On the site of present-day Abastumani, from ancient times there was the fortress-town of Odzrkhe (Otskhe). The Georgian historical tradition connects with the establishment of Odzrkhi with the Georgian ethnarch – Odzrakhos. It is thought that this ancient geographical point is still in the Urartian inscriptions. It is mentioned in 8th century AD, and has been confirmed many times since then in historical sources.
Later, when the Odzrkhe (Otskhe) population was gone, its name was lost, and the new settlers in the 19th century called it the name of a nearby village – Abastumani.
The Tamar Fortress was also a part of the defense system of Otzrkhi, which is located at the beginning of Abastumani, on the watershed ridge at the confluence of the rivers Otskhi and Kurtskhani, on the right bank of the river Otskhe. This is no ordinary fortified building, according to all records, it was the residence of a feudal lord. It had a castle-hall with its own church, reception hall and other storerooms. The height of it’s walls reach about 15 meters. These sloping walls enclose a courtyard extending along a narrow rocky ridge along the north-east-south-west longitudinal axis, at the head of which has the last two multistory towers attached. The fortress is made of a piece of rock, with a surface-lined quarry and a solid lime mortar.
One of the most important and relatively intact buildings of Tamar Fortress is a large, four-story tower. The surviving walls reach almost their original full-height, which enclose a courtyard wrapped by a high fence to the east. The impressive silhouette of Tamar Castle dominates the two valleys. According to the layout, the entrance of the rectangular residential tower is located on the second floor, on the side of the prison yard. At the top of the walls there are inscriptions of sashes and sleds. Firearms were present there but are not visible. Intermediate roof spools are nowhere to be found, only their nests can be used to determine flooring. Notable inside the tower, built into the northwest corner, is the high-rise storeroom. It is made of well-glazed walls on the inside and a conical arched end, quite large in the middle, with a round hole large enough to accommodate a human. Presumably, this storehouse served as a dugout, or product storage jar.
The second tower of the castle-hall is on the back.
The church is located inside the fence, on the north wall of the castle. The building is damaged but stands at almost at its full height, without a roof. The church is a small and approximately 3×5 m. Its a rectangular chapel, built of rubble and roughly worked with stones of different sizes. The arrangement of interior and exterior walls is identical to each other. The interior of the church is unified, the walls and chamber are not separated by pilasters and pedestal arches. There is a drawing niche in the altar, on both sides. There was an underground storehouse under the altar, but it has been excavated by treasure hunters. The church has two plains, the entrance from the west and the south. The church of Tamar Castle must have been built before the Tamar era, as indicated by the wall arrangement, the organization of the interior space, and the arrangement of the facades.
There is also a large living room, which occupies the western part of the courtyard and is directly adjacent to this side, the castle locking tower. The building is preserved in the form of ruins, although its architectural appearance can be restored in the main lines. Like other parts of the castle, this building is built of rough-hewn rock. The wide opening of the hall door is located in the middle of the wall enclosing the width of the whole yard from the east side. The plan was to finish with a parking arch approaching the square, much of which is currently collapsed. Today, in a ruined interior, it is difficult to tell whether the 10-meter-wide arch had a supporting structure. On the north side of the wall there are two wide and deep niches of unequal size, finished with a flat arch, above which the wall extends into the curve of the arch. The edges of these niches and door openings are made of relatively large blocks, and a small stone sunk into the lime mortar was used for the arch. Remarkable are the surviving stone steps to the west wall of the hall, which turn at an angle and follow the north wall above. This staircase may have been connected to the fortress control-defense tower on the west side through the roof of the hall.
Except for Tamar Fortress, on the same slope of the ridge, the river. On the Otskhe side, there are the remains of a second castle and a tunnel leading out to the water’s edge.
A little further away, the ruins of an old monastery complex at the confluence of the Otskhi and Kurtskhan are preserved.
Gogichaant Ghele sits right in the high mountain forest of Mtkvari valley, where the ruins of a grand settlement are preserved. The current road encloses the visible part of the settlement. The complex consists of two main parts, the pre-Christian and the Christian parts. In its central part there is a group of well-preserved stone domed halls of the pre-Christian period. In the surrounding area there are remnants of a medieval Christain settlement.
