Sample Custom Program Itineraries
These are sample faculty-led itineraries for custom programs we have developed with our partners. They are specifically designed to be fairly packed with highlights and activities to allow for several approaches. You might use a highlights approach for a more general audience, a community or alumni trip. You could also expand the itinerary, adding in time for academic components that you lead. We can work with you to identify local experts and relevant institutions and organizations and invite their participation.
For each of the itineraries below, we suggest themes or topics that work well not only in the country/region but within the basic framework of the sample itinerary.
And don’t forget about regional trips – covering multiple countries in the Caucasus or Central Asia, for example. We can help you connect themes between the countries and map the most efficient routing.
Introduction to Georgia
This itinerary introduces the history, culture, and culinary traditions of Georgia. Cover the cities and countryside, the dominant culture as well as multiple minority cultures, and mix tastings, guided tours, and masterclasses with lots of local interaction.
|Day 1||Arrival to Tbilisi
Welcome Meal & Program Overview
|Day 2||AM: City walking tour
Georgian Tea House & Museum
PM: Cooking masterclass: khachapuri, eggplant rolls, khinkali
|Day 3||AM: Day trip to Kazbegi
– Stop near Jinvali water reservoir
– Stop near Ananuri Monastery
– Khinkali lunch (Kakhaberi restaurant)
– Visit Gergeti Trinity Church
PM: Return to Tbilisi
|Day 4||AM: Visit the Georgian National Museum
PM: Free Time
|Day 5||AM: Kakheti day trip
– Stop to see lavash making, tasting local cheese
– Tour of Bodbe and Sighnaghi
– Lunch in Sighnaghi (restaurant Kizik or Kusika)
– Wine tasting at a wine factory
PM: Drive back to Tbilisi
|Day 6||AM: Georgian dancing class
PM: Traditional healing sulfur baths
|Day 7||AM: Tour Mtskheta, visit Svetitskhoveli Cathedral and Djvari Church
PM: Free Time
|Day 8||AM: Gori (Stalin Museum)
Uplistsikhe (ancient cave city)
Lunch in Gori (Restaurant Joseph)
Overnight in Vardzia (with dinner)
|Day 9||AM: Visit to Vardzia
PM: Visit Akhaltsikhe Fortress
Return to Tbilisi
|Day 10||Farewell dinner|
|Day 11||Departure from Tbilisi|
Introduction to Armenia
This introduction to Armenia will truly acquaint you with the people of Armenia. Learn of the country's strong religious heritage - from the only surviving pagan temple in the Soviet space to its modern Christian heritage. Learn of the painful Armenian Genocide from the Armenian perspective. Discover Armenia's natural beauty, exquisite food and agriculture, and incredible hospitality!
|Day 1||AM: History Museum of Armenia
PM: Walking Tour of Yerevan (Republic Square, Mashtots Park, Armenian National Academic Theatre of Opera and Ballet, Cascade Complex and Cafesjian Center for the Arts, Saryan Street)
– Overnight in Yerevan
|Day 2||AM: Sardarapat National Ethnographical Museum and Memorial Complex of Sardarapat Battle
– Visit to Machanents House to see/try the solar kitchen.
PM: Ejmiadzin Mother Cathedral (Spiritual Center of Armenia) and ruins of the ancient, pagan Zvartnots Temple. – Overnight in Yerevan
|Day 3||AM: Genocide Memorial Complex and Museum
PM: Kari Lake on Mount Aragats
– Optional: short hike
– Visit to Strawberry Farm (local agriculture)
– Overnight in Yerevan
|Day 4||AM: Khor Virap Monastery (close to current Armenian-Turkish border and Mount Ararat).
PM: Drive through Ararat Valley to Vayots Dzor (wine-making region)
– Noravank Monastery
– Areni-1 Cave (oldest evidence of wine making in the world
– Wine-tasting at local winery
– Overnight in Goris
|Day 5||AM: Khndzoresk (village with cave dwellings)
– Cable car to the village of Tatev
– Tatev Monastery (spiritual and educational center of medieval Armenia)
PM: Zorats Karer Archeological Site (ancient observatory)
– Overnight in Yerevan
|Day 6||AM: Free day in Yerevan
PM: Overnight in Yerevan
|Day 7||AM: Garni Pagan Temple
PM: Short hike at Azat River Gorge to see Symphony of Stones (unique rock formation)
– Gegard Medieval Monastery (partly carved from a cliff).
