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Georgia

Main attractions

Gergeti Church and Mount Kazbegi, Georgia
Gergeti Church and Mount Kazbegi / Roberto Strauss, , CC BY 2.0

There are few small countries in the world with such a distinct culture and richness of natural and man made landmarks as Georgia. Here evolved distinct writing system (in fact - several writing systems), own styles in architecture and art.

Most impressive landmarks in Georgia are:

  • Churches - Georgia has its own distinct type of church architecture, with the most similar style of church architecture in the neighboring Armenia. This style is extensively used for more than one millenia and in many ways it defines the man made landscape in Georgia. Some of the most interesting churches are Bagrati Cathedral, Svetitskhoveli Cathedral and Nikortsminda Cathedral.
  • Medieval villages with tower houses - tower houses in these villages were built to provide protection from the blood-feud and other hostilities. Some of the most interesting villages are located in the isolated mountain region of Svanetia, such as Chazhashi with some 200 towers.
  • Abysses in Abkhazia - three of the world's deepest caves are located in Abkhazia and the deepest one - Krubera Cave - is explored to the depth of dizzying 2,197 m!

Natural landmarks

Cave formation in New Athos Cave, Georgia
In New Athos Cave / Svetlana Grechkina, / CC BY-SA 2.0

Caves

  • Abatz Cave - Abkhazia. This cave contains very deep and wide vertical pit - 410 m tall. Total depth of cave - 514 m.
  • Abrskil Cave - Abkhazia. Large, more than 2 km long cave which is adorned with numerous stalactites, stalagmites, helictites and other speleothems. Cave is accessible to tourists.
  • Illyuzia - Mezhonnogo - Snezhnaya Cave system (Snowy Cave) - Abkhazia. Enormous cave system, 1,753 m deep and 24,080 m long. One of speleologically most complex caves.
  • Krubera Cave (Voronya Cave) - Gagra, Abkhazia. Deepest known cave in the world, 2,197 metres deep. This extensive cave system is also quite long - 16,058 m.
  • New Athos Cave (Novy Afon) - Abkhazia. Enormous cave with nine large cave rooms. There is built a railway in the cave for tourists and it is major tourist attraction.
  • Sarma Cave - Abkhazia. Second deepest known cave in the world - 1,830 m deep and 6,370 m long.
  • Tekentera Well - Racha-Lechkhumi and Kvemo Svaneti. Unusual cave - sinkhole which starts in the hole of a giant beech tree. This sinkhole is 18 m deep.

Fossil finds

  • Dmanisi find of hominids - Kvemo Kartli. Oldest finds of hominids in Caucasus. Discovered skulls belong to the species Homo erectus and are 1.8 million years old. Analysis of these skulls has provided valuable knowledge about the development of human species.
  • Sataplia dinosaur footprints - Imereti. 100 million years old footprints left by two dinosaurs in the canyon of Abasha River. Now these footprints are covered with protective roof.

Other natural landmarks

Gega Falls, Georgia
Gega Falls starting from a cave / Vyacheslav Argenberg, / CC BY 2.0
  • Akhtala mud volcanoes - Kakheti. Group of mud volcanoes, mud is used in healing since the 19th century.
  • Gega Falls (Cherkes Falls) - Abkhazia. Approximately 40 - 70 m tall waterfall which starts from the cave.
  • Katskhi pillar - Imereti. Tall limestone stack - monolith with church ruins on it. This stack rises 40 m tall and it is very hard to reach its summit. Nevertheless on the top of this monolith in the 9th or 10th century was built a hermitage - monastery.
  • Mchishta Spring and Cave - Abkhazia, near Barmysh. Cave with the most powerful spring in Caucasus, with average discharge of 9,300 l/sec and maximum discharge of 197,000 l/sec. The 4,3 km long cave is very dangerous and hard to access, it is partly explored.
  • Nordmann Fir in Mramba - Abkhazia. 85 m tall Nordmann Fir (Abies nordmanniana).
  • Takhti Tepa mud volcanoes - Kakheti. Group of active mud volcanoes.
  • Tsandripsh submarine springs - Abkhazia. Group of powerful springs in the Black Sea, at the depth of 5 - 7 m. Water of these springs most likely comes from the Arabika Massif - karst area in nearby Western Caucasus mountains. There are many more submarine springs in this area including unnamed spring at the depth of 400 m.

