Mountainous Georgia is the gateway to the Caucasus, where we see huge populations of cyclamen and carpets of nodding purest white snowdrops. These continue in the beautiful virgin forests of southern Armenia, joined by drifts of crocuses and corydalis in a seldom seen floral feast. Add to this some superb cultural sights with wonderful church architecture and the little-known charms of Armenia.
All photos by Tamar Galstyan.
A 12 day tour with Tamar Galstyan
Day 1 Arrival to Tbilisi, Georgia
Dinner and overnight in Tbilisi
Day 2 Babaneuri, Gremi & Nekresi Monasteries
The forests in Babaneuri are full of countless thousands of Cyclamen coum ssp caucasicum, Scilla siberica and soft yellow Corydalis angustifolia. We will also visit two fine monasteries. Overnight Sighnaghi.
Day 3 Mtskheta Cathedral & Jvari Monastery
Returning to Tblisi we willlook at the monasteries in the area around the Georgian capital. We will also find plentiful Galanthus alpinus and cyclamens in the adjacent slopes of the site. Overnight in Tbilisi.
Day 4 To Armenia
The road to Armenia, lies through the picturesque Lori plato via the Stepanavan Pass and leads through neat ethnic-Russian villages and wooded hills to the pleasant town of Dilijan. Overnight in Dilijan
Day 5 Sevan lake & Selim Caravanserai
We will head south to historical Hermon village. Our route passes along the highest and largest fresh water lake in the Caucasus – Lake Sevan, the vast waters stretching to the base of distant mountains. From the southern bank of the lake we will turn to the 2400m Selim pass, where hopefully we can find the rich purple of Iris reticulata by the melting snows. Overnight in Hermon.
Day 6 Highlands & Bgheno Noravank Monastery
Today’s region is famous with its long mountain passes, forests and unique rock formations. We will stop at old Goris, to take pictures of the cave city. This is the season the for some lovely irises with yellow and white Iris pseudocaucasica and I. atropatana as well as Merendera spp, Iris reticulata and various colours of Crocus adamii. We also visit the impressive Bgheno Noravank perched above the valley and beautifully restored. Overnight Kapan.
Day 7 Meghri & Shikahogh State Reserve
An interesting and varied drive takes us over the highest pass in Armenia (2535 m) and down to Maghri, near the Iranian border. Then we will drive along the lower part of the country, enjoying the Araks river and the dramatic rocks of Iranian site. The border is so close you could throw one of the regions famous apricots across to Iran! In the afternoon we will see the extensive forests of beautiful Shikahogh State Reserve. They harbour one of the highlights of this tour - millions of Galanthus lagodechianus. These grow with many blue Scilla armena, Primula vulgaris subsp. komarovii and P. vulgaris subsp. woronowii. Overnight Kapan.
Day 8 Tatev Monastery
We will visit the most famous medieval university of historical Armenia - Tatev Monastery by the aerial tramway ''Wings of Tatev'', which is known as the longest reversible aerial tramway in the world. The travel by the aerial tramway takes 12 minutes for one way and passes above the deep gorges, waterfalls and another historical monuments. Overnight Hermon.
Day 9 Noravank Monastery
Near Hermon, hidden among dense beech woods is the medieval Noravank Monastery, a a departure from the grander building we will have seen. The day's botanical delights include Fritillaria gibbosa with their gracefully recurved pink tepals. Also expect Tulipa biflora, Caccinia macranthera, and fields of both Crocus adamii and Colchicum szovitsii. Overnight Yerevan.
Day 10 Flights homeOr:
Day 10 History Museum of Armenia, Geghard Monastery & Garni temple
There is the optional extra day to savour the cultural highlights of Yerevan and its surroundings, including the museum, the singular Hellenistic Garni Temple and impressive Geghard Monastery. Overnight in Yerevan.
Day 11 Flights home