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Arrival in Tbilisi. You will be meet your guide and transferred to the hotel. Check-in at noon. Free time 1 hour. Afrerwards start your journey in Georgia with Tbilisi city tour at Metekhi church and the monument to Vakhtang Gorgasali, the legendary founder of Tbilisi. Take a cable car to Narikala Fortress to enjoy breathtaking panoramic view of the city. Walk down to the district of Sulphur bath houses passing by the only mosque in Tbilisi. Stroll through the Sharden area full of narrow streets with cozy cafés, wine tasting bars, souvenir shops, and breathe in the living past. Visit Sioni Cathedral, Anchiskhati Basilica, and the clock tower of famous Rezo Gabriadze Theatre. Cross the Bridge of Peace to Rike Park. In the evening, visit a local restaurant to taste dishes of traditional Georgian cuisine. Overnight at the hotel in Tbilisi.
After breakfast departure from Tbilisi to Uplistsikhe. It is a rock-hewn town, one of the oldest settlements in the Caucasus and a city center. Nowadays, it is a historical-architectural museum-reserve of Uplistsikhe. There are streets, squares, a sewer system, four gates, a secret tunnel that leads to the river Mtkvari, a fence, and so on. Nowadays, it is considered to be an open-air museum. In the written sources it is first mentioned in the VII century. Archaeological and architectural monuments are preserved in Uplistsikhe and its surroundings, the oldest of which dates back to the Early Bronze Age and belongs to the Mtkvari-Araksi culture. After Uplistsikhe back to visit Jvari Monastery- VI century church and monastery, located in the east of Mtskheta, at the mouth of the river Mtkvari and Aragvi, on the rocky mountain peak. Jvari Monastery is included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. Upon adoption of Christianity, King Mirian raised a high wooden cross on this territory, which was worshiped by other Caucasian Christian nations. Guaram, the leader of Kartli, built a small church next to the cross nowadays known as “a small cross”. At the end of VII and VII century, Guaram’s son – Stepamoz I built a big temple next to a small cathedral, nowadays known as Jvari monastery. The wooden cross got covered up by a temple. The Mtskheta church of Jvari is the first sample of the cross-shaped type churches, it is a new thing in the architecture. Other structures around the monastery (tower, fence) are much older. On the facades of the temple, you can see religious and historical persons, there are old inscriptions too. Afterwards come down and visit Mtskheta city. Town is restored in historical-architectural style. Here you will find houses, restaurants, bazaar, souvenirs and many touristic places. But most important is Svetitskhoveli Cathedral, located in city center. It is main patriarchal cathedral of the Georgian Orthodox Church, the Mother Cathedral of Georgia, the place of enthronement (enthronement) of the Georgian Catholicos-Patriarchs, the burial of many kings of Georgia, their family members and patriarchs from the great cathedrals. Monument of Georgian architecture of the XI century, one of the four great cathedrals (Oshki, Bagrati Temple, Alaverdi). Svetitskhoveli is the largest historical church building among the survived ones in Georgia. It has been the religious center of Christian Georgia for centuries. On the advice of St. Nino, King Mirian, who converted to Christianity in the 4th century, built the first church here that has not survived and reach us. In 1970-1971, during the repair and restoration works (supervised architect V. Tsintsadze), traces of its foundation were found. Also, the plan of the basilica built here was completely outlined, which Vakhtang Gorgasali in the second half of the 5th century built here, after the demolition of Nino’s Church. The Catholicos of Kartli Melkisedek built a new church on the site of the damaged basilica in the XI th century. He invited Arsukisdze as an architect. Construction began in 1010 and was completed in 1029. During its existence, Svetitskhoveli has been renovated many times. In 1283 the temple was damaged by an earthquake. In the 14th century, Giorgi Brtskinvale restored the dome of the temple. The same century, the cathedral was damaged by the invaders. At the beginning of the 15th century, King Alexander the Great rebuilt the temple. In 1656, under the leadership of King Rostom and Queen Mary, the dome was restored. Dinner in Mtskheta. After dinner departure to Tbilisi and return to the hotel. Overnight at the hotel in Tbilisi.
