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Reviews

Your Words – We tell it like it is! Holiday Reviews by previous Exodus travellers  

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Reviews

Very Disappointing

This is a ‘coach tour’, little free time, a quick glimpse as you drive past particularly in Armenia. Far too much emphasis on monasteries and churches. There is more to be explored in this country. Overnight in Lake Sevan or Dilijan (a 10 minute stop to visit 3 workshops when the area is known as the Switzerland of Armenia was disappointing) should be part of the itinerary to explore this stunning area instead of every night in Yerevan. In Georgia, the itinerary needs an overhaul, overnight in Kutaisi was pointless, a long drive to poor accomodation and drive off the next day! Bonjormi looked brilliant in the dark after a late arrival, next day left after only a walk in the forest. More time needs to be allocated for the wine region of Kakheti instead of a day trip.

Most Inspirational Moment

Thoroughly enjoyed Tbilisi. I enjoyed extra time here after the tour. The Armenian food was amazing, great variety of food and differed each day at interesting venues. The final lunch in Georgia at a local winery showcased the exceptional food I found in restaurants in Tbilisi I discovered outside of the tour. Otherwise the meals included in Georgia were mediocre.

Thoughts on Group Leader

The Armenian leader was knowledgeable and passionate. Unfortunately more like an academic tour on Christianity. A 9-5pm guide only. No recommendations for evening restaurants or the wonderful water fountain show with lights coordinated with music in the nearby square we stumbled upon after dinner. No orientation tour, group introduction or travel insurance collected. Whilst the Georgian leader, Sofia was excellent, vibrant and faultless. Incredibly helpful with recommendations for evening and free time.

Advice for Potential Travellers

I could not recommend this trip. It is vastly overpriced for the standard delivered. Endless driving to pointless destinations, or those not explored at all or to poor accomodation. Both of these countries have exceptional scenery, interesting cities, great food and are well worth visiting but not with Exodus.

Suggestions

This has been my 7th trip with Exodus. The first 4 were brilliant while the last 3 the standard has significantly dropped. This trip was the worst. I will not be travelling with Exodus in the future.

Nice tour, but we could have seen more

Lovely trip with lots to see, but there’s lots more that we didn’t

Most Inspirational Moment

Spectacular scenery

Thoughts on Group Leader

Both were very engaging. Though the lovely Armenian guide, was actually a teacher, rather than a guide, so her information talks were perhaps a little more in depth than needed. We had to ask to have time to walk up the Cascade fountain as the info talk went on so long we were running out of time

Advice for Potential Travellers

Bring layers.. weather is very changeable throughout the day

Suggestions

This was heralded as a Citizen Science trip.... but we did nothing ???????? It would have a benefit to have had another day in Tbilisi. Disappointed that we didn't get to see the Monument of Georgia whilst we were over at Gori The trip should be extended to include Batumi The "Wine day", our last day was excellent, the sumptuous lunch provided by the local family at their little winery was excellent and because we weren't back in Tbilisi till very late, it made for an excellent last group meal. The visit to the Tsinandali estate afterwards lovely. Pre trip contact with Exodus was rather haphazard.. our assigned rep was often out of office which meant delays in getting info. The add on extension to Azerbaijan was inordinately expensive .. a lot more than the brochure price, once various supplements were added and you only get two full days there, not four. The transfer arrangements were very vague. In the end we cancelled. Someone else on the trip did go and was somewhat underwhelmed , so we felt we made a good call there. We plan to go there for a long weekend break instead, for much less cost. The hotel in Tbilisi is very nice and in a good location for exploring the city, however, its opposite a very noisy nightclub AND their Customers revelling in the street at all hours every night, there were several guests in the hotel also yelling and banging room doors throughout the night Guest House in Kutaisi is dire. Somewhat dirty...cobwebs in the corners, dust under the furniture. One girl had ants in her bed. Linens and drapes were out of the '70s and thread bear. The bathroom was grim... soap scum all over the dispenser & taps... the loo seat was too small for the bowl. Being upstairs it was totally unsuitable to be a wet room... needed a proper shower cubicle. The staff were sullen and grumpy. Why are you taking clients there? Its too far out of town.. there were many many places to stay in town near the fountains. The hotel in Yerevan was lovely and in a good location The city was enchanting

Two wonderful countries

This is not a trip for the ‘moaning myrtles’ of this world. These countries are not ‘first world’ and things don’t often work as maybe expected. Be prepared for a 2 hour wait to clear through Yerevan Airport, broken plumbing and beds in hotel rooms and itinerary changes (especially in Armenia) due to weather, road conditions and other operational difficulties.

