Now booking... 2016
Cathedrals of Tao Culture Tour Canyonlands, Monasteries
West Georgia, Turkey
June 17-28, 2016
Tusheti National Park Cultural Tour Vineyards, Monasteries, and Mountains
East Georgia
July 1-12, 2016
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Tour Reviews: 2006-PresentTestimonials from past tour participants

Mount Kazbegi, Trinity Monastery (13th c.)

Tour leaders chanting Shen khar venakhi in the Ananuri Church of the Dormition of the Theotokos Tbilisi Old Town

Old Town, Tbilisi Tbilisi Old TownTbilisi, 19th c. district Tbilisi Old TownTbilisi Bath District (17th c.)

Tour Participants chanting Ghvtismshobelo kaltsulo in the Sapara Monastery, 2011 svetitsxoveli

Svetitskhoveli Cathedral, 12th century, UNESCO

Fortress town of Sighnaghi

Vineyards, East Georgia Jvari Church

Jvari church, 6th century, Mtskheta, UNESCO

Horse and cart, East Georgia

Tour participants singing traditional song, 2011

Qevri wine-making amphoras, Alaverdi Monastery

Davit-Gareji Lavra Monastery

Rock-hewn chapel, Davit-Gareji Udabno Monastery

Viticulture & Highlands

a tour to tusheti national park
(East Georgia)

July 1 - 12, 2016

Keselo Fortress, Tusheti

Tour brochure

A brand new itinerary improves on past experience for an ideal 11 day/night tour featuring the best of viticulture in East Georgia and the highlands of the Tusheti National Park, UNESCO World Heritage Area. Starting in the bustling capital of Tbilisi, we explore the multi-ethnic heritage of this city through the museums, architecture, cuisine, and music. Venturing up the Mtkvari River, we visit the ancient capital of Georgia, Mtskheta, where rivers converge and Christianity was first preached in this part of the country. See below for a complete description of the tour locales.



Curious what former participants have to say about their experiences in Georgia? See our Impressions link at the top left of this page.

Tour Fee and Registration:

To reserve your place on the tour, please contact John A. Graham for a registration form and pricing. Prices are based on double occupancy with a limited number of single supplements also available. The tour fee covers all expenses for the 11-night tour including chauffeured coach, 4x4 jeep transportation, airport transfers, accommodation in quality boutique hotels, guide services, musical entertainment, and most importantly all-you-can eat delicious seasonal meals + table wines! Airfare not included.


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Tour Locations:


+ Tbilisi, capital city of Georgia, founded in the 5th century by King Vakhtang Gorgasali. A center of trade and conflict for centuries, Tbilisi has been sacked forty times by various invaders but survives today as the modern hub of the South Caucasus. Nevertheless, the downtown area is full of winding cobblestone streets, small shops and restaurants, as well as the churches, synagogues, and mosques that celebrate the diversity of this unique country. As we tour monasteries in the ancient capital region, a comfortable downtown Tbilisi hotel will serve as our home-base, affording a chance to sample the best of Tbilisi's dining and evening entertainment, and visit the wealth of museums, spas, and cultural delights in the "Old Town."

Mtkvari River Valley

+ Starting in Tbilisi (named for the hot springs along the river), we journey upstream to the ancient capital Mtskheta. Dominated by the 11th century Cathedral of the "Living Cross," Mtskheta was once the thriving trade capital of East Georgia but is now a quaint little hamlet at the confluence of Mtkvari and Aragvi rivers. The Romans reached Mtskheta in 65 AD, as evidenced by the remains of a bridge left behind, and in the early Christian era, St. Nino the Enlightener worked miracles, converting the Iberian King Mirian and his queen Nana to Christianity in 337 AD. Further up the Mtkvari River, we visit the Ateni Sioni Church (7th c.).


+ Sighnaghi, a hilltop fortress town built by King Erekle in the 18th century; boasts twenty seven towers and a four kilometer defensive wall overlooking the broad Alezani valley, commanding a 180 degree view of the Great Caucasus Range. Once an artisan capital, Sighnaghi is quickly re-establishing itself as a center of the artistic renaissance of 21st century Georgia, hosting three dance troupes, folk and sacred choirs, painting, music, carpet-making, and wood-working studios, as well as a regional branch of the State University. We will make ourselves at home in this charming town for the first half of the tour while we visit the incredible treasures of medieval architecture in the region including the Bodbe, Alaverdi, Ghirsa, and Iqalto monasteries.


+ The remote highland region of Tusheti, now a National Park protected by the Georgian government, is a pristine mountain landscape featuring broad terraced meadows, dense forests, and river canyons. The area is inhabited by the Tush people, who speak a dialect of Georgian, and are semi-nomadic herdsmen who winter their flocks in the Kakhetian lowlands and produce highly-prized Tushetian cheeses. According to various competing historical accounts, the various groups of Tush (or Batsbi) fled the Christianization of the lowland Georgian kings, maintaining their animist traditions in the highlands. In a census of 1876, more than 5000 people lived in Tusheti, but in recent times this number has dwindled to just 500 year-round residents. Historically, the highlanders were feared warriors and were responsible for several key victories over Persian forces in East Georgia. This militaristic culture is reflected in the medieval defensive towers that dominate Tush villages, similar to those found in highland Chechnya and Daghestan directly across the border. Tush culture is also famous for its folk songs and dances, which maintain consistent popularity in Georgian mainstream media. The access road to Tusheti is open to 4x4 jeep traffic only six months of the year and has been included on numerous "most dangerous roads in the world" lists. It must be said, however, that in the hands of our capable drivers they're not that extreme, and they spend more time cursing the migrating flocks of sheep than worrying about road conditions.

Telavi, Alazani Valley

+ Telavi, the regional capital of the Kakheti region in East Georgia, was the historical seat of the lowland Georgian kings allied with the highland tribes in Tusheti, Khevsureti, and Pshavi. In the Telavi region, at the head of the rich Alazani valley, there are many famous monasteries and castles set amidst long rows of cultivated vineyards. These include the 8th c. double-domed Kvelatsminda church, the 11th-12th monumental Alaverdi Cathedral and secluded Iqalto Academy, as well as the 16th c. Gremi fortress and Shuamta Convent. Our visits to the region always include local wine-tastings, song, and feasting!


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Leader Profiles:

John A Graham

Ethnomusicologist and Georgian chant scholar, John currently holds a post-doctoral teaching fellowship at Yale Institute of Sacred Music. His PhD at Princeton University, "The Transmission and Transcription of Georgian Liturgical Music," encompassed a comprehensive investigation of the available sources for the medieval liturgical chant of the Georgian Orthodox Church.

All Tour Leader Biographies here.


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Where is Georgia?

Georgia is a country nestled in the South Caucasus along the eastern coast of the Black Sea and is bordered by Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Daghestan, and Russia. Ancient names for Georgia include Kolchis, Egrisi, Lazika, Iberia, and Urartu, and is attested to in the histories by Strabo, Xenophon, and Herodotus. Georgians call themselves "Karts" and their land "Sa-kart-vel-o".

Information on the region can be found on the web. Please see our recommendations on the resources page of this website, or click here.


Flights to Georgia:

Airfare to and from Georgia is reliable, with hub airports in London, Vienna, Paris, and Istanbul. We recommend avoiding hub routes through Moscow.

From New York and Boston, prices range from $1000-$1400 roundtrip, from European destinations between $500-$800 roundtrip. Many guests find it convenient to route through Istanbul. Airline reservations before May 1st recommended.

The tour provides airport transfers to make your transition as comfortable as possible, and also makes additional hotel bookings per your requirements.

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