Vardzia Cave Town
Incredibly beautiful medieval cave city Vardzia, which was built in the 12th century by Georgia’s greatest ruler -Queen Tamar, is located in Georgia’s southern Samtskhe-Javakheti region, 60km from Akhaltsikhe.
Vardzia monastery is simply amazing and breathtaking, with unusual location. This city once used to have 30,000 inhabitants – now it’s a monastery where several monks live. Most of the city museum is open to the visitors and you can visit the caves and the main cave church with well-preserved frescoes, including the fresco of Queen Tamar and his father King George III) from the 12th century. It involves some walking on the steps, in the dark tunnels too. You should carry some water in the summer.
How to Get to Vardzia
You need to drive/take a taxi from Akhaltsikhe or bus which leaves from Akhaltsikhe 3 times a day to Vardzia (last one on 1.20pm from Akhatsikhe to vardzia, last bus back 3pm – timetable may not be correct); There are many homestays around as well as camping places so you don’t have to rush out the same day, but if you want to make it in one day take 7am bus from Tbilisi. PS. For different views of Vardzia you can hike to Gogasheni village on the plateau of Javakheti.
I strongly advise you to visit Vanis Kvabebi (Qvabebi ) caves which is just 2km-s from Vardzia, across the river, and offers tourists unforgettable experience. It can not be better than Vardzia obviously but It’s more green, quiet and exotic. It has lots of caves, tunnels. Make Sure find your way from the right side of the cliff all the way to small white-domed church. Currently there is a monastery at the entrance and maximum you can reach there. Hopefully it will be soon opened as new visitors centre is already built.
The main attraction of Upper Vardzia village is the church named after the Virgin Mary of Upper Vardzia, which is located at the highest point of the village in an artificially leveled place.
The temple was almost completely destroyed until the 20th century. Over time, it has experienced some changes. The non-Christian people used the church as a place to store goods, and at that time they built various buildings to it.
In 1975, the temple was restored. The church has a secret tunnel and hiding places. These hideouts were of great importance for keeping the church’s possessions, besides, many similar hideouts were found in the vicinity of the church.
Where to stay in Vardzia
My recommendation is to stay at Vardzia resort and enjoy swimming in the pool with a view towards Vardzia cave town or stay in mode budget accomodation Valodia’s cottages to enjoy their fish and wine and organic farming products or you could try both – it’s different experience.