Georgia is like a glass of delectable east-mixed-west cocktail; it is neither Europe nor Asia. Tucked in the Caucasus ranges, where oriental culture mingles with the west, Georgia was once part of the ancient Silk Road trade route. Medieval villages, fortresses, towers, and monasteries scattered across rolling mountains. Colourful ancient cities and towns dotted river valleys. Vineyards stretch into the horizon on high plateau. Autumn is the harvesting season; let’s embark on an intoxicating journey to the Caucasus.
Morning gather at Kuala Lumpur International Airport; board Air Astana flight to Almaty (Kazakhstan) for transit, arrival at destination – Georgian capital city Tbilisi – at night, transfer to hotel.
Incepted in the 5th century, Tbilisi is built along the banks of Mtkvari River. The city is a blend of history and modernity; the old city is lined with colourful old houses by hillsides, while post-modern architectures rise up in the new city. Walking tour around the old city lined with winding cobbled streets, admire houses with wooden balconies, numerous Orthodox churches, and ancient dome-roofed Sulphur bath houses. Evening climb up to Narikala Fortress to admire sun set.
Today journey to northern region with chartered transport. First stop is the imperial capital Mtskheta and Jvari monastery built in the 6th century. Then drive along the Military Highway, known as the most beautiful route in Georgia, superb autumn view along hairpin turns. En-route, visit Ananuri Fortress standing by a reservoir, the 13th century complex include city wall, defense tower, and church. Later, drive through a pass at 2395m above sea level, and arrive in Kazbegi (1750m) – a village surrounded by towering mountains just 15km from Russian border.
After breakfast, drive on unpaved stone paths with jeeps to reach Gergeti Trinity Church, the lonesome stone structure built in the 14th century perched on a hill top (2170m), it is often shrouded in mist, as if suspended in the clouds; but on a fine day, one could see the holy mountain Kazbegi peak (5047m) in the backdrop. Later, drive to Sno Valley, then trek for 2 to 3 hours to admire unending view of mountain, valley, and river. Afterwards, long drive to Kakheti region, overnight in Eniseli vineyard hotel.
Morning explore vineyard and old wine cellar, learn about traditional wine making process. Georgian use a special egg-shaped earthen vessel named Qvevri for fermentation and storage. Later, visit 16th century Gremi Castle before proceed to the ancient fortified town of Sighnaghi, a quaint hill town overlooking the Alazani valley full of vineyards. Sighnaghi’s cobbled streets lined with old houses adorned with pretty wooden balconies. Return to Eniseli vineyard hotel for dinner and wine tasting.
A day of long drive, depart early morning from Kakheti region to western region. En-route visit ancient cave town Uplistsikhe, its golden ages dated between 9th and 11th century, but it was abandoned after being ravaged by the Mongols in 13th century. Later, head over to nearby Gori town, the birth place of former Soviet Union leader Joseph Stalin (1878-1953), visit Stalin Museum that showcases the leader’s life story. Afterwards, drive to Georgia’s second largest city Kutaisi, arrival at night.
Kutaisi is a tree-lined city built along the Rioni River banks. Morning visit the whimsical Prometheus Cave in the outskirt, with breathtaking examples of stalactites, stalagmites, petrified waterfalls, and underground rivers. Back in downtown at noon, take cable car to a hill top park for panoramic view, and enjoy traditional lunch. Afternoon explore the old city on foot; admire 19th century architecture, churches, old wooden foot bridge, and the huge indoor green market. The city has many interesting cafes and restaurants, some staged live performance of classical and jazz music at night.
Transfer to Upper Svaneti region, an isolated corner high up in the Caucasus ranges. The region has well preserved medieval villages and tower-houses, listed as a World Heritage site. Arrive around lunch time in Mestia, the administrative center of Upper Svaneti. Stay at a village guesthouse surrounded by towering mountains. Afternoon, explore the small town on foot, admire stone houses built along the hills, and numerous towers dotted the landscape, visit centuries-old traditional Svan house.
After breakfast, make a day trip to Ushguli (2200m), known as the highest inhabited village in Europe. Lies in a narrow valley protected by towering mountains, Ushguli is cut off from the outside world during winter. Its isolation helps to preserve tower-houses built between 8th and 12th century, unique Svan culture and language. Back in Mestia for overnight stay.
After breakfast, walk around Mestia and observe local life. Noon check-out from hotel but store luggage at reception, then take a car to Hatsvali Ski Station some 9km away, from there take ski cable car to the upper station for amazing views of the Caucasus ranges, enjoy vista view of famous snow peaks such as Ushba (4170m), Tetnuldi (4858m) and Layla (3994m). One could have lunch while admiring scenery at a hill top restaurant. Around 5pm, transfer by car (3h) to Zugdidi railway station, board a night sleeper train to Tbilisi, arrival next morning.
Arrive in Tbilisi train station around 6am, transfer by taxi to hotel, leave luggage at reception and go for breakfast. Later, explore the new town, such as Freedom Square, Rusteveli Avenue, and the flea market at Dry Bridge. After lunch, check-in to hotel and get some rest or have a free & easy session. In the evening, you may check out local nightlife scene or enjoy a Sulphur bath (optional activity) at the ancient Abanotubani district.
After breakfast, transfer to airport, board a morning flight bound for Kuala Lumpur via Almaty. Arrive at destination the following morning.
Morning arrive in Kuala Lumpur. End of tour.
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Jason is a barista, a cafe owner, a music teacher, and a traveler; multi-roles for a fulfilling life, he believes self-realization could be found in different corners of the world. When he is not traveling, he indulged in brewing coffee, retreating into his aroma filled cafe. He too conducts courses for Chinese traditional plucked-string music instrument named “Zhong Ruan”, and he has a deep interest in Central Asian music. He is full of curiosity and passion about the world; he dares to dream and acts upon it, travel is his means in reaching out.
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