Take all these and more in your stride and you will have a great trip, see lots of stunning countryside, meet some wonderful warm friendly people, eat some amazing fresh foods, drink great local wines and see stunning frescos and ancient architecture in seemingly inaccessible places.

Most Inspirational Moment

At my request our guide kindly added a brief visit to an artists home and gallery in the village of Garni. We had a tour of the gallery, met the artists, discussed their work and methods and had a quick tour of their old family home. One of the artists was a tapestry weaver, her work was amazing in design and colour and now back home, has inspired me to dig out my weaving loom. It was very interesting side excursion and made a nice change from churches and monasteries. Maybe something that could be added to future tours.

Thoughts on Group Leader

Both our leaders were exceptional, Sahakanush (Armenia) and Nino (Georgia). Quite different in their approaches but both very knowledgeable and were happy to inform us of all parts of their cultures, giving us an insight into their respective countries and talking on topics such as history, education, economics, and all sorts of social aspects and taboos. Sahakanush even introduced us to different types of Armenian music with CD's for the long bus journeys. Both had lovely terms of address, Sahakanush ‘my dears’ and Nino ‘ladies & gentlemen’, they were always polite, friendly and helpful.

Advice for Potential Travellers

Be prepared for long bus journeys, maps, books and music helped while away the time; churches and monasteries do tend to blur into one after a while. Maybe there are a few too many! Long, full-on days mean little downtime at the end of the day. Take advantage of the included lunches, several hotels outside of the cities had no nearby facilities eg; cafes, bars, restaurants. By having a large lunch, we found that a hotel soup would suffice in the evening. Be warned that Armenia doesn’t have a no-smoking policy, and as well as bars, restaurants, smoking is also allowed in some hotel bedrooms. In Georgia there is ban due to be imposed in a couple of years, but many businesses already adhere to their own no-smoking policies and don’t allow it inside. Hotel Diana in Goris had a lovely café at the back of it’s carpark, amazing kebobs, borsch & pilaf. Dilijan - Tea with the ‘Molokan Family’ was a lovely experience, but the arts and crafts of Dilijan (apart from 1 woodcarver) seemed nothing more than tourist ‘tat’. In Yerevan take a walk around the Kond area of the city, lovely (pre-soviet) tumbledown houses and winding streets. Visit the cascade at dusk as it all lights up, there are plenty of restaurants and cafes here and a real bustling atmosphere as the whole city seems to come out for an evening promenade. Tbilisi is a lovely city, we didn’t go on the museum tour, preferring to explore more of the city, be sure to visit the Flea market, the Dezerter market and the Kaleidoscope House and if you feel brave take a bath in one of the many bath houses. Enjoy the wine tasting excursion and family hospitality. Beware of tiled floors in the showers, some are very slippery when wet.

Suggestions

Having a large coach (16 people to 50+ seats) enabled us to spread out and move around and change seats as required, which made the long journeys more comfortable. Surprisingly, all our hotels & guesthouses were of a very good standard, some quite luxurious and others more basic but clean and functional. The bad weather made the cable car trip very disappointing as you couldn’t really see much, however this wet misty cloud added great atmosphere to the view and exploration of the Tatev Monastery. We would have liked more time in Kutaisi, half an hour to explore the city centre was not enough and disappointedly we drove from there to a motorway service station where we stopped for an hour for lunch!

Highlights of Georgia and Armenia 2019

This is an very good tour if you are fascinated by ancient churches and monasteries. You will see many on this tour. Although some are situated in amazing locations there are far too many to remember them all. I felt that the tour could benefit for a little variation in itinerary. The food and wine were excellent as were the very friendly people and our superb tour guides. All of which made this a very memorable trip to what is an interesting and relatively undiscovered part of the world for western tourists.

