Uplistsikhe, also known as the “Lord’s Fortress” – an ancient rock-hewn town in eastern Georgia – is one of those places where the beauty of nature is accompanied with a wonder created by humans.
It dates back as far as to 11-10th century BC and contains structures from the Early Iron Age to the Late Middle Ages. If that is not astonishing enough, it is a place where you can get to known a few different cultures at once – the cave town contains both pagan and Christian architecture, not to mention various styles of rock-cut cultures from Iran and Cappadocia.
Before the 4th century when Christianity took its place in Georgia, Uplistsikhe used to be a major political and religious center. For some time after the arrival of new religion, the two faiths co-existed peacefully, Christian buildings complemented the pagan structures. However, Uplistsikhe gave up its status of importance to Mtskheta and Tbilisi.
During the 13th century, city was suffering from the Mongol attacks, it burst into flames a few times before it was practically abandoned. Nevertheless, it was utterly abandoned in the 19th century only and the nearby village ceased to exist in the late 20th century.
Visiting this place I was breathing in the history and culture of the last 3000 years and that is not often one gets to experience how old this world actually is. Not many structures survived such long years and so many significant events. To my mind, that is reason enough to make place for Uplistsikhe in ones travel itinerary.
We didn’t choose a very good time to visit though, as it was a day of school excursions and the place was pretty overcrowded. Nevertheless, it didn’t lose its charm. Besides, I love hiking and climbing on rocks so nothing could have spoiled my mood. 🙂
Oh, and the surroundings! Uplistsikhe is on the side of the mountain and overlooks a beautiful valley of the river Kura. The countryside is gorgeous, but then again, most places in Georgia are.
Most of the caves are plain but wandering around we noticed small differences and signs – we visited ancient religious premises, bakeries, bathhouses, ruins of the amphitheatre, we got a glimpse of a pharmacy, wine cellar, pool for water storage, etc. and everything was carved out of stone. Simply astonishing.
How to get there
Uplistsikhe is located 80 km from Tbilisi and 13 km from the Stalin’s birthplace – Gori. Most people visit both Stalin museum and Uplistsikhe in a day. There are several options to get there. If you are traveling from Tbilisi, take a marshrutka to Gori from the Didube metro station (costs around 4 Lari, takes around 1,5 hour) and then you can go to Uplistsikhe by:
- Taxi (the most expensive choice, usually it costs 25 Lari and the driver waits for you);
- Marshrutka (costs 1 Lari). It doesn’t bring you all the way to the cave city though, you will have to walk around 1 km from the village but the views are worth it.
You can also take a train from Tbilisi to Kvachvreli, which is the cheapest option (get on the train going to Nikozi). It is an evening ride so you should have a tent with you and you’ll be able to spend the night near the main visitor office.
The entry fee is 3 Lari. Be aware that this place is closed on Mondays. You can visit during the official working hours only – from 10:00 to 17:00.