The quest of the Golden Fleece
After the pre-war Peaks of the Caucasus in 2018 we had a 4×4 version for a selected group of participants. We are now presenting you with a 4×4 rally in this magnificent country.
Having the availability of a Toyota Landcruiser gives us the possibility to discover regions we had to skip with the initial pre-war rally.
We are also fortunate to have on our team Dimitri. Dimitri comes from the Svan area high in the mountains and is a dedicated archeologist who can tell about his country with dedication. He will give you an extra insight in this ancient culture up to the current toasting ceremonies which he will lead.
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.
There is availability for a limited number of 15 crew!
We will meet you up at the Tbilisi Airport and bring you to the comfortable Rooms Hotel in the center of this exciting city. Tbilisi’s premier design hotel is a dash of 21st-century chic according to the New York Times and sits in a culturally-thriving neighbourhood in the heart of the city.
The first day of our Rally. With striking natural beauty and changing sceneries after every turn. We take the southern road in the vicinity of the Armenian and Turkish border. The stunning lakes in the sometimes moon like landscape give the area its very special feel. Actually we will enjoy lunch at one of the fisheries at the border of the lake.
The region of Samtskhe-Javakheti can be seen as a cultural birthplace of Georgia. It has been at the heart of the country. Georgia’s patron saint Nino arrived in Georgia through this region and later on spread Christianity throughout the whole country.
We visit the famous cave monastery of Vardzia. A unique architectural sight build in the 12th century. It was constructed so monks and priests had a safe haven. At that time the complex was invisible behind the rocks. However, in 1283 an earthquake changed this, revealing the majority of the monk livings and churches.
We spent the night in the luxurious Vardzia resort, with a beautiful view of the monastery that lights up after sundown.
We leave our comfortable resort for a drive through the lower Caucasus. From Abastumani onwards we take our first off road mountain pass. We aim to discover the region of Imereti and its capital: Kutaisi. To get to Kutaisi we cross the Borjomi Kharagauli National park, the biggest national park in Europe. A beautiful dirt trail with the most amazing views over the forests and on a clear day even the higher Caucasus.
Kutaisi is a town with lots of history. It is also one of the bigger cities in Georgia. It has a pleasant and relaxed vibe to it. We spent the night right in the center and dine at the other side of the river in restaurant Palaty, great local dishes with a modern twist, and of course again, accompanied by great wines. We stay in Kutaisi’s very own Best Western Hotel.
From Kutaisi we head up to the higher Caucasus. We leave civilization behind us and we will experience the mountainous and barbaric region of Svaneti from up close. Svaneti is a culturally distinct region. The region used to be so remote that even the Soviets could never fully exert their influence cause if its remoteness. Svaneti still holds this position, its remote, the people speak a different language and pagan traditions are still very apparent.
On the way we pass Migrelia, yet another culturally distinct region with yet another language which is not understandable for Georgian speakers. Migrelia is also known for its excellent cuisine, in Zugdidi we put this to the test.
From Zugdidi we take the small roads into the roads less travelled within Samegrelo. We visit the old Greek settlement of Nokalakevi. An impressive yet much underestimated site.
We spent the night in Mestia, in hotel Tetnuldi.
This will be one of the longest and toughest days of our Rally, with a lot of hard off-roading. We leave the region of Svaneti through a little known dirt track. Via Ushguli (the highest permanently inhabited village of Europe) we take the pass down into Racha. Its rocky, steep and you need a 4×4. Nevertheless, the rewards coming from the natural beauty are more than worth it. This is a North-Western region that is not well known to many tourists. Yet, the natural beauty is stunning. An abundance of lakes and rivers combined with snowcapped mountains on the background. Culturally the people or Racha have been known for their relaxed attitude. And that is exactly what we will discover at our dinner and overnight stay in Oni.
nt the night at a local guesthouse. The family hosting us is most hospitable, we eat the most delicious homegrown foods and local dishes. There is local music, a chance to learn how to distil your very own ‘’Chacha’’ as well as bake your own traditional Georgian bread.
We leave Oni behind us. Further on the road we reach Zestaphoni. Another town which appeared to have been heavily drenched in a thick Soviet sauce. We will have a visit at the Manganese Factory. Driving around the factory site is as close as you can come to time travel, be it Soviet time travel in this case. Afterwards we head for Gori. We spent a visit to the museum that aims to document the life of its most infamous former citizens: Joseph Stalin.
