The quest of the Golden Fleece
Together with the ministry of Transport and the TBC bank, the largest bank of Georgia, we are working on a unique adventure.
Georgia is an ancient country; its civilization goes back to the Persian en Greek empires. Its western name was given by the Crusaders after St George, in Georgia they call their country “Sakartvelo”.
Ancient Greek legends tell of a fabulously wealthy land where Jason and the Argonauts stole the Golden Fleece. It was a distant land that was reached by the Black Sea and down the River Phasis. Nowadays we refer to it as Georgia.
A journey into humanity and kindness. A gem between Europe and Asia and a place you will not regret visiting. This is what people who have visited Georgia tell, it leaves a massive impact on any traveller.
Georgia is a beautiful country shaped by rugged mountains, rivers, valleys and meadows. This amazing country lies in the middle of Caucasus region and has unspoiled natural beauty to complement its unique culture.
The highest peak of Europe can be found here, the Mount Elbrus which rises to a height of 5,642 metres. To sum it up there are more than seven five-thousanders in the greater Caucasian Mountain range.
It is not only the landscape, which will grasp you. It is the combination with the unique culture, the cuisine and the warmth of tis people.
Please have a look below for a day-by-day explanation of the rally.
The Economist’s ‘1843’ magazine, reprinted in The Week.
Direct flights by Georgian Airways from Amsterdam (17:15) and London (06:35) arrive in Tbilisi.
Alternatively you can take a Turkish Airlines or Ukrainian Airlines flight the next day.
We will be picking you up at the airport. It is only a 2- to 30 minutes ride to the comfortable design hotel in Tbilisi.
Those not arriving with Georgian Airlines are asked to take a flight arriving in the morning. In the afternoon we are brought to the customs depot where our cars are waiting. We are escorted back to our hotel. We have our first dinner together.
The economy is prospering, so even in Tbilisi they have something we would call rush hour. We are escorted out of town towards the secondary road westwards. Soon all traffic disappears; we are in the hills leading to the lower Caucasus. The hills make place for high planes reminiscent of Tibet, not much vegetation, sparse cows who choose the road to ruminate and a series of lakes that mirror the sky.
It is at one of these lakes that we will be having our lunch at a trout nursery.
We continue our journey into the lower Caucasus and drive close to the border with Armenia. We pass a medieval castle and arrive at our lovely hotel.
From the swimming pool we have a great view to the cave dwellings, which we will be visiting the next day.
In the morning we visit the cave dwellings at Vardzia dating back to the 12th century. The cave-monastery once consisted of 6000 apartments over 13 floors.
We will be going back to the hotel for a lunch on the terrace.
In the afternoon we drive via Akhalkalak through the mountains to our destination Borjomi.
Borjomi is a lively tourist resort, known for its healing water. We will be staying in the comfortable Crown Plaza.
From Borjomi, while going west, we cross the watershed. From now on the rivers will be flowing into the Black Sea. We drive further into the Caucasus. It never becomes steep and the roads are mostly excellent.
The mining town of Sachkhere is more a homage to the Soviet model citizen. Lenin and Stalin still cohabit here. The mining complexes are out-dated but many of the cable cars are still in operation today.
We end the day with a special stage at the former Kutaisi Airport.
The Hotel in Tskaltubo is good but misses any special charm. We will be staying two nights here.
After a short drive we come to the Prometheus Cave. We have all seen magnificent caves but this one is something special so we felt obliged to include it.
We continue our road, at first the road is easy, bordered with lakes but soon we climb ferociously up the Caucasus. The road is steep, the hairpins tight but the asphalt is fresh. We reach the top and immediately we go down, we pass an artificial lake and drive through gorges towards the test of the day, on another airport.
After lunch we continue our trip back to our hotel. But before reaching the hotel we have a hill climb to e beautifully restored monastery.
We have now seen the west side of the country and will now be heading towards the eastern province of Kakheti.
We take the smaller roads through fields and villages towards Gori. In Gori the people still honour a man who helped “shape” the Soviet Union. It is quite interesting to see how a museum can be dedicated to all the triumphs of Joseph S.
We assemble in the old capital Mtskheta for a police escort in town.
We are welcomed by the city-officials with a drink on the Major square in town, Freedom Square.
We stay in the very comfortable and trendy Rooms Hotel.
We have a well-deserved free day in Tbilisi. The centre of the old town is actually quite lively with many bars and restaurants. The city is absolutely safe and it is very pleasant to walk around.
A cable car brings you to the castle overlooking the city.
Kakheti is definitely the touristy region; it has everything, desert, high mountains, wineries and lakes.
We start towards the David Geraja monastery on the Azerbaijan border. The monastery is partially rock hewn. And the setting is just something special.
From there we hope to get the necessary support from the government to cross the semi-desert and the Kataryeli Range of mountains.
Most of the tracks are easy to drive except for some river beddings which can even be an obstacle just after heavy rains. Some of the river beddings do have scares vegetation and are the habitat of a great variety of birds.
Once through the semi-desert we drive again a comfortable road surrounded with cultivated fields and wine ranks.
