Cave City Vardzia
One of the must see destinations in Georgia is Vardzia. Truly spectacular and breathtaking place! Built nearly 10 centuries ago, this cave city is a beloved place not only for tourists but also for local people. Once the complex was used mainly for protecting the area against the enemies. Later, Queen Tamar, the first woman to rule Georgia, completed building of the complex consisting of 13 floors, 6000 apartments, monastery, libraries, stables, bakeries, and bathing pools. Each dwelling consisted of three rooms, although it is said that Queen Tamar had 366 rooms so that if Vardzia were to be invaded by the Persians she would be able to lose the enemy in her quarters. Back to 11-12th centuries, the complex was accessible only through the hidden tunnels that were located near the Mtkvari River.
Photo by Ilona Margalitadze
Nowadays, the 8 floor premises go deep into the rocks for ten meters. The entrance fee is 3 GEL ($1.7) and you can stay and walk here as much as you want. Though you should be in a good shape and have suitable shoes, as there are many very steep and narrow parts here. If you are not in a hurry and want to explore the area deeply, it will take you approximately 2 hours, though this trip could be quite hard for children and for you, if you will be carrying your children. When buying tickets at the box office, you can ask for a guide (who doesn’t know English) but can still be useful to help navigate the labyrinth of dark caves and levels.
There are still a few monks living in Vardzia who can provide you with some interesting info if you speak Russian or Georgian, most of them don’t know English. Also, be warned that the church doesn’t welcome women at Vardzia, which seems strange taking into account that it was the first female ruler of the country, who founded the city and lived there for many years.
Whatever people say, it is worth trying to get inside, because this is a really fantastic place, where you can experience something very very unique and strange, feel the spirit of past, imagine that people were living there centuries ago, in that unusual and sometimes kind of wild environment. Make sure you have enough water and some food along with you while visiting the place, as Vardzia lacks roadside restaurants. Also, don’t visit the place on Mondays, on all other days you are welcome here from 10am-7pm.