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See the highlights of Georgia and Turkey on an 18-day adventure through the cultural heart of this region. These two Black Sea bordering nations may be close, but the distinct differences in food, tradition and historic sites will shine on this small-group adventure. From the medieval towns of Kutaisi, lush green slopes of Mestia valley and the ramparts of the Narikala Fortress, to navigating the warrens of Istanbul's Grand Bazaar, marvelling at the ancient city of Ephesus and floating over the fairy-tale landscape of Cappadocia, each day will keep you guessing every step of the way. Be intrigued by the landscape and eat as much kebab as you can handle as you have some essential Turkish and Georgian experiences.
Day 1: Tbilisi
Welcome to Georgia! Your tour leader will leave you a note at reception detailing on what time you will be meeting with the rest of your group. Tonight is free for an optional dinner – there are plenty of restaurants and cafes within a short walking distance of our hotel.
Day 2: Tbilisi
After breakfast take part in a sightseeing tour of Tbilisi. The locals like to call their capital the "Balcony of Europe", placing it on par with many of Europe's graceful old cities. All the sights in the Old Town are very close to each other and within a few minutes’ walk. We start our visit to Old Tbilisi from Metekhi Church, and then walk to the Synagogue, Sioni Cathedral and Anchiskhati Basilica. From here, visit Narikala Fortress and the Sulphur Baths. Afterwards, you'll have free time to further explore the capital. The evening is also free for you to enjoy. Perhaps indulge in Tbilisi's lively theater scene and witness some of the energetic and acrobatic dance that Georgia is known for.
Day 3: Mtskheta - Kutaisi
Today, drive approximately 1 hour to Georgia's ancient capital and religious centre – the town of Mtskheta, which is over 3000 years old. Visit Mtskheta's top historical sights: Jvari church (6th century) and Svetitskhoveli Cathedral (11th century), where the Robe of Christ is said to be buried. Both Jvari and Svetitskhoveli are UNESCO World Heritage sites. Afterwards, continue to the pretty city of Kutaisi, the second largest in the country (approximately 3 hours). Kutaisi is more than 3000 years old, connected to the legend of Jason and the Argonauts, along with his mythical (or is it?) Golden Fleece. Here we visit another significant historical site, the Gelati Cathedral. There may also be time to explore the cobbled streets of the town as you make your way up to the ruins of Bagrati palace and citadel.
Day 4: Mestia
After a restful night, visit a local farmers market grab some snacks and ger ready for the next part of your adventurer; a journey to the remote Svaneti region. Svaneti is the highest inhabited area in the Caucasus and is divided in two parts: Upper Svaneti and Lower Svaneti. Arrive into Mestia (approximately 5 hours), the centre of Upper Svaneti. Mestia is surrounded by mountains, medieval-type villages and disctinctive tower-houses. The famous tower-houses were built to accommodate villagers at times of invasion and violence during the 9th -13th centuries. Around 175 towers still stand today, although many are uninhabited. The area is home to the Svans, a proud people with a long history of survival in this isolated part of Europe, who speak their own language. Spend the night in a local guesthouse.
Day 5: Mestia
After breakfast this morning we discover how Georgians make their beloved cheese. Cheese is found in many Georgian dishes and is a key ingredient in the famous khachapuri, a traditional Georgian dish of cheese-filled bread which you will no doubt eat plenty of during your time here! Drive to the village of Lakhiri (approximately 20 minutes) We start our walk today from the village (approx walking time 4-5 hours) in the direction of Mestia. After little uphill walking we descend to the beautiful valley full with blooming flowers and enjoy an amazing view of Chalati Glacier (2300m) and of Mestia Valley with its watchtowers. The paths can be steep and the ground uneven so you will need good fitness and appropriate footwear for this walk. Those not wishing to hike can stay in the village or in Mestia.
Day 6: Ushguli
Today, visit the World Heritage-listed village of Ushguli, a town around 50 kilometres southeast of Mestia (approx 3 hours drive). The village is located at 2,200 metres above sea level, and is one of the highest inhabited villages in Europe. Ushguli is most famous for its abundance of watchtowers – this is where you'll see the famous view of the towers set to the highest mountain in Georgia, the snow capped Mt Shkhara (5,068 metres). Visit the 12th-century Lamaria Church and walk to Queen Tamar’s tower. Total walking time is 2-3 hours depending on fitness and trail conditions. Those not wishing to walk may stay and explore Ushguli, where there are a few small ethnographic museums in the watchtowers. In the evening you can walk around the village and become familiar with the daily life of the local people. Spend the night in a family-owned guesthouse with shared facilities.
