10 Day Tour: May 18-31, 2020
- Base Pricing is always calculated for double occupancy.
- $1,400 supplemental for Solo Travelers.
- Caspian Sea
- Neolithic Rock Drawings
- Magnificent Churches
- Awe-inspiring Palaces
- Scenic Caucasus Mountains
- Baku & Tbilisi
- Pink City of Armenia
- Roundtrip airfare from Chicago
- First Class Hotel Accommodations
- Daily Breakfast
- Daily Dinners
- Deluxe Motorcoach Transportation
- Admissions to all listed Attractions
- Roundtrip airport transfers in the Chicagoland area
- Guiding by Bill Ball
- Baggage Handling
- All Gratuities
Day One We fly to the Caucasus region of the former Soviet Union. These three highland countries of the Caucasus straddle a stunning strip of snow-capped mountains wedged between the Black and Caspian Seas.
Day Two Arrive in Baku, Azerbaijan, the political and cultural capital. We begin in this beautiful city with a panorama view from Upland Park. The city is horseshoe-shaped as it wraps itself around the bay.
Day Three We begin the day with a tour of the UNESCO protected Old Town with structures dating back to the 7th century. It is no wonder that this is one of the architecturally richest cities in the world. We will visit the Palace of the Shirrans’ Shahs, a 15th-century medieval palace that is the most striking royal residence in Azerbaijan. In the afternoon, we will visit the Absheran Peninsula and the Caspian Sea. This is one of the most scenic areas of Eurasia. Dating to the 12th century, the Absheron castles are well worth a visit. These medieval treasures were designed as a ring of protection for Baku.
Day Four This morning we depart for Gobustan National Park. This amazing open-air museum is home to over 4000 Neolithic rock drawings that are up to 12000 years old. Drawn in the Stone Age, they reflect activities such as hunting and dancing. Next, we take an excursion to Yanar Dag, a natural fire that burns continuously on a hillside. Historians claim this place gave Azerbaijan its name of “fire country”. This was the center of a Zoroastrian temple where pilgrims from around the world come to worship.
Day Five We head across the beautiful countryside of Azerbaijan to the city of Sheki. On the way, we will visit the former Shirvan Kingdom capital of Shemakha with the Seven Cupolas Mausoleum where the members of the royal family are buried. We will also visit a craft village where virtually everyone here is involved in a craft.
Day Six We begin our day with a visit to the Palace of Sheki Khans to see the most outstanding and valuable monument of the 18th century Azerbaijan. Afterward, we stop at the Albanian Church in Kish. It is said that the church was built in 78AD. This afternoon, we visit Sheki Bazaar to shop for local handicrafts.
Day Seven We head to the border of Georgia (the country, not the state—sorry Jimmy Carter) to the capital city of Tbilisi. Tbilisi is the melting pot of Georgia. Founded by Vakhtang Gorgasali in the 5th century, Tbilisi was made the capital in the 6th century. Today we explore the city with visits to the old quarter and city center known for its famous Sulphur springs. We’ll also visit Metekhi Church, Sioni Church with its famous St. Nino’s cross from 337 AD and Anchiskhati church the city’s most ancient. Next, we visit the 4th-century fort Narikala, that overlooks the city. This afternoon, we take in the collection of gold and silver at the Georgian State Museum. Many pieces in the collection are dated before Christ.
Day Eight This morning we drive to Kazbegi. On the way, we visit Mtskheta the ancient capital of eastern Georgia. It is here that Georgia converted to Christianity in 337AD. We will visit the Svetitskoveli Cathedral and the remarkable Jvari Monastery located on the edge of a cliff. We continue through the mountains to Kazbegi. Along the way, we stop for a short hike to the Gergeti Trinity church and visit the Alexander Kazbegi Museum.
Day Nine This morning we head up 7000 feet to the 14th century Gergeti Tsminda Sameba Trinity Church. The views are unforgettable. On a clear day, you can see Mount Kazbek—it was here that the legendary Prometheus was chained. This afternoon, we drive to Sno Gorge to see its old towers and the Gveleti waterfall—one of the highest in Georgia.
Day Ten We head back across Georgia to the town of Dzoroget in Armenia. We begin exploring this home to the mountains of Ararat with a visit to the monasteries of Sanahin and Haghpat. They date from the 10th century and are protected by UNESCO. We continue on to Dzoraget which lies between the capital of Armenia and Georgia.
Day Eleven It is only a short drive to the pearl of Armenia—Lake Sevan. This is one of the greatest freshwater high-mountain lakes in the world. We head next to the pilgrimage site of Etchmiadzin where the complex includes cathedrals dating to the 4th century. The UNESCO site includes 3 cathedrals, libraries, and museums making it the holiest site for Christians in Armenia.
Day Twelve We tour the fabled Pink city today. With a history surpassing even Rome’s, this ancient city is a cultural and architectural treasure-trove. Between 4000 and 2000BC, the city was destroyed and rebuilt at least 4 times. We will see Matenadran, the historic document collection as well as the castle museum Erebuni and Tsitsernakaberd Hill.
Day Thirteen We explore the Garni Temple today. It remains the only surviving pagan temple in Armenia. We go on to see the monastic complex of Geghard, a UNESCO site. It houses the relic said to be the spear that wounded Christ on the cross. We also visit the Khor Virap monastery from the 17th century. It is here in its deep dungeon that St. Gregory was imprisoned for 13 years. St. Gregory was credited with converting Armenia to Christianity and thus making Armenia the first country to make Christianity their official religion. We will then peer at Mount Ararat said to be the resting place of Noah’s Ark. We stop at a local craft market for some last-minute gifts to take home.
Day Fourteen We head home today with more historical knowledge of early Christianity, the Greek empire and early man than we thought possible. That coupled with the incredible mountainscapes and the beautiful Caspian Sea, makes this a trip of a lifetime combining man and nature into one great memory.