Visiting David Gareja Monastery can be done in a day and it’s worth the visit. The monastery is located in Kakheti, southeast of Tbilisi near the Azebaijan border.
We left Tbilisi at 11:00H and arrived at the site at around 13:00H including photo stops. The monastery is located in a very remote area where there is no road access, totally isolated from the community. The last village was called Udabno and from there our driver drove off road, on a dirt track up and down the hills.
Reaching the site, we set off on our own to explore the surroundings. The Lavra Monastery is located uphill and still inhabited by priests as I saw them wearing black robes around the areas. There was no information about the monastery posted within the complex, not even signage except warning signs “not to enter”. However, Gareji Line, the shuttle I used to come here provided us a flyer with some bit of a background info about the monastery. The monastery was founded in 6th century by one of the 13 Assyrian Fathers, David of Gareja.
Upon entering the building, you will come out to an open space that would lead to different sections of the monastery. The right side is a restricted area and not allowed for public viewing, saw some priests came out from that side, I believe it must be their private quarters. To the left side, one will see the stone carved chambers, as to whether the whole structure was deliberately carved or it was a natural shape, I have no clue at all. However, it is amazing how they built those chambers.
Facing the cave chambers are two watch towers and at the other side parallel to the watch towers is a terrace overlooking the mountains and hills outside the complex.
On the right wing on the lower level is a staircase access going down to the courtyard.
Below is the view of the Lavra from the courtyard.
This white cross marks the cave where David Gareja settled, this is located in the courtyard.
Coming out of the Lavra, I attempted to climb the path to the top of the mountain near the church shop. It was a difficult climb for me as I am not an experienced trekker plus the heavy weight of the DSLR camera which I have with me, I managed to reach the watch tower which point one can have a spectacular view of the monastery and the vast hills outside.
I didn’t continue with the steep climb, one thing is I am not sure how much time I will be consuming and going down is another task since the path is steep, any wrong step could make me rolling down and who knows where would I end up 🙁
According to other tourists I met along the way, it was a fantastic view up the mountain hence I recommend everyone to continue with climb for another 15 minutes, as coming back to this place is next to never.
How to Get There:
Most of the tour operators in the city offers a Day Tour to David Gareja. The Hop-On Hop Off Bus offers GEL 70 for a day tour (this rate in September 2015) and Gareji Line which operates from April to October is charging GEL 25 for the transportation, going and coming back. The shuttle is parked at Pushkin Square, near the Freedom Square every morning and departs at 11:ooH. No reservation required.