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Stop At: Jvari Church, Mtskheta Georgia
The masterpiece of Early Christian Orthodox architecture Jvari Monastery is dated 585-604 cc AD. Located on the hill top near the town Mtskheta, it is listed in UNESCO World Heritage Site list in 1994. The name is translated as the Monastery of the Cross.
According to traditional accounts, in the early 4th century Saint Nino stayed here to pray and erected a wooden cross on Mtskheta’s highest hill. The church was built on the crest of a cliff at a confluence of the rivers Mtkvari and Aragvi. It is a representative of the tetra conch architectural type that was popular not only in Georgia but also in Byzantine world.
Jvari served as a model for many other churches in the country. Unusual and varied relief sculptures decorate its façades. The importance of Jvari complex increased over time and attracted many pilgrims. According to the legend pilgrims visiting the site shed tears while praying and the nearby natural lake was named the Lake of tears.
The harmonious relationship between the landscape, architectural forms and divisions, the well-thought-out disposition of decorative elements and splendid relieves carved on big slabs of a stone give the south and east walls special expressiveness. Among the reliefs of the east wall are found the portraits of the kings who built the church. Included in UNESCO world heritage sights, the monument is still used for major celebrations.
Duration: 30 minutes
Stop At: Jinvali Water Reservoir, 40 km to the North from Tbilisi, Tbilisi Georgia
Zhinvali, also Jinvali, is an artificial water reservoir located on the river Aragvi in Georgia. The building of the hydroelectric dam formed the Zhinvali Reservoir. The dam has been built in 1986.
You have probably noticed this perfect blue surface lake, if traveled to Gudauri or mount Kazbegi (Gergeti church) via Georgian military road. If not, and you are still planing your trip to this area, the chances are you will make a stop at Ananuri castle complex (which is located near Zhinvali water reservoir), but there is a small watching platform when approaching from Tbilisi - a perfect place for a group photo or as I prefer - landscape photography.
Duration: 10 minutes
Stop At: Ananuri Fortified Castle Ensemble, Georgian Military Highway, Ananuri Georgia
Ananuri castle represents multifunctional architectural complex of the late feudal times in Georgia. Built on the right bank of Aragvi River in 16th-17th cc, it was the main seat of Aragvi Eristavi - Dukes dynasty since 13th c . The village Ananuri is located on the main trade rout leading to the North, to Russia and in past it was part of the Great Silk Road. Nowadays the road is called the Georgian Military Highway. The distance from Tbilisi is 74 km (1 h) - beautiful driving along the Zhinvali water reservoir damping clean and blue mountain river of Aragvi. The castle, the bell tower, three churches and beautifully carved walls are the highlites why the site is frequently visited.
The castle was the scene of numerous battles. In 1739, Ananuri was attacked by forces from a rival duchy, commanded by Shanshe of Ksani and was set on fire. The Aragvi clan was massacred. However, four years later, the local peasants revolted against rule by the Shamshe, killing the usurpers and inviting King Teimuraz II to rule directly over them. However, in 1746, King Teimuraz was forced to suppress another peasant uprising, with the help of King Erekle II of Kakheti. The fortress remained in use until the beginning of the 19th century. In 2007, the complex has been on the tentative list for inclusion into the UNESCO World Heritage Site program
The fortifications consist of two castles joined by a crenellated curtain wall. The upper fortification with a large square tower, known as Sheupovari, is well preserved and is the location of the last defense of the Aragvi against the Shamshe. The lower fortification, with a round tower, is mostly in ruins.
Within the complex, amongst other buildings, are two churches. The older Church of the Virgin, which abuts a tall square tower, has the graves of some of the Dukes of Aragvi. It dates from the first half of the 17th century, and was built of brick. The interior is no longer decorated, but of interest is a stone baldaquin erected by the widow of the Duke Edishera, who died in 1674.
The larger Church of the Assumption (Ghvtismshobeli), built in 1689 for the son of Duke Bardzem. It is a central dome style structure with richly decorated facades, including a carved north entrance and a carved grapevine cross on the south façade. It also contains the remains of a number of frescoes, most of which were destroyed by the fire in the 18th century.
Duration: 10 minutes
Stop At: Russian Georgian Friendship Monument, Georgian Military Highway, Gudauri 383085 Georgia
Gudauri Friendship monument also known as Gudauri Panorama or Treaty of Georgyevsk Monument is located 120 KM from Tbilisi, on the Georgian Military Highway connecting to Russia. The government of Soviet Union built this monument in order to celebrate 200 years since the treaty of Georgievs signed in 1783.
This panorama is decorated with Soviet Style mosaics depicting Georgian and Russian heroes, farmers, fairy tales and communist symbols. The monument is very vivid and colorful, however most of it’s beauty is thanks to the location.
Georgia-Russia Friendship monument is a circular balcony hanging off of a 600 meter cliff with amazing views of Caucasus Mountains. Not everyone is brave enough to step on the very edge of the balcony, but the memories are sure worth it!
Gudauri has also become a popular spot for extreme lovers. If you want to sore over the beautiful mountains this is the right place. Take flight with a professional pilot, fly high and record a video to share with your friends. Paragliding in Gudauri is great fun!
Duration: 2 hours
Stop At: Gergeti Trinity Church, Stepantsminda Georgia
Gergeti Trinity Church (also known as Tsmida Sameba) is the name of 14th century Holy Trinity Church on north-eastern Georgia near the Gergeti village. The church is located at an altitude of 2170 meters, under the glacier Kazbegi (5047 m) on the right bank of Chkheri River.
The Gergeti Trinity Church is the only cross-cupola church in Khevi province. The separate bell tower dates from the same period as the church itself. Its isolated location on top of a steep mountain surrounded by the vastness of nature has made it a symbol for Georgia. The 18th century Georgian author Vakhushti Batonishvili wrote that in times of danger, precious relics from Mtskheta, including Saint Nino's Cross were brought here for safekeeping. During the Soviet era, all religious services were prohibited, but the church remained a popular tourist destination. The church is now an active establishment of the Georgian Orthodox Church.
The church is a popular waypoint for trekkers in the area, and can be reached by a steep 3 hour climb up the mountain, or around 30 minutes (6 km from the central square in the village Stephantsminda) by jeep up a rough mountain trail.
Stepantsminda is a small subalpine town on the altitude 1740 m above sea level in the Mtskheta-Mtianeti region of north-eastern Georgia. The town is part of the Khevi province. It is the center of the Kazbegi Municipality.
Duration: 30 minutes