After breakfast departure from Tbilisi to David gareji. It is one of the most notable religious and cultural centers of Georgia, the monastery cave complex. The complex was founded in the first half of the VI century by one of the Assyrian fathers called David. He came and settled in a small, natural cave in the Gareji Desert with his disciple Lukyan. That is how the monastery was founded, it was known in the later centuries by name David lavra. David Gareji Lavra was the center of monastery life. By the time it broadens and adds branches. Davit Gareji monastery building process has reached the zenith in XII-XIII centuries, during the cultural and political rise of Georgia. In Davit Gareji was developed monastic life and building style and was created own school of fresco painting. After Davit Gareji drive to Sighnaghi. The city of Sighnaghi is beautiful with its architectural form and excellent views of the Alazani Valley and the Caucasus Mountains. It is also called the city-museum. It is determined by archeological excavations that this area played an important role since the Paleolithic, Neolithic and Bronze Ages. The territory of Sighnaghi district was formerly known as Kambechovani, and later it was called Kiziki. After the recognition of Christianity as the state religion in Georgia, this side acquired great importance. St. Nino was executed and buried here. Sighnaghi is a word of Turkish origin and means shelter. City tour and dinner. After dinner departure to Bodbe Monastery of St. Nino. According to the legend it is built on the burial place of Saint Nino. Georgian kings were paying great attention to the Bodbe Monastery. It has been repaired and restored many times. In XVII-XVIII centuries, there were scribes: Zakaria Bodbeli (XVII c.), Onofre Bodbeli (XVIII century), Ioane Jorjadze (XVIII century), David Bodbeli (XVIII), Ioane Makashvili (1743-1837) and others. From 1837 Bodbe Monastery was abolished and became a church for believers. In 1889 the Bodbe Mother’s Monastery was opened. There was a teaching school with an artistic department. In the complex there is a monument of Georgian architecture- three-nave basilica (with three apsides). With the initial architectural shapes it belongs to the earlier feudal age. Nowadays, it significantly changed. Plastered from the inside and outside. The footprints of the XVII and XIX centuries restoration are apparent. After Bodbe drive to Telavi. Check-In hotel. Overnight in Telavi.
After breakfast departure from Telavi to Shuamta. The old Shuamta is located on a forested mountain about 1015 m above sea level. Monastery complex consists of: V century basilica, one of the most remarkable examples of Christian architecture in Georgia. VII century domed church which is similar to Mtskheta Jvari Church, but of a smaller size. VII century small domed church which is also a cross type but without corner rooms and with equal axes. All three churches are built with cobblestone and the travertines are used for the corners. In the XVI century old Shuamta Monastery was abandoned. The New Shuamta Monastery was built by Tinatin, the wife of the King of Kakheti, Levan II (1520-1570). She is buried in the new monastery of Shuamta. The main temple of the New Shuamta, a brick church is a cross-domed, inside – painted. Ktetor portraits are preserved here. The church was renewed by Levan II. The complex includes bell tower and other buildings. Scientists believe that both churches are built at the same time by the head of the Shuamta monastery, who built a small church for his separation. Under this church is placed a tomb. One of the most important shrines of the monastery of the New Shuamta is the St.Mary’s Icon of Khakhuli. It was located on the right side of the temple iconostasis. The face of the Virgin Mary, that is the type of hodegetria, is decorated with gold and precious stones (Turquoise, Diamond, Pearls). On the back of the icon are 44 holy particles. Nowadays, this icon is kept in the treasury of the State Museum of Art of Georgia. Dinnet ar the local restaurand. Continue our tour to Ikalto. Ikalto