Day 1: On arrival at Zvartnots International Airport am you are met by your Tour Guide and immediately begin your unique journey in Armenia. Transfer to the hotel. Check-in. Rest time.
Day 2: Wine and brandy tasting day. Breakfast served. Yerevan the rose-colored capital of Armenia, it is named as such because most of its buildings use a pink shade of "tuf" stone which is quarried in Armenia. This is the most prominent feature of Yerevan’s cityscape. As we get acquainted with Yerevan, we should start with the Erebouni museum and Fortress. Wine – making epoch in Armenia began from – 782 B.C. when was found the fortress.
During excavations in Erebouni fortress, 18 clay vats (karas) for wine were discovered, each having more than 600 liter capacity. Counting our day we’ll have a chance not only see the vats and barrels of wine and brandy, but also to taste some kinds of Armenian brandies and oldest wine in “Noy” Ararat Brandy, Wine Factory: “…one does not drink brandy, one derives pleasure from it”. Tsitsernakaberd memorial and museum to the 1915 Genocide, one of the most impressive monuments in Yerevan. Welcome dinner in one of the traditional restaurant in Yerevan.
Day 3: Bread making day. Breakfast served. Ashtarak, where we can find numerous churches and various ancient buildings at every turn; Artashavan - New Complex of Armenian Letters: “It is difficult to express the deep feeling Armenians have for their language, which many regard as the lifeblood of their culture”, Saghmosavank Monastery perch on the edge of the precipitous gorge of the Kasakh river. Oshakan – most famous as the last resting place of Mesrop Mashtots; Lunch and traditional table/lavash making is loved and famous all over the country. Armenian cuisine without lavash simply does not exist. Not without a reason the expressions meaning to eat, have dinner, have breakfast, have supper in Armenia are replaced with one – “to eat bread”.
Our first task is making our own Armenian bread. It's not easy task but the grandmother of the family, where we will experience the true hospitality of the Armenian people, will show the techniques used in making this bread. Roll up your sleeves and proceed our doing for today, we need to open the soft dough into broad sheets no thicker than 3-4mm by rolling pin after we have to bake the draw-stretch-open sheet in a tonir. Until today this thin bread is baked using traditional Armenian way – in tonirs with dry grapevines - a traditional Armenian hearth. Now it's the time to feel the real taste of fresh lavash. "Eat thy bread with joy".
Day 4: Dolma making day. Breakfast served. Today we embark on our Journey to the lands of ancient treasures of Christian history…the Mother See of Holy Echmiadzin, you will also participate in divine Liturgy. It's the "religious capital" of the Armenian Church and the seat of the Supreme Patriarch-Catholics of all Armenians. It has 4 main churches, including the Cathedral. Built in 303AD, the cathedral is a masterpiece of Armenian classical architecture and considered to be one of the world’s earliest Christian churches. Admire Hripsime and Gayane Churches (7th c) named after faithful virgins.In this holy place we’ll visit one very unusable cultural, traditional area for Dolma making and Lunch.
Dolma is an Armenian traditional and delicious dish. It’s stuffed kind of meal. First we have to prepare the the filling, in a medium mixing bowl we combine the rice with the meat, tomato paste, lemon juice, spices and salt. Before rolling let’s taste and correct seasoning. And start the surfacing decoration of Dolma. We take and place about a tablespoon of the filling along the stem end of each grape leaf, fold over the sides, and roll from the stem up to form a sausage-like roll. Cover the bottom of the pan with some of the leftover leaves. Although it takes time and effort to make, it is very delicious. It depends on season we can make Summer Dolma with cabbage leaves, eggplants, tomatoes and peppers.
Day 5: Khorvats (Barbeque) making day. Breakfast served. Today we will proceed to Garni, the rare pre-Christian pagan temple maintained in Armenia and Garni canyon, with a view magnificent sheer vertical cliffs, which appear to be a gigantic basalt organ carved in the rocks. Day is special as well we have another Armenian dish making process - Khorvats (Barbeque) in Armenian way in tonir. As well the farmhouse in which we have to pass the master class of barbeque making and do lunch is in Garni, that's why after tour we'll do our short stop for the first steps of the preparation.
It means mix meat with some kind of spices as salt, pepper and the basil leaves, after all of them together leave for few hours so the taste of the penetrates inside the meat. Of course let's no forget to prepare fresh tomatoes, shiny eggplants and peppers too. Continuing we are driving to Geghard (Cave monastery) architectural complex, rising out from the mountain, carved from one monolithic rock in the 12th-13th centuries. Sing an ancinet hymn while inside; the acoustics in this chamber are extraordinary. After come back to Garni for last doing of Lunch. Time to prepare put the meat on skewers and line them down to the tonir. Enjoy the lunch made by your own!
