Mtskheta-Mtianeti has a border with Tbilisi in the North and goes up to the Greater Caucasus mountains till the next border with Russia. The regional capital is Mtskheta, located at the junction of two rivers: Aragvi and Kura (Mtkvari in Georgian). Mtskheta takes a very important place in Georgian history - it used to be the capital of Georgia between the 3rd century BC and the 5th century AD. The city is the oldest and continuously inhabited cities in the world. It is the holy place where Christianity was proclaimed as the main religion in 337 AD. The city represents a masterpiece of human creative genius and major stages of earth's history, including the record of life, significant on-going geological processes in the development of landforms. Mtskheta was included in UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1994. Mtskheta was recently renovated. One can have a really nice walk around the town. While Mtskheta is definitely a must-see destination for any visitor, the Mtskheta-Mtianeti region offers much more to see. The picturesque military road of Georgia stretches from Tbilisi to the Russian border and goes through the main ski resort, Gudauri. One can find glaciers, lakes, alpine meadows and unforgettable Greater Caucasus' peaks ascending in the North of the region. The region also offers amazing locations for mountain biking, horse riding, bird watching, paragliding and rafting, all giving stunning views of the landscape.
Svetitskhoveli Cathedral Located in Mtskheta
Svetitskhoveli Cathedral has been the burial site for Georgian kings and is built on the site where it is said the robe of Jesus is buried. In 337 AD, when Georgia announced Christianity as its official religion, the first Christian King, Mirian, was advised by St. Nino, to build a church here, over the grave where Christ’s robe was buried (having been brought back to Georgia by a Georgian Jew, who had bought it off from a Roman soldier at Golgotha).
A Lebanese cedar tree growing on the grove was cut down and used to make seven pillars to build the church. However, the seventh and biggest pillar had magical properties which meant that it was hung in the air unsupported until St. Nino prayed for it to return to earth. This pillar was said to have illuminated light and radiated a lovely fragrance and even miraculous chrism which could cure many diseases. The pillar was called “Sveti Tskhoveli” – a life-giving pillar – which later became the name also given to the Cathedral. An icon portraying this event can be seen next to the second column on the right-hand from the entrance (www.gerogia.travel). Another icon worth paying attention to is the one portraying Jesus that can be seen in the last column on the left from the entrance. According to the legend, good-hearted people can see Jesus looking at them, while the evil ones see Jesus' face with his eyes closed. Yet another peculiarity can be observed outside the cathedral on its left side. When looking at the upper part of the church's northern facade one can see a relief sculpture of a stone arm with a chisel. It is the arm of Svetitskhoveli's architect - Arsukidze. According to the legend, a priest who had also been Arsukidze’s mentor and teacher was so jealous of Arsukidze's success that he used his influence with the king to have the architect's right hand cut off, so he never creates another masterpiece of this magnitude.
by Levan Gokadze
Zedazeni Monastery is one of the oldest pieces of Georgian architecture. It is situated on the left bank of the Aragvi, North-East from Mtskheta. Zidane Monastery was founded around 540 AD by one of the Assyrian Fathers - John, whose mission was to strengthen Christianity in the region. The Monastery was repaired and restored many times, right up until 1971.
One can reach it either by foot - it's an easy, but long walk up the hill, or by car - in dry weather any car can do it, otherwise use an SUV. On the way, it is also possible to visit Ilia Chavchavadze's State House Museum located in Saguramo village.
by Milan Tverdy
Shiomghvime (Shio's Cave) Monastery complex
Shiomghvime (Shio's Cave) Monastery complex was one of the most prominent religious and cultural centers in feudal Georgia. This medieval monastic complex is located in the Mtskheta district, in a canyon on the left bank of the Mtkvari river. According to historical sources, the monastery was founded by Shio – an apostle of Assyrian Father John of Zedazeni in the 6th century. Father Shio is said to have spent his last years in a dark, deep grotto ("Mghvime" in Georgian means cave), where he wished to be buried. His grave is considered a sacred place. The earliest building – the Monastery of St. John the Baptist – a cruciform church, very plain and strict in its design, indeed dates to c. 560s-580s and the caves carved by monks are still visible around the monastery and along the road leading to the complex. The monastery was changed a bit in the 11th and 18th centuries but has largely retained its original architecture.
