Mtskheta, located only 40 minutes drive from Tbilisi, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the oldest cities of Georgia. This former capital of the country has been inhabited since before 1,000 BC and is home to some of the most significant landmarks. The town itself is tiny and requires only an hour or two to explore, but there are other sites in its vicinity worth visiting.
Visit one of the oldest Christian Monasteries in the country
The first landmark that everyone visits on their route to Mtskheta is Jvari Monastery, which dates back to the 6th-century. The name, Jvari, in English means cross and derives from a huge wooden cross erected on the site by King Mirian III after the adoption of Christianity.
From here, you can enjoy the picturesque view of the confluence of Mtkvari and Aragvi rivers with the Svetitskhoveli Cathedral, and Mtskheta in its background.
Tour an architectural wonder of Mtskheta
Svetitskhoveli Cathedral dates back to the 11th-century and has been a religious center of the country since its construction. Its complex includes the church, a bell tower, a gate, castles, and clerical residences.
There are two legends connected to this UNESCO Wolrd Heritage Site. The notion that the seamless robe of the Christ is buried here is vastly believed by any Georgian. While according to another legend, King Giorgi ordered the amputation of the right hand of the architect who laid out the Svetitskhoveli, so as not to build something this beautiful ever again.
Learn more about the Georgian wine
Mtskheta is home to the Chamber of Wine or Gvinis Palata in Georgian. This four-floor building dedicated to wine and Georgian cuisine offers a wide variety of activities to its visitors. Listen to the stories of Georgian wine and the country’s rare grapes, taste different wines and watch how a traditional Georgian bread, tone, is baked in the clay oven.
Visit the caste of the antique period
Bebristsikhe is north of Mtskheta, just seven minutes drive from the town. The castle, occupying the total area of 1,500 sq. meters is situated on the hilltop and offers panoramic views of the area. Even though most of the parts are damaged, Bebristsikhe is still a pleasant site to visit.
Tour the medieval monastery complex
Shiomgvime, or Cave of Shio in English, is a monastery complex within a 25-minute drive from Mtskheta. One of the Assyrian Fathers named Shio constructed it at the beginning of the second half of the 6th-century. The scenery of the complex is stunning as it was built in the limestone canyon.
Explore the pagan idol Armazi
Armazi Tsikhe is a historical monument three to four kilometers away from Mtskheta railway station. The name of the castle derives from pagan idol Armazi, and King Parnavaz declared it as the primary god of the country.
The trail to get to the castle could be hard for the amateur hiker, but the view from the site and the ability to visit the ruins dating back to the 2nd-8th century CE is worth a sweat.
Learn more about the founding father of modern Georgia
Ilia Chavchavadze was a Georgian writer, journalist, poet, lawyer, public and political figure who initiated the restoration of Georgian national movement in the 19th-century, the time when Russia ruled the country.
His museum complex in Saguramo consists of the residence, family vineyards, and auxiliary buildings. Here, you can see his memorabilia, manuscripts, and photos of the famous 19th-century local public figures.
Eat the famous black bean stew
Salobie, or the ‘house of lobio’ in English, is a must-visit dining place once in Mtskheta. The main course of the venue is the black bean stew called lobio served in clay jars. And once you order it, don’t forget to ask for various marinades and a cornbread mchadi with cheese. Those are the staples that go well with the meal.