South Caucasus & Turkey

Food & Wine of Azerbaijan, Georgia & Armenia With Lewis & Clark College

Duration
12 Days
Price
From $5,995
Trip Type
Small Group
Group Size
20
Activity Level
12345
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Exclusively for Lewis & Clark College

A Journey Through the South Caucasus with Deborah Heath

Overview

Embark on a twelve-day culinary and cultural exploration across the South Caucasus with Lewis & Clark College, uncovering the essence of Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Armenia through their rich food and wine traditions. Enjoy the comfort of handpicked boutique hotels, wander vibrant markets, taste local delicacies such as Caspian caviar and Georgian khachapuri, and engage in the culinary arts of making khinkali dumplings and baking Armenian lavash. Stroll through the historic cores of Baku, Tbilisi, and Yerevan with our expert guides, experiencing the soul of these ancient cities. In Georgia, delve into the heart of its renowned wine country, learning about the ancient qvevri winemaking process. Traverse scenic routes to uncover remote churches set against the backdrop of the majestic Caucasus Mountains. Revel in the region’s musical heritage, including Azeri mugham, Georgian polyphonic singing, and Armenian a capella, for a journey enriched with unparalleled cultural experiences. This exclusive tour offers a deep dive into the gastronomic pleasures and profound cultural heritage of the South Caucasus.

Questions? Contact LC Travel Program, Andrew McPheeters, Associate Vice President Community Education & Travel Programs, Mcpheete@lclark.edu | (503) 768-7936

Reservation Details: Deposit $1,000 (non-refundable), final payment is due by July 15, 2024. Cancellation policy: If you cancel your trip, please notify MIR in writing. Upon MIR’s receipt of notice the following charges apply to land tours (except air tickets and visa fees): Cost of cancellation, if received: 89-61 days before departure, 50% of land tour cost; 60 or fewer days before departure, 100% of the land tour cost. To sign up please contact MIR at 800-424-7289.

Travels to: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia

Map

Itinerary

  • Days 1-3: Baku (Azerbaijan), Shemakha

    Over the next two days, dive into the rich traditions of Baku and Shemakha, Azerbaijan. Begin with Shemakha’s renowned winemaking district, exploring its history, carpets, and the ancient Juma Mosque. Participate in a traditional butter and yogurt making demonstration on a village farm. Savor organic wines at Meysari Winery, followed by a local lunch. Discover Baku’s vibrant Yashil Bazaar, dine at the atmospheric Mugham Club with live traditional music, and immerse yourself in Azerbaijan’s musical heritage through a mugham performance. Explore Baku’s Old Town, Shirvan Shah Palace, and the enigmatic Maiden Tower. Enjoy Qazmaq pilaf at a local restaurant, unwind at Fountain Square, and delve into the Nobel Brothers’ legacy at Villa Petrolea. Cap off with a Caspian caviar and sparkling wine tasting at Nobel House. Then take an evening flight to Tbilisi, Georgia.

    HIGHLIGHTS

    • Explore the winemaking district of Shemakha, including the ancient Juma Mosque.
    • Participate in a butter and yogurt making demonstration at a local farm.
    • Enjoy organic wine tasting at Meysari Winery and lunch with traditional Azerbaijani favorites.
    • Visit Yashil Bazaar for local produce and caviar processing observation.
    • Experience traditional Azeri food and mugham music at the Mugham Club.
    • Attend a mugham performance, a UNESCO-listed musical tradition.
    • Reflect at Martyrs’ Lane with views over Baku and the Flame Towers.
    • Wander through Baku’s historic Old Town, Shirvan Shah Palace, and Maiden Tower.
    • Savor classic Qazmaq pilaf at Qazmaq Pilaf House.
    • Relax at Fountain Square and explore the Nobel Brothers’ legacy at Villa Petrolea.
    • Indulge in a Caspian caviar and sparkling wine tasting at Nobel House.
  • Day 4: Tbilisi (Georgia)

    Spend today exploring Tbilisi, starting with a walking tour to dive into the city’s rich history and multiethnic atmosphere. Visit the vibrant Dezerter Bazaar, Tbilisi’s most sprawling and vibrant fresh food and produce market, and meander through the red-roofed Old Town beneath Narikala Fortress. Marvel at historical sites like Gabriadze’s Leaning Tower and the ancient Anchiskhati Basilica. Discover the spiritual Sioni Cathedral, wander down bustling Erekle II and Shardeni Streets, and delve into the underground Meidan Bazaar. Relax in the sulfur baths, ascend to the Narikala Fortress for panoramic views, and greet the Mother Georgia Monument. Enjoy freshly baked traditional Georgian bread, explore Gallery 27’s handcrafted goods, and choose between visiting the Georgian National Museum or learning about the Soviet occupation or free time to explore on your own. Conclude your day with a traditional Georgian Supra, featuring a feast of local delicacies and an enchanting polyphonic vocal performance.

