From time immemorial the caravan routes of the Silk Road invariably crossed Azerbaijan. It served as the «gate» between mysterious faraway China and rich Europe. In the 1st – 2nd centuries BC the busiest way laid across the Country of Lights. The way was usually called «Strabon» (after the great geographer who was the first to mention it). The way started from China and India across Central Asia, crosses the river of Uzbai flowing into the Caspian Sea and went across the territory of Azerbaijan. There it split in two roads: one led upstream the Kura towards Colchis and Iberia, the second made a turn and went along the western coast of the Caspian Sea across Derbent and Caucasian steppes. Azerbaijan was the safest of the entire Road. Georgia, Iberia, Colchis, which followed after, were politically stable states which could provide the functioning of the route which in turn attracted merchants. Another attraction was the fact that the most of the way included transportation by water which used to be the cheapest. As a result that section was durable, stable and intensive as well as one of the major destinations of the Silk Road in antiquity. It was there, along the two branches of “Strabon way”, where numerous ancient cities of Azerbaijan were founded. During early Middle Ages Azerbaijan still remained the important center of the Silk Road. Barda, which became the capital of Azerbaijan in the 5th century, was considered the world’s greatest trading center on one of branches of the Silk Road and until the 10th century was one of the greatest centers of crafts of the entire Middle East and Transcaucasia.
Meeting at the international airport of Tbilsi in Georgia. Transfer to the hotel. Overnight in Tbilisi.
Drive to Mtskheta (UNESCO Heritage Site), an ancient capital of the Georgian Kingdom from the 3rd century BC to the 5th century AD. Jvari Monastery (6th c.); Svetitskhoveli Cathedral built in the 11th century. Drive back to Tbilisi. We will visit the Old Tbilisi Sulfur Baths, Georgian Orthodox and Armenian Gregorian churches, and a Jewish synagogue and a Turkish mosque side by side, reflecting Tbilisi’s acceptance and tolerance of different religions. We can also see a recent monument, the Tbilisi Sameba Cathedral, the largest cathedral in the Caucasus. Tour includes following sights: Metekhi Church is erected on the cliff, overlooking the Mtkvari River. There is a statue of King Vakhtang Gorgaslani, founder of Tbilisi, in front of the church. The church dates back to the 12th century and has a diverse history, connected with Mongol invasions and political repressions of the Soviet Empire. The colorful Darejani Palace is also situated on the cliff, like the nest of a swallow. The Sulfur Baths are located in Old Tbilisi, on the other side of the river, opposite Darejani Palace. Tbilisi was named after the natural Sulphur springs. The Orthodox Narikala St. Nikolas Church is in the same district. The church is furnished with frescoed portraits of martyrs and scenes from the Bible. It is wrapped in a defensive Narikala fortress, established in the fourth century. We can walk up the stairs of the fortress and overlook Tbilisi. Walk down the path from the hill and on cobbled Leselidze Street, we come across the 13th century Armenian St. George Church and a Jewish synagogue with an elegant facade. On the opposite side of the street is Sioni Church, leading to the bank of the Mtkvari. Here you discover Shardeni Street with its fashionable cozy cafes and art galleries. Walking we will com across the Anchiskhati church, the oldest church in Tbilisi keeping the miraculous icon of Jesus Christ. Finally the tour takes you to Rustaveli Avenue, where attractions such as the Tbilisi Opera and Ballet Theatre, the Parliament, Rustaveli Theatre, different art galleries and cafes will draw your attention and provide a cosmopolitan atmosphere. Drive to Open Air Ethnographic Museum, place, where are built all kinds of Georgian national old country-houses and castles (entrance fee: USD 1, 70). Overnight in Tbilisi.
