Road Scholar : Home
Trans-Caucasus Odyssey: Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia

Program Number: 16908RJ
Start and End Dates:
5/6/2015 - 5/20/2015; 9/2/2015 - 9/16/2015; 10/7/2015 - 10/21/2015;
Duration: 14 nights
Location: Azerbaijan/Georgia/Armenia
Price starting at: $5,170.00 - Price may vary based on date, departure city
Program Type: Activity Level: t (see description)
Meals: 34; 13 Breakfasts, 12 Lunches, 9 Dinners    
Meal Options: Vegetarian    

Delve into the wildly diverse cultures and landscapes of the South Caucasus — a mountainous strip of land between the Caspian and the Black Seas and home to the countries of Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia. Discover the heritage behind the bold designs of Azerbaijan’s carpets, savor deep red wines, and visit bakeries, artists’ studios and craft centers in Georgia, and admire the sculpted stone khachkar crosses that dot the green hillsides of Armenia, the world’s first Christian country.




Highlights

• Investigate the musical history of Azerbaijan, whose origins stretch before 3000 B.C.
• In Armenia, visit Echmiadzin Cathedral — a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to what some say is a piece from Noah’s Ark.
• Witness demonstrations of traditional bread baking, vodka distilling, and the making of churchkela, the wonderful Georgian sweet.



Activity Particulars

Participants should be prepared for full program days. Walking on uneven terrain, cobblestone sidewalks and stairs (some without railings); standing in museums; no wheelchair facilities. Steep staircases are common in this region.




Date Specific Information

5-6-2015, 9-2-2015, 10-7-2015

Enjoy the latest in hearing technology — listening devices — on this date.



Itinerary Summary

Arrival Baku (Azerbaijan), 2 nights; coach to Sheki, 2 nights; coach to Telavi (Georgia), 1 night; coach to Gudauri, 1 night; coach to Tbilisi, 3 nights; coach to Yerevan (Armenia), 4 nights; departure.



Overnight flight from the U.S.A.
1 night
Arrival Baku (Azerbaijan)
2 nights

At the State Museum of Azerbaijani Carpets and Applied Folk Art, study regional differences and stylistic details in the vivid colors and bold designs of carpets dating back to the 16th century. Investigate the musical history of Azerbaijan whose origins stretch before 3000 B.C.



Coach to Sheki
2 nights

Having chased out Persian rule, Sheki was an independent khanate until the 1820s, when Russia finally gained control. Explore local crafts shops and bakeries, and marvel at the mosaic-covered khan's palace with its brilliant stained glass work, called shebeke, the fortress that surrounds the palace, and its history and crafts museums.



Coach to Telavi (Georgia)
1 night

En route to Telavi, Georgia, visit The Gremi architectural complex and Alaverdi Cathedral. Experience traditional Georgian dishes in a private home. Visit a private craft studio or an artist making hand knit Alvani socks known throughout Georgia.



Coach to Gudauri via Signagi and Mtskheta
1 night

Journey to Gudauri via the towns of Signagi and Mtskheta. In the beautiful hill town of Signangi stop in to view the carpets at the Georgian Hand Knitted Carpet Factory and Museum, also visit the Bodbe Nunnery. Stopping in Mtskheta, visit the sixth-century Jvari Monastery.



Coach to Tbilisi via Gori and Uplistsikhe
3 nights

Trace Stalin’s childhood in Gori and explore the cave town of Uplistsikhe. Visit the fourth-century Narikala Fortress and examine thousands of pieces of Georgian Art at the Museum of Fine Arts.



Coach to Yerevan (Armenia)
4 nights
Departure

Discover Armenia’s spiritual and cultural history at the Haghbat Monastery, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Visit the blue-green Lake Sevan, one of the largest alpine lakes in the world. At the Genocide Memorial, consider the politics and lasting impact of the deaths of more than 1 million Armenians between 1914 and 1918. Visit the Cathedral of Echmiadzin, the oldest in the world; the ruins of the Zvartnots Cathedral; the Temple of Garni and Geghard Monastery.




