Lands of Fire and Wine
01 – 16 October 2024
A Caucasus Adventure from the Caspian to the Black Sea
Group Tour led by Chris Aslan
Lands of Fire and Wine 01 - 16 October 2024 Special Interest
The Caucasus is a fascinating patchwork of peoples, religions, cultures and landscapes. Discover the mud volcanoes and oil derricks of Azerbaijan and its crazy capital, built on the first global oil boom, a cacophony of architectural styles. Lose yourself in the Sheki bazaar and sleep in a Karavanserai. Enjoy the vineyards of Georgia, and test their claims to have invented wine. Immerse yourself in the sulphur baths of Tbilisi, and explore its breath-taking churches and cathedrals. Take in the immense Mount Kazbegi and relax in the spa town of Borjomi. Visit Stalin’s birthplace, and the location of Jason’s Golden Fleece, and finish with a walk through Turkey’s tea-growing capital and a visit to one Turkey’s best-kept secrets; the incredible Sumela Monastery, clinging to a cliff-face. This will be a trip to remember.
Trip Scholar: Chris Aslan Alexander
Chris was born in Turkey (hence the name Aslan) and spent his childhood there and in war-torn Beirut. After school, Chris spent two years at sea before studying Media and journalism at Leicester University. He then moved to Khiva, a desert oasis in Uzbekistan, establishing a UNESCO workshop reviving fifteenth century carpet designs and embroideries, and becoming the largest non-government employer in town. After a year in the UK writing A Carpet Ride to Khiva, he moved to the Pamirs in Tajikistan, training yak herders to comb their yaks for their cashmere-like down, spending three years there. Next came two years in Kyrgyzstan living in the world’s largest natural walnut forest and establishing a wood-carving workshop. Since then, Chris has studied and rowed at Oxford, and is now based in Cambridge and focussed on writing fiction, including Alabaster, Manacle and Mosaic, and currently completing The Broken Hexapus. He also lectures for the Art Society and leads tours to Central Asia whenever he can because he’s missing a large chunk of his heart, which will forever remain in the -stans.
16 days from £4,995.00 per person
Day 1 : To Baku
Tuesday 1 October
Departure London Heathrow Airport by Turkish Airlines flight to Baku via Istanbul.
Day 2 : Baku
Wednesday 2 October
Arrive Baku. Baku’s capital is the equivalent of shuffling a deck of architectural cards and then seeing what happens. Part Paris, part Dubai, with a hefty sprinkling of Soviet influence, it’s a wonderfully unusual city to explore. We have the evening at leisure in the hotel. B, L, D
Day 3 : Baku
Thursday 3 October
We start out tour with a walk around the original walled city, (a UNESCO World Heritage site) visiting the iconic Maiden’s Tower and the Palace of the Shirvanshahs. We walk from the old city into boom town, a cacophony of European architectural styles created during the oil boom a century ago. Then we stroll along the Bulvar on the Caspian shoreline.
After lunch, we pass by the Heydar Ailiyev Centre, with its extraordinary modern architecture, and head out of Baku to visit the Ateshgah Fire Temple, which harks back to Azerbaijan’s Zoroastrian past, and Yanar Dag – a hill that’s always on fire, which helps explain why fire was considered sacred. B, L, D
Day 4 : Explore Baku & Qobustan
Friday 4 October
We spend the morning in Baku visiting the iconic carpet museum, and the Museum of Modern Art.
Later, we visit the Petroglyph openair museum in Qobustan (a UNESCO world heritage site) and then some unusually flatulent mud volcanoes. For those who wish, there will be a visit to the Taza Bey Hammam for the men and the Ince Kaprizlar Hamman for the women.
B, L, D
Day 5 : To Sheki (via Lahic)
Saturday 5 October
We leave Baku, passing through semi-desert and then vineyards as we head towards the Great Caucasus Mountain range, stopping for lunch in the charming mountain village of Lahic, famous for its traditional coppersmiths.
We then continue to Sheki, a UNESCO World Heritage site and the prettiest town in Azerbaijan, with its wonderful stone houses, cobbled alleyways and a stunning Khan’s Palace. Sheki is famous for its silk and we visit the silk factory on the outskirts of the town before heading for the Karvanserai, our hotel for the night, where Silk Road merchants once traded. We’ll also enjoy some of Sheki’s famous halva with our evening meal. B, L, D
Day 6 : Visit Sheki Bazaar the to Kakheti
Sunday 6 October
We spend the morning visiting the colourful Sheki bazaar, full of dried fruit, nuts, and local snacks and candies, and then stop off at the Xan Serayi with its dazzling stained-glass windows cleverly worked into wooden latticework, and beautiful wall murals.
It takes us two hours to get to the Georgian border and we cross into the Kakheti region famous for its vineyards, and for natural wine-making. After a traditional lunch with a Georgian family, we’ll visit the Khareba Winery. Khareba’s unique wine cellar is in a tunnel carved out of the rock. Originally built for military purposes, today the tunnel is used to store Kakheti’s finest wines. Enjoy a wine tour and a tasting session. B, L, D
Day 7 : Visit Tsinandali to Sighnaghi
Monday 7 October
Today we visit the Tsinandali Palace – the former residence of Georgian dukes. Prince Chavchavadze, a 19th century public figure and poet, turned the Estate into what it is today, with a beautiful English-style garden, a museum, and a wine cellar.
We will then visit a local family to enjoy a traditional feast and hear some wonderful Georgian toasts. Try your hand at making churchkhela, a traditional desert made from nuts and grape juice.
