Sunday, January 11, 2015

Georgia: An escorted tour in September 2015

I rarely, if ever, escort groups; however, Georgia is a country designed for group tours, and it is probably my favourite destination in the world, so this September I am leading a small group to explore the Wine, Food and Culture of this remarkable country.

We will start, as always, with our arrival in Tbilisi, the country's capital, and following a chance to sleep for a few hours, throw ourselves into the fray. From our hotel we will wander up to the marvellous Vino Underground restaurant where we will have our introduction to the myriad complexities that make up the Georgian wine mosaic.

A leisurely walk through Old Town, and dinner at the spectacularly located Kopala Restaurant will round out the day.

We head out of Tbilisi the next day to visit the ancient capital of Mtskheta, the undeniably chilling Stalin Museum, the wonderful vineyard run by my friend Iago and finally to the Tskaltubo Spa. This spa, formerly the recreation facility for high Soviet military folk, is being refurbished and gradually brought back to life; it houses some truly remarkable historical legacies, and is a fascinating stop.

We continue through the Svaneti Valley to Mestia, the commercial hub of this remote mountain district, and the home of a truly remarkable collection of early Christian artefacts and icons in the national museum. We spend a day travelling by 4WD to Ushguli, a UNESCO heritage site, and a destination recently featured by National Geographic 

Following two remarkable days in the highlands, we will return to Kutaisi, the second city of the country, and enjoy time wandering in the Old Town before dinner and our overnight stay.

From Kutaisi, we follow the ancient path of the Silk Road, as we travel past Tbilisi to the rich agricultural lands of Kakheti in Georgia's east. We cross the Likhi Range en route, the mountains that separate the watershed to the Black or Caspian Seas. We will stop along the way, before reaching our overnight stop at Chateau Mere.

The monastery at Alaverdi has to be one of my favourite places in the country, and we will enjoy both the remarkable atmosphere of the monastery and their wine. Having been making wine pretty much continuously since the year 1011, they have become extremely good at their craft, and you will be able to enjoy their unique creation in the splendour of the 6th century monastery.

Our overnight accommodation will be at the Kabadoni hotel in Sighnaghi, and dinner at Pheasants Tears, a restaurant that I love, and is run by two great friends, John Wurderman and Gia Rokashvili. 

We have a gentle day around this gorgeous town before returning to Tbilisi for the final two nights, and some more sightseeing, wandering, a chance to visit the ancient bath-houses and certainly to shop for some memories of this extraordinary trip.

So, enough of the commercial! The tour is limited to eighteen passengers, the weather will be fantastic, the company convivial and our local colleagues at Living Roots are the most brilliant travel company in Georgia.

It will be an ideal journey, and I look forward to having you join! For more information, please feel free to email me at max@gctravel.ca

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