NEW TRIP

Trans-Caucasus Adventure

Azerbaijan, Georgia, Svaneti, & Armenia
with Roger Williams
Repertory Trip: Next Offered May 20-June 13, 2016

Trip Details at-a-Glance

Cost From: $7595  
Length: 25 days
Arrive: Baku, Azerbaijan
Depart: Yerevan, Armenia
Lodging: 23 nights hotels, 1 night guesthouse
Meals: All meals included
Activity: Cultural Adventures
Trip Level: Overland travel with walking tours, cultural explorations
3

Highlights

  • Exotic Azerbaijan, with its traditional mountain villages and Stone Age petroglyphs
  • Georgia: green foothills of the Caucasus, wine country, ancient cathedrals
  • Armenia’s dramatically perched monasteries and churches, turquoise-blue Lake Sevan
  • Visit a number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Choosing the Right Trip

We work hard to help you choose the right trip for you, paying attention to your individual interests, abilities, and needs. If you have questions about the level of comfort or any of the activities described in this itinerary, please contact us.

References

We are proud to have an exceptionally high rate of repeat travelers. For more information, we would be happy to put you in touch with a client who has traveled with us.

Combine this adventure with our Nagorno-Karabakh: Land of the Black Garden departure (June 13-June 22, 2016) and receive a $600 discount Nagorno-Karabakh departure!

Repertory Trip

This is one of our special Repertory Trips offered every two to five years.  It will be several years before this journey is offered again. Now is the time to go!

Our epic journey through the dramatic Trans-Caucasus region with veteran Trip Leader Roger Williams brings us to lands with a fascinating ancient history, deep religious roots, and incredible people from a variety of cultures. We begin in Azerbaijan, ancient home to Zoroastrianism, and kick off our adventure by savoring its Central Asian atmosphere, craggy mountain scenery, and utter lack of outside visitors. After exploring its mountainous landscapes, we’ll cross the border into the Republic of Georgia. Here, we visit the charming riverside capital, Tbilisi, explore the rugged, green foothills of the Caucasus below Mt. Kazbek, visit ancient wine country, and then head to the city of Batumi, with its 19th century architecture, set along the shores of the Black Sea. With its innate beauty and fascinating cultural legacy, Svaneti has been awarded UNESCO World Heritage Site status. We’ll explore this remote region of northwestern Georgia—celebrated in myth as the home of the fabled Golden Fleece (Svaneti belonged to the ancient state of Colchis, from where Jason stole the Golden Fleece)—and end our grand journey in Armenia, whose rich human heritage dates back thousands of years and whose landscape is dotted with stone-carved monasteries and frescoed churches set in dramatic locations. Each day, we enjoy wonderful interactions with hospitable people, visit nine different World Heritage Sites, and spend comfortable overnights in lovely hotels and inns.

Itinerary at a Glance

For a more complete description, Download Full Detailed Itinerary

Days 1-4
Baku, Azerbaijan / Qobustan / Guba

Welcome to Baku, the largest city in the Caucasus! We’ll get acquainted with this ancient yet cosmopolitan Azeri capital, walking the intriguing cobble-stone back streets, with stops at the fascinating Palace of the Shirvanshahs (World Heritage Site), the Maiden’s Tower (World Heritage Site), Heydar Aliyev Center, the Nobel House, and the superb carpet museum. We’ll also visit Qobustan (World Heritage Site), site of thousands of Stone Age petroglyphs, and explore other important historical sites including the Ateshgah Fire Temple, Mrdakan Fortress, and Yanar Dag (Burning Mountain). On Day 4, we’ll head to mountainous Guba, a land steeped in Jewish heritage, and visit the famous Red Town and a local carpet weaving workshop.

Days 5-7
Lahic / Sheki / Gremi, Georgia

We leave Baku for the traditional mountain village of Lahic, famous for its carpet weavers and coppersmiths. We’ll visit some of these workshops and watch the masters and their apprentices create elaborate and complex designs before continuing west to Sheki, situated in a serene mountain setting. Highlights include visiting an impressive Shebeke stain-glass workshop and touring the Kish Albania Church, built in the 1st century. On Day 7, cross the border from Azerbaijan to Gremi, Georgia, once the mighty capital of the Kakheti province and Georgia’s wine country.

