Mt. Ararat from Khor Virap Monastery, Armenia
The 4th century Khor Virap Monastery faces Mount Ararat, the biblical resting place of Noah’s Ark. Our cultural journey across Armenia brings us from Yerevan, the ancient capital, to remote Karabagh.
Photo by Kaos / Fototeca 9x12
Trip Details at-a-Glance
|Lodging:||22 nights hotels, 1 night guesthouse|
|Meals:||All meals included|
Overland travel with walking tours, cultural explorations
- Armenia’s dramatically perched monasteries and churches, turquoise-blue Lake Sevan
- The ancient walled towns of Karabagh, medieval architecture, nature reserves
- Georgia: green foothills of the Caucasus, wine country, ancient cathedrals
- Exotic Azerbaijan, with its traditional mountain villages and Stone Age petroglyphs
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.
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Once you have signed up on the trip, we send a complete packing list, relevant health information, and required travel documents.
This is one of our special Repertory Trips offered every two to five years. Future dates have not been set for this trip, but you can see the “Itinerary at a Glance” and the “Full Detailed Itinerary” below (there may be small changes to the itinerary for the future departures, and prices will be finalized closer to departure). Contact us to receive early notification of the trip dates. These special trips fill very quickly once the exact dates are set!
We invite you to join veteran Trip Leader Roger Williams on an epic overland journey through the trans-Caucasus—a fascinating region of ancient traditions and rich cultures dating back thousands of years. Our discovery begins in Armenia, whose landscape is dotted with stone-carved monasteries and frescoed churches perched in dramatic locations, then moves to the mountainous and rarely visited republic of Karabagh, once an ancient province of Armenia and now an independent nation. Crossing the border into the Republic of Georgia, we visit its charming riverside capital, Tbilisi, explore the rugged, green foothills of the Caucasus, sample the wines of Kakheti, then head to the city of Batumi, with its 19th century architecture along the shores of the Black Sea. Our adventure concludes in exotic Azerbaijan, where we savor its Central Asian atmosphere, rugged mountain scenery, and utter lack of outside visitors.
Itinerary at a Glance
For a more complete description, Download Full Detailed Itinerary
Set in the beautiful Ararat Valley and surrounded by rolling hills, Yerevan, Armenia’s capital, is a vibrant blend of commerce and culture and one of the oldest cities in the world, with a history dating to the 8th century BC. Our explorations here include the Matenadaran, an ancient repository that holds one of the world’s richest collections of illuminated books, manuscripts, and historical documents, the World Heritage Sites of 4th century Geghard Monastery and Echmiadzin Cathedral, and the remains of ancient temples and early Bronze Age settlements.
Sisian / Goris
We head to Khor Virap Monastery, a pilgrimage site set on a plateau facing Mt. Ararat, snow-capped symbol of Armenia and the biblical resting place of Noah’s Ark. After visiting cliff-perched Noravank, a 13th century church that’s a pearl of Armenian medieval architecture, we explore a crater lake on Mt. Tsghuk featuring impressive petroglyphs inscribed on the rocks around the lakeshore and Tatev Monastery, once home to 1,000 monks.
Crossing into the green rolling hills of Karabagh, we visit Shushi, an ancient walled town set in the Karabagh mountains, and Dadivank, a sprawling monastery set in a forested gorge whose interiors are richly decorated with frescoes. Heading southeast, we visit 7,500-year-old Karahunj, the Armenian equivalent of Stonehenge, and the mountain town of Jermuk, set amid waterfalls, lakes, alpine meadows, canyons, and the sparkling Arpa River.
A day’s drive brings us to turquoise-hued Lake Sevan, where we explore Sevan Monastery, the alpine retreat of Dilijan, and Debet Canyon, with its two World Heritage listed monasteries.
Tbilisi, Georgia / Kazbegi
We explore Tbilisi, with its domed churches and tree-lined boulevards, and Mtskheta, the ancient capital of Georgia that boasts an 11th century cathedral and Eastern Orthodox churches including the 6th century Jvari Church. Continuing north, we cross Jvari Pass and descend to Kazbegi, set below snow-capped Mt. Kazbek (16,558').
Sno Valley / Kutaisi / Batumi / Tblisi
We head deeper into the mountains, where we discover spectacular isolated valleys and villages that retain their ancient way of life. Leaving the Caucasus Mountains, we explore a first millennium BC cave town that was one of the main stops along the Silk Route, and the Gelati Monastery near Kutaisi. After a visit to Batumi, a popular seaside resort, we return to Tblisi.
Kakheti / Baku, Azerbaijan
We visit the ancient site of Davit Gareja and its 19 limestone cave monasteries, then head to Kakheti, Georgia’s wine country. We cross the border into Azerbaijan, where we explore the traditional mountain village of Lahic, famous for its coppersmiths and carpet weavers. We end our travels in Baku, the ancient yet cosmopolitan Azeri capital. After touring Baku’s Old Town and its ancient walled city and the Stone Age petroglyphs in nearby Qobustan, we depart on flights home.
For a more complete description, Download Full Detailed Itinerary
What the Trip is Like
The trip is rated Level 2, Easy to 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 and small buses, 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.