Arrive in Van and after checking into your hotel we will proceed to Akdamar Island where we visit the beautifully restored 10th C Armenian Church of the Holy Cross, or Sourp Khach, built as a part of a palace and religious complex between 915 and 921 AD.
From Van we travel south along one of the legs of the Silk Road (Ipek Yol) in Turkey. We visit Hosap Castle. The main castle structure of Hosap was built straddling the Silk Road and served as both a means of protecting the road and as a point for charging tolls on travellers. From Hosap we return to Van for lunch, before ending the day with a visit to the Citadel of Van at sunset.
After breakfast, we leave for Dogubeyazit via Muradiye and the pretty Bendimaahi Falls. On our approach to Dogubeyazit we will get our first view of Ararat. Mt. Ararat is known in Turkish as "the Mountain of Pain" and in Kurdish as the "Mountain of Fire". Armenians know it at as Masis. The name Ararat derives from the Bible (Jeremiah 51:27) and is a transliteration of "Urartu" the name foreigners gave to the inhabitants of this region in Biblical times. From Dogubeyazit we continue north around Mt. Ararat, to Kars.
After breakfast we will drive from Kars to Ani to spend the morning at the former capital of the great medieval Bagratid Armenian kingdom.
Today we leave Kars and cross over into Georgia and on into Armenia to the city of Gyumri. Gyumri is located in the north-western part of Armenia, in the middle of the Shirak valley and approximately 126 km from Yerevan.
Located 30 minutes outside of the city of Yerevan and considered one of the holiest cities in Armenia. This former capital is now home to the Supreme Catholicos of the Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Church. On the way back to Yerevan we will visit ruins of Zvartnots Temple which is included in UNESCO's list of World Heritage sites.
From Yerevan we will drive to Khor Virap Monastery a place of pilgrimage for Armenians all over the world. Khor Virap lies in the shadow of Mount Ararat on the opposite side of the mountain from Dogubeyazit; at this point you will have virtually circumnavigated the mountain of Noah. From Khor Virap the view of Mt Ararat is one of the iconic images of Armenia.
We visit Garni Temple, a 1st century building from the Roman period and in the Roman style, probably built to honour the Emperor Nero. Soon after Armenia adopted Christianity, the temple became the summer residence of Armenian royalty. Next stop is Geghard cave Monastery and then we continue to Lake Sevan. This part of the tour connects two of the Eurasian region's highest lakes; Lake Van in Eastern Turkey (1550m) and Lake Sevan in Eastern Armenia (1900m). Transfer to Tbilisi, Georgia.
We start our Georgian tour with a visit to Mtskheta. Mtskheta, the ancient capital of Georgia is situated 20km from Tbilisi. The town has a history that goes back to the 2nd millennium B.C. Mtskheta was the capital of the Georgian Kingdom of Iberia during the period between 500BC - 500AD and it was here that, in the year 330, Georgians accepted the Christian faith after the mission of St. Nino of Cappadocia.
We start the city tour of Tbilisi with visits to the Old Town: Metekhi Temple (12th c.), the Abanotubani bath houses whose thermal healing sulphur baths have attracted poets, writers, musicians, kings down through the centuries; from Narikala - the main fortress of Tbilisi (4th c.), there are excellent views over the city and the river Mtkvari (Kura).