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Georgia Tour

The End of the Libertarian Dream?

Neil MacFarlane examines the legacy of Mikhael Saakhashvili’s Rose Revolution in one of the most startlingly beautiful countries of the Caucasus: Georgia.


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Thoughts & Views

Nicholas Wood touring the Blue Line in southern Lebanon with Indonesian UN peace-keeping troops

How Political Tours came about

Nicholas Wood describes how the idea for Political Tours came about and how we run our tours. He was speaking with the Aussie politics...
    Book your Georgia Tour

    Tour Itinerary

    In August 2008, the West’s relations with Moscow were brought to dramatic focus as Russian tanks moved within kilometres of the Georgian capital Tbilisi. The conflict over South Ossetia soured relations between the United States, the EU and Russia. It was also the prelude for the demise of the free market advocate and former President Mikhael Saakhashvili.

    Since then Georgia has attempted to restore relations with Russia, a new government and president have been elected.

    The trip starts in the beautiful city of Batumi, where the government has ambitious plans for a new economic trade zone. From there we travel to Poti, Georgia’s key port on the Black Sea, and then Georgia’s boundary with Abkhazia, the breakaway state that Russia now recognises as independent. We spend time in Gori, the birthplace of Stalin and home to a museum dedicated to him, and visit villages near the boundary with South Ossetia. Both these areas were significantly affected by the 2008 conflict. The tour concludes with briefings with leading government officials in Tbilisi.

    As well as providing unparalleled analysis, and briefings from key officials and decision makers, the tour includes visits to key cultural and historic centres, such as Motsameta and Gelati, as well as time spent with communities affected by the recent conflicts of the region. There is also an optional extension to the trip to Kakheti, a stunning region in the Eastern most edge of the country.

    There will be between 8 and 18 participants on this tour. If we do not meet the minimum required number we may cancel the tour and your money will be returned.

    Day 1: Batumi

    We recommend the TAV Georgia flight from Istanbul – Departure 14.05. Arrival 16.30. Brief walking tour of Batumi and main boulevard. Briefing on the days ahead by Neil MacFarlane and Keti Tsikhelashvili. Meeting with heads of Adjara government. Dinner with city council representatives and NGOs.

    Day 2: History & Economic Ambitions

    Walk through the city, a mix of new and historic sites. Briefing from government on plans to transform the city into a new “European Riviera” and Free Economic Zone. Lunch and dinner in Batumi, coupled with visits to open market and cultural event.

    Day 3: Economic Development & Relations with Abkhazia

    Drive to Poti – major port city on the Black Sea with operational Free Economic Zone. Meeting with supervisor’s board, and port director. Lunch in Poti with city council members. Drive to Inguri Hydro Power Plant that straddles the boundary between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia. The enormous complex is managed by both sides, shedding light on relations between the two sides. Drive to Zugdidi – meeting internally displaced people from the conflict in Abkhazia – and late arrival in Kutaisi.

    Day 4: Kutaisi, Stalin’s Legacy & South Ossetia

    Kutaisi is one of the ancient cities of the region and a few years ago celebrated its 3500th anniversary, and was the capital of the United Kingdom of Georgia. Drive to Motsameta and Gelati, outstanding historical and cultural sites, the monastery and the cathedral, including Gelati Academy from 11-12th century. Lunch in Kutaisi with local representatives. Drive to Gori. We examine the legacy of Georgian born Stalin at the Occuption Museum (formerly Stalin Museum). In Gori we begin to examine the consequences of the 2008 war. Briefing with Keti Tsikhelashvisi. Visit to communities forced out of their homes by the conflict.

    Day 5: The Legacy of the 2008 Conflict

    The morning is dedicated to visits to villages near the line of contact with South Ossetia, with briefings from NGOs or international officials on the impact of the crisis regionally. In the afternoon we visit Mtskheta, the old capital of Georgia, and Jvari Monastery. Gripping view of the Aragvi and Mtkvari (Kura) rivers. Drive to Tbilisi. Dinner with media representatives. Briefings on key political issues facing government today.

    Day 6: Government Briefings – What Next for Georgia?

