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Khertvisi Fortress, Meskheti

Vardzia Cave City, Meskheti

Khandzta Monastery, Tao-Klarjeti

Ancient bridge, Tao-Klarjeti

Oshki Cathedral, nearby minuret

Ishkhani Monastery, Tao-Klarjeti

Parkhali Monastery, Tao-Klarjeti

Ishkhani Monastery, Tao-Klarjeti


Oshki Monastery, Tao-Klarjeti

Khakhuli Monastery, Tao-Klarjeti


Tao-Klarjeti Cultural Tour
May 2016

With a decade of experience leading tours in the Caucasus, we aim to provide unique cultural experiences for our guests with the best possible comfort. Our guides do not recite guidebook entries, but rather fascilitate interaction with local Georgians, enliven sacred spaces with three-part traditional chanting, and lend nuance to discussions on local history, politics, and cultural preservation through extensive personal and professional engagement with the cultures of the Caucasus.

Join us for a unique tour exploring the magnificent cathedral ruins and castles of the once glorious Tao-Klarjeti Kingdom, a precursor to unified Georgia that existed in the 8-11th centuries in what is now NE Turkey and SW Georgia.

Important Details:

Dates: TBA. May 2016.

Tour Fees and Registration: To reserve your space on this tour, contact us using the information below.

Itinerary: Detailed itinerary forthcoming. We will likely begin and end our 12-day itinerary in Batumi Georgia with an optional 3-day extension to Tbilisi, Georgia. The itinerary will feature visits to the sites pictured left, highlighted by visits to the fortress city of Artanuji, the cathedrals of Oshki, Tbeti, Bana, and Okhta, and the ruined Armenian-Georgian capital of Ani. In Georgia we will explore the Mtirala National Park, as well as Upper Adjaria, which directly adjoins Klarjeti in what was once the contiguous kingdom of Tao-Klarjeti.

Impressions: Curious what former participants have to say about their experiences in Georgia with us?


Contact and reservations:


Tour Destinations:


+ Tao-Klarjeti is the mountainous region in contemporary North-Eastern Turkey that was once the birth of the medieval Georgian "Golden Era" that lasted from the tenth to the twelfth centuries. The high-plateau topography is criss-crossed with deep canyons, which offered both fertile farmland and easily defensible positions against Georgia's numerous enemies. Evidence of the cultural and political importance of the area is seen in the ruins of more than three-hundred cathedrals, chapels, bridges, fortifications.

During the tenth century, ruler Davit Kuropalates assisted the Byzantine Emperor Basil II with auxiliary troops to defeat an uprising, an alliance which strengthened the position of Tao against a weak Persia. Read more on the history of the region here.

The Orthodox Church flourished, and the monasteries of Tao-Klarjeti became famous for their illuminated manuscripts, unique chanting schools, and deep connections with monasteries in Palestine, Syria, Egypt, and Greece.

Colchis - Black Sea Coast

+ Emerging from the mountains of Tao, which plunge directly into the Black Sea, we will be only 30 minutes drive to the current Georgian border at Sarpi. This area has been populated for millenium by Georgian tribes who traded with Ancient Greeks, Romans, and later with caravans from the East traveling the Silk Route. We will visit the Roman fort of Gonio (2nd century AD), and stay in the bustling cosmopolitan port city of Batumi. Area sites include the temperate rainforest of the Mtirala National Park, the mountains of Upper Adjaria (day-trip), the famed 19th century botanical gardens, and the National Museum.

Mtkvari River Valley

+ The ancient capital of East Georgia is now the small hamlet of Mtskheta. Dominated by the 11th century Cathedral of the "Living Cross," the town is soothed on either side by the confluence of two major rivers, one of which is crossed by a Roman bridge, built in 65 AD. In the 4th century, St. Nino the Enlightener managed to convert the local monarchs to Christianity, working miracles that saved the life of Queen Nana.


+ 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."


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Leader Profiles:

John A Graham

Ethnomusicologist and Georgian chant scholar, John is a Ph. D. candidate at Princeton University, where he is pursuing research for a dissertation titled "The Transmission and Transcription of Georgian Liturgical Music, 1880-1910." Co-founder of the Monastery Tour in 2006, John had already been studying music and language in Georgian since 2003, including on a Fulbright research grant in 2004, and dissertation research in 2009-2011. In 2005, he organized a US-based tour for the world-renowned Anchiskhati Church Choir, and promoted the energetic Zedashe Ensemble to the States in 2007. In 2012, John organized a month-long tour for the Sakhioba folk ensemble that featured performances at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC, Columbia University, and Yale University. John brings his developed organizational skills, knowledge of Georgia, and passion for music and history to the leadership of the tours.

Alex Balistreri

... is originally from Wisconsin, but has since traveled the world and back. As a Ph.D. candidate in Ottoman studies at Princeton University, he has spent extensive time living and studying Turkey, especially in the northwestern regions along the Georgian border, the regional focus of his dissertation research. Alex is a keen linguist, speaking and reading Turkish, Farsi, Russian, and German, and brings extensive knowledge and expertise on the region to tours in Turkey. Alex is also an alum of the Princeton Georgian Choirs and has been known to contribute a sturdy bass to chants sung in the ruins of Georgian monastery cathedrals in Tao-Klarjeti.

All Leader Biographies.


Contact and reservations:

Flights to Georgia:

Airfare to and from Georgia is reliable, with hub airports in Istanbul, Vienna, Paris, and Amsterdam. Flights also route through Warsaw and Kiev. We recommend avoiding hub routes through Moscow.

From New York, 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 April 1st recommended.

The tour provides airport transfers to make your transition as comfortable as possible, and we can help with supplementary hotel reservations depending on the length of your overall visit to Georgia.


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