Local Life & Landscapes of Georgia, Armenia & Azerbaijan

“AStep deep into the cultures of Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia, experiencing local life in one of the most hospitable regions of the world. Share stories and warm meals in mountain villages, sample natural wines and fantastic local cuisine, and meet craftspeople who work in clay, stained glass, metal and wood — all of it set to a soundtrack of polyphonic singing that can give you goosebumps, and traditional instruments playing the old songs of love and heartbreak.

21 Day Trip

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Overview Itinerary

MIR Signature Experiences on this Tour
  • Explore an 18th century caravanserai
    Imagine yourself a Silk Route merchant as you explore an 18th century caravanserai in Sheki, Azerbaijan....
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  • Savor an authentic “Georgian Table” meal
    Savor an authentic "Georgian Table," featuring an abundance of local specialties and an official Georgian toastmaster....
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  • Admire the medieval watchtowers of Svaneti
    Admire the stacked stone medieval watchtowers of the UNESCO-listed Svaneti Region, a remote and distinct mountainous region of Georgia...
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  • See all the way to Turkey from Khor Virap
    Admire the incredible panorama of snow-capped Mt. Ararat looming over the vineyards and the little stone monastery of Khor Virap....
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Why Travel with MIR on this Tour
  • Over 30 years of South Caucasus travel experience
  • Travel programs such Harvard, World Affairs Council of Philadelphia and the American Museum of Natural History have chosen MIR to guide them to the South Caucasus
  • Twice named one of National Geographic Adventure’s “Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth”
  • On-the-ground support and quality you can trust
  • Personalized travel planning from start to finish
  • Guides and tour managers that clients rave about
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Itinerary & Highlights at a Glance

Days 1-4: Baku, Shemakha, Lahij, Sheki

The journey begins in Baku, capital of Azerbaijan and black gold boomtown, exploring the narrow stone streets of the charming medieval Old Town. Near Shemakha, visit a copper master’s studio to learn about casting and engraving with the malleable metal. Stop for a family meal in Lahij, home to coppersmiths and carpet weavers, trades which have been practiced here since the Middle Ages. Traveling overland, visit Sheki, a 14th century architectural preserve and one of the oldest towns in Azerbaijan.

Highlights

  • Baku, capital of Azerbaijan and oil boomtown, with its UNESCO-listed Old Town
  • Vivid hand-loomed carpets at the State Museum of Azerbaijani Carpets and Applied Folk Art
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Days 5-6: Signagi

Crossing the Georgian border, discover Georgia’s wine country, Kakheti. Near Signagi, take a walking tour of the vineyards at renowned Pheasant’s Tears Winery, producing organic wines from regional grapes. Enjoy a traditional “Georgian Table” feast, laden with fine examples of the country’s rich culinary and winemaking legacy. Georgia is where the wine grape was first cultivated and the flowers and fruits of the Mediterranean flourish.

Highlights

  • Kakheti region, Georgia’s wine country
  • Hilltown of Signagi with narrow streets and wooden balconies
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Days 7-8: Shenako, Dartlo (Tusheti Region)

Load up into a 4WD vehicle for the drive into the mountains of the remote Tusheti region. Most of the region’s former year-round residents have moved to winter quarters, only coming up for the summer. Overnight in a guesthouse in Shenako, a tiny mountain village set on the south slope of a grassy ridge of the Caucasus Mountains. Only a few hardy souls stay here all winter. Participate in a mountain village celebration in Dartlo, a jumble of two- and three-story slate-roofed stone houses with wooden balconies.

Highlights

  • Winding mountain road to Tusheti, over 9,500-foot Abano Pass, only open from June to October
  • Picnic in spectacular mountain scenery
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Days 9-10: Tbilisi

Explore Tbilisi’s red-roofed Old Town, its houses sporting carved wooden balconies beneath the fourth century Narikala Fortress. Enjoy lunch and a wine-tasting in the art nouveau Sololaki District, built in the 19th and early 20th centuries by Georgian and European architects. Visit Georgia’s National Museum for a look at some of the country’s most significant archaeological finds, including the 1.8-million-year-old Homo erectus skulls unearthed at Dmanisi, Georgia.

Highlights

  • Trip through the agricultural Kakheti lowlands and the green Gombori Mountains
  • Narikala Fortress, Mother Georgia Monument, Rustaveli Avenue in Tbilisi
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Days 11-13: Kutaisi, Mestia (Svaneti Region)

Set out toward remote Svaneti, known for its massive tower architecture and its proud mountain people. Stop in at the workshop of a ceramicist who makes qvevri, the 200 to 900-gallon earthenware vessels used for fermenting and storing Georgian wines, and at a winemaker's to enjoy regional wine and snacks. Before heading into the mountains, overnight in Kutaisi. Enjoy the dramatic drive into the gorgeous mountains of Svaneti, a remote and distinct region of Georgia, designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its remarkably preserved medieval appearance. Svaneti has maintained its own way of life for centuries.

