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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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

Ancient christianity in Georgia & Armenia

May 30 - June 10, 2017

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 northern canyonlands and plateaus of Armenia. Starting in the bustling capital of Tbilisi, we explore the multi-ethnic heritage of this city through the museums, architecture, cuisine, and music. Next, we travel to Yerevan, the equally captivating capital city of Armenia. Christianity was first preached in these countries by the Apostles, but became the state religion in the early decades of the fourth century. Come explore the incredible monasteries, cathedrals, songs, and cuisines of these ancient Christian cultures. Contact us to receive the tour brochure and registration form to reserve your place today. Tour limited to 15 people.

Impressions:

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 and Mtskheta

+ 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 and history of this unique capital city. Mtskheta, the ancient capital of Iberia (East Georgia), lies at the confluence of two rivers just 20 miles upstream from Tbilisi. Dominated by the 11th c. Cathedral of the "Living Cross," Mtskheta was once the thriving trade capital of East Georgia. 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 that converted King Mirian and Queen Nana to Christianity in 337 AD.

Yerevan

+ The tour begins in Yerevan, the capital city of Armenia. Once a village hamlet, Yerevan was completely redesigned on a radial plan in the early twentieth century, focused around the Opera house and several prominent museums and monuments. With boulevards oriented towards the imposing extinct volcano of Mount Ararat, pedestrians wandering between sheik boutique shops and open air cafes might be startled by impressive views of the Ararat valley. The Matenadaran Institute of Manuscripts contains a world-class exhibit of medieval illuminated manuscripts from around the world, augmented by a map-room of ancient maps of the Caucasus region, and beautifully calligraphic Persian and Arabic official documents. Another museum of exceptional quality is the house museum of the avant-garde film-maker Sergei Parazhanov, which contains much of his little-known production in ceramics, collage, and costume.

Lake sevan, dilijan

+ The lake is one of the largest high-altitude fresh water lakes in the world at over 6000 feet above sea level. Interestingly, while the lake is fed by as many as 28 different rivers and streams, evaporation accounts for over 90% of its outflow. Human intervention in the ecosystem of the lake has taken its toll. In 1933, Stalin approved a plan to lower the level of the lake by 55 meters to increase arable land, produce hydro-electricity, and create fisheries. After just seven years in operation, nearly half the volume of the lake had been drained. Ever since, the Lake Sevan Commission has been attempting to stabilize the lake level by diverting other rivers through tunnels and other schemes. Historically, the lake has been highly significant, attested to in Persian, Greek, Georgian, and Armenian sources. Several medieval monuments surround the lake including the Noraduz khatchkar (cross-stones) field and the ninth century Hayravank and Sevanavank monasteries.

Debed canyon, lori

+ The Lori region, in the border marchlands between Armenia and Georgia, is dominated by a high-walled basalt canyon that follows the snaking contours of the Debed River. One of the primary trade routes between lowland Georgia and upland Armenia, the canyon served as an important gateway for travelers along the northern Silk Road. The scriptoria of its famous monasteries at Haghpat, Sanahin, and Akhtala grew in prominence especially in the 12th-13th centuries, when King David the Restorer of Georgia liberated the area from Arab and Seljuk control. In modern times, the region is known for industrial cities such as Vanadzor, Spitak, and Alaverdi, and was the epicenter of an earthquake in 1988 that unfortunately coincided with the economic collapse of the Soviet economy. Tourism has brought some life to Lori, as visitors flock to see the majestic grandeur of medieval monasteries perched on canyon plateaus far above the river below.

Bolnisi

+ Bolnisi is the regional capital of Kvemo Kartli, the marchlands between Tbilisi and the Lori region of Armenia. In the 1990s, skeletal remains of 1.8 million year old hominids were found nearby, by far the oldest ever found outside of Africa. The ancient city of Samshvilde, now an overgrown ruin, once boasted many churches and fortifications, and was alternately controlled by Armenian and Georgian princes throughout its history from the late Bronze age up until its total destruction in the 1440s. One of the world's oldest gold mines is located just outside Bolnisi, said to be the origin of much of the aristocratic gold jewelry dating from 3000 BC to 500 AD. Likewise, the 5th century Bolnisi Sioni Church is the oldest Christian church in Georgia. During our two night visit to the region, we will visit all of these sites and more.

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!

 

Keselo Fortress, Tusheti

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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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