Georgia and Georgian Wine will have to wait! As one could predict the 2020 “Food Wine and Culture” program was interrupted by the Covid 19 pandemic. Plans are now under way for 2021, The itinerary may change; we are working with our friends at Living Roots Travel in Tbilisi to create another spectacular introduction to this unique country, but rest assured, it will be fabulous, and this piece is a good example of what we will create.
I was disappointed not to be able to travel this fall, but in a year or so, when the world is safer, we will return.
This will be the fourth time that we have offered this program, and we look forward to having you join us in September. Our groups are small and our aim is to take you away from the major tourist destinations to meet and experience the unique culture of this wonderful country located in the heart of The Caucasus. We will concentrate on introducing you to Georgia’s unique and passionate culture, and to visiting some of the most remarkable countryside in Europe.
Old Tbilisi, the ancient capital of Georgia
October 07: Arrival in Tbilisi, and transfer to our accommodation. Arrival times in the Georgian capital may appear slightly eccentric, with many flights arriving between 0200 and 0300. Your rooms will be available from the afternoon of October 6th, and you will be met and transferred to the hotel regardless of the arrival time.
October 08: There will be an optional walking tour at 10.00am for those who are up and ready that will explore the quirky center of Old Tbilisi; we will see the city from each side of the River and have an introduction to the remarkable stories of the early days of this strategically important town. Lunch will be at iconic wine bar, Vino Underground, for our first introduction to the glories of Georgian wine.
October 09: The morning will be free to rest and adjust to the time zone, or explore the surrounding areas on your own. In the afternoon we will head out to Tbilisi to explore the Old Capital of Mtskheta and Svetitskhoveli Cathedral. This cathedral, founded in 1010, is one of the most sacred places in the country and is a fine introduction to the importance of the Georgian Orthodox church in the Georgian soul. Lunch at restaurant Dzveli Armazi in Mtskheta. Free time. Dinner at Café Literra, the home of the well-known chef Tekuna Gachechiladze.
Mtskheta, Georgia’s old capital city
October 10: Today we will leave the capital behind and head west. First to the unremarkable town of Gori, made famous only because of its native son, Stalin. We shall visit the extraordinary, and rather chilling museum to his life before continuing over the Likhi mountains to Kutaisi, with one stop in the Kvaliti village to meet and taste the wines of Archil Guniava and finally arrive to Tskaltubo, our overnight stop. This resort was built in the 1970s as a resort exclusively for high-ranking Soviet Naval offices, and is makes a delightful and unique place to stay.
October 11: Today we climb the mountains. After a coffee stop in Zugdidi, we will drive up the Svaneti Valley to Mestia. This region is special, even by Georgian standards! The communities that populate this valley are distinct and historically fiercely independent. We will see some dramatic scenery, gorgeous mountains and villages that have been here since the dawn of time. Finally, we will reach Mestia, the regional capital and now a center for hiking, skiing and a variety of other mountain-based activities.
October 12: Ushguli is a UNESCO World Heritage Site; it is extremely remote and life here is redolent of the middle ages. It has a collection of dramatic medieval towers, and lying as it does at 2,300m, it is the highest populated community in Europe. We will have time to explore the village in some detail, and if the weather is clear, have a dramatic view of Georgia’s highest mountain, Shkhara which towers some 5,100m over the landscape.
Svaneti – an ancient part of an ancient nation
October 13: Today we head back down the mountain to Kutaisi, Georgia’s second city, and an important provincial capital. It is blessed with a two UNESCO sites, and we will visit one, the Gelati Monastery, built in the early 1100s by King David. It is not only an architectural masterpiece, but also an important center of learning for centuries, and one of the first schools in the region.
October 14: Today is a “Driving Day”; we shall start the morning in the local market before driving east. We will stop for lunch at Iago’s Winery, a charming family wine producer in the Kartli region. Iago’s wine is remarkable, and his was the first winery in the country to receive a bio-certificate for his vineyard and production.
Skirting Tbilisi, we will enjoy the three-hour drive toward the Azeri border, and our next stop, this time for three nights, at Sighnaghi,
October 15: There are many opportunities for sightseeing in this quirky town; we will spend time in the morning exploring the town itself before driving a few kilometers away to visit the 9thcentury monastery of Bodbe. It now functions as a nunnery, and is one of the major pilgrimage sites in Georgia.
Following a short rest, we will have our dinner, a traditional Georgian Supra, at Pheasants’ Tears. This restaurant and winery is one of the most vibrant in the country, and an exciting place to meet some of the finest Georgian wine, cuisine and be introduced to the unique polyphonic music.
Pheasants’ Tears DinnerOctober 16: We will spend today exploring the region of Kakheti; we will see the main town of Telavi, and later visit the unusual and quite remarkable winery of Alaverdi. Visit the monastery, and we will continue towards Alazani where we will visit the family of young and enthusiastic wine maker Shota. He is from the mountains of Tusheti, and will cook Tushetian cuisine paired with the natural wines from the grower. Drive back to Sighnaghi, and enjoy dinner at a local restaurant. Overnight in Sighnaghi
October 17: We will drive back to Tbilisi today and have time in the afternoon for some independent sightseeing before our farewell dinner at Azarpesha, a unique cultural restaurant in the center of Tbilisi’s Old City.
October 18: Your departure from Georgia. Once again your flight may have an early departure time, but your room will be available to rest in prior to your airport transfer.
US$ To be confirmed per person, based on sharing a double room. The supplement for a single room is (as yet unknown).
The price includes:
· Four nights in Tbilisi at the Iota Hotel
· Three nights in Sighnaghi at the Hotel Kabadoni
· One night in Tskaltubo
· Two nights in Mestia and the Hotel Tetnuldi
· One night at the Hotel Argo in Kutaisi
· Daily breakfast and lunch and ten dinners
· Five wine tastings and two folkloric performances
· All entrance fees and excursions as detailed on the itinerary
· Transportation by coach throughout, with 4WD vehicles for the day excursion to Ushguli
· Fully escorted by a local Georgian guide and “MaxGlobetrotter”
· Airport transfers
· All local taxes
The price excludes:
· Items not specified in the itinerary
· Items of a personal nature
· Optional gratuities
· Credit card processing fees
Reservations are handled by Top of the World Travel in Yellowknife, Canada. A non-refundable deposit of US$750 per person is required to confirm your reservation with the balance due no later than August 15, 2019.
To request a booking form please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
All payments, once made, are non-refundable, and we recommend that you consider travel insurance to cover any losses incurred by cancellation for unforeseen reasons. Full details are available from the agency.
The tour will be strictly limited to twenty participants, and early confirmation is highly recommended.
Additional nights’ accommodation in Tbilisi is available for US$75/person in a double room, and US$120 for a single room should you wish to arrive early or to extend your stay.
Extension programs, on an individual basis to Armenia and/or Azerbaijan are also available upon request.
The Bishop in Kutaisi sharing his altar wine