Accommodations
Baku: Four-star hotel. Sheki: Four-star hotel with gorgeous mountain views. Telavi: Charming three-star hotel in Old Town. Gudauri: Ski resort in Caucasus Mountains. Tbilisi: Four-star hotel.Yerevan: Central located hotel with views of Mount Ararat.
Meals and Lodgings
   Qafqaz Point Hotel
  Baku, Azerbaijan 2 nights
   Sheki Saray Hotel
  Sheki, Azerbaijan 2 nights
   Marani Hotel
  Telavi, Georgia 1 night
   Sport Hotel Club Gudauri
  Gudauri, Georgia 1 night
   Courtyard by Marriott Tbilisi
  Gudauri, Georgia
Tbilisi, Georgia
3 nights
   Ani Plaza Hotel
  Yerevan, Armenia 4 nights
 Qafqaz Point Hotel
Type: Hotel
  Description: Opened in 2009, the beautiful four-and-a-half star Qafqaz Point Hotel features a terrace restaurant, health club with sauna, pool and massage services. Rooms include air conditioning, minibar, free Wi-Fi, satellite TV and an in room safe.
  Contact info: K. Kazimzade St 118-560
Yasamal District
Baku,   Azerbaijan
phone: +99 412 510 78 78
web: qafqazhotels.com/en/qafqaz_point_hotel
  Room amenities: Air conditioning, minibar, free Wi-Fi, satellite TV, electronic safe, coffee, tea and water in the room
  Facility amenities: Terrace restaurant, health club with sauna, pool and massage services, business room, 24 hour security service, parking, concierge service, currency exchange, ATM
  Smoking allowed: No
  Elevators available: Yes
  Additional nights prior: TBD Please contact MIR Corporation for rates and bookings by calling toll free at (855) 691-7903.

 Sheki Saray Hotel
Type: Four-Star Hotel
  Description: One of the newest hotels in Sheki, the Sheki Saray (Sheki Palace) offers rooms furnished in earth tones in modern, comfortable style. Located in the town center, the hotel enjoys uninterrupted views of the Caucasus mountains.
  Contact info: M. E. Rasulzade Street
Sheki,  5500 Azerbaijan
phone: +994 17 748 181
web: www.shekisaray.az
  Room amenities: Satellite TV, in-room Internet access, direct dial telephone, A/C with climate control, hair dryer, minibar, private balcony or terrace.
  Facility amenities: Shebeke Restaurant serving regional and European cuisine; Buta Bar, a full bar/lounge; Atrium Lobby; banquet and conference facilities.
  Smoking allowed: Yes
  Elevators available: Yes

 Marani Hotel
Type: Three-Star Hotel
  Description: Located in Telavi's Old Town, the Marani Hotel combines old Georgian architectural style with modern amenities. Pirosmani-style paintings adorn the walls of this small, charming hotel.
  Contact info: 154 I. Chavchavadze Avenue
Telavi,   Georgia
phone: +995 32 4830 30
web: www.rcheulimarani.com/
  Room amenities: Air conditioning, satellite TV, internet, minibar, phone, hairdryer
  Facility amenities: 24 hour concierge service, restaurant, room service, laundry service, wireless available in all public areas
  Smoking allowed: Yes

 Sport Hotel Club Gudauri
Type: Resort
  Description: Sport Hotel Club Gudauri is located on the southern slopes of the Greater Caucasus Mountain Range at an elevation of 7,200 feet above sea level. Breathtaking views and snow covered peaks of Mountains Kazbegi (5047m), Kuro (4072m), Shino (4048m), Shani (4048m), Chaukhi (4099m) and Maili (4599m) along with powder snow and beautiful alpine ski runs are just part of what makes Sport Hotel Club Gudauri and Ski Resort a magnificent destination all year round.
  Contact info: Kazbegi Region
Gudauri,   Georgia
phone: +995 32 2202 900
web: www.gudauri.ge/
  Room amenities: TV, telephone
  Facility amenities: The hotel amenities include restaurant and bar, shopping and recreation, indoor tennis courts, business center, spa, ski shop, laundry, first aid center
  Smoking allowed: No
  Elevators available: Yes

 Courtyard by Marriott Tbilisi
Type: Hotel
  Description: Located right in the city center within walking distance of galleries, gardens, museums and other popular attractions, the four star Marriott Courtyard Hotel offers spacious and comfortable accommodations.
  Contact info: 4 Freedom Square
Tbilisi,  0105 Georgia
phone: +995 32 779 100
web: www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/tbscy-courtyard-tbilisi/
  Room amenities: Air conditioning, iron and ironing board, safe, hairdryer, TV, telephone, internet
  Facility amenities: Business center, room service, restaurant and bar, indoor pool, fitness center
  Smoking allowed: Yes
  Elevators available: Yes

