David Gareja Monastery
David Gareja medieval cave monastery represents the complex of 18 orthodox Christian monasteries spread over the Gareja semi-desert. Main part is situated in Kakheti, Georgia. Notable for ancient frescoes and picturesque views, the cells, churches, chapels, refectories and living quarters are hollowed out of the rock face.
Back in the 6th Century AD, monk David, one of the thirteen Assyrian fathers, settled in the natural cave of Gareji desert, where he found the first monastery known today under the name David's Larva. In the same century, David's disciples and followers Dodo and Lukiane erected two more cloisters: Dodo's Rka and the Monastery of John the Baptist – named as Natlismtsemeli.
David Gareja Monastery reached it’s peak of success during the Golden Age (the time of national and cultural-political rise) of Georgia, in the 12th-13th century when the new monasteries were built: Udabno, Sabereebi, Bertubani, White Desert, Tsintskaro, Kolagiri, Tetrisenakebi, Big Boilers, Mravtskaro, Pirukugmari, Black Senaki, Berta Mountain, Gatsatshori Cave, Small boilers, Veran-Gareja and Chichkhituri. The private art school of fresco painting functioned at the Udabno monastery and David Gareji, elaborating private rules of building and monastery life. Gareji art school was one of the most significant educational centers in medieval Georgia.
Today the site represents an ideal place to observe semi-desert landscape, explore jeep safari nature, enjoy birdwatching, easy trekking, and pilgrims. Its uniqueness is also highlighted by the remote setting at the border of Azerbaijan.
Despite the absence of any efforts to restore the walking path or ancient frescoes, visiting Davit Gareja remains a real adventure for the visitors.
During summer it may be fearfully hot by the middle of the day, so it’s ideal to get here by 11 am.
NOTE: Bring sunscreen, water, and sensible shoes with you, as you'll have to scramble up the hillside with no shade. You may meet semi-desert creatures on the way: lizards and snakes – Macrovipera. Make sure to have your passport or ID card with you, as you are near the border area and you may be stopped by Georgian and Azeri military patrols.
Take a lunch break at the local family café Oasis Club, located in the middle of steppe, in a small village of Udabno (Georgia). Taste a mix of Georgian and European cuisine prepared by local cooks from Udabno. Taste a range of drinks, among others tarragon chacha, Polish vodka, and special selection of Georgian wines. Local hosts offer bike rental too.
There is another café /restaurant in the middle of Gareji desert - Udabno Terrace, a two-story restaurant with traditional delicious food, beer, and wine. You will enjoy panoramic views from their rooftop terrace and traditional kitchen and bar.
Location: 67 km east from Tbilisi through Rustavi by 4x4WD, Kakheti Region
Another way goes from Tbilisi to Sagarejo. Turn to the right from Sagarejo towards Udabno Semi-desert – this road represents an old military asphalted way up to the lakes and to Chichkhituri tower. From here you have left only 6 km of gravel road to reach Lavra Monastery.
Davit Gareja has been included in the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List since October 24, 2007.
On November 7, 2006, by the decree of the President of Georgia, it was awarded the category of a real cultural monument of national importance.
Book tours, check itineraries, and prices below:
DAY TRIP HIKING IN GAREJA CAVES
DAY TRIP GAREJA CAVES, SIGHNAGI AND BODBE
GEORGIAN HOLIDAYS - 15 DAYS
KAKHETI EXPLORATION - 2 DAYS