Exploring Rugged Mountains & Hidden Valleys
Explore gorgeous Georgia, including this mountainous nation’s hidden corners. Hike to stunning waterfalls and trek or 4WD to an amazing glacier sunset. In this land of hospitality, experience the warm welcome remote villages reserve for rare outside visitors as you hike, horseback ride, and of course feast your way across Georgia.
Travels to: Georgia
Days 1-2: Tbilisi (Georgia)
After arriving in Tbilisi, check in to your hotel and start your Georgian experience the next day with a tour of the hip, picturesque capital. Follow the winding streets of the red-roofed Old Town; stroll down broad Rustaveli Avenue, Tbilisi’s main thoroughfare; and stop at three historic churches: Anchiskhati Basilica, Metekhi Church of the Virgin, and Sioni Cathedral. In the surrounding hills, the 4th century Narikala Fortress and the Mother Georgia monument are inescapable presences towering over the city. You’ll also explore the city’s art nouveau Sololaki District.
- A visit to the Simon Janashia Museum of Georgia (part of Georgia’s National Museum) for a look at some of the country’s most significant archaeological finds
- The elaborately carved balconies and sulfur bath domes of Tbilisi’s Old Town
- The frescoes of 6th century Anchiskhati Basilica, Tbilisi’s oldest church
- The unique golden stonework of the Sioni Cathedral
- People-watching and window-shopping on Rustaveli Avenue
- A browse through the Dry Bridge Market, where vendors sell everything from jewelry and tchotchkes to carpets, tableware, and tools
Days 3-4: Mtskheta, Kutaisi, Mazeri
Depart Tbilisi for Mtskheta, capital of the eastern Georgian kingdom of Iberia from the 3rd century BC to the 5th century AD. Visit the UNESCO-listed sites of Jvari Monastery and Svetitskhoveli Cathedral before continuing on to the Mukhrani Chateau vineyards for a wine tasting. Upon arrival in Kutaisi, pay a visit to the local farmers market and the 11th century Bagrati Cathedral. Kutaisi is an ancient city that served as an important merchant center on the route between Greece and India, becoming the capital of Georgia from 978 to 1122 AD. The next day, visit the Gelati Monastery before departing for the UNESCO-listed region of Svaneti, a remote mountainous region dotted with remarkably preserved medieval watchtowers, and spend the night in the village of Mazeri.
- Mtskheta’s two UNESCO-listed early Orthodox churches – Jvari Monastery and Svetitskhoveli Cathedral
- Winetasting at Mukhrani Chateau, the palatial estate of the former royal family of Georgia
- Domed cathedral of 11th century Bagrati Cathedral
- The frescoes and mosaics of the UNESCO-listed Gelati Monastery
- The steep, remote mountains of Svaneti, studded with medieval watchtowers
- A home cooked Svanetian meal with a local family in the remote village of Kichkhuldashi
Days 5-8: Mazeri, Mestia, Ushguli
Depart Mazeri and enjoy a day hike to the Shdugra waterfall, the tallest in Georgia and one of the most beautiful natural wonders in the Svaneti region. Spend the next couple of nights in the town of Mestia and explore the wonderful Ethnographic Museum, its towering Svanetian architecture, and a hike toward the Chalaadi Glacier. The next day, enjoy a beautiful but challenging hike in the Svaneti region before continuing on to Ushguli to spend two nights at a guesthouse in this stunningly beautiful, remote village. At an altitude of 7,218 feet, Ushguli is the highest continually inhabited village in Europe. Here, you will have a chance to hike to Shkhara Glacier with views of Georgia’s highest peak, Mt. Shkhara.
- 6-8 hour roundtrip hike past mineral springs, a picturesque church, and beautiful meadows to Shdugra waterfall
- Tour of the Ethnographic Museum in Mestia, with its 10th-12th century manuscripts, unique 14th century metalwork, and its religious icons
- Explore a typical, 12th century Svanetian tower-house
- See the outstanding interior and exterior murals of Laghami’s Church of Christ the Savior
- 1-2 hour hike to Chalaadi Glacier for amazing views of Mestia and the Ushba and Tetnuldi glaciers
- 5-6 hour challenging but beautiful hike from Zhabeshi village to Hadishi village
- Day hike from Ushguli to the Shkhara Glacier for outstanding views of Georgia’s tallest peak – the 17,000-foot Mt. Shkhara – through countryside dotted with small villages, ancient watchtowers, alpine forests and meadows, and small creeks
Days 9-10: Tskaltubo, Uplistsikhe, Tbilisi
Depart Ushguli for Tskaltubo, a resort town about 9 miles west of Kutaisi famed for its thermal radon-mineral baths and natural springs once favored by Stalin. After an overnight at a hotel, continue on to Tbilisi with stops in a remote village in the Ateni River Valley for a wine tasting at a local winery, and at the cave town of Uplistsikhe – once one of the most important towns along the trade route linking Byzantium with India and China.