 Ani Plaza Hotel
Type: Hotel
  Description: Ani Plaza Hotel is centrally located and with over 200 comfortable rooms, many with a panoramic view of Yerevan and Mount Ararat.
  Contact info: 19 Sayat Nova Avenue
Yerevan,  0001 Armenia
phone: +374 10 589 500
web: www.anihotel.com/
  Room amenities: air conditioning, satellite TV, minibar, soundproof windows, internet
  Facility amenities: Hotel safe, cafe, restaurant serving Armenian food, gift shop, swimming pool, business center, sauna, fitness center
  Smoking allowed: Yes
  Elevators available: Yes
  Additional nights after: TBD Please contact MIR Corporation for rates and bookings by calling toll free at (877) 535-9815.


Travel Details
  Start of Program:
The program starts in the late evening at the program hotel on Day 2. You will be staying at Qafqaz Point Hotel that night.
  End of Program:
The program ends after breakfast at the program hotel on Day 15. You will be staying at Ani Plaza Hotel the night before.
  Required documents:
The Road Scholar Health & Safety Form is required. A U.S. passport is required and must be valid for at least 6 months from date of return. Visas required for Azerbaijan and Armenia. No visa is necessary for Georgia. Non U.S. citizens must verify entry requirements with the appropriate consulates. Please download your instructions from Gen Visa web-page: www.genvisa.com/roadscholar. Please select and print out the "Visa Information for Armenia & Azerbaijan" document. You may send your completed passport/visa materials to Gen Visa, who is the service company handling the visas for your Road Scholar Program. You must send your completed visa applications 90 to 60 days prior to departure. Please expect that while your visa is being processed, your passport will be inaccessible as it is securely handled by Gen Visa and the consulates. It will be returned to you when all visas have been secured. Please note that in order to obtain a visa for Azerbaijan you will need a support letter from MIR Corporation that states the purpose of your visit. If you choose to process the entry visas for these countries on your own, please contact MIR Corporation by phone: 1-877-535-9815 or e-mail: marina@mircorp.com to obtain the support letter. Please note the entry and departure dates for the visa applications, which are scheduled to allow buffer time in case of travel delay or other unexpected changes: Azerbaijan single entry: arrival 4.May.2014, departure 15.May.2014 Armenia single entry: arrival 12.May.2014, departure 26.May.2014
  Parking availability:
Not applicable
Transportation (For Independent Travelers)
  Train or bus availability: Taxis are available at the airport.
To Start of Program
  Location:  Baku
  Nearest city or town:  Baku
  Nearest airport:  Heydar Aliyev Int´l Airport (BAK)
  Transportation to site: A group arrival transfer is organized for all participants who purchased an air inclusive program and arrive on the group date. Program Only Participants can take the group transfer as long as their flight arrives at or around the same time as the group.
  From End of Program
  Location:  Yerevan
  Nearest city or town:  Yerevan
  Nearest airport:  Zvartnots Airport (EVN)
  Transportation from site: A group departure transfer is organized for all participants who purchased an air inclusive program and depart on the group date. Program Only Participants can take the group transfer as long as their flight departs at or around the same time as the group.
Elevation Note: Some locations will be above 3,000 feet. Lake Sevan is at 6,200 feet.

The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.


Daily Schedule

Day 1: Depart the US on Overnight Flight
(Wednesday, October 7)
   
 In Transit: In flight.

Day 2: Arrival Baku
(Thursday, October 8)
   
 Evening: Arrive in Baku this evening where you will be transferred to your hotel.
   
Accommodations: Qafqaz Point Hotel

Day 3: Baku's Old Town / State Museum of Azerbaijani Carpets and Applied Folk Art
(Friday, October 9)
   
 Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel.
 Morning: After breakfast explore the city center and the old town, Icheri Sheher, visiting Fountain Square and the State Museum of Azerbaijani Carpets and Applied Folk Art. Baku’s Old Town, or Icheri Sheher, was once the whole city, and is the best place to get a sense of its history. It is completely encircled by the old city walls with their medieval gates. The winding streets and alleyways are home to private residences, mosques and madrassahs, carpet merchants and tiny shops. The aura of the past that permeates the town rewards exploration and careful investigation with surprising glimpses of a bygone era. Pass by the UNESCO listed Maiden’s Tower and Shirvan Shah Palace. The vivid colors and bold designs of Azeri, Caucasian and Iranian carpets are on display at the State Museum of Azerbaijani Carpets and Applied Folk Art. The museum collection was begun in the late 1960s, but the carpets in the museum today date as far back as the 16th century. Regional differences and stylistic details are highlighted, revealing how traditional carpets marry practical value, artistic merit, historical significance and beauty.
 Lunch: Lunch at a local restaurant.
 Afternoon: Parts of Azerbaijan, notably Gobustan, below Baku on the Caspian coast, show evidence of human habitation beginning in the Stone Age. Flaming natural gas vents on the Absheron Peninsula, where Baku is now located, may have inspired Zarathustra, a local resident around 1000 BC, to include fire rituals in his Zoroastrian religion. Baku was first mentioned in the 9th century, and its people were reported to burn oil that came from the ground in their lamps. Baku’s inhabitants stayed behind the 14th century walls of their town almost until the 19th century, when the Russian empire began exploiting in earnest the great oil reserves under thewaters of the Caspian. An oil boom that lasted from 1880 to 1915 left a region of beaux arts mansions built by the newly-rich. A second oil boom is now in the making here. Venture to the outskirts of the city to visit the Ateshgyakh Fireworshippers Temple. The Zoroastrian Fire Temple in Surakhany village (9 miles from Baku) was originally built over a burning natural gas vent, although there is no real consensus about when this happened. As early as the 6th century, Zoroastrians lived on the peninsula, and could have worshipped here. The current temple was built in the late 1800s by Hindi-speaking Indians living in Baku. The complex comprises a walled pentagon enclosing an altar over the fire. Today the gas is piped to the altar, since the original pocket of natural gas has been exhausted, but the effect is still arresting. Baku is the beginning of the strategic Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline running from the Caspian oilfields through Georgia and Turkey to the Mediterranean Sea. Although you are among very few travelers who come here for the history and culture as opposed to the business of oil, you will enjoy the comfortable improvements the city of Baku initiated to cater to Western investors.
 Dinner: Welcome dinner at a local restaurant.
   
Accommodations: Qafqaz Point Hotel
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 4: Baku / Coach to Sheki
(Saturday, October 10)
   
 Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel.
 Morning: After an early breakfast, we check out and depart by coach for Sheki. En route, stop at the Bibi-Heybat Mosque and the old oil fields before a tour of Gobustan. Originally constructed in the 13th century in honor of the sister of Imam Ali, the Bibi-Heybat Mosque was completely destroyed in 1934, as a result of Stalin’s decrees. Local legends say that a white-robed woman was seen disappearing into the sea the day after the mosque’s destruction. Reconstructed from plans and photographs, the new mosque was dedicated in 1998. Today it sits near one of Azerbaijan’s first oil fields, developed during the first oil boom in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Gobustan, an important site of ancient petroglyphs, was added to the UNESCO World Heritage list in 2007. Quarry workers discovered the rock carvings here by accident in the 1930s. Since then, the carvings depicting men, women, animals and artifacts have been the focus of much study and speculation. Continue to Shemakha, former capital of the once-powerful Shirvan Khanate from the 6th to the 15th centuries. Explore the town, passing by the 10th century Djuma Mosque, the oldest mosque in the Caucuses. Across the valley is the Yeddi Gumbez royal mausoleum where the Shirvan khans were buried; from here, look back at the twin hills overlooking Shemakha where the 12th century Gulestan Fortress and the citadel stood during its years as capital.
 Lunch: Lunch at a local restaurant.
 Afternoon: Continue to Sheki. On arrival, check into the hotel.
 Dinner: Dinner this evening with traditional Azeri musical entertainment. Musical history in Azerbaijan dates from before 3000 BC. The most well known of its musical forms is mugham (moo-GAHM), a fusion of Persian and Turkic traditions honored as a World Cultural Masterpiece by UNESCO. This mesmerizing music is usually sung, accompanied by traditional instruments, but can be performed instrumentally as well. Ancient and modern poems, in the Azeri, Persian and Arabic languages are set to music, using a subtle scale of 84 micro-intervals and no time signature. The resulting unwritten pieces have traditionally been passed from ear to ear as the bases for improvisation by the performers.
   
