Azerbaijan, Georgia & Turkey

Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkey,

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12 people
24 days
Code: KFSTC
Activity and Adventure, Discovery, Tours
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Overview of Azerbaijan, Georgia & Turkey

Visit three countries that have taken a big leap into the 21st century, where historical old towns and monasteries sit comfortably alongside towering skyscrapers. Visit one of Europe’s largest open-air rock museums, warm your hands against a mountain that is forever on fire, walk through the gardens of a local Kakheti family and talk about provincial life over a hearty lunch. Uncover the centuries-old recipe for producing Georgian wine and learn how to make your own yoghurt. Reconnect with nature on hikes through wooded forests and past the mountainous Chaladi glacier. Indulge your inner history buff as you stand on the steps of the Blue Mosque, wander the ramparts of the Narikala Fortress, learn the secrets of Georgian cheese making and join the homely ruckus of a Turkish tavern. This all-encompassing trip takes you from eccentric Baku, to the lush green slopes of Georgia’s Mestia valley and into the crowded spice markets of Istanbul.

Trip Summary for Azerbaijan, Georgia & Turkey

Start Location: Baku,   End Location: Istanbul

Countries Visited: Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkey, 
Meals Included: Breakfast: 23   Lunches: 5   Dinners: 7
Highlights:

    • Azerbaijan’s cosmopolitan capital of Baku is often referred to as the ‘new Dubai’. Enjoy a guided walking tour around the city’s World Heritage-listed Old Town.
    • Mud volcanoes, ancient mosques, lush forests and tall peaks – the Caucasus Mountains will take your breath away
    • Journey to the Svaneti region, the remote and alluring land of snow-capped mountains, medieval-style tower-houses and a fascinating local dialect.
    • Far from a mere sightseeing tour, this trip is active and hands-on. You’ll try your hand at preparing delicious kubdari, hike to the Shkhara glacier and to Soganli Mountain in Turkey.
    • Visit the picturesque Uzungol, the Switzerland of Turkey.
    • With a strong historical focus, this trip is perfect for history buffs.

 

Day 1 - Baku
Welcome to Azerbaijan! On arrival at Baku Airport you'll be met by one of our representatives and transferred to your hotel (approximately 40 minutes drive). Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6pm this evening. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask reception where it will take place. If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader.

Day 2 - Baku
Get to know Baku with a tour of the city, taking in a visit to the Old City, including time at Shemakha gate, Shirvanshakhs` Palace, Maiden Tower, Old Market Square and the Carpet Museum. Don't forget your camera as you'll also see panoramic views of Baku's skyline. Afterwards head out on a tour of the Absheron Peninsula, visiting the Ateshgah fire temple, Mardakan medieval fortress and Yanardagh fire mountain (which is literally on fire). Return to Baku in the evening. 

Day 3 - Baku
Drive to Gobustan and visit the open-air rock paintings museum, a UNESCO heritage site with its own archaeological museum. Enjoy a free afternoon to wander Gobustan National Park before returning to Baku. 

Day 4 - Lahic
Have breakfast at the hotel before leaving Baku. Drive to the Caucasus Mountains in the northwest of Azerbaijan, a dry landscape that gives way to a densely forested mountain area. Take part in a yoghurt-making masterclass at a private house in Shemakha. Afterwards head to Lahic, where you'll visit a local copper workshop and get to know some of the locals over tea. Tonight, enjoy dinner with your group and stay overnight at a guesthouse in Lahic (private facilities).

Day 5 - Sheki
After breakfast, head to Nidj village and meet the native Udin people, the direct descendants of ancient Caucasian Albanians. Later arrive in Sheki and visit Sheki Khans Palace, known for its magnificent frescoes and stained glass. Spend the night at a hotel in Sheki.

Day 6 - Sheki
In the morning visit nearby Kish village and its old pointy spired Christian church. Return to Sheki and visit local craft workshops, where famous 'Shebeke', intricate handmade vitrages, are produced. The afternoon is free to roam the village. Stay overnight at a hotel in Sheki.

