Meskhet - Javakheti
Meskhet-Javakheti on the very furthest reaches
of Georgia, was the first to clash with the numerous enemies coming
to Georgia. Shota Rustaveli, the great Georgian poet, is said to be from this
part of Georgia. His famous poem, "The Knight in the Panther's
Skin," has established its place in the world literature treasury. There are
historical monuments in abundance here.
In the south of Georgia you will find the provinces of Meskheti and Javakheti – a land of forested mountains and steep
river valleys, gushing rivers and clear lakes. The region is dotted with castles and fortresses from different periods –
a legacy of frequent invasions thanks to its geographic location – but the jewel in the crown of this fascinating region
is surely the cave town of Vardzia.
Vardzia is a huge cave complex that once consisted of some 3000 caves and could house around 50,000 people. It was built during the reign of Queen Tamar, a great ruler of 12th century Georgia. Vardzia is a place of wonders – artfully carved caves connected by long tunnels, all hewn by hand over 800 years ago, a natural cold-water spring trickling from the rock-face, beautiful frescoes still as bright as the day they were first painted… The cave town survived earthquakes and invasions and once again houses a working monastery.
Sapara Monastery (“Hidden”) lives up to its name. Until you reach the very gates you barely notice this 13th century complex, nestled as it is high above a gorge in forested mountains. The interior of the church is decorated with the frescoes of outstanding quality. A visit to the monastery will also reward you with nice views of the surroundings.
Borjomi was renowned in the 19th century as the playground of the Russian nobility and several attractive buildings still remain from that era, notably the Summer Palace of Duke Mikhail Romanov, son of Tsar Nicholas I. Today Borjomi is a popular resort and the centre of a nature reserve of dense forests harbouring hundreds of varieties of plant and animal species. The town is also famous for its mineral water “Borjomi”.
Borjomi’s Mineral Water Park is located through a narrow, wooded valley and is a lovely place to walk. This was where the original mineral spring was discovered, and named Yekaterinsky Spring after the governor’s daughter, who was cured here. The park itself dates from 1850. Visitors are welcome to taste warm mineral water flowed from taps and feel the flavor of exceptional composition of the famous mineral water.
The Town of Akhaltsikhe is the administrative center of the region. Its name means “New Castle”, though the town is quite ancient populated since the Bronze Age. Medieval castle complex built on the hilltop dominates Rabati – the old part of Akhaltsikhe. Developed under the influence of different cultures, Rabati Castle reflects eclectic architectural style. The complex has newly been renovated and now is one of the major tourist attractions of the region. Here you can visit the Museum of History and Art that houses the significant part of the region’s cultural heritage. Alongside with the church, in this interesting complex you can find a Mosque, a Minaret and a Synagogue revealing its multi-cultural and multi-religious character.
Vanis Kvabebi Cave Complex (8th century) – Located along the Mtkvari River the isolated cave complex of Vanis Kvabebi consists of some 200 caves. Here alongside with dwelling cells we find churches, storerooms, tunnels and water-gathering systems.
Do you look wonderingly up into the night sky and imagine what it would be like to go to the moon if only you could? Never mind, instead you can come to Georgia and visit the Abastumani Observatory – the first mountain observatory in the former Soviet Union, located high up amongst steep hills at 1650m. Here through the powerful telescope you can clearly see the surface of the Moon and even of Saturn and Jupiter.
Extended between the beautiful alpine meadows, Paravani volcanic lake is the largest one in Georgia. Lake gets its water from snow, rain, and underground springs. Gentle breeze brings the scent of wild flowers and smell of grass that fills the air with an extraordinary freshness. Paravani Lake is popular destination for fishing.
Located few kilometers from Vardzia, Tmogvi was one of the most important fortress cities of the region. Built on 9-10th century, on top of a mountain high above the Mtkvari river, fortress controlled the caravan road leading from Asia Minor to Georgia. It expands over 3 hills, joined and encircled by a wall, which supplements the natural defense offered by the cliffs. Several construction layers are distinguished on the fortress territory. The older one dates by IX-X century. A secret tunnel connects the castle with the river to provide access to water even during a siege. Although the fortress is ruined today, it is very difficult to access it.