The Vardzia Cave complex, carved out of the side of a mountain, is quite unique in its architectural design and as such is one of Georgia's most impressive historical monuments. Arguably, this fortified monastery had the most significant influence on the religious, education, political and cultural development of Georgia. Constructed in thirteen tiers, the complex comprises a substantial number of dwellings and buildings, a water supply system, and an intricate system of tunnels complete with secret passageways. Monk cells number in the hundreds, some of which are multi-roomed and multi-leveled. Other rooms and structures include halls, a library, churches, a bell tower, stables, wine cellars, and a pharmacy. Drinking water was transported from Zeda Vardzia, 3.5 kilometers away. Although the monastery has suffered substantial damage due to earthquakes and the passage of time, there are still approximately 300 caves remaining plus the Godmother Church with its frescos. Today, Vardzia is a State Museum and a monastery complex while Zeda Vardzia is an operating nunnery. In Zeda Varzia Monasterythe church of the Virgin is richly adorned with beautiful carvings. Entry is permissible to tour the grounds which include fruit orchards, a trout nursery and beekeeping hives.
A Day Trip The entire day is spent in around both complexes. The tour begins near the bridge at Vardzia cave Monastery Complex, eventually makes its way to the Zeda Vardzia Monastery and returns at the end of the day to Vardzia, where tourists can picnic and rest.
Hiking tour of moderate difficulty. Length of the route: 5.8km. Duration of the tour: 6 hours. Minimum altitude: 1220 meters above sea level. Maximum altitude: 1550 meters above sea level. An easy walking tour, cars are available for transport, if necessary. It is recommended to pack a picnic lunch and a flashlight is necessary for exploring the caves.