Akhaltsikhe to Vardzia

We got back in the four wheel drive vehicles we had used to get to the mountains of Svaneti and headed for Akhaltsikhe and Vadzia.  We drove along a river heading into the mountains as the villages got progressively smaller.  We stopped in Makhuntseti to admire a twelfth century bridge.

With the help of our Georgian guide I bought a delicious melon from a vendor who hauled fruit in his truck..

The road from this village to houses across the river was often impassable.  So they built a cable car to get residents across the river and up to their homes.

We were glad to be in four wheel drive vehicles rather than our bus as the pavement ended and the road wound its way up the mountains.  We drove past a new ski area with a hotel under construction.  Finally we got to the top of the pass and found a small cafe that offered drinks to supplement our picnic lunch.  The weather was not conducive to beautiful pictures.

After lunch we got back in the cars to head down the other side of the pass.

As we descended from the mountains the roads got better, the rain stopped, the sun came out and we arrived in Akhaltsikhe, home of the Rabati Castle.  The castle was originally built in the ninth century, rebuilt in the 13th century and again by the Ottamans in the 17th and 18th centuries.  Then it fell into disrepair until it was completely restored just a few years ago.  They may have gone overboard with the restoration, making everything look brand new. 

Inside the castle walls are a mosque, madrassa and orthodox church.

There were lots of Ottoman  decorations.

But my favorites were the old fortress and the castle walls.

We spent the next two nights on a small farm that had added buildings with guest rooms.  They grow much of the food they serve using both gardens and greenhouses.  Thy also have dining areas overlooking the river.

In the morning we headed to the Vardzia cave complex just down the road.

People lived in these caves for about a thousand years beginning in the sixth century. 

They started as natural caves but they carved elaborate chapels as well as living and sleeping rooms and long passageways connecting them.

We visited a small nunnery on the side of a mountainwhere the residents spent much of their day in silence.

The next morning we headed back to Tbilisi.  click here

Back to Return to Georgia index  click here

To overall travels index page click here