PALM TREE PRODUCTIONS
The Monastry Hike - David Gareja
Summary: The 6th century David Gareja monastery complex is one of Georgia‘s most important landmarks and is located on the arid slopes of Mount Gareja close to the Azerbaijan border. It is the most interesting easy day trip from Tbilisi.
David Gareja (Georgian: დავითგარეჯის სამონასტრო კომპლექსი, Davit'garejis samonastro komplek'si) is a rock-hewn Georgian Orthodox monastery, some 60–70 km southeast of the capital Tbilisi. The complex includes hundreds of cells, churches, chapels, refectories and living quarters hollowed out of the rock face. Although most of the monastery is in Georgia, part of the site is in Azerbaijan, and the exact border is still the subject of a dispute between Georgia and Azerbaijan.
The complex was founded in the 6th century by David (St. David Garejeli), one of the thirteen Assyrian monks who arrived in the country at the same time. The convent was particularly patronized by the Georgian royal and noble families. The 12th-century Georgian king Demetre I, the author of the famous Georgian hymn Thou Art a Vineyard, even chose David Gareja as a place of his confinement after he abdicated the throne. Despite the harsh environment, the monastery remained an important centre of religious and cultural activity for many centuries.
During the last century, the monastery's territory was used as a training ground for the Soviet and then also the Georgian military. In 1987, and later again, Georgian students lead a series of public protests. In May 1997, hundreds of Georgian NGO activists set up their tents in the middle of the army's firing range and blocked the military maneuvers. Finally, the exercises were banned.
The monastery remains active today and a popular destination of tourism and pilgrimage. (Sources: the hitchhikers handbook and Wikipedia)
For the visitor, there are mainly two key monasteries, which are also the most visited. The first is the photogenic Lavra, which is the only inhabited one today. It is spread across three levels, with buildings dating from many different periods. The monks’ living quarters are cut into the rock above the monastery and are out of bounds to the visitor.
The second, on the hill above it, are the Udabno cave monasteries with their beautiful frescoes. Some of the caves were churches, others chapels or living quarters, many of which retain the faint frescos painted during the 10th-13th centuries. Even though many of the caves are badly ruined and some of the frescoed walls have been completely eroded or destroyed, one can still sense the magnificence of the monastery at its zenith.
The hike to Udabno monasteries is a two-hour round trip from Lavra. This is the true prize of the visit. For regular hikers it is easy, but it can be challenging for the occasional tourist, and bloggers have described as a challenging and relentless climb.
Take the uphill path beside the shop selling religious items. It will lead you to the top of the ridge, from where you can see down to the plains and hills of Azerbaijan. Descend a little on the far side, and the caves alongside and above the path are the Udabno monastery.
Bring your own water.
|Maximum altitude:||601 meter|
|Minimum altitude:||402 meter|
|Cumulative height:||234 meter|
|Cumulative length:||2.6 kilometer roundtrip|
|Time:||2 hours minimum|
|Date of this record||November 2014|
|Download GPS info:||David Gareja|
General location and approach: A short drive south of Tbilisi
Other Information: The monasteries of Lavra and Udabno are well worth the trip into this austere part of Kakheti, topographically so unlike the rich vineyards of the Alazani plain. David Gareja, nestled and hidden between those sharp and clean diagonal slopes, are an ensemble for the photographer that is difficult to beat.
We also include the coordinates of Bodbe Monastery and the old city of Signagi, both worth a visit.
GPS and trailmaps: The map and trailinformation is generated by , based on GPS information collected from the actual hike. Waypoints can be downloaded to a GPS device from Wikiloc. If necessary, use GPSBabel to convert GPS data to different formats. For more hike descriptions by Palmtreetreeproduction, browse this website or visit Wikiloc and search for "Palmtreeproduction". You may also find nearby trails from other authors.
Google Earth: You may also view the trail in 3D by clicking "view in Google Earth" when on Wikiloc. You need to have Google Earth installed on your computer.