Opulent Journeys

Byzantine Silk Road of the Trans Caucasus

6 October - 21 October 2020

From (AUD)

$11,985

16 DAY

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1300 219 885 (AU)

0800 456 219 (NZ)

Tour Highlights
Our adventure begins in Istanbul, heart of the old Silk Road, to become acquainted with this vibrant melting-pot of East meets West culture and history before a flight to Baku on the sunny plains of the Caspian Sea from where we embark on our journey by private chartered train through the Azerbaijani steppes and the snow-capped southern Caucasus mountains in Georgia, to subtropical Batumi on the Black Sea, following a Byzantine trading route from the old Silk Road. To complete this special trip, our trans-Caucasus train journey is complemented by a visit to Armenia, the oldest Christian country in the world, shaped by distinct cultures and great powers throughout history.
Along with Ottoman mosques and bazaars, Byzantine monasteries, Crusader fortresses, and Silk Road caravanserais, we will visit the Tsbilisi and Batumi Botanical Gardens to get to know the plants of this biodiversity hotspot.
The trans-Caucasus experience is enhanced by excellent regional food: Khachapuri and Khinkali dumplings, sturgeon with pomegranate, local chicken with green walnuts, and of course – Georgian wine!
 
  • Journey on exclusively chartered special train
  • A unique and spectacular route from Baku on the Caspian Sea, through the Caucasus mountains, to Batumi on the Black Sea
  • First-class service from English-speaking tour manager and local guides throughout journey, and your tour escort Relle Mott
  • 1 night in a hotel in the Caucasus mountains with view of 5,000 metre Mount Kazbek
  • Vardzia, a gigantic cave city that once housed up to 50,000 people
  • Historic city of Goygol, a former German settlement in Azerbaijan
  • Tbilisi and Baku, two colourful and complementary metropolises
  • Insight into local life with visits to a Georgian religious service, vineyard, bazaar and artisanal handicraft centre
  • UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Vagharshapat and Zvartnots
  • Visit the Botanical Gardens of Tbilisi and Batumi
  • See the Bosphorus, the Caspian and the Black seas of Eastern Europe
 
Dates & Prices

Tour Prices (Superior Cabin)

             

Per person, twin share                               $11,985
Single supplement $3,555

 *Tour price is Land Only, starts in Istanbul and finishes in Yerevan.

About your tour leader - Relle Mott
Relle Mott has led small groups for the Friends through Uzbekistan, Western China, and Japan, sharing her love of plants, new cultures and destinations with like-minded travellers since 2013. Horticulturist Relle has been associated with the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney for many years: as a member of the Education & Community Programs team, a volunteer guide, and a supporter through Foundation & Friends. Her background is in education: as an environmental education specialist at RBGS, a teacher at Ryde TAFE Horticulture College, and a secondary Japanese language teacher. She has had a 40 year connection with Japan, and regularly leads her own walking tours on historic pilgrimage trails in that country. Travelling with Relle is fun – well-planned itineraries to amazing destinations create unforgettable experiences. When at home she is a keen gardener, sailor and potter, with an ongoing fascination with the plant hunters of Asia in the 19th and 20th centuries.
 

What's Included
Inclusions: 
  • Flight from Istanbul to Baku
  • 4 nights on board your special train in Superior cabin
  • 11 nights in first-class hotels with bath or shower
  • All meals as per itinerary (B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner)
  • All transport and excursions in modern tour buses with air-conditioning as per itinerary
  • Airport transfers on the first and last day of the itinerary
  • Entrance fees for all sights as per itinerary
  • English-speaking local guide in Istanbul, English-speaking tour manager and guides during train journey from Baku to Batumi

Not included: 

  • International flights
  • Visa fees (e-visa for Turkey USD65, Azerbaijan USD23, Opulent Journeys will assist you with the visa process)
  • Travel insurance
  • Porterages & gratuities
  • Personal expenses
  • Anything not mentioned in the itinerary

 

Fitness
Tour participants will need to carry their own luggage, board a bus unaided, and navigate uneven surfaces including stairs. On occasions you may need to walk up to 10 kilometres over a day.
This journey is not suitable for guests with limited mobility or who depend on CPAP machines. Please contact us for more information about your specific requirements before booking.
 