    Meetings with an advisor to the Prime Minister, the Ministry of Interior, Georgian experts from leading centres and organisations, and international financial organisations. Guided tour of Old Tbilisi, the capital that was built in the 5th century. Dinner with Kakha Bendukidze, the rector of the Free University, and the “father” of Georgian libertarian reforms. For more on Bendukidze’s personal story and the “story of Libertarian Revolution in Georgia”, see www.esiweb.org.

    Day 7: How to Defuse the Conflict?

    Briefings with Ministry for Reintegration, the Ministry for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration, Human Rights Ombudsman, and MPs. Lunch with guests. Meeting with the EU delegation to Georgia and opposition politicians. Dinner in Tbilisi with international NGO representatives.

    Day 8: Conclusions and Departure for Airports

    Optional Two Day Extension: Drive to Kakheti Region, the wine making region of Georgia. Details to follow.

    If you would like to book a tour please click here to fill in our booking form. Or call us on 0843 289 2349 or email us at [email protected] to find out more.

    Essential Information

    How to make your Georgia Tour booking

    You can make a booking by contacting Political Tours directly by phone on 0834 289 2349, email [email protected] or click here to fill in our booking form.

    To confirm your booking you need to send a non-refundable deposit of 15% of the total holiday cost or £250 per person (whichever is the greater) made payable to Political Tours Limited.

    If you are booking less than 8 weeks prior to departure the full cost of the tour is payable.

    If you would like to contact Political Tours’ Director, Nicholas Wood, he can be reached by email at [email protected] or by mobile phone on +44 7855 266 151.

    What is included in the Georgia Tour?

    Please be aware that Political Tours is a land-only tour operator. Our clients travel from many countries and the costs of flights to and from the destination are not included in the price. Accommodation includes stays in 3-4 star hotels in Batumi, Tbilisi and Kakheti. Kutaisi suggests an average 3 star cozy hotel. Gori only offers basic facilities.

    How to Reach Georgia

    The travel starts from Batumi - the South-Westmost Black Sea city of Georgia and will conclude in Tbilisi (or Kakheti for those who stay on extended program). The best way to reach Batumi is to use the connection via Istanbul that connects back both to Batumi and Tbilisi. We recommend the TAV Georgia flight from Istanbul; Departure - 14.05 h. / Arrival 16.30 h. From Batumi, the group will travel by bus to all destinations in the tour program. Maximum non-stop over drives are no more than 2.5 hours.

    From Batumi to Tbilisi straight car drive is 5.5 hours. However, as we travel to different destinations on the way to Tbilisi, the program will entail a few days.

    Passports, Visa & Health

    All clients are personally responsible for ensuring that they have a valid passport and conform to the health regulations required by the country's that will be visited during the tour.

    Travel to Georgia is easy due to Georgia’s unilateral liberalisation of visa regulations for citizens of the EU countries, Switzerland, Japan, the United States and Canada and some others. Hence, no visas are required for a short stay. For additional information please visit the website of Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia at: www.mfa.gov.ge/georgia.

    Advice on health requirements may be obtained from your GP, or alternatively from the Department of Health leaflet Advice on Health for Travelers, which may be obtained from us, or the Department of Health in the UK.

    Personal Safety

    The level of crime in Georgia has declined over the last couple of years, however travelers are advised to pursue the vigilance for their own safety and safety of their belongings. Do not walk around with large amounts of cash or alone in the dark. This especially refers to the regions and proximity of conflict zones. In case of emergency you can call 022 – patrol police hotline that works all over Georgia. The Foreign and Commonwealth office advises against all travel to the separatist regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and all but essential travel to areas near the Administrative Border Lines (ABLs) with Abkhazia and South Ossetia, where tensions remain high.

    Our tour includes visits in villages in close proximity to the ABL. For this reason it is imperative that all our clients have insurance that will cover then in areas where the FCO has recommended against all but essential travel. We cannot let any clients travel without this. Please see our insurance section below.

    The FCO makes the following about the Administrative Border Line, Abkhazia and South Ossetia. “We advise against all travel to the separatist regions of South Ossetia, Abkhazia and the upper Kodori Valley (also known as upper Abkhazia). We advise against all but essential travel to areas near the Administrative Boundaries of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. “You should exercise extreme caution if you travel along the M27 road (also known as the M1), particularly where it runs very close to South Ossetia, i.e. between the Stepantsminda/Gudauri turnoff and Gori, and between Gori and Khashuri. There remains a risk of local volunteer militia or criminal activity in these, and the Akhalgori areas. If you are entering any of the areas detailed above on essential business, you should liaise closely with the British Embassy, Tbilisi prior to travelling.

