Georgia and Armenia vacation

“Europe meets Asia at this cultural crossroads where ancient religions have left their mark & Soviet architecture is being blown away by grand fashion boulevards. ”

Highlights

Yerevan | Geghard Monastery | Areni village wine tasting | Silk Road | Mediaeval churches at Haghpat and Sanahin | Tbilisi | Gori | Kazbegi village | Uplistsikhe pre-Christian Cave town | Kutaisi's UNESCO sites | Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park | Alaverdi cathedral |

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12 May 2018
US $ 2475
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26 May 2018
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16 Jun 2018
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30 Jun 2018
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21 Jul 2018
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01 Sep 2018
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15 Sep 2018
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22 Sep 2018
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25 May 2019
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15 Jun 2019
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29 Jun 2019
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13 Jul 2019
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31 Aug 2019
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14 Sep 2019
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21 Sep 2019
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Our top tip:
If you have the time in Yerevan, visit the Sergei Parajanov Museum which gives a fascinating insight into Armenia & Georgia through film.
Trip type:
Small group.
Activity level:
Moderate.
Accomm:
11 nights hotel, 2 guesthouses
Solo:
Solo travelers welcome. Single rooms available at a supplement.
Included:
Accomodation, transport, listed activities, tour leader, flights from London (if booked), transfers.
Meals:
All breakfasts, 6 lunches, 8 dinners
Vouchers
Accepted
Vacation type

Small group vacation

Small group travel is not large group travel scaled down. It is modelled on independent travel – but with the advantage of a group leader to take care of the itinerary, accommodation and tickets, and dealing with the language. It’s easy to tick off the big sights independently – but finding those one-off experiences, local festivals, traveling markets and secret viewpoints is almost impossible for someone without the insider knowledge gained from years in the field. If you’re heading off on a gap year your, perhaps – but for those with a two-week vacation, a small group tour will save valuable planning time.

The leaders are not guides – they’re not there to shepherd you around. Instead, they’ll let you know which local restaurant serves great value food – without running the risk of travelers’ tummy. They’ll allow you to avoid hour-long queues at train stations and attractions.

We like to think of small group travel as the Goldilocks option. It is independent travel without the fuss, worry and bunk beds – and organised travel without the coaches. And it’s cheaper than a tailor made tour. It’s sits somewhere in the middle – and we think it’s just about right.

What are the main benefits?
Big experiences
Have big, life-enriching experiences that would be impossible to organise without lots of time and insider knowledge.

Simplicity
Make the most of your vacation time by letting someone else do the hard work and boring logistics!

Peace of mind
Small group tours take care of the security aspects – and provide a safety net should anything unexpected happen.
Who is it ideal for?
Travelers who are short of time
If you don’t have three months to spend exploring, small groups trips let you cover more ground in less time. Your days are not spent queuing for tickets or finding hotels – so you can squeeze more into your vacation.

Solo travelers who’d like company
Likeminded travel companions plus peace of mind for those traveling alone. Single supplements are usually available – providing privacy if you want it.

Less confident travelers
Stray from the tourist trail without worrying about getting lost, and meet local people without dealing with the language barrier.
Mythbuster
“I won’t get any privacy!”
Couples and friends have private rooms, and you can choose to eat alone or not. Single supplements give solo travelers their own room.

“There won’t be any free time”
Free mornings or afternoons let you explore on your own, or just relax.

“The accommodation will be basic”
Trips are as high or low end as you like. Though off the beaten track destinations won’t have luxury hotels, this is all part of the adventure.

“I won’t like the other travelers!”
Tour operators try to create groups with a similar demographic – age, families, activity levels... Chances are, you’ll even make new friends.

“Will we be following an umbrella?”
No.
Valerie Parkinson
Meet a group Leader
Name: Valerie Parkinson

Story: The first British woman to climb Manaslu, Valerie climbed Everest for her 50th birthday. She’s spent fourteen Christmas Days trekking to Everest Base Camp, and is involved insetting up Responsible Tourism initiatives in the Himalayas.
Roshan Fernando
Meet a local guide
Name: Roshan Fernando

Story: Roshan has led over 130 trips – he adores showing travelers around Sri Lanka. He won the company Leader Award in 2010, but his career highlight was working on their Tsunami Project – which earned him a responsible tourism award.

