The Great Caucasus Tour

Baku, Shamakhi, Sheki, Sighnaghi, Tbilisi, Mtskheta, Kazbegi, Gudauri, Gori, Akhaltsikhe, Gyumri, Oshakan, Yerevan, Garni, Geghard

The Great Caucasus Tour is a thrilling string of discoveries stretching across three ancient lands. Travel from the heights of Ananuri Castle to the depts of Vardzia Cave, from ancient Garni Temple and Geghard Fortress to Baku’s modern-day skyline. Your discoveries of countless cultural sites will be augmented by Azerbaijan’s Mud Volcanoes, Georgia’s Mount Kazbeg and Armenia’s scenic drives on this ultimate Eurasian tour.
Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia are bound together by far more than the majestic mountains that envelop them, for their dramatic histories and timeless traditions overlap in unmistakable ways. Yet each nation lays claim to a remarkably unique language, distinct customs and cultural icons all their own, and this blend of rich diversity is precisely what makes a multi-country Caucasus tour so vibrant and unforgettable.

Arrive in Baku, Azerbaijan’s capital. Transfer to the hotel, where check-in begins at noon. Your guide and driver will pick you up to begin your private city tour to the following:

  • Nizami Ganjavi Avenue, where you’ll see Nizami Ganjavi Monument, dedicated to the renowned Persian poet, before walking through Fountain Square and Rasulzade Street.
  • Icheri Sheher, Baku’s ancient city center which houses several historical monuments:
    • Maiden Tower (date unconfirmed), an ancient fortress believed to have once been a fire temple. It now serves as a city symbol and affords a great view of Baku from the top.
    • Palace of the Shirvanshahs (15th century), a UNESCO ensemble and Azerbaijan’s finest example of medieval architecture.
    • Multani Caravanserai (15th century), built as a haven for Indian merchants and fire worshipers.
    • Market Square (17th century), a plaza filled with shops selling carpets, souvenirs and antiques.
  • Azerbaijan National Carpet Museum, holding the largest collection of Azerbaijani carpets in the world.
  • Martyrs’ Lane, a memorial to Azerbaijanis who have perished in fighting which overlooks the Caspian Sea and Flame Towers.
Return to the hotel or visit the 60-meter-high Baku Ferris Wheel on your own. Overnight at the hotel in Baku.
Meals provided: none

Depart Baku and drive to Gobustan National Park (60km, 1hr), located on the west bank of the Caspian Sea.

  • Wander through Gobustan Rock Art Cultural Landscape, an open-air museum dating back to 10000 BC. Discover 6000 petroglyphs depicting ritual dances, warriors, animals, the cosmos and more.
  • Explore the Petroglyph Museum for an introduction to the park’s cultural and ecological history.
  • Drive (10km, 15min) to the Mud Volcanoes, where underground gases bubble up from the earth in a mixture of mud and methane.
  • Drive (80km, 1hr 15min) to Yanar Dag (Burning Mountain), a natural gas fire which has been burning for thousands of years due to the large reservoir of gas under Absheron Peninsula.
  • Drive (20km, 30min) to Ateshgah Fire Temple (dates vary), a historic center of Zoroastrian worship.
Return to Baku. Overnight at the hotel in Baku.
Meals provided: breakfast

In the morning, drive to Shamakhi (120km, 1hr 40min). On the way, visit Diri Baba Mausoleum (15th century), a two-story monument carved into a cliff as a unique display of Shirvan-Absheron architecture.
Continue driving to ancient Shamakhi, former seat of the Shirvanshah Empire, to visit Juma Mosque (8th century), the oldest mosque in Azerbaijan whose ancient Islamic architecture is unparalleled in the country.
Drive to Sheki (170km, 2hrs 30min). Upon arrival, begin your tour to its finest sites:

