14 best sights of Mtskheta – description and photos

Mtskheta

Mtskheta – one of the oldest cities in Georgia, the administrative center of the Mtskheta-Mtianeti historical region. The city is located at a crossroads of ancient trade routes, 20 kilometers north of the capital Tbilisi. Mtskheta is home to about 10,000 people.

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Video: Mtskheta

General Information

Mtskheta once had the status of the royal capital and spiritual center of Georgia. Here for over a thousand years is the residence of the head of the Georgian Apostolic Orthodox Church, one of the oldest of the Christian denominations. Several religious monuments and architectural complexes, preserved in Mtskheta and its surroundings, are on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

In 2010, the central district of Mtskheta was renovated. The facades of ancient buildings have acquired an attractive appearance, flower gardens, lawns, ornamental and fruit trees have been planted in well-kept pedestrian streets. Today Mtskheta is a city popular with travelers, with a developed infrastructure for receiving guests. There are cozy mini-hotels in ancient mansions and many cafes and restaurants. On the square opposite the entrance to the famous Svetitskhoveli Cathedral is a modern tourist center. Here you can purchase maps and informational brochures with descriptions of Mtskheta’s sights, order an excursion around Mtskheta, where there are many interesting places.

History of Mtskheta

The whole fertile region surrounding Mtskheta, with its favorable climate and abundance of natural resources, was densely inhabited already in the Early Bronze Age. Numerous burials and remains of settlements of III-II millenniums BC testify to it. According to the legend, a fortress-city on a triangular stony cape, created by the merge of two mountain rivers – the Aragvi and Kura, was founded by a legendary ruler Mtsketos and gave his name to it. Findings of archeologists allow to state that the foundation of Mtskheta goes back to the middle of I millennium B.C. This was the time when East Georgian kingdom Kartli, also known as Iberia, was formed. For many centuries the city had status of Kartli capital and the residence of Georgian kings. The town was famous as a major trade and craft center of ancient times. It was protected on strategic directions by powerful fortresses. The ruins of these fortresses can be seen even today.

In 65 BC the Caucasus was invaded by legions of the Roman general Gnaeus Pompey, who fought against the Pontic King Mithridates. Not far from Mtskheta, there was a battle between the troops of the king of Cartalia and the Romans. For some time vast territories of Georgia and Armenia were under the protectorate of the Roman Empire.

At the beginning of the fourth century, the Christian preacher Nino of Cappadocia, niece of the Jerusalem patriarch, arrived in this region. She was looking for the clothes in which Jesus Christ was crucified. According to legend, his tunic was brought here by a Roman soldier. In the book “The Life of St. Nino,” one of the oldest monuments of Georgian literature, it is told that in Mtskheta the preacher witnessed a celebration in honor of a pagan god, in which King Mirian took part. The ritual was accompanied by a blood sacrifice. After Nino, who was distressed by the spectacle, prayed for the destruction of the idol by lightning, and the king was convinced of the superiority of the Christian god. Thanks to St. Nino, Equal-to-the-Apostles, before long the whole of Georgia, then divided into several kingdoms, was converted to the Orthodox Faith.

In the VI century the capital of Georgia was moved to Tbilisi, but Mtskheta retained its status as the spiritual center of the country. 736 was fatal for the city – the troops of Arab commander Mervan destroyed Mtskheta, and it came to desolation, having turned into a small provincial village. Only majestic ruins reminded of its former glory. This land from time to time presents archeologists with surprises. At the end of the last century during the construction of the cinema the remains of the ancient city gates were found under a layer of soil. The design of the building has been changed, and now the gate can be seen in the pavilion on the first floor of the cinema.

In the first third of the last century the Kura River was blocked by a hydroelectric dam, the river level rose several meters. Unfortunately, several archaeological sites, including an ancient stone bridge built by Roman engineers by order of Pompey, were submerged. It was located east of the modern bridge over the river leading to Mtskheta. Pompey’s bridge was rebuilt many times, and it lasted for two thousand years. Now its ruins can be seen when the dam discharges water and the river level is lowered.

Geography and Climate

Mtskheta is situated on a hilly mountain plateau, 480 meters above sea level, at the confluence of the Aragvi and Kura rivers. It has a moderately humid subtropical climate, most of the rain falls here in May, the driest period is January-February.

In January the temperature ranges around 0 ° C, and rarely falls below -5 ° C. Spring begins early in the region – at the beginning of March, and already by April the daily temperature readings reach +12. +15 °С, in May usually it is +20. +22 °С. In July, the hottest month in Mtskheta, the air heats up to +25 ° C and more. Recorded maximum was +39 ° C.

Attractions of Mtskheta

The main attractions of Mtskheta are the ancient Christian churches and Orthodox shrines. In memory of the baptism of Georgia, which occurred here in the 30s of the IV century, the Georgian Orthodox Church declared Mtskheta a holy city. Pilgrims and tourists from all over the world come here. All the sites worthy of travelers’ attention can be easily bypassed on foot.

Svetitskhoveli

The Svetitskhoveli Cathedral rises in the heart of Mtskheta, its pointed dome visible from anywhere in the city. This is the first Christian church in Georgia, built in the IV century in the name of the Twelve Apostles. According to legend, the temple was built on the spot where under the ground is the chiton, which belonged to Jesus. Here once grew a mighty cedar tree, which had its roots touching the garment of Christ. When the church was built, one of the columns supporting the roof was made from its trunk. This column stands in the center of the temple, and today believers consider it miraculous. It also gave its name to the cathedral: in translation from ancient Georgian Svetitskhoveli means “Life-giving pillar”.

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The cathedral contains artifacts associated with the biblical prophets and evangelical apostles. Attached to the north wall is an olive wood cross decorated with enamel. It contains a piece of the cross on which Jesus was crucified. This relic was a gift from the Byzantine emperor Constantine the Great. Among the ancient icons located in Svetitskhoveli, the attention of tourists is invariably attracted by one, located on the western wall. It depicts the scene of the crucifixion of Christ at the walls of Jerusalem. Above the walls can be seen two jellyfish-like hemispheres flying across the sky. According to experts convinced of the existence of contacts with extraterrestrial civilizations, these objects are alien spaceships.

The coronation ceremonies of the Georgian kings and the enthronement ceremonies of the patriarchs took place under the arches of Svetitskhoveli. Here were also royal tombs, but many of them have been lost.

In the subsequent centuries the cathedral was several times rebuilt and expanded, in its walls one can see the fragments of the very first basilica – stones, columns and arches. It is known, that Svetitskhoveli was thoroughly rebuilt in the beginning of XI century. After 400 years, the building was severely damaged during the invasion of Tamerlane, the conqueror from Central Asia. The modern look of the cathedral acquired after it was rebuilt in the 15th century. The archaic architecture of Svetitskhoveli leaves a deep impression.

Monastery of Antioch

To the southeast of the walls of Svetitskhoveli is the miniature monastery of Antioch with a church in the name of St. Stephen. This stone temple was erected by order of King Archil I in V century to commemorate the victory over the Persian army invading Kartli. The monastery courtyard is surrounded by a wall made of rounded river cobbles. In 16th century here was built a tower of roughly hewn sandstone.

Samtavro Monastery

Arriving in Mtskheta, St. Nino established her dwelling in a hut under a blackberry bush on the edge of the fortress moat by the city wall. King Mirian, who accepted the Christian faith at her hands, built a basilica there, in which he was buried in 361. Later on the place of the basilica appeared Samtavro monastery complex with a large stone church of the Transfiguration, rebuilt in the XI century. The sarcophagus of Mirian survived, it is installed in the church under the wall with a mosaic depicting King Mirian and Queen Nana, the first Christian monarchs of Georgia, numbered among the saints. Next to the Church of the Transfiguration stands a small modest church of St. Nino.

The name of another saint who lived in modern times is associated with this monastery. A monk from Tbilisi, who took the name Gabriel, was the abbot of Samtavro Monastery from 1971 to 1995. He is buried at the northern wall of the cathedral. Monks and pilgrims who came to the tomb of the pious Gabriel claimed that miraculous healings occurred here. The Georgian Church canonized Gabriel in 2012, and his tomb is a place of pilgrimage.

Samtavro Necropolis

In 1871, during the construction of the Georgian Military Road, on the outskirts of Mtskheta, near Samtavro Monastery an ancient cemetery was discovered which became known as Samtavro Graveyard. The first crypts of the necropolis were cut out in the rock about three thousand years ago. Above them were burials of the early Middle Ages, here were found the coins of the Roman Empire. Later graves date back to the tenth century. Excavations continue today, and a Bronze Age settlement was recently discovered nearby. The necropolis with hundreds of sarcophagi occupies about 19 hectares, and lovers of archeology should not miss it. There is a charge to enter the site – 3 GEL.

Bebristsikhe Fortress

On the northern outskirts of Mtskheta there are picturesque ruins of stone towers and walls of the fortress Bebristsikhe. It stands on a rocky hill on the right bank of the Aragvi, near the Georgian Military Road. In medieval Georgian chronicles this citadel was first mentioned in 1156, when King Demetre I died inside its walls. But archaeological research has confirmed that the stronghold was built much earlier, probably in the I century BC. The fortress was severely damaged by a landslide in 2010, and requires immediate restoration.

The surroundings of Mtskheta

In the vicinity of Mtskheta there are ancient buildings, which are included in the obligatory excursion program of tourists. These are ancient monasteries, fortresses and archaeological sites. You can go to them by bus or by cab, the trip there and back will cost you 20-30 GEL.

To the nearest architectural landmark in the vicinity of the city can be reached on foot in an hour and a half. From Mtskheta one can easily see the marvelous Dzhvari Temple, which became a model for medieval Georgian churches. The slender silhouette of Jvari crowns the top of a lonely rock on the opposite bank of the Kura River. It was built at the end of the VI century in the place where St. Nino erected a symbol of Christianity – a cross (Jvari in Georgian). From here you have a wonderful view of Mtskheta, surrounded by mountains, the green valley of Kura and Aragvi. The Jvari Church was the first architectural site in Georgia to be inscribed by UNESCO experts on the World Heritage List. At the end of the 1990s, the Church of the Cross was in a state of disrepair. The years-long restoration of the monument was completed in 2006.

Souvenirs

From the central square of Mtskheta begins the main shopping street of the city, named after the medieval architect Arsukidze, who erected the Svetitskhoveli Temple. It sells food, homemade wine, pastries, handicrafts, and a variety of souvenirs. Among the most popular souvenir purchases are wine horns hammered with metal, decorative and real daggers, embossed utensils, and ceramics. Here you can buy beautiful rugs, burkas and hats, and collectible dolls in national costumes.

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Pop into the jewelry store, and have a look at the jewelry pieces made in the ancient Byzantine technique of cloisonne enamel. Georgian craftsmen have mastered this art for over two thousand years, a skill that’s been handed down from generation to generation. Such jewelry is not cheap, but you can be sure that each piece is unique, and there is no second copy of the jewel.

Tourists buy Georgian sweets as tasty presents from Mtskheta. The undisputed leader in this segment is churchkhela, a necklace of roasted nuts filled with viscous condensed grape juice mixed with flour. Homemade Georgian kozinaki, crushed nuts in honey, is also popular. You can pick the freshest suluguni and buy a jar of wonderful walnut jam, and during the season you can take home a basket of aromatic fresh fruits.

Of course, no one leaves Mtskheta without a couple of bottles of wonderful local wine. The usual price for a bottle of decent drink is 8-10 GEL. The best vintage white wines are sold for 35 lari and more, the cost of a bottle of premium red wine can go up to 60 lari.

Restaurants and cafes

There are many family restaurants in Mtskheta. Their owners compete not only in preparing delicious home-style Georgian dishes, but also in the original design of the interiors of their cozy establishments. In summer almost all restaurants and cafes offer tables on open verandahs or just on the streets under umbrellas.

