Explore ancient cities, glaciers, forests and meadows as you travel from Tbilisi to Istanbul

This all-encompassing trip takes you from the lush green slopes of Georgia's Mestia valley to the crowded spice markets of Istanbul. Reconnect with nature on hikes through wooded forests and past the mountainous Chaladi glacier. Indulge your inner history buff as you stand on the steps of the Blue Mosque, wander the ramparts of the Narikala Fortress, learn the secrets of Georgian cheese making and join the homely ruckus of a Turkish tavern.


Start
Tbilisi, Georgia
Finish
Istanbul, Turkey
Countries
Georgia, Turkey
Style
Original
Theme
Explorer
Code
KFSI
Physical rating
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 1, Max 12

Why we love this trip

  • This is the perfect trip for history buffs, taking in ancient historical sites from across Georgia and Turkey

  • Journey to the Svaneti region, a remote and alluring land of snow-capped mountains, where you'll discover medieval tower-houses and a fascinating local dialect

  • Get active on hikes to Georgia's Shkhara glacier in and Soganli Mountain in Turkey

  • Learn the art of preparing delicious kubdari during a cooking demonstration

  • Visit the picturesque lake of Uzungol, often described as the Switzerland of Turkey

Is this trip right for you?

  • You will reach a significant altitude on this trip (2,200 metres) at the highest point so a good level of fitness is required for hiking. That said, alternative activities can often be arranged for those who would prefer not to hike.

  • This trip uses a mix of public and private transportation. While the latter is convenient, taking public transport in Georgia and Turkey is a great way to experience daily life as the locals do.

  • Photography of sensitive sites such as military bases and power installations is prohibited. You maybe charged a photo fee at some tourist site. Be aware of cultural sensitivities when photographing churches and other religious sites.

  • As we don't want you to miss anything, the itinerary is densely packed, so you'll be busy. There will, however, be plenty of free time and opportunity for independent exploration.

  • On some days, there is a lot of walking between sights and around towns and cities. While it can be tiring to be on your feet, this is the best way to see a destination. Make sure you bring comfortable walking shoes with good support.

Itinerary

Welcome to Georgia!

Your tour leader will leave you a note at reception detailing on what time you will be meeting with the rest of your group.

Tonight is free for an optional dinner - there are plenty of restaurants and cafes within a short walking distance of our hotel.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
After breakfast take part in a sightseeing tour of Tbilisi. The locals like to call their capital the "Balcony of Europe", placing it on par with many of Europe's graceful old cities.

All the sights in the Old Town are very close to each other and within a few minutes’ walk. We start our visit to Old Tbilisi from Metekhi Church, and then walk to the Synagogue, Sioni Cathedral and Anchiskhati Basilica. From here, visit Narikala Fortress and the Sulphur Baths. Afterwards, you'll have free time to further explore the capital.

The evening is also free for you to enjoy. Perhaps indulge in Tbilisi's lively theater scene and witness some of the energetic and acrobatic dance that Georgia is known for.

Total walking time today is approximately 4-5 hours.
No transportation is included on this day.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Tbilisi - Sightseeing City Tour
Optional Activities
  • Tbilisi - Museum of Georgia - USD5
  • Tbilisi - Museum of Fine Arts - USD2
  • Tbilisi - Sulphur Baths Entry - USD35
  • Tbilisi - Aerial Cable Car - USD1
  • Wine Tour – Kakheti Region (8-9 hours) - USD155
  • Tbilisi - Funicular - USD2
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Today, drive 25 kilometres (approximately 30 minutes) to Georgia's ancient capital and religious centre – the town of Mtskheta, which is over 3000 years old.

Visit Mtskheta's top historical sights: Jvari church (6th century) and Svetitskhoveli Cathedral (11th century), where the Robe of Christ is said to be buried. Both Jvari and Svetitskhoveli are UNESCO World Heritage sites.

Afterwards, continue to the pretty town of Kutaisi, the second largest city in the country (the drive will take approximately 3 hours). Kutaisi is more than 3000 years old, connected to the legend of Jason and the Argonauts, along with his mythical (or is it?) Golden Fleece. Here we visit another significant historical site, the Gelati Cathedral. There may also be time to explore the cobbled streets of the town as you make your way up to the ruins of Bagrati palace and citadel. Spend the night at a local guesthouse in Kutaisi with private facilities.