We head further East with the town of Mtskheta as our destination. This is one of the oldest cities in Georgia and has been serving as a center of Orthodoxy in Georgia. The Svetitskhoveli Cathedral which is UNESCO heritage since 1994 serves as one of the examples of this. Have an interesting stroll to the historical town, with the sun going down on the hills surrounding Mtskheta it is a beautiful sight.
We spent the night in Hotel Gino Wellness.
Today is a very relaxing day. From Mtskheta we drive up to the famous Georgian Military Highway into the mighty Caucasus mountain range. We end up in Stepantsminda, in the Kazbegi region just 18 km from the Russian border. The region around Kazbegi is one of the best for outdoor activities: Paragliding, rafting, hiking or a visit to the 14th century Holy Trinity church. From Mtskheta the ride takes only about 4 hours, so that leaves plenty of time to discover this magnificent region by ourselves.
The drive is examplatory for Georgia’s diverse nature, from the lower lands we now drive through the vineyards, wooded area’s up north through the second highest peak of the Georgia Caucasus: Mt. Kazbeg.
Views during this ride are just stunning. Mountain passes go up and down as they take you from corner to corner. We stay in Rooms Hotel Kazbegi. And old Soviet Sanatorium which was renovated into one of Georgia’s most amazing design hotels.
From the high Caucasus mountain range we drive into Georgia’s most famous wine regions: Kakheti. The whole regions revolves around wine, it’s the life of everything that happens out here. In the region’s capital: Telavi we have a wine tour and lunch. From these fertile lower lands we overlook the higher Caucasus Mountains ranges going into Chechnya and Dagestan.
We make a detour around Telavi, an ancient winery. Long cellars, history and 8000-year-old wine making in its purest form. We learn about the wine making, as well as the rich and full tastes of Georgian wines combined with a delicious lunch on sight.
We spent the night close to Telavi, in Tsinandali. The Radission Collection Tsinandali estate is one of the newest and coolest hotels in Georgia, featuring its own vineyard, roof top pool and lots of history. The old wine cellars and Alexandr Chavchavadze’s palace have been renovated into the most amazing restaurants and recreational areas.
We leave the lush fertile planes and take a beautiful towards the small village of Iormughanlo. Here the semi-desert start. It is a truly sensational drive, through dried out gullies, over ridges and over wide planes. The scenery is just spectacular. Near the Azerbaijani border we find the David Gareja monestary complex. A beautifully well preserved sight with many fresco’s and rock hewn livings for priests.
From the monastery we drive along along Azerbaijani border towards Rustavi. This town was built during the Soviet era to become a worker’s paradise. The whole town
revolved around its gigantic steel factory. Big fancy boulevards lead you to the impressive administration building of the factory. You will feel like you ended up in a different era.
We enter Tbilisi and get more acquainted with its narrow streets, Italian courtyards and active cultural life make it one of the fastest growing tourist destinations in the world. In Tbilisi we spent the night in Stamba Hotel, an old printing house that has been renovated to one of the most renowned hotels of the region. We dine in Chveni, a hip restaurant with the most delicious Georgian fusion cuisine.
You could take the direct flight to Amsterdam (twice a week), to London (3x a week) or Berlin (3 times a week) but we suggest you stay some more in Georgia.
We did not persent you with the truly great road in Georgia, the one to Tusheti. The road can be treacherous under bad weather conditions or can even be closed. We do not feel comfortable to lead 15 Toyota’s up the mountain. We did do it ourselves several times, so it can be done without problems, but each year the mountain claims its victims.
You can opt to rent the Landcruiser for a few more days and we will gladly assist you with booking a guesthouse.
But even if you do not want to drive any more, we highly recommend you to stay for a few more days in Tbilisi and enjoy the many restaurants and cafés which are really up to any western standard, mixing old traditional buildings with ultra modern architecture.
Keith Graham (UK)
Susan Hoffmann (UK)
Jos Hessels (NL)
Mirjam de Bruin (NL)
Joost Krugers (B)
Hans Sluiters (NL)
Stephen Lord (UK)
Kim Lord (UK)
Mark Everett (CND)
Julie Everett (CND)
Penny Morris (UK)
Richard Morris (UK)
Emiel Verbeek (NL)
Elke Poell (NL)
Jan Reijnders (NL)
Laurent Humen (NL)
Richard Fenhalls (UK)
Heather Milne-Taylor (UK)
Robin Harms (NL)
Sophia Harms (NL)
Start: Sunday July 19, 2020
Finish: Sunday July 26, 2020
Early booking fee (up to November 30)
Registration: € 4.870, –
Booking fee (after November 30)
Registration: € 4.980, –
Total rally kilometers: 1.780 km
Total difficult off road: 70 km
Total off road: 220 km