Day 7: Mestia
Today's walk starts from the guesthouse. The route takes us along the river to the base of Mt Shkhara. Fingers crossed for great weather! We will have a picnic lunch today. The walking trail ends at the Shkhara glacier, where the Enguri river originates below. In the afternoon, return to Mestia and stay overnight in the guesthouse. Approximate walking time is 5-6 hours. If you do not wish to walk, please discuss options with your leader in advance.
Day 8: Batumi
From the mountains to the sea today with a long drive to Batumi (approximately 7-8 hours) on the Black Sea coast. While past its Soviet heyday where it was one of the premiere seaside resorts, it is still popular with holiday makers from all over the region for its waterfront parks and beaches. Stay in a hotel tonight.
Day 9: Batumi
In the morning take part in a short tour around the city. The afternoon s yours to relax. Batumi has a relaxed atmosphere, great restaurants and nightlife. Stroll the boulevard, cool off in the musical fountains on the square or see the touching Ali & Nino statue lit up at night. There's also art and ethnographic museums or a cable car to panoramic views over the city.Highly recommended is the Batumi Botanical Gardens.
Day 10: Tbilisi
Depart from Batumi and transfer back to Tbilisi (approximately 5-6 hours) by private vehicle. Stop at local winery on the way for tasting and toast our time in Georgia together. Enjoy the rest of the day in the nation's capital, perhaps with group dinner and night out together.
Day 11: Istanbul
This morning, transfer to Tbilisi Airport for your 2-hour flight to Istanbul. Please note that your transfer and flight this morning will be very early due to flight schedules, and it will be unaccompanied. On arrival to Istanbul Airport, please look for your name and the Intrepid Logo to connect with your transfer representative. Your room may not be immediately available, but we have organised for you to have some breakfast and store your luggage. At around 1 pm, meet your Turkey group leader at the hotel in Istanbul for another briefing, then head out to explore the Old City of Istanbul. Visit the scene of many a chariot race in the ancient hippodrome, check out the Blue Mosque, take a walk past the wares of the Grand Bazaar and marvel at the jewel in Sinan the Great Ottoman Architect's crown, Suleymaniye Cami. If you're not too exhausted after all that, join your new friends for dinner and bask in the beauty of a real Turkish kebab, not the regrettable 2 am kind.
Day 12: Kusadasi
How blue is the Aegean? Find out for yourself as you jump on a local train after breakfast and head to the airport. A one-hour flight takes you to Izmir, Turkey's third-largest city, and from there you'll transfer 1.5 hours to Kusadasi. This resort town lies on Turkey's western Aegean coast and is the perfect jump-off point for visiting the classical ruins at Ephesus. It's also a great spot to soak up the vibes along the seafront promenade, check out the local beaches or have a bit of a fun with the nightlife. Despite being a resort town, Kusadasi isn't all new hotels and marinas. It has a long history and some phenomenal traditional Aegean cuisine featuring fresh seafood and local olive oil.
Day 13: Kusadasi - Ephesus
Lace up your sensible shoes and charge your camera. Today starts with a visit to Ephesus, one of the best-preserved classical cities in the Eastern Mediterranean and arguably the greatest Greco-Roman site in the world. Once the capital city of Roman Asia Minor, the city has a fascinating history that really comes alive with a local guide to enhance the experience. The ruins are in incredible shape, considering their age, and it’s not difficult to image them in their full glory 2000 years ago. This ancient city was extremely sophisticated with running water, public toilets, a renowned medical institute, a brothel and Roman baths. The theatre is well preserved and regularly hosts concerts, but it's the magnificent library that takes most people's breath away. From Ephesus, drive to Selcuk to feast on the popular gozleme (Turkish pancake) as it's made in front of you, then visit the Isa Bey Mosque, the Artemis Temple and the small village of Sirince to taste the local fruit wine.
Day 14: Kusadasi
It's all about you today. Whatever you want to do, do it. Within reason, y'know? Take a day tour to the famous Pamukkale World Heritage Site, Turkey's 'Cotton Castle' thermal pools that have been used as a spa since the 2nd century BC. Though you won't be able to bathe in these pools, you can take a walk through them, visit the nearby ancient city of Hierapolis and take a dip in what used to be Celopatras’s old pool. Alternatively, you could take to the Aegean and explore the coastline on a gulet, a traditional wooden Turkish vessel. Swim in the crystal-clear waters of Soguksu Bay, Claros Island and Baradan Beach and enjoy lunch on deck. If you'd rather have a low-key day, there are plenty of beaches in town that have sunbeds, umbreallas and your name on it. Whatever you do, make sure you're ready to head back to Izmir by 6 pm as the Mavi Konya, an overnight train, will be waiting to transport your group through the night to the central Anatolian city of Konya.
