Vardzia-The Ancient Cave city Of Georgia

Posted on February 1, 2017. Filed under: Around Georgia, Samtskhe-Javakheti |

Vardzia is a spectacular cave monastery near Aspindza in southern Georgia. It looks like one of the movie sets of Lord of the Rings, but it is not the home of dwarfs but of many monks. This underground monastery was built in the 12th Century, under the reign of King Tamar, the first woman that was ever crowned as a king (not a queen!) in Georgian history.


The ancient cave city of Vardzia - Journal of Nomads


In the late 1100’s the medieval kingdom of Georgia was constantly under threat of the Mongol Empire. To help her people avoid the Mongol onslaught, Tamar 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.


The ancient cave city of Vardzia - Journal of Nomads


This underground fortress eventually had 13 levels constructed with natural caves and contained over 6000 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 which started at the nearby Mtkvari River.


The ancient cave city of Vardzia - Journal of Nomads


You might wonder how they survived here. The land on the outside of the hidden monastery was extremely fertile. The monks created a self-sustainable lifestyle by creating an irrigation system of terraced farmlands so they could produced their own food. Some tunnels had irrigation pipes that still bring drinkable water. They weren’t short on wine either because the cave city had about 25 wine cellars containing 185 wine jars.


The ancient cave city of Vardzia - Journal of Nomads


Sadly enough the glorious days of Vardzia didn’t last very long. It kept the Georgians safe from the Mongols but mother nature is unbeatable. In 1283, only 100 years after its construction, a devastating earthquake literally ripped the place apart and destroyed more than two-thirds of the city and the remaining caves that were once hidden became visible.


The ancient cave city of Vardzia - Journal of Nomads


To finish the (hi)story of Vardzia, here’s the myth of how it got its name: one day Tamar went out hunting with her uncle Giorgi and got lost in the caves. When Giorgi called out to her, she replied “ac var dzia”, which is Georgian for “I’m here uncle”.


The ancient cave city of Vardzia - Journal of Nomads


It was an awesome experience to be there in winter. Vardzia looked so beautiful wearing its coat of snow! Despite the freezing cold, it was worth the visit! Especially since there was almost no-one around, except for a few locals who visited the church to pray.


The ancient cave city of Vardzia - Journal of Nomads


The ancient cave city of Vardzia - Journal of Nomads


Our visit was extra special as we were being followed by the film crew of the Georgian TV station Rustavi 2, who were making a documentary about our journey! While we were walking through the labyrinth of caves, all Niko and I could think about was how tiny the people must have been to crawl through this network of tunnels, guided by the light of candles. If not, they must often have had back pains. Even our camera man was struggling to follow us and we often had to take a break to let him catch his breath!


The ancient cave city of Vardzia - Journal of Nomads


The ancient cave city of Vardzia - Journal of Nomads


The ancient cave city of Vardzia - Journal of Nomads



Don’t forget to bring some chewing gum with you when you visit Vardzia. There is a special ‘bubble gum tree’ where people make a wish and stick their chewing gum to the tree.


The ancient cave city of Vardzia - Journal of Nomads


The ancient cave city of Vardzia - Journal of Nomads


The more time we spend in Georgia, the more we get to know about the history and traditions. For every place we visit, there is always an interesting story or legend to be told!


The ancient cave city of Vardzia - Journal of Nomads


Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )


Posted on May 22, 2016. Filed under: Around Georgia, Samtskhe-Javakheti |

By Tika Bujiashvili

Jakismani Monastery complex is situated 20 km away from Vale in Turkey-Georgia bordering zone. In order to reach your destination, you have to pass checkpoint. The territory was abandoned in 1944. The nearest settlement is a village Tskaltbila, 9 km away from Jakismani. There is no road in fact for cars, but for only trucks.

Jakismani (Jakisubani) monastery complex is one of the remarkable architectural monuments, though there are no historical records about it. There is no a single document about Jakismani (Jayisubani) settlement in the Georgian state archive. The only information about the village is preserved in Gurjistani  Vilayeti.

As there are no historical sources about this unique architectural complex, Jakismani is not mentioned in Georgian Chronicles either.

Near the monastery, in Potskhvera gorge, there is a middle-aged castle-JaKi castle, which belonged to Jakelis. Supposedly, Jakismani comes from Jakisubani and is typical for the area, which historically belonged to pheodals –Jakelebi.

The place was found several years ago. In 2008 when monks first came here, the church was partly covered with earth. The monks decided to restore the ruins. The main church had six other churches which make a complex. It is said that it was Grigol Khandzteli’s style, which means that the church might be built by Grigol Khandzteli or his apprentices. The main church was consecrated as Easter church. In 2013 the monastery started functioning. Today two monks and one novice live at the monastery. They have built additional buildings from wood, for example, Tone for baking bread. They don’t have cattle but grow vegetables.

Weather may change often. One moment it is sunny and another it is rainy… On the way To Jakismani, on the right side, you will notice a bridge. It is called Griboedov bridge, dated to XIX century…

On the way you will enjoy breathtaking views of the region.

The video shows the road to Jakismani and also how you will spend your time in case of joining local tours.



Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )

Vanis Kvabebi

Posted on May 23, 2013. Filed under: Around Georgia, Samtskhe-Javakheti |

Written by Tinatin Bujiashvili

Vanis Kvabebi (Vani’s Caves) is a cave monastery in Samtskhe-Javakheti region of Georgia near Aspindza town and the more famous cave city of Vardzia. The complex dates from 8th century and consists of a defensive wall built in 1204 and a maze of tunnels running on several levels in the side of the mountain.

DSC02072 DSC02046

There are also two churches in the complex. A newer stone church that is in quite good shape stands near the top of the wall, and a smaller, domed church is clings from the rock on the level of the highest tunnels.

DSC02024DSC02041 DSC02040

This is St. George Church.  An 11th c. small church with almost its half running into the cave has got the facing layer of neatly hewn stones. A massive cornice is being arranged all around its perimeter. The construction is covered with stones lab roof that is decisive in creation of the impression of the construction’s monumentality and solidity.

DSC02076 DSC02010 DSC02016 DSC02038 DSC02039 DSC02075

the domed church dates back to 15th c This domed church built on the fold of the rock as if it were a birds’ nest perhaps is the most astonishing of all constructions. Its interior keeps lots of 15-16th cc ink paintings and inscriptions in modern lay Georgian alphabet called Mkhedruli, including some verses from the poem “The Night in the Panther’s Skin.”

In order to reach the church you have to use tunnels.


Spectacular view from Vanis Kvabebi…

DSC02045 DSC02042

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )


Posted on April 25, 2013. Filed under: Around Georgia, Samtskhe-Javakheti |

Written by Tinatin Bujiashvili

355 km from Tbilisi in Samtskhe Mountains there is a monastery of St. John the Baptist in a cave. Every year on September 11 a liturgy takes place there. In order to attend it you have to cross the river Mtkvari. It is said that only that day at 12 am the water level in the river starts to decrease until midday. Pilgrims from every part of Georgia are able to cross it and then in the evening the level of the river is rising again.

DSCN3324 DSCN3326 DSCN3327

The liturgy is held in the open air.


Zurab Khurtsikidze

The cave was discovered by Iobi the bishop of Ruis-Urbnisi.  According to him, while visiting Vardzia with pilgrims, they noticed the cave on the other side of the river Mtkvari.  They were interested what there was, crossed the river and found out a church curved in the rock. In order to enter the church you should bend and there is a ladder leading up to the church. Despite having only one tiny window, the church is not dark, but quite lighted.

DSC01931 DSC01929 DSC01930

Zurab Khurtsikidze

After that day they decided to hold a liturgy on that place every year on the day of beheading of St. John the Baptist, September11.

ZURA1448 ZURA1510 ZURA1530 ZURA1588 ZURA1607 ZURA1628 ZURA1681 ZURA1752

Zurab Khurtsikidze

As bishop Iobi says, the name of the place wasn’t known. Bagrat or as he was called Bagrata Papa, a hundred -year -old man lived in Zemo Vardzia. He told him that the place was called Tavkvetula.

The church and the hiding places built in the 10th century are situated on the right bank of the river Mtkvari between the village Mirashkhan and Vardzia.

DSC01954 DSC01919 DSC01920 DSC01926 DSC01927

The place is quite interesting. As bishop Iobi says bishop Nikoloz is going to bring a group of alpinists to discover the site well.

It is also said that a father’s monastery may be built there.


Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )

  • Categories

  • Archives

  • Blog Stats

    • 39,577 hits
  • Join us on FB

Liked it here?
Why not try sites on the blogroll...

%d bloggers like this: