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First a Christian city established in the 9th Century and then later an Islamic fortress under the Ottomans. Akhaltsikhe has a complicated history which is representative of the diversity of this region.

The southern parts of Georgia opens up to a land of forested slopes, expansive canyons and ancient castles. At the center of these lands, Akhaltsike emerges - a moderately sized town of 20,000 people but also one at a crossroads of the Silk Roads. Akhaltsikhe means “New Castle” in reference to the beautiful Rabiti Castle that dominates the city which was first a Christian city established in the 9th century and then later an Islamic fortress under the Ottomans. This castle has a complicated history which is representative of the diversity of this region. Slightly further east lies an even more ancient castle by the name of Khertvisi Fortress, which is certainly one of the oldest in Georgia. Legend has it that Alexander the Great, upon his great conquest eastward, came upon these lands and destroyed this lofty castle.

One of the true hidden treasures of Georgia lies just a few kilometers south - the underground fortress and monastery complex of Vardzia. Caved precariously from a sheer rock face, thousands of interconnected rooms emerge and descend into the rock, creating an ancient labyrinth. When the Mongols were invading the region in 1185, Queen Tamar ordered the construction of a hidden, underground city, creating a safe haven from the enemies. However, a century later, an entirely different enemy in the form of the earthquake left most of the city inhabitable - although some persisted living there until the 16th century. Wandering these stone carved rooms and imagining life those many years ago is a haunting reminder of the extremes mankind have taken to survive.

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How We Got Here

Akhaltsikhe is located in the southern part of Georgia. We arrived via a 5 hour bus from the Capitol

The Highlight

Wandering the caves of Vardzia about an hour outside the town. Our imaginations went wild as we imagined what life may have been like in these intricate cave systems.

Our Treasure

As we were leaving the city before sunrise, the old lady of our guesthouse made sure to send us off with a giant bag of fruit and equally giant hugs.

Explore More

     ➨  Vardzia Caves

     ➨  Khertvisi Fortress

S N A P S H O T S   O N   T H E   R O A D

W H E R E   W I L L   Y O U R   J O U R N E Y   T A K E   Y O U   N E X T ?

You were welcomed with open arms in Akhaltsikhe with a stock of provisions for the journey.

Looking ahead, you can trek nearby to Ani to join the main Silk Route again, or continue further into Georgia, visiting its ancient capitol Tbilisi.


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