Uplistsikhe is situated on the river Mtkvari, around ten kilometers (6.2 miles) from the town of Gori (which is famous as Stalin's birthplace). At first glance this ancient complex looks like an abstract form of art created by Gaudi. Various rock formations, holes and chambers remind of sophisticated sculptures and certain shapes like for example a human face. You will be amazed when you find out that this site dates back to as early as the second millennium BC. It is the oldest ancient settlement known in Georgia. Left without any care for many years, it was plundered several times and destroyed by an earthquake in 1920. Now, it's on the UNESCO list and there are some works planned to preserve it.
The views from the cliff over the village and the Mtkvari river are spectacular, the natural forms of agriculture are still kept to this day, if you are lucky, you will see the shepherds with their herds grazing down in the valley below the ruins.
History of Uplistsikhe
The name Uplistsike means "the fortress of the Lord". It began its history in the Iron Age, second millennium BC. Back then, the complex was a very important cultural center for pagan worship in the Kartli (Iberia) region. Among the ruins, one can find the Hellenistic amphitheater, the pagan temple with an opening in the roof and smaller chambers that seem to have been homes. All the structures were carved out of sandstone rock. Not much is left nowadays from the grandeur of the place, but it's easy to imagine how magnificent and great it once must have been. On the top of the hill, above the ancient settlement, after the introduction of Christianity, a three-naval basilica was built in the ninth century AD. It is still open until this day. The decline of Uplistsikhe began in the twelfth century after Mongol invasions, although it was still functioning for the next few centuries to follow.
How to get to Uplistsikhe
It it possible to do a one day trip to Gori and Uplistsikhe from the Georgian capital - Tbilisi. There are a few options of transport from Tbilisi. The easiest one are marshrutkas (mini van) which operate very often between Georgian cities. The marshrutka to Gori, leaves from Didube metro station in Tbilisi, costs around 4 lari (2 EUR or 2.50 USD) and the journey takes about 1.5 hours. From Gori, you can take a taxi to Uplistsikhe (around 10 km/6.2 miles - return trip with the driver waiting while you are visiting should cost around 25 Lari - 11.50 EUR or 15 USD). Another option is a bus from Gori for 1 Lari (0.5 EUR or 0.6 USD), however, it doesn't operate too frequently and you have to walk around 1 km (0.62 mile) from the village to the cave town.
1.5 hours should be enough to visit the site. If you want, there are guides near the entrance (most probably they will speak English) which at a low price will explain the history of the place. The entry fee is 3 Lari (1.40 EUR or 1.80 USD).
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