Overview

Travel through Georgia and Armenia where you will explore The Caucasus region, from Yerevan to the Black Sea. See Georgia’s tallest mountain, Kazbegi, and participate in a traditional bread making lesson, where you will learn how to prepare the country’s national dish. You will taste organic qvevri wine, and explore some of Georgia and Armenia’s oldest cultural, religious, historical, and archaeological sites. This exchange presents you with the opportunity to explore and learn about these cities on a guided tour coupled with a traditional, Friendship Force homestay experience.

Home Hospitality

Provided by the Friendship Force club of Tbilisi.

Live With a Local

  • Attend three Cultural Events; master class of preparation of Armenian national dish, Armenian traditional bread – lavash baking, and dinner in restaurant with national music program.
  • Enjoy Georgian food at a local restaurant.
  • Experience the hospitality and friendship of the Georgian people. Sharing our homes means allowing ambassadors a look at the private home lifestyle of the Tbilisi club members. Tourists never get to see and feel this level of social communication.
  • Listen to folk polyphonic music, a unique Georgian sound.
  • Optional - Georgian Dance performance “NABADI” (Extra charge of $25 per person which includes one glass wine.)

Sightseeing Highlights

  • Take a tour of Yerevan city, including stops at Republic Square, Victory Park, Mother Armenia, Cafesjian Center for the Arts, The Cascade, the monument to A. Tamanyan, Opera House, and Tsitsernakaberd Armenian Genocide Memorial.
  • Visit Yerevan brandy factory, the storehouse, the museum of history, and a brandy tasting.
  • See Zvartnots Temple, built in 652 - its ruins are a reminder of the former masterpiece of medieval Armenian architecture.
  • Travel along the picturesque gorge of the Gnishik River before reaching the monastery of Noravank, which served as the religious center of the Orbelyan dynasty.
  • Take a morning nature tour in Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park and visit Volcanic spring on Borjomi.
  • Visit Promete Cave, one of the richest caves of Europe, characterized by the variety of underground rivers and beautiful landscapes.
  • Admire the Botanical Garden of Batumi. Founded in 1912, this garden contains more than 5000 kinds of plants from all over the world.
  • Drive to Mtskheta, the ancient capital of Georgia. Mtskheta is packed full of historical monuments and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • Go on a guided walking tour around old Tbilisi, discovering sites such as the National Museum, home to many of the treasures that inspired the legend of the golden fleece, as well as the Narikala citadel, Metekhi Temple, and the Sioni Cathedral, among other sites.

Global: Discover Armenia and Georgia

15 Days / 14 Nights Program and Itinerary:

June 5, 2017 – June 19, 2017
Coordinator: James W. Kerr, Jr.
Judgejwkerr@juno.com

All Friendship Force Itineraries are subject to change.

Day 1

Airport “Zvartnots” – Yerevan – free day Arrival in Yerevan.

Transfer to the hotel. Free day in Yerevan.

(Note: Arrival day activities will be adjusted as needed according to the itinerary of the traveler.)

Meals: Breakfast and dinner

Day 2

Yerevan – Erebuni museum – city tour – Matenadaran – Yerevan Brandy factory

Tour of Yerevan city – includes stops at Republic Square, Victory Park, Mother Armenia, Cafesjian Center for the Arts, The Cascade, the monument to A. Tamanyan, Opera House, and Tsitsernakaberd Armenian Genocide Memorial.

Erebuni museum – which is concerned with the history of the establishment of Yerevan, was founded on May 24, 1968.

The museum building imitates the construction of an Urartian palace and preserves the principle of the people’s houses with external soundproof walls and a smooth roof around the internal yard.

Visiting the institute of ancient manuscripts – Matenadaran. Manuscript art which was portable enough to be smuggled out of harms way, has left the world a legacy of some 30,000 known Armenian manuscripts.

Visiting Yerevan brandy factory “Ararat,” the storehouse, the museum of history and tasting of brandy.

Meals: Breakfast and dinner

Day 3

Yerevan – Zvartnots – Ejmiatsin – Oshakan – Amberd – Yerevan

A trip to Zvartnots Temple (“Celestial Angels” 7th c). This majestic temple was built in 652 and its ruins remain as reminder of a masterpiece of medieval Armenian architecture.

Visiting one of 12 old capitals of Armenia – Ejmiatsin (Vagharshapat) and the First Cathedral of Saint Ejmiatsin, church of Saint Hripsime (7th c).

Proceeding to Oshakan in Aragatsotn Province. Oshakan is most famous as the last resting place of Mesrop Mashtots, founder of the Armenian Alphabet. Above his grave (19th c. gravestone) is a church rebuilt by Catholicos George IV in 1875.

A trip to the southern slope of Mount Aragats. Visiting Amberd, which means “a fortress in the clouds” a fitting name given its elevation (2300 m.).

On the way to Yerevan a stop at the Alphabet Square – a monument to the letters of Armenian Alphabet.

Back to Yerevan. Leisure time. Overnight.

Meals: Breakfast and dinner

Day 4

Yerevan – Garni – Geghard – Lake Sevan – Yerevan – Vernissage

Visit to Vernissage crafts and flea market.

Trip to Geghardavank, Armenia’s 12-13cc “Monastery of the Lance” (about 45 minutes outside Yerevan city center). The name of Geghard is connected with a lance which, according to the Holy Bible, was used to pierce the side of the crucified Christ. (What is believed to be a remnant of the lance is preserved in the museum at Holy Echmiadzin).

Excursion to Garni Temple and Garni Castle (3 c. BC – 13th c. AD) – the summer residence of Armenian kings and the site of a pre-Christian temple honoring Mithra, god of the sun.

Cultural event: master class of preparation of Armenian National dish.

Visiting the “blue pearl of Armenia” – Lake Sevan is situated at an altitude of about 2000 meters above sea level. A famous writer has poetically characterized Sevan as: “A genuine piece of sky, dropped down on earth among mountains.”

Visiting the monastery of Sevanavank (XI c.) which is located on Sevan peninsula. Back to Yerevan.

Meals: Breakfast and dinner

Day 5

Yerevan – Khor Virap – Noravank – bird’s cave (Areni-1) – Areni – Yerevan

Ararat valley – home of Khor Virap (“Deep Dungeon”) Monastery, from which Grigor Lusavorich rose from imprisonment to become the first patriarch of Armenian Apostolic Church. The monastery is very near the Turkish border and offers Armenia’s most splendid view of Mount Ararat, from which, according to the Holy Bible, Noah’s ark landed following The Great Flood.

The tour continues to Vayots Dzor marz, along the picturesque gorge of the Gnishik River and
comes to the monastery of Noravank (“New Monastery”) (12-15cc.) the religious center of principality of the Orbelyan dynasty, home to prominent Armenian figures of the medieval
culture.

The excursion also includes a trip to Areni village which is famous for its various factory and home-made wines. Visitors will see wine as it is being processed, followed by a degustation.

Viewing the stalactites and stalagmites in Bird’s cave (Areni-1).
Back to Yerevan. Overnight.

Cultural event: Armenian traditional bread – lavash baking.

Cultural event: Dinner in restaurant with national music program.

Meals: Breakfast and dinner

Day 6

Yerevan – Dashtadem – Harich – Gyumri

Dashtadem – is a unique fort – residence of the Armenian princes Kamsarakan (X c.). Being located on a tiny hill, which dominates over the Ararat valley and Mount Aragats, Dashtadem (translated from Armenian as “Opposite the field”) has been a strategic point since the Paleolithic period.

There were people living here still in the Bronze Age – some traces of the huge settlement can be noticed at present.

Moreover, in the walls of the fort, though dating to the 10th century and substantially rebuilt in the 19th century, one can notice some traces of cyclopean masonry.

The trip continues along the Shirak plateau. Visiting the Monastery Harichavank (VII-XIXcc.) – the largest religious and cultural center of Shirak province, which is famous for its monastery school.

Drive to Gyumri. City tour in Gyumri.

Meals: Breakfast and dinner

Day 7

Gyumri – Armenia-Georgian border – Vardzia

Vardzia is an impressive site, with hundreds of caves hewn into the rocks to function as monasteries and churches. The cave city was first constructed in the 12th century by King George III but is nowadays mostly associated with Georgia’s most famous woman, Queen Tamar, who turned it into a monastery. In its heyday Vardzia contained stables, barracks, and stores, but it has suffered over the years from earthquakes and invading armies. What is left is still fascinating to wander around, with the Church of the Assumption being the main highlight and containing detailed frescoes of Queen Tamar herself.

Visit Rabati Castle is a medieval castle complex in Akhaltsikhe, Georgia. Built in the 13th century, initially was called the Lomisa castle until it was conquered by Ottomans.

Overnight Borjomi/Bakuriani

Meals: Breakfast and dinner

Day 8

In the morning take a nature tour in Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park and visit volcanic spring on Borjomi

Overnight Kutaisi.

Meals: Breakfast and dinner

Day 9

Visit the pretty town of Kutaisi, the second largest in the country (antique town more than 3000 years old) and its historical places: Gelati Cathedral (12th century) which is the UNESCO World heritage site – one of the earliest academies in Europe, and the splendid Bagrati Cathedral (11th century).

Visit Promete Cave (“Prometheus” cave is one of the richest caves of Europe. It is characterized by the variety of underground rivers and beautiful landscapes.) Walking route for tourists is 1060 m.

Near the main entrance about 60 metres long there is a lake. The cave itself is very breathtaking with its spacious architectural halls, which are 16 of them and each one is distinct by scales and unsurpassed shape.