  • Sheki Khans’ Palace (18th century), a UNESCO Site built without glue or nails and famous for its stained glass art and miniature paintings.
  • Sheki Caravanserai (18th century), a historical complex which once housed merchants and their camels.
  • Gelersen-Gerersen Fortress (Come-and-See Fortress, 15th century), a once-impenetrable citadel whose history is closely linked with the city.
Overnight at the hotel in Sheki.
Meals provided: breakfast
After breakfast, head towards the border with Georgia (110km, 1hr 30min). Cross the border and continue driving to Sighnaghi (50km, 50min), enjoying picturesque landscapes on the way.
Walk the cobblestone streets of Sighnaghi, a Silk Road outpost in east Kakheti known as The City of Love.
Explore Bodbe Monastery Complex (9th century), one of Georgia’s most acclaimed religious sites and purported resting place of St. Nino, who is credited with converting Georgia to Christianity in the 4th century.
Drive to Tbilisi, Georgia’s capital (110km, 1hr 40min). On the way visit Chailuri Fortress (16th century), a forlorn military outpost whose origins remain a mystery.
Overnight at the hotel in Tbilisi.
Meals provided: breakfast

In the morning, your guide and driver will meet you at the hotel for a private city tour to the following:

  • Holy Trinity Cathedral, one of the largest houses of worship in the world.
  • Drive to Tbilisi’s modern quarter, passing the Parliament Building on Rustaveli Avenue before reaching Freedom Square.
  • Metekhi Church (13th century), guarded by a statue of King Vakhtang Gorgasali.
  • Bridge of Peace, which leads to the popular Rike Park.
  • Cable car ride to Narikala Fortress (4th century), Georgia’s oldest citadel and the best spot for a panoramic view of the city. Nearby stands the 20-meter-high statue of Kartlis Deda, Mother of Georgia.
  • Old Tbilisi, the city’s largest district, including the famous Jumah Mosque.
  • Bridge of Lovers, found near the cooling waters of the 22-meter-high Legvtakhevi Waterfall.
  • Historic Abanotubani District, including the Tbilisi Sulfur Baths.
  • Jan Shardeni Street (Jean Chardin), lined with cozy coffee shops, wine tasting bars and souvenir stores.
  • Sioni Cathedral (7th century), with a jaw-dropping interior of gold and turquoise frescoes.
  • Leaning Clock Tower of Tbilisi, next to the famous Reza Gabriadze Puppet Theater.
  • Anchiskhati Basilica Church (6th century), the oldest house of worship in Tbilisi.
Transfer to the hotel or continue exploring Old Tbilisi on your own. Overnight at the hotel in Tbilisi.
Meals provided: breakfast

In the morning, drive from Tbilisi to Mtskheta (25km, 30min) to explore two UNESCO World Heritage Sites:

  • Jvari Orthodox Monastery (6th century), a unique remnant of the early Georgian church which amazes visitors with simple yet beautiful facades.
  • Svetitskhoveli Cathedral (11th century), where one of the holiest items of the orthodox Christian world, the robe worn by Jesus Christ at crucifixion, is believed to be buried. Admire its architecture and frescoes as you learn the legends connected with the church.

Continue to Stepantsminda in Georgia’s northern Kazbegi Region (135km, 2hrs 30min).

  • Stop at Ananuri Castle Complex (16th-17th centuries) to explore fortresses and churches, climb its tower and stand awestruck before a sweeping view of the Caucasus Mountains and Zhinvali Reservoir.
  • Visit the People’s Friendship Arch (1983) for another stunning view of the Caucasus. Also known as the Russia-Georgia Friendship Monument, the mural celebrates solidarity between the nations.
  • Arrive in Stepantsminda for a short drive up 2170 meters to Gergeti Holy Trinity Church (14th century), with Mount Kazbek looming before you at 5030 meters. Enjoy the view as you tour the church and belfry.
Drive to Gudauri. Overnight at the hotel in Gudauri.
Meals provided: breakfast
After breakfast, drive to Gori (155km, 2hrs 20min), built in 1089-1125 and famous as the birthplace of Joseph Stalin. Learn about the Soviet leader at Stalin Museum, which includes the house in which Stalin was born.
Continue to Uplistsikhe Cave Town (15km, 20min), built entirely from rock and inhabited from the 1st millennium BC. Trace the peoples that occupied the town as you explore homes, churches and a secret tunnel.
Drive to Akhaltsikhe (145km, 2hrs 20min) and explore Rabati Castle (dates vary). Climb the old stone fortress, which stands on a hill along the Potskhovi River, as you tour castle quarters, houses of worship and gardens.
Visit Samtskhe-Javakheti History Museum, with exhibits from the BC era through the 19th century. Overnight at the hotel in Akhaltsikhe.
Meals provided: breakfast
After breakfast, drive to Vardzia (60km, 1hr), stopping along the way at Khertvisi Fortress (10th-13th centuries), a Silk Road post and one of the oldest citadels in Georgia.
Visit Vardzia Cave, a 12th-century monastery and the largest cave city in Georgia, to wander its tunnels, chambers and temple.
Transfer to the Georgia-Armenia border point at Bavra (70 km, 2hrs), where you will cross the border and meet your Armenian guide and driver.
Drive to Gyumri, Armenia’s second largest city. Pass authentic Soviet architecture as you visit the central Vartanants Square and Holy Saviour’s Church (19th century), which survived two major earthquakes.
Overnight at the hotel in Gyumri.
Meals provided: breakfast

