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Explore the spectacular highland countries of Armenia and Georgia, the world’s oldest Christian nations, with expert Dr William Taylor. Both countries contain a treasure trove of ancient ruins, churches and monasteries together with centuries-old folk traditions. Europe meets Asia in this spectacular and historic region of the Caucasus, where visitors will find a friendly welcome, excellent food and wine, and varied landscapes.
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Fly from London (regional connections available) to Yerevan, via Kiev, with Ukraine International Airlines. Arrive and transfer to the Metropol Hotel (or similar) for 4 nights. (N)
Take a full-day tour of Yerevan with visits including the Matenadaran – the repository of ancient Armenian manuscripts – and Erebuni fortress, where we will meet a local expert (subject to confirmation). Continue to Tsitsernakaberd, a memorial and museum dedicated to the Armenian genocide of 1915, with its picturesque views over the city. Next, visit the National Art Gallery, which contains some excellent examples of medieval frescoes and Armenian and European art. (B, L, D)
Drive west to visit the Unesco world heritage site of Etchmiadzin (now called Vagharshapat), the spiritual centre of the Armenian-Gregorian Church, with a private behind-the-scenes tour of the monastic complex. Visit a fine example of Armenian architecture at the St Hripsime church before visiting Etchmiadzin cathedral, the oldest state-built cathedral in the world, dating back to the early fourth century. Inside the cathedral is the reputed Holy Lance that pierced Christ’s side during his crucifixion. End the day at the seventh-century ruins of Zvartnots cathedral. (B, L, D)
Drive east of Yerevan to visit the temple of Garni, a classical Hellenistic temple that is the best-known structure and symbol of pre-Christian Armenia. Nearby is the medieval monastery of Geghard, partially carved out of the adjacent mountain and surrounded by cliffs. (B, L, D)
Cross the border to Georgia, stopping en route to see Lake Sevan and the Unesco-protected monasteries of Haghpat and Sanahin, unique for their 10th-century architectural styles. Proceed to Tbilisi and stay 2 nights at the Museum Hotel (or similar). (B, L, D)
Full-day tour of Tbilisi, including a cable car ride to fourth-century Narikala fortress, which occupies a scenic spot overlooking the city, and the fifth-century Metekhi church, an unusually styled cross-cupola church, which became an infamous prison during the Soviet era. Visit the State Museum, home to hundreds of Caucasian icons and metalwork dating from the Bronze Age to the 20th century. Spend the remainder of the afternoon at the Georgia Museum of Art, where a private guided visit by a senior curator has been arranged. (B, L, D)
Drive north-west to the Unesco world heritage site of Mtskheta. Lying at the confluence of the Mtkvari and Aragvi rivers, the city was the place where Christianity was proclaimed as the official religion of Georgia in 337AD. Continue to the church of Jvari nearby, followed by a drive to Gori, birthplace of Joseph Stalin. Visit the intriguing Stalin Museum, which features numerous personal artefacts, including Stalin’s notorious armour-plated railway carriage. Drive to Kutaisi and spend 1 night at the Bagrati Hotel (or similar). (B, L, D)
This morning visit Bagrati cathedral, which occupies a prominent position over Kutaisi. Continue to the Gelati monastery complex, built by the former king of Georgia, David the Builder. This Unesco world heritage site
features a number of 12th- and 13th-century churches and houses numerous murals, mosaics and manuscripts. Drive eastwards to Tbilisi, stopping at Ubisa for a short visit. Overnight at the Museum Hotel (or similar), Tbilisi. (B, L, D)
Travel east through the hills and wine lands of Kakheti to the town of Gremi, which was destroyed by the army of Shah Abbas in the 16th century, leaving the architectural monument of the royal citadel and the Church of the Archangels. Continue to the Ikalto academy, together with Gelati, one of the great medieval academies of Georgia. Drive to Signagi via the monastery of St Nino at Bodbe, a Georgian Orthodox monastic complex and one of the major pilgrimage sites in Georgia, with views of the Greater Caucasus mountains. Overnight at Kabadoni Hotel (or similar). (B, L, D)
After a walking tour of Signagi, visit Tsinandali, the palace and vineyard of a Georgian noble family. Nearby is Telavi, capital of the Kakheti region and home to the best vineyards in the country. After lunch in a wine house, visit Alaverdi, a functioning Georgian monastery dating from the sixth century with its stunning masterpiece – the 11th-century cathedral. Return to Tbilisi for a farewell dinner and stay overnight at the Museum Hotel (or similar). (B, L, D)
Transfer to Tbilisi airport. Fly to London, via Kiev. (B)
As per itinerary – B: Breakfast, L: Lunch, D: Dinner, N: No meals.
A collection of expert accompanied tours focusing on creativity in its many forms. No prior knowledge of the subject matter is required. All tours can be viewed at our Arts & Cultures page.
This tour is fully escorted throughout by a lecturer who has specialist knowledge of the destination and its culture, as well as an experienced local guide where necessary.
Based in 3- and 4-star accommodation.
This tour involves some long walks over uneven ground and therefore requires a good level of fitness.
Please note that the exclusive and individual nature of private visits means that they are subject to confirmation nearer the time of departure. Also, churches, private houses and other buildings often have fluid opening times. If any visits have to be rearranged, please be assured that we will seek alternatives of equal interest.
This itinerary can be taken privately on a date that suits
you, for which guideline prices are shown.
Alternatively, it can be tailored to your exact
requirements. Please call to speak with a Cox & Kings consultant or
Dr William Taylor, an
expert in Ottoman and
Orthodox studies, is also
an Anglican priest and
Chairman of the Anglican
and Eastern Churches.
His personal contacts
guarantee special access to many
monasteries and churches. He has worked
in Jordan, Cairo and Turkey, and travelled
in the Middle East and Central Asia.
This tour can be booked / reserved online by clicking on one of the coloured links below.
AYG2020: 10 Nights
The capital of the Imereti region of Georgia, Kutaisi is the country's second largest...
The town of Sighnaghi is located on the top of a hill, which offers commanding views of...
Bordered by dramatic hills and mountains, Tbilisi was built on the banks of the Mtkvari...