Irmis Rka (Deer Horn) mountain is an archeological monument in the territory of the Adigeni municipality. It lies near the village of Arali and Tsarbastumani, and is located at 1,560 meters above sea level. Archeological excavations in August 2020 revealed a multi-layered settlement on this mountain. The earliest stages of life are thought to be from 3,000 BC, or early Bronze Age Mtkvari-Araks culture.
Archeological excavations carried out by the Georgian National Museum have uncovered fragments of pottery, grinders, small clay figures, obsidian inserts, flint, chalcedony, and arrowheads. It is especially relevant for the discovery of a Beden settlement, which is the first case of this culture in this part of Samtskhe.
The settlement occupies a fairly large area and it is spread out on both natural and artificially created terraces. The complexes are built of fairly large local stones. They contain simple one-room storerooms along with more complex structures.
Akhaltsikhe Synagogue was built in 1905, and is located at 109 Guramishvili Street of Akhaltsikhe. Consisting of two halls, an upper floor designed for women with geometric motifs, and a lower hall is designed for men who pray daily. The synagogue is built in the neoclassical style and uses stone material. The shrine is now inactive, having closed in 1952. In the past, film screenings were held here, previously the building also had a library, house of culture, billiards room and a boxing hall.
The Great Synagogue of Akhaltsikhe was built in 1863. Located in Akhaltsikhe, at 96 Guramishvili. The restoration work of this synagogue was carried out in 2012. The Great Synagogue was also built in neoclassical style and uses stone material.
Today the synagogue was part of the Jewish settlement. It was partly used as a museum where pictures of several generations of rabbis were presented. The synagogue is also famous in the summer, mostly visited by tourists from Israel.
Additionally, an old Jewish cemetery is preserved here, but virtually no Jews remain in the city today. The Ebraelta cemetery is enclosed and guarded by a high stone fence. Some of the tombs in Akhaltsikhe cemetery date back to the 17th century.
Vardzia is a monastery dating back to the twelfth century AD, located on the banks of the river Mtkvari and is one of the most important historical sites in Georgia. The location, in the middle of a huge gorge, offers unforgettable views. Until this day, some monks still live in those caves.
The popular story behind the name is that the young Tamar (later Queen of Georgia) went out hunting with her uncle Giorgi and got lost in the caves. Giorgi searched for her and eventually found her because she shouted out from the rock cave above “Aq var dzia” (“I am here uncle”), which in the local language is close to the word Vardzia, i.e. I am here uncle.
The cave monastery grew into a complex stretching along the mountainside for as long as 800 m, to the depth of 50 meters housing perhaps 2,000 monks, with over 13 churches, 25 wine cellars, baths, libraries and numerous dwellings connected by tunnels and stairs. During an enemy attack, the complex could host up to 20,000 people.
It is assumed that the only access to this stronghold was via a hidden tunnel whose entrance was near the banks of Mtkvari river. The outside slope of the mountain was covered with fertile terraces, suitable for cultivation, for which an intricate system of irrigation was designed.
Four distinct building phases have been identified at Vardzia: the first during the reign of Giorgi III (1156–1184), when the site was laid out and the first cave dwellings excavated; the second between his death and the marriage of his successor Tamar in 1186, when the Church of the Dormition was carved out and decorated; the third from that date until the Battle of Basian c.1203, during which time many more dwellings, as well as the defences, water supply, and irrigation network, were constructed; while the fourth was a period of partial rebuilding after heavy damage in the earthquake of 1283.
Since 1985 the site has formed part of the Vardzia Historical–Architectural Museum-Reserve, which includes forty-six architectural sites, twelve archaeological sites, and twenty-one sites of monumental art. In 1999 Vardzia-Khertvisi was submitted for inscription on the UNESCO World Heritage List as a Cultural Site.
On the banks of the river directly below it is a service area which is home to several shops and restaurants. Steps lead from the car park in front of the shops up to the ticket office. Behind the ticket office, a paved road leads up to the upstream side of the complex, from where visitors are conveyed through a combination of external paths and stairs and internal tunnels along a one-way system to the far end of the complex from where they descend downstairs and tunnels to a path that leads them back to connect with the road just up the hill from the ticket office.
Entrance Fee: The Vardzia entrance fee is 15 GEL (€4.45).
Tuesday to Sunday 10:00 am 6:00 pm