– Overnight in Yerevan
|Day 8||AM: Medieval Saghmosavank Monastery
– Spectacular gorge of Qasakh River
– Monument devoted to Armenian Alphabet
PM: Odzun Basilica from 5th century.
– Children of Armenia Foundation’s SMART Center in Lori region.
– Sightseeing in Dsegh.
– Overnight in Dsegh
|Day 9||AM: Dilijan Resort Town
– Haghardzin Monastery
PM: Drive to Lake Sevan (large lake with unique ecosystem)
– Visit to Glkhatun Restaurant with a rebuilt ethnic house.
– Overnight in Yerevan
|Day 10||AM: Agarak Archeological Site (sacred bronze age settlement)
– Aghtsq Church from 4th century
PM: Wine History Museum with wine tasting
– Depart for home
Introduction to Poland
This introduction to Poland will take you through Warsaw and Krakow, as well as Sopot and other major historical locations. You will discover Poland's proud medieval Golden Age, its painful experience of WWII and Nazism, and its bright European future.
|Day 1||AM: Gdansk City walking tour
– Dwór Artusa (Artus Court)
PM: European Solidarity Center
Optional in Gdansk:
– Westerplatte (WWII)
– WWII Museum
– Stutthof Concentration Camp (WWII, Holocaust)
– Museum of Emigration in Gdynia
|Day 2||All Day: Trip to Malbork Castle (13th-century Teutonic castle)
|Day 3||Free day to explore Sopot, a historical and popular beach resort|
|Day 4||AM: Transfer to Warsaw
PM: Tour of Old Town
|Day 5||AM: POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews
PM: Warsaw Ghetto
|Day 6||AM: Warsaw Uprising Museum
PM: Free time
Optional in Warsaw: Museum of Life Under Communism
– Łazienki Park (especially for Sunday Chopin concerts in summer)
– Wilanów Palace
– Praga District
|Day 7||AM: Transfer to Krakow
PM Walking tour of center: Wawel Royal Castle, St. Mary’s Basilica
|Day 8||AM: Schindler’s Factory
PM: Kazimierz (historic Jewish quarter)
|Day 9||AM: Auschwitz-Birkenau tour|
|Day 10||Free day to explore Krakow
Optional in Krakow: Wieliczka Salt Mine
Kyrgyzstan Up Close
This intense itinerary takes you through Kyrgyzstan, its natural beauty and nomadic traditions. Witness its ancient cities and rural villages. Learn about its traditions of felt and yurt making, eagle hunting, bread making, and more through local masterclasses and demonstrations.
|Day 1||AM: City Tour of Bishkek
PM: Tour of Osh Bazaar
– Welcome Meal (Introduction to Central Asian cuisine)
– Optional: Meet a street artist
|Day 2||AM: Guided Hike of Ala-Archa National Park
PM: Ata Beyit Memorial to the victims of Stalin’s purges.
|Day 3||AM: Burana Tower (Kyrgyzstan’s Silk Road history)
PM: Chong-Kemin Valley Hike (local flora and fauna)
– Stay at local guest house
– Optional: Horse riding
|Day 4||AM: Tour a rural village to learn about the local economy and art
PM: Lake Ysyk-Köl (unique ecosystem)
– Nomadic Civilizations Museum
– Ancient petroglyphs of Cholpon-Ata
– Overnight in Karakol
|Day 5||AM: Karakol city tour (Dungan, Uyghur, and Russian heritage)
PM: Dinner with a local Uyghur family
– Overnight in Karakol
|Day 6||AM: Skazka Canyon Hike (rock formations)
– Traditional eagle hunting demonstration
– Felting workshop
PM: Film: Boz Salkyn (Local film about women’s rights and bride kidnapping)
– Overnight in the village of Bökönbaev
|Day 7||AM: Yurt making demonstration
PM: Orto-Tokoi water reservoir
– Overnight in Kochkor
|Day 8||AM: Tash-Rabat medieval caravanserai (Kyrgyzstan’s Silk Road history)
PM: Overnight in Naryn
|Day 9||AM: Tour of Naryn (Silk Road fortress and important agricultural center)
PM: Kyzyl Oi (rural village and nature)
– Over night in Kyzyl Oi
|Day 10||AM: Toktogul water reservoir and hydroelectric plant
PM: Fergana Valley (strategic for regional food security)
– Overnight in Arstanbab village
|Day 11||AM: Arstanbab Walnut Forest (unique ecosystem and ethnic traditions)
PM: Overnight in Arstanbab village
|Day 12||AM: Travel to Uzgen (Ozgon), a medieval capital city with Islamic architecture
PM: Travel to Osh, the second largest city in Kyrgyzstan and southern capital
– Sacred mountain of Sulaiman-Too
– Overnight in Osh
|Day 13||AM: Explore Osh, a 3000 year old city
– Tandoori bread masterclass
– Knife making masterclass
PM: *Film screening: “Kurmanjan Datka” a historical film about a great female general of the 19th century
|Day 14||AM: Uzbek and Uyghur neighborhoods in Osh
PM: Flight home from Osh
Highlights of Uzbekistan and the Aral Sea
Focus on Uzbekistan, its history, art, and climate science. Discover the “Museum of Forbidden Art” in Nukus. See camels, dunes, and yurts. Explore a unique desert forest filled with gazelles. Visit a massive solar energy facility and a renowned astroclimate observatory.