Day 7 - Azerbaijan-Georgia Border (Lagodekhi) - Sighnaghi
After breakfast at the hotel, drive to Lagodekhi at the Azerbaijan-Georgia border. Visit a traditional bazaar and change leader and transportation. From Lagodekhi, travel to the Kakheti region, famous for its wine making and welcoming hospitality. From here, both the snowy Caucasus mountains and bountiful green valleys are visible. Visit a local family and learn about the provincial way of life. Explore the gardens and vineyards and then enjoy lunch, with delicious homemade food, wine and Georgian grapewater 'Chacha'. Later, visit a 300-year-old Georgian wine cellar and taste Georgian wine produced using Qvevri, large earthenware pots. This method of wine making is protected on UNESCO's heritage list and Georgian farmers have used this method for centuries. Continue to the beautiful 18th-century town of Sighnaghi, known for its quaint stone walls, small houses with terracotta roofs and decorated balconies. Admire the picturesque views of Alazani Valley and Great Caucasus mountains. Stay overnight at a hotel in Sighnaghi.

Day 8 - Tbilisi
In the morning drive to the David Gareja caves, a rock-hewn monastery carved into the stark semi-desert landscape in the sixth century. After seeing the Lavra Monastery, walk for about 50 minutes up a steep hill to the Udabno Monastery. This monastery features wonderful painted caves and dramatic views across to Azerbaijan.

Day 9 - Tbilisi
Today, explore the capital of Georgia, Tbilisi. Wander the old districts of the city, which are structured like terraces, and walk through the narrow streets to appreciate the colourful houses, patterned balconies and revamped modern architecture. Start the tour from the 13th-century Metekhi church, with its magnificent views over old Tbilisi. A stroll along winding little streets takes us to the main sights of the city. Afterwards enjoy the panoramic views of the whole town and climb the battlements at the ancient Narikala fortress. Later explore the historical domed sulphur bath area and learn how this precinct is connected to the name of the city. Take the afternoon to continue exploring, perhaps visit the Museum of History and see the treasury as an optional extra, or why not try a spa for yourself. Spend the night at a hotel in Tbilisi.

Farewell to the group members who will not be travelling on to Turkey tonight.

Day 10 - Tbilisi
Tonight is a free day for independent exploration until your meet with your new group and leader tonight.

Day 11 - Tbilisi
After breakfast choose to join your leader for a walk around some more sights of the city or spend it enjoying optional activities.

Day 12 - Kutaisi
Today, drive 25 kilometres (approximately 30 minutes) to Georgia's ancient capital and religious centre – the town of Mtskheta, which is over 3000 years old.

Visit Mtskheta's top historical sights: Jvari church (6th century) and Svetitskhoveli Cathedral (11th century), where the Robe of Christ is said to be buried. Both Jvari and Svetitskhoveli are UNESCO World Heritage sites.

Afterwards, continue to the pretty town of Kutaisi, the second largest city in the country (the drive will take approximately 3 hours). Kutaisi is more than 3000 years old, connected to the legend of Jason and the Argonauts, along with his mythical (or is it?) Golden Fleece. Here we visit another significant historical site, the Gelati Cathedral. There may also be time to explore the cobbled streets of the town as you make your way up to the ruins of Bagrati palace and citadel. Spend the night at a local guesthouse in Kutaisi with private facilities.

Total driving time today is approximately 4.5 hours.

Day 13 - Mestia
After a restful night, visit a local farmers market and a natural grotto filled with stalagmites and stalactites. After lunch get ready for the next part of the tour: a journey to the remote Svaneti region. Svaneti is the highest inhabited area in the Caucasus and is divided in two parts: Upper Svaneti and Lower Svaneti.

Arrive into Mestia, the centre of Upper Svaneti. Mestia is surrounded by mountains, medieval-type villages and disctinctive tower-houses. The famous tower-houses were built to accommodate villagers at times of invasion and violence during the 9th -13th centuries. Around 175 towers still stand today, although many are uninhabited.

The area is home to the Svans, a proud people with a long history of survival in this isolated part of Europe, who speak their own language. Spend the night in a local guesthouse (with shared facilities).

Total driving time today is approximately 5 hours.

Day 14 - Mestia
Drive to the village Lakhiri (approximately 20 minute drive) and start our walk (approx walking time 4-5 hours) in the direction of Mestia. After little uphill walking we descend to the beautiful valley full with blooming flowers and enjoy an amazing view of Chalati Glacier (2300m) and of Mestia Valley with its watchtowers. The paths can be steep and the ground uneven so you will need good fitness and appropriate footwear for this walk. Those not wishing to hike can stay in the village or in Mestia.