Meet your driver at the Gyumri hotel for a trip to Aragatsotn Province to visit:

  • Amberd Fortress (dates vary), located 2300 meters above sea level on Mt. Aragats, the highest peak in Armenia. Much of the castle’s bath house, robust walls and 11th-century Vahramashen Church remain intact.
  • Armenian Alphabet Monument (2005), larger-than-life recreations of local letters created to celebrate the 1600th anniversary of the Armenian alphabet.
  • Saghmosavank Monastery (13th century), known for its manuscript collection and dazzling view of Kasagh River Canyon.
  • Hovhannavank Cathedral (13th century), famous for its cruciform design and umbrella-shaped dome.
  • Continue to Oshakan (30km, 40min). Visit Saint Mesrop Mashtots Church (dates vary), a popular pilgrimage destination built to mark the grave of Mesrop Mashtots, father of the Armenian alphabet.
Arrive in Yerevan, Armenia’s capital. Overnight at the hotel in Yerevan.
Meals provided: breakfast

Your guide and driver will pick you up from your hotel in Yerevan to begin your private tour to the following:

  • Matenadaran, a.k.a the Mesrop Mashtots Institute of Ancient Manuscripts, which holds nearly half of the world’s historic Armenian manuscripts, including original texts and early 5th-6th century writings.
  • Cascade Complex, whose 500 steps serve as a city symbol and house the Cafesjian Center for the Arts.
  • Holy Mother of God Katoghike Church (13th century), one of the city’s oldest churches which is famous for the engravings on its walls and for its disappearance from the public eye on two occasions.
  • Republic Square and Vernisaj Market, the largest souvenir bazaar in Yerevan.
  • Saint Gregory The Illuminator Cathedral (2001), the world’s largest Armenian Apostolic cathedral.
  • Tsitsernakaberd (1967), the Armenian Genocide Memorial Complex dedicated to the victims of the early 20th century massacres.
  • Megerian Carpet Museum, where you can observe the production of rugs and see colorful carpets from each region of Armenia.
Transfer back to the hotel. Overnight at the hotel in Yerevan.
Meals provided: breakfast

In the morning, drive to Garni in Kotayk Province (30km, 45min), to tour the following:

  • Garni Temple (1st century AD), ancient Temple of the Sun dedicated to Mithra which strongly mirrors architecture of the Greco-Roman Empire.
  • Garni Fortress (3rd-2nd centuries BC), the summer residence of Armenian kings which overlooks the Azat River from a height of 300 meters.
  • Mashtots Hayrapet Church (12th century), noted for its cross-stone khachkars and pre-Christian carvings.
Depart Garni and drive to Geghard (10km, 20min).
Explore Geghard Monastery (4th century), also called Ayrivank Monastery. A UNESCO Site, it is famous for its bas-reliefs and stunning scenery. Explore its tunnels and see the spear believed to have pierced Christ's body.
Return to Yerevan (40km, 1hr) and enjoy free time. Overnight at the hotel in Yerevan.
Meals provided: breakfast
Breakfast at the hotel, followed by a free morning for packing or independent exploration of Yerevan. Check out of the hotel by noon and transfer to Zvartnots International Airport. End of The Great Caucasus Tour.
Meals provided: breakfast
  • Round-trip airport transfers;
  • Private local guide;
  • Entrance fees to the sights as per itinerary;
  • Transportation throughout the tour;
  • Accommodation based on double/twin room at hotel (11 nights, with breakfast);
  • Bottled mineral water (1 liter per person per day).
  • International flight tickets before and after the tour;
  • Hotel charges for additional services;
  • Meals (lunches and dinners);
  • Personal travel insurance;
  • All other charges and services not mentioned under Inclusions;
  • Tips are not included but are appreciated.

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