Georgia is a fantastic country to see and experience. If you are thinking of a visit, I would be delighted to help you to put your trip together. – Dr. Bernard Dias
Day 1, Friday 16 September: UK to Tbilisi. 0500 hrs: Coach from Harrogate to Manchester Airport. 0930 hrs. BMI flight BD585 from Terminal 3, Manchester airport to London Heathrow Terminal 1, arriving at 1030 hrs. BMI flight BD924 from Heathrow at 1150 hrs. to Tbilisi International airport, arriving at 2225 hrs. Coach transfer to Courtyard Marriott Hotel in Tbilisi (18 km).
Day 2, Saturday 17 September: Guided Sightseeing Tour of Tbilisi. In the more than 1500 years since becoming the capital of Georgia, Tbilisi has rebounded in recent years to become one of the most lively and cosmopolitan cities in the Caucasus. Visits to: Metekhi Church of the Virgin, Sulfur Bathhouses, Bakery, Wine House, Open Air Ethnographical Museum and the Treasury of the State Museum. Lunch and dinner at a local restaurant. Overnight at Courtyard Marriott Hotel in Tbilisi.
Day 3, Sunday 18 September: Tbilisi – Signagi – Gurjaani – Tsinandali – Kvareli (250 km) Breakfast at the hotel. Drive to Kakheti region famous for its ancient winegrowing traditions and hospitality. We will pass through the beautiful landscapes of vineyards and wine-producing villages. Visit Bodbe convent (8th – 9th cc); Signagi Royal Town – one of the crossroad of the Great Silk Road, surrounded by defensive walls with 23 towers. Proceed to visit Wine House Gurjaani. According to Georgian traditions here in Marani huge wine “Qvevris” are buried under the ground. Local wine maker will lead the wine tasting. We will see traditional Georgian bread baking and Churchkhela making process. Lunch and wine tasting in Gurjaani. After lunch visit the double cupola Church Kvelatsminda (8th – 9th cc) in Gurjaani. Visit Tsinandali residence and its beautiful botanical garden, museum and wine cellar which belonged to prince Chavchavadze – public figure and poet of 19th century. Drive to Kvareli to stay at the hotel which overlooks lake and picturesque mountain views. Dinner and overnight at Kvareli Lake Resort in Kvareli.
Day 4, Monday 19 September: Kvareli – Napareuli – Telavi – Kvareli (120 km). Breakfast at the hotel. Morning will start with visiting architectural complex of Gremi (16th – 17th cc) and Nekresi monastery of 4th – 16th cc, nestled in a picturesque area of Kakheti region. Lunch and wine tasting in Napareuli – “Twins’ wine cellar” where twin brothers will lead us to vineyards and “Marani”. Wine making is based on wine producing family traditions, which began in Napareuli, in an old wine cellar of Kakhetian man and this tradition was continued by the generations for many years. The wine is made in Qvevri, it has natural filtering for 4 months and is not chemically processed. Napareuli products include such brands as Saperavi, Kaberne, and Kakhuri. Afternoon drive to Telavi to visit museum, Alaverdi cathedral (11th c) and Ikalto monastery (12th c). Before dinner visitKindzmarauli winery and taste wines from Kindzmarauli micro-zone. Dinner and overnight at Kvareli Lake Resort in Kvareli.
Day 5, Tuesday 20 Setember: Kvareli – David Gareja – Tbilisi (220 km). Breakfast at the hotel. Today we take a ride to the unique David-Gareja complex located in the semi desert, known for its glorious natural setting, mural masterpieces and rock-cut monasteries. In our explorations, we will have the opportunity to glimpse some of these most historically and culturally important frescos. The tour involves hiking (2-3 hours). Picnic lunch provided at the nice spot. In the evening return to Tbilisi for dinner and overnight at Courtyard Marriott Hotel.
Day 6, Wednesday 21 September: Tbilisi – Mtskheta – Koreti – Kutaisi (320 km) Breakfast at the hotel. Our first stop of the day will be in Mtskheta, the ancient capital of eastern Georgia, at the southern end of the highway. Georgia’s conversion to Christianity occurred in Mtskheta in 337 AD and it is considered one of Georgia’s most important religious centre. We will visit Church of Jvari (UNESCO site) perched on a cliff overlooking the city and Sveti-Tskhoveli Cathedral (UNESCO site). Drive to Imereti region to visit historical village of Koreti, where Sharvadze wine makers’ family kept Marani, Qvevri and all wine equipment untouched. Here the traditional way of making wine was passing from generation to generation. The old methods and wine traditions described in pre-Christian Greek and Roman historical annals become alive. Lunch in village of Koreti in one of the marani. Afternoon visit Gelati monastery complex (12th c) with extraordinary wall paintings. Dinner and overnight at Guesthouse in Kutaisi.
Day 7, Thursday 22 September: Kutaisi – Nikortsminda – Khvanchkara – Ambrolauri (140 km) Breakfast at the hotel. Drive to picturesque region of Racha to see vineyards, taste famous Khvanchkara, naturally semi sweet wine of local production and white semi dry wine Tetra, attend Qvevri opening and meet old wine makers. Lunch in the village. Visit 12th century Nikortsminda church with façade decoration and wall paintings; Barakoni church of 18th century located at a nice area of Rioni River. Dinner and overnight at Hotel Silovani in Ambrolauri.