Responsible tourism

Responsible tourism: Georgia and Armenia vacation

Local Crafts and Culture:
We are very proud of local crafts and culture in Georgia and Armenia and our local guides are enthusiastic about briefing our clients on opportunities to experience this. In the mountainous regions in front of the churches and fortresses on the itinerary, local people can be found selling handmade goods on stalls such as hats, socks, jars and horns etc. Guides also encourage guests to sample some of the wonderful locally produced food and drink along the way e.g. in the small village of Areni, we stop at a winery where the finest Armenian wine is produced. Here we can try and buy these traditional wares which economically benefits local communities by supporting small businesses. Of course the biggest way we endorse culture with our trip, is to visit so many cultural hotspots and UNESCO sites: Geghard Monastery, the Genocide Memorial at Yerevan, 7th Century ruins of Zvartnots Cathedral, mediaeval monuments at Sanahin or Haghpat, just to name a few.

Accommodation and Meals:
Over the course of the trip, we spend several nights in small, family-run hotels and guesthouses. Through this practice, our business provides employment and additional income to lesser known areas and their inhabitants. All the hotel food is homemade, using locally produced and sourced goods wherever possible. Furthermore, guests often have the exciting opportunity to learn from their hosts how to prepare traditional dishes. This kind of genuine experience is priceless and could not be possible in very large groups in industrial sized hotels. We would recommend trying Georgian specialties like Khachapuri (cheese pies) and Khinkali (meat dumplings); in Armenia be sure to sample Khoravats (barbecues) and Dolma (stuffed vine leaves).

UK Office:
It all starts at home so we have first worked at reducing our carbon footprint in our UK Offices. Through energy conservation measures and recycling policies, we are proud to be actively reducing the waste produced and our impact on the environment. We support various projects all over the world to try and give something back to the places we visit.

Group Size:
This small group tour has a maximum of 16 participants, meaning that we have a low impact on the environments and communities we visit and are able to ensure that we do not disrupt or lead to the displacement of local people. The small number also allows us to stay in unique, family-run hotels that cannot benefit from coach tours and other mass tourism due to their limited sizes.

4 Reviews of Georgia and Armenia vacation

4 out of 5 stars
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Reviewed on 18 Sep 2017 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


All of it..... everything was memorable

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


It is a very active vacation..... I think there needs to be a better balance where there are shorter days..... several days we arrived back just in time for dinner and bed and no time even to take a walk in the environs of our hotel.

Climbing to the church in Kazbegi is a serious uphill sheer walk on very loose gravel, slate and stone. It's a walk that needs a local leader for those who want to do it. It's a grade 3 walk given it's steepness and the lack of safety underfoot. Coming down is a nightmare. I urge you to take serious caution about this walk and accord it a high level of ability and mobility needed to do it.

On the second last day .... there was a trip to the wine region. This was a very long journey as it entailed a trip to a church (yes another one!) and the return home was 8pm. Seven of us were leaving the hotel at 3.30 am for our Departure flight that same night .... all the others were leaving the next day. Again this was madness as it was the day before our departure.

Finally, though this was an excellent vacation it's schedule was relentless..... I feel you're Catering more for the under 40's...... wheareas two thirds of the group was over 50 and some in their 70's. Time to soak up the atmosphere of both these countries, towns and cities is incredibly important for the below......

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


We had local guides who were very good. Rafy is incredibly accomplished.. Nick was very good too, helpful and informative...... There was minimal time to interact with locals as we were constantly on the go!