Most Inspirational Moment

I was very impressed with Tibilisi. Clean city with lots of open spaces and a mix of modern and old architecture. Especially like the cafe culture. The food throughout trip was excellent and very reasonably priced. Really impressive scenery in the Causcasus mountains

Thoughts on Group Leader

Armenia is developing it's tourism industry and I suspect that is why our tour leader wasn't a tour guide by profession. Taguhi was by profession an English lecturer at the University in Yerevan and you could tell. She had done lots of research and sometimes delivered her commentary like a lecture with far too much detail. Having said that, she was competent and kept on schedule, organising meals as we went along. It was actually nice to have a leader who wasn't a trained guide, just a local who is passionate about her country, it's history and culture. Taguhi is intelligent and she will quickly learn how to refine her skills as a guide. I had no problems. Just a little less detailed information please. In Georgia, our guide was Ia Mikiashvili. . Ia was in her early twenties and not long out of University where she studied tourism . Ia said she was little nervous at first as this was her first English group but she proved to be an excellent tour leader in every sense. She is a very friendly person with good English and she got on well with everyone. Ia has a good knowledge of the itinerary and can advise on places to visits, restaurants etc. She made herself contactable at all times and she has good organisation and problem solving skills . I think she will do very well in the tourist industry. Very well done Ia.

Advice for Potential Travellers

If you are interested in Georgian and Armenian churches and monasteries you will love this trip but be prepared for some long days travelling. Make sure you check in on line. Either print your boarding pass or download to your phone

Suggestions

1. Coach transport in both countries was very good. Both coaches were clean tidy and comfortable with good microphone systems. WiFi and USB charging on the Georgian coach was very well received by everyone. 2. We had free water in Armenia but none in Georgia as we were told it was Exodus policy. Confused? 3. Hotels were very good throughout. I was expecting some standard and budget accommodation but all hotels were good, clean and with full amenities. 4. The food included as part of the tour was very good in both countries. It's a good idea to have group meals provided especially early on as it brings the group together. 5. The itinerary in Georgia was fine but in Armenia there is a need to introduce some variation so guests can experience other aspects of the history and culture other than churches and monasteries. Perhaps needs to be more balanced.. for example we spend what seemed a long time looking at ancient manuscripts and books, which wasn't so interesting and not a lot of time in the genocide museum which was. We seemed to be rushed sometimes trying to cover everything in the itinerary. On the last day we asked if we could miss out the last part of the itinerary other wise we would have been back for our final meal around 9.30pm. Perhaps need to revise the itinerary and introduce some more free time en-route. 6. Our hotel in Tibilsi was very nice but not good for those who are a little infirm and have difficulty difficulty walking uphill. There is also disturbance from a disco across the street which goes on until 5 am. 7. In Armenia we were asked by the tour leader for copies of our passports. Taguhi didn't know why her company wanted this just that she had been asked to get copies. Privacy and security are big issues in the West and so without any explanation I don't think anyone provided their passports.

A nice holiday in a beautiful region

This is an enjoyable trip to a beautiful region. There is a combination of stunning mountain scenery, church architecture, and an overview of the history of these two interesting countries. It’s a comfortable trip with decent hotels, nice transport, and not too much waking (although it would not be a good option for travellers with limited mobility). The days, particularly in Georgia, are long and there isn’t much ‘downtime’.

Most Inspirational Moment

My favourite places were the monasteries of Sevanovank, Norovank and Haghpat in Armenia. The Armenian scenery in particular is really impressive.

Thoughts on Group Leader

The trip has two leaders, one for Georgia, one for Armenia. Both were very competent and well organised and ensured the trip ran smoothly throughout.

Advice for Potential Travellers

There are lots of long drives. These are on good roads in a comfortable bus so aren't difficult, but take something to do e.g. a book or ipod. The walk up to the Gergeti monastery is steep on rough paths and requires a small amount of scrambling. I managed it despite being unfit (but otherwise physically able), but it's not one for people with limited mobility. The walk itself doesn't really offer much in terms of things to see, it's just about the physical challenge and exercise, so don't worry about missing out if you're not sure. The penultimate day finishes mid afternoon so you get free time in Tbilisi afterwards - this is most useful if you travel when the days are longest. The last full day is very long and we didn't get back until nearly 10pm, so don't expect to do anything then. However the most common flights used don't leave until late afternoon so you do get the morning free on the day you go home.

Very interesting, and lots of churches

A pair of countries from the deep beginnings of world Christianity.
Early architecture predominantly religious based is the mainstay of the holiday. However it’s easy to look beyond this at the beautiful landscapes, friendly people, tasty food and vibrant towns & cities

Most Inspirational Moment

I was surprised and enjoyed thoroughly the cities of Yerevan and Tibilisi

Thoughts on Group Leader

We had 2 group leaders. Rafik for Armenia and Nino for Georgia. Both leaders were different. Rafik was not religious and concentrated on the art and history of the buildings. He ran a tight ship and everything was like clockwork. His country was very leisurely and relaxed. The walks were very easy. The older travelers found him to be quite charming. Nino in Georgia was organised but lead the trip through the tougher stage of strict dress codes in churches and more walking with many stairs. Some travelers found this a bit tough. I think as she was religious some of the groups slack adherence to dress code and behaviour did frustrate her a bit, and frustrated some of the group too. I will mention more below.

Advice for Potential Travellers

Packing for trips is tricky and not knowing a dress code is confusing. Most churches have an English rule guide or a pictorial poster outside explains how to dress in their venues. In Armenia it was less strict. For men and ladies No shorts above knee and no vests. Ladies cover head with scarf. In Georgia men’s rules are exactly as Armenia. And sometimes there was a sarong/skirt at a rack by church door for you to wear. But not many so don’t rely on it. For ladies in Georgia churches. No shorts above knee, no vests, no trousers, jeans or leggings. But you could put a skirt or sarong over top (locals carried sarong with them to cover leg wear when they popped into pray). Behaviour in churches should be respectful. Please don’t photograph or film on your phone, people praying, having blessings, monks or priests. Take pictures of the building and frescoes and don’t interfere with locals going about their religious practice. It seems obvious but on holiday many tourists seem to forget their manners.

Suggestions

In Yerevan there is a musical fountain display every night 9-11. Very popular with locals and good atmosphere. We thoroughly enjoyed it. In Tbilisi there are big queues for cable car about 1 hour before sunset. But it’s worth it. You need a travel card loaded with credit for cable car and underground. And to save 60 pence you can buy one travel card between a group and pass it back as you tap in. It’s normal, most people do that. Carry a Sarong for churches that way if it’s hot you can wear shorts. And we went in June and the meadow flowers and poppies were beautiful. Most importantly enjoy the trip.

Highlights of Georgia & Armenia

An excellent introduction to both countries that left me wanting to investigate them further.

Most Inspirational Moment

Several of the monasteries were truly breath-taking and exuded a sense of history and devotion. Listening to small choir singing in one was wonderful. The scenery could have been taken from a geography textbook.

Thoughts on Group Leader

Both the leaders were good but the knowledge of architecture and cultural history of Armenia shown by Rafik really added to the tour.

Advice for Potential Travellers

Be prepared for some long journeys and not spending as much time in some sites as you might like and be prepared for 4 seasons in 1 day. Don't bother with water purification tablets (as per trip notes) - they are not required!

Suggestions

The food in both countries is wonderful!

A trip of 2 halves

Loved Armenia, Georgia itinerary needs improvement

Most Inspirational Moment

Everything in Armenia was beautiful.

Thoughts on Group Leader

Rafik in Armenia was amazing. The group leader in Georgia did not give enough information about timings, did not organise vegetarian main courses for the vegetarian as the starters which are plentiful are mainly vegetarian.

Advice for Potential Travellers

Make sure you book in on line and print your boarding pass to avoid a fee on checking in at Gatwick. Be prepared for your check in luggage to be broken in to. 3 out of 11 of our group had their bags opened and rifled through. Get a customs lock so they don’t cut the lock. Consider getting your bag wrapped. You do not need water purification tablets. Bottled water is supplied and easily available. Day 13 is a at least 12 hours so have your last dinner together the day before. Get the jeep as the alpine walk is hard work.

Armenia Georgia and Azerbaijan

The whole trip was really interesting and the timetable excellent and well organised. Breakfast at 8am and off at 9am
The transport was very comfortable with excellent drivers and guides
It was nice to have a trip where very many of the meals were included, unlike the usual breakfast only
I felt that I had a very good overlook of the country
I was disappointed on the overnight train to Azerbaijan. It was old and continually stopped all the time. The distance from Tblisi is just over 450 miles and took over 13 hours. Why could we not have gone on the modern Stadler trains which we saw all the time. I would happily have paid more to have done this

Most Inspirational Moment

I found the whole trip inspirational I didn’t know what to expect and felt that I know much more now Glad I added on the extension to Azerbaijan as it was totally unexpected with wonderful buildings and not Just the old town

Thoughts on Group Leader

Guides were superb. Rafik in Armenia was excellent with unsurpassed knowledge. We all loved his humor and sense of fun Nino in Georgia was very knowledgeable and gave us a really good insight to the country Aida in Azerbaijan was also excellent with knowledge and even if she didn’t eat with us came to the restaurants to help us select Can honestly say three of the best guides ever