Total driving time today is approximately 4.5 hours.
Accommodation
  • Guesthouse (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Mtskheka - Jvari Church
  • Mtskheka - Svetitskoveli Cathedral
Optional Activities
  • Kutaisi - Bagrati Cathedral and Gelati Monastery - Free
  • Iago’s Winery Tastings - USD5
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Dinner
After a restful night, visit a local farmers market and a natural grotto filled with stalagmites and stalactites. After lunch get ready for the next part of the tour: a journey to the remote Svaneti region. Svaneti is the highest inhabited area in the Caucasus and is divided in two parts: Upper Svaneti and Lower Svaneti.

Arrive into Mestia, the centre of Upper Svaneti. Mestia is surrounded by mountains, medieval-type villages and disctinctive tower-houses. The famous tower-houses were built to accommodate villagers at times of invasion and violence during the 9th -13th centuries. Around 175 towers still stand today, although many are uninhabited.

The area is home to the Svans, a proud people with a long history of survival in this isolated part of Europe, who speak their own language. Spend the night in a local guesthouse (with shared facilities).

Total driving time today is approximately 5 hours.
Accommodation
  • Guesthouse (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Kutaisi - Farmers Market
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Dinner
Drive to the village Lakhiri (approximately 20 minute drive) and start our walk (approx walking time 4-5 hours) in the direction of Mestia. After little uphill walking we descend to the beautiful valley full with blooming flowers and enjoy an amazing view of Chalati Glacier (2300m) and of Mestia Valley with its watchtowers. The paths can be steep and the ground uneven so you will need good fitness and appropriate footwear for this walk. Those not wishing to hike can stay in the village or in Mestia.

Today we also witness the making of Georgian cheese. Cheese is found in many Georgian dishes and is a key ingredient in the famous khachapuri, a traditional Georgian dish of cheese-filled bread which you will no doubt eat plenty of during your time here! Participate in the preparation of another traditional meal called kubdari, a filled bread dish filled with pork and beef that originates from this region.

Total walking time today is 4-5 hours.
Accommodation
  • Guesthouse (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Mestia - Kubdari (Cooking- Preparation)
  • Mestia - Lakhiri Village Hike
  • Mestia - Georgian Cheese Making
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Today, visit the World Heritage-listed village of Ushguli, a town around 50 kilometres southeast of Mestia. The village is located at 2,200 metres above sea level, and is one of the highest inhabited villages in Europe. Ushguli is most famous for its abundance of watchtowers – this is where you'll see the famous view of the towers set to the highest mountain in Georgia, the snow capped Mt Shkhara (5,068 metres).

Visit the 12th-century Lamaria Church and walk to Queen Tamar’s tower. Total walking time is 2-3 hours depending on fitness and trail conditions. Those not wishing to walk may stay and explore Ushguli, where there are a few small ethnographic museums in the watchtowers. In the evening you can walk around the village and become familiar with the daily life of the local people. Spend the night in a family-owned guesthouse (with shared facilities.)

Total driving time today will be approximately 3 hours.
Accommodation
  • Guesthouse (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Ushguli - Village Hike
  • Ushguli - Lamaria Church
  • Ushguli - Queen Tamar`s Tower
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Today's walk starts from the guesthouse. The route takes us along the river to the base of Mt Shkhara. Fingers crossed for great weather! We will have a picnic lunch today. The walking trail ends at the Shkhara glacier, where the Enguri river originates below. In the afternoon, return to Mestia and stay overnight in the guesthouse.

