1: Mtskheta used to be the capital of Georgia
Mtskheta was the former capital of Georgia for centuries (from the 3rd century BC up until 5th Century AD), and as such it has many ruins and architectural remains from that grand time.
As the capital of the ancient Georgian Kingdom of Iberia, this city is absolutely full of history, and some of the cobbled stone clad streets really give a feeling of going back in time. Plus, less than an hour away from Tbilisi, Mtskheta is an easy, quick, but fascinating day-trip into Georgia’s past which shouldn’t be passed up!
2: To visit Jvari Monastery
Built during the Kingdom of Iberia, was this incredibly impressive monastery that survives to this day – despite being 1500 years old.
Jvari Monastery sits high on a hilltop, looking down on its surroundings. The setting is atmospheric, and it’s easy to imagine the scene looking exactly the same over 1000 years ago.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, alongside other Mtskheta architectural wonders such as Svetitskhoveli Cathedral (which dominates the city of Mtskheta itself), Jvari is a much see – especially as erosion is unfortunately slowly destroying the monastery itself.
3: For Mtskheta’s wine
Well wine should be a good reason in itself, but while Georgia is becoming famous for it’s wine, and the country’s claim to fame as being the first place in the world to ever make it, Mtskheta is definitely a wine-town.
The Georgian Royal Family estate, Chateau Mukhrani, is situated on the outskirts of the city and a tour of the chateau, winery, wine cellars, and all the information that comes with it is possible for just a few dollars per person.
On top of that, Mtskheta itself is full of bars and restaurants serving wine from the local region and throughout Georgia. It is the place to go for upper class Tbilisians when they want to get out of Tbilisi, but still be wined and dined.
In particular, the “Chamber of Wine” (Gvinis Palata) is an absolute must-do, where not only can you get great wine (and food), you can also check out a fantastic wine selection to buy and take home, or have a go at making your own Georgian bread.
4: To visit Chilitba Lake
Fancy a trip into Georgia’s stunning countryside but don’t have the time for a journey to Svaneti or Kazbegi that would takes hours?
Well Chilitba Lake, just outside of Mtskheta, is a wonderful short hike from the city, and can be reached in less than an hour from Tbilisi.
A great place for a picnic in summer, or late spring, and a welcome respite from the hustle and bustle of city life.
The lake is almost turquoise blue, and the walk through dense forest to uncover this hidden gem makes you feel as though you’re in deep rural Georgia, rather than just 30 minutes from the capital.
5: To enjoy the wonders of Beberi Fortress
No ancient former capital with dozens of important churches and monasteries would be safe without some sort of defensive mechanism right?
That’s exactly why the desolate ruins of Beberi Fortress exist. Built in the Middle Ages, the fortress was sadly damaged by a landslide just a few years ago, but much of it remains standing.
Situated on the outskirts of Mtskheta, the fortress is little visited these days, but the huge stones that still stand on the hilltop paint a picture of dramatic scenes of siege and defense.
The walk to the fortress takes you into the rural countryside and it’s likely you may meet no one else on your way. The panoramic views from the fortress are worth the journey in itself, never-mind the history and ancient building you will get to see, walk in, and experience.