Day 8, Friday 23 September: Ambrolauri – Lechkhumi – Batumi (300 km). Breakfast at the hotel. Drive to one of the oldest wine producing region of Lechkhumi. We will visit villages of Lailashi and Orbeli. Here we will taste special wines from Lechkhumi micro zone: Tvishi, Usakhelauri and Ojaleshi. Lunch in the village. Afternoon drive to Batumi, the most beautiful city on a Black sea shore. Before dinner short walking tour to explore the city. Dinner at the restaurant. Overnight at Hotel Intourist Palace in Batumi.
Day 9, Saturday 24 September: Batumi – Zugdidi – Becho (280 km). Breakfast at the hotel. Drive up to the Enguri Gorge where the first inhabitants, mainly gold prospectors, settled in ancient times. It was here that most of Colchis gold was obtained. For centuries the Svan ethnic group evolved there, cut off from the outside world by the high and inaccessible mountains, their culture preserved almost intact. In earlier centuries, Svaneti was a recognised part of the Kingdom of Colchis. Lunch en route. En route we will visit village Etseri, the surrounding villages are known for churches dating back to the middle ages. One of the most beautiful churches in the community is the 10th century Pkhutreri Church of St. Archangels. The church, which was built using carved stones, still contains original paintings from the 11th century. Painting and engraved icons from the 12-14th centuries are also kept here. Wooden door of the church was carved from a Jerusalem Tree and depicts six saints. Afternoon we will reach Becho valley, ecologically the most pure settlement, located at the foot of mount Ushba. Dinner and overnight at Grand Hotel Ushba in Becho.
Day 10, Sunday 25 September: Becho – Mestia (1 hrs, 30 min) Breakfast at the hotel. Morning tour to explore fields of Becho, enjoy views of snow covered peaks, taste spring mineral waters. Lunch at the guesthouse. After lunch drive to Mestia. Visit to Mestia Historical Museum. Most of the treasure of Svaneti is collected there. Museum was founded in 1936 on the basis of the collection at the Church of St. George of Seti. Among the most distinguished exhibits are: icons from the middle ages; manuscripts; crosses; ancestral artifacts from the noble family Dadeshkeliani dating back to the medial period and much more. We will visit wall paintings of the Christ in Lagami, which is a good example of the traditional basilica style architecture. According to local legend, the first floor of the church dates back to the 13th century. It is well known for its frescos and the church’s façade includes fragments from the original paintings. Dinner & overnight at the hotel in Mestia.
Day 11, Monday 26 September: Mestia – Ushguli – Mestia (90 km) Breakfast at the hotel. In the morning we will travel to village of Ushguli – middle age fortification, surrounded by the 5,000 m giants of the Caucasus Mountain Range. It is considered to be one of the highest populated places in the world (2,200m above sea level). En route we will visit Lagurka (St. Kvirike) church located on the top of the hill. Beautiful panorama opens from the church with views of 5000 m summits of Svaneti. Interior of Lagurka is decorated with wall paintings dated to 12th – 13th centuries. In Ushguli we will visit Lamaria church of 12th c and museum. Unique collection of icons, metal items, and procession crosses of 9th – 11th cc are exhibited there. If time permits we will walk towards the foot of mount Shkhara. Late afternoon drive back to Mestia for dinner & overnight.
Day 12, Tuesday 27 September: Mestia – Zugdidi – Kutaisi (250 km) Breakfast at the hotel. Drive to Kutaisi. Lunch in Zugdidi. In Kutaisi visit agricultural market and Bagrati cathedral of 11th century. Dinner and overnight at the Guesthouse in Kutaisi.
Day 13, Wednesday 28 September: Kutaisi – Uplistsikhe – Ateni – Tbilisi (250 km) Breakfast at the hotel. Near town Gori, visit Uplistsikhe cave town dating back to 1st millennium BC. Among the dwelling complexes, theatres, pagan temples and other ruins of public buildings, visit the ancient wine presses cut in stow, discovered in Georgia. Later we will visit architectural complex of Ateni (7th c) with well-protected wall paintings and taste the famous wine Atenuri. Afternoon return to Tbilisi. Farewell dinner at the restaurant. Overnight at the Courtyard Marriott hotel in Tbilisi.
Day 14, Thursday 29 September: Departure. Transfer to airport. BMI flight BD 928 departs at 0850 hrs and reaches London Heathrow at 1400 hrs. Flight BD590 leaves Heathrow at 1600 hrs. and reaches Manchester airport Terminal 3 at 1705 hrs. Coach to Harrogate.
Georgia Entry Requirements: EU citizens do not require a visa. According to the Georgian Embassy in London (Tel: +44 20 7603 7799), a full passport is needed, valid on the day of departure from Georgia. (three months of remaining validity is not needed)
BMI Flights: Check-in time is 2hrs. before departure. Baggage allowance is 20 kg pp. One piece of hand luggage is allowed (dimensions 55x40x23 cms)
Spending Money: For this tour, Caucasus Travel suggests US$ 200-300 pp. for extra drinks, souvenirs etc.
I travelled in Georgia with Caucasus Travel based in Tbilisi