Cities & Places
Cities & Attractions
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Historians date Mtskheta back to the 2nd millennium B.C. Mtskheta was the capital of the Georgian Kingdom of Iberia between 500 BC and 500 AD. Georgians adopted Christianity in the 4th c. and thereafter Georgians, Byzantines, Persians, Arabs and Mongols traded control of the territory until the Russian annexation in the 19th century.
Important ancient architectural monuments include Jvari Monastery 6th c and Svetitskhoveli Cathedral 11th c. and Samtavro Monastery, 11th c. Shiomgvime Monastery, 6th c, is located near Mtskheta, hidden in the rocky mountains.
Svaneti, the mythical western province of Georgia, the land of the ‘Golden Fleece’ (where locals still pan for gold through sheep skins) lies high up in the Greater Caucasus. Several 5000 metre plus peaks thrust glaciers down into this beautiful and remote region, where amazing stone towers rise up beside homes, dating back to the 12th century.
Never far away is one of Svaneti’s numerous, richly frescoed churches, focal points for lively communities where traditions have been preserved for nearly two thousand years. Unique icons and manuscripts are on display in Mestia’s museum.
Mestia, overlooked by huge hanging peaks, is a well known climber’s starting point and the beginning of dramatic trekking trails for the adventurous traveller. The villages of Ushguli, ‘the highest permanently inhabited settlements in Europe,’ give a stunning view of Mt. Shkhara (5201m) the highest peak in Georgia. Its ragged stone tower villages have been designated a World Cultural Heritage Site by UNESCO.
There are many myths of ancient Svaneti preserved in popular folklore. According to one, Svaneti, formerly rich in gold, was the source of the Golden Fleece. Gold was extracted from the sands of the Enguri River and its tributaries. Strabo, the Greek geographer and historian of the first century BC, described a gold-prospecting technique carried out by putting a sheep’s fleece into the river to trap the gold particles. Probably, such a gold covered fleece was brought by Svans as an offering to Aeetes, the King of Colchis that Jason and the Argonauts journeyed to obtain
The Georgian Military Highway is the historical road leading north from Tbilisi into the Caucasus Mountains. It passes the spectacular Ananuri fortress, then climbs the sides of the dramatic Aragvi River Valley, then over the Jvari Pass (2395m) and down into Kazbegi (1700m). Official name of Kazbegi is Stepantsminda. Surounded by gigantic mountains.
Kazbegi is a picturesque settlement overlooked by the biggest peak of all – Mount Kazbek (5047m) – one of the six 5000 metre peaks of the Caucasus. The Sameba Church in Gergeti is beautifully situated on the hill above the town and provides splendid views of Mt. Kazbek. The region, with its many valleys and peaks is one of the most popular walking destinations in Georgia.
The nearby Chaukhi Mountains provide superb rock-climbing, with numerous routes. The Gudauri ski resort located just the other side of the Cross Pass on the southern slopes of the Caucasus offers the best skiing and heliskiing in the Caucasus.
Kakheti, Georgia’s famous wine district lies due east from Tbilisi in a land dotted with fine old churches and vineyard after vineyard. Stop at any home and be offered delicious homemade wine.
Historically Kakheti was often the centre of political turmoil however some of the most beautiful and important buildings were erected here and the church architecture is as diverse as wines in the region.
Among the architectural gems are the gracious Alaverdi Cathedral (11th c), the picturesque Ikalto Academy (11th -12th c), Shuamta Monasteries (6th – 16th c), and the elegant Gremi Church (16th c).
Sighnaghi is a beautiful hill-town surrounded by medieval wall and providing panoramic views of the Alazani valley and Caucasus Mountains. Kakheti is the major producer of Georgian wines.
Set in the south-western corner of Georgia, against the eastern coast of the Black Sea, Ajara spans a wide variety of land- scape, from high forested mountains to lush subtropical hills – all set beside the balmy Black Sea coast.
Batumi, the capital of Ajara region is a major sea port with a glorious boulevard beside the Black Sea. The city is changing dramatically and now has a number of international class hotels and hosts many cultural events.
During the holiday season visitors can attend shows at the recently opened dolphinarium, enjoy a drink and live music at Batumi Piazza at the end of the day. Batumi and its surroundings offer everything that the sea-side holiday-maker needs: Batumi Botanical Garden, Mtirala National Park, Gonio & Petra Fortresses.
The city of Kutaisi dates back to the Argonauts’ time (13th -12th centuries B.C). Formerly capital of old Colchida, Kutaisi then ruled all of Western Georgia. The Parliament of Georgia is located in Kutaisi, making the city the legislative capital of Georgia.
Gelati Monastery, located near Kutaisi was founded in the 12th century by the most famous Georgian King David the Builder (1073 – 1125). Here he founded the academy and monastery, which became the foremost centre of education in Georgia. The unique murals of saints and Georgian monarchs are inside the main Virgin Cathedral. Gelati Monastery is in the List of Cultural Heritage of UNESCO.
Bagrati Cathedral was built by Georgian King Bagrat III and it is considered one of the masterpieces of Georgian architecture. Bagrati Temple was partly destroyed in the 17th century. In 2010 the Termple was reconstructed to its original state. It is included in the UNESCO list of Cultural Heritage.
Deep and narrow river gorges, severe snow-capped peaks, virgin nature, mountainsides carpeted with flowers, traditional stone villages, make Khevsureti an unforgettable experience. Shatili, its main village-citadel, is a unique cluster of houses built-in together to form a defensive citadel. It still stands proudly above the Arguni River – as it has from the 9th century – as a symbol of Georgia’s independence and resilience.
Vardzia in the Meskheti province of southern Georgia – is a thirteen story cave town built between 1186-9 by Georgia’s famous Queen Tamar. It stands as a unique example of the Georgian renaissance in an area of many medieval sites. Around the town Akhaltsikhe you can find the elegant Sapara Church and dramatic Khertvisi Fortress.
Georgians value their natural Heritage. At present the total area of Protected Areas is 511 123 hectares, about 7% of the country’s territory. 75% of Protected Areas are covered by forests. There are 14 Strict Nature Reserves, 9 National Parks, 17 Managed Nature Reserves, 14 Natural Monuments and 2 Protected Landscapes in Georgia.