XXL TOUR 2022 - option 1 - GEORGIA & ARMENIA 23 days
Price indication*: € 2450 (approximately $ 2900) international flight excluded.
Some hotels have not yet set rates for 2022. We have included an anticipated raise in room rates in our price indication.
Tuesday May 31 Optial early arrival – stay at Divan hotel (Batumi, Georgia)
If you prefer to to arrive one day before the start of our tour, we can make the hotel reservation. Lodging is at your own expenses. Shuttle from the airport to our hotel will be included.
Wednesday June 1 Arrival in Batumi – city walk – stay at Divan hotel
Welcome to Batumi, Georgia! This cosmopolitan coastal city is situated on the Black Sea coast. Shuttle from the airport to hotel Divan, located in the old center of Batumi, is included. You can have a private lunch at one of the numerous nearby restaurants. To get acquainted with the city we will make a guided city walk in the afternoon and finish at the boulevard near the waterfront to capture Batumi’s vibrant atmosphere and relax from your travels. We will meet again for dinner (incl).
Thursday June 2 Batumi – free day – stay at Divan hotel
Free day in Batumi to stroll around or have a swim. Remember to buy a packed lunch for tomorrow’s travels.
Friday June 3 Travel to Mestia – stay at Hotel Posta (Mestia)
Check out and departure at 8.30 AM for today’s destination Mestia in the north of Georgia.
It is surrounded by high snowy mountain peaks and part of the high Caucasus. It is the capital of the Svaneti region. In 1996 this part – the Upper Svaneti region – was nominated as World Heritage Site because of its unique defense towers.
Today’s travels covers 270 kilometer, but winding roads slow down our travel time. Astonishing views on changing landscapes offer distraction while you can enjoy your packed lunch. In Mestia we will stay at Hotel Posta, our luxurious accommodation for the next 3 nights. Dinner (incl) at the hotel.
Saturday June 4 Mestia – free day – performance of local group - stay at hotel Posta
Today is a free day with several options. Visit the wonderful local museum or join a moderate difficult walk to Mulakhi village (about 4 hrs round trip). If you prefer to relax you can stroll thru the scenic town of Mestia. Dinner will be at the hotel (incl). After dinner a local group presents its unique folk heritage. The Svans is an ethnic group that has retained many traditions because of its inaccessible villages and harsh regional climate. Local clans were ruling the region and villages were invincible to enemies because of their defense towers. This isolation lead to a strong tradition of folk music, dance and polyphonic folk songs, some dating back to pagan times e.g. dedicated to the God of the Sun.
Sunday June 5 Sightseeing to Ushguli – stay at hotel Posta
Today we will further explore the high Caucusus and pay a visit to Ushguli. In 2015 Tineke & Maurits drove their four-wheel drive car for hours on what was referred to as ‘one of the most dangerous (unpaved) roads in Europe’. Nowadays that is not the case anymore, The road has been improved, so sit back and relax.
Ushguli is a community of four villages located at the head of the Enguri Gorge and is the highest inhabited settlements in Europe. It is located at an altitude of 2,100 meters (6,900 ft) near the foot of Shkhara, one of the highest summits of the Greater Caucasus mountains. About 70 families live in the area, enough to support a small school. The area is snow-covered for 6 months per year. After our visit we will return to our hotel in Mestia. Dinner at the hotel (incl).
Monday June 6 Travel from Mestia to Kutaisi – stay at hotel Ponte and Best Western (Kutaisi)
Departure at 8.30. Today we have a long travel day ahead. We will leave scenic Svaneti region and drive southward to the city of Kutaisi in the western part of Georgia. During our travels we will have lunch (incl.) before we continue our tour to Kutaisi. Kutaisi is a former capital and has been of great cultural and historical significance. The city and its surrounding areas are distinguished by beautiful nature and abundance of cultural monuments. We will stay in 2 hotels and after arrival there will be free time to relax. No dinner provided.
Tuesday June 7 Kutaisi – Gelati monastery – gold treasures in Vani museum - stay at hotel Ponte and Best Western
Today we will spend an interesting day visiting some cultural gems. Only 11 km from the city you can find Gelati Monastery, founded by David the Builder in 1106 and famous for its beautiful frescos. Another glimpse of Georgia’s ancient treasures can be found in the museum of Vani, a small town west of Kutaisi where archeological excavations revealed golden treasures of the ancient kingdom of Colchis. You will be back in Kutaisi to have your private lunch and might want to visit the market where local food is sold, a good opportunity to taste and buy Churchkhela, the national sweetness in Georgia, made from nuts and grape juice. If you like to see another ancient monument you can visit Bagrati Cathedral, built in 1003, or walk to Colchis fountain. We will meet for dinner (incl) and try to set up a meeting with a dance or music group.
Wednesday June 8 Travel from Kutaisi to Vardzia – cave monastery – stay at Valodias cottages (Vardzia)
After a bus ride of a little more than three hours we will arrive in Vardzia. Upon arrival we will check in and have lunch at Valodias Cottages. After lunch (incl) we will visit nearby Vardzia complex, an ancient cave city carved in a rocky mountain slope, founded by Queen Tamar in 1185. It once covered thirteen stories and accommodated more than 6000 caves where monks lived and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In 1283 a.D. an earthquake destroyed 2/3 of the complex and exposed the caves. Even nowadays some monks still live here. We will have dinner (incl) at Valodias Cottages where we will stay for 2 nights.
Thursday June 9 Vardzia free day – stay at Valodias cottages
The perfect place to have a free day. Situated at a scenic spot near Kura river, an excellent place to relax, enjoy fresh fish, homemade wine and home grown food. You can re-visit the caves, walk to the women’s monastery Zeda Vardzia, walk in nature, or just relax near the river front to process your travel impressions. Lunch and dinner at Valodias Cottages (incl).
Friday June 10 Travel from Vardzia to Tbilisi – sightseeing Uplistsikhe – stay at hotel Irmeni (Tblisi)
Today our tour leads us to Tbilisi, Georgia’s capital. We will interrupt our 5-hour bus trip to have lunch in Gori (not incl), birth place of Stalin. After lunch we will travel to the museum and complex of Uplistsikhe, an ancient rock-hewn town dated from the early Iron Age to the Late Middle Ages. Uplistsikhe is identified by archaeologists as one of the oldest urban settlements in Georgia and once housed 20,000 people. You will need good non slippery hiking shoes because the complex is built of rock-cut structures of different elevations. There is a small cafeteria to buy yourself a snack or drink. Don’t miss a visit to the small museum. Arriving in Tbilisi we will stay at hotel Irmeni, centrally located and just 15 minutes’ walk from the old city center. Dinner in a nearby restaurant (incl).
Saturday June 11 Tbilisi city walk – free afternoon - stay at hotel Irmeni
This morning we will explore Tbilisi on foot and you can stay in scenic old town to have a private lunch and do some exploration on your own, because the afternoon is free. Another option is to take a taxi to visit the National Museum with a beautiful collection of costumes and a unique collection of golden jewelry. A visit to the local flee market or a ride on the cable car to Narikala fortress might be another option. There is a large selection of good restaurants to have a private dinner.
Sunday June 12 Travel from Tblisi to Mtshketa - guided tour to Svetitskhoveli Cathedral – stay at hotel Irmeni
This morning we will pay a visit to Jvari church, which overlooks the city of Mtshketa and Svetitskhoveli Cathedral, located in the historic town of Mtskheta. A masterpiece of the Early Middle Ages, Svetitskhoveli is recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. You will have a guided tour of the Cathedral and free time to browse around souvenir stalls in Mtsheta and try the taste of Khinkali - a Georgian dumpling - in one of the many restaurants surrounding the Cathedral. After lunch we will return to Tbilisi and you have a free afternoon. We will meet again for our last dinner in Georgia (incl) and enjoy a night with Georgian music and dance.
Monday June 13 Travel to Armenia – stay at Apaga Resort (Yenokavan village)
Today we will leave Tbilisi and travel to Armenia. At the border we need to take all our luggage from the bus, pass on foot and have our luggage inspected. Then we will change to an Armenian bus and you will be able to change (a small sum of) money. Leaving the main road we will continue on an unpaved road and on the slope of the mountain our cottages of Apaga Resort loom up in this beautiful landscape. We will have lunch upon arrival (incl) with fresh local products. You have free time to settle in and will be offered dinner (incl) later. Evening dance with Tineke.
Tuesday June 14th Free day - stay at Apaga Resort
This day can be bustling with activity in the form of beautiful walks, a horseback ride or a sensational zipline crossing over a nearby canyon (both on request and at an additional fee). But this is also an excellent place to relax or let your travel experiences sink in at this peaceful eco resort. Lunch and dinner included. Evening dance with Tineke.
Wednesday June 15th Free day - stay at Apaga Resort
This morning a guided walk to Lastiver cave is scheduled. You have to be fit and need good hiking shoes. This trip is less suitable for those who suffer from vertigo. Due to weather conditions this program can also be exchanged with June 14. It is a moderate difficult hike of about 6 kilometres (about 3 hrs roundtrip in quiet tempo) with beautiful views but also some rocks or boulders on the path. Besides the interesting cave with carvings there is also a beautiful waterfall near a river, so you might want to spend some time there. (Packed) lunch and dinner included.
Thursday June 16th Travel to Sevan Lake – visit to Karavanserai – stay at Lucytour hotel (Hermon village)
Passing a mountain range today´s destination is Sevan Lake, a big sweet water lake at an altitude of around 2000 meters surrounded by mountains. Here we will meet Naira, our Armenian guide who will join us for a big part of our Armenian tour. On top of Aghtamar peninsula there are two small churches and decorated cross stones. Naira will provide us with information about their history. After this sightseeing there will be time to enjoy lunch and to browse around the souvenir stalls. Lunch will be preordered but is not included. We can settle payment later.
Continuing along the shore of Lake Sevan, we will visit Noratus cemetery with the biggest collection of khatchkars (decorated cross stones) and ancient grave stones with inscriptions depicting the life of the deceased person. In a tiny village Mgitar and his family welcome us to their home for a coffee. Adjoining to his modern house we can visit an ancient house dating back to the first half of the 19th century and our host can tell us some stories about life in those days. Passing Selim pass an ancient Karavanserai, an old lodging place, is the silent witness of the lively trade that took place in Armenia during the Silk Road era. We have almost arrived at our final destination, Hermon village and stay at Lucytour hotel’s cottages. Dinner (incl).
Friday June 17th Free day – optional hike Smbataberd fortress – performance dance group - stay at Lucytour hotel
Compared to Apaga Resort this is a more basic complex, but its location in the beautiful gorge of Yeghegis River in Hermon village is very beautiful. The facility has its own (covered) swimming pool, mountainbikes for rent and pooltable.
Surrounded with historical monuments and rock mountains it is a quiet place where you can you can enjoy the cozy garden, breathe the fresh air and admire the amazing landscape. Today we will organize a guided walk to the Smbataberd fortress (founded in the 5th century) which was built in a very advantageous position on the southern end of a ridge, guarded by steep cliffs on three of its sides. Coming back from your hike there will be buffet style lunch and dinner (both incl). Evening dance party with a local folk dance group and teacher Dadik.
Saturday June 18th Travel from Hermon to Goris – stay at Goris hotel (Goris)
Departure at 9.00 a.m. We will travel eastwards to today’s final destination Goris. After about 45 minutes’ drive we will make a stop to take a brief walk to a bridge dating from the Silk Road era and to enjoy the flowers and surrounding landscape. Continuing our way we will make a lunch stop. Lunch will be preordered but is not included.
After about 1,5 hour we will visit Karahountj, also called Zorats karer, a circular arrangement of 204 stones with holes in them. It is a prehistoric archaeological site and often believed to be a place for astronomically related rituals, although critical assessments of the site found several problems with that interpretation. After about 1 ½ hour later we will reach Hotel Goris in the small town Goris. Dinner (incl) will be at the hotel.
Sunday June 19th Sightseeing Khundzoresk - stay at Goris hotel
Slightly beyond the city of Goris the caves of ancient Khundzoresk are situated. An extensive walk through this bizarre-looking landscape of rocky points with caves really gives a good impression of the vastness. In the late 19th century up to 4000 people lived here. The artificial caves, some of which are currently used as stables and warehouses, used to be inhabited till the 1950s. In the bottom of the gorge there is St. Hripsime church, dated back to 17th century. Back in Goris you can stroll around in the city. Dinner (incl) will be served at the hotel. Evening dance with Tineke.
