Davit Gareja is a cave monastery in Kakheti Region, 90 kilometers from Tbilisi. The original complex extended over 25 kilometers and unified 22 small monasteries. 3 of these monastery are now located on a disputed border with Azerbaijan.
Davit Garejeli, an Assyrian monk founded this monastery in the VI century. He was one of the 13 monks who came to Georgia to help the spread of Christianity. After serving in Tbilisi (Tiflis) for a while, he moved away to find a secluded place to spend the rest of his days. Davit Garejeli and Lukiane, who was his closest student moved away to the Gareji Dessert and settled in a natural cave and founded the first monastery.
As Davit had a great follower base, the dessert soon became a place for pilgrimages. A big number of monks moved also to settle here and the number of monasteries started to grow. Davit Gareja reached the peak of its development in the 12th century. As it was located at the very south of the country, the monks serving here were not ordinary. They also served as the border guard of the kingdom and all of them were trained military.
Davit Gareja Monastery was also a big cultural center of the kingdom. This was the cradle of Georgian mural painting. Gareji Lavra greatly influenced the development of Georgian Christian art. A lot of the frescoes have survived till today and are stunning to look at even after more than 1000 years. Here you will find rare depictions of Georgian royal families. Gareji Monks also copied ancient scrolls and created books so crucial to spreading education. It is thanks to them that Georgian history has survived.
Davit-Gareja lavra is still functional today. It attracts thousands of visitors each year. Both Georgians and foreigners visit this place for various reasons. For Georgians its considered a pilgrimage as Davit, the holy father is buried here. As for foreigners, they usually visit to explore the cultural heritage of the country, enjoy amazing views and take a look at the thousand year frescoes preserved in the cave monastery.
There’s two main things to see here:
- Lavra complex – easily accessible with a car, this is the functional part of the monastery.
- Bertubani – The most beautiful frescoes are located here.This part of the monastery is located on the very top of the ridge and it’s a mix of Georgian & Azerbaijanian territory. Countries have agreed on freedom of movement here. So, you won’t get a stamp. However, the Azerbaijanian border guard might ask to check the passports from time to time. To get to Bertubani, you need to walk 30 minutes uphill Lavra complex. It’s best to visit during the morning hours as the temperatures here can go up to 40 Celsius in the afternoon.
During the summer months, this territory is very popular with harmless lizards and not so harmless vipers, so if you plan on going alone – be aware. These snakes are not aggressive but will attack if threatened. It’s good to keep a stick with you at all times and watch your step.
Tours visiting Davit Gareja
Want to visit this place? Take a look at our tours that cover this wonderful location: