Incredible Vardzia – Unknown yet Unique Sites to Visit near Ancient Cave Town

by Georgian Tour

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.


Vanis Kvabebi

Vanis Kvabebi

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.


Upper Tmogvi (by N.Vardzelashvili)

Tmogvi Fortress

Another site you can visit is Tmogvi fortress near the village Tmogvi. Near Tmogvi there is also Gelsunda caves which is to me less interesting, but has one cave with stone door and you can visit it if you stay in one of the many guesthouses of Tmogvi, but the fortress itself and small church on the way up from the fortress are more mysterious places.

Tmogvi fortress is not in a good shape unlike another fortress on the road (Khertvisi fort) but has nice views over the river gorge. If you visit the fortress and have some time don’t miss upper Tmogvi church ( 41°24’12.56″N  43°17’16.35″E 3-4km up the jeep trail on the top of plateau) which is at very unique location especially if the area around is all green in May-June months.

Hike from Tmogvi to Vardzia

From Tmogvi besides hiking up to upper Tmogvi you can hike to Vardzia. It takes up to 1.5 hr so both upper tmogvi and Tmogvi-Vardzia hikes can be doable in 1 day. Just make sure you manage to enter Vardzia museum on time till it closes at at least take a bus to cave town higher entrance after hike. Path goes through village Chachkari which is absolute must to visit at least from Vardzia. It has old dwellings of people in caves, also old remains of vine tree and oldest winepress in cave.


Khertvisi Fortress

Well-preserved Khertvisi Fortress on the road to Vardzia is impressive especially from the outside and it takes short time to visit it, but now it also has entrance fee and visitors center. But my next recommendation along with Vanis Kvabebi and Tmogvi will be golden village of Georgia my favorite Saro. It’s 7km from Khertvisi fortress just outside Vardzia gorge on the way to Akhaltsikhe. You can read about it here.

Tsunda Church

Other less recommended sites include Tsunda church near Tmogvi village. From there you can also ascend to Kumurdo. Also there is upper Vardzia monastery near Vardzia which you can visit with an old church and nice garden.

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 – its different experience.

For the map of Vardzia area please see:

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shena June 4, 2016 - 8:12 pm

Interesting post. well,i would like to know about the road condition to vardzia? do we need a off -road vehicle to reach there?

Georgian Tour June 6, 2016 - 7:52 pm

No, there is a regular asphalted road to Vardzia (through Khertvisi). If you really want offroading and jeeptour to Vardzia you can drive through village Gogasheni though. In this case you will enjoy panorama to Vardzia gorge.

Krzysztof May 31, 2017 - 11:12 pm

it is possible to camp inside Vanis Kvabebi caves?

Georgian Tour June 7, 2017 - 6:25 am

Its also monastery there, I dont think so, maybe in front they will allow;
I suggest camping at hot baths south from Vardzia. also in Saro, in Gogasheni with a view to Vardzia, in Upper Tmogvi, etc February 17, 2020 - 7:06 pm

Georgia is incredibly diverse. It’s rich with evergreen forests, snowy mountains, pristine lakes, alpine rivers and so much more. Out of all the monuments of nature, caves are definitely among the most stunning places to visit in Georgia. In fact, the World’s deepest cave Voronya can be found in Abkhazia, the most north-west region of the country. Discover the most magnificent underworld cave systems and cities. Explore fascinating Prometheus cave located near Kutaisi in Imereti region. This natural wonder stretches out for full 8 kilometres 40 meters below the sea level and is completely covered with stalagmites of striking beauty. Tour its glittering halls and watch the sunlight reflects from the still surface of an underground lake creating dancing rainbows on the walls. But why stop there? Go further to Sataplia cave where you will be able to walk in the footsteps of dinosaurs, quite literally. A 300 hundred years old dinosaur footprint is the biggest tourist attraction of Sataplia. The caves here go deeper than a kilometre underground and most of them haven’t been fully explored yet! This popular tourist destination is both, a perfect place for adventure seekers and a marvel for speleologists. In addition to the natural caves, Georgia also boasts three big cave complexes that are at least partially man-made. Uplistsikhe, David Gareji and Vardzia are all Georgia’s hottest tourist spots. Carved out in different centuries and scattered over the entire country these cave towns offer the perfect opportunity to get to know different parts of Georgia. Pack your bags and don’t forget your cameras to capture the beauty of these timeless caves and mighty landscapes.

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