Promete cave is one of the richest with its space, variety and underground rivers and landscape. The part of the route is passed by boat.

Overnight in Batumi/Kvariati

Meals: Breakfast and dinner

Day 10

Batumi – Georgia`s summer holiday capital.

City has sprouted new hotels and attractions like mushrooms in recent years, but it still has much of its charm.

Strolling along Batum Boulevard, originally laid out in 1884 and now stretching 6km along the coast. With its trees, paths, fountains, cafes, beach bars and some quirky attractions, this is the life and soul of Batumi.

During the city tour we’ll visit Batumi cathedral – built in Neo-Gothic style, Europe square with Astronomical clock and Medea statue – from the Greek Mythology. Medea was a daughter of Eetes, the king of a legendary kingdom of Colchis (present day western Georgia).

Visit Piazza Square, one of the most beautiful squares in whole Georgia, distinguished by its painting, as well as by its exquisite mosaics and stained glass windows. Piazza Square has already become the venue of numerous entertaining and cultural events.

Visiting Botanical Garden of Batumi will be another experience of the trip. Found in 1912, this garden contains more than 5000 kinds of plants from all over the world.

Visiting Gonio fortress (previously called Apsaros, or Apsaruntos), is a Roman fortification in Adjara, Georgia, on the Black Sea, 15 km south of Batumi, at the mouth of the Chorokhi river. The village sits 4 km north of the Turkish border.

Overnight in Batumi /Kvariati

Meals: Breakfast and dinner

Day 11

In the morning we drive up the famous Georgian Military Highway (leading to the Georgian/Russian border).

On the way, visit Ananuri architectural complex (17th century), the two churches and the fortress overlook the Zhinvali water reservoir. The carvings on the churches are one of the best samples of the Georgian art. The drive is very scenic through high Caucasus Mountains.

Overnight in Gudauri or Kazbegi

Meals: Breakfast and dinner

Day 12

This morning we cross the Jvari Pass at 2395 metres above sea level and into Kazbegi situated at 1700 metres above sea level and surrounded by 5000 metre peaks.

You will have the opportunity to take the walk up to the Sameba Church with its stunning setting below Mt. Kazbek.

For those that do not want to walk it is possible to hire jeeps for an extra charge to go by up via a track. We will walk up (2 hours) through beautiful valleys and woodland to Gergeti Trinity Church located at 2175m. Weather-permitting you may catch a glimpse of one of the highest glaciers in the Caucasus – Mt. Kazbegi (5047m).

Upon arrival back in the town of Kazbegi drive along the beautiful Darjali gorge (leading to the Russian border).

Then we drive back to hotel

Overnight in Tbilisi (home-hosting)

Meals: Breakfast and dinner

Day 13

In the morning we drive to Mtskheta, the ancient capital of Georgia. Mtskheta is packed full of historical monuments and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

We explore the 11th century Svetitskhoveli Cathedral and the 6th century Jvari Monastery before taking the short trip back to Tbilisi.)

Overnight in Tbilisi (home-hosting)

Optional – visit optional Georgian Dance performance “NABADI” (extra charge) $25 p/p including one glass of wine

Meals: Breakfast and dinner

Day 14

A guided walking tour around old Tbilisi, taking in the fascinating history of this long overlooked region.

We spend the day discovering sites such as the National Museum, home to many of the treasures that inspired the legend of the golden fleece, as well as the Narikala citadel, Metekhi Temple and the Sioni Cathedral, among other sites.

Tonight enjoy local Georgian food at a local restaurant.

Optional – visit Sulfur Bath ($20 p/p)

Overnight in Tbilisi (home-hosting)

Meals: Breakfast and dinner

Day 15

Departure day (no activities in this day)

Breakfast

Transfer

Rate:

$2590 USD

Price Includes: FFI and host fees, group transfer from airport-hotel-airport, (individual transfer is an extra charge of $25 per person), accommodation in guest house/hotel, entrance fees to museums and historical-cultural centers, daily transportation and hotel transfers, tour service, professional English-speaking guide, meals per itinerary, and Cultural Events: master class of preparation of Armenian National dish, Armenian/Georgian traditional bread baking (lavash/shoti), dinner in restaurant with national music program (in Georgia and in Armenia), and one bottle of still water per person per day.

Availability:

10Spaces Remaining

Know before you go

  • June was chosen for warm weather. Ambassadors should bring clothing for cool weather at night and in the mountains. Rain is a possibility.
  • Some activities on the itinerary include walking. Please read the itinerary to decide if you are comfortable with the activity levels.
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Our Mission

Friendship Force International provides opportunities to explore new countries and cultures from the inside by bringing people together at the personal level. Through the signature program of home hospitality, local hosts welcome international visitors into their culture, sharing with them meals, conversation, and the best sights and experiences of their region.
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