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Georgia - In The Footsteps of St. Andrew The First Call
9 days / 8 nights
Batumi - Akhaltsikhe - Vardzia - Akhaltsikhe - Uplistsikhe - Mtskheta - Sighnaghi - Telavi - Kakheti region - David Gareja - Tbilisi

In The Footsteps of St. Andrew The First Call

Christianity in Georgia starts from the 1st century. It was preached by one of the apostles of Christ Andrew the first called in west Georgia and then in south, namely in Mestkheti and Javakheti regions. Later on Simon of Canan and St. Matthias followed up this mission. These missionary activities are described as in ancient Georgian documents so in Greek and Latin chronicles.

It is also noteworthy that Georgian bishops attended the first ecumenical council in 325 which took place in Nikea. Though Christianity was not yet declared as an official religion until 337 in Georgia. According to the legend, Capadocian woman Nino received a vision where the Virgin Mary gave her a grapevine cross and told her to spread Christianity in Georgia. That was the turning point in the Georgians’ spiritual and cultural life.

In the 6th century 13 Syrian Fathers came to Georgia to preach Christianity once again. There was St. John among them who stepped in Georgia together with his 12 disciples. Their missionary activities were spread from Kartli to Kakheti regions.

Following the footsteps of St. Andrew we will take you deep into the history of Christianity in Georgia and get to know all its important developing steps, from the 1st century till today.

Day 1 Batumi
Arrive in Batumi, meet in the airport and transfer to a hotel.

Day 2 Batumi – Akhaltsikhe (170km/4,30h)
Today we start to follow the route of the apostle Andrew who he came to Georgia after preaching Christianity in Greece and Asia Minor. First he came to West Georgia – Adjara region and continued his way to the other region.
In Batumi which is the administrative center of Adjara we will visit the Roman style Gonio fortress (1st century), here is the grave of the apostle Matthias that accompanied St. Andrew in Georgia during one of his visits. Gonio fortress is also closely bound with the history of the Golden Fleece and Argonauts. Afterwards we continue the route of St. Andrew and arrive in Meskheti region via Goderdzi pass (2000 m), on the way we enjoy the breathtaking views. According to the historical sources, St. Andrew made many miracles in this region and converted people to Christianity. In Akhaltiskhe we will visit the Ethnographic museum. Overnight in Akhlatsikhe next 2 nights in a guesthouse with shared facilities.

Day 3 Akhaltsikhe – Vardzia (70km/1h) – Akhaltsikhe
In the morning we start exploring Meskheti region, we travel to the cave town Vardzia (12th century) which is one of the highlights of the trip. There used to be about 3000 caves and 50 000 people could live there. It has got a church hewn out in rock with amazing 12th century frescos. Afterwards we continue to the Vanis Kvabebi cave town, it used to be nunnery in 7th century. We will also visit Khertvisi fortress (10th century).

Day 4 Akhaltsikhe – Uplistsikhe (150km/2,30h) – Mtskheta (120km/2h)
In the morning we will drive to the village of Atskuri. St. Andrew demolished the pagan cults and established Christian church here. We will visit Atskuri fortress (9th century), probably this is a place where Christian church was founded by St. Andrew. Today we will also visit Uplistsikhe Cave Town (1st millennium BC), that’s the place where the Great Silk Road used to pass. St. Andrew’s missionary work was continued by St. Nino (4th century) and 13 Syrian fathers (6th century) and we will visit the ancient capital and religious center of Georgia – Mtskheta (3000 years old), which keeps a lot of memories from the time when Georgia officially got converted to Christianity by St.Nino. We will visit Jvari church (6th century) and Svetitskhoveli Cathedral (11th century) where the Robe of Christ is buried. Both Jvari and Svetitskhoveli are UNESCO World Heritage sites. Overnight in a hotel in Mtskheta.

Day 5 Mtskheta – Sighnaghi (180km/3h) – Telavi (60km/1h)
In the morning visit Samtavro monastery (11th century), St.Nino lived on this place under a blackberry bush for 6 years. In 4th century the church was built at this place, it is still preserved and is one of the oldest churches of Georgia. Afterwards we drive to Shio-mgvime monastery which was found in the 6th century by St.Shio, he was one of the Syrian fathers’ who arrived in Georgia in 6th century and played a big role in the strengthening of Christianity. In the monastery we have a chance to see a well where St. Shio spent last few years of his life. Afterwards we continue our way to Kakheti region which is rich with the monasteries and churches founded by Syrian fathers. Alongside you can visit the grave of St. Nino held here in a Bodbe monastery (4th century) and taste the water from the spring which is considered to be miraculous. Near Bodbe we will visit fortified town of Signagi (17th century) and enjoy the splendid views of the Great Caucasus Mountains. Overnight in Telavi at a family guesthouse with shared facilities.

Day 6 Kakheti region
We travel to Kakheti where Syrian fathers built many monasteries. We will visit Alaverdi Cathedral (11th century), Ikalto monastery (6 century), then walking up to Nekresi Monastery (4th century). Most of these churches hold the graves of St. Fathers. As Kakheti is wine growing region and is famous for its food and wine we will take you to a farmer’s house for lunch to enjoy the hospitality of the local people and sample some delicious home-made food. We will also visit a farmer’s house to see a unique 300 year-old wine-cellar. We get acquainted with the Georgian way of wine-making, quite different from the European one and also taste typical Georgian red and white wines.

Day 7 Telavi – David Gareja (130km/2,30h) – Tbilisi (70km/1,30h)
In the morning we drive to David Gareja cave complex located in a stark, semi-desert landscape. This monastery was founded in 6th century by one of the Syrian fathers David. Later on it grew and consisted of 19 monasteries. It was one of the major spiritual centers which used to house even 6000 monks on special religious days.
After seeing Lavra Monastery we walk up for about 50 minutes to Udabno Monastery to enjoy its wonderful painted caves and dramatic views across to Azerbaijan. In the evening we return to Tbilisi. Overnight in Tbilisi in a hotel.

Day 8 Tbilisi
In the morning we have Tbilisi Sightseeing program, during the tour we will take you to the places which will show you a real old city. You will be able to take a glance at the history of the city from early centuries to nowadays by walking in narrow streets of the city and exploring the religious and secular architecture. We will visit Sioni church (6-7 century) which keeps the Cross of St.Nino, Mamadaviti church (6 century) where St. David lived before going to Gareji desert and Anchiskati church (6th century) an oldest church in Tbilisi. Afterwards we visit the stunning treasury of the Georgian National Art Museum, which houses unique collection of Georgian religious artefacts. Overnight in Tbilisi in a hotel.

Day 9 Tbilisi
Transfer to the airport and departure.