Days 8-9
Telavi / Tbilisi

The Kakheti province of Georgia is one of the oldest wine regions in the world. We’ll visit a 300-year-old wine cellar, learn traditional Georgian wine-making techniques, tast home-made wines straight from quervi, visit the Lavra Monastery, and walk to ancient painted caves of Udabno in the semi-desert area of David Gareji. In Tbilisi, head to the 4th century Narikala Fortress, with views of the mighty snow-capped peak of Mt. Kazbegi (16,508') in the distance, and spend time at the 16th-17th century brick-domed Sulphur Baths.

Days 10-12
Gori / Uplistsikhe / Akhaltsikhe / Vardzia / Batumi

After arriving in Gori, the heart of the Kartli region and the birthplace of Stalin, we’ll visit Uplistsikhe, a first millennium BC cave town that was one of the main stops along the Silk Route, and continue on to Borjomi, famous for its mineral water, then head to Akhaltsikhe. We’ll enjoy a visit to an incredible church building carved out of rock revealing beautiful frescoes in Vardzia, then set out for a 4WD adventure over the picturesque Goderzi Pass to Batumi, a popular seaside destination in southeast Georgia.

Days 13-15
Svaneti / Zugdidi / Mestia / Lakhiri / Ushguli

Established in 1912, the Botanical Garden of Batumi is a marvelous spectacle (and a great photo opportunity!). We drive to Zugdidi and visit the Enguri Dam, currently the world’s second highest dam. We continue to Mestia, the tiny capital of Svaneti. Our excursions include a hike through the Svanetian villages of Lakhiri, bringing us past bright wildflowers and stunning views of the Greater Caucasus. In Ushguli, the highest permanently inhabited village in Europe and part of a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, we’ll explore incredible scenery and fascinating culture. We’ll also spend time with a local family to see how they make cheese.

Days 16-19
Tskaltubo / Kutaisi / Mtskheta / Akhtala, Armenia

In Tskaltubo, we’ll explore the Prometheus Grotto, a large limestone cave complex with an underground river and lake and 16 chambers full of extraordinary stalactites and stalagmites. We head to Kutaisi, the second largest city in Georgia before heading to the ancient capital of Georgia, Mtskheta, and visit its many historical sites including the 11th century Sveti-Tskhoveli Cathedral, the 6th century Jvari Church, and 11th century Svetitskhoveli Cathedral (also World Heritage Sites!) After crossing the border into Armenia, we drive to 10th century Akhtala Monastery to examine its breathtaking frescoes, and continue to beautiful Debet Canyon, with its two World Heritage–listed monasteries, Hagpat and Sananhin.

Days 20-25
Dilijan / Sevan / Khor Virap / Yerevan / Matenadaran / Echmiadzin

In the alpine town of Dilijan, we’ll stroll beside the century-old wood framed houses and craftsmen’s workshops of the old town. Then we’ll explore the wonderful city of Yerevan and its surrounding villages, including the turquoise-blue Lake Sevan, the largest lake in the Caucasus region, the Khor Virap Monastery, the Matenadaran with its ancient repository that holds one of the world’s richest collections of illuminated books, manuscripts, and historical documents. Outside of Yerevan, we’ll visit the 1st century pagan temple of Garni,  the fascinating 4th century Geghard Monastery, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the 7th century St. Hripsime Church, the Main Cathedral of Echmiadzin, and the open-air Zvartnots Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Transfer to airport for international flights on Day 25, or extend your journey in Nagorno-Karabakh.

For a more complete description, Download Full Detailed Itinerary

What the Trip is Like

The trip is Level 3, Moderate, according to our trip rating system. While this trip is not expected to be physically demanding, there are long travel days due to road conditions and a lot of time spent exploring sites on foot (although this is not a hiking trip). Overland travel is in minivans, small buses, and/or 4WD vehicles depending upon the size of the group. Road conditions can be very basic, and trip members should be prepared for narrow mountain roads and some bumpy drives due to remote locations. Accommodations in the main cites are 4-star hotels and are very good. In the countryside, we stay in special hotels in Sheki and Tzapatagh. The rest of the countryside hotels will be basic, but clean. Sometimes there will be shared bathrooms rather than private bathrooms. The most important requirement for this journey is a spirit of adventure. For your own enjoyment, we recommend you make a special effort to be in good physical condition for the trip.

