The best places to see in Mtskheta.
Mtskheta is an ancient city, the first capital of Georgia. The foundation of the city dates back to the fifth century BC. It is no exaggeration to say that here was born the Georgian civilization, as evidenced by the sights of Mtskheta.
History of Mtskheta
Mtskheta is the administrative center of Mtskheta-Mtianeti region and is located 20 kilometers north of old Tbilisi, at the confluence of the rivers Aragva and Kura.
Mtskheta is over two and a half thousand years old. It is a cult place for Christians because of its many temples and Christian shrines.
Of course, since ancient times, everything has changed here, many things have been restored. Now Mtskheta is a city-museum, as if living specifically for tourists: there are many souvenir shops, hotels, hostels, cafes. There are lots of tourists here – almost every visitor from Tbilisi goes to Mtskheta.
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Attractions in Mtskheta
Svetitskhoveli Temple is one of the main temples of the whole Georgia, the cathedral of the patriarch. According to legend, under the temple is kept the chiton of Jesus Christ – one of the greatest relics of the Christian world. There is also a baptismal font from which the first king of Georgia – Mirian III was baptized. Svetitskhoveli Temple is included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Samtavro is a functioning monastery. Known for the fact that here are kept the relics of several saints and the stone from the tomb of Saint Nino. Here is the tomb of the first king of Georgia Mirian III and his wife Nana. The most interesting are considered miraculous relics of Father Gabriel.
Jvari Temple . If you go by car, it makes sense to go first to see Jvari, and from there go down to Mtskheta itself. This is a very unusual temple, both historically and architecturally.
What else to see in Mtskheta
The confluence of the Kura and Aragvi Rivers is perhaps Georgia’s most famous landscape. Even Lermontov admiringly wrote about how two turquoise and purple rivers merge into one, what to say about ordinary tourists, who have long fancied this place for their photo shoots.
A paradise for lovers
The ancient city of Armazi (Armaztsikhe) is a very significant place historically, although not very expressive. There was an ancient and late antique city, and there are still some fragments of ancient buildings. In 2012 the place was reconstructed and Armazi became more attractive to visit.
Among the attractions of Mtskheta is the Citadel of Armazi. Hidden in the mountains in the vicinity of Mtskheta. You can visit this castle as part of a walking day tour. According to some sources, the citadel dates back to the VI century, others to the XV century.
Bebristsikhe is an ancient half-destroyed fortress, dating back to the IX century AD. It was erected as a guard on the way to the city.
Shio-Mgvim Monastery is an ancient and famous place, which is obligatory to visit for everyone, who happened to be in Mtskheta. It is located 12 km from Mtskheta. On the territory there are several buildings, the most important of which are the temple of John the Baptist and the temple of Our Lady.
We recommend to visit the sights of Mtskheta with a guide – it is much more interesting and understandable to see the historical sites. To the right of the entrance to the monastery on the mountain climbs a path to a small temple. From there you have an incredible view of Shio-Mgvime, Mtskheta and even Tbilisi.
Zedazeni Monastery. A sixth-century monastery, from the walls of which one can enjoy breathtaking views of Mtskheta and Tbilisi. Located 20 km from Mtskheta.
How to get there from Tbilisi
To get from Tbilisi to Mtskheta is quick and inexpensive, because the distance between the two capitals of Georgia is no more than 20 kilometers. You can get there by shuttle bus, train and, of course, cab.
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Where to stay in Mtskheta
If you’re interested in budget rooms, the Mamulashvili, Iberia, Dariali, Armazi and Bagineti hostels are at your service. The cost for a double room is $20-35.
Among hotels of medium level you can choose Aragvi (cost about $50 for a double room), a hotel of high level – Gino Wellness Mtskheta (cost of rooms from $100).
Come, and we will try to make your vacation unforgettable! Get a free consultation or make use of our services by calling: +7 (495) 268-07-72 or +995 555 566 540
Mtskheta is a historical and holy city in Georgia. Such a collection of cathedrals, monasteries, fortresses and ruins of ancient cities is found nowhere else in Georgia. Be sure to visit Mtskheta, here you will have a special experience.
Would you like to come here? Viva-Georgia team will organize a tour or an excursion for you, we’ll make the best route and provide any other assistance for your trip.
Mtskheta – the ancient capital of Georgia
Mtskheta is the heart of Georgia, its spiritual center, where Georgian Christianity was born. The most popular attractions in Mtskheta are the majestic Svetitskhoveli Cathedral, Jvari Monastery, towering on a mountain, and beautiful views from there to the confluence of two rivers – the Kura and the Aragva. But the interesting places of Mtskheta are not limited to this, there are many medieval fortresses and temples.
