Nowhere else in Georgia you can find such a diverse cultural and architectural gems as in Mtskheta-Mtianeti. The best examples of this diversity can be seen in the ancient region of Armaziskhevi- Bagineti, 10th century fortified village of Shatili, the Ananuri complex and the Svetitskhoveli Cathedral.
Present cross cupola church was where built in the 11th century. Inside of it you can still find the column bases of the 5th.c. basilica. And if you’re after an unfrogrettable adventure these UNESCO heritage sites are not to be missed: Mstkhera and Jvari monastery also the fortified villages in Khevsureti, the 14th. C. monastery of GergetiSameba (over 2,200m above sea level) and not to mention the medieval frescoes in Ananuri Monastery.
IN the Mtsketa-Mtianeti region you can discover the presence of strong ethno-culture, which is best seen and illustrated by its ancient martial arts, visual arts and handmade crafts. Ancients prehistoric traditions and even clothing are still practiced in the Pshavi, Khevsureti and Khveli regions. While exploring thses areas you can travel through the centuries replete with mysteriouslegends and sayings.
For adrenaline pumping adventures, you can’t do muche better that the Peaks of Greater Caucasus. Great from trekking and mountaineering, there are lots of sites to choose from, like the famous 5000m high Mkinvartsveri peak, the spectacular Darial canyon on the Trusos gorge.
The region also offers amazing locations for mountain biking, horse riding, bird watching, paragliding and rafting, all giving stunning views of the landscape.
With dozens of slopes, the ski resort of Gudauri has trails for skiers and snowboarders from beginners to professionals.
Places To Visit
Mtskheta, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, has been inhabited since before 1,000 BC and was once the capital of the early kingdom of Iberia, (today’s Eastern Georgia) situated at the confluence of the Mtkvari and Aragvi rivers, the city is located on an ancient trade route. Although the capital was moved to more easily defended Tbilisi in the 5th century, Mtskhetacontinued to be the coronation and burial place of Georgian kings. Today, the lovely old town has a laid back, village feel, especially after the more hectic pace of Tbilisi.
The Great Mstkheta Archaeological State Museum-Reserve
The museum-reserve encompasses several different site from the 4th century BC to the 12th century AD: the Royal residence Amaztsikhe, the Royal crypt, the residence of PitiKhses in Armaziskhevi, and the ancient burial ground of Samtavro.
Located in Mtskheta, Svetitskhoveli Cathedral has been the burial site for Georgian kings. 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.
Mskheta Cross Monastery (jvari)
Jvari is one of the masterpieces of Georgian architecture and is now listed as one of the World Heritage sites by UNESCO. It was built on a hill near Mtskheta overlooking the estuary of two rivers, the Mtkvari and Aragvi.Although there are many religious buildings in and outside Georgia with similar architecture you won’t find any that are older and more complete than Mtskheta Cross.
One of the oldest pieces of Georgian architecture, Zedazeni Monastery is situated on the left bank of the Aragvi, North-East from Mtskheta.
Shiomghvime Monastery Complex
Shiomghvime Monastery Complex, one of the most prominent religious and cultural centers in feudal Georgia is located in the Mtskheta district, on the left bank of the Mtkvari. According to historical sources, the monastery was founded by Shio – a apostle of Assyrian Father John of Zedazeni in the 6th century.
The fairy-tale Ananuri ensemble is beautifully situated on the Georgian Military Highway, on the shore of the azure blue Zhinvali reservoir. It’s beautiful, with its two churches and a watchtower squeezed almost impossibly inside massive defensive walls with huge battlements.
The original location for the capital of the early Georgian Kingdom of Iberia, Armazi was once a thriving City. Given its strategic importance located next to the Daryal pass, it has been inhabited since at least the 4th century BC.
This mighty fortress was built on the River Aragvi many centuries ago. It has been the scene of many battles and was the envy of the Iberian Kingdom.
Samtavro Cathedral and Monastery
The Samtavro Valley has been inhabited since the 4th century BC and Saint Nino, who converted Georgia to Christianity, chose this location as her preferred prayer site. The tiny church of St Nino dates back to the 4th century.
