Uplistsikhe is an ancient cave town located in eastern Georgia. In 2003 it was in quite a poor condition – the old road was all in pits and ruts, and even though the entrance was free, there were barely any visitors. Not long time ago it was renovated. Cafes and toilets were built there, the road was restored and admission became 3 GEL (slightly more than 50 rubles – $ 1.7). Let’s take a tour over this ancient place.
The view on Uplistsikhe from the Kura river.
According to legend, during the construction of Uplistsikhe, a servant who worked on stone processing was given a cutter, the greater part of which was made of some precious metal, while the rest of it – of the simple one. The servant had to work until the cutting part (made of the simple metal) was completely worn out. Then the slave was rewarded with both the rest part of the cutter and long-awaited freedom.
The rock, in which the caves are carved, is made up of sandstone, the material that is relatively easy to process.
Uplistsikhe is one of the oldest settlements on the territory of Georgia. It was formed in the 16-15th century BC. Then, over the centuries the city has been rebuilt several times, abandoned and left to decay, but each time it has been somehow revived. And now, for almost 200 years since the cessation of raids and wars, no one’s been living here. People moved down to the valley of the Kura river.
An inaccessible rock on the one side and a valley on the other make the city a natural fortress.
The view on the Kura.
Sheep graze nearby.
The first inhabitants of Uplistsikhe used natural caves. Probably at the end of the 1st – the beginning of the 2nd century BC these caves were reconstructed. Several hundreds of different buildings (churches, public buildings and homes) were carved in the rocks. Wells and gutters, city gates, streets and city fortifications were constructed.
A secret passage to the river.
The temple of Makvliani (the big cave at the bottom) is the largest (covering about 300 sq. m) of the surviving temples of the Hellenistic period. The larger pagan temples were later rebuilt in Christian churches.
In the 10th century, Uplistsuli Church was built at the very top of the city. In the Soviet times the church was abandoned but now it works. Its paintings were destroyed, but the walls still remember the autographs of soldiers of the Russian army, quartered here in 1848-1849.
The first tourists also left some inscriptions.
Many carved in the rocks rooms are decorated with imitation of wooden or stone beams, columns and other architectural elements.
Sometime these caves didn’t need any props.
At the turn of the 12-13th centuries Queen Tamara could probably visit this place. That’s why one of the old pagan temples is called the “Hall of Queen Tamara”.
Can you see a man’s profile here?
The stone walls were erected in the Middle Ages.
An ancient burial ground.
A place fit to live in.
Perhaps here was something tied.
Not far from Uplistsikhe, in the valley of the Tana river, stands ancient Sioni Church. Its building was finished in the first half of the 7th century. So this Christian church is one of the most ancient not only in Georgia but in the whole world.
Not it’s being restored. The paintings and inscriptions of 1080 miraculously remained intact. Unfortunately, it’s forbidden to photograph inside the building.
A little to the right of the cross are the ruins of another ancient building. From this point you can see Tbilisi, even though the distance is over 70 km.