From the low lands we climb to our destination for the night, the lovely little town of Sighnagi.
We go back down into the valley where, at first, we drive south in a scarcely populated area, most of the road has recently been asphalted, we drive on the edge of what can be cultivated, huge irrigated fields alternate arid soil. On the way back we drive along the river that separates Georgia from Azerbaijan.
We continue our way into the Tusheti region, the lands becomes increasingly fertile and we pass many wine fields. We stop at a winery for a lunch and we visit the wine museum. The Georgian wine making goes back 6000 years, way before the west discovered this technique. We will learn everything about this traditional way of wine making which is still in use today.
We drive a small distance to our hotel at the Lopota Lake.
One of the most remote regions in Georgia is Tusheti, on the Chechnya and Dagestan border; high in the mountains.
Unfortunately it is absolutely impossible to drive the road with a pre-war car. We do really need a 4×4. And since the road and scenery are so exceptional, we would not want you to miss out on it. We rent sixteen 4×4’s for half of the group and helicopters for the other half. While the first half drives up, the second half flies over the mountains to the Omalo village, high in the Caucasus. The next day, the first group flies down, while the second drives back towards the comfortable hotel at the Lopota Lake.
This is truly the most dangerous road in Europe. The weather is a factor to take into account. It is thus very well possible that we cannot make it by 4×4 and/or helicopter. Unfortunately this is something we can not plan.
We cross the valley and drive in the gentle mountains of the Tbilisi National Park, the forest is lush with the occasional village and the roads are nice to drive, with gentle curves. Once on the military highway, dating back, dating back to the 18the century, traffic becomes more intense with lorries transiting between Armenia and Russia, the road is excellent and still being improved.
Passed the ski resort of Gudauri the road and scenery start to become really exceptional.
The last day, the rally was planned in a way so that the finish would coincide with the wine festivities at Chateau Mukhrani.
Chateau Makhrani is one of the most prominent wine houses of the country and the most prominent people of Georgia are invited to be part of this yearly wine festival.
We will be picking grapes, making wine the traditional way and being the guest of honour at lunch and dinner.
We leave our cars at the premises to be picked up the next day for shipping home. Meanwhile we take a bus back to our hotel in Tbilisi.
We are brought to the airport for our flight home. The Direct connection with Amsterdam leaves at 6:30 a.m. (2017 time table)
The direct flight to London leaves at 19:35.
Alternatively, Turkish Airlines and Ukrainian Airlines do have frequent flights to Tbilisi.
Luc Hanegreefs (BE)
Peter Driessen (NL)
Nina Driessen (NL)
Kurt Dichterli (AU)
Richard Farr (UK)
Thomas Treul (AT)
Ewgeni Smuschkovich (AT)
Richard Biddulph (UK)
Charess Biddulph (UK)
David Geysen (NL)
Roland Duce (UK)
Henk Olij (NL)
Ginem Olij (NL)
Jacques Uitewaal (NK)
Sylvia Uitewaal (NL)
Juan Pascual (SP)
Carmen Haro (SP)
Gerry Acher (UK)
Joyce Acher (UK)
Henk Noteboom (NL)
Adri Noteboom (NL)
Neville Jordan (NZ)
Bruce McIlroy (NZ)
Rob Jeurissen (NL)
Jeanne Jeurissen (NL)
Harm Altena (NL)
Els de Bruin (NL)
Arthur Brouwer (NL)
Harry Koorstra (NL)
Herman de Jong (NL)
Vera de Jong (NL)
Cees Willemse (NL)
Ingeborg van 't Hof (NL)
Bert Kersten (NL)
Alie Kersten (NL)
Terkel Ovesen (DK)
Birgitte Ovesen (DK)
Dominic Manser (UK)
Jack Manser (UK)
Michael Power (UK)
Ros Wild (UK)
Kelvin New (UK)
Jesscia New (UK)
Frank Leeman (NL)
Hetty Leeman (NL)
John Noble (UK)
Jean Noble ()
Lang Kidby (AUS)
Bev Kidby (AUS)
Wouter Panis (B)
Peter Panis (B)
Wim Peters (B)
Nel Peters (B)
Christian Philippsen (MC)
Harry Vernooij (NL)
Bert Degenaar (NL)
Hugo Modderman (NL)
Riccardo Aspesi (I)
Howard Belm (UK)
Christopher Taylor (UK)
Hans ten Bärge (NL)
Hamish McIntosh (NZ)
Bernd Dannenmaier (D)
Christiane Dannenmaier (D)
William Balfour (UK)
Carrie Balfour (UK)
Daniel Geoghegan (UK)
Francois Feller (LU)
Robert Frankcom (UK)
Julia Frankcom (UK)
Rolf Furrer (CH)
Miguel Cases (SP)
Nick Channing (UK)
Ruba Jordi (UK)
Macko Laqueur (NL)
Ron van 't Schip (NL)
Willem Vermeulen (NL)
Ellen Vermeulen (NL)
Daniel Ward (UK)
Toby Ward (UK)
Bob Meijer (NL)
Mamuka Khazaradze (GE)