We then visit Sighnaghi, the Royal Town and “City of Love”. This beautiful hilltop town, with a Tuscan vibe, is surrounded by defensive walls with 23 towers, and was an important trading centre on the Great Silk Road. B, L, D
Day 8 : To Tbilisi
Tuesday 8 October
Today we travel to the capital of Georgia. We explore the east side of the River Mtkvari with a visit to Metekhi Church, and then take a cable car over to the west side, enjoying Tbilis from the air, and explore the Narikala fortress and the enormous statue of Kartlis Deda – Mother Georgia. B, L, D
Day 9 : Tbilisi
Wednesday 9 October
We spend the morning on a walking tour of the old city, taking in Anchiskhati Basilica, the oldest surviving church in Georgia, the impressive National Museum and National Gallery and Freedom Square. The afternoon is at leisure. B, L, D
Day 10 : Tbilisi
Thursday 10 October
Most of today is at leisure to explore more of the city, or enjoy a well-earned rest! Chris will take an optional group to the sulphur baths for a soak and a steam. In the evening we attend the world-famous puppet theatre of Rezo Gabriadze. B, L, D
Day 11 : To Kazbegi visiting Mtsheta and Ananuri
Friday 11 October
After breakfast, we drive to Mtskheta, the original capital of Georgia and its spiritual heartland. We visit Jvari, a true architectural masterpiece of the early Medieval Period built on a hilltop with stunning views of the Aragvi and Mtkvari rivers as they meet, and the Svetitskhoveli Cathedral, a sacred place where the robe of Christ is supposedly kept. Our next stop is the Ananuri architectural complex, a former residence of the Argveti Dukes. The complex features churches and towers dating back to the 16-17th centuries, beautifully overlooking the Jinvali reservoir. We continue up the Georgian Military Highway with beautiful mountain scenery, our highest point being 2394 m above sea level. En-route, we stop at the mineral water spring flowing down from a hilltop. At Kazbegi, we see the towering Mount Kazbeki, at 5033 m, and the seventh highest in the Caucasus. Before it, perched on the mountain side, is the Gergeti Holy Trinity Church. This is the famous shot of Georgia that appears on all the tourist brochures. We visit the church and overnight at Gudauri. B, L, D
Day 12 : To Borjomi via Gori & Uplistsikhe
Saturday 12 October
We drive to Gori, the birth place of Joseph Stalin, to visit the Soviet-era museum. It remains largely unchanged, and unrepentantly celebrates the life of Stalin, with over 60,000 artifacts, including his bulletproof train carriage, and the tiny house where he was born; proof of his proletariat beginnings. We then explore the fascinating UNESCO World Heritage cave complex of Uplistsikhe. It dates back to the Hellenistic Period and is notable for its unique combination of various styles of rock-cut cultures and the co-existence of pagan and Christian architecture. We overnight in the spa town of Borjomi, famous everywhere in the former Soviet Union for its only export – bottled slightly-salty sparkling mineral water. B, L, D
Day 13 : To Kutais
Sunday 13 October
We have a relaxing start with a visit to the outdoor thermal baths of Borjomi. Sandals and swimwear required. We then head to yet another UNESCO world heritage site, the jaw-dropping Gelati Monastery nestled amongst the autumnal golds of wooded hills, before arriving at Kutaisi, the regional capital of what was once known as Colchis by the Ancient Greeks, where Jason and his Argonauts came to steal the Golden Fleece. B, L, D
Day 14 : To Batumi
Monday 14 October
We begin the day underground with a walk through the Prometheus Cave – a series of underground chambers with beautiful stalactites and other rock formations. We then head to the Black Sea, following the coastline down to the port city of Batumi. Here, we enjoy the subtropical botanical gardens, and a walking tour of the city. B, L, D
Day 15 : To Trabzon
Tuesday 15 October
We leave Georgia behind us, crossing the border into Turkey, and continue along the Black Sea coastline to Rize, heart of Turkey’s tea-plantations, where we stop for lunch and, of course, a refreshing cuppa at the tea-garden, and a visit to the Rize Museum which is housed in a reconstructed Ottoman house. We then continue past Trabzon, to the Sumela Monastery. Clinging to a sheer cliff-face, hight above wooded mountains, this stunning monastery is the perfect highlight to complete our journey. Back in Trabzon, we visit the Hagia Sophia Church, and an impressive Han (caravanserai) before enjoying a slap-up Turkish meal with hazelnut desserts from this world-centre of hazelnut export. B, L, D
Day 16 : To London
Wednesday 16 October
We finish our tour with a leisurely Turkish breakfast and then head to the airport to catch the 11:10 THY flight to Istanbul and from there to the UK. B
Dates & Prices
|Price per person (Double/Twin share)
|Single room supplement
|01-16 Oct 2024
- International & Internal flights in economy class with Turkish Airlines.
- Accommodation with en-suite facilities.
- Full Board Meals.
- Services of Trip Scholar Chris Aslan Alexander.
- Services of English-speaking guide during sightseeing.
- Transfers as per the itinerary by air-conditioned coach and trains.
- Excursions, sightseeing and entrance fees as per the itinerary.
- Full ATOL & ABTA bonding.
- Tips & Gratuities
- Visa Fee (although most European countries are visa-free).
- Any optional Excursions.
- Any expenses of a personal nature.
- Travel Insurance*
It is essential to have adequate insurance in place before your departure. This should be appropriate for your age, health and destination you are visiting.
• Make sure it includes comprehensive medical and repatriation cover.
• Make sure it provides cover for your whole trip (whether one day or over a year).
• Make sure it covers you for all activities.
• Disclose pre-existing medical conditions.
• Take your policy number and the 24-hour emergency contact numbers with you.
If you have any doubts about your cover, check with your insurer. Please note Covid-19 cover is now available.
For a competitive quotation please visit https://www.indusexperiences.co.uk/insurance/