|Day 1||Arrival to Tashkent
Walking Tour of Old Tashkent
|Day 2||Flight to Nukus
Kungrad Historic Silk Road Trading Site
Overnight in Yurts
|Day 3||Muynak Village
“Ship Graveyard” on former Aral Sea
Drive on old sea bottom
Mizdak-khan 14th-Century Architectural Complex
|Day 4||Savitsky Museum of Nukus (“Museum of Forbidden Art”)
Zoroastrian Temple of Silence
Drive to Khiva
Ichan Kala Citadel
The Blue Minaret
The Ark Citadel
The Tosh Khovli Palace and Harem
Mausoleum of Pahlawan Mahmud
Madrasa of Muhammad Rahimkhan
The old slave market
Traditional lunch served in the old city
|Day 6||Train to Bukhara through the Kyzyl Kum Desert
Views of the Amu Darya
Lunch in the desert
Short walking tour of historic center
Mausoleum of Samanids
Bolo Khauz Mosque
The Monuments of Lyabi Khauz
Dinner with traditional dance and fashion show
|Day 8||Drive to Shahrisabz
Jayron National Park
Palace of Amir Temur
Maydanak Astroclimate Observatory
Overnight in Yurt Camp
|Day 9||Drive to Samarkand through mountain passes
Valley of Demons
Chor-Chinor Garden of ancient sycamores
Transfer to Samarkand
Samarkand by Night Tour
Samarkand Silk Paper Workshop
The Observatory of Ulugh Beg
The Museum of the History of Samarkand
Afrosiyob Archaeological Site
The Shakhi Zinda Necropolis
Bibi Khanum Mosque
High speed train from Samarkand to Tashkent
|Day 11||Drive to Chatkal Mountain Range
Beldersay, Chimgan and Charvak.
|Day 12||Day trip to the Parkent village
Sun Institute Solar Oven Power Plant
Kazakhstan: Identity and Environment
This tour is a fast-paced, very active itinerary visiting three regions of Kazakhstan. With history and culture at the core, it lends itself well to studies of identity and/or environment, ecology, and nature.
|Day 1||Arrival to Astana.
Rest at hotel.
|Day 2||City tour of Astana, a new, specially built capital featuring work by architects like Norman Foster.
– Independence Square
– Views of Nur-Zhol Boulevard, Astana city and the surrounding steppes.
– Baiterek Tower
– National Museum including its famous Scythian gold artifacts and “Golden Man.”
– Hazrat Sultan Mosque
– Kazakh welcome dinner
|Day 3||– Breakfast
– Drive to Alzhir Memorial Complex (40 km out of the city). This museum is dedicated to a Stalin-era gulag for the wives of “enemies of the people.”
– EXPO 2017 (largest spherical building in the world)
– The Nur-Alem Museum of the Future and Tech Campus
– Meeting with tech students from Nazarbayev University to discuss future prospects for young people in Kazakhstan.
|Day 4||– Breakfast
– Drive to Korgalzhyn Nature Reserve, a wetland paradise, massive bird migration center, and the largest nature reserve in Kazakhstan. (130 kms away)
[Note: Best time to visit this reserve is May, when tulips are blooming.]