Day 6: Harisa making day. Breakfast served and check out. Driving to Dilijan. On the charming town of Dilijan we’ll enjoy an extraordinary cooking class in a private house with housewife. This special cooking class experience in Dilijan is a "hands-on" lesson based on the preparation of 1st course of dinner - Harisa! For making of Harisa we combine skinless whole wheat kernels with chicken, with a good amount of hot water and broth or a combination, salt, butter, cumin, and if desired, paprika too.
The trick is to cook this for a very long time until dinner without stirring until the return from the tour! Tour: Dilijan: “A piece of Switzerland in Armenia” - Earth and sky, woods and fields, rivers, the mountains are excellent schoolmasters, and teach some of us more than we can ever learn otherwise… The old approach in the new century “Old Town Dilijan” complete with craftsmen workshops, small shops with traditional Armenian products and crafts, museum, showing typical 19th century living with all its local customs and handmade wood furnishings 10-13th centuries Goshavank Monastery. Lunch time! Rest time.
Enjoy a cooking lesson focused on the traditional and seasonal recipes of preserve of fruit or berries for the breakfast! Let’s start! We have to use 2 quarts, ripe fruit or berries. Stem and wash carefully. Scald them in boiling water for 2 minutes, then drain. Add 4 cups of sugar and boil 2 minutes when it starts bubbling. Remove from fire and when bubbling has stopped add 2 more cups of sugar and boil 5 minutes more. Then add 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, pour into a shallow pan and let stand over-night. Next day is just the real time to taste and feel the real delicious of fresh jam! Dinner! Today it’s much tastier than before! Check in. Overnight in a farmhouse of Dilijan.
Day 7: Check out. Fish and Crayfish tasting day. After delicious Breakfast we are ready to visit Lake Sevan – the emerald of Armenia, a beauty under the sky. Lake Sevan is considered to be one of the biggest lakes in the world with sweet water situated at the altitide of 1,897 meters above sea level. Gorgeous view to Lake Sevan is opened from the peninsula atop which Sevan Monastery is nicely nestled dating to 9th century. As we are in special lakeside location we’ll have different kind of Lunch. It's easy, fast and tasty! Let's grill fresh fish and why not do our own boil of crayfish just from Lake of Sevan? Return to Yerevan.
Day 8: Ghapama making day. Breakfast served. Free day. In the early evening preparation of Farewell Dinner! Our gala cooking class is focused on one of the traditional Armenian meal – Ghapama for the farewell dinner at the professional kitchen of the famous restaurant - Ararat Hall Restaurant with Sedrak Mamulyan, a well-known chef, leader of Armenian Cuisine Revival Association. Time to start! Preparing ghapama is a special ceremony. First we put rice in water in a separate pan, and put it on a slow fire.
After we cut round the upper part of the pumpkin and put it aside, and then start the main part of the work. It is necessary to remove all the entrails and then washes the pumpkin. Step one after we spread melted honey on the inner walls of the pumpkin. After we put a piece of butter on the bottom, then we add a spoon of honey, then fill in some part of the rice, cooked beforehand and mixed with raisin, then we add the dried plums and apricot to the rest of the rice.
At the end, of course we'll not forget to put the ‘hat’ on the pumpkin.” And then the stuffed pumpkin with rice and dried fruit is cooked for about 40 minutes. While preparing the dish, we can sing a song dedicated to ghapama: “Hey jan, ghapama, hamov, hotov ghapama (hey dear ghapama, with flavor and aroma ghapama)…”. “It is not accidental at all that people have created this song, we will taste ghapama and you can test and see how tasty it is”. Enjoy it with live Armenian music and Folk Dances, completeing your journey with unforgettable memories!
Day 9: Breakfast served and check out depart for Georgia. Transfer to Airport. Meeting with Georgian representatives. Arrive Tbilisi International Airport. Customs formalities. Meet guide and driver and drive to the hotel (25min drive). Check-in. Welcome dinner. Overnight in Tbilisi.
Day 10: Breakfast served. Matsoni, Cheese and Churchkhela day. After breakfast departure to Eastern Georgian province-Kakheti. This province is known as a birthplace of wine and cradle of viniculture. First stop at Bodbe Nunnery (XIX c.)-burial site of St. Nino who brought Christianity to Georgia in IV c. Continue road to royal Sighnaghi-a small town located on a hilltop providing beautiful views of Alazani river valley and the Caucasus Mountain Range. Sighnaghi is surrounded by XVIII c. fortified wall - the longest one of existing fortifications in Georgia.
After walk in Sighnaghi drive to locals’ house in Gurjaani to experience ‘Georgian Corner’, to have a traditional Georgian lunch featuring ‘tamada’ -leader of the table, participate in baking Georgian bread ‘lavashi’ and preparing national sweets ‘churchkhela’. Homemade wine tasting at family’s more than 100 years old winery. Dinner and overnight in Telavi-the biggest town and a capital of the region.