A few facts about Mtskheta
- Mtskheta is located at the confluence of the rivers Kura and Aragvi.
- According to the legend, the city was founded in the V. BC by the son of Kartlos, the legendary Mtskhethos and gave his name to the city.
- Mtskheta from III century BC to V century AD was the ancient capital of the kingdom of Kartli, after which Tbilisi became the capital.
- Mtskheta is a special city for Orthodox Georgia, it was here that the main events associated with the baptism of Georgia took place.
- Mtskheta’s historic monuments – Dzhvari Monastery of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, Svetitskhoveli Cathedral and Samtavro Monastery – are included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.
- In 2010 Mtskheta was extensively reconstructed: churches and houses were restored, ancient streets were paved, new cafes and hotels, souvenir stores and tents were opened. Mtskheta has become a popular tourist destination.
- Population of Mtskheta is about 8 thousand people.
- Distance from Mtskheta to the Georgian capital Tbilisi – 25 km.
Svetitskhoveli Cathedral is located in the heart of Mtskheta and is surrounded by a stone fortress wall. The sights of Mtskheta are unthinkable without this ancient majestic cross-domed structure. Originally on this place in the IV century was built a wooden church by the order of the Iberian King Mirian III. In V century king Vakhtang Gorgasali rebuilt the church into a stone temple. In XI century was built a new large cathedral Svetitskhoveli, which survived until our time.
According to legend here was buried the chiton of Jesus Christ, in place of which grew a sacred cedar. During the construction of the temple, the cedar was cut down to make several columns of the temple. But all attempts to install one of the columns proved futile. Only after the prayer of St. Nino, the life-giving pillar – in Georgian, “svetitskhoveli”, was finally installed.
For a long time in the temple kings were crowned and there they found their last shelter. And now tourists can see the tombstones, which are embedded in the floor.
Historical and religious sites of Mtskheta are very popular among tourists. Among them, Jvari Monastery – one of the oldest buildings on the territory of Georgia and the first object of Georgia, which was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List – rightfully takes the leading position. It is located on the steepest slope of the mountain top, offering a breathtaking view of Mtskheta and the confluence of the Aragvi and Kura rivers. There is an observation deck from where you can endlessly admire the beautiful panorama.
The name “Jvari” (Georgian for “cross”) to the monastery was not given by chance. The time of its foundation is considered to be the IV century, when on a mountain top, according to legend, St. Nino set a cross symbolizing the victory of Christian faith over the pagan. And only 200 years later they erected a small domed church in the form of a cross and founded a monastery, which fit perfectly into the surrounding landscape.
Dzhvari monastery is considered a masterpiece of Georgian church architecture. It was one of the first temples built in the form of a cross with rounded ends. Subsequently, so began to build temples throughout Georgia.
The panorama of Jvari monastery
“There, where, merging together, the streams of the Aragva and Kura were hugging like two sisters, there was a monastery.” “Mtsyri” by M. Lermontov.
In one of Lermontov’s best paintings “Caucasian view with a hut” depicts the monastery “Jvari”. The great poet is immortalized in a monument located at the foot of the mountain.
This female monastery is not as popular as Jvari, but is also the pride of Georgia. It was built by King Mirian after the death of St. Nino, in whose honor was built on its territory and the church bearing her name. The history of the monastery keeps the memory of Nino and Gabriel as the first Christians of the country. King Mirian and Queen Nana were buried in this monastery after their death, giving rise to a sepulchre which became the last resting place of the highest church hierarchs.
Today Samtavro is a large monastic complex that includes the Church of the Transfiguration, the second-largest church in Mtskheta, a fortified tower, the churches of Saint Nino, Saint Michael, Saint John Chrysostom, Saint John the Baptist, a bell tower, and other structures.
Chapel of St. Nino (Maklovani)
This shrine, located on the grounds of the Samtavro monastery complex, which is called the cradle of Christianity in Georgia, is worth mentioning separately. It is Makvlovani, as it is also called, is considered to be the oldest Christian church in the country. At one time a small chapel was built in honor of St. Nino near a thicket of blackberries. Legend has it that the Christian educator lived here in a hut built with her own hands. People came here to listen to her sermons. In Georgian, “makvali” means “blackberry”, and “makvlovani” means “blackberry”. That’s how it got its name for this holy place.
