Cave City Vardzia is located in the south of Georgia, and is considered one of the country's main attractions. Originally built to be a border fortress, it is now home to several monks as well as a museum.
It was excavated from the slopes of the Erusheti Mountain, where a number of deep caves were constructed. They were connected through tunnels, stairs, terraces and balconies. Only 750 of originally over 9,000 rooms are still accessible today, after a large portion was destroyed in an earthquake.
After a quick ascent to the entrance of the site, you can discover some of the cave dwellings as well as a range of other facilities. The monks currently residing in Vardzia act as tour guides. The Church of the Dormition used to be the spiritual centre of the cave city, and is still a highlight of the visit. Its splendid architecture, and especially the colourful frescoes are an impressive sight. They include pictures of King Giorgi III and Queen Tamara, under whose reign the complex was built. You should plan approximately 2 hours for your visit.
There are several other interesting attractions in the surrounding area of Vardzia. Wanis Kwabebi, another cave settlement, castle ruins Chertwissi and Tmogwi, or the tunnel complex Lepisi are always worth a visit.
The construction of Cave City Vardzia was ordered by Georgian King Giorgi III in the 12th century. It was meant to serve as a border fortress to keep away Turks and Persians. It was completed under the reign of his daughter, Queen Tamara, who founded a monastery there at the end of the century.
The cave site originally included 3,000 dwellings on up to seven tiers. It provided space for 50,000 people and included a treasury, a church, a library, bakeries, stables, baths, and many more facilities. The complex was supplied with water via ceramic pipes. Large parts of the premises were destroyed in an earthquake, leaving only 750 rooms accessible today.
Georgia registered the site for the list of UNESCO World Heritage in 1993.
How to get there
Cave City Vardzia is located off main street ს 11 (Achalziche-Armenia). Just follow street შ 58 southbound for approximately 25 kilometers. This will lead you directly to the cave site.
Getting to Vardzia on public transport is rather difficult. However, the region has many well-signposted hiking trails, making it possible to walk to Vardzia from Chertwissi.