DAY 1 : ARRIVAL ISTANBUL
Arrival to Istanbul (Flight to be determined) Meet with Professional English Speaking guide and air conditioned big coach and transfer to the hotel.
DAY 2 : ISTANBUL
Full day tour of Istanbul.
You will visit the Blue Mosque built by Sultan Ahmet I (1603-1617) and the hmetonly Mosque in Turkey to have six minarets, a style borrowed from the sacred mosque of Kaaba in Mecca. It has magnificent interior with blue Iznik tiles.
You will visit the Hagia Sophia which for some, will be the highlight of today’s activities. It was started in 522 and completed in 535 by Isidorus of Miletus and Anthemius of Tralles. It reigned as the greatest church of Christendom until 1453, when Sultan Mohammed the Conqueror converted it into a mosque. Gold mosaics, lofty domes, Arabic calligraphy and a scent of history envelop the visitor. Byzantine emperors, as well as Ottoman Sultans worshipped at Hagia Sophia (a.n.a. Santa Sophia). Now a museum, the public is free to visit and admire.
In the afternoon, visit Topkapı Palace, built by Mehmet the Conqueror in 1453, and later a residence for three centuries of sultans. Highlights of the museum include the unique Chinese Ming Dynasty porcelain collections, the wonderful treasury section and the famed harem which we will tour as a group. The views of Istanbul from the different terraces of the palace are spectacular.
DAY 3 : ISTANBUL
Full day tour of Istanbul.
You will visit the Underground Byzantine Cistern (Yerebatan Sarayı) with over 800 columns Egyptian Bazaar, originally devoted to spices and herbs, it now sells a great variety of goods in 88 vaulted rooms. You enter from a large city square and see before you a lengthy, tunnel-like building with 19 stalls on each side. At the end, the ‘tunnel’ turns left 90 degrees where an even longer building stretches away, containing the Suleymaniye Mosque & Kariye Museum will be the other spots.
DAY 4: ISTANBUL
In the morning, you will take a cruise on the Bosphorus by boat. The boat sails along the famous stretch of water. The boat will first stop at a typical fishermen’s village. Then, you will continue sailing towards the Black Sea passing the water side wooden mansions, the summer palaces of the Ottoman Sultans and the 15th Century fortress of Rumeli Hisar built by Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror.
In the afternoon, your fist visit will be to Dolmabahce Palace.
Built in the mid – 19th century by Sultan Abdulmecit I, Dolmabahce Palace’s facade stretches for 600 meters along the European shore of the Bosphorus. The vast reception salon, with 56 columns, and a huge crystal chandelier weighing four and a half tons and lit by 750 lights, never fails to astonish visitors. At one time, birds from all over the world were kept in the Bird Pavilion for the delight of the palace’s privileged residents.
After Dolmabahce Palace, your visit will be the Grand Covered Bazaar (Kapalı Çarşı),in the old city. The Grand Covered Bazaar was originally built as horse-stables to the Ottoman cavalry during the 18th century.
DAY 5 :ISTANBUL-YEREVAN
AM Free at leisure
PM Transfer to the airport for international flight to Armenia. Arrival to Yerevan and check in the hotel Visit the Museum of the Medieval Armenian Culture – Matenadaran having a collection of over 16000 ancient manuscripts and the Museum of History of Armenia having the richest collection of historical data.Visit Yerevan Brandy Company with tasting of famous Armenian Cognac.
DAY 6: YEREVAN-EJMIATSIN
Excursion to Echmiadzin- the holy seat of the Supreme Patriarch-Catholicos of all Armenians. The Cathedral was built in 303 on the site of a pagan temple after the adoption of Christianity as a state religion in 301. Visit St. Hripsime Church (7th century). A few kilometers from Echmiadzin are the ruins of the 7th century AD Temple of Zvartnots.
DAY 7: YEREVAN- GARNI-GEGHARD- CITY TOUR
You will drive through the picturesque Avan Canyon, skirting formidable cliffs and passing exotic- looking gorges until a green plateau by the Azat River comes into view. Here, in the harmony of the relief and the virgin nature you will see the pagan Garni architectural complex of the 1st century and feel the spirit of ancient ages. Here the tourists will listen a short a capella concert inside of the Garni Temple, with spiritual and folk songs. Another ten minutes ride through the gorge will take you to the cave monastery of Geghard (12th – 13th centuries).
In the afternoon you will visit Armenia History Museum.
DAY 8: YEREVAN- KHOR VIRAP- NORAVANQ-YEREVAN
Visit Khor Virap Monastery -one of the romantically sited monasteries in Armenia with views across a bast plain to Turkey and the twin peaks of Mount Ararat. Here, in the atmosphere of historical environment and vivid imagination you will notice the Noah’s Ark in the snows of Ararat. Humankind was reborn here, and Noah is considered to be the first tourist in the world. Visit to the Wine company in Areni village. The tour will on to the 12th century monastery complex of Noravank set in a canyon rich with rare flora. Noravank (meaning “New Monastery” in Armenian) is a 13th century Armenian Apostolic Church, located 122 km from Yerevan in a narrow gorge made by the Amaghu river, nearby the city of Yeghegnadzor. The gorge is known for its tall, sheer, brick-red cliffs, directly across from the monastery.
