Rarely visited by modern tourists, the region was well-known to the ancient Greeks. Indeed, legend has it that Jason travelled to Georgia (Ancient Colchis) to seek out the Golden Fleece. Like us, the Argonauts would surely have marvelled at its snow-capped mountain peaks and forested river valleys.
Georgia has an impressive archaeological record, rich in prehistoric monuments, Roman remains and monasteries of the Middle Ages. In addition to Classical sites, we discover Tbilisi ‘city of light’, dramatically-set mountain churches, and the more sobering birthplace of Stalin. Our Guide Lecturer for this tour, Ian Colvin has worked extensively in Georgia and shares his intimate knowledge of the history and culture of the Caucasus.
- Classical cities, royal citadels, vertiginous monasteries and some of the world’s oldest wineries.
- The Black Sea coast: dramatic mountain scenery, fertile rivers
- Historic Churches
- Cultural Excursion
- Ancient Greek
- Special Access
- All Inclusive
We arrive in Tbilisi, Georgia’s capital city, founded on the banks of the Kura River in the 5th century AD by the Iberian king Vakhtang I Gorgasali.
After checking into our centrally-located hotel, we unwind with an evening stroll around Tbilisi’s welcoming streets, before enjoying dinner at a local restaurant.
Our explorations of Tbilisi continue in earnest this morning, as we travel by cable car to Narikala Fortress. This once Persian citadel was strengthened by Arab emirs in the 8th century, and offers astounding views across the capital’s skyline.
We continue on to Rustaveli Avenue, where we admire a host of grand civic buildings, including the elegant National Opera Theatre, and the former site of the Georgian parliament.
This afternoon we have the option of indulging in a traditional steam bath – a past-time for which the city is justifiably renowned. Invigorated, we end the day at the National Museum of Georgia, with its dazzling Golden Treasury.
We cross the spectacular Gombori Pass to Tsinandali this morning, where we find the grand country house, or summer palace, of the princely Chavchavadze family. In the 19th century the owners added a winery to the estate, and we enjoy some of its highly regarded dry whites alongside our lunch.
We continue to Iqalto Monastery, which was established in this peaceful spot in the late 6th century. The monastery is famed for its Medieval academy, where students were trained in viticulture, pharmacology and metalwork, as well as theology and philosophy.
We start our day at the 12th-century university and monastic complex of Mtskheta, a World Heritage site and former capital of Georgia. Mtskheta is one of the country’s oldest cities, and is celebrated as the cradle of Georgian Christianity.
Here we visit the mountaintop Church of Jvari, a pilgrimage site at which the female evangelist Saint Nino is said to have converted King Mirian III to Christianity. We also take in Svetitskhoveli Cathedral, a Middle Age masterpiece also known as the “Church of the Living Column” thanks to the apparently miraculous properties of its seventh column.
After lunch, we cross the river to the ancient royal citadel of Armaztsikhe. Mentioned in various classical sources, the site dates back to the 3rd century BC, and was once the holy city of Iberian Paganism. Among its ruins are a palace, bathhouse, tombs and great hall.
We sit back and relax on a long but breath-taking drive through the mountains to Kazbegi and the Gergeti Sameba Church. Dating from the 14th century, the church is still home to an active congregation, despite its remote and dramatic setting – a solitary building perched high in the shadow of Mount Kazbek.
We continue to Dariali Gorge and the Russian border, where we discover the ruins of Queen Tamar’s Fortress. Tamar was the first woman to rule the country and reigned for an impressive 29 years, from 1184 to 1213.
Dariali Gorge is also known as the Gate of the Alans, after the Indo-Iranian Alan people who controlled the lands north of here in the early centuries AD. The pass was used by invading waves of steppe nomads right up until the 20th century.
Following breakfast we visit the magical cave city of Uplistsikhe, a vast urban settlement of houses, halls and churches all carved into the rocks above the rushing River Mtkvari. Less than half of the original city survived the Mongol raids – though no less than 400 square kilometres remain for us to explore! Both Pagan and Christian styles are in evidence here; vestiges of a diverse and long-lasting domain.
In the afternoon we step forward in time to the 20th century, as we enter nearby Gori, Joseph Stalin’s birthplace. The dictator is still regarded as something of a hero in the area. We consider his legacy at the town’s controversial museum.
This morning we travel to Kutaisi and explore the beautiful Gelati Monastery. Founded in the early 12th century, the church was a significant centre of learning in Georgia, and nationally celebrated as a “new Hellas”. It is also the final resting place of David the Builder, one of the great Georgian kings. The monastery’s wonderful murals and mosaics are well worth investigating.
Next we visit the reconstructed Bagrati Cathedral, an 11th-century structure blown up by Ottoman troops in the 17th century.
After lunch we continue to Motsameta Monastery, stunningly set above a lush river gorge. Founded in the 11th century in memory of two martyred brothers, crawling under the martyrs’ remains three times will apparently grant you whatever you desire…
Our last full day in Georgia begins with a trip to Nokalakevi, an archaeological site in the Senaki region. Here we are treated to a special tour of the ruins from our Guide Lecturer, who shows us his very own excavations. We view the 6th-century Fortress of Kuji, as well as the remains of a Hellenistic necropolis. A privileged taster of archaeology in action.
After lunch we drive west to the subtropical resort of Batumi on the Black Sea coast, where we spend our final evening.
Our morning itinerary today depends wholly on the flight schedules. Time permitting, we will visit the Roman fort at Gonio-Apsarus. Situated on the mouth of the Chorokhi River, this site holds traces of a theatre, hippodrome and bathhouse.
We then transfer to the airport for our flights home or onward journeys.
- Expert Guide Lecturer
- Tour Manager
- Local Travel - Private a/c coach
- Meals - All meals included with wine at dinner
- Entries & Tips - Entry to all sites in program; tips included
- Field Notes
For full information about Passport validity and Visa requirements as well as Health and Vaccination information please click here.