Mtskheta & Jvari

One of the oldest cities in Georgia and the old kingdom’s capital for almost a millennium, Mtskheta is located just 20km from Tbilisi and is a popular day trip destination. It’s easy to reach by marshrutka or taxi in under an hour, and can be combined with a visit to Gori or used as a stopover on your way from east to west.

Mtskheta played a pivotal role in the evolution of Christianity in Georgia, and the small city is packed with important churches as a result. One of the nation’s four UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the Historical Monuments of Mtskheta, is located here and comprises a set of monasteries noted for their frescoes and inscriptions in an early version of the Georgian alphabet.

The 11th-century Svetitskhoveli Cathedral sits proudly in the middle of the city and gives Mtskheta its overall structure. Georgia’s second-largest religious building behind Sameba in Tbilisi, the location for the monumental structure is said to have been chosen by one of Georgia’s patron saints, St. Nino, herself. Georgia’s answer to Westminster, this is where kings were coronated and later laid to rest. At least 10 monarchs enjoy their eternal slumber beneath the heavy stone floor.

Jvari Monastery, built in the 6th century on a hill above Mtskheta, is a must-visit in Georgia. The church itself is quite modest inside, but the view from the churchyard – a stunning panorama of the confluence of the Mtkvari and Aragvi rivers, one blue and the other emerald – is simply breathtaking.

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