PILGRIM TOUR OF KAKHETI
Duration: 5 nights and 6 days
Price: USD, price depends on type of accommodation and number of persons
After the ascension of Christ, the Holy Spirit instructed the apostles to spread the
message of Christianity around the world. The apostle Andrew preached in Georgia
and tradition holds that Simon the Zealot and Matthias were also active here. In 320
AD St Nino of Cappadoia caused the conversion of the country to Christianity. The
thirteen Assyrian Fathers founded monasteries and hermitages in Georgia in the 6th
century and initiated the ascetic movement.
Places of interest
Svetitskhoveli* basilica (basilica of the Life-Giving Pillar)
The site held a wooden church at the time of Georgia’s conversion to Christianity. It
was replaced by a stone church in the 5th century and eventually, in the early 11th
century, Catholicos Melchisedek I was responsible for building what we see today, an
early example of a cross-dome basilica. Two carved bull’s heads from the first stone
church are incorporated over the entrance gate. Ten of Georgia’s monarchs are buried
here. A most precious relic, Christ’s robe, is said to be kept beside the altar.
Jvari Monastery* (Monastery of the Cross)
This monastery complex was constructed in the 6th century, near the confluence of the
Mtkvari (Kura) and Aragvi rivers. It owes its name to the grapevine cross which St Nino
planted here to mark Georgia’s conversion to the new faith.
Overlooking the banks of the river Mtkvari (Kura) from a steep cliff, this historical area is
revered by Georgians for its connection to St Abo Tbileli (St Abo of Tbilisi) an 8thcentury
martyr for the Christian faith.
Anchiskhati (church of the Ancha Icon)
The church is a three-nave, 12th-century renovation on 6th century foundations. It is
named for a precious icon of Christ Pantocrator, now kept in the National Art Museum of
Sioni (cathedral of the Assumption of the Virgin)
The church–built in the 6th and 7th centuries–was completely destroyed by Arab
invaders. A new church was constructed under King David the Builder in the 12th
century and has since survived damage and partial destruction from an earthquake and
from Persian invasions. St Nino’s cross–two lengths of grapevine lashed together with
the Saint’s hair–is kept here.
Legend connects Kashveti (give birth to a stone) to Davit Gareja, one of the Assyrian
Fathers. In the 18th century the Amilakhvari family funded the building of a church to
replace the ruinous brick structure. Wealthy citizens had the church rebuilt once more
by 1910. Of note are the murals of 1947, by well-known Georgian painter Lado
Holy Trinity Cathedral Tbilisi
The cathedral is situated on Elia Hill and was built to commemorate the birth of Christ
2000 years earlier. Although it was inaugurated in 2004, work on mosaics and frescoes
is still in progress.
The monastery complex on Mount Gareja was founded in the 6th century by Davit, one
of the Assyrian Fathers. The Bolshevik take-over in 1921 forced the closing of the
monastery, and its territory was used for military training. Since 1991 an active
monastic community makes use again of the cells, chapels, refectories and living
quarters that are hewn out of the rock.
On the outskirts of Sighnaghi, in an quiet rural setting and surrounded by well-kept
gardens, stands Bodbe convent. St Nino’s tomb is a favourite destination and pilgrims
can immerse themselves in a spring with healing powers.
The monastery was established in the 6th century by Assyrian father Stepan of Khirsa,
who is buried beside the altar. During the communist era the monastery was closed
and the frescoes in the church whitewashed. The monastic community is now active
again and slowly but surely is restoring what was destroyed.
Dzveli Gavazi (Old Gavazi church)
This lovely church with tiled roof is dedicated to the Virgin Mary and dates back to the
6th century. Over the course of history its cross was removed and its dome demolished
many times. Under Shah Abbas it was used to stable horses and the land and village
were empty for more than a century. In 1850 the efforts of cultural figures Aleksandre
Apkhazi and Ivane Amilakhvari brought the church and village back to life.
Nekresi monastery complex
A town existed at this location in the second century BC. Nekresi monastery dates back
to the 4th century AD. It sits on a hill that affords a sweeping view of the Alazani Valley.
Abibos, one of the Assyrian Fathers, settled in Nekresi in the 6th century and
established it as a centre of learning. Among the handful of churches of different
antiquity is a 4th century church, among the oldest in Georgia. Of later date are an
episcopal palace, a four-storey tower and a marani (wine cellar).
In the 16th and 17th centuries Gremi was the capital of the kingdom of Kakheti and
thrived as a commercial centre on the ancient silk route. The town was razed by a
Persian invasion in 1615 but the church of the Archangels Michael and Gabriel with
original frescoes, the royal tower and the marani (wine cellar) survive to this day.
Virgin of Gurjaani
The church of the Dormition of the Virgin was built in the 8th century. Its twin domes are
a unique architectural feature in Georgia. A legend tells of the walls oozing milk, and
hence the Virgin of Gurjaani is believed to help lactating mothers.
This monastery complex is centred around one of the oldest churches in Georgia, a 5thcentury,
three-nave basilica. Two 7th-century churches of the domed-cross type–like
the older church built of cobble-stone and pumice–are its companions in the wooded
setting between the mountains.
Tinatin, wife of King Levan of Kakheti (16th century), built the convent and church at
Shuamta and in her later years entered the nunnery herself. Frescoes in the domedcross
church are well-preserved. At present a small community of religious women is
active in the convent, producing icons, beeswax candles, tending a farm and a flock of
Defensive walls surround the monastery complex which was established by Ioseb, one
of the Assyrian Fathers, in the 6th century. Until the construction of Holy Trinity church
in Tbilisi (2014), the Alaverdi cathedral (11th century) was the tallest in Georgia (55 m).
Due to its strategical location, the population used to find shelter inside the walls during
* indicates a UNESCO World Heritage Site
Day 1: Arrival at Tbilisi International Airport, transfer to the hotel, overnight in Tbilisi
Day 2: Mtskheta, Jvari, Svetitskhoveli, Samtavro, overnight in Tbilisi
Day 3: David Gareja, Sighnaghi, Bodbe, Khirsa, overnight in Sighnaghi
Day 4: Old Gavazi, Nekresi, Gremi, Gurjaani, overnight in Sighnaghi
Day 5: Old Shuamta, New Shuamta, Alaverdi, overnight in Tbilisi
Day 6: Transfer to the airport