Day 11: Breakfast at Telavi hotel. Mtsvadi (barbeque), Wine & Khinkali day. Today the day begins with visit to the residence of one of the most beloved and notable Georgian families - princes Chavchavadze. XIX c. residence of legendary figure Alexander Chavchavadze consists of summer home, garden and winery featuring several vintages of white vine. After the excursion and wine tasting drive to Khevi province via Georgian Military Highway – a picturesque road with great nature variety mentioned by Strabo in I c. AD.
An ancient capital of Georgia - Mtskheta – UNESCO site is located along this road. En route visit Ananuri Architectural complex-former residence of Dukes of Argveti region. Complex featuring churches and towers dating back to the XVI-XVII cc. is beautifully overlooking Jinvali reservoir. Lunch en-route at the local restaurant where the guests can try ‘Khinkali’-boiled meat dumplings, as this region is well-known for its ‘Khinkali masters’. In the afternoon arrive to Gudauri, popular Georgian ski resort. Dinner and overnight in Gudauri.
Day 12: Breakfast served. Corn Bread, ‘Borjomi’ and Honey day. Early in the morning drive to Kazbegi passing through the highest point of Georgian Military Highway-Cross Pass at 2379 m. above sea level. En-route make a stop at the mineral water spring flowing down from a hilltop. Arrive Kazbegi – a small town with the views of Mt. Kazbek (or Mkinvari) 5033 m. - the seventh highest peak in the Caucasus Mountains.
Mt. Kazbek is associated with myth of Prometheus, according to the legend he was chained on the mountain in punishment for having stolen fire from the gods and having given it to mortals. If time permits - trek (about 1 hr) to XIV c. Gergeti Holy Trinity Church located at an elevation of 2170 m under Mt. Kazbegi. Picnic lunch near the site with the best views of the peak and lowlands. After Picnic lunch drive to Samtskhe-Javakheti province via Borjomi-spa resort well-known for its mineral water. Dinner and overnight in Bakuriani.
Day 13: Breakfast at the hotel. Cake and Bake day. We drive from Bakuriani via Akhaltsikhe to visit cave-town Vardzia. Stop for visiting Khertvisi fortress beautifully located on the confluence of Mtkvari and Paravani rivers. It is known that the first fortress was built here in II c. BC and was destroyed by Alexander the Great. The present complex is dating back to X- XIV cc. Arrive Vardzia which was carved out of the rock in XII c. during the reign of Queen Tamar - ‘golden age’ in the history of Georgia.
The complex considered to be a protection against foreign invasions and consisted of over six thousand apartments. The complex has been damaged heavily during earthquake in XIII c. Nowadays more than three hundred of caves are still visible and parts of irrigation system bring drinkable water. The complex also has to be mentioned as it houses one f the three existing frescoes of Queen Tamar dating back to XII c. Picnic lunch on the spot. We continue to Abastumani – popular climatic spa located in Adigeni region.
Resort has become extremely popular for its climate and thermal waters after Grand Duke George Alexandrovich, member of the Russian imperial family, had retired there due to his ill-health in XIX c. Abastumani's three hyperthermic springs (39-48.5 °C) are little mineralized, rich in sulfate-sodium chloride waters and they are used in treatment of different diseases. In the evening (after 22:00) a visit to Georgian National Astrophysical Observatory located nearby. Observatory was founded here in 1932 and is one of the best observatories among the same altitude (1650 to 1700 m. above sea level) with its observational conditions. Dinner and Overnight in Abastumani.
Day 14: Local soup and aubergine (eggplants) with nuts day. After breakfast at the hotel drive to Imereti region via Rikoti pass, dividing Georgia into its western and eastern parts. En route stop at the clay market near the Shrosha village where local goods are sold. Arrive Kutaisi-an ancient city, the capital of the Kingdom of Colchis. According to the legend Kutaisi or Aia was the final destination of the Jason and Argonauts in their journey to Colchis and the residence of King Aeëtes.
Today Kutaisi is the second biggest city in Georgia and administrative center of Imereti province. The exploration of the city starts by visiting Bagrati Cathedral (XI c.) - UNESCO World heritage site located on Ukimerion Hill. The next stop will be at XII c. Gelati Academy built by King David the Builder. For the long time academy has been one of the main cultural and intellectual centers in Georgia. Monument was recognized by UNESCO as a world Heritageand was included in the World Monuments Watch List. Dinner and Overnight in Kutaisi.
Day 15: Breakfast at the hotel. Departure via Rikoti Pass. En route visit Ubisa- medieval monastic complex located on a picturesque place. Complex consists of 9th-century St. George’s Monastery a 4-floor tower (AD 1141). There are also remains of 12th-century defensive wall and several other buildings and structures. Stop at honey-makers and basket-makers on Rikoti pass. Arrive Tbilisi. Overnight in the hotel in Tbilisi. Farewell dinner.
Day 16: Departure. Check-out. Transfer to the airport.
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