To enquire or book this tour, please contact

Phone: 1300 219 885            Email: enquiries@opulentjourneys.com.au

Please Click Here to download the tour details.

Itinerary
Meet and transfer to hotel. Welcome dinner tonight.  Overnight at hotel in Istanbul.
(Meals: D)
Today we get our bearings on Istanbul and its historic role in the Silk Road with visits to the Hagia Sophia built in AD 537 and the Topkapi Palace of the Ottoman Sultans. To experience the first of our three seas and get a different perspective on Istanbul, we take a boat on the Bosphorus.
(Meals: B, L)
We continue our journey through Istanbul history with the Roman-era Hippodrome, the famed Ottoman Sultanahmet (Blue) Mosque, and the Grand Bazaar which was once the hub of Mediterranean trade. We finish the day with a visit to the modern Taksim Square.
(Meals: B, D)
Transfer to airport for flight to Badu. Arrive in Baku, the capital of Azerbeijan, known as the City of Winds. In the evening, we take in views of the city’s breathtaking skyline on the Caspian Sea, which includes the spectacular Flame Towers, a symbol of the city’s modernity. Overnight: Hotel Sapphire Inn (or similar)
(Meals: B, D)
In the morning,  we explore the historical centre of Baku, with its gorgeous mosques, the Maiden Tower, and the Palace of the Shirvanshahs, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, contrasting with the city’s ornate Art Nouveau buildings and its futuristic architecture. In the afternoon, we take an excursion on the Absheron Peninsula to see a Zoroastrian fire temple and Yanar Dag, a flame that burns continuously due to a seepage of natural gas. In the evening, the friendly crew of our special train give us a hearty welcome at the station, where our train sets off westward by starlight through the Azerbaijani steppes. Overnight: On board
(Meals: B, L, D)
The city of Shaki lies at foot of the forest-covered Caucasus Mountains and doubles as a unique open-air museum. Here we witness the city’s many caravanserai, trading posts that served as stops along the Silk Road. Later, we visit the Khan’s Palace, where brilliant decorative carvings, stained glass and frescoes evoke a fantastic medieval world. Look for bargains at an artisanal handicrafts centre and at a local bazaar. On the train route south from Shaki, the Azerbaijani landscape begins to turn green. In the afternoon, we reach the city of Ganja, and travel to the nearby city of Goygol, known for its nineteenth-century German settlements. Here we see carefully restored villas, the Lutheran church of St. John and the home of the last German settler, Viktor Klein, who passed away in 2007. Later we head to the Azerbaijan–Georgia border, where the ochre, earthy steppes gradually transform into green hills. Next stop: Georgia’s vibrant metropolis Tbilisi. Overnight: On board      
(Meals: B, L, D)
Sturdy churches, colourful wooden houses on the banks of the Kura River, classical villas - this is Tbilisi, capital of Georgia and straight out of a fairy tale. From here, we travel by vehicle along the historic Georgian Military Road, which reaches an altitude of approximately 2,300 metres. The view of the mediaeval Ananuri Castle fortress complex and its backdrop of snow-capped peaks is breathtaking. However, another stunning view awaits of the 5,000 metre Mount Kazbek awaits us from our hotel terrace in Stepantsmindal! On a green ridge just in front of this immense peak sits the comparatively small 14th century Gergeti Trinity Church, which can be visited via Jeep excursion. Overnight: Hotel Porta Caucaisa (or similar)         
(Meals: B, L, D)
On the way back to Tbilisi, we stop at the mediaeval Jvari monastery high above the Aragvi River and marvel at the former capital of Georgia, Mzcheta, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In Tbilisi, we have an optional visit to the National Botanical Garden of Georgia. Overnight: Hotel Builtmore (or similar)  
(Meals: B, L, D)