    We advise against use of the M27 during the hours of darkness.” “There is some residual risk from unexploded ordinance in areas where fighting took place in August 2008, and in military installations where Russian troops were present. There have been some reports of mines and other explosions.” The FCO advice can be found at the following link. http://www.fco.gov.uk/georgia


    Appropriate and adequate travel insurance is essential and is a condition of travelling with us. Your policy must include comprehensive medical cover including the cost of evacuation and repatriation from the remote destinations included in your tour in the event of illness or accident in addition to other medical requirements. Please provide us with confirmation of the name of your insurance company, the policy number and the insurers’ emergency contact telephone number for use in a medical emergency no later than 8 weeks prior to the tour departure. If you fail to do so, we are entitled to cancel your booking and apply the cancellation charges shown below. You must also ensure that the policy will protect you in the event that you travel to an area against the advice of the Foreign Office.

    Hazards Inherent in Our Tours

    It is in the nature of the itineraries we offer that the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office may have issued advice against all travel or all but essential travel in relation to the country or parts of the country we are intending to visit prior to confirmation of your booking. Where the FCO issues such advice, we may as a result cancel your tour or make changes so as to avoid the area concerned (see clauses 10 and 12 of our Terms and Booking Conditions). Alternatively, we may ask you to sign a form confirming you wish to proceed with the tour notwithstanding the FCO advice.

    Our Cancellation Charges

    If you feel you need to cancel a tour before departure we reserve the right to make the following charges. The period before departure within which written notification of cancellation is received by us, and the charges per person cancelling are as follows:

    Up to 56 days                                                             Deposit

    55 to 28 days                                                              50%

    27 to 15 days                                                               75%

    14 days or less                                                            100%

    On receipt of your booking form and deposit we will confirm your booking in writing, then approximately 8 weeks before departure we shall send you further information relevant to your tour together with a final invoice. Please pay the invoice within 10 days of the invoice date otherwise we reserve the right to treat the booking as cancelled and apply the cancellation conditions as set out below. Your travel documents are dispatched about 7/10 days before the tour departs.

    Full details of our terms and conditions can be viewed by clicking this link.

    Further Reading

    Books & Online Publications

    Thomas De Waal - An introduction to the Caucasus. OUP USA (28 Oct 2010) ISBN-10: 0195399773 ISBN-13: 978-0195399776 http://www.amazon.co.uk/Caucasus-Introduction-Thomas-Waal

    Neil MacFarlane - The Caucasus - Great Decisions in Foreign Policy 2011: The 8 Most Critical Global Affairs Issues of 2011 (Great Decision in Foreign Policy Television Series 2010), http://www.fpa.org/info-url_nocat4705

    Neil MacFarlane - How to Get a Russia Georgia Dialogue, Chatham House, 2010. REP Programme Paper 05/10 http://www.chathamhouse.org/publications/papers/view/109514

    UND Human Development Report. Georgia 2008 - The Reforms and Beyond, http://hdr.undp.org/georgia

    Report: Reinventing Georgia: A Story of Libertarian Revolution, ESI, April, 2010, available in three parts (forth upcoming) at: www.esiweb.org

    August Ruins, OSGF publications, Tbilisi, 2009, the report prepared by independent Georgian NGOs which along with ample background information on 2008 War highlights humanitarian damage particularly in the region of our focus. The online version is available at: www.osgf.ge

    Picture Story: Privileged Interests? How Russia Debates the Southern Caucasus, ESI, December, 2009. Available at: www.esiweb.org/esi_picture_story_-_privileged_interest-the_russian_debate_on_the_caucasus

    Guided tour through literature on Georgia (ESI) – Georgia’s Revolution and a Future of its Democracy. available at: www.esiweb.org/literature_tour_-_georgias_revolution_and_the_future_of_its_democracy

    Georgia Websites

    Civil Georgia – Independent news portal for Georgia. www.civil.ge

    Radio Free Europe’s Georgia webpage: www.rferl.org/Georgia

    The Jamestown Foundation – US Conservative think tank with good news resources on Russia and the Caucasus: www.jamestown.org/thecaucasus