In this tour you will have the opportunity to see and visit 70-80% of the most famous and impressive places in Georgia. This small country is rich in different landscapes: from dry deserts, wet lush subtropics to the Arctic climates in the mountains. You will enjoy breathtaking views, famous historic sites, national Georgian dishes, wine tasting, local people, traditions and everyday life.
Our tour begins in the heart of the Imereti region at Kopitnari airport, located near Kutaisi. Our path lies from the Imereti region to the southern region of Sakartvelo, which is called Samtskhe-Javakheti, to the resort of Borjomi, which is known worldwide for its Borjomi mineral water. Extraction of mineral water and the resort itself began to develop in the middle of the XIX century, after the daughter of the Georgian governor Yevgeny Golovin was cured by this water. This spring Ekaterininsky was named after her. We will visit the national central park of the city, which is located in a beautiful 900 m length gorge, in which there is a warm source of Borjomi mineral water. Also, a beautiful waterfall falls from the upper plateau and couple of kilometers further through the park, there is a pool of sulfur water with a temperature of 35-40 degrees. We continue the journey further to the south to the city of Akhaltsikhe of the 12th century and visit the fortress of Rabati. The construction of it begun in the first half of the 12th century and gave the name to the city, which means “New Fortress” in Georgian. The fortress was restored in 2012 and covers an area of 8 hectares, part of which is a tourist area, and part is a historical zone with a citadel. The tourist area is open for tourists until late, and the historical one is open in the summer until 19.00, and in the winter until 17.00. We spend the night in the city of Akhaltsikhe.
The next day we continue our trip along the Mtkvari (Kura) river, further south towards the Turkish border, where near the border there is the only monastery in the world in a vertical rock – Vardzia, built in the XII century. Vardzia was began to be built by the father of Queen Tamara – Tsar Giorgi III as a defensive line, because from this side the Muslims invaders, who hated our Orthodox country and always robbed and oppressed our people, were constantly attacking Sakartvelo. Queen Tamara continued the construction after her father’s death. In the defensive line she created a man’s monastery in a sheer cliff with three underground tunnels, carved into the rock and not visible from the outside. Vardzia was a cave city with many caves in which about 50,000 thousand people could hide at the same time. But the earthquake in 1283 destroyed the rock and the caves became visible, after which they were repeatedly captured by the enemies of Sakartvelo. Not far from Wadzia there is another cave monastery called Vanis Kvabebi of the 9th century, in which the caves are hollowed out more roughly than in Vardzia. We also visit the fortress fort of Khertvisi of the 10th century, which stands on a rock at the confluence of the Kura and Paravani rivers and is well preserved. From the south of Sakartvelo, our path lies east towards the capital of Sakartvelo, the city of Tbilisi. On the way we visit the ancient cave city Uplistsikhe, which was built about 12,000 years ago. In Georgian Uplistsikhe means the fortress of God. During the formation of the Iberian-Eastern Georgian kingdom, it became the temple city of the main cult center, which at the time of prosperity consisted of 700 caves. We arrive to the capital Tbilisi, formed in the V century by King Vakhtang Gorgasali. We take the funicular to Mount Mtatsminda (Holy Mountain), from where a very beautiful panorama of the night city opens. We get down and visit the tourist part of the city. Overnight in Tbilisi.