Inexpensive and tasty lunch can be had at the cafe-restaurant Ornament Express Cafe, located a stone’s throw from Svetitskhoveli. A three-course lunch costs about 12-15 lari, and a feast with wine and lamb roasted on coals – up to 55 lari.

You can have a wonderful evening at Iago’s Wine family cafe-bar. You will get to the winemakers’ farmstead. The shashlik is cooked on chargrill in the courtyard, the wine is brought from home cellar. The prices are moderate – 15-20 GEL per person.

Judging by the reviews of tourists, you should definitely visit a restaurant with author’s cuisine called “Old piano”. Its owner has a nostalgic collection of Soviet-era antiques, including furniture and even dishes, which serve the tables. The waiter is sure to give his guests a small tour around the restaurant-museum. There is live music played on an old piano, accompanied by a chirping movie projector displays silent films of the 1920s on a linen screen. You can have a full meal for 50 GEL per person. And a luxurious lunch for two with a change of dishes and wines will cost 150 GEL, which is about 50 €. And the final touch – after dinner you can order a transfer to the hotel in an old Soviet “Volga” GAZ-21.

There are no nightclubs and discos in Mtskheta. These entertainments are available in neighboring Tbilisi.

Where to stay

Despite its provincial status, Mtskheta has several dozen hotels built in recent decades. These are mostly family mini-hotels, villas, apartments and hostels. As a rule, they have no restaurants. But many hotels have barbecue grills on the verandahs, and guests are given the necessary accessories for cooking barbecue. In addition, nearby you will always find a cozy bar, where the menu is a hearty Georgian fast food like khachapuri.

Residents of nearby Tbilisi often come to Mtskheta on weekends, so the local hotels are packed from Friday to Sunday. We recommend booking a room in advance.

Among popular hotels is Hotel Gino Wellness 4* (37, Agmashenebeli St). The hotel has a swimming pool, restaurant, lobby bar. Free parking is available for guests. The cost of accommodation – from 238 GEL per day, breakfast is included in the price. A little more expensive, 280 GEL per day, will cost a double room at the four-star hotel The Balkoni, located on the banks of the river.

In Mtskheta you can stay much cheaper. Rooms at mini-hotels range in price from GEL 20 to GEL 90.

How to get there

A railroad line runs through Mtskheta, connecting Tbilisi with the regional centers of the country – Kutaisi, Zugdidi, Batumi, Poti, Borjomi. Any train to these cities stops at the Mtskheta railway station. Ticket to Mtskheta will cost 5,50 GEL, travel no more than half an hour.

If you go to Mtskheta from Tbilisi Airport, you must take bus 37. It goes to the railway station of the capital, the ticket costs 0.5 lari. Buses run from 07:00 to 22:00. From the platform of the railway station in Tbilisi suburban trains go to Mtskheta four times a day, the fare is 2 lari.

Mtskheta railway station is located about 1.5 kilometers from the city center. In good weather, tourists on foot will not be difficult to walk, the way lies along the picturesque banks of the river Kura. Travelers with luggage take a cab, the usual cost of a trip to any point in this small town is 5 GEL.

From the bus station near the Didube subway station in Tbilisi, regular shuttles go to Mtskheta from 07:30 to 20:30. The interval of movement is 15-20 minutes, the duration of the trip does not exceed half an hour. The fare is 1 lari. Tickets must be purchased at the kiosk at the bus station, minibus drivers do not sell them.

With bulky luggage you can quickly and comfortably get from Tbilisi airport to suburban Mtskheta by cab. The normal cost of this service is 20 GEL. A trip from the train station is cheaper – 15 GEL.

From the center of Tbilisi it will take 15-20 minutes to get to Mtskheta by cab, depending on the traffic on the streets of the Georgian capital. The cost varies from 10 to 15 lari. We recommend ordering a cab through KiwiTaxi service.

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Tourists staying in Tbilisi often go to Mtskheta only to see the famous Svetitskhoveli Temple. A round-trip cab ride, including the waiting time, will cost 40-50 GEL.

It is convenient to go to Mtskheta by rented car. There are rental offices of the Russian company Rent Motors and the international organizations Avis, Sixt, Europcar at Tbilisi airport and in the city’s major hotels. The cost of renting a small economy car starts from 100 GEL per day. A car from any of these companies can be booked at Rentalcars.com.

A spacious guarded parking lot is located in the center of Mtskheta, near Svetitskhoveli Cathedral. Parking costs 1 GEL per hour and you can leave your car for 7 GEL per day. Local drivers recommend Lukoil or Wissiol gas stations that sell the best quality fuel. The cost of gasoline A-95 is 2,36 lari/liter, diesel is 2,27 lari/liter.

Active travelers in good physical shape can travel from Tbilisi to Mtskheta by bicycle. In the capital of Georgia are a lot of places to rent them. Approximate cost of renting a good mountain bike is 35 GEL per day. In Mtskheta there are no such points yet, but some hotels offer bikes for rent to go sightseeing and for active wheeling in the countryside (30 GEL per day).

14 Mtskheta sights worth visiting

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One of the most visited cities in Georgia, not counting Tbilisi, is Mtskheta, located just 25 kilometers away. This ancient city, once the capital, is full of historical monuments shrouded in legends. There are many temples and monasteries, most of which appeared during the birth of Christianity in Georgia, because Mtskheta was the center of the spread of the new religion in the country.

It’s also strategically located on the only road that leads north, and predictably, you’ll find old fortresses here to protect the peace of the civilians.

In fact, the city’s position has caused it to be attacked by enemy troops almost continuously over the centuries. Sometimes such raids ended with almost complete destruction of Mtskheta. But each time it rose from the ashes. With enviable persistence inhabitants restored their city, and thanks to them today we can see the sights of Mtskheta, which by virtue of their old age and the long absence of peace on this earth could have long ago and irrevocably disappeared.

Svetitskhoveli Cathedral

Svetitskhoveli Cathedral

Svetitskhoveli Cathedral.

If you ask the locals the question “What to see in Mtskheta?”, most of them will point to Svetitskhoveli Cathedral, which has been the main temple of Georgia for a millennium. It’s a really interesting place – with a rich history, full of mysteries and riddles.

In the IV century, converted to Christianity, King Mirian built on this site the first wooden Christian church in Georgia. The choice of this place for the construction of the temple is associated with the great shrine – the coat of Christ. According to legend, one of the soldiers, who was present at the crucifixion of Jesus and received his chiton by lot, was from Iberia and brought the relic to his homeland. On the place where the chiton was buried, a cedar tree grew that the locals attributed miraculous powers to.

It was here that the first Georgian church was built. The same cedar was used to make the columns for the temple. One of these columns gradually began to myrotate, and so it was called Svetitskhoveli, Georgian for “the life-giving pillar. Later this name was also assigned to the temple.

In V century during the next attack of enemies the wooden church was destroyed. In its place was built a stone basilica, and in the XI century the dilapidated basilica was replaced by a new cathedral, which in spite of everything in almost unchanged form survived to this day.

Today the cathedral continues to delight visitors with its majesty and beauty. Svetitskhoveli is a cross-domed edifice topped with a conical head. Its facade is decorated with carved stone ornaments that are striking in their craftsmanship and subtlety. The inner walls of the temple are covered with frescoes, some of which have survived from the XVI-XVII centuries. It is also possible to see tombstones embedded in the floor: for a long time Svetitskhoveli was the place of coronation of kings and their burial vault.

Address: Svetitskhoveli Cathedral, Narekvavi-Mtskheta-Railway Station, Mtskheta, Georgia.

Jvari Monastery

Jvari Monastery

Jvari Monastery.

“Jvari is translated in Russian as “cross”. According to legend, on this very spot at the beginning of the IV century, St. Nino, the Christian educator of Georgia, set up a cross as a symbol of the victory of Christianity over paganism. 200 years later on the “cross” mountain appeared a small church, of which today there are only ruins. And a century later the Dzhvari monastery was erected here. The exact date of the construction of the monastery is unknown, with some certainty we can only say that it was in the first half of the VII century.

The monastery building, erected on the top of a rocky massif, blends in perfectly with the surrounding landscape and serves as its organic completion. From the mountain on which Jvari stands a simply gorgeous view of Mtskheta and the confluence of two rivers – the Kura and the Aragva. The interior of the monastery is ascetic. Inside you will see only a few icons decorating the walls, and a cross of St. Nino mounted on a pedestal. Such modesty and even in some ways austerity in general is typical for Georgian temples, these differ greatly from the churches of the Byzantine school.

Today Jvari has become one of the main attractions of Mtskheta and Georgia as a whole. Here are flocking not only pilgrims, but also many tourists, drawn by the desire to look at these walls, which are almost a thousand and a half years old. By the way, in the rich history of Jvari is one more interesting page.

If you do not go here alone, but as a part of a tour group or accompanied by one of the locals, then you will certainly be told that this very monastery was mentioned by Lermontov in his poem “Mtsyri”.

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Address: Dzhvari Monastery, Georgia.

Museum-reserve Mtskheta.

Samtavrsky burial ground

Samtavr Graveyard.

Mtskheta is an ancient city, and therefore it is quite predictable that on its territory there are a lot of objects that are thousands of years old. Archeological museum-reserve created here includes monuments of global and national importance. Among them are Samtavr burial ground dated to II-III millennium BC, the ancient settlement of Armazi, which appeared in the III century BC, and Bebristsikhe fortress, built in the IX century AD.

Artefacts, created by man in different periods of history, from the Bronze Age to the late Middle Ages, are the basis of the museum collection. You will have a chance to see instruments of labor of III-IV century BC, children’s toys of XIV century BC, antique ceramics, plates with inscriptions in Greek, etc.

Address: Saint Nino Chapel, Mtskheta, Georgia.

Bebristsikhe Fortress

The Fortress of Bebristsikhe

The fortress of Bebristsikhe.

Bebristsikhe, which means “Old Man’s Fortress” in Georgian, is an ancient Georgian fortification, built, according to historians, in the IX century, on the site of even older stone buildings.~ I century BC). In its time the citadel protected the only approach to Mtskheta from the north – between rocky mountains and river Aragvi.

Nowadays from the citadel, because of its venerable age, only ruins remain – the remains of walls and half-destroyed towers. But they are beautiful in their own way. You can admire the hill on which the citadel stands and the picturesque views of the surroundings.

Address: Fortress Beberi, Georgia.

Pompeii Bridge

Pompeii Bridge

Pompeii Bridge.

This stone bridge across the Kura on the western outskirts of Mtskheta was built in the 1st century BC by the Roman general Gnaeus Pompey the Great. The crossing had been used up to the middle of XX century when after the rise of the level of the river as a result of construction of a hydroelectric power station it got under the water, which of course had a negative impact on its condition. Today you can see the dilapidated Pompeii Bridge only when the hydroelectric power plant empties its water.

Address: Bridge of Pompeii, Mtskheta, Georgia.

Samtavro Monastery

Samtavro Monastery

Samtavro Monastery.

The history of Samtavro dates back to the fourth century and is directly related to St. Nino. At the place where Nino, arriving in Mtskheta, lived in a hut, King Mirian, the first Christian ruler of the country, erected a temple. This is also where Mirian was buried. Hence the name Samtavro, which translates from Georgian as “royal territory.

Throughout its history the church has been repeatedly destroyed and restored, expanded and decorated. In 1820 at the temple was established a nunnery, named in honor of St. Nino. It existed only a century – until the arrival of Soviet power. However, the monastery was not closed for good: in the 1990s it was revived.

Today the convent, located at the confluence of the rivers Mtkvari and Aragvi, continues to operate. It is known far beyond the borders of Georgia. Pilgrims from all over the world come here to touch the relics kept at the monastery, including the relics of St. Gabriel, the miraculous icon of St. Nino, the icon of the Iberian Mother of God, a part of the stone from Nino’s grave. Samtavro Monastery is not closed for tourists either, but the visitors are required to respect the religious feelings of believers and observe the relevant rules of conduct.

Address: Samtavro Monastery, Mtskheta, Georgia.

Church of Antioch

Church of Antioch

Church of Antioch.

The Church of Antioch is away from the most popular tourist routes. It is located in the courtyard of the Monastery of Antioch. This is the most extreme southeastern point of the city, further only the waters of the Kura and the Aragvi.

This small temple was built by King Archilus, great grandson of Mirian, in gratitude to God for his help in expelling the Persians. Antioch looked like almost all the churches built in the first centuries after the adoption of Christianity by Georgia. It was a low rectangular stone building with an altar ledge adjoining it. Inside the church was decorated with frescos which, alas, have not come down to our days.

The new temple served the faithful for only a couple of centuries: in 736, during the Arab invasion, it was looted and burned, as was almost the entire city. The church was restored from the ruins only after almost a millennium, when Mtskheta was at a time of relative peace. At the time of the Soviet Union, of course, Antioch did not function, and the structure itself and the area around it began to decline. Only in our time has the temple been put in order, and its interior walls are decorated with frescoes by a contemporary artist.

Tourists can freely explore the ancient building, but to get inside it is not always possible. But you can stroll through the nearby fruit garden with a spring and enjoy the beautiful views of the bubbling Aragvi.

Address: Mtskheta Antioch, S-1, Mtskheta, Georgia.

Shio-Mgvim Monastery

Shio-Mgvime Monastery

Shio-Mgvim Monastery.

At 10 kilometers from Mtskheta, on the north bank of the river Kura, in a narrow limestone gorge is a monastic complex Shio-Mgvime, which means “Cave Shio” in Georgian. It was named in honor of a monk who lived here as a hermit for many years. The monk named Shio founded the monastery. The first building on the territory of the monastery – the temple of John the Baptist – dates back to 560-580.

The center of the Shio-Mgvim monastery was and still is the Upper Church (Zemo Ecclesia), consecrated in honor of the Mother of God. It was erected in the XII century by order of King David IV. The original domed building of the church was destroyed during the foreign invasion, in 1678 it was rebuilt, but already in the form of a basilica. Outside the church is simple and even minimalistic, but inside there are unique frescoes.

In XVII-XVIII centuries as a result of frequent invasions of Persians and Turks the monastery was badly damaged and devastated. In the XIX century the monastery was restored, but it never regained its former importance. In our century Shio-Mgwim monastery is active and attracts pilgrims and tourists.

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Address: Shio-Mghvime Monastery, Mtkheta-Shiomghvime Monastery, Mtskheta-Mtianeti, Georgia.

Ananuri Fortress

Ananuri Fortress

The fortress of Ananuri.

40 kilometers north of Mtskheta, in the place where into the Aragvi flows a small river Vedzatkhevi, stands the Ananuri fortress – one of the best preserved monuments of architecture of the early feudalism. If you enter the country by the Georgian Military Road, you simply can’t miss it. Ananuri demonstrates to visitors just arrived the beauty of Georgia and its rich history.

Ananuri fortress was founded in the XVI century, and for the next two centuries served as an important defense structure, which was guarding the peace of the population of the nearby town of Dusheti. At the beginning of XIX century, when Georgia joined Russia, Ananuri continued to fulfill its defensive function. The Russian garrison was stationed here, guarding the Military Georgian Road, which connected the two states. When Russian troops left the fortress, it began to decline.

Today anyone can visit Ananuri, the entrance to the territory of the fortress is free. Having arrived here, you can see the fortification towers and three churches inside the fortress walls, of which the Church of the Assumption built in 1689 deserves special attention. The fortress walls offer stunning views of the surrounding area.

Address: Ananuri Fortress, Ananuri, Mtskheta-Mtianeti, Georgia.