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


Excellent

Reviewed on 24 Sep 2017 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


Walking in the national park in Georgia.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


The walks to the monasteries are mostly uphill over rocky ground the transport cannot get you closer than a few hundred yards in most cases and in some the walk is a lot longer and over the time that the vacations are offered the temperatures the heat is in the upper 20's and low 30's but some days the thermometer is above the 35 degree centigrade mark, be prepared.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


No to all three questions; the hotel chains offer some jobs where unemployment is high but tourists demand high standards and the environmental impact is
high. Little money goes to the locals unless the tourist buys local produce which given it's perishable nature is not suitable for transport, larger items are not
practicable for packing in suitcases.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


I enjoyed the vacation and would give it a rating of 7/10.

Read the operator's response here:

Dear Baron-Vahl Amos,

Firstly, thank you for your comments, we are delighted that overall you had a great trip.

It is disappointing to read that you didn’t think your vacation benefited local people. Our local guides are very keen to introduce you to the local crafts and culture and there are several opportunities to purchase some items that we hope are not all perishable or too large. We are also keen for our guests to sample some of the wonderful locally produced food and drink along the way e.g. in the small village of Areni, where you stopped at a winery where the finest Armenian wine is produced. Here we can try and buy these traditional wares which economically benefits local communities by supporting small businesses. Of course the biggest way we endorse culture with our trip, is to visit so many cultural hotspots and UNESCO sites: Geghard Monastery, the Genocide Memorial at Yerevan, 7th Century ruins of Zvartnots Cathedral, mediaeval monuments at Sanahin or Haghpat, just to name a few. Our entrance fees ensure that these sites are protected for future generations to enjoy.

Over the course of the trip, we also spend several nights in small, family-run hotels and guesthouses. Through this practice, our business provides employment and additional income to lesser known areas and their inhabitants. All the hotel food is homemade, using locally produced and sourced goods wherever possible. Furthermore, guests often have the exciting opportunity to learn from their hosts how to prepare traditional dishes.

We do hope that this explanation provides an adequate response to your review and offers you reassurance that we are continuously working on ensuring our trips are as responsible as possible. We hope to welcome you back to Georgia and Armenia one day.

Reviewed on 04 Jul 2016 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


The hike up to the Gergeti monastery in Georgia. Wonderful location.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


Be aware altitudes of 2000 m plus are experienced. There a lot of monastery visits so if you are not tooooo keen on them it may become a little repetative. In Georgia particularly, restaurants seemed to have difficulty providing separate bills for meals : they tended to just supply one per table. A small point perhaps but one that did cause our group a little inconvenience.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?




4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


Rafik and Anna were wonderful guides, very knowledgeable and helpful. The drivers were also very good. Points to note : the Regeneh hotel in Yerevan was situated a little distance from the city centre. A city centre hotel ( like the Kopala in Tbilisi) could have been more convenient.
Also , see my comments re the (lack of separate) bills for meals in Georgia. Perhaps some coaching could be provided to the waiters / waitresses . The upstairs restaurant at the Group hotel (Kopala) in Tbilisi had difficulty with this.

Reviewed on 11 Nov 2014 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


Seeing the Albanian Alps (relatively unspoiled), visiting Kosovo (should’ve been able to stay there longer) and the virtually untouched monastery in that region, going to Lake Ohrid (should’ve been able to stay there longer too, which I believe is going to change for next year), and seeing Albania in general emerge from the Communist era the way in which it has.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


Make sure that they understand what the trip’s main focus is (like, if you aren’t interested in archaeology and churches, don’t come!) Bring appropriate footwear (i.e., leave the Brighton-Beach sandals at home). Be aware that, when seeing sights, you won’t necessarily have your lunch on the dot at one o’clock every day, and that, for some travelers, lunch is not the most important thing.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Generally, but when I saw the local Albanians regularly toss every piece of refuse into a river or down the side of a hill, then you’d have to wonder. Also, water was only drunk from plastic bottles. Surely, in some places, especially in the mountains, the water would’ve been perfectly drinkable, but no one ever mentioned or told us this.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


Very good. Not outstanding value for money, but, in terms of content, guide and transport, very, very good - even if some things were rushed. Extending it by a couple of days (at Ohrid and Kosovo, for instance) would be a good start.

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