Best Things to See and Do in Shida Kartli

Stalin's desk at the museum | © DAVID HOLT / WikiCommons
Stalin's desk at the museum | © DAVID HOLT / WikiCommons
Photo of Baia Dzagnidze
Writer13 February 2018

Shida Kartli, translated as Inner Kartli, is a region in eastern Georgia and part of the historic Kingdom of Kartli. From ancient times, the region was crisscrossed by several important trade routes. Today, its northern part, Tskhinvali, is under de-facto control of Russian Federation and a separatist regime. However, we’ll guide you to some of the best, and safe, things to see and do.

Visit the oldest church in the region

Samtavisi is a medieval Georgian Orthodox cross-domed church built in 1030 and is the cornerstone of Georgian religious architecture. The architect, unfortunately, is unknown, but he created a unique design of the worship place. He was the first who created the center-domed design of a church which became very popular across the country in the following years. The composition is so perfect that it’s impossible to add or subtract anything from it.

Since its construction, Samtavisi was damaged and restored several times, and thus lost its initial charm. In 2007 it was added to the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List.

Samtavisi Cathedral, Samtavisi village, Georgia

Wander through one of the earliest educational centers

Kvatakhevi church, built in the 12-13th centuries, is located in Kaspi Municipality, in the village of Tsinarekhi. The complex includes the main church, a tower and monk cells. It was once the literary and educational center of Georgia, where many writers and calligraphers from various parts of the country worked and studied. Several manuscripts from the library are still preserved today.

Zahesi-Mtskheta-Kavtiskhevi-Gori-Tsinarekhi-Kvatakhevi Road, Georgia

Admire the frescos of Georgian kings at Kintsvisi

Kitsvisi Monastery, built in the same period as Kvatakhevi, is located in Kareli Municipality and was built by royal order. The complex consists of several buildings, where St Nicolas Church is the main one. This center-domed church belongs to the 13th-century and is home to some of the greatest examples of the medieval mural art of that period. The walls here depict Kings George II, Lasha-Giorgi, and Queen Tamar, who in Georgian literature is referred to as King Tamar. Unfortunately, few of these frescos survived undamaged until today.

Kareli-Kintvisi Monasteri Road, Georgia

Wander through the cave city

Uplistsikhe Architectural Complex dates back to the first half of the 1 millennium BC. The inner town is relatively better preserved and represents a compositional center for the entire complex. Being one of the most important historical monuments in Georgia, Uplistsikhe can serve as a day trip from Tbilisi.

Uplistsikhe Complex Road, Georgia, +995 557 31 68 21

Admire the old Georgian inscriptions in Ateni’s Sioni

Ateni’s Sioni is one of the best examples of Georgian monumental art. This 7th-century domed church located in the village of Ateni, Gori Municipality, conserves old Georgian inscriptions from various periods of time on its walls. Those writings mention several historical and religious figures, accompanied by dates and notes.

Khidistavi-Ateni-Boshuri Road, Georgia, +995 551 11 14 82

Visit the ancient town of the region

Urbnisi ancient town in Kareli Municipality once used to be a very important town in medieval Georgia. The artifacts discovered there defined political, cultural, and social characteristics of the whole country and the region itself.

According to archaeological studies, the first humans settled here in the 3rd millennium BC. However, the invasions in the 8th-century left the city completely destroyed and was later rebuilt. The importance of feudal Urbnisi becomes even more obvious in 1104, when King David the Builder formed famous ecclesiastic Ruis-Urbnisi Council, to cope with problems within the church hierarchy.

Urbnisi town, Shida Kartli, Georgia

Learn more about who developed the book for first graders

Iakob Gogebashvili was a famous public figure, teacher, writer, and scholar considered as the founder of the scientific pedagogy in Georgia.

His house-museum in the village of Variani, Gori Municipality, was established in 1958. It exhibits memorial items of Gogebashvili and personal materials including first editions of his books, paintings by famous Elene Akhvlediani, and other documents and photos of that time.

Village Variani, Gori Municipality, Georgia

Tour the administrative center of Shida Kartli

Gori is one of the oldest settlements in the country. The name of the city derives from the rocky mountain and the fortress built on it that towers above the town. According to the archaeological materials, at the turn of the 1st century AD on the territory of modern Gori, used to be a city-type settlement.

Gori Town, Georgia

Visit the Stalin Museum in Gori

Stalin's desk at the museum
Stalin's desk at the museum | © DAVID HOLT / WikiCommons
Joseph Stalin’s hometown is Gori and his home has been turned into a museum to show his life. The museum was officially given to Stalin in 1957, but after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the independence movement in the country, it was closed in 1989. However, after several years it was reopened and now serves as a major tourist destination.

Here, you can walk around his house where he grew up until he was four-years-old, the museum itself with six different halls that show his life in chronological order, admire the items he owned, and see his personal railway carriage situated outside of the museum.

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