Monastery was founded in the VI century by one of the Assyrian fathers Zenon, whose sacred parts are rested in the same monastery. According to the legend, Arsen Iqaltoeli (XI-XII centuries) founded the academy there. Here we have relatively late period manuscripts and it does not contain information about Ikalto Academy. Three churches and the ruins of various buildings, academy and refectory buildings are remained on the territory of the monastery complex. Among churches the main one is Peristsvaleba church “Ghvtaeba” of VIII-IX centuries. Built on the site of the old church in which Zenon was buried. A little church of Sameba, where despite thorough restructuration remained parts of the VIII century domed church. Also single-nave Kvelatsminda church, which belongs to the XII-XIII centuries. Elongated building is built with the cobblestones. The first floor consists of 2 rooms and the second one is the whole hall (25mX9m) and it seems to have been intended for scientific gathering. The building style looks like the feudal palaces of VIII-IX centuries and It should be built then. Ikalto Academy was the highest educational institution in Georgia during XI-XII centuries. This is confirmed by the ruins of the building that remain in the monastery yard, which are more like the construction of secular-purpose building than the monastery. The ruins are visible on the base of cathedral. The building should have been monumental, similar to the Gelati Academy building. The difference is that the building of Ikalto Academy is two-storey. The first rector of Ikalto Academy was Arsen Ikaltoeli, who moved there from Gelati. Ikalto academy mastered theology, rhetoric, astronomy, philosophy, geography, geometry, chanting, etc. In addition to the theoretical courses, pupils studied metal processing, ceramic production, viticulture and winemaking, pharmacology and others. In the Ikalto Academy there was a wide range of educational work. Many important works were translated from the Greek, the manuscripts were multiplied, precious lists were created. The founder of Ikalto Academy and the first rector Arsen Ikaltoeli translated such an important work as “the rule of the Great Law” during being in his homeland. After Ikalto drive to Alaverdi. Alaverdi Cathedral and Monastery is one of the largest church buildings in Georgia. Its height including dome is above 50 meters. The complex includes buildings: Alaverdi St. George Cathedral, defensive wall, chapel, Peikar-Khan’s palace, wine cellar and bath. Alaverdi Monastery was founded by Joseph Alaverdeli, one of the Assyrian fathers in the middle of the VI century. At the beginning of the XI century, Kvirike the King of Kakheti built a cathedral (which is known by the name of Alaverdi) at the site of the little church of St. George. Alaverdi was one of the most outstanding chapels of medieval Georgia. Return to the hotel. Overnight in Telavi.
After breakfast departure from Telavi to Gremi. The history of Gremi, as a city, begins from XV century, when the first king of Kakheti George (1466-1476) turn it into the capital of Kakheti Kingdom. This status was maintained by Gremi for over two centuries. There were active bookish activities here and caravan roads as well. That is why it became the center of political, economic and cultural life of Kakheti. The architectural complex of Gremi consists of various buildings. There are the Archangel domed church, a three-story palace-bell tower, agricultural buildings, a curtain wall and the secret exit to the river Intsobi. There are also baths, market and caravansary. The most visible part of Gremi is so called The Archangels’ complex, which is on the end of the rocky ridge and consists of a high wall of domed church and palace-bell tower. There are 2 056 exhibits in the museum. Some of the items found in Gremi are kept in the National Museum of Georgia. Museum-Reserve also represents a series of paintings- portraits of kings. After visiting Gremi complex, drive to Nekresi Monastery. Nekresi Monastery Complex and urban archaeology founded by King Pharnajom (II-I centuries BC). In the