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Oreti, Tusheti National Park, Republic of GeorgiaKazbegi, Republic of GeorgiaPirikiti Valley, Tusheti National Park, Republic of GeorgiaOmalo, Tusheti National Park, Republic of GeorgiaKvakvidi, Tusheti National Park, Republic of GeorgiaMt. Kazbegi, Republic of GeorgiaOmalo, Tusheti National Park, Republic of GeorgiaShenako, Tusheti National Park, Republic of Georgia
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Nature & Culture Trails of Georgia's Caucasus

Discover Legendary Hospitality & Sublime Hiking in the Mountains of Poetry
Day 1: Tbilisi, Republic of Georgia
Our adventure begins in the capital city of Tbilisi, an ancient hillside spa city of filigreed balconies and cobbled streets that has been the center of governance in Georgia for 1,500 years. Our Expedition Leader accompanies you on the transfer from the airport to our luxury hotel located in the heart of old town. After lunch on your own, we set out on foot with our guide to explore the city, which enjoys a picturesque setting on both banks of the Mtkvari River. Tbilisi is one of the most ancient cities in the Caucasus region, and on a clear day one can see the mighty peak of Mt. Kazbek jutting up from the Greater Caucasus range to the north. The word tbili means 'warm,' and refers to the hot sulphur springs in the city center.

On our walking tour of Tbilisi we'll see the 4th-century Narikala Fortress, Metheki Church, Semaba and Sioni cathedrals, the Old Bazaar and charming Rustaveli Avenue, Tbilisi's favorite strolling promenade, lined with architectural highlights and quaint shops. Later this evening we’ll enjoy a traditional Georgian welcome dinner in an open-air restaurant overlooking the Mtkvari River.

Day 2: Tbilisi / Kazbegi
Leaving Tbilisi this morning, we visit Mtskheta, Georgia’s most vital religious center and the headquarters of the Georgian Orthodox Church since AD 317. Form here it’s a 3-hour drive into the Kazbegi mountain region. We drive northeast, following the old Georgian Military Highway. This centuries-old route was the main invasion path for steppe nomads from the Eurasian plains headed into the Caucasian valleys and farming civilizations of the Middle East. The ice-clad range ahead beckons, with the 16,000-foot massif of Mt. Kazbek presiding over the lesser peaks.

En route we stop for a picnic lunch in the meadows in front of the beautiful Ananuri Monastery. Ananuri was a castle and seat of the Dukes of Aragvi, a feudal dynasty that ruled the area from the 13th century. The castle was the scene of numerous battles, and the fortress remained in use till the beginning of the 19th century. In 2007, the complex was placed on the list for potential inclusion in the UNESCO World Heritage Site program.

Driving ever upward into the alpine grasslands, we reach Kazbegi where we check in to our luxury hotel above the village. The views of glacier-capped Mt. Kazbek, the highest peak in Georgia at 16,679 feet, are jaw-dropping. It was first climbed in 1868 by an Englishman from the London Alpine Club and has been a world-class mountaineering destination ever since. The Kazbegi area is also famed for its great variety of wildflowers. Many perennials that bloom in the legendary gardens of English country houses have their origins here, brought back by the renowned botanists of the Victorian era. The region is named after the famous local noble pastoral poet Alexander Kazbegi, who lived for seven years as a shepherd, writing poems celebrating the wild beauty of these mountains.

In the late afternoon we have an optional hike of  2 hours up to Gergeti Trinity Church. The 14th-century church enjoys a stunning site, and its isolated location on top of a steep mountain surrounded by the vastness of nature has made it an iconic symbol of Georgia. Later, relax on our hotel's grand terrace, with sweeping views of the peaks on high and village below. 

Day 3: Parsma / Dartlo — Tusheti National Park
A thrilling adventure is in store today! After breakfast, we drive to the nearby Kazbegi helipad to meet our helicopter. Once we lift off, we soar like an eagle over the glaciated summits of the Caucasus Mountains, which lie like a gleaming white crown atop the northern edge of Georgia. The perspective from the air is stunning, with deep green valley after valley rending the stone and ice landscape. After our 30-minute flight we land near the village of Parsma in the heart of Tusheti National Park, where we’ll have lunch.

Passing through the ancient stone villages of Parsma and Chesho, we arrive finally at Dartlo after 4 hours of optional hiking. Dartlo is a place mentioned in the old chronicles as one of the most ancient villages in Georgia. We admire its impressive stone towers, built for protection against enemy attacks. High up the steep mountainside, perched above Dartlo like an eagle's aerie, is Kvavlo. For those with energy remaining, the optional short but tough side hike offers rewarding views. We overnight in Dartlo at a local guesthouse.

Day 4: Dartlo / Omalo
After a leisurely breakfast we drive 20 minutes to Gele, where we begin our 2 hike to the village of Omalo, Tusheti's largest settlement. On our trek we're certain to meet many local people along the way, their legendary friendliness readily apparent. In Omalo, we tour the striking castle tower at Keselo, overlooking the wide Gometsari Valley, then settle in to a local guesthouse.

The surrounding landscape is dotted with dozens of stone villages that cling to the steep green mountainsides. The residents of these hidden hamlets are the progeny of 2,000 years of conquest and survival, a challenging heritage that has molded these former mountain tribes into a hardy and proud people who are delighted to share their traditions with us. We'll listen to poets regale us with polyphonic songs and revel in lively supras, or Georgian feasts, where our hosts will insist that we keep emptying the wild goat horns filled with their robust homegrown wine!

Day 5: Omalo — Optional Day Hiking — Tusheti National Park Visitors Center
This is a day of rest and celebration as we take pride in our high mountain traverse from Khevsureti to Tusheti. For those who wish, we make an optional half an hour drive to Shenako to hike 2 hours to Diklo and the Dagestani border where we’ll admire the stone towers and stunning views. On the drive back, we stop at the Tusheti National Park Visitors Center to learn more about one of Europe’s largest and most important conservation zones. Those who choose to forego the optional activity may rest at the Omalo guesthouse or explore the village independently.

Day 6: Omalo / Kakheti
Today’s journey by 4x4 van takes us over Abano Pass and down a thrilling steep mountain road to Kakheti in the Laliskuri district. After lunch at a local guesthouse, there’s time to relax.This afternoon, enjoy an optional short hike to Tskarostavi Church for a marvelous view over Kakheti, then visit medieval Alaverdi Cathedral, a World Heritage Site that is part of an 11th-century Orthodox monastery. Afterward, we check in to our luxury hotel, the Chateau Mere, which has its own winery on the property. A treat is in store this evening as we enjoy a sumptuous dinner and wine tasting on the estate.

Day 7: Kakheti Wine Tasting / Signaghi
As if we had not enjoyed enough fine Georgian drink already, this day is dedicated to discovering Georgia’s famed Kakheti wine region – the Napa Valley of Georgia, nestled in the shadow of the towering Caucasus Range. The wines of the world were born in central Georgia more than 8,000 years ago, and today more than 350 different varietals are produced. We'll sample several of them as we visit two different wineries.

From Chateau Mere we drive one hour to the Shuchman Winery where we’ll have a tour followed by a tasting and lunch. Then, it’s one more hour to Signaghi, where we check in to our hotel and enjoy a chance to rest and relax. Later this afternoon we’ll tour the town of Signaghi, an important Georgian tourist center whose economy rests on the production of wine, traditional carpets and classic Georgian food. The town and its environs are also known for their scenic landscapes and historic monuments. This evening we enjoy a grand dinner at Pheasants’ Tears Winery, where a traditional Georgian band will sing and dance for us.

Day 8: Signaghi / Tbilisi
Departing by road early this morning, we return to Tbilisi around noon and check in to our hotel. The rest of the day free to explore the old city, enjoy lunch on your own in the capital, shop, or take a soak in the city’s famous public mineral baths. Our grand Caucasian adventure concludes tonight with a farewell feast at a traditional Georgian restaurant.

Day 9: Depart
An early morning transfer to the airport is provided to connect with homeward flights.

Physical Rating: Moderate

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