We start the day by visiting the sights of Tbilisi and first of all – the main cathedral of Sameba (Holy Trinity), built in 2004 on the hill of St. Elijah and visible from all over the city. The place for the construction of the cathedral was chosen by the Patriarch of Sakartvelo Ilya II himself. The cathedral covers an area of 5000 square meters and is 68 meters high, excluding a 7.5 meter cross covered with gold. After visiting the cathedral, we go down the streets of the old city to the 13th-century Metekhi temple and the monument to Tbilisi founder Vakhtang Gorgasali. Next to the temple was the royal palace and the citadel, which guarded the palace. These were destroyed in 1958 during the reconstruction dedicated to the 1500th anniversary of the founding of Tbilisi. From Metekhi temple, we ascend by cable car to the Narikala fortress, built in the 4th century before the founding of Tbilisi. It used to be called Shuris Tsikhe (Enviable Fortress), and the name of Narikala (Narin Kala) the fortress got from the Mongols who captured Tbilisi in the 13th century and which means “a small fortress”. The fortress was repeatedly destroyed and restored, but it was destroyed by an earthquake in 1827. After that, the fortress stood deserted until the beginning of 1990, and in 1996 it was restored again together with the church of St. Nicholas, which was built by David the Builder after the liberation of Tbilisi from the Arabs in 1122 (who expanded and enlarged the fortress itself then). Under the celebration of the 1500th anniversary of the city of Tbilisi in 1958, a statue of Mother Kartli or Mother of Georgia was erected there, created by sculptor Elguja Amashukeli. It represents Georgian national character: in her left hand she holds a bowl of wine to greet those who came as a friend, and in her right hand – a sword for those who came as an enemy. Behind the Sololaki ridge, on which stands the fortress and statue of Mother of Georgia, there is a botanical garden developed on the site of the royal garden. We descend from the fortress to Abanosubani or sulfur baths – to the place, where the foundation of the city of Tbilisi began. In this place a source of hot sulfur water spills from the ground, on the site of which the famous sulfur baths were built in Tbilisi. We go towards the gorge called Legvtahevi (Fig Gorge) to the waterfall on the Tsavkisistskali river. We continue to walk along the narrow streets of old Tbilisi and enjoy the old houses and temples. In this small corner of the old city there are many temples of different religions: a Muslim Mosque, a Jewish Synagogue, an Armenian temple and Georgian Orthodox churches. One of the oldest temples is the Sioni Cathedral, named after the Mount of Zion in Yerusalim and consecrated in honor of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which began to be built at the end of the VI and completed at the beginning of the VII century. But that temple was destroyed by the Arabs and we don’t know what it looked like. On the site of this temple was built a new cathedral by King David Agmashenebeli (Builder) in 1122 after the liberation of Tbilisi from the Arabs. The cathedral was destroyed more than once by the invaders and restored more than once, but after restoration in 1980-83, it was restored as it was in the Middle Ages. In the temple the cross of St. Nino is stored, with whom she came to Sakartvelo and the head of St. Apostle Thomas. Near the cathedral there are two bell towers, one old – of the XV century, destroyed by the Persians and restored in the XX century, the other was built by the Russians in 1812. Continuing along the old city, we approach the Peace Bridge and at a little distance is the Sakartvelo Patriarchate. Next to it is the first temple built in Tbilisi during the reign of King Dachi Ujarmeli, son of Vakhtang Gorgasali, who made Tbilisi the capital of Georgia. At first, the temple was consecrated in honor of the birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary, but in 1675 it was renamed to Anchiskhati, in honor of the ancient icon of the Savior transferred from Anchiski Cathedral (Tao-Klardzheti), trying to save it from the Turks. The exhibit is kept in the Gold Fund of the State Museum of Georgia, and a copy is in the temple. Near the temple is the Rezo Gadriadze puppet theater, founded in 1981 with the famous clock tower, as well as a cafe, which is located next to the theater. Continuing further, we rise to Freedom Square, which was called Caravanserai (Hotel Square) in the Middle Ages. Later it was renamed by different names, in Soviet times it was first Beria Square, and then – Lenin Square. The Lenin Monument was demolished on August 28, 1990, and on November 23, 2006, the Monument of Liberty created by Zurab Tsereteli was unveiled, which depicts St. George slaying the dragon. The main avenue of the city named after Shota Rustaveli begins on the square, on which are such buildings as the State Museum of Georgia, the palace of Count Vorontsov, the cinema named after Rustaveli, the Parliament of Georgia, the former building of the Government House of the Georgian SSR (which was began to build in 1933 and finished in 1953 and consists of two buildings, one of which, built by German prisoners of war, stands on Shota Rustaveli Avenue), Kashveti Church, Shota Rustaveli Drama Theater, Georgian Opera and Ballet Theater, Academy of Sciences and other buildings.