Tbilisi — Gori — Tbilisi
After breakfast drive to Gori. The city was founded by one of the greatest kings of Georgia, David the Builder (1089–1125). On the way visit Samtavisi, 11th century Georgian Orthodox cathedral. The first monastery on this place was founded by the Assyrian missionary Isidore in 572 and later rebuilt in the 10th century. Visit The Joseph Stalin Museum in Gori (entrance fee: USD 6). Afterwards visit Uplistsikhe (entrance fee: USD 1, 70), «the lord’s fortress», which is an ancient rock-hewn town in eastern Georgia. Built on a high rocky left bank of Mtkvari River, it contains various structures dating from the 2nd ML BC to the Late Middle Ages, and is notable for the unique combination of various styles of rock-cut cultures. Back to Tbilisi. Overnight in Tbilisi.
Tour to Kazbegi
After breakfast drive to Kazbegi. A stunning drive from Gudauri along the Tergi River will bring us to Kazbegi – the main town in the region. On the way we pass Ananuri Castle and Jinvaly water reservoir of amazing beauty. From Kazbegi a leisurely 1.5 hour walk up through beautiful valleys and woodland leads us to Gergeti Trinity Church located at 2170m. Weather permitting you may catch a glimpse of one of the highest glaciers in the Caucasus – Mt Kazbegi (5047m). We walk back to the town and before returning to Gudauri drive to Dariali Gorge. (NOTE: to drive to Dariali Gorge or Trinity Church we need 4X4 cars, and in case of the group travel, when group is travelling by bus, we can rent 4X4 cars on the spot and price is USD 15 per person to drive both sights). From Gudauri we drive to Tbilisi. En route visit village and see how locals make different hand made things (thick felt, embroidery, iconographic painting). Drive back to Tbilisi. Overnight in Tbilisi.
Today we make Wine tasting Tour in Kakheti region. We drive to Telavi. Visit residence of the King Erekle the II (entrance fee: USD 1, 70). Afterwards visit Tsinandali Wine cellar and Al. Chavchavadze house museum (entrance fee: from USD 3 to USD 12, with 6 sorts of wine tasting). The next spot is Gremi Monastery the 16th century architectural monument – the royal citadel and the Church of the Archangels – in Kakheti. Afterwards we drive to Nekresi Monastery complex, located in an amazing nature and finally drive to local Restaurant in Telavi to taste most delicious local dishes and wines. Overnight in Telavi.
After breakfast drive to Gurjaani wine cellar and also visit Gurjaani All Saints Church, this is the only two domed church in Georgia. Drive to Sighnaghi Love town, visiting on the way Bodbe monastery of Saint Nino. After lunch in Sighnaghi drive to Azerbaijan border in Lagodekhi. Pass Georgian – Azerbaijani an border at Lagodekhi / Mazykh custom gates. Drive to Sheki. Sheki is one of the most famous and ancient places of Azerbaijan. Situated 700 m (2297 ft.) above sea level like an amphitheatre surrounded by the mountains and forests of oak trees, this ancient city was long famed as a silk centre and an important stop on the Great Silk Route. Example of shop business in Sheki on the of Silk Road was ancient caravanserai. There is an assumption that the name of the town goes back to the ethnonym of the Saks, who reached the territory of Azerbaijan in the 7th century BC. We’ll start our Sheki tour from visiting the 18th century Khan’s summer palace with magnificent frescos and exquisite stained glass work. Sheki History museum is famous with artifacts from several periods. Overnight in Sheki
After breakfast visit the Albanian church located in Kish village. Legend says that the church was built in 78 AD, but the researchers place it a few centuries later. Then drive to famous Lahij village in Ismayilly district. Many of the 2,000 people living in Lahij village are involved in ancient crafts such as engraved copper work and carpet weaving. In the mid-19th century, there were more than 200 workshops in Lahij village. Traders discovered Lahij village crafts many centuries ago, and sold them for high prices at bazaars in Baghdad , Shiraz [ and other Middle Eastern cities. Stop by a copper workshop for a impromptu lesson in ancient craftsmanship you’ll get to see coppersmiths use small mallets to decorate plates, trays, jugs, goblets and pitchers, just as their ancestors have done for centuries. Overnight in Ismayilly.
