Living in Georgia for 4 years I would never come up with the idea that one can find a desert here. Yes, there is a desert in Georgia. The desert is not that desert with sandy beaches but the steppe. Endless expanses of grass cover much of the desert, extending in a narrow band all the way to the Azerbaidzhan border. Although the steppe is not very large and open, the desert is not empty. The views are gorgeous, much of this area is grazed by livestock owned by Svan herders. The climate here is very severe.
The temperate of the grassland is warm to extremely hot summers (+50) and cool to very cold winters; temperatures are often extreme (-30). To get to the place is very difficult and boring. The road is beaten-up, sorry can not find any other word to describe the infrastructure. The signs are weird and have only symbolic meaning. In some cases when you follow the sign you will get lost. The best option to ask someone on the way to this place. Again, if you do not speak Russian or Georgian might be a bit complicated. The landscape is unbelievable. I have seen this landscape driving to Armenia and living in Jerusalem for some years. People don't need to go to Mars to explore the planet. Mars is here in the steppe Garedja:)
To get to the place you have to go straight forward to Sagaredjo village. Don't follow the signs, drive straight without changing the route. The town is very small and abandoned, nothing interesting. At some point, we made a pause and stopped the car near the highest hill. The children decided to conquer the hill and look around. You won't believe, we found what we were looking for. We discovered a natural wonder, Garedja Desert. A blue-green landscape was stretching for many many kilometers. The scarcity of water in this grassland makes it more valuable than oil. Some lakes in the Garedja desert are, salty, amazing and of different colors. You should be very careful because of the snakes around. Some of them potentially dangerous and may harm you. So we checked every time the place for snakes before making a rest somewhere.
The end destination of our tour was David-Garedja Monastery. The road is not that bad but very dangerous! There are plenty of things to admire but there are a lot of hairpin bends without concrete fences on turns. Stay on your trail and don’t be distracted when you’re admiring the sights from the comfort of your car:) Otherwise, if anything happens, the car would fly far deep and very long. In theory, I have read in some trip advisors that there is another road to this place from Telavi but I am not sure.
The only population on the way is Udabno village. Udabno village is 50 km far away from Tbilisi. The village is not almost forgotten, it is forgotten. My first questions were what people are doing here, how they survive in the desert, and why they are still here?. The biggest surprise for us was that one Polish family opened a hostel and a restaurant here :)
by Christopher, flicker
Udabno village was a closed area during the soviet times and had strategic importance. This place is still a place for conflict disputes between Georgia and Azerbaidzhan. The problem is that during the soviet time the border of both countries was laid exactly in the middle of David Garedja Monastery Complex. From atop of the monastery one can see Azerbaidzhan for over one hundred miles in different directions. Plus, the David Garedja Monastery is a sacred place for all Georgians. The place has religious significance and could be compared with Jerusalem for Christianity. According to the legend, David Garedja Monastery was founded in the 6th century, by David Gareja - a man who left the common life to live in a cave as a monk in this semi-desert landscape and dedicate his life serving all others. Thousand of people followed him. Shortly before his death, he decided to go to Jerusalem but when he arrived there he thought that he lived the life not worthy to walk on the footprints of Jesus. He took only three stones from the holy land and went back home. The Patriarch of Jerusalem was thinking that David had taken with him all the grace of the Holy Sepulchre. He sent a messenger asking him to return two of the three stones. Only one stone reached Georgia and was kept for a long time in the monastery of David Gareji until it was transported to the Sameba Cathedral in Tbilisi.
by Patric Zeder, flicker.com
Both countries would like to get the area and they still can not find a compromise. So, back to the monastery... The construction is very well preserved. Despite its remoteness, the monastery was under attack permanently beginning from the 9th century by Seljuk Turks, by Mongols in the 13th and 15th and Persians in the 17th. The most damage to the monastery brought the Soviets. They made this monastery as a military point.
The atmosphere inside is taking the breath. It was very tranquil but suddenly a chor singing attracted our attention. There is a small church there. Take a look at it! To the right of the altar, one can find the grave of St. David. Here he kept the stone from Jerusalem.
Behind the small shop, you will find a trace leading to the top of the hill where you can enjoy the views of Azerbaijan. Some people believe that the Lord can hear us and see us on sunrise and sunset. If you want to experience peace and harmony catch the sunset. It is gorgeous!!
by Rike Foros, flicker.com