The Upper Church named after the Theotokos is a central part of the Shiomgvime complex. Initially the 12th century domed church, it was subsequently destroyed by a foreign invasion and restored, in 1678, as a basilica. A refectory was built between the 12th and 17th centuries and directly communicates with the Cave of St. Shio. A 12th-century small chapel adorned with medieval murals stands separately on a nearby hill.
An archaeological expedition revealed, in 1937, a 2 km long aqueduct supplying the monastic communities from the nearby village of Skhaltba, and chronicled ina 1202 as being constructed by Bishop Anton of Chkondidi, a minister at Queen Thamar’s court. (source: Wikipedia).
Shatili village - the main sight in the region of Khevsureti, a masterpiece of Georgian architecture. This fortress village scattered on the slopes of a rocky hill next to the Chechen border. Shatill village has withstood the ravages of time, as well as multiple invasions and sieges. All four or five-story houses are connected by rooftop walkways that can be taken up if the enemy penetrates the village. One of these towers has been converted into an extraordinary hotel for visitors (open only during a short season in the summer). For many centuries it served to defend northern passes in the Caucasus leading to Georgia. The village is lined with closely built tower-houses, which make a solid and inaccessible fortress wall surrounding the whole village. Shatili is linked with the outer world only by a narrow road leading to Arghuni gorge (passable between June and mid-October). If going further towards the border with Chechnya, the ruined fortress village of Mutso can be found. The fortress village was built for the black plague victims. The fortress includes 30 towers at 1,800 m above sea level.
Samtavro Church can be found in the center of Mtskheta. It was built in the first half of the 12th century over the graves of the first Christian rulers of Georgia: king Mirian and queen Nana that can still be seen in the church. This is the place where Georgia's holiest saint, Saint Nino, who brought Christianity to Georgia in 337, lived and prayed. Saint Nino's Chapel dating back to the 4th century stands next to the main church. There is also an interesting three-story bell-tower of the 13th century and a holy tree in the courtyard - famous because according to the legend when people tried to cut it in half, the holy tree grew back together. Samtvaro church is a nunnery now. As in every Georgian church, Women must cover their heads when entering, and wear a skirt, or use the covers provided in the church to wrap over the trousers.
Kazbegi National Park
The Kazbegi National Park is located on the northern slopes of the mighty Caucasus range and its protected area covers a total area of more than 8,700 hectares. At 5,047 meters above the sea level, Kazbegi Mountain (Georgian name: Mkinvartsveri, meaning "top of the glacier") is the third highest mountain in Georgia. The History of this place is full of myths and stories. According to the Greek myth, the Titan Prometheus was punished and was chained for eternity to the rock in the Caucasus Mountains because he taught mankind to make a fire. According to Georgian myth, Prometheus was chained to the icy slopes of Kazbegi. Prometheus (known as Amirani in Georgia) was apparently imprisoned in a cave 4,000 meters up. The cave, now called Betlemi (Bethlehem), later served as a dwelling for orthodox monks and was said to contain many sacred relics, including Abraham’s tent and Christ’s manger- symbols, associated with nativity scenes with Mary and Joseph. Hot springs, acidic and carbonated lakes surround the mountain. The earthquakes are fairly frequent. Almost 135 square kilometers is covered with the glacier. This makes Kazbegi a great place for ice climbing and mountaineering The Darial Gorge is an almost impossibly cleft in the mountains connecting Russia and Georgia, running for 18km from Stepantsminda to the Russian border at Zemo Larsi. For millennia, this mountain has been strategically crucial and has been fortified since 150 BC. A 1000 miles view opens here. Waterfalls and forest make this road as the most gorgeous in the world. The valleys around are great places for birdwatchers.
Jvari (Cross) Church
Jvari (Cross) Church - Overseeing Mtskheta and the conflation of the two rivers from a hill above the old capital city, Jvari is one of the masterpieces of Georgian architecture. The original structure was much smaller. After converting to Christianity, King Mirian erected a tall wooden cross on the hill, which was venerated by various Christian nations. Later a small church was built beside the cross and it is now referred to as the Small Cross. However, the church was too small to hold all the visitors and in 586 - 604 AD the larger Jvari cathedral was built over the wooden cross. The pedestal of the old cross has been preserved, and you can still see it inside the church. Jvari is the oldest sacral building of this type in Georgia. There were many more built later using its architectural structure.