The monastery is best known for its two-storey S. Astvatsatsin church, which grants access to the second floor by way of narrow stones jutting out from the face of building.
DAY 9: YEREVAN- SEVAN-HAGHPAT-SADAKHLO
Morning tour for the sightseeing of the Lake Sevan- the emerald of Armenia, with a visit to the 9th century Sevan Monastery. Here you can have a good time on the sunny and sandy beach of the lake. Arrive to Sevan Peninsula for a short visit to the Sevan Monastery.
You will be transferred to Armenia- Georgia border Sadakhlo (Bagratashen from Armenian side) via sightseeing of the 10th-13th centuries Haghpat historical and architectural monument, set amidst forest-clad hills close to the town of Alaverdi (178 kilometers from Yerevan). The monument is preserved by UNESCO and included in the World Heritage List.
Arrive to the border. And transfer to Tbilisi.
Upon arrival in Tbilisi, we have some free time to rest-up before our wine-and-song-filled Georgian welcome feast at Georgian Traditional restaurant replete with a group of Georgian singers and a Tamada (Toastmaster).
Overnight at Hotel in Tbilisi.
DAY 10: TBILISI –MTSKHETA SIGHTSEEING TOUR
Today we wind through Tbilisi’s narrow streets and inner courtyards and stroll down Rustaveli Avenue, the main thoroughfare running east through the city. We begin our sightseeing today with a visit to Metekhi Church of the Virgin; this cross cupola church dates from the 12th and 13th centuries and replaced the original 6th century structure which was destroyed by the Mongols in 1235. Part of the Royal residential complex, it houses the grave of St. Shushanik, one of Georgia’s most beloved saints who was tortured by her husband for refusing to convert to Zoroastrianism in the 6th century. We drive back to the town center visiting Sioni Cathedral dedicated to the Virgin Mary and the main cathedral of Tbilisi. After lunch we will depart for town of Mtskheta, the ancient capital of eastern Georgia, at the southern end of the highway. Georgia’s conversion to Christianity occurred in Mtskheta in 337 AD and it is considered one of Georgia’s most important religious centers. We will visit several of its historic monuments including the beautiful Church of Jvari perched on a cliff overlooking the city, Sveti-Tskhoveli Cathedral, the first Christian church to be built in Georgia and its largest functioning cathedral. After excursion drive back to Tbilisi.
DAY 11: TBILISI- ANANURI-GUDAURI-KAZBEKI-TBILISI
First we will stop in Ananuri to see the incredible 16th century fortress complex built by the warring dukes of Aragvi in an attempt to control the main road. We will continue on for another hour’s drive to Gudauri, at 2,100m the highest location of any village along the route and a popular winter mountain resort. Here we will stop for lunch. A few miles north of Gudauri we drive over Jvari Pass, which at 2,395m is the highest point on the Military Highway. A short drive later we arrive at Dariali Gorge. Dariali is derived from the Persian ‘Dar-i-Alan’ or Gate of the Alans, in reference to the local tribe who were ancestors of the Sarmates and present day Ossetians. It is also the ‘Porta Caucasia’ of the 1st century Romans and marked the extent of Pompey’s march through the Caucasus. Here we’ll enjoy a view of the mighty snow-capped Mount Mkinvari, an extinct volcano which towers over us at 5,047m. Legend has it that, like Prometheus, Amirani was chained to the top as punishment for bringing fire to mortals. From Gergety village by 4X4 vehicles we will drive up to visit Tsminda Sameba Church.This little church is located in a beautiful, if solitary spot. Later this afternoon we return to Tbilisi. Dinner at a local restaurant in the evening. Overnight at Hotel in Tbilisi.
DAY 12: TBILISI-SIGNAGI-GURJAANI-TSINANDALI-TBILISI
Today we will drive to the East Georgia to explore Signagi – the Royal town, a beautiful example of a city-architecture of the 18th c, built by King Heraclius II surrounded by the defensive wall. Visit Bodbe nunnery with their tranquil cloister garden, which is located in 2 km from the Town of Signagi
For lunch drive to visit Wine House in Gurjaani, where we will enjoy wine tasting in centuries old wine cellar, bread baking in a yard. Have lunch at a wine house owned by local winemaker with homemade traditional Georgian dishes and Georgian yogurt.
After lunch we will drive to visit Tsinandali Museum and Residence is the former residence of the 18th century Kakhetian prince and poet, Alexander Chachavadze, who turned the residence into a center for Georgian intellectual life. Leaving this sybaritic place we will drive to the town of Tbilisi. After we will drive in a westerly direction towards Tbilisi.In the evening we will enjoy the dinner at Georgian Traditional Restaurant with national cuisine. Overnight at Hotel in Tbilisi.
DAY 13: DEPARTURE FROM TBILISI
Transfer to the airport Departure.