Accommodations: Sheki Saray Hotel
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 5: Sheki / Khan's Palace
(Sunday, October 11)
   
 Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel.
 Morning: Following breakfast, enjoy a walking excursion of charming Sheki. Claiming to have been founded some 2,700 years ago, Sheki is among the oldest settlements in Azerbaijan. Exploration of Sheki includes a visit to the mosaic-covered khan's palace with its brilliant stained glass work, called shebeke; the fortress that surrounds the palace, with its History and Crafts museums; and a walking tour of local crafts shops and bakeries.
 Lunch: Lunch at a local restaurant.
 Afternoon: Free time to explore Sheki on your own.
 Dinner: Dinner at the hotel.
   
Accommodations: Sheki Saray Hotel
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 6: Sheki / Drive to Telavi, Georgia
(Monday, October 12)
   
 Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel.
 Morning: Today, depart by coach for Georgia. After customs formalities at the border, change over to a Georgian coach for the next five days. The native Georgians call themselves Kartveli and their country Sakartvelo, meaning “the Georgian’s place.” In geographical terms, Georgia belongs neither to Europe nor to Asia. Travel through the Kakheti region, the most important wine-grape-growing area of the country. Georgian wine is well regarded throughout the world and some of the country's best comes from Kakheti. Then visit a UNESCO World Heritage site, the Gremi architectural complex from the 16th-17th centuries known for its murals.
 Lunch: Stop in the village of Alvani for lunch in a private home.
 Afternoon: This afternoon, visit Tsinindali Village and the Alexander Chachavadze Museum. Tsinindali Village is best known for the family estate of Alexander Chachavadze, located here. A 19th century Georgian aristocrat and poet, Chachavadze managed to serve admirably in the Imperial Russian army during the times he wasn’t fighting Russia for Georgian independence. His estate was a center of the intellectual life of the time. Here he and his father founded the first and foremost winery in the country, which still produces the dry white Tsinindali wine. His mansion has been transformed into a museum in honor of the poet and hero. Drive to Telavi, the administrative center of the Kakheti region, check into the hotel and freshen up.
 Dinner: Enjoy dinner served at a traditional Georgian Table – an unforgettable opportunity to taste authentic Georgian dishes and local wines while regional performers entertain. Also see a demonstration of traditional bread baking, vodka distilling and Georgian churchkela making, the wonderful Georgian sweet.
   
Accommodations: Marani Hotel
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 7: Gudauri / Signagi / Mtskheta
(Tuesday, October 13)
   
 Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel.
 Morning: Today drive to the mountain village of Gudauri via the towns of Signagi and Mtskheta. The beautiful hill town of Signagi is known for its cobbled old town square, the nearby Bodbe Nunnery and the remnants of an impressive 18th century defensive wall that still surrounds part of the city. The wall’s towers were named for the nearby villages, and the townspeople were meant to gather at their tower in times of trouble. Wander the narrow streets and admire the richly carved balconies and the green Alazani valley below. Stop in to view the carpets at the Georgian Hand Knitted Carpet Factory & Museum; each piece has been made in the traditional Georgian process of carpet-making. The museum prides itself on having revived these practices, using natural colors and ancient motifs. Leave Signagi behind and drive toward Gudauri, stopping first at Jvari, and then at Mtskheta. Jvari Monastery is an imposing structure atop a hill overlooking the confluence of the Kura and Aragvi Rivers.
 Lunch: Lunch at a local restaurant.
 Afternoon: Continue on to Mtskheta, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Mtskheta was the capital of the eastern Georgian kingdom of Iberia from the 3rd century BC until the 5th century AD. Because of its location, it was an important market town. As the center of the Iberian civilization, Mtskheta was also significant spiritually and culturally. Georgia's conversion to Christianity took place here in 337 AD, and the Orthodox churches built during this period are considered among the finest in the country. The final stop today is made at the feudal stronghold of Ananuri. Its notched fortress walls contain two churches and a 12th century watchtower. The old frescoes in the churches are faded, but the carvings around the doorways and on the outside walls are still vibrant. Arrive this evening in Gudauri and check into the hotel, it is the highest village on the Georgian Military Highway. Gudauri is home to a ski resort built by Austrians, which is your overnight base. Enjoy spectacular views of the Caucasus Mountains.
 Dinner: Dinner at the hotel.
   
