Welcome to Georgia! Your tour leader will leave you a note at reception detailing on what time you will be meeting with the rest of your group. Tonight is free for an optional dinner - there are plenty of restaurants and cafes within a short walking distance of our hotel.
After breakfast take part in a sightseeing tour of Tbilisi. The locals like to call their capital the "Balcony of Europe", placing it on par with many of Europe's graceful old cities. All the sights in the Old Town are very close to each other and within a few minutes’ walk. We start our visit to Old Tbilisi from Metekhi Church, and then walk to the Synagogue, Sioni Cathedral and Anchiskhati Basilica. From here, visit Narikala Fortress and the Sulphur Baths. Afterwards, you'll have free time to further explore the capital. The evening is also free for you to enjoy. Perhaps indulge in Tbilisi's lively theater scene and witness some of the energetic and acrobatic dance that Georgia is known for.
Today, drive approximately 1 hour 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 city of Kutaisi, the second largest in the country (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.
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 (approximately 5 hours), 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.
Drive to Lakhiri village (approximately 20 minutes) 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.
Today, visit the World Heritage-listed village of Ushguli, a town around 50 kilometres southeast of Mestia (approx 3 hours drive). 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.
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.
From the mountains to the sea today with a long drive to Batumi (approximately 7-8 hours) on the Black Sea coast. While past its Soviet heyday where it was one of the premiere seaside resorts, it is still popular with holiday makers from all over the region for its waterfront parks and beaches. Stay in a hotel tonight.
In the morning take part in a short tour around the city. Then drive to the nearby Makhuntseti waterfall. Return to Batumi for an afternoon of free time. Batumi has a relaxed atmosphere, great restaurants and nightlife. Stroll the boulevard, cool off in the musical fountains on the square or see the touching Ali & Nino statue lit up at night. There's also art and ethnographic museums or a cable car to panoramic views over the city.
Depart from Batumi and transfer back to Tbilisi (approximately 5-6 hours) by private vehicle. Stop at local winery on the way for tasting and toast our time in Georgia together. Enjoy our final night in the nation's capital, perhaps with one last group dinner and night out together.
Your trip comes to an end today and your are free to depart at any time.