Kvemo Kartli, translated as Lower Kartli, is one part of the greater Kartli region, just like Shida Kartli. Though its name has changed many times over the centuries, what Georgians call Kvemo Kartli today is located south of Tbilisi and is distinguished by its diverse ethnic population. Here’s what to see and do on your next visit.
Wander through an ancient walled town
Samshvilde is one of the oldest historical walled towns of Georgia, from which only ruins are left. The stronghold was built near the confluence of two rivers, on a natural land surrounded by vertical ravines.
This ancient town represented the center of Samshvilde’s Saeristavo (the domain of Eristavi feudal lords) since the foundation of the Kingdom of Kartli. The caves, ancient ruins, menhirs, and other landmarks scattered around the city date back to 4,000 years BC.
Get to know the Georgian diplomat of the 17th century
Prince Sulkhan-Saba Orbeliani was a relative of the royal Bagrationi dynasty. He was a significant figure of the Renaissance, a remarkable story teller, translator, great lexicographer, diplomat, and a scientist.
This museum, situated in the village of Tandziani, in the Bolnisi Municipality, exhibits up to 300 artifacts including paintings, graphics, sculptures, archeological items, documents, photos and scientific works to name a few. Additionally, you can see the paintings of Georgian artists based on Orbeliani’s literary works.
Tour the settlement of the first Europeans
The Dmanisi Historical-Archaeological Museum-Reserve represents a medieval ancient town where the archaeological excavations are constantly undertaken. It is home to a fortress and several religious structures.
Apart from the medieval layer, Georgian and foreign archaeologists are also studying the 1.8 million-year-old layer, which is notable for having numerous remains of early humans and animals. Since 1991, five human skulls were discovered in Dmanisi, which makes this area quite unique. Those excavations weakened the previous hypothesis that first humans migrated to Europe from Africa.
Visit one of Georgia’s oldest churches
Bolnisi’s Sioni, located in Bolnisi village, is a three-span basilica built in the 5th century. The building’s interior though contains several paintings of later periods.
The church has preserved the fragments of some ancient inscriptions and is decorated with unusual three-dimensional sculptures such as a bull’s head, various animals, and birds, along with different types of crosses and ornaments.
Hike the canyons of Dashbashi
‘Dashbashi‘ is a Turkish word meaning ‘stone-head’. Dashbashi village, in Tsalka Municipality, is home to one of the most remarkable natural landmarks of the country.
Just 110 km (68 miles) away from Tbilisi, Dashbashi Canyon is carved by Ktsia river through the volcanogenic rocks. The area is characterized by its remarkable biodiversity.
Visit one of the last standing fortresses of the region
Kolagiri Fortress, also known as Queen’s Stronghold, is a fortress that was built at the end of the 18th century by Queen Darejan, and is one of the last standing fortresses built in the Kartl-Kakheti regions. The cube-shaped fortress is built with raw stone and covers some 2,000 sq. meters (21,528 sq. feet), with bricks in the fortress used as a decorative feature on the entrance towers.
There are cylindrical towers at the corners of the building, while the center of eastern and western walls feature rectangular towers. Those cylindrical towers had the same purpose; the three stores are for combat and living spaces, while the upper part is for defence only. Though the fortress lost its purpose from the beginning of the 19th century, it still makes for a fascinating visit.
Try tenili cheese
Meskhetian cuisine features dishes that are largely forgotten in other areas of the country. Cattle-breeding is a particularly developed field in this part of the country, which makes the region rich in dairy products and meat dishes.
Meskheti’s tenili cheese is aged in cream and kept in pots – it has a soft consistency and a very pleasant aroma. Other dairy products of note include cream, filtered matsoni (a Georgian version of Greek yogurt), and a cheese made from ewe’s milk known as Meskhetian Guda.