Accommodations: Sport Hotel Club Gudauri
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 8: Tbilisi / Gori / Uplistsikhe
(Wednesday, October 14)
   
 Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel.
 Morning: This morning travel back down the Georgian Military Highway to Tbilisi. En route, explore the town of Gori, and a fascinating nearby cave town. Gori’s name comes from the Georgian word goraki, meaning hill. A 7th century Georgian chronicle marks the first mention of the fortress, but the walls that survive today date from the Middle Ages. Gori is best known for its connection with Stalin, who was born here in December 1879 and lived here until 1883. Stalin's father was a local shoemaker named Vissarion Dzhugashvili, by all reports a cruel and abusive man. The family’s original wooden hut on Stalin Prospekt is today the fascinating Stalin House Museum. On the grounds of the museum is Stalin's private railway car, used to carry him in style throughout the Soviet Union.
 Lunch: Lunch at a local restaurant.
 Afternoon: Stop at the cave town of Uplistsikhe, meaning “Lord's Castle,” which was once one of the most important towns along the trade route linking Byzantium with India and China, and was primarily inhabited by artisans and merchants. People may have populated the naturally-occurring caves before 1000 BC. Some of the caves were used to celebrate early pagan rituals before the country was fully Christianized. Although heavily eroded and damaged by earthquakes, the town is still fascinating to explore.
 Dinner: Dinner this evening is at a local restaurant in Tbilisi with a local guest to provide insight into contemporary Georgian life.
   
Accommodations: Courtyard by Marriott Tbilisi
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 9: Tbilisi / Metekhi Chuch of the Virgin / Narikala Fortress
(Thursday, October 15)
   
 Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel.
 Morning: Start the morning off with a guest lecture from a local Tbilisi resident. Today get to know Tbilisi, Georgia’s gorgeous capital city, on a combination walking and driving exploration. Georgia’s strip of central lowlands has long been an important link between East and West. Tbilisi is set at the mouth of this passageway, in the Mtkvari River valley, and has changed hands many times. Most notably, the Arabs ruled the city for 400 years before King David the Builder defeated them in 1121 and moved his capital here from Kutaisi. The Georgian king fostered tolerance for Tbilisi’s Arab population, and the city still has a multiethnic atmosphere. The red-roofed old town, its houses sporting carved wooden balconies, sits beneath the Narikala Fortress on the hill above. Tbilisi was last razed in 1795 by Aga Khan, and most of the current buildings date from that time. The domed sulfur baths and the stone Anchiskhati Church where all that survived. Discover the 13th century Metekhi Church of the Virgin, constructed on an outcropping above the river on the site of David the Builder’s former palace. See Tbilisi’s earliest sulfur baths, probably built during Arab rule in the 7th or 8th centuries, when it was discovered that hot springs are just under the surface in the old part of Tbilisi. In the 13th century there may have been up to 68 baths in Tbilisi; now there are six or seven. Most of the baths in use today were built in the 17th century. Pedestrians can see steam issuing from the dome-shaped underground baths as they pass by.
 Lunch: Lunch at a local restaurant.
 Afternoon: Pause at Sioni Cathedral, sheltering the Cross of St. Nino, the woman who brought Christianity to Georgia, and the 19th century caravanserai built to house traveling merchants. Visit the 4th century Narikala Fortress. Narikala Fortress seems to grow from the rock above the city of Tbilisi, keeping watch on the narrowest part of the Kura River. The 8th century Arab occupiers of the city used the fortress’ strategic location to defend their position in Tbilisi, adding to the original foundations. When David the Builder re-conquered the city in the 11th century, he again expanded the fortifications. Much of what remains today is from the 16th and 17th centuries, and has been recently restored. In 1996, the Church of St Nicholas – once contained within the fortress walls – was rebuilt in its original 12th century style after years of painstaking research. The citadel overlooks the Central Botanical Gardens and offers excellent views of the Old Town. Take time to briefly stroll Rustaveli Avenue, the city’s main street. Notice the numerous elaborately carved wooden balconies attached to the houses in the Old Town, a feature of the city's architectural landscape that often appears in paintings. Stop in to visit a working bakery and a craft studio.
 Dinner: This evening enjoy dinner at one of the city’s best restaurants, featuring special Georgian entertainment.
   