One of the best reasons to visit the Caucasus region is for the food. Georgian and Azeri cuisine are rich in variety and very tasty, with lots of lamb kebab. The food in Armenia, basically Mediterranean with Arabic, Russian, Greek, and Persian influence, is considered by some to be a “national treasure.” Lightly spiced meat shish kabob, fresh organic vegetables, lots of chewy lavash bread, and some of the best melons in the world are staples of the cuisine.

Explanation of Trip Levels

 

Departures & Leaders

This is one of our special Repertory Trips offered only every two to five years. This journey will not be offered again for several years. Now is the Time to Go!

2016
May 20-Jun 13, 2016  Roger Williams

Trip Cost

Prices are for 2016
$7595 (13-15 members)
$7995 (10-12 members)
$8495 (7-9 members)
Single supplement: $1040
Forced single supplement: $840
more on pricing

Trip Payment Schedule

At time of reservation: $500
120 days prior to departure: 20% of trip cost
60 days prior to departure: Balance

Cancellation and Transfer Fee Schedule

More than 90 days prior to departure: No charge!
90-46 days prior to departure: 25% of trip cost
45 days or less: 100% of trip cost

Trip Cost Includes:

  • Expert leadership of a Wilderness Travel Trip Leader and local guides
  • Accommodations in hotels and guesthouse
  • All meals included
  • Land transportation, airport transfers, and sightseeing as noted

Trip Cost Does Not Include:

International airfare, transfers for independent arrival or departure, any meals not specified after each itinerary day, airport departure taxes, optional tipping or gratuities to leaders or staff, additional hotel nights that may be necessitated by airline schedule changes or other factors, expenses such as medical immunizations (if any), travel insurance, or passports and visas, and other expenses of a personal nature (alcoholic beverages, laundry, etc.).

Roger Williams

In 1986, Roger Williams led his first Wilderness Travel trip. Nearly 30 years later, he shows no sign of stopping, with added trips filling up quicker than the one before. If it isn’t the surplus of knowledge Roger brings when he leads a trip that makes it so unique, including his cultural insight to places like Nepal (where he spent eight years studying Tibetan Buddhism, Buddhist iconographics, Himalayan languages, and woodblock art) and Japan (where he spent another two years studying Japanese woodblock art, Japanese language, and Shingon Shu, an esoteric sect of Japanese Buddhism), then it may be his awareness for cultural preservation that keep clients coming back. In July 2014, he returned from The Great Game journey, a special Wilderness Travel Expedition that included visits to the Wakhan Valley as well as Mazar i-Sharif and Balk (formally Bactria) in northern Afghanistan. Roger has also been working as a technical advisor with USAID consulting in tourism development projects in Mongolia, Armenia and Croatia. When not leading trips, Roger is the director of Snow Lion Graphics/SLG Books in Berkeley, California, a publishing house specializing in books and calendars relating to Asian cultures. “There should be a rating higher than excellent for Roger,” one client wrote after her Central Asia Explorer trip with Roger. “His knowledge, energy planning, and attentiveness are superlative.”

Upcoming Trips:

China's Wild Southwest, October 13-November 4, 2015
India's Malabar Coast, January 27-February 20, 2016
Iran: In the Footsteps of Kings, March 10-April 2, 2016
Iran: In the Footsteps of Kings, April 7-30, 2016
Trans-Caucasus Adventure, May 20-June 13, 2016
Nagorno-Karabakh: Land of the Black Garden, June 13-22, 2016
The Great Game, August 20-September 14, 2016
Wonders of Nepal, October 2016
Eastern Bhutan and India's Wild Northeast Frontier, November 21-December 17, 2016

Client Testimonials:


Tibet is a place like no other on the planet! Roger’s language skills and knowledge of Tibetan Buddhism opened many doors. Connie D., Alamo CA
Heart of Tibet
Exceedingly knowledgeable, very caring. Priscilla and Franklin O., Malvern PA
Mystical Bhutan
Roger knows how to run a trip. He’s very organized and clearly communicates the daily plan. Also, he's a lot of fun and I was impressed with his expertise on Buddhist iconography. Fran M., Mill Valley, CA
Hidden Himalayas
Roger is remarkable. This trip showed him at his best. We could never have traveled across the roof of the world without his preparation and energy. Thanks for a grand experience! Ruth and Frank H., Edmonds WA
In the Footsteps of the Great Game
Roger takes good care of his travelers and we learned a lot about the people, their culture, and history. His love for this part of the world is infectious. Ruth G., Del Mar CA
In the Footsteps of the Great Game
Roger is great! Hard working, knowledgeable, personable. He really makes a difference. Bill R., Walnut Creek, CA
Passage to India
I can understand why Roger has such a big following. He worked all the time to make the trip the best it could be. Marsha S., New York, NY
The Great Game
Roger is clearly a well-seasoned professional. He is passionate about India and it shows everyday, whether it is interacting with the locals or talking about the iconographics and sites. Grace L., Boston, MA
Passage to India
Exceptional dedication, passion, and professionalism. Roger has the right personality and attitude for this. Jonathan T., Boston, MA
Passage to India
Roger is a wealth of knowledge and very well traveled. He takes his duties as trip leader extremely seriously and goes out of his way to please each client. Terri H., Berkeley, CA
Armenia and Beyond
Roger provided a unique and enjoyable travel experience. His knowledge and familiarity with the sites visited and enthusiasm for these countries and peoples made this a great travel experience. Judy A., Davis, CA
The Burma Road: Kunming to Rangoon
Roger's extensive travel experience and knowledge of Asian culture and Buddhism greatly enhanced the trip. And all the planning he did before and during the trip ensured an excellent itinerary and made everything run smoothly. Nancy R., Walnut Creek, CA
Tribal China
There should be a rating higher than excellent for Roger. His knowledge, energy planning, and attentiveness are superlative. Debra B., Jackson, WY
Central Asia Explorer
Roger is the best tour leader with lots of experiece and profound knowledge of the subject area. Kudos to him and WT. Tan Kiet T., Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Tribal China
Roger has tremendous skills as a trip leader. He has a real gift with people and his relationship with local guides enriches the areas we visit. Joan L., Baltimore, MD
Journey to the Heart of China
Roger is simply a brilliant organizer and always finds the very best services available. He also brings a wealth of knowledge and insights to anything Asian. Elizabeth M., Providence, RI
The Burma Road: Kunming to Rangoon
I'm struck again with the magnitude of the incredible adventure you led us on. I have pretty much traveled the world since that trip, with adventures galore...but nothing has, or ever will, compare to it. Aleen S., Cedar Mountain, NC
The Great Silk Road
Roger is an exceptional trip leader with an historian's grasp of the influences shaping this part of the world. Kathe W., Pittsburgh, PA
The Best of Southeast Asia
Roger was nothing short of outstanding as a trip leader...managing people as well as logistics of a 25+ day intensive trip. He has a clear desire to share his knowledge, interest, and excitement about Southeast Asia. We've had a lot of good Trip Leaders and I'd rate Roger as #1 on my list. Greg W., Pittsburgh, PA
The Best of Southeast Asia
Roger was well organized, with careful planning and terrific knowledge of the culture and religion. His interaction with the group was unlike anything we have experienced on prior trips. He is a real treasure for WT, one of your best. Donald H., Farmington, CT
The Best of Southeast Asia
Roger is a flexible leader who listens to his travelers and absolutely cannot do enough for people. He looked after us well and programmed as much variety into the trip as possible. Mary R., New York, NY
Trans-Caucasus Adventure
Roger is amazing! His knowledge of the history and culture of the area is extensive and he can recall all sorts of information on any number of subjects. His enthusiasm, kindness, and energy never wane. Jane F., Naples, FL
The Great Game
Roger is a lot of fun, as well as being extremely knowledgeable! He goes out of his way to make the trip interesting and comfortable for those traveling with him. Catherine H., Cambridge, MA
Journey to the Heart of China