IV century AD, king Thrdat built a church on this place, where one of the Assyrian fathers, Abibus settled there in the VI century. On this time period Nekresi Episcopacy (existed until the XIX century) established. Nekresi immediately was given a great importance. The political and cultural influence of Kartli was spread over the mountainous region of Eastern Caucasus. Bishops of Nekresi took part in writing activities as well. After visiting Nekresi drive to Kvareli. Dinner in Kvareli at local restaurant. After dinner visit to Ilia Chavchavadze Houss-Museum. Museum complex includes family castle and house of outstanding Georgian poet and public figure Ilia Chavchavadze (1837-1907) and exposition hall as well. The museum houses memorial objects of the poet and his family, poet’s manuscripts, sets of established by him periodicals, family coat of arms, seal, household objects, XVIII-XIX c.c. weapons, furniture, manuscripts of Georgian and foreign public figures, paintings inspired by the poet’s works (by H. Hrinewski, L. Gudiashvili, K. Guruli, S. Meskhi, T. Mirzashvili), rich collection of photographs and archive documents, collection of poet’s works editions on various languages. Afterwards drive to local winery Khareba. Winery Khareba owns an unique and rare wine cellar located in Kvareli, in the Alazani Valley. Carved inside the Caucasus mountains and opened in 1962 for the OIV World Congress, the cellar/tunnel is 7,7 kilometers long. The best wines of the Kakheti region have been stored and aged here for decades. The tunnel preserves a natural temperature of 12-14° Celcius with a humidity rate of 70%; the ideal conditions for wine preservation. Wine tasting and masterclasses: bread baking in Tone (clay pot), “churchkhela” making. After visiting Khareba drive to Tbilisi and Check-In hotel. Overnight in Tbilisi.
After breakfast departure from Tbilisi in the direction of Ananuri. Ananuri Fortress Complex is a fortress of the feudal era (XVI-XVIII centuries) near the village of Ananuri. It is located on the Georgian military road, at the beginning of Zhinvali reservoir, at 900 meters above sea level. The buildings included in the complex are: upper and lower fortress, fence, towers, Church of the Mother of God, Church of the Deity, “Mkurnali” Church, bell tower, octagonal cell and reservoirs. Ananuri Architectural Ensemble is one of the best monuments of the late feudal era of Georgia. This area (village) has been inhabited since ancient times. However, no traces of early buildings have survived. After the creation of Aragvi Saeristavo, it was included in this Saeristavo. Here was the main fortress of the Aragvi nobility. Its strategic importance increased even more after the weakening of the central government in Georgia (XVII-XVIII centuries). It was the residence of the nobles of Aragvi. The strengthening and restoration of the Ananuri fortress also belongs to this period. After Ananuri, departure in the direction of Kazbegi. Visit to Gergeti Trinity. The exact date of construction of the Gergeti Temple is unknown (However, according to ancient sources and architectural styles, the Trinity was built in the XIV century during the ascension of the Georgian Church), there is no information about the builders and its construction as well. In its name, the term “Gergeti” is attributed to the location where the temple was erected. Earlier, the village of Gergeti was cultivated on the left side of the river Tergi, and on the right side -the administrative center of the historic gorge- Stepantsminda. The temple is built on the left side, on the territory of Gergeti settlement. In the last third of the XX century, in 1966, the village of Gergeti joined Kazbegi, but the old name of the church remained unchanged, and it is still called the Gergeti Trinity. The Trinity Church of Gergeti, with its history and location, is the face of Georgia – a Christian island hidden in the most beautiful nature. Afterwards return to Kazbegi: Khinkali master class and dinner. After dinner departure to Tbilisi and return to the hotel. Overnight at the hotel in Tbilisi.
