Where to begin? This was a group of 11 friends travelling together - having already travelled to the region on a shorter trip organized for us by TravelLocal and their Georgian partner we promised our companions a month they would never forget and, thanks again to them, every day delivered in every way. Even before the main body of the group arrived in Baku on Day 1, a glitch in the travel arrangements of one couple had Huw responding to a 4.30am call and it all being sorted before the rest of us arrived at midday. How many times did I hear someone say "This has to be the best day/ the highlight/my favourite...." only to have it repeated again, and again? The attention paid to our requests and plans; the opportunities to experience accommodation varying from a family-run guesthouses to 5* luxury; hospitality in private homes with wonderful home cooking; four-wheel drive excursions that took us over high passes and deep into the mountains of both the High and Lesser Caucasus; our excellent guides and drivers; daily activities that encompassed the history, culture, dramatic landscapes, natural beauty, rural life and vibrant cities of this extraordinary and unspoiled region - and gave us time to enjoy the pleasure of being free to wander on our own at times; all this and more has only whetted our appetite to return, and to do so via TravelLocal.
The whole experience of dealing with TravelLocal's partner has been an absolute pleasure, both throughout the planning of our trip and every day that we were on tour. Pre-tour communications were always answered promptly and it seemed no request was too much trouble.
The only awkward thing we encountered was to do with hotel rooms in a few instances - there were a small number of occasions when the standard of the rooms allocated varied greatly, particularly with regard to our single lady traveller (Brenda Ayers) and a couple (Sarah Callaghan and Shaun MacNeal) who required twin beds, when they were given rooms that fell rather short of the accommodation of the rest of the group - usually because the rooms were very small.
All of our guides - Ramin and Gurban in Azerbaijan, Kristi in Georgia and Elya in Armenia, were totally professional, knowledgeable, flexible, very personable and thoroughly enjoyable travelling companions. Similarly all the drivers we travelled with, both in our buses and 4x4 excursion drivers, were excellent.
Allow yourself more time than you might have planned for if you possibly can - try to allow time for wandering on your own, especially in the main cities, all of which have so many additional pleasures to be discovered apart from the main sights of monuments, churches, museums, etc. Similarly, try to allow time to do more than just race from one highlight to another once you are out in the country. Some of our nicest times were the days we took the long way round - a 4x4 drive over the pass between Batumi and Akhaltsikhe - it took all day and there were no grand sights along the way, just stunning vistas at every twist and turn of the road, and we will long remember the hot cheese dish cooked up for us by the sweet owner of the humble little Eidelweiss Restaurant at the top of the pass.
Days spent in glorious scenery; mountain meadows awash with an artist's palette of wildflowers of every colour; long walks down rutted tracks lined with cherry and mulberry trees to a winery, a rarely-visited monastery, a tiny village church filled with glorious frescoes; joining adults and teenagers in a dance class on the balcony of a country hotel in Armenia as the sun set behind the mountains; a marionette theatre performance in Tbilisi featuring two Soviet locomotives and an anarchic circus troupe; being brought to tears by the pure voices and amazing acoustic of a brief recital in a cave chapel; shall I go on?
Our local partner based in Georgia replied...
Dear Lesley and Julian, Hope to see you again next year. Thank you for coming back. TamtaOur local partner based in Georgia