Ruins of the ancient city of Armazi

Ruins of the ancient city of Armazi

Ruins of the ancient city of Armazi.

On the bank of Kura River, a few kilometers from Mtskheta, in ancient times there was a city Armazi, which name was derived from the name of the supreme pagan deity. According to chronicles, it was founded in the III century BC, and for a long time served as an important strategic center of Daryal Gorge, through which the main road of the Greater Caucasus ran. In 65 BC, when Armazi was captured by the Roman general Pompey, for the city was the beginning of the boom period.

At the end of V. century Armazi gradually began to decline, and in 736 it was destroyed by the Arabs. This was the end of the city’s history: no attempt was made to reconstruct it. Archaeological excavations on this site began to be carried out in 1943-1948. Among the most valuable finds were the foundations of a pagan and Christian temple.

No one but scientists and archaeologists had been interested in this place for a long time. Even many local residents had no idea that among the lush vegetation were the remains of the ancient Georgian civilization. Only in 2012, the territory of the ancient city was put in order, and the tourists began to come here. Once here, you can see the foundations of the above-mentioned temples, the ruins of baths with the water distribution system, the ruins of the wine cellar, the half-destroyed Six Pillar Hall. The territory of the ancient city of Armazi is not fenced, and the entrance is free.

Address: Armazi, Georgia.

Chapel of St. Nino (Maklovani)

Chapel of St. Nino (Makvlovani)

Chapel of St. Nino (Maklovani).

On the territory of Samtavro monastery is a small, but very important for the faithful chapel – Maklovani. It was built in honor of St. Nino by the first Christian ruler of Georgia – King Mirian. In general, religious buildings erected in honor of the world revered saint, there are not only in Georgia, but also in other countries, including Armenia, Russia, USA and France. But it was the chapel in Mtskheta, considered the oldest Christian shrine of Georgia, that appeared first. Many historians believe that it happened while Nino was still alive.

In 736, during the invasion of the Arabs, Mtskheta was almost completely burned and destroyed; of the three existing Christian churches at the time, only Makvlovani partially survived.

Address: Samtavro Monastery, Mtskheta, Georgia.

The historical village of Dzalisi

Historical village Dzalisi

Historical village Dzalisi.

In 20 kilometers from Mtskheta, in the Mukhrani Valley is Dzalisi. This settlement, formerly called Zalisa, was mentioned even by Claudius Ptolemy in the II century, naming it as one of the important cities of the kingdom of Iberia.

Archaeological excavations began as early as 1972-1974. In the course of these works the remains of several palaces, thermae, the acropolis and the cemetery were discovered. The floor of one of the palaces is covered with mosaic, which is considered one of the oldest in the Caucasus (approximately 300 AD). The archaeological area is currently fenced, but there is a lot to see outside the fenced area as well.

Address: Dzalisi, Georgia.

Zedazen Monastery

Zedazeni Monastery

Zedazen Monastery.

On the bank of the Aragvi River, on the Zedazeni Ridge, which is not far from Mtskheta, is the Zedazen Monastery. It was founded in the VI century, but before the advent of Christianity on this site was a pagan temple.

At the end of the XIX century the monastery, half-destroyed after the Persian invasion, was reconstructed, but the few monks who lived there soon left.

Today, the Zedazen monastery is active again. Many pilgrims come here. Among tourists this monastery is not as popular as some other temples and monasteries of Mtskheta, but they do not bypass this place either.

Address: Zedazen monastery, Zedazeni Road, Georgia.

The confluence of the Kura and Aragvi Rivers

Merge of Kura and Aragvi rivers

The confluence of the rivers Kura and Aragvi.

Mtskheta – is not only an ancient city with a rich history, not only the center of Orthodoxy in Georgia, but it is also a beautiful place with stunning views, which can not leave you indifferent. The place where two rivers – Kura and Aragvi – meet deserves special attention. Writers and poets, impressed by the view of this miracle, have repeatedly described it in their works.

The best place to view the confluence of the rivers is the mountain on which stands the Jvari Monastery.

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