The dramatic landscapes of the Caucasus, convoluted and deeply dissected by plunging valleys and high ridges have create myriad niches and micro-climates giving rise to a rich temperate flora. Here we find alpine uplands crowded with delightful bulbs and primulas, sheltered dells and slopes with gorgeous peonies and an array of orchids and lovely herbs. Along with these we find some outstanding architecture in the various monasteries and churches that dot the landscape. The varied landscape also allows excellent viticulture and Georgia produces some delicious wines.
An 11-day tour with Tolkha Shetekauri
We start our trip with a mix of culture and botany, visiting the 6th century Davit Gareja Monastery, on the border with Azerbaijan where we will find not only fine architecture but plants such as fiery Adonis flammea, flamboyant Iris iberica, aromatic Dictamnus albus caucasicus, Salvia garedjii and the pale lemon drops of Onosma sericea. Overnight in Tbilisi.
We will drive higher into the Greater Caucasus towards Gudauri stopping on the way to visit the 5th century Jvari Church around which grows Nepeta musinii, Centaurea bella, Primula woronowii, Ornithogalum balansae and the marsh orchid; Dactylorhiza euxina. There will also be a stop at the later 16th – 18th century Ananuri church, set near Carpinus orientalis woodlands where is possible to find Orchis simia, Astragalus brachycarpus, Helianthemum grandiflorum, and Helleborus caucasicus and more. Another hour and a half brings us to the alpine wonderland at Gudauri, with mountain peaks all around and our home for the next three nights. Overnight in Hotel Shamo, where we will sample tasty traditional food.
After a hearty breakfast we continue our way closer to the snow covered peaks, where green slopes descend to cliffs and rocky bluffs carpeted with a low woodland of hazel and birch. Here will find some magnificent specimens of yellow Primula macrocalyx and both dainty pink P. algida and in wet places its larger cousin P. auriculata too, their lovely pale pink blooms illuminating the track sides. Other delights include pretty blue Polygala alpicola and Gentiana aquatica. Overnight Hotel Shamo.
There are beautiful views from the Cross pass a place where we will find an array of spring flowers from plentiful Galanthus platyphyllus, Primula darialica to masses of golden Caltha palustis and the cuboid chocolate bells of Fritillaria latifolia. Continuing to the spectacular Truso Valley along the Tergi river there will be a mix of interesting chasmophytes such as Saxifraga exarta, Saxifraga moschata, Draba bryoides and Draba supranivalis together with various bulbs including Gagea sulfurea, Merendera trygyna. Overnight in Hotel Shamo.
On the way to Kazbegi we will stope to explore some rich alpine slopes which have rich violet Iris aphylla, the checkered golden cubes of Fritillaria collina, silky Pulsatilla violacea, Primula amoena and Minuartia oreina to get the day going. Leaving our luggage in Kazbegi, we then continue our way to Dariali Gorge and the Gweleti Valley to find Corydalis alexeenkoana, Cerastium hemischinicum, Physochliana orientalis, tidy mats or cushions of white Androsace villosa and the ivory trumpets of low-growing Rhododendron caucasicum. We will also visit the spectacularly positioned Dariali Monastery, surrounded by the Caucasus Mountains. Overnight in Kazbegi.
The Juta Valley lies along the along the river Sno, a place to find the large blue bells of Campanula tridentata, pretty white Daphne glomerata, and Sobolewskia caucasica. Moving further up the valley we will pass traditional villages with pigs scurrying around as well as new churches including one with some interesting sculptures, the work of a famous Georgian artist who lives in the village. After our picnic lunch there is a half hour walk to the Chaukhi Massif to look for Gentiana pyrenaica amongst other things. There should be time to enjoy the views from Sameba Church in Kazbegi at the end of the day. Overnight in Kazbegi.
The journey to Bakuriani has plenty of botanical interest including handsome pink Peaonia tenuifolia and its’ cousin P. caucasica bronzy to purple Verbascum phoeniceum, showy spikes of Orchis caucasica, Cephalanthera longifolia, deep pink Lathyrus roseus and more. We can also stop and visit to the museum of Joseph Stalin in Gori too. Overnight in Bakuriani.
After another delicious Georgian breakfast we drive to the Javakheti Plateau where our first stop will be in alpine areas above the tree line to see another snowdrop; Galanthus alpinus together with golden-yellow Trollius patulus, white Pedicularis armena, Gagea lutea, Pulsatilla georgica and hopefully the lovely white chalises of Paeonia steveniana. After the border control (because of a BP oil pipeline) we continue our trip to Lake Tabatskuri with beautiful views and fields of Scilla rosenii, with Gagea sulfurea, G. glacialis and Ornithogalum balansae. Overnight in Bakuriani.
Today we head down to Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park beginning in the beautiful Kvabiskhevi Gorge where we can see many beautiful butterflies along with the plants as diverse as Aquilegia caucasica and Psephellus meskheticus and the saprophytic orchids; Neottia nidus-avis and violet limadore; Limadorum abortivum. Overnight in Bakuriani.
After breakfast we will drive to Tbilisi through Meskhet-Javakheti with some botanising along the way for On the way to Tbilisi we will make some stops for botanizing in alpine meadows for Ribes alpinum, Colchicum szovitsii, Gagea charadze and soft yellow Orchis pallens. Overnight in Tbilisi.
15-29 May 2023
Per person: 3500 euro (twin share)
Single supplement: tba
Minimum number of participants 5; maximum 16.
For more information on our tours
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