Tour Dates: Tuesday 23rd April – Saturday 4th May 2024 (Tbilisi to Tbilisi)
Tour Price: £2,499pp plus flight
Estimated Flight Price: London to Tbilisi approx. £500 return
Deposit: £500 per person
Conservation Donation from Wise Birding: £150 – £200
Minimum Number: 6 people
Maximum Group Size: 7 people
Target Species Birds: Caucasian Snowcock, Caspian Snowcock, Caucasian Black Grouse, Bearded Vulture, Great Rosefinch, Güldenstädt’s Redstart, Radde’s Accentor, Mountain Chiffchaff, Semi-collared Flycatcher, Menetrie’s Warbler, Green Warbler, Red-fronted Serin, White-throated Robin, Red-tailed Wheatear, Wallcreeper and much more!
Tour Summary: This popular tour is packed full of quality birds that can be found in both Georgia and Armenia and you also have a great chance of seeing bears too! The beauty of this tour is that it visits two different countries with very easy access routes between the two and it allows the opportunity to see some very localised species against a backdrop of fabulous landscapes and a fascinating history.
ACCOMMODATION: 6 nights Georgia and 5 nights Armenia
Comfortable hotels/ guesthouses with 3 nights Kazbegi, 2 nights Tbilisi, 1 night Sevan, 1 night Yeghegnadzor, 3 nights Yerevan and 1 night Tbilisi
Inclusive Meals: Full board
DAY 1 GEORGIA: Road to Kazbegi
After a very early arrival at Tbilisi airport, we will drive to a hotel for a few hours rest and then drive straight to the Greater Caucasus mountains to the village of Kazbegi (Stepantsminda) and our base for the next three days. Our main aim will be to get to the mountains in good time to give us the late afternoon for birding. We will make a couple of stops en route to to look for forest species that may include Green Warbler and the Caucasian subspecies of Mountain Chiffchaff, as well as Hawfinch and Red-breasted Flycatcher. During the late afternoon, we will try our first attempt at seeing the true mountain specialities. Overnight Stepantsminda
DAY 2 GEORGIA: Kazbegi
On our first day in Kazbegi, we will be up early to explore the spectacular mountain valleys with a mix of walking and driving. Our first stops will be a viewpoint overlooking the mountains and a good place to observe to true specialities of this fabulous landscape, Caucasian Black Grouse and Caucasian Snowcock. We have also seen Lynx from this particular vantage point! Hopefully, after succeeding with the two key species, more great birds await us as we look for Bearded and Griffon Vultures, Mountain Chiffchaff, Twite, Red-fronted Serin, Ring Ouzel of the subsp. amicorum and Water Pipits of the Caucasian race coutellii. During the afternoon, we will explore the buckthorn bushes and scrub for Guldenstadt’s Redstart and Great Rosefinch which can take time to find. We will of course also be looking for migrants, while raptor migration can be quite spectacular too! If we have time, we will also check a regular site for Wallcreeper. Overnight Stepantsminda
DAY 3 GEORGIA: Kazbegi
Today, if the weather is suitable and if we still have not seen some of the high altitude specialities, we will leave early and make our way up the mountains to around 2,200m and walk towards the glacier. It is a fantastic walk and you will be surrounded by some of the most spectacular scenery anywhere in eastern Europe. However, in most years we do not need to go so high and fingers crossed, if the snow is lying at a low level, we should hopefully find the two very colourful and highly sought after species closer to the town, Güldenstadt’s Redstart and Great Rosefinch. If we are doing well with the specialities, we may visit a viewpoint for raptors and a reasonable chance of seeing bears. Overnight Stepantsminda
DAY 4 GEORGIA: Return to Tbilisi via Kojori Forest – Kumisi Lake
Hopefully we will have been successful in finding the specialities and we will leave after breakfast. We will make a stop at the Jvari pass where we might find White-winged Snowfinch and dependent on time and if birds have arrived, we may try for Semi-collared Flycatcher as well as Green Warbler. Once in Tbilisi, we will visit a woodland nearby where we hope to find Kruper’s Nuthatch. The afternoon will be spent visiting Kumisi Lake where numerous waders, terns and migrants await us. Species we will hope to find here include Citrine Wagtail, White-winged Tern and with luck Demoiselle Crane!
