Georgia & Armenia



This was a 14-day Andante Travels tour, with most of the group from the UK.  Margaret Grant and I flew to London on June 28th, joining the group flight to Yerevan on the 29th, and we had hotel rooms near Heathrow on July 12th, with a flight home on the 13th.

The photos are "geotagged".  This adds GPS data (latitude, longitude, elevation, etc.) to the photo metadata, just as the camera brand and model, date and time, exposure info, etc. are automatically recorded by the camera itself.  Therefore, you can see exactly where each photo was taken, usually to within a few meters.  The “Photos” links don’t show the geotagged information, but Google’s Picasa web site does an excellent job with geotagged photos, including integration with Google Maps and Google Earth.

The photos here are not edited, except for the GPS info, though some would benefit from some adjustments.  They’re size-reduced for the web, but I’d be happy to send you individual photos or a DVD with the full-resolution photos.  Most of the indoor photos were taken without flash, due to rules or simply respect for worshippers, so they may be blurry, especially at larger sizes.

The Andante web itinerary was replaced by a paper itinerary upon arrival.  They differ more in detail than in material changes, as far as I know, except for a change around day 5-6 due to a mud slide shortly before the trip.  Hopefully I corrected most of the errors introduced by scanning and OCRing the paper copy.  I’ve also added the “Photos” and “Picasa” photo gallery links to each day.

Georgia & Armenia - Kingdoms of the Caucasus

Saturday 29th June - Friday 12th July 2013

Day Zero

[Margaret and I fly to London via Chicago, joining the group at Heathrow.]

Day One

Air France flight AF1681 departing London Heathrow 10:10, arriving Paris Charles de Gaulle airport at 12:25. Air France flight AF1060 departing Paris 13:20, arriving Yerevan at 19:55 Drive to our hotel. Overnight at Hotel Golden Tulip, Yerevan.

Day Two  Photos  Picasa

The subterranean monastic churches and tombs of Geghard, carved out of the living mountain. GraecoRoman site of Garni, with its Classical Greek ‘temple’. Beautiful illuminated manuscript museum of Matenaderan. Overnight at Hotel Golden Tulip, Yerevan.  [I think we essentially swapped days 2 and 3, so that we could see Sunday services at the Echmiadzin Cathedral.  The verbiage here is from the itinerary; I swapped verbiage on the photo pages.]

Day Three  Photos  Picasa

Visit Metsamor Royal City, a vast Bronze Age site. Continue to visit to the Holy City of Echmiadzin: Zvarntots, the remains of an innovative circular church, also St Hripsime Church and Echmiadzin Cathedral, spiritual centre of the Armenian world. Overnight at Hotel Golden Tulip, Yerevan.  [I think we essentially swapped days 2 and 3, so that we could see Sunday services at the Echmiadzin Cathedral.  The verbiage here is from the itinerary; I swapped verbiage on the photo pages.]

Day Four  Photos  Picasa

The Urartian site of Erebuni. Then to Shengavit, an early Bronze Age site. Return to the city to visit the History Museum. Overnight at Hotel Golden Tulip, Yerevan.

Day Five  Photos  Picasa

Khor Virap, a monastery stunningly situated at the foot of Mount Ararat. Continue to the site of the world’s oldest winery (c 6000 BC) recently discovered in cave excavations at Areni. Monastery and churches at Norovank. At Gori, near Sisian, lies the megalithic stone circle of Karahunj, and remains of a Bronze Age fortification. Overnight at Hotel Mirhav, Goris.

Day Six  Photos  Picasa

By cable car to the spectacularly situated Tatev Monastery, seat of the bishops of Siwnik. Over the Selim Pass (2,410 m asl), stopping at an ancient caravanserai, to Lake Sevan. View the khachkar field (burial ground with beautifully carved Armenian marker stones) at Noratus. Overnight at Bohemian Resort, Sevan.

Day Seven  Photos  Picasa

Sevanavank Monastery, once an island in Lake Sevan, now a peninsula. On through the Sevan tunnel to the monastery at Haghartsin by the spa town of Dilijian. Haghpat Monastery (World Heritage Site), and then cross the border into Georgia and continue to Tbilisi. Overnight at Radisson Blu, Tbilisi.

Day Eight  Photos  Picasa

A day in Tbilisi (those who feel the need to should take some free time today!). Walking tours to take in the National History Museum with its exquisite gold treasures, the old city, the Sioni Cathedral, the Metekhi Church, the Narikala Fortress. Optional traditional steam bath! Overnight at Radisson Blu, Tbilisi.  [No steam bath opportunity.]

Day Nine  Photos  Picasa

Through the Gombori Pass to the monasteries of Shuamta and lkalto, the latter with attached 12th century academy. After lunch at a Kakhetian winery, the 18th century fortress town of Sighnagi, a Persian style fortress town, with stunning views of the Alazani valley and the Greater Caucasus beyond. Overnight at Radisson Blu, Tbilisi.

Day Ten  Photos  Picasa

North-west to Mtskheta, the old Georgian capital and spiritual centre. The 6th century Jvari Church and 11th century Svetitskhoveli (Church of the Living Column). The nearby ancient city of Bagineti, and, if time, the remains of a bath-house in the classical city of Zalissa-Dzalisi with ancient swimming pool and mosaics. On to Kutaisi. Overnight at Tskaltubo Resort, Kutaisi.

Day Eleven  Photos  Picasa

Bagrati Cathedral (WHS) and the adjacent medieval ruins of Ukhimereon. Visit Ian Colvin’s excavations at Nokalakevi - ancient settlement, Byzantine fortress and reputed capital of Colchis-Lazika. Gelati monastic complex. Overnight at Tskaltubo Resort, Kutaisi.

Day Twelve  Photos  Picasa

To the rock-cut Hellenistic and late antique city of Uplistsikhe, near Gori. On to the Georgian military highway and the 17th century Ananuri fortress. On to Gudauri. Overnight at Hotel Gudauri, Gudauri.

Day Thirteen  Photos  Picasa

North to Kazbegi, and an (optional) 2 hour walk to Gergeti Sameba (Holy Trinity) Church in the mountains.  On to the ancient Gate of the Alans in Darial Gorge, now the Russian border.  See the Tower at Sno.  Overnight at Radisson Blu, Tbilisi.  [The optional 2 hour walk was replaced by 4WD vehicles, so everyone was able to participate and maximize the time at the church.]

Day Fourteen

Turkish Airlines flight TK385 departing Tbilisi 11:20, arriving Istanbul at 12:50. Turkish Airlines flight TK1983 departing Istanbul 19:10, arriving London Heathrow 21:55. [Margaret and I had hotel rooms near Heathrow.]

Day Fifteen

[At our hotel, we wait for over an hour for the Hoppa bus, then wait about four hours on the plane (at the gate) while they resolve a radio problem.  (This was a Boeing 787 Dreamliner, much in the news lately, and a different 787 had a small fire and closed Heathrow for about 90 minutes Friday evening!)  One passenger decides not to chance the flight, so of course his/her one bag has to be removed from the hold, adding to the delay.  We missed our Houston connection, but United had already re-ticketed us on a later flight, so in the end we arrive at our respective homes (with luggage) only about three hours later than planned, just after midnight Sunday morning in my case.]

June 29 - July 12, 2013

Georgia and Armenia - Kingdoms of the Caucasus