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Georgia has several cave-towns, the ancient one is Uplistsikhe, but the most impressive and the interesting to explore is Vardzia. This cave-city is a true witness of Georgian unique architecture. If you plan to discover Georgia, be sure you have included Vardzia in your itinerary list.
The legend says that the name of the cave-town is related to Queen Tamar — the most powerful Queen of Georgia. Once while hunting she lost in caves and when people started to call her, she replied "aq var, dzia" which means "I am here, uncle". Thus, the site is called Vardzia.
The road distance from Tbilisi to Vardzia is almost 260 km. There are several routes to get to Vardzia from Tbilisi. Rent a car with Enterprise and choose one of the options which suits your itinerary best. Here are 2 options on how to get to Vardzia.
Driving via Tbilisi-Kojori-Tsalka-Ninotsminda road the distance will be about 242 km. Another route is Tbilisi-Senaki-Leselidze Highway. Many tour agencies plan their trips via this route. It is 268 km and takes about 4 h 32 min.
Vardzia is a rock-carved fortress, which is located in Samtskhe-Javakheti region, in the slopes of the Erusheti Mountain. This unique fortress has streets, squares, 600 rooms, churches, and wine cells. The structure of one of the rooms allows archaeologists to think that it used to be a pharmacy.
When you get to Vardzia you need to park your car and continue your tour on foot. Take into consideration that you probably will spend at least 2 hours discovering Vardzia's mysteries. Before you start your exploration order your meal in the nearest cafes. Dinner in Mtkvari riverside is unforgettable. Try local fish and, of course, khinkali, they are delicious.
Start your exploration, preferably with a local guide in Vardzia, who can show you interesting parts of the fortress, take you to the narrow and very long tunnels. The different levels of the cave-town were all connected to each other via hidden passageways. When you enter the fortress from one side you come out somewhere far from the entrance. It is said that there was only one way to get into the town. The entrance to the tunnels was a secret and hidden somewhere on the banks of the Mtkvari River, which flows in the foot of the mountain.
A part of the cave-town is closed for tourists as it is inhabited by monks. They still live in the cave and do liturgy in the Church of Assumption — one of the most impressive sights in the complex with its double-arched portico. Inside the church, you can see a unique fresco of Queen Tamar and other wall paintings, which are brilliant examples of medieval wall painting. Not far from the church just behind it, there is a pool that served as a freshwater reservoir. This water still now is considered holy, and locals believe that water can heal. The area of Vardzia is included in the UNESCO World Heritage list.
If you plan to stay in Vardzia, you can book a room in the nearest guesthouses and continue to explore the vicinity of the cave-town. You can visit the nearby Khertvisi Fortress and Tmogvi Castle, located not far from Vardzia, with an easy drive away. Rafting is another thing you can do in Vardzia. Many tourists like to raft in the Mtkvari River.
Discover the medieval heritage and pure beauty of Georgia with Enterprise Rent-A-Car.
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Vardzia, unique monument of Georgian culture