Samtavis (Samtavrsky) burial ground
The second name of this rather impressive archeological site is the Samtavro Valley. It is considered to be the most ancient pogost on the territory of Georgia. Thanks to the research carried out in the second half of the XIX century and later in Soviet times, about 4000 ancient burials of different historical periods were discovered here. As a result of excavations revealed fragments of ancient dwellings of the II-I millennium BC.
Church of Antioch
This religious institution, formerly known as the Church of St. Stephen, is considered one of the oldest fortified urban structures built 1500 years ago. The church was later named Antioch, probably because it is located in the courtyard of the Monastery of Antioch, which is on the southeast edge of the city. Tourists come here to touch antiquity and enjoy the beautiful views of the place where the waters of the Aragva and Kura rivers meet, praised by the great Russian poet Lermontov.
On the banks of the Kura River in a gorge not far from Mtskheta is this tourist-favorite monastic complex, whose structures are situated on a slope in a ledge. The name of the monastery, founded in the VI century, translates as “the cave of Shio,” immortalizing the name of a monk who lived his life as a hermit. The first temple on the site was the Church of John the Baptist with a stone iconostasis decorated with fragments of Shio’s life, which has survived to this day and is in the Georgian Museum of Art in the capital. But the church, which has stood for almost six centuries, no longer exists. And the monastery has been reconstructed several times, significantly changing its appearance.
Zedazen monastery is located near Mtskheta on the Zedazen Ridge. The monastery owes its foundation in the VI century to John, one of the famous Christian preachers. The ten-meter high structure is made of stone and brick in the form of a traditional 3-nave basilica. Apart from the original architecture, the walls of Zedazen monastery have an artistic value. After all, on them you can see pictures painted by ancient Georgian masters. The most famous is the image of St. George fighting the dragon.
Architectural sights of Mtskheta are represented by significant structures. Leading among them is the Ananuri Fortress. This well-preserved monument of architecture from the early feudal era is located at the confluence of two waterways: the Aragvi and Vedzatkhevi. Inside the fortress there are three temples. The walls of one of them, the Assumption Cathedral, are decorated with grapevines and crosses. There are also several towers, including a square one, where you can go upstairs by stairs and see the picturesque surroundings from above.
The fortress of Bebristsikhe (from Georgian – the fortress of the elder) – this ancient fortification was founded in the IX century. Initially it was intended to defend the northern borders of Mtskheta. Even now the ruins of the fortress with the remains of walls, three half-destroyed towers look very impressive.
The citadel is situated on a hill from which there is a picturesque panorama of the surroundings. Tourists can see the mountain scenery, the river, the park at the bottom of the hill, the Jvari monastery, the old and new neighborhoods of Mtskheta.
Originally this stone construction linking the banks of the Kura River was built on the orders of Gnaeus Pompey the Great in 65 B.C. The interesting structure, which functioned for many centuries, was built rather peculiarly. The bridge consisted of 2 parts: one connected the left bank with the island, and the second the island with the right bank. At different times this unique structure was expanded, rebuilt, and finally flooded because of the construction of a hydroelectric power plant. Sometimes it can be seen from under the water, which destroys the historical monument.
Ruins of the ancient city of Armazi (Bagineti)
City-fortress of Armazitsikhe or simply Armazi, is located on Mount Bagineti, it was the acropolis of Mtskheta – the capital of Kartli, there was the royal residence. It was named in honor of a pagan deity called Armazi – the main god in the pantheon of Georgian gods. There was an idol of Armazi in the form of a warrior wearing a copper armor and a golden helmet, with a sword in his hands. According to records, in historical documents this ancient Iberian city was built in the III century BC. In 65 BC, Armazitsikeh was captured by the Roman general Pompey.
Ruins of the monastery of St. Nino
After the transfer of the capital from Mtskheta to Tbilisi at the end of the V century, Armazitsikhe fell into decay. In 736 it was destroyed by Arabs and was never rebuilt again. In the 1890s archaeological works were carried out here and they are still going on. On the territory of Armazi you can see a sarcophagus, the ruins of a temple dedicated to the god Armazi and two baths, a wine cellar, the foundations of numerous buildings, as well as the ruins of the monastery of St. Nino, built in the XII century.
The river Aragvi
This waterway, the name of which in Georgian sounds like “fast”, can be called the most popular Georgian river. It is imprinted in alcoholic beverages, café and restaurant names, and even in the names the locals give to their children. The Georgian Military Road runs along the Aragvi. Its name is mentioned in the works of Pushkin and Lermontov. A truly legendary river is closely linked to many historical events and sights of Mtskheta.