A trip to Georgia is connected with a journey into kindness and humanity. The gem hidden between Asia and Europe and full of mysterious and stunning places. Those mysterious places are authentic and unique. To discover it in an adventurous way I would like to introduce you to the most unusual sights that can be found only here in Georgia.
Vardzia is a cave town dating back to the 12th century AD, located on the banks of the river Mtkvari, one of the most important historical sites in Georgia. Carved out of the entire wall of the cliff, in the middle of a huge gorge, offers unforgettable views.
In the late 1100s the medieval kingdom of Georgia was constantly under threat from the Mongol Empire. To help her people avoid the Mongol onslaught, Tamar the queen of Georgia ordered the construction of an underground sanctuary and secretly they started building this fortress under the Erusheli Mountain. It was a gigantic job but the people worked hard with the determination that their culture and lifestyle should not be destroyed by the invading Mongols.
This underground fortress eventually had 13 levels constructed with natural caves and contained over 6,000 rooms, including a throne room, a reception chamber, a meeting room, a bakery, a forge, chapels and a huge church.
The only way to get to this underground city was through a secret tunnel that started at the nearby Mtkvari River. It has been abandoned since the 16th century but preserved for visitors, including the Church of Dormition, and various paintings depicting religious scenes.
The name Uplistsike means «Fortress of the Lord». Its history began in the Iron Age, second millennium BC. Back then, the complex was a very important cultural center for pagan worship in the Kartli (Iberia) region. Among the ruins, one can find the Hellenistic amphitheater, the pagan temple with an opening in the roof and smaller chambers that seem to have been homes. All the structures were carved out of sandstone rock.
Not much is left nowadays from the grandeur of the place, but it's easy to imagine how magnificent and great it once must have been. On the top of the hill, above the ancient settlement, after the introduction of Christianity, a three-naval basilica was built in the ninth century AD. It is still open until this day.
The decline of Uplistsikhe began in the twelfth century after Mongol invasions, although it was still functioning for the next few centuries to follow.
3. Katskhi Pillar
The Katskhi Pillar is a natural limestone monolith located at the village of Katskhi in the Western Georgian region Imereti, near the town of Chiatura. It is approximately 40 meters high and overlooks the small river valley of Katskhura, a right affluent of the Qvirila.
The rock with the visible church on its top surface and has been venerated by locals as the Pillar of Life. Between the 6th and 8th centuries AD, a small church, dedicated to St. Maximus the Confessor, was built on top of the Katskhi Pillar. Today, only the remains of this ancient church are left on the summit of the pillar.
Whilst it was known that the Katskhi Pillar was used by Christian hermits over the ages, it was only during the 20th century that researchers explored the column. It was in 1944, that the Katskhi Pillar was first surveyed by scholars.
4. Cable cars in Chiatura
The Chiatura cable cars are one of the more unusual attractions in Georgia. The town is nestled between steep valleys and deep gorges and was founded in the late 1800s as a mining colony.
It became a popular source for manganese and iron and was a booming center during the Soviet era. It was in this town that the Stalinist government installed in 1954 the first Soviet cable road. Originally installed in the 1950s, today around 17 separate aerial lift cable car systems still exist around the town.
Some of the most interesting lines are just outside the city. Despite the fact that Chiatura doesn’t boast of cultural and historical sights to see, it still is an impressive town to visit.
5. Davit Gareja Cave Monastery
On the border with Azerbaijan, the ancient monastery complex of Davit Gareja is one of the most remarkable of Georgia’s historic sites. The monastery was founded in the 6th century by David Garejeli, one of the thirteen Assyrian monks who arrived in the country from Mesopotamia to strengthen Christianity and built many monasteries across the country.
It includes the complex of 19 Medieval monasteries with approximately 5,000 cells for monks. This site is characterized by a unique combination of historic architecture and prehistoric archaeological sites. Its uniqueness is heightened by a lunar, semi-desert landscape that turns green and blooms with flowers in early summer.
6. Towers of Svaneti
Svaneti is known for its wonderful scenery and its architectural treasures, including dozens of churches and the famous Svanetian towers erected mainly in the 9th-12th centuries. Each house in Svaneti had a defense tower which served for the families as a refuge in case of war.
More than 200 towers are still standing today, and some of them continue to be occupied to this day. The biggest number of Svan towers have survived in Mestia and Ushguli. The youngest one is at least two hundred years. Since 1996, the traditional towers of Upper Svaneti have been protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
7. Prometheus Cave
Prometheus cave was discovered in 1984 and was almost immediately developed as a show cave and the biggest cave in Georgia.
According to the legend, Prometheus was chained to lies in this cave outside Kutaisi. Even without the legendary connection that gave the cave its name.
It’s nearly a mile long, with six chambers and a quarter-mile-long lake inside, located 40 meters below sea level. The cave boasts a wonderful array of stalactites, stalagmites, petrified waterfalls, cave pearls, underground rivers, and lakes.
8. Bottomless Lake
Crystal clean air and blooming meadows add their share to the beauty of this place. This incredible lake takes two days to hike to and can only be visited in the summer months.