    HIGHLIGHTS

    • Walking tour of Tbilisi, revealing its historical layers and vibrant market life.
    • Explore Dezerter Bazaar, a trove of Georgian agricultural products.
    • Wander the Old Town, with visits to Gabriadze’s Leaning Tower and Anchiskhati Basilica.
    • Admire Sioni Cathedral and learn about Tbilisi’s famed sulfur baths.
    • Stroll down Erekle II and Shardeni Streets for a taste of local life.
    • Visit the underground Meidan Bazaar for unique finds.
    • Marvel at the Narikala Fortress and pay respects at the Mother Georgia Monument.
    • Experience traditional Georgian bread making and explore Gallery 27’s handcrafted goods.
    • Afternoon option to visit the Georgian National Museum or learn about the Soviet occupation or enjoy free time on your own.
    • Enjoy a traditional Georgian Supra with polyphonic vocal music.
  • Days 5-6: Telavi, Signagi, Qedeli Village

    Embark on a journey to the heartland of Georgia’s wine country, Kakheti, with a scenic drive through the Gombori Pass to Signagi, making a stop in Telavi. At Zhuka-Sano Winery, experience an intimate wine tasting and traditional Georgian lunch, immersing yourself in the passion of local winemaking. Discover Telavi’s rich history and cultural connections, browse through the local farmer’s market, and delve into the ancient tradition of qvevri making in Vardisubani. Explore the historic Ikalto Monastery if time allows. In Signagi, enjoy dinner at Pheasant’s Tears Restaurant, known for its organic cuisine and natural wines. The following day, take a walking tour of Signagi – a charming hilltop town, and then visit the nearby serene Bodbe Nunnery, and venture to Lost Ridge in Qedeli Village to experience sustainable tourism. Enjoy a farm fresh lunch at Lost Ridge Inn, followed by optional activities including horseback riding or further wine tasting at Kerovani Winery.

    HIGHLIGHTS

    • Drive through the scenic Gombori Pass, with a stop in Telavi.
    • Wine tasting and lunch at Zhuka-Sano Winery, showcasing local winemaking.
    • Visit Telavi, explore the local farmer’s market, and learn about qvevri making in Vardisubani Village nearby.
    • Optional visit to Ikalto Monastery.
    • Dinner at Pheasant’s Tears Restaurant in Signagi.
    • Walking tour of Signagi and visit nearby Bodbe Nunnery.
    • Explore sustainable tourism at Lost Ridge in Qedeli Village.
    • Engage in Georgian bread baking or Churchkhela making.
    • Optional afternoon activities including horseback riding or wine tasting at Kerovani Winery.
  • Days 7-8: Ananuri, Kazbegi, Mtskheta, Tbilisi

    Journey through Georgia’s breathtaking landscapes to the mountains and the town of Kazbegi via Tianeti Road, with stops at cultural and natural wonders along the way. Visit the historical Ananuri Fortress, experience a traditional Khinkali village meal, take in the panoramic Gudauri View Point and the serene Sno Valley with its stone sculptures, and a visit to a village felt studio to witness the age-old craft of felt making. Dine at your hotel and stay at the serene Suatis Resort Kazbegi, offering stunning mountain vistas. On day two, after breakfast, take in the iconic Gergeti Trinity Church, then head back to Tbilisi with a stop in Mtskheta to visit Svetitskhoveli Cathedral, and then the Jvari Monastery of the Holy Cross. Enjoy a blend of ancient history and modern hospitality on this unforgettable adventure to the mountains and back to Tbilisi.