- Enjoy a wine tasting and lunch at the Winery of N. Vacheishvili and pay a visit to the home of a local vigneron and winemaker in the Ateni River Valley
- Explore the cave town of Uplistsikhe (optional visit)
Days 11-12: Kakheti Region (Qedeli, Signagi, Vashlovani National Park or Lagodekhi National Park)
Depart Tbilisi and head east to the Kakheti region, home to the beloved town of Signagi and the charming village of Qedeli. Kakheti is wine country and the most important wine-growing area of the country. Qedeli will be your home-base for the next few days and is home to a small horse ranch from which you can take in picturesque views of rolling green hills dotted with small churches and flocks of sheep. After spending some time exploring Signagi and Qedeli, enjoy a day trip to one of the area’s national parks – Vashlovani or Lagodekhi – depending on the season.
- Enjoy some horseback riding through villages, forests, and vineyards in the countryside near Signagi (optional)
- Try some Georgian craft beer at the Lost Ridge Brewery, Georgia’s first village craft brewery
- Walking tour of the hill-town of Signagi, wandering its narrow streets and admiring its richly carved balconies and the green valleys below (optional)
- Tour of the Signagi Archaeological & Ethnographic Museum, with its collection of artifacts found near the David Gareja Monastery and paintings by Georgian master artist Pirosmani
- Enjoy a fantastic meal at Pheasant’s Tears Restaurant, where the chef prepares superb local and organic cuisine
- Day trip to either Vashlovani National Park to hike and explore Artsivi (Eagle) Canyon, or Lagodekhi National Park in the peak summer months for a hike on a choice of hiking routes
Days 13-14: Kakheti Region, Tbilisi
Depart the Kakheti region today and return to Tbilisi. You can choose to enjoy some free time in Tbilisi this afternoon to check out the Dry Bridge Market or rest and pack, or to explore more of Kakheti with an optional activity on the way back to the capital. The next day, say goodbye to Georgia with a transfer to the airport to catch your departure flight.
- Free time in Tbilisi
- OR, enjoy some touring in Telavi, a delicious Tushetian lunch and wine tasting at a young winemaker’s house in Zemo Alvani village, and (time and interest permitting) visit Alaverdi Monastery or Ikalto Academy before continuing on to Tbilisi via the Gombori Pass
Dates & Prices
- Private trip prices vary by season and are subject to hotel availability for your travel dates.
- Listed prices below are based on double occupancy and a 2 traveler minimum.
- Hotel upgrades, additional nights, and solo traveler prices are available on request.
Land tour price, per person, starting from:
- Shared accommodations as noted in the itinerary. Contact MIR for hotel upgrade prices.
- Meals, as noted in the itinerary.
- One arrival and one departure transfer. Additional arrival and departure transfers available at additional cost. MIR will arrange for travelers to be met upon arrival and seen off on departure, whether or not we make your air arrangements.
- Ground transportation throughout itinerary by private vehicle and driver (type of vehicle depends on number of travelers in your group.)
- Services of an experienced, English-speaking national guide throughout the program.
- Guided sightseeing tours and entrance fees, as outlined in the itinerary.
- Special events, excursions, and cultural performances, as outlined in the itinerary.
- Restaurant tips for included 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 final updates and more.
- Assistance booking your custom flight arrangements, on request. (Please note that international airfare is not included in the land tour cost).
- International airfare and taxes/fuel surcharges.
- Meals and drinks not specified as included in the itinerary.
- Single supplement, if requested or required.
- Baggage handling.
- Gratuities to national guides, activity guides, local guides, drivers, porters, and other service personnel.
- Expenses incurred as a result of delay, modification, or extension of a tour due to causes beyond MIR’s control.
- Travel and trip-related insurance including cancellation, medical, and evacuation insurance. (Proof of insurance is required.)
- Visa fees/passport fees if required (U.S. passport holders do not require any visas for this program).
- Optional pre or post-tour extensions.
- Day pack for hiking/horseback riding portions and other active elements – all travelers should bring their own.
- Specialty or comfort-only active gear including, but not limited to: hydration systems, hiking shoes, etc.
- Items of a personal nature such as phone calls, email, laundry, alcohol, excess baggage, etc.
Level 4: Rigorous
Please note: due to the active and adventurous nature of this tour a separate waiver, beyond the MIR Tour Reservation Form, is required for participation in this tour and must be completed no later than final payment.
Insurance is required and you will be required to show proof of insurance.
This “Active Essential” itinerary is designed to incorporate active elements such as hiking, horseback riding, kayaking, and more into private journeys. Only those fit to travel, with a high level of physical fitness, and who are comfortable spending half the day or more in active settings (and who accept the local conditions) should consider joining.
While the accommodations are designed to be comfortable for travel in this part of the world and are rated as three to four-star hotels, some are on the smaller side with more basic amenities and services. It is important to keep in mind that Georgia may not be up to the standards North American travelers expect. Services are improving in the region; nevertheless, you may encounter problems with plumbing, bureaucratic service, road conditions, unpaved sidewalks, uneven surfaces and steps, and availability and quality of public restrooms.
This is an adventuresome and active trip, with many active/athletic elements. It is rated as very rigorous touring due to the daily walking involved, some long driving days, the conditions of some roads, and the overall shortcomings of the tourism infrastructure as well as the active/athletic elements involved, such as hiking and optional horseback riding. A significant amount of touring is on foot. Many streets are of cobblestones, some attractions are only accessible via steep staircases, and museums rarely have elevators. Flexibility and a sense of humor are essential components of the enjoyment of this trip.