What can be more impressive than a 12th-century city carved in the stone? A castle that looks like it came out of fables and legends? Strange and harsh nature? Pack your bags and head to Samtskhe-Javakheti – it is hard to pronounce but easy to travel.

In order to see all the sights, you need two days.

Day 1:

Head towards western Georgia until you reach Khashuri. There, take the road on the left that leads to Akhaltsikhe. You will pass through Borjomi on your way, so stop and taste the famous mineral water in the two century-old park. In about three hours, the evergreens and trees will vanish and you will drive through a rocky area to reach Akhaltsikhe, a small border town.

Akhaltsikhe (literally – New Castle) – established in the 12th century, became part of the Ottoman Empire for a while until the Russian Empire conquered it during the Russian-Turkish war in the 19th century. You will see the castle right away – but wait, before touring the Rabat Fortress, you may take the road that leads to the 9th century Christian Orthodox Sapara Monastery. That monastery is not the only reason to go to Sapara – the view as well is spectacular!

Return to Akhaltsikhe and tour the main attraction: the Rabat Fortress. Reconstructed to its former glory – it was constructed in the 13th century and destroyed several times. The name means “fortified place” in Arabic. The fortress territory hosts a hotel and a restaurant so you may want to spend the night there.

Day 2:

Take the road to Vardzia but before you get there, spend some time taking pictures at the Khertvisi Castle. It is one of the oldest fortresses in Georgia – legend says that Alexander the Great sieged it. Stand by the castle and imagine that you are a medieval knight in feudal Georgia.

After the Khertvisi tour, continue driving towards your main destination – Vardzia. Vardzia is probably one of the most impressive sights in Georgia. This cave city was constructed during Georgia’s Golden Age. The Vardzia church walls are covered with 12th century frescoes. Be prepared to climb, duck and bend as you squeeze in the caves and tunnels.

After the Vardzia tour, first of all, head back to Akhaltsikhe and finally go back to Tbilisi. Right after you pass Borjomi, you will come across a famous khachapuri place – Poria. They will make khachapuri for you in 10 minutes – a delicious treat full of fresh local cheese.

Now, you are ready to return to Tbilisi, share pictures and make your friends jealous.

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