    HIGHLIGHTS

    • Visit Ananuri Fortress and learn traditional Khinkali making in a local village.
    • Admire the views from Gudauri View Point and explore Sno Valley’s stone sculptures.
    • Discover the traditional craft of felt making at a local studio.
    • Experience the tranquility and panoramic beauty of Suatis Resort Kazbegi.
    • Explore the iconic Gergeti Trinity Church and the ancient city of Mtskheta.
    • Visit UNESCO sites: Svetitskhoveli Cathedral and Jvari Monastery.
  • Days 9-12: Dilijan (Armenia), Lake Sevan, Yerevan & environs

    Embark on a three-day cultural voyage from Georgia to Armenia, culminating in the exploration of Yerevan and its surroundings. Begin your journey by crossing the border into Armenia, visiting the charming mountain resort of Dilijan, and learning to make Armenian gata bread. Discover the breathtaking Lake Sevan before settling in Yerevan for a three-night stay. Spend the following day exploring Yerevan’s rich history and architecture on foot in the morning, including Republic Square and the Opera and a local market, with a special afternoon visit to nearby Garni Temple and then back to the city for a stop in at the Ararat Brandy Factory. The following day, visit Karen Hakobyan’s studio for an introduction to traditional Armenian musical instruments, take part in a tolma making class in Ashtarak, and a wine tasting at Voskevaz Winery. Celebrate your journey with a farewell dinner in Yerevan, reflecting on the unforgettable memories made.

    HIGHLIGHTS

    • Explore Dilijan’s Sharambeyan Street and partake in a gata making class.
    • Visit Lake Sevan, one of the world’s largest alpine lakes.
    • Discover Yerevan’s history, from ancient times to its modern-day charm, including a visit to a vibrant fruit and vegetable market.
    • Experience the beauty of Garni Temple and learn about traditional lavash making in a family home restaurant.
    • Tour the Ararat Brandy Factory for a taste of Armenia’s famous brandy.
    • Learn about Armenian musical traditions at Karen Hakobyan’s studio.
    • Make traditional tolma in Ashtarak and taste local wines at Voskevaz Winery.

Dates & Prices

Small group tour – max 20 travelers.

Land tour price, per person. Based on double occupancy and minimum group size of 9 travelers.

  • 2024 Dates
    Oct 15 - 26
    Tour, double occupancy
    $5,995
    Single supplement
    $1,000

What's Included

  • Tour Includes
    • Accommodations, as noted in the itinerary.
    • Meals as listed in itinerary, breakfast daily, 10 lunches, and 7 dinners.
    • Special Welcome reception with dinner; and Farewell Dinner.
    • Beverages at meals: bottled/purified water, soft drink/juice, tea, and coffee.
    • One glass of wine or beer is included with all group dinners.
    • A daily supply of bottled water.
    • Enjoy special caviar, brandy, beer and wine tastings at the Shirvan Winery, Villa Petrolea, Voskevaz Winery, Kerovani Winery, Lost Ridge Inn and Ararat Brandy Factory.
    • Arrival/departure airport transfers on the tour start/end date for designated flights. MIR can arrange for all travelers to be met upon arrival and seen off upon departure whether or not we make your flight arrangements for additional cost if outside of the included designated flight transfers.
    • 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 cultural features as stated in itinerary including private concerts and hands on activities.
    • Gratuities to local guides, drivers, and other service personnel, including servers at group meals.
    • Flight ticket in economy class with baggage one-way from Baku to Tbilisi on Day 3 with taxes included (evening flight planned).
    • Complete electronic pre-departure information with country-specific information and travel tips.
    • Final electronic travel bulletin.
    • Assistance booking your international custom flight arrangements, on request. (Please note, international airfare is not included in the land tour cost.)
    • Customized visa information and instructions. (Please note, Azeri e-visa fees are not included in the tour price.)
    • Azerbaijan e-visa fee (requires a clear color scan of your passport)
  • Not Included
    • International airfare and taxes/fuel surcharges.
    • Meals and drinks not specified as included in the itinerary.
    • Single supplement, 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 or Lewis & Clark’s control.
    • Travel insurance including cancellation, medical, and evacuation insurance.
    • 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, excess baggage fees, photo fees in museums, and alcohol at meals if not noted.

Activity Level

Level 3: Medium

Accommodations are in relatively small, four star boutique properties throughout. This small group tour features some long days walking and standing while touring, some long segments of overland travel, foot traverses of one border point while rolling baggage a short distance, some uneven surfaces and steps, absent handrails, some stair-climbing, and absence of elevators. Travelers must be able to walk at least two miles a day, keeping up with fellow travelers.

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

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.

 

Traveler Reviews

  • "Interesting and complex part of the world."

    D. Collins

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