Zvartnots ruins, Armenia
Zvartnots ruins, Armenia

Archaeological Tours

Armenia & Georgia: Colors and Contrasts of the Caucasus

Suspended between the Black and Caspian Seas, where Europe meets Asia, are the spectacular mountain-and-steppe landscapes of the South Caucasus, home to Georgia and land-locked Armenia. Their scenery alone – from the towering snow-capped peak of Mount Ararat in Armenia to Georgia’s lush valley lowlands carpeted with ancient vineyards – presents drama and contrasts enough to justify a first visit to this ancient but largely still-to-be-discovered realm of the Silk Road caravans of old.

For the traveler with a keen interest in antiquity and archaeology even more compelling reasons exist to be tempted by the cultural and historical treasures offered by both Armenia and Georgia – especially their exquisitely beautiful monasteries, cathedrals and churches, some clinging to impossibly steep hillsides and many dating back over 1,000 years. Armenia formally adopted Christianity as the state religion in 301 (earlier even than Rome) and preserves countless monuments and masterpieces of its ancient religious past. Our tour also visits a number of the region’s most notable archaeological locations and museums, as well as several religious UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Appealing interludes of a different kind will be offered by the vineyard visits made to sample local Georgian vintages from this, one of the world’s oldest wine-making regions!

What's included?

  •  Expert scholar & tour manager
  •  Accommodation
  •  Local transport & private transfer to/from airport and group hotel
  •  Entries & tips
  •  Meals - as per the itinerary
  •  Four lectures from your expert scholar
  •  A name badge, luggage strap and bag tag
  •  A study guide, reading list, and other useful tour documentation compiled by your expert scholar and your Archaeological Tours team

Led by...

Ian Colvin

Ian Colvin Expert Scholar

Ian Colvin is a historian specializing in the late Roman and Byzantine history of the Caucasus regions. He studied classical and modern Georgian after receiving his MST in Byzantine studies, and has devoted himself to excavations at the site of Nokalakevi.

Full Price
$4,950

Today's Price
$4,890

Saving
$60

Deposit: $1,250 Single supplement: $950

Tour highlights:

  • Admire Armenia’s delicate Graeco-Roman Temple of Garni, nearly 2,000 years old and a unique masterpiece
  • Enjoy the pleasures and friendly mood of Tbilisi – Georgia’s ‘city of light’ and capital with a lively café culture
  • Marvel at the extensive ancient rock-carved settlement of Uplistsikhe, uncovered by archaeologists and once a town of cave-houses, churches and sites of pagan sacrifices
  • Venture down the quaint cobbled streets of Kutaisi and explore the medieval complex of Gelati
  • Spend a final afternoon free in the relaxing resort town of Batumi beside the pebbled beaches of the Black Sea

Tour details

Dates April 20 2020 - May 4 2020
Duration 15 days
Cost
Full Price
$4,950
Today's Price
$4,890
Saving
$60
Deposit: $1,250 Single supplement: $950 Balance due by January 27 2020
Activity Level
Tour code A20GAA

Book Now or call 866-740-5130 if you have any questions

April 20 2020: Itinerary

Upon arrival in Yerevan, we transfer to our hotel. There is time to relax before we enjoy a welcome lecture and group dinner.

Meals include: Dinner

Hotel: Tufenkian Historic Yerevan Hotel

This morning, we visit the holy ancient city of Echmiadzin. Armenia adopted Christianity as a state-religion over 1700 years ago and Echmiadzin is considered to be its spiritual capital. Here, we find the ancient ruined complex of Zvartnots Cathedral, a UNESCO World Heritage Site constructed in the 7th century CE. It collapsed three centuries later and was only rediscovered in the 20th century, yet its remains still feature a fascinating assortment of columns and elaborate decorative carvings, some of which date back to the Urartian era of the 7th century CE. Our next stop is the graceful Echmiadzin Cathedral, mother church of the Armenian Apostolic Church and a place of great significance for Armenian Christians. After lunch, we visit the Matenadaran, a building that contains one of the world’s richest collections of medieval manuscripts and books.

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch

Hotel: Tufenkian Historic Yerevan Hotel

Our first destination this morning is Geghard, a monastery rising out of the Azat River Gorge. Revered throughout Armenia as one of the country’s greatest spiritual and cultural centers, the UNESCO-listed monastery takes its name from the Armenian word for “spear” as it once housed the spear allegedly used to wound Christ during the crucifixion (now in Echmiadzin Cathedral). We proceed to the Ionic Temple of Garni, the only Graeco-Roman temple still standing in Armenia. After returning to Yerevan for lunch, we explore the History Museum with its archaeological and ethnographic artifacts.

