Vardzia is a cave monastery site in southern Georgia, excavated from the slopes of the Erusheti mountain range on the left bank of the Mtkvari River, thirty kilometers from Aspindza. (Aspindza is a small town in southern Georgia’s region of Samtskhe-Javakheti with a population of 3,243, mostly ethnic Georgians.)
On the way to Vardzia, a huge old castle suddenly appeared on a hill, Khertvisi Fortress.
Khertvisi fortress is one of the oldest fortresses in Georgia and was functional throughout the Georgian feudal period. The fortress was first built in the 2nd century BC. The church was built in 985, and the present walls built in 1354. As the legend says, Khertvisi was destroyed by Alexander the Great.
Vardzia is a medieval cave city, hewn into the side of the rocks of Erusheti Range above Mtkvari River. It is located in a hanging valley in the Lesser Caucasus Mountains.
Vardzia was built after 10,000 Turkish troops marched into Georgia but were defeated by a bold Georgian army of just 2,000 men.
There are only 750 rooms left now after an earthquake but in its heyday it housed 50,000 people.
The rooms include monk cells, a grand foyer, a treasury, cathedral, libraries, stables, bakeries, and bathing pools.
It is said that Queen Tamar, Georgia’s first female sovereign, who completed the city.
Each dwelling consisted of three rooms, and there were 366 rooms so that if Vardzia were to be invaded by the Persians she would be able to defeat the enemy in her quarters.
The site was largely abandoned after the Ottoman takeover in the sixteenth century. Now part of a state heritage reserve, the extended area of Vardzia-Khertvisi has been submitted for future inscription on the UNESCO World Heritage List.