Advice for Potential Travellers

A really good trip and super I sight into the three countries. Do add on Azerbaijan as well worth the visit

Suggestions

Most of the hotels were very good except for the two in the mountains. Very much ski hotels and a bit faded and needing refurbishment It would be good to remind the guides that when traveling on the coaches the clients should be reminded to swap around the coach. We did have two people for the whole trip who hogged the two front seats every time and country and nothing was said. It can be awkward for the others on the coach to bring it up I did find this unusual as have always been used to swapping around on other trips

Three wonderful countries not to be missed

Don’t wait to visit Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan. Now is the time. This very interesting and thorough tour covering a large geographical area gives an in-depth experience into each of these three former Soviet republics. In Armenia, one travels from Yerevan in the centre, then south, back to Lake Sevan and on to the north to the cross the border. In Georgia, from Tbilisi, one radiates out from the capital to the North, West, East and South. In Azerbaijan, which is only for two days only Baku and a small area around can be covered. The only downside was a lot of coach travel albeit extremely comfortable as we had a 51 seater for 14 of us! I loved Armenia the best with Yerevan and its lovely Republic square, the brown dry barren scenic hills to the south, the vast expanse of Lake Sevan and the complete change of scenery to the north where it was green trees and UK type countryside.

For me this trip, semi-completed a journey started three years ago. As in 2016, I visited the Baltic countries, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. Then in 2017, three of the five Stans – Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. And finally this trip. It is so interesting being able to look back and reflect on the difference between these countries, each one of which appears to be at a different developmental stage. What I notice the most having visited all nine, is the effect of their geographical location, the West to East/Europe to Asia influence on their individual progress, along with their proximity to their friendly or not-so-friendly neighbours. I would definitely recommend visiting these three and some of the other former Soviet republics as the more you see the more one starts to understand their history.

Most Inspirational Moment

In Armenia, the food and wine was amazing and tasted as food should. Each day we stopped for lunch at a small out of the way restaurant in a picturesque location and were experted dined to wonderful fresh salads, BBQ trout or meat along with freshly cooked lavash (flatbread). In Georgia, taking the cable car in Tbilisi just before sunset up to the fort and then having a beer in a small café overlooking the city all lit up.

Thoughts on Group Leader

All three group leaders were amazing. In Armenia, we had Rafik whose command of English was outstanding. As was his ability to impart in-depth knowledge about his beloved country. In Georgia, we had Nino who was equally good at imparting knowledge about her country and its numerous churches along with their saints. Then in Azerbaijan, Rizwan. We only had him for a short time, two days but he also excelled in his knowledge delivery.

Advice for Potential Travellers

For ladies, do take dresses and skirts. In Armenia and Georgia in late September/early October, it was warm, in the late 20C or early 30C with beautiful warm sunny days. I realise that most Exodus travellers wear trousers, but if you like wearing summer frocks, this would be your opportunity. You may be concerned about the churches but as long as your dress/skirt is at least below the knee you will be fine. For quite a few churches in Georgia, ladies without skirts had to don one from a basket at the church door! In fact this statement goes for all nine of the former Soviet republics, where you can wear exactly the same clothes as the UK. I made a big mistake when travelling to the Stans, as I thought ladies would have to cover up, long sleeves, long dresses but it’s not true. Also do think about taking sandals both for ladies and men. Some of the men on the trip were very envious that I had my walking sandals as they mentioned they wished they had brought theirs. If you want some presents, look out for the lovely pale blue moonstone jewellery. You can find these both in Armenia and Georgia. They make lovely presents. Also when visiting Signagi in Georgia, do venture up the main street and over the top, through an arch towards the city walls where there are a couple of shops selling cotton rugs (very similar to kilims) in beautiful colours and designs and ever so cheap. I bought two, one 4’ x 2 1/2’ for £5 and the other 3’ x 2’ for £3. I wish I’d bought more as they make great bedside rugs. Do seriously consider the Azerbaijan extension, which although being very expensive for what turned out to be only two full days touring, was certainly extremely worthwhile as it did complete the story between the three countries.

Suggestions

Go now before things change too much. Georgia is on the waiting list to join the EU; Armenia elected a new prime minister in May 2018 who they hope will provide them with a brighter future; Azerbaijan has a massive building programme to increase tourism. They have been advised that oil will run out by the end of the century, and they need to provide the country with an alternative source of income.