This day we continue our journey to the wonderful region of Kakheti, where many varieties of grapes grow, from which world wide famous Georgian wines are made. First of all, we will visit a village in Kakheti, where delicious Georgian bread “shoti” is baked in clay ovens, called tone. In a simple Georgian family we will watch how shoti is baked and taste it with cow’s or sheep’s cheese and, of course, we’ll drink all this down with fine homemade wine. Further, our path goes into the depths of the region and we meet more and more extensive plantations of vineyards along the way. Next, we get along the road to the small mountains, in which the Bodbe monastery complex is located with the tomb of St. Nino in it, and the city of love Sighnaghi, which is surrounded by the longest fortress wall in Georgia, almost 4 km long, and which offers a beautiful panorama to the Alazani Valley. The Great Caucasus Range rises behind and high mountains covered with snow and glaciers are visible. We get down the mountain road with serpentines in the heart of Kakheti, the city of Gurjaani, in which there is a monument to the Father of the Soldier, a Georgian, who went at the front to look for his son, who fought in World War II. Then we cross the Alazani Valley and the Alazani River and get into the town of Kvareli, in which we will visit the oldest winery in Georgia, which was founded in 1535 and in which royal wine was stored. This factory is called Kindzmarauli Corporation and here we will conduct an excursion and tasting of Georgian wines. We will see how wine is made according to the old Georgian tradition in huge clay jugs buried in the ground, which are called qvevri and, of course, according to European technology. After that, we will visit a Georgian family, where we will conduct a tasting of homemade wine prepared according to the old Georgian tradition and conduct a master class on cooking Georgian churchkhela sweets, which is prepared from grape juice with flour and walnuts, as well as a master class on cooking Georgian national khinkali dishes. And of course, what Georgian table without barbecue fried on the branches of a grapevine? In addition, we will have a Georgian national feast with Georgian folk songs performed by the owner of the house and his friends. After a great time, we go to the city of Telavi, which we will explore on the next day.
In the morning, we will visit the city of Telavi, the fortress with the palace of King Erekle II and the historical museum, as well as will take a look at the well-preserved 900-year-old plane tree in the center of Telavi. After getting acquainted with the historical part of the city of Telavi, we will go through the Gombori pass with a height of 1620 m towards the old capital of Georgia, the city of Mtskheta. First of all, we will rise to the Jvari monastery of the 6th-7th centuries, which stands on a mountain at the confluence of the Aragvi and Mtkvari (Kura) rivers, where Saint Nino put the first cross. Then go down to the city and visit the Svetitskhoveli (Life-giving Pillar) Cathedral of XI century, in which the tunic of Jesus Christ is stored, brought to the city of Mtskheta by the Jew Elios, who redeemed it from the Roman soldiers in Jerusalem after the crucifixion of Jesus Christ on the cross. There are a lot of shrines in the cathedral. The city of Mtskheta became a patriarchal city after the transfering the capital to the city of Tbilisi. Many Georgian kings and great Georgian knights of the royal family, as well as Catholicos and Metropolitans, are buried here in the cathedral. We examine the streets of the old city and local shops selling Georgian sweets and souvenirs. Then we go along the Georgian military road to the north of Georgia towards the village of Stepantsminda (Kazbegi) and along the road we admire the beauty of the mountains and visit local attractions. Our first stop is at the Zhinvali reservoir. It’s a very beautiful reservoir with two Aragvi rivers flowing in it, surrounded by a beautiful landscape of mountains. One of the rivers is Pshavskaya Aragvi, which flows along a beautiful gorge from the mountains of the Pshav-Khevsureti region, and the second one is Belaya (White) Aragvi, flowing along the Georgian-military road and along which our path goes. The next stop is near the castle-fortress Ananuri of the 17th century, on the site of which there used to be a watch tower, dating from the 13th century. A castle, consisting of two churches and a fortress wall with several towers, was built around it. Our next stop is at the observation deck “Friendship of Nations”, not far from the winter resort of Gudauri. You can see many gorges from there, in which the sources of the Aragvi River begin. We rise to the Cross Pass with a height of 2395 m and begin to descend from the pass to the Darial Gorge, along which the Tergi River (Terek) flows. We reach the village of Stepantsminda, where local Georgians, calling themselves moheve (residents of the gorge), live.