After breakfast drive to Shamakha district. Visit the town of Shemakha, Diri Baba Tomb and Yeddi Gumbez. Shemakha was the capital of Shirvan Kingdom for several centuries. Yeddi Gumbaz (The Seven Cupolas) Mausoleum is the burial place for members of the royal families of the Shirvan shahs. Continue to Baku. Arrive and check-in to the hotel. Then follows the visiting of the Old city *Icheri Sheher . Icheri Sheher means the inner city. It was called the inner after the oil boom of the middle of the XIX century when the city stopped to hold in defense walls and left its limit. Several tens of the historical- architectural monuments at the same time the Shirvanshah Palace, the symbol of Baku city The Maiden Tower, the place of merchants rest Caravanserai are concentrated in the Icheri Sheher, with the square of 22 hectares. Icheri Sheher is the live organism which has its own infrastructure and inhabited files. Multani caravanserai in Baku Old City «Ichery Sheher» it is great example of history of Silk Road in Azerbaijan. The place where 1300 families are living. In a word it is an ancient city in the modern city.Evening walk along the central streets of the city and updated fountain square, shopping. Overnight in Baku
Excursion to Art- Historical reserve Gobustan, where the petroglyphic drawings, barrows and housing objects have been remained which are dated from X – VIII centuries B.C. up to average centuries. The certificates of the Stone Age citizens and another periods, petroglyphic drawings, the human parking and the gravestone monuments are concentrated in Gobustan. Not far from there is *gavan chalan dash* is original tambourine-stone, like a huge flat wise plate. Rhythmical accurate motives could be taken from it by the percussion. It is considered that ritual dancing’s and ceremonies were accompanied by these sounds. The visiting of Gobustan will transfer you to another world, the world of the past mankind and will let you to feel the atmosphere of the thousand-year history of this place. Visiting the temple of the fire worshippers Ateshgah and burning mountain *Yanar dag*. Ateshgah means the House of Fire, place of fire. The territory of this temple is known for unique nature phenomenon as the burning exits of the natural gas. The temple of fire is of the main places where the ancient supporters of Zoroaster religion worshipped there to the fire. In The museum complex Ateshgah you will be told about the life way Zaraustra worshippers and also about the traditions and the customs which they adhered. Excursion to Yanar Dag. You can see here nature phenomenon, incessant burning nature gas on the rock which named to the Yanar Dag reserve the burning rock. As the historians say, maybe this place gave the name *The Land of Fire * which in Persian means Azerbaijan. Overnight in Baku
After passing the border drive to Astara and ardebil. The route winds its way along the river to the top of the mountain, passing through a steep gorge, called the pass Heyran. In Ardabil awaits you visit Sheikh Safi-Uddin Ardebili (great Sufi) mausoleum complex with a dome of Allah Allah (about 56 feet tall). Then visit the bazaar Ardabil, consisting of all elements forming the traditional bazaar, such as small shops, walkways, public bath and a mosque in the city center. You then continue trip to the lake Shurabil. Will stop for photographing the surrounding landscape. Sareyn is a resort area at the foot of the mountain with numerous hot mineral springs of varying temperatures, which are renowned for their therapeutic properties. Overnight in Sareyne.
Morning visit to the village of Rasht Masule with yellow clay, predominantly on the outer facades of buildings. In fact, this millennial village resembles an anthropological and architectural museum. Then move to the Ramsar. Day trip to Ramsar. On the way enjoy the beautiful scenery. Overnight in Ramsar.
In the morning trip to Qazvin. Qazvin-century of the city was once the capital of Iran. After lunch, continue the city tour. Among the many historical relics of the Qazvin-mosque Jama, Hussein shrine Shahrezy, a Muslim saint, the theological school Heidari, Darby Kushka (the old entrance gate of the city), Ali Gapu (Chehel Setun Qazvin), which is currently being converted into a museum. Continuing the journey along the way will stop to enjoy the unforgettable view of the dam Karaca. Then Lahidzhan overlooking the Caspian traditional buildings (houses, buildings), including Masdzhede Oliya Chahar (4 mosque trustees) and the mausoleum of Sheikh Zahedi. A trip to Tehran. Overnight in Tehran.
Breakfast. Depend on departure time transfer to the airport.