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch

Hotel: Tufenkian Historic Yerevan Hotel

Our fourth day begins at Shengavit, an enigmatic archaeological site near Lake Yerevan. Settled since at least 3200 CE, it is still not known what happened to this formerly prosperous town. We continue to the intriguing hilltop ruins of Erebuni Fortress, home to a long line of Urartian kings and an important stronghold against the northern territories. Here, we find traces of dormitories, storerooms, and even a temple dedicated to Khaldi, a Urartian warrior god. After lunch, we visit the Genocide Museum, dedicated to the 1.5 million victims of the Armenian genocide of 1914-1918.

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch

Hotel: Tufenkian Historic Yerevan Hotel

This morning we make our way to Khor Virap, a 7th century monastery located on the open plains near Mount Ararat. Originally a prison, it held the man who would become St. Gregory the Illuminator in a pit (which can still be visited) for 13 years. Our next stop is the Areni Cave, beside the Arpa River, which houses artifacts that date from the Chalcolithic to the Bronze Age. After lunch, we visit the 13th century monastery at Noravank. It stands among the rugged scenery of the Amaghyu Valley and contains such highlights as the ornately carved tomb of Prince Tarsayich Orbelian and the elegant Surb Astvatsatsin Church. We then turn north for a final three-hour drive to Armenia’s spa resort town of Dilijan.

All meals included

Hotel: Best Western Paradise, Dilijan

After breakfast, we discover Dilijan. At an elevation of 4,900 feet amid the forests of Dilijan National Park, this town is known for its old streets, workshops, and museum. We then head for neighboring Haghartsin, a serene monastery complex home to various churches dating from the 10th to the 13th centuries. This afternoon, we visit the monasteries of Sanahin and Hagpat, two UNESCO-listed sites that were once important centers of religious learning. From here, we drive 75 miles across the border to Georgia’s capital, Tbilisi.

All meals included

Hotel: Mercure Tbilisi Old Town

We start off our day with a tour of Tbilisi. We visit a host of religious sites, such as various Georgian Orthodox cathedrals that loom over the city from the riverside cliffs, as well as buildings designed by Georgian Jewish migrants. After our sightseeing, we enjoy lunch at a local restaurant and then visit the Georgian National Museum, where we trace the country’s cultural development from prehistory onwards via displays of jewelry, pre-Christian gold, and other artifacts dating from the 3rd millennium CE.

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch

Hotel: Mercure Tbilisi Old Town

A relaxing day awaits as we drive to the Ikalto Monastery. Located in a cypress grove and incorporating three churches, this late 6th century complex of monastic buildings is dominated by a ruined 12th century academy, one of two famous medieval Georgian centers of learning. Archaeologists have identified workshops, wine cellars, a smithy, and much more within the foregrounds of the academy building. An 8th century stone wine press also survives and, after visiting the Gremi Citadel, we travel to Tsinandali Palace to visit a traditional winery. We then return to our hotel in Tbilisi.

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch

Hotel: Mercure Tbilisi Old Town

Our morning takes us to Tbilisi’s Grishashvili Open Air Museum of Ethnography, spread across 120 acres that illustrate Georgia’s ethnic diversity. We visit the Museum of Fine Arts, home to examples of the artistic skills of Georgian masters. Following an afternoon at leisure, a meal accompanied by polyphonic music awaits.

All meals included

Hotel: Mercure Tbilisi Old Town

Today, we travel far back into Georgian history as a drive takes us to the excavated remains at Armaztsikhe-Bagineti. These remains are a part of Mtskheta, one of the country’s oldest cities and former capital of the Georgian kingdom of Kartli. Our exploration of this UNESCO-listed area also incorporates the 6th century Jvari Monastery and Svetitskhoveli Cathedral, an architectural masterpiece from the Early Middle Ages, famed as the burial place of Christ’s mantle. Later, we visit Gori, the birthplace of Stalin, and then travel to Uplishtsikhe, a 3,000-year-old rock-hewn cave-house settlement with great halls, meandering corridors, and chambers for pagan worship. This once-great city was abandoned after the Mongol invasion. From here, we head to the popular resort town of Borjomi.

All meals included

Hotel: Hotel Likani, Borjomi

A scenic two-hour morning drive south brings us to Vardzia, the breathtaking riverside site of a one of Georgia’s most renowned cave monasteries. A labyrinth carved deep into a mountain cliffside, 12th century Vardzia was first a military fortress and then the palace of the perhaps the most prominent woman in Georgian history - Tamar the Great, the first ruling Queen of Georgia. We return to Borjomi via Akhaltsikhe to see Rabati Castle, a recently restored historical monument medieval in origin, but, in its present imposing form, reflecting a long history of Ottoman Empire rule.

All meals included

Hotel: Hotel Likani, Borjomi

After breakfast, we head to Kutaisi, Georgia’s seat of parliament and home to Bagrati Cathedral. Our tour takes us to see the UNESCO-listed royal monastery complex of Gelati. We visit the Prometheus Cave near Tskhaltub, home to neon-lit stalactites, stalagmites, petrified waterfalls, underground rivers, and lakes.