Today we also witness the making of Georgian cheese. Cheese is found in many Georgian dishes and is a key ingredient in the famous khachapuri, a traditional Georgian dish of cheese-filled bread which you will no doubt eat plenty of during your time here! Participate in the preparation of another traditional meal called kubdari, a filled bread dish filled with pork and beef that originates from this region.

Total walking time today is 4-5 hours.

Day 15 - Ushguli
Today, visit the World Heritage-listed village of Ushguli, a town around 50 kilometres southeast of Mestia. The village is located at 2,200 metres above sea level, and is one of the highest inhabited villages in Europe. Ushguli is most famous for its abundance of watchtowers – this is where you'll see the famous view of the towers set to the highest mountain in Georgia, the snow capped Mt Shkhara (5,068 metres).

Visit the 12th-century Lamaria Church and walk to Queen Tamar’s tower. Total walking time is 2-3 hours depending on fitness and trail conditions. Those not wishing to walk may stay and explore Ushguli, where there are a few small ethnographic museums in the watchtowers. In the evening you can walk around the village and become familiar with the daily life of the local people. Spend the night in a family-owned guesthouse (with shared facilities.)

Total driving time today will be approximately 3 hours.

Day 16 - Mestia
Today's walk starts from the guesthouse. The route takes us along the river to the base of Mt Shkhara. Fingers crossed for great weather! We will have a picnic lunch today. The walking trail ends at the Shkhara glacier, where the Enguri river originates below. In the afternoon, return to Mestia and stay overnight in the guesthouse.

Approximate walking time is 5-6 hours. If you do not wish to walk, please discuss options with your leader in advance.

Day 17 - Batumi
Drive to the Black Sea coast and the city of Batumi, with its waterfront parks and beaches. You’ll have a chance to walk around the town of Batumi and see its tastefully restored Old Town. Stay overnight at a hotel in Batumi.

Day 18 - Batumi
In the morning take part in a short city tour. Afterwards drive to a Makhuntseti waterfall for a short walk. Return to Batumi for an afternoon of free time.
Batumi has such a relaxed atmosphere and great restaurants and nightlife
The town in more recent years has been renovated, new architecture has sprouted up, including a small forest of eye-catching tower buildings. Batumi quickly gained the reputation of one of the Black Sea's top resort magnets, with a great party scene in summer.

Day 19 - Ayder (Georgia - Turkey Border Crossing)
Today travel to Sarpi, a village at the border of Georgia and Turkey. At this point, you'll be meeting up with a new leader and changing vehicles. Bid farewell to Georgia! Don't be too sad, as you'll have the sights and sounds of Turkey to keep you excited. The bus journey will take around 2.5 – 3 hours. Once you've arrived at the green plateau of Ayder, there will be a quick orientation walk followed by free time. Tonight enjoy a BBQ dinner.

Day 20 - Ayder
This morning go for a hike around Ayder and the Çat Valley. Stop and marvel at the beautiful Palovit fountains on the way. Stop for lunch at an authentic Çamlıhemşin house. The rest of the afternoon is free for you to do as you wish.

Day 21 - Uzungol
Today head to Uzungöl, which means ‘long lake’ in Turkish. Like Ayder, Uzungöl is a great spot to relax and enjoy easy hikes. It will take 2.5-3 hours to get to Uzungöl. After arriving, head out on a trek to Soğanlı Mountain. The rest of the day will be free for you to relax. In the evening, we recommend joining your leader for a traditional Turkish dinner.

Day 22 - Trabzon
Drive to Trabzon, a city on the Black Sea coast of North Eastern Turkey. The bus journey will take around 1.5 hours. Once you arrive in Trabzon, take city tour, which includes a local tea tasting, a visit to the Sumela or Vazelan Monastery, Trabzon's own Hagia Sophia and Atatürk’s Palace.

Day 23 - Istanbul
This morning drive to Trabzon airport and fly to Istanbul, the biggest and most crowded city in Turkey! After checking into your hotel, head out for a wander around the old city of Istanbul. Visit Sultanahmet Square, the Blue Mosque, the Grand Bazaar and Suleymaniye Mosque, and finish the walk around the spice market. You have an option to join our Homecooked Istanbul Urban Adventure tour or enjoy a farewell dinner at a local meyhane (Turkish tavern).

Day 24 - Istanbul
Sadly, your trip come to an end today after breakfast at the hotel. If you'd like to stay on in Istanbul to further explore the city, we are happy to organise extra accommodation (subject to availablity).

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