In the morning we go by jeeps to the 14th-century functioning monastery Gergeti Sameba, located at an altitude of 2200 m above sea level, from where a view of Mount Kazbeg with a height of 5047 m and other mountain peaks opens in fine weather. Then we continue towards Gveleti, the place in one of the gorges, where a beautiful waterfall falls from a height of 20 m. We walk there on foots and take pictures of beautiful mountain landscapes and then return in jeeps to the village of Stepantsminda. From the village we return back along the Georgian military road to the Cross Pass and stop on the road at the source of mineral iron water, which goes straight from the mountain. We go down from the mountains to the Kartli Valley and drive towards the Upper Imereti region to the city of miners Chiatura, where manganese ore is mined. Not far away, there is a lonely rock – the Pillar of Katshi, with the monastery of hermit monk of a 9–10th century standing on a top of it. At the foot of the Pillar there is an active monastery, where is a staircase leading to the rock, used by monk, who lives on the top of the Pillar. Further we descend from the mountains and drive towards the city of Kutaisi. Here we visit the Bagrat III Cathedral, built at the beginning of the 10th century, which stands on Mount Ukemerioni in the city center. We will also walk around the beautiful center of Kutaisi, where a very beautiful fountain stands on the square. It consists of various figures that used to be golden in those times, when the kingdom of Colchis was here, and were found during archaeological excavations in this region. We stay overnight in Kutaisi.
On the 7th day of our trip, we go north from Kutaisi to the Racha-Lechkhumi region and on the way we visit the Gelati monastery complex of the 12th century – the center of spiritual and scientific life, which was built by the most famous Georgian king David Agmashenebeli (David the Builder), who was originally from these places. This is the largest and most famous monastery in Sakartvelo, which consists of three churches, an academy, a bell tower, as well as a bishop’s house and a cell of monks. In the main church of the Nativity of the Virgin, which began to be built in 1106, frescoes of XII-XVII centuries are preserved. In the XIII century, two more churches of St. George and St. Nicholas and a three-tier bell tower were built. All the kings of united Georgia and the kings of Imereti who reigned after David Agmashenebeli were buried in the main temple. King David himself was buried according to his will at the entrance to the monastery, so that everyone entering the monastery would step on his remains with his feet, as according to legend, King David repented of his pride. We continue along the winding mountain roads and get into the city of miners Tkibuli, where coal is mined. From there, our path goes to the Nakerala pass of 1218 m high on Mount Tskhradzhvari (Nine Crosses), 1565 m high. According to legend, in the village of Dzirovani the boys of the Sopromadze families died in infancy and the inhabitants of this village asked God not to punish them and give life to the Sopromadze family. And God gave them a sign: a white dove flew into the village and the inhabitants had to follow him and, where he sits, build a church and put up 9 crosses. People followed this dove and did as God told them to. Now there are 9 crosses on this peak, as a reminder of the faith and the power of unity. Only the ruins remained from the church itself, but people always rise to these crosses in mid-June and bear gifts and everybody his own prayer. At the highest point of the pass there is a platform from where you can see the city of Tkibuli, Tkibuli reservoir, the Colchis plain and the Dzirulsky ridge. We descend from the pass to the Racha region, which is world famous for its resort of Shovi and Khvanchkara wine, which is made only in this region. Going down from the pass along the road, we see a beautiful view of the Shaori reservoir, which is built on the Shaora river, a tributary of the Rioni river and is the upper dam of the cascade of dams of the Tkibul hydroelectric station. We continue our journey through the region and stop near the 11th-century Nikortsminda Temple, built during the reign of King Bagrat III, in which the men monastery was founded. In 1534 the monastery fell into decay, but the Imereti king Bagrat restored the