After breakfast departure from Tbilisi to Bolnisi. In the village Bolnisi located Bolnisi Sioni Church – The tree-nave basilica. It is one of the biggest basilica in Georgia. It is dated back to the V century. Bolnisi Church facade has saved the oldest Georgian inscriptions. For the first time in Georgian architecture, at Bolnisi Sioni we meet relief sculpture images (bull head, various birds and animals), which are related to the pre Christian era, however are assimilated by Christian Faith. At church we also meet the Christian symbol, Crosses different shapes. One of the crosses (the cross in a circular frame with extended ending) is known with name of ” Bolnian Cross”. Dinner at the local restaurant in Bolnisi. After dinner drive to village Dmanisi. Dmanisi Museum-Reserve includes: a medieval town, archaeological layers of the Late Bronze Age and the Early Paleolithic monument of Dmanisi. It was introduced to the world after archaeologists discovered fragments of 1.8 million-year-old human bones during archaeological excavations. The person found in Dmanisi is the first European. The medieval town included the inner fortress, the secular and worship buildings of the city, the secret tunnel and the suburb buildings. VI century Dmanisi Sioni has a unique gate decorated with XIII century ornaments and inscriptions. Dmanisi was one of the most powerful cities. It was located on the trade crossroads. Dmanisi is one of the most important cultural and historical monuments of Georgia. The museum-reserve was established in 1983 and 2345 exhibits are preserved here. After Dmanisi return back to the hotel. Overnight in Tbilisi.
After breakfast departure from Tbilisi to Dzama Gorge. The Dzama Valley is one of the most beautiful places. The valley really offers to visitor a wonderful view. The Dzama valley stores up to fifty monuments of cultural heritage, which of them have their own histories. Kintsvisi Monastery is on a forested slope of a high mountain of the Dzama valley. Its main church is an exceptional example of a brick church from the Georgian Golden Age period. The monumental mural is one of the largest among the Medieval Georgian artistic ensembles. The Kintsvisi Monastery complex consists of three churches, of uncertain origin. The central church dedicated to St Nicholas is thought to date to the early 13th century, in what is generally regarded as the Georgian Golden Age. Its dating was possible due to the presence on the murals of the figures of three Georgian kings of that period. A very small chapel standing next to it is dedicated to St George, and dates from around the same time. The oldest church, dedicated to St Mary dates from the 10-11th centuries, but is mostly in ruins. In the 15th century the main church narthex was rebuilt by the local prince Zaza Panaskerteli. Its internal space was divided into three parts and decorated by frescoes. Among them also the unique depiction of Zaza himself. The interior is well-illuminated from the windows in the tholobate and in each arm of the cross. Original frescoes entirely covered the walls. In spite of being damaged, Kintsvisi murals are still among the largest and well-preserved Georgian Medieval wall paintings. Particularly remarkable is the figure of a sitting angel (the so-called “Kintsvisi Archangel”) from the Resurrection composition pointing at the open sarcophagus in a gracious manner, represented above the kings’ figures, between two windows. The expressive bending of the head, the wing movement, soft drawing of the angel’s shoulders are accompanied by the fine linear decorations of the blue clothes on blue background. The site is currently listed by the World Monuments Fund as a field project. After Kintsvisi drive to Mzovreti Monastery. Mzovreti is a castle-hall, town and monastery complex in the gorge of the river Dzama, near the Kintsvisi monastery. The name “Zovreti” (Mdzovreti) comes from the word “Zazuere” (Zueri place), which means customs. The buildings included in the complex are a church, bell tower, castle-hall. Only traces of the palace (a long rectangular building) and several residential and agricultural buildings are preserved. The complex has been renovated today, there are 3 functioning temples in the area, as well as a monastery sanctified to the Assyrian fathers, a library, and a magnificent orchard built by the fathers working here. After Mzovreti lunch. Then continue our tour to Satkineti Monastery. Sarkineti Monastery is a church carved in the rock named after Shio Mgvimeli. The carving process of the temple began in 2008 and was opened and blessed in 2011. Sarkineti Shio Mgvimeli Church is the first to be built in a rock cave since the 14th century. The temple can be reached through a 5-meter corridor. Two arched windows of the church are cut in the rock, and on the top of the rock, there is a bell tower with arches. The interior of the building is entirely painted. After Sarkineti departure to Borjomi. Check-In hotel. Overnight in Borjomi.