Accommodations: Courtyard by Marriott Tbilisi
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 10: Museum of Fine Arts
(Friday, October 16)
   
 Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel.
 Morning: This morning walk over to Tbilisi's wonderful Museum of Fine Arts, home of the Georgian Treasury. The Shalva Amiranashvili Museum of Fine Arts in Tbilisi, established in 1920, exhibits thousands of pieces of Georgian art, including paintings by Georgian masters, fine gold work dating from the 3rd century BC, medieval icons and ancient cloisonné enamel pieces.
 Lunch: Lunch at a local restaurant.
 Afternoon: Cherish some free time this afternoon and evening to walk, shop, explore and dine independently. You may wish to stroll along Rustaveli Avenue, Tbilisi's main street.
 Dinner: Dinner on your own.
   
Accommodations: Courtyard by Marriott Tbilisi
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch

Day 11: Drive to Yerevan / Haghbat Monastery
(Saturday, October 17)
   
 Breakfast: Early breakfast at the hotel.
 Morning: Say goodbye to Georgia and depart for the Armenian border. After customs formalities and changing over to our Armenian coach, stop in the Lori region of Armenia to visit Haghbat, the perfect place to begin an exploration of Armenia’s spiritual and cultural history. The Haghbat Monastery complex was founded in the 10th century, like its nearby companion, Sanahin Monastery. These fortified monasteries, added to over two hundred years, were literary, artistic and educational centers as well as monastic compounds. Comprising atmospheric stone churches, bell towers, mausoleums and numerous kachkar (carved stone crosses) Haghbat and Sanahin are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. They are outstanding examples of the blending of Byzantine church architecture with the local Caucasian architecture of the period.
 Lunch: Lunch at a local restaurant.
 Afternoon: The day ends with arrival in the capital of Armenia, Yerevan, upon arrival check into the hotel.
 Dinner: Dinner at a local restaurant.
   
Accommodations: Ani Plaza Hotel
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 12: Yerevan / State History Museum / Genocide Memorial
(Sunday, October 18)
   
 Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel.
 Morning: This morning, explore Yerevan, the capital city of Armenia – a city older than Rome. Yerevan was founded under the name Erebuni in 782 BC. In the 4th century, Armenia became the first country in Europe to adopt Christianity as its official religion. The Armenian peoples’ faith, culture and language have managed to survive through centuries of conflict with Arabs, Mongols, Persians and Turks: Yerevan changed hands 14 times between 1512 and 1735. The city center today includes a wide range of architectural styles as a result of the fusion of Armenian and Russian design. The layout of the city features a large central square, Republic Square, with broad avenues radiating from it, and a ring of parkland. Mountains surround the city, including the snow-covered peaks of Ararat to the south and the four peaks of Mount Aragats to the northwest. Located in Republic Square, the State History Museum features ancient models of Yerevan, archaeological collections from the Stone Age, and the statues of Catherine the Great and a beheaded Lenin tucked into its back courtyard. It also contains 10,000 original photographs and 5,000 historical documents that chronicle Armenia’s story. The museum recently acquired its current home following a ten-year stint in an obscure building, a period of homelessness and the repossession of the mosque it once occupied.
 Lunch: Lunch at a local restaurant.
 Afternoon: Make a brief visit to the fruit and vegetable market before setting off to explore one of Armenia’s most stirring sites, the Genocide Memorial. the Genocide Memorial, standing in a park at the top of Tsitsernakeberg, or “Swallow Castle.” According to scholarly estimates, over one million Armenians perished as a result of policies of the last Ottoman government between 1914 and 1918. Thousands were deported to Syria and faced consequent starvation, while others were methodically massacred. Many of the remaining Armenians fled to other countries in what is now called the Armenian Diaspora. Visit the underground museum at the memorial site to learn more about this harrowing period of history in Armenia. In the late afternoon, explore the weekend Art Park, Vernisage, the best opportunity for shopping and people watching. Here one can find a wide assortment of woodcarvings, ceramics, jewelry, paintings and other high-quality souvenirs.
 Dinner: Dinner on your own.
   