Monday June 20th Travel from Goris to Yerevan – stay at Ani Grand Hotel (Yerevan)
Although we have spent several days in Armenia now, today it is time to get acquainted with its vibrant capital Yerevan. But before reaching Yerevan we shouldn’t miss a visit to Noravank church. It is built at the end of a gorge and a real gem among the great number of ancient monuments in Armenia. We will have lunch (incl) at one of the restaurants nearby. In Yerevan the rest of the afternoon and evening will be free, no dinner provided. There is an abundance of restaurants in the near vicinity of our hotel. Make sure to watch the impressive sound and light show which starts around 21.00 hrs. at Yerevan’s central Republic Square, located very close to our hotel. The place to hang out for the locals. If tonight is not your night: the show is performed every night.
Tuesday June 21st Yerevan city walk – excursion to Garni temple and Geghard monastery - stay at Ani Grand Hotel
A city walk in the morning and at 14.00 hrs we will leave for Geghard and Garni temple. Geghard, meaning "spear", is a medieval monastery from 1215, being partially carved out of the adjacent mountain, surrounded by cliffs. It is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Dinner in Garni will be included.
Wednesday June 22nd Morning free – drive to Talin to meet with local dance group – stay at Ani Grand Hotel
Have a relaxed morning or explore Yerevan. In the afternoon we will travel to Talin to meet with a dance group from Sasnashen. In a small bakery you can see how lavash, the traditional bread, is baked according to old traditions. Many immigrants from the former West Armenian region of Sasoun (nowadays in Turkish Anatolia) settled around the city of Talin after the genocide. The local dance group has managed to keep its dance heritage alive for almost a century. This visit will not only offer us the chance to dance in the company of the villagers, but also to get familiar with Armenian toasting habits. Besides freshly baked lavash we will undoubtedly enjoy other locally made products as well as a delicious dinner (incl).
Free evening in Yerevan.
Thursday June 23rd Free day in Yerevan - stay at Ani Grand Hotel
Today is our final and free day in Armenia. If you don't want to go shopping at the Vernissage where craftsmen sell their merchandise, the Matenadaran Museum can be an interesting place to visit. It hosts the world’s largest collection of Armenian manuscripts. Likewise worth a visit are the Historical Museum, the Museum of Russian painters or the Cascade - a giant stairway made of limestone adorned with fountains and modernist sculptures and surrounded with cozy restaurants. A short drive by taxi can take you to the Genocide monument or to Erebuni. Erebuni is the foundation of a fortress and the founding of the city of Yerevan (782 BC). It has a small but very interesting museum with English explanation of the artefacts. Simply enjoying a drink on one of the many terraces in the green ring of parkland which crosses Yerevan is also very relaxing.
We will meet again for dinner (incl.) and have an evening dance party.
Friday June 24th flight home or continue to Teheran.
- accommodation with breakfast
- English speaking guide
- A/C bus
- meals as mentioned in the program (water, coffee or tea included at dinner )
- entrance fees of sightseeing places
- transfers airport
- surcharge single room € 615 (approximately $ 730)
- international flight
- any meals not mentioned in the program (indication: € 190/$225) and drinks
- any personal expenses such as telephone call, laundry, souvenirs, etc.
- tips to guide and drivers (indication: € 1 p. person per day for guide, equivalent for driver)
- possibly a visa (please see information under FAQ)
The international flight can be booked after the organizer informs you that the minimum amount of 20 participants has been reached.
Hotels in Georgia
Batumi hotel Divan ***** http://www.divan.com.tr/hotel/divan-suites-batumi-hote
Mestia hotel Posta **** Google Hotel Posta Mestia
Kutaisi Best W. hotel *** Google Best Western Kutaisi
Ponte hotel *** Google Ponte hotel Kutaisi
Vardzia hotel Valodias cottages** http://www.accommodationvardzia.ge
Tbilisi hotel Irmeni *** http://www.irmeni.ge
Hotels in Armenia
Yenovakan hotel Apaga Resort*** Google Apaga Resort
Hermon hotel Lucy Resort*** http://www.lucy-tour.com
Goris hotel Goris **** Google Hotel Goris
Yerevan Ani Grand Hotel**** https://anigrandhotelyerevan.com/