After breakfast departure from Borjomi to Vardzia. Vardzia Monastery complex, carved in a rock, XII-XIII Century Georgian picturesque monument. Located on a left bank of river Mtkvari, 1300 meters above sea level. The highest cave is located as high as 1462 meters above sea level. Vardzia fortress is arranged as storeys, on a level of 100 meters, number of storeys 3 – 13, it includes more than 600 storage facilities, refectories, shacks, pantries, backup storages, 25 wine cellars, with 185 wine-jars in total. Construction of the fortress was started by Giorgi III and finished by his daughter – Queen Tamar, who changed its original designation as a fortress and introduced it as a massive, fortified monastery. The complex was mostly constructed during 1156-1203 years, it was blessed on 15th of August, 1185, in the name of Assumption of Mary. Afterwards drive to Sapara Monastery. Sapara is the medieval period monastery at 1300 meters above sea level. The monastery was the residence place of the Jakeli family. The monastery was constructed no later than X century. At the end of the XIII century, a new era starts for the Saphara monastery. In the 30th of the XIII, century Mongols has invaded the country. At this period Samtskhe is already separated from Georgia and the rulers of the territory – Jakeli family, recognize the Mongols’ governance, however, they are still carrying with Georgian titles. During the period of XIII-XIV centuries, Jakeli family made Sapara as their residence and family graveyard. At the border of the XVI and XVII centuries, when Turks have already resided in Samtskhe, Sapara became empty. All the painting and the treasure were taken to safe places. The main painting of Saint Saba has been placed in the church of village Chkhari in Imereti. The part of the treasure has been delivered to village Ardeti in Kartli. According to the historical notes of Vakhushti Batonishvili at the beginning of the XVIII centuries, only one monk resided in the Sapara monastery. The monk from Sapara, George is mentioned in the scrip dated back to the 1773 year on the Zeda Tmogvi fortress. Before the XIX century, Saphara was completely abandoned and ruined. The service started in 50th, at the beginning it was Georgian monks, however, in the 1893 year Russian monastery was established. The Russian monastery functioned until the Soviet Union. Afterwards drive to Akhaltsikhe. Dinner at local restaurant the visit to Rabati Castle. History of the fortress starts from the IX Century, it consists of several buildings dated back to different periods of middle age. The castle was the most important defensive object in the region, so its walls remember many hard battles. It also served as a residence for rulers of Akhaltsikhe. Fortress had three layers of walls and was connected to its surroundings by an underground tunnel. It was renovated and expanded in XII-XIII centuries when it became a residence of Jakeli family, Toponym – “Akhaltsikhe” originates from this period. During the restoration of Fortress territory in 2011-2012 – Walls, citadel, IX-X Century orthodox church, Haji Akhmed-Pasha Jakeli mosque, madrasa and minaret were renovated. After visiting Rabati Castle drive to Mtsvane Monastery. Green (Mtsvane) Monastery, Chitakhevi St. George Monastery, is located in the middle of the deciduous forest near village Chitakhevi, just a few kilometers from Borjomi. There’s still situated the Father’s Monastery where monks pray for the welfare of the country and the people. According to scientist this monument of the 9th century was built by Christopher and Tevdore, students of St. Grigol Khandtstheli who was a very famous figure. The monastery complex includes three basilica-type church and a bell tower where the fretwork of the Georgian architectures are now well read. The church and monastery were built at the same time and date from the mid-twentieth century. It is built from roughly hewn stone and has almost no decoration. The bell tower has two floors. On the first floor there is a prayer room and richly ornamented pavillion on the second floor. In the XVI century during the invasion of Shah Tahmasp the monastery was raided and monks were tortured and killed. On the territory of the monastery even today it is possible to see the miraculous relics of monks and traces of blood shed by them in those difficult times. This is the greatest saintliness of the monastery and time couldn’t harm it. In the XX century of 80s the church was rehabilitated and in 2002 the Father’s monastery was restored. After Green (Mtsvane) Monastery return back to the hotel. Overnight in Borjomi.
After breakfast departure from Borjomi to Tbilisi International Airport.
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