Accommodations: Ani Plaza Hotel
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch

Day 13: Echmiadzin / Temple of Garni / Geghard Monastery
(Monday, October 19)
   
 Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel.
 Morning: Today, continue to learn about Armenia’s spiritual history through a day trip to its religious centers: Echmiadzin, Garni and Geghard. Echmiadzin, founded as Vargarsapat in AD 117 and once the capital of Armenia, is the center of an agricultural area renowned for its fruit and wine. But it is better known as the spiritual center of Armenia and the seat of its Catholicos, or Patriarch. A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2000, it is also an important place of pilgrimage for Christian Armenians from the world over. It was here that St. Gregory the Illuminator had a vision of Christ descending to earth, and the Cathedral at Echmiadzin was built on the spot in the 3rd or 4th century. Admire the architecture of the cathedral and its fabulous church treasury, including a piece of wood from Mt. Ararat said to be from Noah's Ark. Just a short drive from the Echmiadzin Cathedral are two other sites also included in the same UNESCO listing: St. Hripsimeh (Martyria) Church and the ruins of Zvarnots Cathedral. The 7th century Hripsimeh Martyria Church is named for a young nun who was martyred for her refusal to marry the Roman emperor Diocletian. Another 7th century structure, the Zvarnots Cathedral, was the largest round church in the world during its time. Though the exact cause of its destruction is unknown, Zvarnots was sacked in the 10th century by Arab invaders and its ruins remained underground until the early 20th century.
 Lunch: Visit a private home for a lavash-making demonstration, then taste the fresh bread during lunch here.
 Afternoon: After lunch, continue touring Garni and Geghard. The Temple of Garni stands on a cliff near the Azat River valley, with walls of huge basalt blocks; the temple was once the summer palace of King Trdat I who built it in the first century AD. Destroyed by an earthquake in 1679, the monument has been restored by Armenian architects in recent years, and skilled work continues on the third century royal baths and their striking mosaics. Appreciate an outdoor concert of sacred music performed a capella. Carved into the side of a mountain, Geghard Monastery is one of the most fascinating monuments in Armenia. Beside the river at the foot of the rock, the church dates from 1215. It provides access to another building that has a roof formed by stalactites. The convent is in a cave adjoining this building; the only way in is through a narrow opening in the roof. The compound includes monastic cells, churches, tombs and khachkar, all hewn from solid rock. The churches are still functioning and for special events, such as baptisms, sacrifices of lambs sometimes take place. Armenia is famous for the intricately carved stone crosses known as khachkar. These masterpieces can be found in various parts of the country. They are a unique art form, distinct to Armenia, which originally appeared in both pagan and Christian periods. Initially wooden, the first stone crosses appeared in the 4th-7th centuries.
 Dinner: Dinner is own your own to explore local fare.
   
Accommodations: Ani Plaza Hotel
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch

Day 14: Lake Sevan
(Tuesday, October 20)
   
 Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel.
 Morning: This morning drive to Lake Sevan. Blue-green Lake Sevan, at over 6,200 feet above sea level, is one of the largest alpine lakes in the world. Filling two inter-mountain depressions, the brilliant lake is a favorite resort for citizens of Yerevan, about 70 miles away. In 1930, a Soviet plan to use lake water for hydroelectricity and irrigation caused the water level to sink rapidly, and beaches and resorts to appear on the new lakeshore. An ancient island monastery became a peninsula monastery. Work has been underway to reverse some of the drainage, and as of 2005, the water level of beautiful Lake Sevan is beginning to rise again. Drive to a neighboring province to visit the beautiful 12th century Goshavank Monastery. Once a major center of religious learning in Armenia, Goshavank today is nestled in a quiet village surrounded by forested hills.
 Lunch: Enjoy lunch at a restaurant in a quiet lakeside setting before returning to Yerevan in the afternoon.
 Afternoon: Have some free time to explore the city on your own.
 Dinner: Farewell Dinner at a local restaurant.
   
Accommodations: Ani Plaza Hotel
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 15: Departure
(Wednesday, October 21)
   
 Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel.
 Morning: Transfer to the airport for flights home.
   
Meals Included: Breakfast
Important information about your itinerary: Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the information featured on this website. Itineraries are based on our best information at this time. Circumstances beyond our control may require us to adjust itineraries or other details. We regret any inconvenience this may cause and appreciate your understanding. Information will be sent to you from your Program Provider approximately three weeks prior to the program start date. The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.


You can't find a better value than Road Scholar.


As a not-for-profit organization, we are dedicated to providing all-inclusive educational programs at great value. From lectures to gratuities to field trips to accommodations - the tuition you pay up front is all that you pay.



Specifically, this program includes:

Plus these special experiences...

View the Daily Schedule to see more

And included with all Road Scholar programs:


© Road Scholar 2014 | Call toll-free: 1-800-454-5768