Today our train departs Tbilisi through the country’s fertile lowlands, soon arriving In Gori, birthplace of Joseph Stalin, the once General Secretary of the Soviet Union, whose personal railroad car is displayed in a museum. In nearby Uplistsikhe, once a Byzantine Silk Road trading post, we exlore a sixth-century town built into a cave complex. We experience Georgian wine tasting at a historic wine house. Georgia’s wine regions are more than 7,000 years old, placing then among the world’s oldest. In the afternoon, our train reaches Borjomi, a famous deep valley resort town that once provided the entire Russian Empire with mineral water. Its beautiful villas, boutique hotels and its curative health spas draw visitors from near and far. Overnight: On board      
(Meals: B, L, D)
From the small city of Akhaltsikhe, over which the Rabati Castle looms, we take a guided tour of Vardzia, a twelfth-century cave monastery. Reminiscent of a honeycomb, there are more than 3,000 cave dwellings for up to 50,000 people built into the rockface. The brilliance of the frescoes of legendary Queen Tamar in the cave cathedral have not lost their intensity. The train route from Akhaltsikhe through the lesser Caucasus mountains puts everyday Georgia right outside the window - vineyards, idyllic towns, imposing castle towers. From the top of the Bagrati Cathedral, we can view the historic city of Kutaisi, just a stone’s throw away from the picturesque Gelati monastery, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Overnight: On board      
(Meals: B, L, D)
Today we reach the last stop on our train journey, Batumi, where we farewell our special train and its crew. Batumi is Georgia’s second largest city, on the spectacular Black Sea coast. This Georgian port and subtropical seaside resort is situated on the sparkling coastline against a backdrop of green mountains and a palm-lined promenade. We enjoy a city tour of Batumi’s historic centre, where merchants from all over the world have left their footprint. Orthodox churches, synagogues, and mosques - the city’s stunning architecture is a testament to its diversity. The Batumi Botanical Garden is a subtropical paradise whose terraces on the steep coast provide an amazing view of the seashore. Overnight: Hotel Radisson (or similar)    
(Meals: B, L, D)
Today is a transit day, with a long but beautiful bus trip to cross the Georgia–Armenia border through the mountainscapes of the Lesser Caucasus mountain range to Gyumri, Armenia’s second oldest city. Overnight: Hotel Villa Kars (or similar)    
(Meals: B)
Today we visit the idyllic spa town of Dilijan, the Sevan Monastery and 2,000-metre-high Lake Sevan - known as the Pearl of Armenia - a highlight of our journey. Overnight in Yerevan. Overnight: Hotel Imperial (or similar)      
(Meals: B, L, D)
After a guided tour of the impressive manuscript repository Matenadaran, we visit Garni Gorge, the amazing Greco-Roman Temple of Garni and the medieval Geghard cave monastery, one of the most beautiful monasteries in the Caucasus. Before lunch we view a bread-making demonstration of traditional unleavened Armenian flatbread Lavash. We make our way back to Yerevan, Armenia's capital. Overnight: Hotel Imperial (or similar)      
(Meals: B, L)
On a morning city tour, we visit highlights of this ancient city formerly a Byzantine gem, now marked by grand soviet era architecture. Our last afternoon takes us to the Etchmiadzin Cathedral in Vagharshapat, thought to be the oldest Christian cathedral in the world. On the way back to Yerevan, we view the impressive ruins of the seventh-century Zvartnots Cathedral, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Having had our fill of mediaeval churches and sweeping landscapes, we arrive back in Yerevan to celebrate our tour with a memorable farewell dinner. Overnight: Hotel Imperial (or similar)     
(Meals: B, L, D)
After breakfast, transfer to airport for your departure flight.
(Meals: B)

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