Day 15: Konya / Cappadocia
Wake up in Konya, a traditional Turkish city that's closely linked with the whirling dervish sect of Islam developed in the 13th century by Celaleddin Rumi, considered one of Islam's greatest Sufi mystics. Take an opportunity to visit the Mevlana Museum and stretch your legs in town before hitting the road for a three-hour journey to Cappadocia. Keep an eye out for the fairy chimneys, the hallmarks of Cappadocia's otherworldly landscape, as you drive across the Anatolian plains and stop en route at one of the underground cities that once provided a safe haven in times of war or persecution. Arrive in Goreme in the late afternoon and take a sunset valley walk before settling in for the evening.
Day 16: Cappadocia
This morning you have the option to take a hot air balloon flight, a once-in-a-lifetime experience during which the sun illuminates a skyline dotted with balloons. Even if you'd prefer not to take a flight, it's still worth waking up for this truly incredible sight. Your leader will take you for a walk through one of the nearby valleys, possibly the Valley of Love, which features fairy chimneys, deserted rock-cut homes and churches. Your leader will know a number of fantastic scenic routes and a good walk is by far the best way to experience this unique environment. In your free time today, maybe visit the UNESCO-listed Goreme Open Air Museum, a monastic complex composed of churches, rectories and dwellings cut into the soft cliff face. You could also hire a bicycle and ride to Avanos to check out the Red River, or relax in a Turkish bath. This evening, your leader will give you the option of sharing a meal with a local family in their own home, or alternatively you could grab a local testi kebab, an evening hookah in one of the cafes or a glass of the local wine while overlooking the valley. A perfect last night in Cappadocia, whatever you choose.
Day 17: Cappadocia to Istanbul
Wave goodbye to Cappadocia and transfer to the airport for a flight back to Istanbul. Expect to arrive between 1 and 4 pm, then grab your bags and jump on the metro as the group heads to the Sultanahmet District for the final evening of hte trip. Meet up with your travel buds in the evening and take a stroll across the Galata Bridge to one of the city's hippest neighbourhoods, a place of contradictions where tool-selling tradesman share space with chic cafes and galleries. This is the place to be seen. Try a local favourite, Balik Ekmek (fish sandwich), for dinner, then cleanse the palate with a baklava. Maybe check out a few of the bars, or simply enjoy a farewell cay (Turkish tea) overlooking the Bosphorous.
Day 18: Istanbul
Your trip ends after breakfast and there are no activities planned for the day.
- Tbilisi - City tour
- Mtskheka - Jvari Church
- Mtskheka - Svetitskoveli Cathedral
- Kutaisi - Farmers Market
- Mestia - Cooking class
- Mestia - Lakhiri Village Hike
- Mestia - Georgian cheese making
- Ushguli - Village hike
- Ushguli - Lamaria Church
- Ushguli - Queen Tamar`s Tower
- Ushguli - Shkhara Glacier hike & picnic
- Batumi - City Tour
- Istanbul - Old City Walking Tour (Half Day)
- Ephesus - Guided Archaeological site visit
- Selcuk - Gozleme making demonstration and lunch
- Selcuk - Isa Bey Camii
- Selcuk - Artemis Temple Visit
- Sirince - Wine Tasting
- Cappadocia - Kaymakli Underground City
- Cappadocia - Valley Walk
16 Breakfast(s) Included
4 Lunch(es) Included
5 Dinner(s) Included
Question: How many suitcases can I take with me on my trip?
Question: Is Airfare Included in the Price?
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The trip was both both educational and exciting. I very much enjoyed the sights and culture.
The itinerary was just as I expected! The guide was very good as were the accomodations
Intrepid did such a great job. I never had to worry about where I was supposed to be and it felt so good not to worry about a thing but just to enjoy myself. Our guide was extremely knowledgeable about culture and history.
Taiwan people very friendly. Accommodation were centrally located and easily accessible. Did extra activities then in brochure which was greatly.
Larus our tour guide did an excellent job and was very attentive to our needs. He is very knowledgeable and has a great sense of humor.
Our guide Tarang chandola was exceptional. Courteous, knowledgeable, organized, polite, professional and went above and beyond taking care of our needs and requests offen anticipating what that might be. He made sure we all had the best possible time and offered suggestions to meet the needs of everyone on the tour. This made the trip even more enjoyable.
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