temple and it was painted with frescoes that have survived to this day. Outside it is an ordinary looking Orthodox church, many of which were built in Georgia during this period, but inside this temple looks completely different than from the outside and nowhere in Sakartvelo there are such kind of buildings. At the moment the temple is being restored, but it is active and open for visitors. Further our path goes to the city of Ambrolauri, where we will visit one of the factories and taste local wines. The town itself is located in a valley at an altitude of 500 m above sea level, surrounded by mountains on all sides, on the banks of the Rioni River at the junction of three roads – to Oni, Tsageri and Tkibuli, by which we arrived at the town. We continue our trip towards the town of Oni along a beautiful gorge. From Oni, the road goes up towards the high-mountain resort of Shovi, which is located at an altitude of 1600 m and is known for several different mineral springs. From Shovi, a view to the Mount Mamisoni with a height of 4360 m opens. A bit higher in the mountains the Lake Ujiro (Endless) is seen. We are returning to Kutaisi.
On the 8th day of our trip, we visit the caves of Prometheus, which are located near the resort town of Tskaltubo. The resort is known for its thermal mineral waters with a temperature of 35-37 degrees, which treat cardiovascular, nervous system, rheumatic, skin and other kind of diseases. Also in this area there are many karst caves, in which pneumonia, bronchial asthma, angina pectoris and other diseases were treated. In the center of the city there is a large park with more than 100 species of plants growing in the Caucasus. Caves of Prometheus represent only 10th part of all the caves, which are called Kumistavi. The caves were opened to visitors only in 2011, although it had been known about their existence for more than 20 years. It is very difficult to clean the caves from earth and stones in order to make them suitable for visiting. Further, our way leads to Zemo Svaneti (Upper Svaneti) village Mestia and on the way we visit a canyon located near the town of Martvili. Some part of it we walk along paths and bridges, and in the other part swim by boats. Continuing our journey to the northwest, we drive up to the city of Zugdidi. This is the administrative center of the Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti region. From here our path goes to the mountains and our first stop in the mountains is the highest in Europe Enguri hydroelectric station, the height of which is 272 m. Its capacity is 1300 MW, the average annual output is 4430 million kWh. and the volume of water is 1110 million cubic meters. It is the 6th largest hydroelectric power station in the world. Continuing to move along the beautiful places of the region, we stop at the waterfall and arrange a small picnic in the asylum of nature. On the way we stop in beautiful places, as well as try the local food Kubdari in a roadside restaurant. This is a flour dish like khachapuri, stuffed with minced beef and pork instead of cheese, and seasoned with many spices. There are many mountain ranges and gorges along our route, from which mountain rivers flow into the Enguri River, along which our path continues to the village of Mestia. Mestia is the historical, cultural and religious center of Svaneti. It is located at an altitude of 1,500 m above sea level with a length of 6 km. Once, the center of Mestia was called Seti and there were three villages around it: Lagami, Lanchvali and Lehtagi. In ancient times, the Seti was a place of worship. Now this place is the central city square. A historical and ethnographic museum has been built in Mestia, as well as the house-museum of the Margiani family has been preserved, where you can get acquainted with the life of the ancient Svans. Travelers can also visit the house-museum of mountaineer Mikhail Khergiani and the Church of the Transfiguration of the 9th century in the village of Lagami. There are several sources of mineral water in Mestia, one of them in the center and three others on the banks of the Malakhuri River. In good weather, the Mount Tetnuldi with a height of 4852m can be seen from Mestia. There is an operating ski resort on it, started to built on 2014. 2347 m high on the Zuruldi ridge, there’s another ski resort Hatsvali, built and opened in 2011. It is located 7 km from Mestia.
