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
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