Uplistsikhe, located in the shadows of Gori, has a turbulent past. This cave city was built in the 10th century BC* and is one of the oldest highlights of Georgia and the Caucasus region.
This ancient cave city is loved by many travelers visiting Georgia. In this article you’ll find out more about this stunning place, from background information to how to get there.
Around 3000 years ago the inhabitants of Uplistsikhe started carving out their houses from the rocks. The cave system covers roughly 8 hectares and consists of houses and other public areas.
It’s not difficult to understand why Uplistsikhe was built on this location. The now abandoned cave city is situated on a difficult to reach rock formation and looks out on the fertile valley and the Mktari river. Anyone who would’ve tried to harm the city, could be seen from a great distance.
Uplistsikhe became an important location for politics and religion and because the Silk Route went right through Georgia, trade and economics flourished. In its prime days, it had around 20.000 inhabitants.
It was in the 13th century that Ögedei Khan, a Mongol ruler, did what no-one managed to do before: he invaded Uplistsikhe and left it empty and destroyed.
Despite the rich history of Uplistsikhe, visitors are left in the dark on what exactly happened here: information is scarce and much of what you see is left up to the imagination. Large spaces are often referred to as a ‘big room’, which is both hilarious and a pity for lovers of culture and history. Taking a guide for some extra information is highly advised!
However, some places are easy to identify. On one side of the rock, cavities can be identified as graves. And because they were completely empty, our lovely guide suggested we’d lie in them.
Just like the rest of Georgia, touristic attractions are not managed like in popular, well-known touristic areas. You won’t see any safety measures anywhere and you can touch EVERYTHING! My Dutch attitude (and general common sense) almost prohibited me from taking a dive into a grave but our guide assured me it was fine.
Another place that’s easy to recognize is Tamaris Darbas, a large cave named after Queen Tamar. It served as a hallway for the royal palace and is one of the highlights of visiting Uplistsikhe.
On the premise you’ll also find a church (Uplistsulis Eklesia) dating from the 10th century, which, like any other church in Georgia from that period is covered in mind-blowing frescoes.
*Information about the arise of Uplistsikhe is vague. Most sources say it originated in the 10th century but it could’ve been earlier.
How to get to Uplistsikhe
The main two options are taking a taxi or minibus (marshrutka).
Coming from Tbilisi you can take the minibus to Gori. Ask around at the bus station how to get to Uplistsikhe. Make sure you have the name written down (preferably in Russian or Georgian) as it is impossible to pronounce. The marshrutka doesn’t stop at the entrance of Uplistsikhe. Instead it takes a 10-minute walk to get there. Although it’s definitely not the most popular option, it is dead cheap! (1 GEL or €0,40).
A taxi is a great second option. Rides can be found easily on Gori’s main square and should not cost more than 25-30 GEL for a round trip.
We, however, took secret option number three. With the help of Kartveli Tours, we visited Uplistsikhe and the Stalin Museum in Gori in one day. Although it’s not difficult to get to Uplistsikhe, I prefer this option due to the lack of information on the location itself. This way, I learned a lot about the complex and I was (softly and lovingly) pushed to climb to places I would be too afraid of when going alone.
Whatever option you take, make sure to wear comfortable shoes (like sneakers or hiking shoes) to climb rocky Uplistsikhe.
Opening hours: 11 am – 6 pm
Want to see Uplistsikhe yourself?
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