DAY 5 GEORGIA: Krtsanisi Forest – Davit Gareji Monastery
On the outskirts of Tbilisi is a great woodland where we have an excellent chance of finding Levant Sparrowhawk and Syrian Woodpecker. We will then head East to an area where the semi-arid landscape begins, with Steppe and rocky outcrops, shallow lakes and riverine forest. Our first stop will be either a return to Kumasi Lake or we may visit Jandari lake which can sometimes produce numerous migratory waterfowl, though Kumasi has been far better in recent years. If we are lucky, we may have news on nesting Eastern Imperial Eagles that sometimes breed near the lakes. We will then drive east towards the rock monasteries of David Gareja, passing through habitat where huge numbers of Rosy Starling, Tawny Pipit and Calandra Lark breed. We will visit the monasteries where we should find Western Rock Nuthatch, Blue Rock Thrush, Pied Wheatear as well as some migrants. Overnight Tbilisi
DAY 6 ARMENIA: Tbilisi – Dilijan Forests – Lake Sevan (Norashen)
The Dilijan Forests and associated Dilijan National Park occupies around 24,000 hecatres of land and is located in the North-Eastern part of the Republic of Armenia. It is a great birding site, particularly for raptors and we should see Golden Eagle, Lesser Spotted Eagle, Booted Eagle, Common Buzzard, European Honey-Buzzard and Eurasian Sparrowhawk. In addition to the raptors we will see a good selection of forest species including some interesting subspecies which may include Great Spotted and Middle Spotted Woodpeckers (ssp. caucasicus), European Nuthatch, Eurasian Treecreeper, Red-breasted and Semi-collared Flycatchers, Green Warbler, Eurasian Jay (atricapillus) and other more common forest species. Overnight Sevan
DAY 7 ARMENIA: Sevan – Vardenyats Pass – Noravank Gorge – Yeghegnadzor
Vardenyats mountain pass (2,410M) connects historical Gegharkunik with the Vayots Dzor region. It is another good birding area where we may find Ortolan Bunting, Ruddy Shelduck, Common Rosefinch, Common Rock Thrush, Red-backed Shrike, Bearded Vulture, Lesser Spotted and Short-toed Eagle and Long‐legged Buzzard. We should also see Rock Sparrow and Twite. More tricky species that we will be looking for include Radde’s Accentor and Bluethroat. Overnight Yeghegnadzor
DAY 8 ARMENIA: Yeghegnadzor Mountains – Vedi Gorge
Once again we will be up early, this time to try our luck in the impressive Yeghegnadzor Mountains for another key species, the Caspian Snowcock. We will spend much of our time in these high mountains to look for Caspian Snowcock as well as species like Northern Wheatear, Alpine Swift, Eurasian Skylark, Water Pipits, Alpine Accentor, Common Rosefinch and Peregrine Falcon. Whilst scanning for Snowcocks, we will also be keeping a close eye on the same slopes for Brown Bears where we have enjoyed some great sightings in previous years. Later in the day we will visit Vedi Gorge with its unique semi-desert vegetation and rocky slopes. Here we will look for new species such as Egyptian Vulture, Short-toed Snake Eagle, Grey-necked Bunting and an outside chance of Desert Finch. Other species such as Eurasian Nuthatch, European Roller, Blue Rock Thrush and both Black-eared and Finsch’s Wheatears. Overnight Yerevan
DAY 9 ARMENIA: Yerevan – Armash – Oorts Mountains
A visit to Armash fish farms will certainly keep us busy as this site hosts a variety of birds where the numerous warblers are so often one of the highlights. We will be looking for Menetries’s Warbler, Paddyfield Warbler, Moustached Warbler, Savi’s Warbler and more! Of course, there will be plenty of other great species to keep us entertained such as Pygmy Cormorant, Ferruginous Duck, White-tailed Lapwing, Glossy Ibis, Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, European Roller and White-headed Duck. After lunch we will visit Ooranots, a semi-desert with rocky outcrops located not far from Armash in the foothills of the Oorts Mountains. This site hosts more interesting species such as Griffon and Bearded Vultures, Chukar, Eastern and Western Nuthatches, Woodchat and Red-backed Shrikes and Red-fronted Serin. However, the real prize here will be the Red-tailed Wheatear, one of the rarest birds to be found in Armenia. Overnight Yerevan
DAY 10 ARMENIA: Yerevan – Aragats – Amberd – Yerevan
Mount Aragats rises to around 4,090 meters, making it the highest point within the Republic of Armenia. It is an excellent area to observe woodland, meadow-steppe, and subalpine species. En route to the mountains we will try a site for Bimaculated Lark which can also be good for migrants. On reaching the subalpine zone, we will try for Radde’s Accentor, Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush and of course the stunning White-throated Robin.
Higher up in the boulder fields we will look for Alpine Accentor, White-winged Snowfinch, Horned Lark and Red-billed Chough. We also have good opportunities to see various raptors such as Common Buzzard, Steppe Buzzard and Lesser-spotted Eagleas they soar over the woodland areas. Later in the day we will visit Amberd, a 7th century Armenian fortress located at around 2,300M on the slopes of Mount Aragats. It lies at the confluence of the Arkashen and Amberd Rivers in the province of Aragatsotn, Armenia. The name translates to “fortress in the clouds” and it will be a fitting end to this tour which will have been packed full of amazing scenery, fabulous birds and welcoming people. Overnight Yerevan
DAY 11: Yerevan – Tbilisi
We will depart early for our return journey to Georgia. This journey is around five hours and mostly a travel day, though we will of course make a few random birding stops en route! We should arrive in Tbilisi by the late afternoon where we will check into a hotel near the airport and enjoy a final meal before an early morning start for the airport. Overnight Tbilisi
DAY 12: Airport transfer
We transfer to the airport for an early morning departure.
Please note this is a flexible itinerary which may need to be adjusted slightly dependent on arrival / departure times, weather conditions and the most recent information from our local guides
Leaders: Wise Birding leader and local bird guide
Included in cost: All accommodation, all meals, bottled water, ground transport, entrance fees and services of leaders
Not included in cost: International airfare, travel insurance, drinks other than water and any airport/visa fees
Accommodation: Clean and comfortable hotels in ensuite rooms
Single Supplement: £350
Transport: Minibus throughout tour
Difficulty: Moderate Majority of birding is done in close proximity to our vehicle. There will also be longer walks with steeper trails in the mountains.
Note: Snow in areas will make some walking more difficult.
Climate: Varied with cold temperatures (even snow) in the mountains and warmer temperatures 15 – 20 degrees Celsius in the lowlands
Tour Start Point: Shota Rustaveli Tbilisi airport, Georgia
Tour End Point: Shota Rustaveli Tbilisi airport, Georgia
Suggested Airlines: Lufthansa via Munich