Vardzia is a large cave monastery complex of XII-XIII centuries. It is approximately 1 km long and is located on the hillside along the Kura river. At the moment about 600 rooms are excavated, but local workers told us that at least 3,000 rooms existed. Some of the caves go deep into the rock by 50 meters. It is interesting that nowadays Vardzia is located on the outskirts of Georgia, but during the heyday it was standing on the the main trade route.
This vast city was established in 1156-1205 during the reign of George III and his daughter, Queen Tamara. The monastery has a rock temple and inside the temple you can see frescoes with their images. In those years there was a war with the Turks, and from 1193 to 1195 Queen Tamara lived in the monastery. It was not possible to discover the monastery from the valley, as it was hidden by a rock.
In 1283, an earthquake destroyed many areas and the city lost its defensive value.
There is also another cave city in Georgia - Uplistsikhe, which is even more popular than Vardzia, but only because it is located closer to Tbilisi. If you have to choose which of the two cities to visit, then choose Vardzia.
By the way, on the road between Vardzia and Khertvisi, near the village of Tmogvi (here), in addition to the Tmogvi Castle there is another interesting place. Pay attention to the other side of the river, there are also the remains of an ancient city, which is even older than Vardzia. Although it almost did not survive, you can find some ancient elements, and that's really interesting.
Getting there: Vardzia is difficult to reach. There is a minibus from Rustavi, which passes the Didube bus station in Tbilisi at about 10 am. But it stops only when free seats are available. There is a minibus Tbilisi - Akhalkalaki by which you can get to the Khertvisi Fortress, from which there's about 14 kilometers to Vardzia. From this place you can either go on foot or find a local citizen with a car. The best option is a taxi. Round trip from Tbilisi will cost you starting from $120.
There's a minibus Akhaltsikhe - Vardzia, 4 times a day (10:35 am, 12:20 pm, 4 pm, 5:30 pm, return 8 am, 9 am, 3 pm, 6 pm), costs $4, about 1.5 - 2 hours to go. Akhaltsikhe can be reached by bus from the Didube bus station in Tbilisi, from Kutaisi (8:15 am, 8:50 am, 9:30 am, 11:30 am, 1:10 pm), 3.5 - 4 hours to go, $8, and from Batumi.
From Akhaltsikhe you can go by taxi for $45-50 for a round trip. If you're not planning to spend a night near Vardzia, then taxi from Akhaltsikhe or Tbilisi is the best option in any case.
Another option is to go with a travel agency. All travel agencies in Georgia organize trips to Vardzia.
Друзья..предлагаю хороший способ добраться из Тбилиси в Вардзию.
Мы запустили регулярные экскурсионные рейсы в Вардзия,Казбеги и Кахетию.Цена 23,18 и 15 долларов соответственно.Это однодневные поездки.К вашим услугам комфортабельный микроавтобус Мерседес,русскоязычный гид.Это намного удобнее чем трястись в рейсовых маршрутках.Тем более что с транспортом действительно проблема.Все вопросы на странице в фейсбуке.