Man made landmarks

Megaliths

Dolmen from Eshera, Sukhumi in Georgia
Dolmen from Eshera, now located in Sukhumi / Alaexis, / CC BY-SA 3.0
  • Eshera dolmens - Abkhazia. Group of unusual dolmens which are similar to small houses built from four flat stones and covered with the fifth. Each of these stones could be up to 50 tons heavy. Most likely these structures served as family burial sites and the oldest were built in the second half of the 3rd millenium BC. Newer dolmens are made in better quality and often are adorned with reliefs. Similar dolmens are found in other settlements - Azanta, Otkhara, Achandara, Golana and others.
  • Kldekari megaliths - Kvemo Kartli. Large group of megalithic structures from the 2nd - 1st millenium BC. Complex includes cyclopean castles, barrows, procession pavement.
  • Lodovani megaliths (Gochnaris Lodovani) - Kvemo Kartli. Group of megalithic structures including extensive underground structures with intact cultural layer.
  • Shaori megalithic fortress - Samtskhe-Javakheti. Mysterious megalithic structure - fortress at the height of 2,750 m. Similar structures are Abuli fortress (roughly in 1,500 BC) and Saro fortress.
  • Tejisi menhir in St.Nicholas Church - Kvemo Kartli. 5 m tall menhir which now is inside the church complex. Menhir now is adorned with incision of large cross.

Ancient, abandoned settlements

Uplistsikhe, abandoned rock hewn city in Georgia
Uplistsikhe / Claire à Taiwan, / CC BY-SA 2.0
  • Anakopia - Abkhazia. Ruins of ancient Greek port city from the 3rd - 5th century. Here are found ruins of castle (the 2nd - 4th century AD) and temple (the 7th - 9th centuries).
  • Armazi - Mtskheta-Mtianeti. Ruins of the original capital of early Georgian kingdom of Kartli (Iberia), founded in the 3rd century BC, flourished in the early centuries AD and was ruined by Arabs in the 730s. Fortified citadel of Armazi is called Armaz-Tsikhe. Here evolved special system of writing - Armazi script.
  • Gonio - Adjara. Impressive ruins of Roman fortification and town which flourished in the 2nd century AD.
  • Nokalakevi (Archaeopolis) - Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti. Impressive ruins of the fortress - settlement of Byzantium. This settlement was inhabited since the 8th century BC, but the enormous fortress was built in the 4th - 6th century AD.
  • Tsitsamuri (Zaden-Tsikhe) - Mtskheta-Mtianeti. Ruins of ancient fortress and town opposite Armazi. This is site of a possible pagan temple, here was found necropolis from the 1st century BC - 2nd century AD.
  • Uplistsikhe - Shida Kartli. Rock hewn town, one of the oldest urban settlements in Georgia which started to develop in the Early Iron Age and was inhabited until the 14th century. Rock cut architecture unites features of Anatolian and Persian architecture. On the summit stands Christian basilica which was built in the 9th - 10th centuries.
  • Urbnisi - Shida Kartli. This settlement was inhabited already by the 3rd millenium BC and evolved into important centre in ancient and medieval times. Ruins include a fortress, pagan sanctuaries, Jewish temple. City was enclosed in massive walls in the 6th - 7th centuries AD. Urbnisi Monastery is active up to this day and it includes Urbnisi Basilica, which was built in the 6th - 7th century.
  • Vani Caves (Vahani Caves) - Samtskhe-Javakheti. Group of more than 200 caves which are cut into vertical cliff face in 16 different levels. Most caves are interconnected with tunnels. In some caves have been built churches, such as St.George's church (the 11th century) which is adorned with ink frescoes. Cave settlement was inhabited until the 16th century.

