Photo tour to the Southern Caucasus:
Armenia & Georgia
May 30 to June 10, 2016
Visit the photo gallery
Armenia and George have opened up to tourism, and that's a great thing because these two countries are fabulously rich in photographic opportunities. For centuries, this area of Central Asia has seen the clash of civilizations, religions, and cultures, and this produced an historical legacy of ancient ruins, impressive monuments, religious art and architecture, and a mixture of ethnic identities. The faces of the people in this region make stunning portraits, and the mountainous landscape provide dramatic backdrops to picturesque villages. The interiors of centuries-old churches offer great opportunities to use the HDR technique, and if we encounter less-than-dramatic skies, Jim will explain how to replace them in Photoshop. Our local guide, Mehmet Ozbalci, is one of the best guides I've had anywhere in the world. He is extremely knowledgeable about the history of this area, and he also knows photography and that helps us to take advantage of the best light possible to take classic travel pictures.
Day 1. May 30: TBILISI: You arrive at the airport in Tbilisi, Georgia and transfer to the hotel. Depending how participants feel after the long flight, it is possible to start touring and photographing this picturesque and historic city. Overnight 4 star hotel.
Day 2. May 31: TBILISI: Early in the morning we will photograph the Narikala Castle with the city in the background then the domes of the old sulfur baths. Return to the hotel for breakfast and take the morning to rest. In the afternoon, we will be shooting the frescoes of the beautiful Sioni Church and the Metekhi Church right on the river then the impressive Sameba Cathedral and the modern pedestrian bridge over the River Mtkvari. At sunset we will again photograph the Narikala Castle in a different lighting situation with the city and its impressive architecture illuminated artfully. Overnight 4 star hotel.
Day 3. Jun 1: KUTAISI: Early in the morning, we will photograph the Mtkvari River and reflections on it. We then have breakfast and leave for Kutaisi. Along the way, we will stop at Jvari to photograph the confluence of two rivers, and from an elevated perspective this makes a unique and beautiful landscape shot. We also stop at Uplistsikhe, a monastic cave settlement that dates from the 9th century A.D. The rock-hewn caves are reminiscent of Cappadocia in Turkey, and there are dozens of excellent compositions both interior and exterior. Nearby the Katskhi Pillar makes a stunning picture. It is a 120 foot high natural monolith with a single monk's hermit on the top. Arrival in Kutaisi and photograph the beautifully lit Bagrati Church at night. Overnight 3 star hotel.
Day 4. Jun 2: MESTIA: This morning we drive to Mestia, located in the beautiful Caucusus Mountains. The drive offers great landscape photo opportunities as well as interesting and unique "tower villages" that make you feel like you've gone back in time to the Middle Ages. We reach Mestia and photograph this quaint mounatin town with the impressive Caucusus Mountains as a stunning backdrop. At twilight, the mixture of colors from the artificial lights and the cobalt blue of the sky make fantastic travel images. Overnight 3 star hotel.
Day 5. Jun 3: MESTIA: We make an early departure to take advantage of the beautiful light in the mountain roads of the Caucusus. Our 4x4 vehicles will take us to a community of villages located at an altitude of over 7000 feet at the foot of the impressive Mt Shkhara which is an astonishing 17.000 feet. This entire area offers breathtaking views, and Jim will discuss classic landscape techniques for capturing the grandeur that surrounds us. In the late afternoon we will drive back to Mestia, and the entire landscape will look different because the angle of the light will be coming from the west. Overnight 3 star hotel.
Day 6. Jun 4: AKHALTSIKHE: This is primarily a travel day, crossing Georgia from north to south. We take a scenic road and can stop to photograph the countryside as well as local people. When we reach Akhaltsikhe, we will photograph the beautifully lit 13th century Rabat Castle, which was recently restored. The twilight sky behind the castle makes a powerful backdrop to the medieval architecture. Overnight 3 star hotel.
Day 7: Jun 5: YEREVAN: Today we cross the border at Bavra into Armenia and arrive in the modern town of Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, in the early afternoon we photograph the Eicmiadzin Cathedral with its stunning interior (this Cathedral opened in 301 A.D.), and then we visit the spectacular 7th century ruins of Zvartnos Temple with snowcapped Mt. Ararat in the background. We will also photogtraph the city's main cathedral Krikor Lusavoric which is a masterpiece of symmetry and design. Overnight Ani Paza.
Day 8. Jun 6: YEREVAN: Early in the morning we will go to "Cascade", a stairway with more than 400 steps that was built on the side of a hill. In beautiful light we will have a command view of the city and the two peaks of Mt. Ararat. We return to the hotel for breakfast and take the morning to rest. In the afternoon, we will drive to Garni where we will shoot the Garni Temple built in the 1st century in greco-roman style. This is the only greco-roman building in Armenia as well as in the whole territory of the former Soviet Union. Our next stop will be "symphony of stones", a phenomenal natural formation of basalt. The wall of columns offer many different types of compositions -- some with wide angle and others tight shots with a telephoto lens. We will also visit the intriguing 13th century Geghard Monastery then return to Yerevan. This is a full day with a tremendous variety of subject matter. Overnight 4 star hotel.
Day 9. Jun 7: GORIS: In the morning we will photograph Khor Virap, one of the most important churches in Armenia located right at the foot of Mt Ararat. In the afternoon, we will visit another stunning photographic subject, Tatev Moastery. We cross two canyons to reach this remarkable scene. It is located on top of a high cliff looking like a medieval, man-made eagle's nest. Tatev has the longest cable car ever built to facilitate the trip of visitors and pilgrims. Overnight in the quaint mountain town of Goris. Overnight 3 star hotel.
Day 10. Jun 8: DILIJAN: After breakfast we drive to Dilijan, surrounded by scenic mountains and one of then most beautiful towns in Armenia. We photograph the fascinating "Armenian Stone Henge", a unique structure built approximately in 6000 B. C. and believed to have functioned as an astronomical observatory. You will take intriguing and beautiful landscapes here. Nearby is the ancient Noraduz cemetery with its almost 1000 year old "Kachkars" tombs, or stones with crosses beautifully carved into them. After a drive through scenic Lake Sevan, arrive and overnight in Dilijan. Overnight 4 star hotel.
Day 11. Jun 9: TBILISI: After breakfast and before we leave Dilijan, we photograph the very cute street of Tufenkian for some wonderful architectural details with an Armenian flair. We then we drive to Haghpat where we will shoot Hapghpat Monastery, a world heritage site like many others in Armenia. This is another stunning medieval structure set in a more stunning landscape. We will then cross the border into Georgia and return to Tbilisi. In the afternoon we take a cable car to gain a dramatic elevated view of Narikala Castle and the beautiful city of Tbilisi below. Overnight 4 star hotel.
Day 12. Jun 10: DEPARTURE: This morning we transfer to the Tbilisi Airport for our flight home, knowing that we've seen and photographed a stunning part of the world and learned about its history and culture as well as interacted with warm and welcoming people.
TOUR COST: $5850. Includes all lodging based on double occupancy in 3 and 4 star hotels, all breakfasts, all dinners, private van or minibus (depending on the size of the group), English speaking guide, admission fees to the historical sites, cable car fees, etc., 4x4 vehicles in Mestia, and airport transfers on May 30 and June 10.
Not included: International airfare, lunches, tips for bell boys at the hotels, gratuities for local drivers and guides, visa fee (a visa is required for Americans and Canadians to enter Armenia, but a visa is not required for Georgia), items of a personal nature such as laundry, and alcoholic beverages.
SINGLE SUPPLEMENT: $950 (if you want your own room)