Resorts and Protected Areas
Kazbedi National Park & mountain range
Kazbegi National Park is located on the northern slopes of the mighty Caucasus range and its protected area covers a total of over 8,700 hectares.
At 5,047 meters above sea level, Kazbegimountain (or Mkinvartsveri) is the third highest mountain in Georgia, and is surrounded in myth and religious history. According to the Greek myth, as punishment for teaching mankind how to make fire, the Titan Prometheus was chained to a mountainside in the Caucasus for all eternity.
Hot springs, acidic and carbonated lakes surround the mountain, and earth tremors are fairly frequent. Covered with 135 square kilometers of glacier, Kazbegi is a great place for ice climbing and mountaineering. The Darial Gorge is an almost impossibly steep cleft in the mountains connecting Russia and Georgia. For millennia, this mountain passage has been strategically crucial, and has been fortified since at least 150 BC. In places, the cliff faces are more than 1,000m high, and medieval watchtowers, waterfalls and wildlife make this one of the most incredible roads in the world. The steep valleys either side of the gorge are great places for bird watching. Eagles, hawks and the massive griffon vultures all nest among the rocky outcrops.
Gudauri, at over 2,000 meters above sea level, is situated on the Georgian military road near the Cross Mountain Pass of the main Caucasus range.Even in mild winters, Gudauri offers reliable snow cover from November through April. The total length of groomed ski runs are over 20km and are suitable for all skiers, from beginners to experts. Gudauri is well known for its winter activities and hosts ski and snowboard competitions and sports festivals every year. Gudauri is also a great summer destination, offering bird watching, trekking, horseback riding and rafting.
What to seeinMtskheta-Mtianeti region
Right on the banks of the river Sno, an estuary of Tergi River,sits the village and impressive fortress of Sno. The fortress is in a great position on a stony hilltop, with a pyramidal tower in the centre. Sitting so high up and surrounded by an almost circular wall, it is almost inaccessible.
Gergeti Trinity Church
This spectacular building says “Georgia” like no other buildings can.Built of massive granite blocks at a height of 2,170 metres, the 14th century cross-domed church and bell tower are an amazing feat of architecture and sheer human dedication. The exterior is richly carved with grape vines, animals and the sun, all of which is covered in a thick layer of startling yellow lichen, almost as old as the church itself. Framed by the magnificence of the snow covered Mount Kazbegi, it’s easy to see why this is one of the highlights of any trip to Georgia. To truly appreciate the view, we recommend hiking from the town of Stepantsminda.
The Trusso Gorge
A truly magnificent natural monument, The Trusso Gorge was once a densely populated area consisting of small villages, flat-roofed houses, old districts and fortresses. These villages have managed to survive and maintain their historic appearance and you’ll also find several small 10th century churches scattered around the valley.
Sheltered by the massive peaks of the greater Caucasus, hidden away from the outside world, there is the extraordinary land of the Khevsurs – Khevsureti. Nowhere else in Europe there is a place that feels so mysterious, unique and magical, a place where ancient pagan traditions survive, and medieval fortress villages guard the secrets of the valleys. Right up until the 1930’s, people here wore chainmail amour and carried swords and shields. . The main sight in the region is Shatili. This fortress village, next to the Chechen border, has withstood the ravages of time, as well as multiple invasions and sieges. Each four or five storey houses are connected by rooftop walkways that can be taken up if the enemy penetrates the village. The ruined fortress village of Mutso is straight out of a fantasy movie. Poised like a bird of prey on a rocky outcrop at 1,880m above sea level, it has thirty towers and dozens of intact death houses where plague victims would crawl in to die.
Shatili is one of the most brilliant masterpieces of Georgian architecture. This village is scattered on the slopes of a rocky hill and served both as a residence and a fortress. 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. The architecture is based on terraces of flat-roofed houses and towers, with narrow stone stairs leading to the top between the buildings. The Bridges were used to traverse the village without having to go outside when the enemy invaded.
Tsilkani Bishopric Cathedral was founded in the 4th century in the village bearing the same name. The complex includes the Virgin Mary Church and a stone wall of the 8th century. During King VakhtangGorgasali’s reign (5th century) a triple-nave basilica was built replacing the older church.