Medieval settlements

Shatili, Georgia
Shatili / Vladimer Shioshvili, / CC BY-SA 2.0
  • Adysh (Adishi) - Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti. Picturesque village with many architectonic landmarks, such as Church of the Deliverer (the 10th - 11th century), other medieval churches and tower houses.
  • Chazhashi (Chajashi) - Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti. Traditional village with more than 200 tower houses which were used as protection during the times of blood-feud. Chazhashi is a part of Ushguli villages, nearby are other, similar villages - Zhibiani, Chvibiani and Murqmeli.
  • Dartlo - Kakheti. Picturesque vilage in the exotic region of Tusheti. In the village have been preserved medieval tower houses, including particularily tall tower with six floors.
  • Mestia - Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti. Small town, once important centre of culture in this region. Here are located several medieval churches and many tower-houses - fortresses (Ushguli).
  • Shatili - Mtskheta-Mtianeti. Picturesque village in mountains. Village represents a complex of fortified buildings with some 60 towers.
  • Old Tbilisi - Tbilisi. Oldest part of Tbilisi - capital of Georgia since the beginnings of unified state in the 11th century AD. This part of city contains numerous monuments of architecture, streets here are narrow, covered with cobblestone, houses have ornate balconies.

Castles and fortifications

Ananuri Fortress, Georgia
Ananuri Fortress / Tanya Kuchma, / CC BY 2.0
  • Ananuri - Mtskheta-Mtianeti. Twin castles which were built by dukes of Aragvi, built and rebuilt in the 17th - early 19th century. Both castles are connected with massive curtain wall. Castle complex includes several churches. Church of Assumption (1689) includes fine frescoes.
  • Gori Fortress - Shida Kartli. Impressive medieval citadel, built on a cliff towering above Gori city. Hill has been fortified already several millenia ago, current structure was built in the medieval times.
  • Kelasuri Wall - Abkhazia. Some 160 km long (with breaks) fortification wall which most likely was constructed in the 6th century AD. Wall had some 300 towers, some 100 remain up to this day.
  • Keselo - Kakheti. Mountaintop fortress in a beautiful setting. Originally this fortress had 13 towers which were built in order to protect against the Mongol invasion in the 1230s. Currently five towers have been reconstructed.
  • Khertvisi Fortress - Samtskhe-Javakheti. Impressive clifftop fortress. First fortress was built here in the 2nd century BC. Current walls of fortress were built in 1354, there is also a church from 985 AD.

Palaces

  • Dadiani Palace - Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti. Ornate palace in Neo-Gothic style, built in 1873 - 1878. Palace is surrounded by botanical garden, area - 26.4 ha.
  • Geguti - Imereti. Ruins of medieval royal palace. Most parts of this extensive building were built in the 12th century, oldest part was built in the 8th - 9th century AD. Central room was covered with 14 m wide cupola.
  • Likani Palace - Samtskhe-Javakheti, Borjomi. Summer mansion of Grand Duke Nicholas Mikhailovich of Russia, built in 1892 - 1895.

Churches

Alaverdi Cathedral, Georgia
Alaverdi Cathedral / Nino Ozbetelashvili, / CC BY 2.0
  • Alaverdi Cathedral - Kakheti. Cathedral in ancient monastery (founded in the 6th century AD). Cathedral was built in the 11th century AD in the site of older church. Built in the site of former paganic site - a religiouos centre of Moon worshippers. Here is made local wine.
  • Anchiskhati Basilica - Tbilisi. Oldest extant church in Tbilisi, built in the first half of the 6th century AD.
  • Ateni Sioni Church - Shida Kartli. Church from the early 7th century, an early example of tetraconch planning. Walls are adorned with the first known inscriptions in Nushkuri - early Georgian alphabet, inscriptions were made in 835 AD. Here are also first known examples (from the 980s) of Mkhedruli - current Georgian script. Next to the church are ruins of medieval fortified town Ateni.
  • Bagrati Cathedral (Kutaisi Cathedral) - Kutaisi, Imereti. This cathedral is a masterpiece of Georgian architecture. It was built in the early 11th century (most likely in 1003) and rebuilt in 2012. Cathedral was built in the times of King Bagrat III, the first king of the united Georgia. Cathedral has beautiful mosaics and wall paintings.
  • Bolnisi Sioni - Kvemo Kartli. The oldest extant church building in Georgia, built in 478 - 493. Church is adorned with some of the oldest inscriptions in Georgian alphabet.
  • Gergeti Trinity Church - Mtskheta-Mtianeti. Medieval church in mountains, at the height of 2,170 m. Constructed in the 14th century AD.
  • Gremi Church of Archangels - Kakheti. Mountaintop citadel of the former capital of Kakhetia in the 16th - 17th centuries. In 1565 here was built large church, it was adorned with frescoes in 1577. Next to the church stands three-story castle and bell tower, buildings are surrounded by wall.
  • Kvetera Church - Kakheti. Small and elegant church, constructed in the early 10th century. Church is surrounded with fortification walls.
  • Nicortsminda Cathedral - Racha-Lechkhumi and Kvemo Svaneti. Ornate medieval cathedral which was constructed in 1010 - 1014. Inside are frescoes which were made in the 17th century.
  • Ninotsminda Cathedral - Kakheti. Ruins of cathedral which was built around 575 AD. This fortified cathedral most likely served as a model in the development of distinct Georgian architecture. In ruins since the earthquakes in the 19th century.
  • Pitsunda Cathedral - Abkhazia. Georgian Orthodox cathedral, built at the end of the 10th century AD. Cathedral is adorned with frescoes which were made in the 13th - 16th centuries.
  • Samtavisi Cathedral - Shida Kartli. Beautiful Georgia Orthodox cathedral, constructed in 1030. In later times it has been rebuilt and only the ornate eastern facade is from the 11th century.
  • Samtavro Church - Mtskheta-Mtianeti. Ancient church, built in the 4th century, in the times of Mirian III of Iberia. Reconstructed in the 11th century.
  • Svetitskhoveli Cathedral - Mtskheta-Mtianeti. One of principal Georgian churches, venerated as the location of Christ's mantle. Built around 1020.
  • Tsalenjikha Cathedral - Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti. Medieval cathedral (the 12th - 14th centuries) which is adorned with murals (the 17th century) - some of the best examples of the late Paleologian art.

