South Caucasus & Turkey

A Taste of Georgia: Wine, Cuisine & Culture

Photo credit: Ia Tabagari

Duration
13 Days
Price
From $5,295
Trip Type
Small Group
Group Size
Max 16
Activity Level
12345

An Epicurean Adventure Across Georgia's Wine Country

Overview

International travelers are discovering what residents of the South Caucasus region have long known: Georgian food and wine are out-of-this-world good. This tour takes you to the places where Georgia’s extraordinary flavors shine brightest: in the vineyards, restaurants, and family tables where the country’s most accomplished winemakers and chefs ply their crafts. Along the way you’ll get to know the hip, historic capital city of Tbilisi, explore picturesque mountains dotted with centuries-old villages and monasteries, and discover firsthand why Georgians are famous for their hospitality.

Travels to: Georgia

Map

Itinerary

  • Days 1-3: Tbilisi (Georgia), Mtskheta

    Start your Georgian experience by getting to know hip, picturesque Tbilisi, the country’s capital and by far its largest city. A day of touring includes wandering the narrow streets of the red-roofed Old Town; a stroll down broad Rustaveli Avenue, Tbilisi’s main thoroughfare; and a funicular trip into the surrounding hills to see the 4th century Narikala Fortress and the towering Mother Georgia monument. You’ll then go underground to a cellar wine bar to sample a cross-section of Georgian wines. Dinner is a supra, a traditional feast with dozens of dishes and a tamada (toastmaster) leading the festivities.

    Next, take a day trip to the surrounding Kartli region. Visit UNESCO-listed Mtskheta, capital of the eastern Georgian kingdom of Iberia from the 3rd century BC through the 5th century AD. Continue getting to know Georgian wines with tastings at the Saguramo Wine Research Station and the Mukhrani Chateau vineyard.

    HIGHLIGHTS

    • Landmarks in and around Tbilisi, including the 4th century Narikala Fortress, the hillside Mother Georgia monument, and the elaborately carved balconies of the Old Town
    • A thorough introduction to Georgian wine, with tastings at three sites
    • A supra – a traditional feast – showing off Georgia’s splendid cuisine and unstinting hospitality
    • UNESCO-listed Mtskheta’s two exceptional early Orthodox churches
  • Days 4-6: Kutaisi, Svaneti

    Drive into Imereti, a region of small farms, vineyards, villages, and orchards. Lunch with a local winemaker, then pause to wonder at Katskhis Sveti, a 140-foot-tall limestone monolith on top of which medieval monks built a tiny church and hermitage. At your overnight destination, the town of Kutaisi, have a dinner featuring Imeretian cuisine, some of Georgia’s most creative and complex cooking.

    On the following two days, explore UNESCO-listed 12th century Gelati Monastery; drive through the steep,  stunning Caucasus Mountains of the secluded Svaneti region, known for its UNESCO-listed medieval watchtowers; visit a Svanetian home for a gourmet lunch; and have a dinner accompanied by Svan singers performing in a traditional polyphonic style.

    HIGHLIGHTS

    • A dinner of traditional Imeretian cuisine; typical dishes include kid baked in a clay oven and wild mushrooms with tarragon and local cheese
    • The frescoes and mosaics of Gelati Monastery
    • The steep, remote mountains of Svaneti, studded with medieval watchtowers
    • A home-cooked Svanetian lunch, which might feature hen roasted in rose petals and eggplant slices stuffed with garlic-walnut paste
    • A performance of traditional songs in a centuries-old polyphonic style that developed independent of European rules of harmony
  • Days 7-9: Borjomi, Vardzia, Tbilisi

    Descend from the mountains to the town of Zugdidi, where lunch features another regional cuisine, Megrelian. In the afternoon visit a maker of qvevri, the giant earthenware vessels used to ferment Georgian wine, and then continue to the resort town of Borjomi. On subsequent days explore the medieval cave city of Vardzia and the delightful Phoka Nunnery, where the nuns make cheese and chocolate by hand, before returning to Tbilisi.

    HIGHLIGHTS

    • Traditional Megrelian cuisine, known for its adjika (pepper sauce), satsivi (spicy walnut chicken), and ghomi (a dish resembling polenta)
    • Borjomi, a resort town situated on a beautiful gorge and famed for its mineral water
    • Exploring the network of hundreds of caves that make up Vardzia
    • Handcrafted chocolates, cheeses, and beeswax candles made at Phoka Nunnery
  • Days 10-13: Telavi, Signagi, Tbilisi

    Head into Georgia’s most esteemed wine region, Kakheti. In and around the charming towns of Telavi and Signagi, walk through the vineyards and sample the renowned natural wines at Pheasant’s Tears Winery; visit the estate of Alexander Chavchavadze, a 19th century aristocrat and poet who was also a groundbreaking winemaker; tour the 9th century Bodbe Monastery; and continue indulging in exceptional meals. On your final day, join a local chef on his morning rounds at Signagi’s food market before returning to Tbilisi for a visit to the Dry Bridge Market, where you can search through the handmade jewelry and crafts for a souvenir from your Georgian journey.

