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LONDON / TBILISI
Depart London Heathrow on a British Airways overnight flight to Tbilisi.
Arrive Tbilisi in the early morning. Transfer and check into the centrally located 5* Biltmore Hotel where four nights are spent. Morning at leisure.
Lunch under own arrangements. Afternoon illustrated lecture with Dr Yaroslava Bilinkina on Discovering Georgia: From Tbilisi to the Black Sea. Afternoon walking tour of vibrant Tbilisi Old Town, beginning with a visit to Sioni Cathedral, the seat of the Catholicos of the Georgian church, and the Anchiskhati church, the oldest surviving church in Tbilisi dating back to the 6th century. Walk along the picturesque cobbled streets of the old quarter. Take the funicular to see the ancient 4th century Narikala Fortress overlooking the dramatic Kura River. Dinner at a local restaurant enjoying the first taste of legendary delicious Georgian cuisine and wines accompanied by Georgian singing. Georgian folk music is predominantly vocal and widely known for its rich traditions of vocal polyphony with famous deep male voices.
Depart by coach to see more of Tbilisi. Visit the Sameba Cathedral in the Armenian quarter of the city. Visit the Giorgi Chitaia Open Air Museum of Ethnography, where folk architecture and colourful craftwork from various regions of the country can be seen.
Lunch at a local restaurant. Afternoon visit to the Georgian National Museum, the largest museum complex in the country. The museum contains a collection of magnificent medieval Christian art, including stunning gold and silver jewellery from the ancient land of Colchis, spectacular modern and contemporary paintings by Georgian artists and masterpieces of Oriental, Western European and Russian decorative arts. Dinner under own arrangements. Optional Opera or Ballet, depending on the schedule of the Tbilisi State Opera and Ballet company.
TBILISI & MTSKHETA
Depart by coach to Mtskheta, the ancient capital and spiritual heart of Georgia since early Christian times. See the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Jvari Monastery located on the top of the hill and the grand 11th century Svetitskhoveli Cathedral, a masterpiece of medieval Georgian architecture. See stunning views over the Kura and Aragvi rivers on these southern slopes of the Caucasus mountains.
Late Lunch at a local restaurant where cuisine still follows traditional old Georgian recipes. Return to Tbilisi. Optional visit with Tania to the Museum of Occupation, documenting the seventy years of the Soviet Rule (1921 – 1991) and dedicated to the history of the anti-occupational, national-liberation movement of Georgia as well as to the victims of Tsarist and Soviet political repressions throughout this period. Return to the hotel. Dinner under own arrangements.
TIBLISI & GORI
Drive to Gori. Arrive in Uplistsikhe, known as ‘God’s Fortress’ the remarkable ancient cave city, all hewn out of rock on the banks of the Kura River. Uplistsikhe, is an ancient rock-hewn town which played a significant role in Georgian history over a period of approximately 3,000 years. Archaeological excavations have revealed extraordinary artifacts dating from the late Bronze Age up to the late Middle Ages. The ancient cave city was built on a rocky bank of the Mtkvari River, approximately 15 kilometers east of the town of Gori. Between the 6th century BC and 11th century AD, Uplistsikhe was one of the most important political, religious, and cultural centres of pre-Christian Kartli, one of the predecessors of the Georgian state and flourished until it was ravaged by the Mongols in the 13th century. Drive through the verdant agricultural heart of Georgia to the village of Ateni, see the Ateni Sioni Church (early 7th century).
Lunch and wine tasting with a family in Gori. Afternoon visit to see the Joseph Stalin Museum, devoted to the most famous native of the city, who became head of the government and led the Soviet Union from 1925 to 1953. Continue to Chateau Mukhrani, where the interiors and gardens were designed by French architects in the late 19th century. The chateau became a cultural centre for the Georgian elite. Enjoy a private wine tasting and dinner. Return to the hotel.
TIBILISI / KAKHETI
This morning drive eastwards through one of the most beautiful regions of Georgia and stop on the way to visit the monastery of St. Nino at Bodbe – one of the major pilgrimage sites in Georgia, because of its association with St. Nino, the 4th century. evangelist whose tomb is enshrined here. Coffee stop and bread tasting in a village on the way.
Private lunch with a Georgian family in Sighnaghi. Proceed to the fortress town of Sighnaghi (meaning ‘City of Love’) high in the mountains commanding breath-taking views of the Alazani Valley – the most important wine region in Georgia, producing three quarters of the country’s wine grapes. The fertile environment of the lower Caucasus is what makes Georgian wine extraordinary; it is one of the oldest viticulture regions in the world. The valley takes its name from the Alazani River that flows along the eastern border of Georgia and is known as the cradle of wine production in the world with archeological sites dating back 8000 years. The river is the major source of irrigation and drinking water for the country and has also become a source of power after Chinese investors built hydroelectric power plants here. Also see the Sighnagni Museum housing diverse exhibits on ethnography, archaeology, musical instruments.
Private dinner with Paul Rodzianko, owner of the famed Marani Cradle of Wine Vineyard and descendant of the famous Russian family. Paul Rodzianko’s grandfather was one of the members of the Russian Provisional Government who persuaded Nicholas II to abdicate in 1917. Check into Kvareli Lake Hotel for one night.
KAKHETI / TELAVI / TBILISI
This morning drive to Telavi, the administrative and economic centre of the Kakheti region. See the ancient kingdom of Batonis Tsikhe, (master’s Fortress) which was both an 18th century fortress and a palace. Continue to visit Ikalto Monastery, founded by the Syrian Saint Zenon in the 6th century.
Lunch at a nearby restaurant. Drive to the imposing 11th century Alaverdi St. George Cathedral dominating the surrounding landscape. The original monastery was founded by the monk Joseph (Abba) Alaverdeli, who came from Antioch and settled in Alaverdi. Return to Tbilisi to check into the Biltmore Hotel for a further night. Farewell dinner at a local restaurant with Georgian singing.
TBILISI / LONDON
Free morning to explore Tbilisi, visiting markets, craftworks, carpet shops or jewellery making. Alternatively, enjoy the famous Orbeliani hot spring sulphur baths. Tbilisi is home to several historical bath houses due to its abundance of natural hot springs, popular with everyone!
Lunch under own arrangements before transferring to Tbilisi airport to check in for a British Airways flight back to London Heathrow.
Jo was extremely helpful and gave us very good advice. We could not have had better service.- Fiske, Italy