– Transfer to Shymkent.
|Day 5||– Shymkent city tour
– Great Silk Road bazaars
– Architecture from medieval Kazakhstan, Russian Empire, Soviet and modern Kazakhstan
– Transfer to Sairam, once a powerful Sogdian fortress that protected the once-rich trading city
– Walk the ruins and visit ancient mausoleums
|Day 6||– Transfer to Otar, the ruins of one of the biggest cities of the Great Silk Road with a history dating back two thousand years.
– Mausoleum of Arystan-bab, spiritual teacher of Khoja Ahmed Yasawi, Turkestan’s legendary Sufi saint.
– Transfer to Turkestan, former capital of the Kazakh Khanate
– See the newest Karavansaray shopping and tourism complex and watch a boat show
|Day 7||– Transfer to Almaty.
– Free time
– Head to Koktobe Hill to enjoy a panoramic city view
|Day 8||– Almaty city tour
– Victory Square
– Ascension Cathedral, the city’s oldest orthodox church and one of the only buildings to survive the great earthquake of 1911.
– Green Bazaar food tour
– Lunch at one of the cafés at the market
– Free time
|Day 9||– Transfer toCharyn Canyon, (2.5 hours away)
– Striking diversity of landscapes: from green agricultural fields dotted with villages to endless ascetic steppes with only a rare lonely herder.
– Stop the Uighur village Baiseit with a lively and colorful market for grilled meat and tandyr samsa pastries
– Hiking at Charyn Canyon (wear good shoes!)
– Picnic at the shore of the picturesque Charyn River
– Transfer to Kazakh village of Satty
– Hearty dinner with a local family
– Banya (sauna)
|Day 10||– Kolsai Lake (3-4 hour hike)
– Picnic at the lake
– Hike back to Satty (2.5 hours)
– Hearty dinner.
|Day 11||– Hike to Kaindy Lake, formed when the powerful earthquake in 1911 caused a huge landslide that blocked the river and the water flooded the valley. There are still fir trees in the middle.
– Hike back to Satty
– Meet with Kazakh family of eagle hunters at the little village of Nura.
– Drive back to Almaty
|Day 12||– Cable car to reach Shymbulak Ski Resort
– Views of Ili Alatau Mountains
– Medeo Skating Rink, known as the “Factory of Records” because more than 120 world records have been set here.
– Meet with students from Narxoz University to discuss life in Almaty.
|Day 13||– State Museum of Art to see Kazakh artists
– Free Time in Almaty
|Day 14||Free time in Almaty|
The SRAS guides were excellent! They really knew their stuff and were able to relate the history of the places we visited in an interesting and inventive way. It was obvious they had a lot of experience working with American students.
Thanks again to (SRAS Assistant Director) Josh Wilson for being so helpful with getting us started! At our concluding discussion class yesterday I asked the students to write and then present five “Kliuchevykh slov” about their experience. Several of them wound up referencing Josh’s comments about trying to observe without judging, which he made during the Moscow Walking Tour. Thanks for helping me teach this course!
A long overdue thank you for the wonderful trip you and your staff planned for the Drew group in St. Petersburg. I have never had a trip where NOTHING went wrong. It was a terrific experience from start to finish, your staff was superb and St. Petersburg Economics University was a marvelous host. We enjoyed each and every lecture and guide, and the many fine added touches. I would love to do this again.
Renee, the work that you do is so far beyond any kind of formal service or trip planning in your vision, scope, and ability to think of absolutely everything and anticipate potential problems in advance. You clearly have a gift for this.
My Dear Renee, I am still in Kazakhstan but can report back we had a perfectly splendid time in Kyrgyzstan. The students and I want to collectively buy a little plot of land and a yurt or house in the village at the base of the mountains. They loved their families and I fell in love with Kenzhe, we want to include her in our documentary. I will be in touch over the next two weeks. Forever grateful to you.
We had a great time overall. The students were super impressed with SRAS — the guides, the accommodations, the excursions, etc. The guides were super knowledgeable and kind–the only thing that would improve the tours is volume. They tend to speak quietly so a few people who can’t hear lose interest. But we loved the Hermitage art project and Novgorod, and the bunker, and going behind the fountains at Peterhof, and the boat to Peterhof… We loved everything!