Approximate walking time is 5-6 hours. If you do not wish to walk, please discuss options with your leader in advance.
Accommodation
  • Guesthouse (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Ushguli - Shkhara Glacier Hike & Picnic
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Drive to the Black Sea coast and the city of Batumi, with its waterfront parks and beaches. You’ll have a chance to walk around the town of Batumi and see its tastefully restored Old Town. Stay overnight at a hotel in Batumi.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
In the morning take part in a short city tour. Afterwards drive to a Makhuntseti waterfall for a short walk. Return to Batumi for an afternoon of free time.
Batumi has such a relaxed atmosphere and great restaurants and nightlife
The town in more recent years has been renovated, new architecture has sprouted up, including a small forest of eye-catching tower buildings. Batumi quickly gained the reputation of one of the Black Sea's top resort magnets, with a great party scene in summer.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Batumi - Makhuntseti Waterfall
  • Batumi - City Tour
Optional Activities
  • Batumi - Qemal Turmanidze Ethnographic Museum - USD10
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Today travel to Sarpi, a village at the border of Georgia and Turkey. At this point, you'll be meeting up with a new leader and changing vehicles. Bid farewell to Georgia! Don't be too sad, as you'll have the sights and sounds of Turkey to keep you excited. The bus journey will take around 2.5 – 3 hours. Once you've arrived at the green plateau of Ayder, there will be a quick orientation walk followed by free time. Tonight enjoy a BBQ dinner.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Dinner
This morning go for a hike around Ayder and the Çat Valley. Stop and marvel at the beautiful Palovit fountains on the way. Stop for lunch at an authentic Çamlıhemşin house. The rest of the afternoon is free for you to do as you wish.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Ayder - Cat Valley, Zilkale and Palovit Fountains
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
Today head to Uzungöl, which means ‘long lake’ in Turkish. Like Ayder, Uzungöl is a great spot to relax and enjoy easy hikes. It will take 2.5-3 hours to get to Uzungöl. After arriving, head out on a trek to Soğanlı Mountain. The rest of the day will be free for you to relax. In the evening, we recommend joining your leader for a traditional Turkish dinner.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Uzungol - Soganli Mountains Hike
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Drive to Trabzon, a city on the Black Sea coast of North Eastern Turkey. The bus journey will take around 1.5 hours. Once you arrive in Trabzon, take city tour, which includes a local tea tasting, a visit to the Sumela or Vazelan Monastery, Trabzon's own Hagia Sophia and Atatürk’s Palace.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Trabzon - Trabzon Castle
  • Boztepe - City Tour (Hagia Sophia and Atatürk’s Palace)
  • Boztepe - Samovar Tea Tasting
  • Sumela or Vazelan - Monastery Visit
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
This morning drive to Trabzon airport and fly to Istanbul, the biggest and most crowded city in Turkey! After checking into your hotel, head out for a wander around the old city of Istanbul. Visit Sultanahmet Square, the Blue Mosque, the Grand Bazaar and Suleymaniye Mosque, and finish the walk around the spice market. You have an option to join our Homecooked Istanbul Urban Adventure tour or enjoy a farewell dinner at a local meyhane (Turkish tavern).
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Istanbul - Old City Walking Tour (Half Day)
Optional Activities
  • Istanbul - Homecooked Experience - Free
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Sadly, your trip come to an end today after breakfast at the hotel. If you'd like to stay on in Istanbul to further explore the city, we are happy to organise extra accommodation (subject to availablity).
Meals Included
  • Breakfast

Meals

14 breakfasts, 4 lunches, 6 dinners

Transport

Private Bus, Plane

Accommodation

Hotel (9), Guesthouse (5)

Included activities

  • Tbilisi - Sightseeing City Tour
  • Mtskheka - Jvari Church
  • Mtskheka - Svetitskoveli Cathedral
  • Kutaisi - Farmers Market
  • Mestia - Kubdari (Cooking- Preparation)
  • Mestia - Lakhiri Village Hike
  • Mestia - Georgian Cheese Making
  • Ushguli - Village Hike
  • Ushguli - Lamaria Church
  • Ushguli - Queen Tamar`s Tower
  • Ushguli - Shkhara Glacier Hike & Picnic
  • Batumi - Makhuntseti Waterfall
  • Batumi - City Tour
  • Ayder - Cat Valley, Zilkale and Palovit Fountains
  • Uzungol - Soganli Mountains Hike
  • Trabzon - Trabzon Castle
  • Boztepe - City Tour (Hagia Sophia and Atatürk’s Palace)
  • Boztepe - Samovar Tea Tasting
  • Sumela or Vazelan - Monastery Visit
  • Istanbul - Old City Walking Tour (Half Day)

Dates & availability

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Important notes

1. A Single Supplement is available on this trip, excluding some nights in guesthouses.
2. Please note there is a chance of potential changes to the itinerary due to heavy rain, flooding and snow at higher altitudes, which often affect roads and bridges, making travel difficult or impossible (particularly in remote areas). Landslides are also common.
3. Following recent safety incidents we recommend that you check your government's advice for their latest information on travelling in Turkey before your departure and ensure that your travel insurance covers you for all areas of your itinerary. We have links to prominent government travel advisories and regular updates on issues affecting this trip on our Travel Alerts page - www.intrepidtravel.com/au/travel-alerts
4. The flight from Trabzon to Istanbul is included in the trip price.
5. High altitudes will be experienced during this trip of up to 2200m above sea level.
6. Your leader will change at the border on this trip.

Essential trip information

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