Monasteries

David Gareja Monastery, Georgia
David Gareja Monastery / Andrzej Wójtowicz, / CC BY-SA 2.0
  • David Gareja monastery complex - Kakheti, part in Azerbaijan. Amazing complex of cells, churches etc. hewn in cliff face. Development of monastery started in the 6th century.
  • Gelati Monastery - Kutaisi, Imereti. Complex of monastic buildings which includes Church of the Virgin (built in 1106) and other old churches. Since the medieval times monastery houses Academia - one of the main culture and intellectual centres in Georgia. Here are stored numerous manuscripts from the medieval times.
  • Jvari Monastery - Mtskheta-Mtianeti. One of the oldest Georgian Orthodox monasteries, built in 586 - 605 AD. Monastery is built on mountaintop in the site of former pagan temple and it is considered to be the most sacred place in Georgia. One of the earliest examples of the four-apsed church, characteristic in Georgia and Armenia.
  • Vanis Kvabebi - Samtskhe-Javakheti. Cave monastery which was developed since the 8th century AD. Monastery consists of a maze of tunnels in several layers, two churches and defensive wall.
  • Vardzia monastery - Samtskhe-Javakheti. Very impressive cave monastery in thirteen floors, founded in 1185. Served as protection from Mongols, includes also cave churches.

Prehistoric and ancient shrines

  • Dydrypsh mountain - Abkhazia. Main ancient shrine of Abkhazs - a mountain with sanctuary near the top. There are many legends about this shrine. Institute of paganic priests has been preserved up to this day.
  • Ldzaa-nykha sacred grove - Abkhazia. One of the seven shrines of Abkhazs - legendary sacred places. Shrine was destroyed in Soviet times and in its site was built a settlement where relocated Georgians lived. According to legends people in this settlement could not live for a longer period of time due to illness or other health-related reasons. Currently the settlement is removed and shrine is under reconstruction.
Pompey's bridge, Georgia
Pompey's bridge / G.N., / CC BY-SA 3.0

Other man made landmarks

  • Mirza-Riza-Khan House - Samtskhe-Javakheti, Borjomi. Very ornate wooden summer house, constructed in 1892. Very impressive is the turquoise adornment of the balcony.
  • Pompey's bridge - Mtskheta-Mtianeti. Remnants of very old bridge which, according to legends, was built by Roman legionnaires of Pompey the Great in the 1st century BC.

List of described attractions by regions

Georgia is divided into 9 regions, 1 city and 2 autonomous republics. Here below they are listed in alphabetical order:

Abkhazia
ArrowKrubera (Voronya) CaveCaves, Ecosystems
Adjara
Guria
Imereti
Kakheti
Kvemo Kartli
Mtskheta-Mtianeti
Racha-Lechkhumi and Kvemo Svaneti
Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti
Samtskhe-Javakheti
Shida Kartli
Tbilisi

Map of Georgia

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