Mtskheta

Mtskheta Tour Guide

Written by Alon Bahar

Mtskheta is a small town 20 km north of the capital Tbilisi at the confluence of the Mtkvari and Aragvi rivers. In old times, Mtskheta was the capital of the kingdom of Iberia. The town and its surroundings have a number of significant cultural monuments and thus became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994. As one of the prominent centers of Christianity in Georgia, Mtsketa has been declared a holy city by the Georgian orthodox church. in addition, by the Georgians, it considered being one of the most romantic cities in Georgia.

What are the main attractions in Mtskheta?

Most tourists who visit Georgia tend to come to Mtskheta as part of a daily trip from the city of Tbilisi that lasts about 3-5 hours. You can either reach the place via taxi (if you choose to do it independently) or you can visit the place as a part of a tour with a guide and driver. About 98% of tourists will visit the Cross Monastery (Jvari) and Svetitskhoveli Cathedral which are the main 2 attractions here. The best way to start your visit is to head to Svetitskhoveli Cathedral and then to walk around the touristic street that is next to the cathedral. You can stop at a nice cafe to eat lunch before you move to your next stop or even to buy some local souvenirs (keep in mind that it is more expensive than in Tbilisi). We will recommend visiting Mtskheta as part of a day trip from the city of Tbilisi or as part of a longer trip by car on the way to Godauri/Kazbegi. To reach Mtskheta, you will use the Georgian Military Road which runs between Tbilisi and Vladikavkaz in Russia and follows the traditional route used by invaders and traders throughout history.

The best of Mtskheta and around it for first-time travelers:

Jvari Monastery

Jvari Monastery is a 6th-century monastery which in direct translation is called "The Cross Monastery" due to the huge cross formed on the site by King Mirian III after the recognition of Christianity. The monastery is located on top of Mount Jvari right in front of the Mtkvari & Argavi rivers. Great place for those interested to go back in time for a glimpse of medieval architecture that until this day, remained almost unchanged. it is listed as a World Heritage site by UNESCO. Even if you're not all about monasteries, it is still worth the visit only to enjoy the view around you.

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Image By pinterst.ch

Svetitskhoveli Cathedral

The cathedral, built in the 11th century, has served as the most prominent religious center in the country since its inception for many centuries. The complex includes a church, castles, gate, bell tower and residence parts. The cathedral is a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to the beauty of the building's architecture and its cultural importance.

There are 2 legends associated with this magnificent compound, one claims that the robe of Jesus was buried in the site while according to the other legend, King Giorgi ordered the amputation of the architect's hand so that he could not build something as beautiful as this complex. A painted hand can be found on the northern façade of the building as well as fragments of paintings showing life in ancient Georgia.

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Shio Mgvime

About 10 km from Mtskheta, you will find a medieval monks' complex built inside a canyon made of limestone in the sixth century following the arrival of one of the 13 Assyrian Fathers who came to Georgia to spread Christianity, Shio Mgvime. The complex was home to 2000 monks which lived in different caves that are located around the site. The complex includes a church, cathedral, tower caves, spring, religious houses, residences, and more.

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Image By georgiatosee.com

Mtskheta Touristic Avenue

Next to Svetitskhoveli Cathedral there is a street full of wonderful stalls offering souvenirs, local hand-made items, traditional dishes, jewelry and more. In addition, you will find nice places to enjoy a cup of coffee or a light meal if you're planning a break. The avenue is 800 meter long and the prices are more expansive than in most Georgia so be aware. around this area you will also find guides who will offer their services for a guided tour in the cathedral.

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Best food and Restaurants in Mtskheta

 

Salobie

Salobie is located Inside 400 years old building and it is one of the best local restaurants in the area. It is huge in size, with a number of dining areas, both inside & out and the view here is really nice. The menu is short & simple and offers local dishes. Every part of the menu is really nice and taste great with their wine (half a liter or entire liter) and also the prices are really modest. The restaurant located outside Mtskheta so it's better to go there before you enter Mtskheta or after visiting all the monuments.

Recommended dishes - beans in a clay pot,  potatoes/meat pastry, grilled meat and wine, a lot of wine!

Good to know - the order is made on the top floor at the order counter (do not order using the waiter or be ready to wait).

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Adacafe

Within walking distance from Svetitskhoveli Cathedral and right on the waterfront, there is a great, contemporary cafe offering a magical atmosphere to have lunch or dinner. The kitchen is excellent, the design is amazing and the staff is really nice. Recommended for a 1-hour break in the middle of the day when in Mtskheta.

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Image By adacafe Facebook page

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Image By adacafe Facebook page

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Ornament Express

 

Ornament Express is located Just behind Svetitskhoveli Cathedral. with a local and international menu including hamburgers (recommended!), Empanadas style pastries, excellent salads, local specials and more. There is an indoor and outdoor seating area with a view of the cathedral and the prices are fair. This is a good place for a glass of wine and even better if you are hungry.

Tip - one of the most delicious places we found in the area and 100% the best desserts (guaranteed!) So make sure there's some room left for something sweet before you go.

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Image By Ornament Express Facebook page

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Image By Ornament Express Facebook page

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Image By Ornament Express Facebook page

Mtskheta - Transport - austria-forum dot

Transportation from Tbilisi to Mtskheta

 

Due to the proximity of Mtskheta to Tbilisi, travelers usually take a day trip to see Mtskheta and its surroundings. There are several options for getting here and we made a list so you won't lose your way or overpay:

Option #1 - Using a private car with a driver (you can find them around Liberty Square & Kote Afkhazi street) that takes you to see the JVARI MONASTERY, Svetitskhoveli Cathedral, and the touristic avenue around the cathedral. Usually, the driver acts as a mini-guide and will share some facts about each place in Russian (English speaking drivers is hard to find or expansive) and will wait for you about 3-4 hours. After you'll visit all the agreed monuments, he will take you back to Tbilisi. 

Cost per person - about 40-60 lari.

Option #2 - Take a guided tour with an English/Russian speaking guide. private car or minivan for slightly larger groups will take you from your hotel or meet you in an agreed location. This is the most recommended option and in most cases, it will cost you less than the previous option.

The cost per person for a couple including a professional guide - about 40-55 lari (the larger the group, the lower the costs).

Option #3 - Take a taxi from Tbilisi using one of the apps (BOLT or YANDEX) and travel independently to the town of Mtskheta. The destination you should mention in the app is Svetitskhoveli Cathedral. After you will finish your visit to Svetitskhoveli Cathedral, you will catch a taxi (again using the same app) to JVARI MONASTERY and from there it will also be possible to return by taxi to Tbilisi. This is probably the cheapest way but also the least convenient of all. Keep in mind that the way back will usually cost more than what you paid to get to Mtskheta due to the lack of taxis (especially not in the season).

Cost per person (in case you're a couple), including a visit to the monastery and the cathedral - about 30 lari. If you're more than 2, the cost will be cheaper per person.

Image By austria-forum.org

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