This May Not Be the Georgia You Are Thinking Of

January 23, 2016


Back in September of 2015 when I told people I was going to move to Georgia for six months to work, a common reply was, “Why are you going to Georgia?”

Well, this may not be the Georgia you are thinking of. The Georgia where I have been living and working for the past four months is sandwiched between Russia to the north, Armenia and Turkey to the south, Azerbaijan to the east, and the Black Sea to the west. See the blue dot  ⇓

Georgia (Republic of)

As mentioned in my previous post, I will be doing a series of posts that will feature photographs from the regions I have visited so far, as well as types of photographs I have taken, such as landscape, long exposure night photography, rural, urban, people…

For this post I would like to take you for a quick tour of the places I have been so far. I am in love with this country! This is an absolutely, spectacularly mind-blowingly (I just made up a word there) beautiful country. Not only that, it’s culture and history are extraordinary, and its people welcoming. I feel blessed to have the opportunity to live, work and travel here for six months. Thinking of your next international vacation? Consider Georgia.

Without further ado, allow me to take you on a quick tour of THE REPUBLIC OF Georgia (the country, not the state).

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This is a panorama shot taken with my iPhone from Narikala Hill (the Narikala Fortress itself) overlooking the city. Future photographs of Tbilisi will show you some of the ancient and modern that mix in this city that was founded by King Vakhtang I Gorgosali of Iberia in the 5th century A.D.


Shio Mgvime

An easy day trip from Tbilisi is Shio Mgvime Monastery. It was founded by the 6th century monk, Shio, one of the Thirteen Assyrian Fathers. This is the second country in the world to adopt Christianity. Its roots run deep. Orthodox churches and monasteries are so prolific it is hard not to see one nearly everywhere you turn. And they are old. This small chapel is on a hill overlooking the monastery. This was the first significant hike I took on my second weekend in the country in September, 2015.


Jvari Monastery

Jvari overlooks the town of Mtskheta. Both are UNESCO World Heritage sites. Jvari is a 6th century monastery built on the site where Saint Nino, a 4th century evangelist, is credited with converting King Marian III of Iberia to Christianity.



Built on a rocky bank above the Mtkvari River is a 3,500 year-old cave city that saw its final eclipse in the 14th century with the Mongol invasion.



This castle complex was built in the 13th century. Its history includes peasant revolts and various battles from rival duchy. It remained in use until the 19th century. Its location is iconic, overlooking the Aragvi river and reservoir.


Kazbegi (Stepantsminda)

Located directly north of Tbilisi on the Georgian/Russian border, this area is known for the Gergeti Trinity Church, built in the 14th century on a plateau overlooking the villages of Kazbegi and Gergeti, and in the shadow of Mt. Kazbek (16,600 ft / 5047 meters). It is a symbol for Georgia.

Look closely at the top left side of the photo to see the church on the plateau.


Rabati Castle

Located in the southwest of the country, it was built in the 9th century and recently renovated. It is a massive complex that has a church, synagogue and mosque – a reflection of the many cultures that passed through and invaded Georgia over the millennia. Today, Christian, Jew and Muslim live peacefully side-by-side in Georgia. In Tbilisi you will find churches, a mosque and a synagogue – all with thriving communities – within several city blocks.



This cave city built in the 11th and 12 centuries under the rule of Queen Tamar – one of the most fabled monarchs of Georgia – at its height housed 50,000 citizens, extended 13 levels and contained 6,000 apartments. Visiting Vardzia is like visiting something out of the Lord of the Rings.


Okhatse Canyon

Walking over the Ohkatse Canyon on this several kilometer skywalk is almost like walking on the air over an open canyon. The engineering of the skywalk is incredible! And the views are even more so.


Sataplia Nature Reserve and Cave

Established in 1935, this nature reserve protects pristine ancient forests where dinosaurs once roamed. Footprints are preserved in the entrance to the vast cave complex that is still mostly unexplored.
















Located on a cliff-edge on the outskirts of the western city of Kutaisi, Motsameta’s current monastery dates to the 11th century on the ruins of the original 8th century church.



Located in eastern Georgia, the Kakheti region is known for its wine. This wide and fertile valley presses up against the white-topped Dagestan Caucasus to the north and Azerbaijan to the south. The history of wine goes back to the VI millennium B.C.!  500 out of the world’s known 2,000 grape species are Georgian. Pictured here, the Italianesque hill town of Signaghi.



The 15th century castle and church of Gremi, located in the Duruji Valley of the Kakheti region.


Davit Gareji

This rock-hewn Orthodox monastery in southern Georgia is a remarkable historical site surrounded by arid, almost lunar landscape. It was founded in the 6th century by David Garejeli, one of the 13 Assyrian Fathers. At one time it housed thousands of monks. Today it is undergoing renovation, although a significant cave complex in a border area disputed by Azerbaijan and Georgia is unfortunately crumbling and suffering from outright vandalism.


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All content Copyrighted © Stephen Tavella





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