    HIGHLIGHTS

    • Touring, tasting, and a farm-to-table meal at Pheasant’s Tears Winery
    • The narrow streets and intricate wooden balconies of the hill town of Signagi
    • The beautifully restored mansion of Alexander Chavchavadze
    • The basilica and gardens of Bodbe Monastery
    • Local jewelry and crafts at Tbilisi’s Dry Bridge Market

Dates & Prices

Small group tour – max 16 travelers

Land tour price, per person. Based on double occupancy and minimum group size of 6 travelers.

  • 2020 Dates
    Sept 30 - Oct 12
    Tour, double occupancy
    $5,295
    Single supplement
    $1,095
  • 2021 Dates
    Sept 29 - Oct 11
    Tour, double occupancy
    $5,495
    Single supplement
    $1,195

What's Included

  • Tour Includes
    • Accommodations, as noted in the itinerary.
    • Most meals, as noted in the itinerary.
    • A daily supply of bottled water.
    • Arrival/departure airport transfers on the tour start/end date. MIR will arrange for all travelers to be met upon arrival and seen off upon departure whether or not we make your flight arrangements.
    • Ground transportation throughout tour by private van or coach. (Type of vehicle depends on group size.)
    • Services of experienced, English-speaking local guides, drivers, and other staff, including a MIR Tour Manager.
    • Guided sightseeing tours and entrance fees, as outlined in the itinerary.
    • Special events, excursions, and cultural performances as outlined in the itinerary.
    • Gratuities to local guides, drivers, and other service personnel, including servers at group meals.
    • Complete pre-departure information, including detailed packing list, reading list, and Touring with MIR handbook with country-specific information, maps, and travel tips.
    • Final document packet including luggage tags, final updates, and more.
    • Assistance booking your custom flight arrangements, on request. (Please note, international airfare is not included in the land tour cost.)
  • Not Included
    • International airfare and taxes/fuel surcharges.
    • Meals and drinks not specified as included in the itinerary.
    • Single supplement (or partial single supplement where applicable), if requested or required.
    • Gratuities to Tour Manager.
    • Expenses incurred as a result of delay, modification, or extension of a tour due to causes beyond MIR’s control.
    • Travel insurance including cancellation, medical, and evacuation insurance.
    • Visa and/or passport fees, excess-baggage charges, airport departure taxes, vaccination and other medical costs.
    • Optional pre- or post-tour extensions.
    • Items of a personal nature such as phone calls, email, laundry, and alcohol.

Activity Level

Level 3: Medium

This small group tour features long days walking and standing while touring, a large amount of stair climbing with some steep steps, several long overland drives sometimes on poor quality roads, and accommodations in some cases that offer common WCs and do not have en suite shower facilities. Only those fit to travel and who are willing to accept local standards of amenities and services and the physical challenges of the program should consider joining this program. 

Travelers must be able to walk one to two miles a day, keeping up with fellow travelers, often on uneven surfaces.

There are overall shortcomings in the tourism infrastructure of these developing destinations, including some that can cause walking challenges such as unpaved sidewalks, uneven surfaces and steps, packed-dirt streets, broken pavement (streets or sidewalks), and a general absence of handrails or ramps. Some attractions are only accessible via steep staircases with tall uneven steps – in some cases, stairways are in narrow passages with limited light. Elevators are not available at touring sights, nor at some of the hotels.

Past travelers have also encountered challenges with plumbing, bureaucratic service, and availability and quality of public restrooms. 

Accommodations vary from four star properties to relatively basic and simple hotels in the more remote parts of the countryside.

 

Traveler Reviews

  • "It was a great trip. I’m trying to figure out how to return and sketch the architecture, cook the delicious food I sampled, and learn more about the history. Georgia has everything I look for in a trip: architecture, food, landscape, people, music, wine, and a fascinating history."

    L. Hamlin

    Brookline, MA

  • "This is one of the best organized tours. It was beyond what I expected, especially the access to so many family vineyards and the meals that were prepared by their families. A highlight of the meals … was the polyphonic music at some of the suppers. I felt we experienced the best of Georgia."

    L. Moriarty

    Kapaa, HI