David Gareji is a rock-hewn Orthodox monastery complex located in the Kakheti region of Eastern Georgia, some 60–70 km southeast of Georgia’s capital Tbilisi. The complex also includes hundreds of cells, churches, chapels, refectories and living quarters hollowed out of the rock face.
A brief history of the David Gareji Monastery
Back in the 6th Century AD, monk David, one of the thirteen Assyrian fathers, settled in the natural cave of the Gareji desert. So 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 also erected two more cloisters: Dodo’s Rka and the Monastery of John the Baptist – named Natlismtsemeli.
David Gareji Monastery reached its peak of success during the Golden Age of Georgia, in the 12th-13th century. At that time a lot of new monasteries were built. Therefore 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.
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.
Davit Gareja has also been included in the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List since October 24, 2007.
Infrastructure around the fortress:
Take a lunch break at the local family café Oasis Club, located in the middle of the steppe, in a small village of Udabno (Georgia). Subsequently taste a mix of Georgian and European cuisine prepared by local cooks from Udabno and a range of drinks – tarragon chacha, and Polish vodka. Also a special selection of Georgian wines. Local hosts offer bike rental too.
There is another café /restaurant in the middle of the Gareji desert – Udabno Terrace, a two-story restaurant with traditional delicious food, beer, and wine. You will surely enjoy panoramic views from their rooftop terrace and traditional kitchen and bar.
How to get there:
There are 2 different Roads from Tbilisi:
One is through Rustavi 67 km east of Tbilisi. Drive with a 4x4WD car.
The second road 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 Chichkhituri tower. From here you have left only 6 km of gravel road to reach Lavra Monastery.
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. So better to wear shoulders.
Make sure to have your passport or ID card with you. As you will be near the border area, you may be stopped by Georgian and Azeri military patrols.
Dress modestly (covered shoulders and knees). To enter the monastery men need to be wearing long pants and women a long skirt. If you’re wearing shorts, you might be denied entry to the church. Women must also cover their hair before entering.