Day 2. / Day 9. Batumi On the Black Sea
Today you enjoy a city tour of Batumi’s historic center, where merchants from all over the world have left their footprints. Orthodox churches, synagogues, and mosques—the city’s stunning architecture is a testament to its diversity. In the afternoon you have free time for individual activities.
Overnight: Hotel World Palace (BL)
Day 3. / Day 10. Welcome on Board!
The Batumi Botanical Garden is a subtropical paradise whose terraces on the steep coast provide an amazing view of the seashore. Later that day, the friendly crew of your special train gives you a hearty welcome at the station, where your train sets off towards Kutaisi. From the top of the Bagrati Cathedral, you enjoy the view over the historic city of Kutaisi, just a stone’s throw away from the picturesque Gelati monastery, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Overnight: On board (BLD)
Day 4. / Day 11. Akhaltsikhe and Vardzia Land of Castles
The train route from Kutaisi through the lesser Caucasus mountains puts everyday Georgia right outside your window—vineyards, idyllic towns, imposing castle towers. Borjomi is 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. From the small city of Akhaltsikhe, over which the Rabati Castle looms, you go on a unforgettable excursion and guided tour of Vardzia, a twelfth-century cave monastery. Reminiscient 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 has not lost its intensity.
Overnight: On board (BLD)
Day 5. / Day 12. Gori In Vino Veritas, a Taste of Georgia’s Wine Regions
Today your train takes you from Akhaltsikhe through the country’s fertile lowlands. You soon arrive 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 Silk Road trading post, you discover a sixth-century town built into a cave complex. Later a historic wine house opens its cellar just for you. Kartli, Imereti, Kakheti—Georgia’s wine regions are more than 7,000 years old, placing then among the world’s oldest. In the afternoon, your train reaches Tbilisi.
Overnight: Hotel Builtmore (or similar) (BLD)
Day 6. / Day 13. Tbilisi From the Capital to Stepantsminda
Sturdy churches, colorful 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, you take a ride along the historic Georgian Military Road, which reaches an altitude of approximately 7,800 feet/2,300 meters. The view of the Ananuri Castle complex from such heights just takes your breath away. In the horizon, snow-capped mountain peaks come into view, each one higher than the last. However, the view of the 16,000-foot/5,000-meter Mount Kazbek from your hotel terrace in Stepantsminda tops them all! On a green ridge just in front of this immense peak sits the comparatively small Gergeti Trinity Church, which you can visit via Jeep excursion.
Overnight: Hotel Porta Caucaisa (or similar) (BLD)
Day 7. / Day 14. The Jvari Monastery and Mount Mtatsminda
On the way back to Tbilisi, you stop at the Jvari monastery high above the Aragvi River and marvel at the former capital of Georgia, Mzcheta, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In Tbilisi you board your train and head to the Georgia-Azerbaijan border, where green hills bradually transform into ochre, earthy steppes.
Overnight: on board (BLD)
Day 8. / Day 15. Shaki and Goygol
In the morning, you reach the city of Ganja, from which you travel to the nearby city of Goygol, known for its nineteeth-century German settlements. Here you 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. On the train route towards Shaki, the Azerbaijani landscape begins to turn green. The city of Shaki lies at foot of the forest-covered Caucasus Mountains and doubles as a unique open-air museum. You see the city’s many caravanserai, trading posts that served as stops along historic trade routes, like the Silk Road. Later, you visit the Khan’s Palace, where brilliant decorative carvings, stained glass and frescoes take you back to a fantastic medieval world. In the evening, you head towards the Caspian Sea.
Overnight: On board (BLD)
Day 9. / Day 16. Baku Skyline on the Caspian Sea
In Baku, it’s a bittersweet goodbye to your special train and its crew. From Martyrs’ Lane, formerly known as Kirov Park, you enjoy the spectacular view of the city’s breathtaking skyline, which includes the Flame Towers, a trio of modern skyscrapers. Later you set out to explore the historical center of Baku, where you see gorgeous mosques, the Maiden Tower, and the Palace of the Shirvanshahs, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You marvel at the city’s ornate Art Nouveau buildings and its futuristic architecture. That afternoon, you are free to do as you wish. You can enjoy a swim in the Caspian Sea, or a shopping spree in Baku’s gorgeous pedestrian zone.
Overnight: Hotel Sapphire Inn (or similar) (BL)
Day 10. / Day 17. Rock Art, Mud Volcanos and Fire
In the morning, you head toward Gobustan, a UNESCO World Heritage Site where you can admire the thousand-year-old rock carvings situated near the country’s famous mud volcanos. In the afternoon, you join an excursion to the Absheron Peninsula, where you see a Zoroastrian fire temple and Yanar Dag, a flame that burns continuously due to a seepage of natural gas. In the evening, you enjoy a farewell dinner amid Baku’s glittering nightscape.
Overnight: Hotel Sapphire Inn (or similar) (BD)
Day 11. / Day 18. Goodbye, South Caucasus!
On your final day in the South Caucasus, you head to the airport for your flight home, reflecting on the fulfilling, unforgettable adventure you just completed. (B)
(B) = Breakfast, (L) = Lunch, (D) = Dinner