We get up by jeeps to the winter resort Hatsvali and climb the cable car to the upper station, where you can sit in an outdoor cafe and look at the spectacular mountain scenery. Then we go to the high-mountain village Ushguli, protected by UNESCO, located at an altitude of 2200 m, in which the ancient watchtowers of the 9th-10th centuries and the old church of Our Lady of the 9th-10th centuries (in Sanskrit called Lamaria) are preserved. Ushguli community consists of four villages: Zhibiani, Chvibiani, Chazhashi and Murkmeli. In the village Ushguli 228 people (about 70 families) live now. The church stands on a hill above the village Zhibiani, surrounded by a stone fence, with a watchtower on the west side of it. From here, 5193 m high Mount Shkhara is visible in a good weather. It’s a mountain range, not a separate mountain. We return to Mestia and visit the house-museum of the Margiani family, where you will get acquainted with the life of the ancient Svans.
In the morning of 10th day we say goodbye to Mestia and go down from the mountains along the same road we arrived to Mestia. We get down to the Samegrelo region and head towards the city of Batumi, the Adjara region. By the way we pass through another region of Sakartvelo – the Guria region. Our path goes along the seashore, along the way we can observe the landscapes of the Black Sea. We visit the Batumi Botanical Garden, which is located on the Green Cape. Batumi Botanical Garden was founded by Russian botanist and geographer, professor of Kharkov University Andrei Krasnov in 1892 and opened on November 3, 1912. The garden covers an area of 113 hectares and is considered the largest garden in the former USSR. It currently has more than 5,000 species of plants, of which more than 2,000 trees and shrubs, and it consists of 9 floristic departments: the wet subtropics of Transcaucasia, New Zealand, Australian, Himalayan, East Asian, North American, South American, Mexican and Mediterranean. We explore the night Batumi with its dancing fountains, old and modern buildings with beautiful lighting. The name of the city Batumi comes from the Greek word Batus, that means deep, from the natural depth of Batumi Bay, which is 58 m and therefore the ships can approach the very pier in Batumi port. For almost 300 years, Batumi and the entire south of Sakartvelo was in the possession of Turkey and this region was underdeveloped. Batumi was a village and only about 2,000 people lived there at that time. After the liberation of the entire region from the Turks, the city of Batumi began to develop. A port was built here, an oil pipeline was drawn from Baku, factories and hotels were built, and during the Soviet Union, the port was further enlarged and reached international significance. After the war in Abkhazia and the temporary loss of this region, Adjara began to develop even more. During the presidency of Saakashvili hundreds of millions of dollars were invested in the development of the resort area in Batumi and Adjara and these investments continue by this day and Batumi becomes beautiful and highly developed resort city.
In the morning of 11th day we have free time to rest at the sea. Then we drive towards the mountainous Adzharia along the largest river in the Chorokhi region, to the place Makhuntseti, where one of 25 well-preserved arch bridges is located. It was built in the XII century, during the reign of Queen Tamara, through which the great Silk Road went from Asia to Europe. There is also a very beautiful 50 meters high waterfall. On the way to Batumi we do a tasting of wine at the Adzhar Wine House winery, which was built here in the XVIII century and produces wine from local grape varieties. After that, we return to the hotel and have a free time, rest at sea. In the evening, we walk along the night streets of the old city, Piazza Medea and Piazza, where there are many open restaurants and live music, as well as those who wish can climb the cable car to Mount Sputnik and enjoy the night views of the city and the harbor of the port.
Early in the morning transfer to Kutaisi airport.
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