Highlights

  • Sixth century Jvari Monastery, part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Mtskheta
  • Demonstration and explanation of the qvevri-making process
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Days 14-16: Batumi, Akhaltsikhe, Vardzia

Drive from the mountains to the Black Sea, stopping in Batumi, whose 19th century oil barons’ homes contrast with the slick, modernized waterfront. On the way to Akhaltsikhe, drive through a region of summer pastures and meadows, stopping at a tea plantation and a tobacco farm. Explore the recently renovated Rabati, or Old Town, of Akhaltsikhe, sitting on the hill above town surrounded by ramparts and towers, and enjoy a meal with a local family. Take a walk through the rock-hewn monastery of Vardzia, begun by 12th century King Giorgi III.

Highlights

  • Drive past tea and tobacco plantations
  • Lunch and conversation at a family-owned farm
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Days 17-21: Phoka, Gyumri, Yerevan

On the way to Armenia, stop at the delightful Phoka Nunnery of St. Nino to meet with some of the nuns and enjoy a tasting of the many varieties of cheese they produce. In Gyumri, visit the workshop of a master metalsmith, who demonstrates the art of working iron by hand. Enjoy lunch at a 170-year-old home, where meals are served in the beautiful old wine cellar.

In the Armenian capital, discover medieval shrines hidden behind imposing Soviet-style facades; the narrow lanes of the Old Town with its stone walls; Republic Square; the new icon of the Cascade; and the soaring Mother Armenia statue. Enter a local home for a friendly meal of Armenian specialties, and visit a master rug and carpet maker. Stop in at the studio of one of the finest makers of the traditional Armenian reed instrument, the duduk, to learn about Armenian instruments and enjoy tea or coffee with the craftsman. Gather for a farewell dinner, featuring Armenian folk music and dance, to toast your journey.

Highlights

  • 13th century Saghmosavank Monastery (Monastery of the Psalms), built of red and black stone
  • Demonstration of preparing lentil soup, tolma (stuffed vegetables) and pokhindz, an Armenian dessert porridge
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See Dates & Prices for more details or to see suggested extensions.

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Tour Dates & Prices
Trip Length: 21 Days

Land Tour Price, Per Person
based on double occupancy

  • 4-12 Travelers $7,995
  • Single Supplement $995

2018 Dates

  • July 29-August 18
  • $7,995
  • Max 12 Travelers
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Group Size

Really Small Groups – Never More than 12 Travelers. Guaranteed!

What’s Included

On Your Tour

  • Accommodations range from well-located first class hotels in the major cities to rustic guesthouses with shared facilities in villages.
  • Breakfast lunch and dinner every full day of the tour (20 breakfasts, 19 lunches and 20 dinners).
  • Restaurant tips for included meals.
  • Services of an experienced, English-speaking MIR Tour Manager with local guides at specific sites.
  • Arrival/departure transfers. MIR will arrange for all travelers to be met on arrival and seen off on departure whether we make your airfare arrangements or not, provided you arrive and depart on the tour start/end dates in the tour start/end cities.
  • Ground transportation throughout itinerary by minivan or 4WD vehicle (vehicle type will depend on group size and terrain).
  • Guided sightseeing tours and entrance fees as outlined in itinerary.
  • Special events, excursions and cultural performances per the itinerary.
  • Baggage handling where available.
  • Bottled water at group meals.
  • Gratuities to local guides and drivers.

Before Your Tour

  • Personalized pre-departure support from one of our knowledgeable Tour Specialists.
  • Complete pre-departure information including detailed packing list and reading list.
  • Touring with MIR handbook with country-specific information, maps, and travel tips.
  • Customized visa application instruction kit (if applicable to your itinerary; please note, visa fees are not included in the tour price).
  • Final document packet including luggage tags, final updates, and more.
  • Assistance booking your custom flight arrangements (on request; please note that international and internal airfares are not included in the land tour cost).
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Prepare for Your Trip

International Airfare

MIR's in-house, full-service air department will gladly assist with your air travel needs.

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Reading List

MIR recommends reading up before you leave home. So settle back in your armchair with some of our favorite books about our favorite places.

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Visas

Most MIR programs require one or more visas, and each visa requires a completely blank page in your passport. Visa information for this particular tour is listed in the Detailed Descriptive Itinerary.

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Travel Insurance

Stay a Little Longer…

Combine this tour with a custom, private extension in Yerevan, Armenia, or a stopover in Istanbul. All of MIR’s destinations are open to you, and all can be attached to this program. Please contact MIR for more details about exciting options for extended travel.

Or, choose from one of our suggested itineraries:

Is this Trip Right for You?

While the accommodations are designed to be comfortable for travel in this part of the world, they will vary from a superior tourist class hotel in Baku to simple and basic accommodation with shared facilities in guesthouses in the mountains of Georgia. It is important to keep in mind that the countries of the South Caucasus are not up to the standards North American travelers expect.

A full list of details about the rigors of this tour are explained in the Detailed Descriptive Itinerary.

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