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch

Hotel: Best Western, Kutaisi

Today, we drive 110 miles west to the Black Sea to spend time exploring the active archaeological site of Nokalakevi, an early Byzantine royal fortress-citadel whose crenelated riverside ruins have revealed extensive walls and towers, burial grounds, jewelry, and weapons. We view these artifacts during our visit to the site’s accompanying museum as these finds are evidence of possible human habitation as long ago as the 4th century CE. From here, we travel along the Black Sea coast to Batumi, a popular vacation destination that will be our base for the last two nights of our tour.

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch

Hotel: Batumi World Palace

Our final full day gets going at a leisurely pace as we visit the Roman fort of Gonio-Apsaros, an archaeological site on the Chorokhi River. We return to Batumi for an afternoon at leisure, which can be used to explore the beaches, tour the city’s eclectic churches or to just relax. This evening, we come back together for final group dinner.

All meals included

Hotel: Batumi World Palace

We transfer to the airport for our flights home or individual travel.

Meals include: Breakfast

April 20 2020: Additional Info

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April 20 2020: Accommodation

Featuring free WiFi and a seasonal outdoor pool, Tufenkian is a boutique hotel combining historic and contemporary features. The modern rooms include handcrafted Armenian furnishings. Yerevan’s central Republic Square is 500 yards away.

Designed in 19th-century Caucasian style, each room at the Hotel Tufenkian Historic Yerevan includes designer fittings, a flat-screen satellite TV and minibar. The private bathrooms provide bathrobes and slippers.

Kharpert Restaurant serves traditional Armenian and Halal cuisine, as well as Italian dishes in a stylish dining room with wood, stone and metal elements. Local drinks and cocktails are offered at the bar.

There are cafes, restaurants and museums in the surrounding area, including the National Historic Museum, 5 minutes' walk away. Saint Gregory the Illuminator Cathedral is 12 minutes’ walk from the hotel.

We travel to Dilijan, surrounded by snowy peaks and alpine forests, the picturesque town has ginger-bread-style houses, medieval churches and traditional buildings with steep tiled roofs and wooden beams. The hotel makes the most of these surroundings with its very own winter gardens. Its interior is equally as charming, with a wellness centre and modern spacious rooms with plush furnishings. After a refreshing evening’s stay here, wake up to a lavish breakfast spread with local treats and international favourites.

Mercure Tbilisi Old Town is located in the center of Tbilisi, a 5-minute walk from Metekhi Cathedral. It features a spa center with sauna and hammam. Free WiFi is provided. You will find sulfur baths within a walking distance.

The comfortable rooms are air conditioned and fitted with flat-screen TV with satellite channels. Private bathrooms come with a shower, hairdryer and free toiletries.

Mercure Tbilisi features Old Town Restaurant & Lobby Bar and Rooftop Terrace Bar SKY7 which offers a variety of drinks and panoramic views of Tbilisi. Various cafes and restaurants are situated within a 5-minute walk.

Narikala Fortress is a 5-minute walk from Mercure Tbilisi Old Town. Shardeni Street is 450 yards away and Freedom Square is within a 15-minute walk. Tbilisi International Airport is 9.3 miles from the hotel. 

This hotel is a luxury retreat and resides in the beautiful pre-alpine area, carrying the name of the well-known mineral waters of Georgia. Relaxation and wellbeing are the hotels main features, offering a spa, indoor pool and sauna all on site. Experience beyond expectations in the hotel rooms with stunning views of the surrounding areas. The restaurant blends local taste and international cuisine.

Located in the heart of Kutaisi, this hotel is perfect for our stay. Witness the small cobbled streets, one-storey buildings and view the White Bridge, only a few steps away. Each hotel room has its own balcony and other various facilities. A buffet breakfast is on offer every morning.

Just 150 yards from the Black Sea coast, this hotel is set in the center of Batumi. Free WiFi and a 24-hour front desk are featured at Batumi World Palace Hotel.

The elegant, air-conditioned rooms of this hotel are decorated in warm colors and offer classic-style interiors. Each room includes a flat-screen TV, a minibar and a private bathroom.

The hotel’s restaurant, with panoramic views of Batumi and the Black Sea, serves European and Georgian cuisine. A selection of Georgian wines is offered at the restaurant.

The Medea Statue is just a 5-minute walk from the hotel, and the Alphabet Tower is 350 yards away. The picturesque Seaside Boulevard is a 7-minute walk from the hotel. Batumi Port is only 100 yards from Batumi World Palace Hotel. Batumi Train Station is 0.9 miles away, and Batumi Airport is 4.3 miles from the hotel. Free shuttle service is available.

April 20 2020: Enquiries

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