The view from the hill is very picturesque - the little town of Mtskheta sitting at the crossroad of two rivers of different colors mixing into one flow, with mountains and forests around it. The view is impressive, however, it is better to see it before going to Stepantsminda and seeing Gergeti Sameba (see above), because the impression might be spoilt by comparison.
by Michal Kuban
Juta - is a village standing at 2150 meters over the sea level. It is a small cluster of houses glued to a slope at the end of a long and climbing dirt road. The road at its climbing part is no more than a shelf dugout in the mountain. It gets washed away from time to time and is passable only between late Spring and early Autumn. The views are stunning, but not if you are acrophobic ;-)
Juta sits at the junction of two valleys - one leading towards Chechnya, the other to the spectacular Chaukhi mountain (picture to the left). Juta is the only village on this side of the mountain inhabited by Khevsurs (one of the Georgian nationalities), as the Khevsureti region spreads on the other side of Chaukhi mountain. It is possible to pass, but the walk is quite long and gets difficult at the end. The good news is that even if you don't feel like climbing, it is possible to have a memorable walk (even with kids), with terrific views, observing horses in the pastures and alpinist cows climbing the surrounding mountains. There is a basic camping site above the village and a newly built hotel under it, so one can stay before and/or after the walk.
by E-C-K Art
Gergeti Sameba (Trinity Church)
Gergeti Sameba (Trinity Church) - unforgettable! A must-see for any tourist coming to Georgia! Built of massive granite blocks on a dramatic cliff, at the height of almost 2200 meters over the sea level, it is looking over Stepantsminda (Kazbegi) village and facing Kazbek Mountain. The 14th-century cross-domed tiny church and bell tower were built when the Georgians reestablished their reign over the territory after Mongol influence faded.
The exterior is richly carved with grapevines, animals and the sun, all of which is covered in a thick layer of startling yellow lichen, almost as old as the church itself.
Getting to the church is possible either by walking up for about 1.5-2 hours from Stepantsminda village or by driving - 4x4 vehicles can be rented in the village center. The plateau next to the church is also a kind of rest station/gathering point for trekkers going further to/getting back from Gergeti glacier at 3100 meters.
Ananuri Castle and Monastery Complex
Ananuri complexAnanuri Castle and Monastery Complex beautifully situated on the Georgian Military Highway, right on the shore of the azure blue Zhinvali reservoir, Ananuri castle and monastery can be either a nice trip from Tbilisi (only about 70 km), or a pleasant stop on the way to Gudauri or Stepantsminda (Kazbegi). Once the residence of the local clan of Aragvi that ruled the area from the 13th century, the complex witnessed many battles and served as a fortress until the 19th century.
The ensemble started from the narrow watchtower of either the 13th or 14th century, presently in the center of the complex, and a small single church of 16th century. Later it was circled by defensive walls with five massive towers and significantly strengthened by the citadel of the Upper and Lower fortresses, and crowned with the large domed cathedral of 17th century - the Assumption Church.
Presently only the Upper fortress is left to be seen. Three of its five towers, including the largest Sheupovari Tower (the big square tower in the corner), face the Georgian Military Highway. But the entrance to the complex is to the right, from the middle of the southern wall. As you enter the fortress, you will face the Assumption Church, with the earliest pyramidal tower by its western wall. The church is interesting to explore from the outside – there are some very well preserved relief carvings on its façade and the Georgian script on the walls. Unfortunately, the murals inside the cathedral suffered a lot of damage – there aren’t too many frescoes left. Yet those remaining depict, among other scenes, the famous Thirteen Syrian Fathers.
Mtskheta-Mtianeti has a border with Tbilisi in the North and goes up to the Greater mountains till the next border with Russia. The regional capital is , located at the junction of two rivers: Aragvi and Kura (Mtkvari in Georgian). Mtskheta takes a very important place in history - it used to be the capital of Georgia between the 3rd century BC and the 5th century AD. The city is the oldest and continuously inhabited cities in the world. It is the holy place where Christianity was proclaimed as the main religion in 337 AD. The city represents a masterpiece of human creative genius and major stages of earth's history, including the record of life, significant on-going geological processes in the development of landforms. Mtskheta was included in UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1994. Mtskheta was recently renovated. One can have a really nice walk around the town. While Mtskheta is definitely a must-see destination for any visitor, region offers much more to see. The picturesque military road of stretches from Tbilisi to the Russian border and goes through the main ski resort, Gudauri. One can find glaciers, lakes, alpine meadows and unforgettable Greater Caucasus' peaks ascending in the North of the region. The region also offers amazing locations for mountain , , , paragliding and rafting, all giving stunning views of the landscape.