David Gareja Monastery Complex
David Gareja (Georgian: დავითგარეჯის სამონასტრო კომპლექსი, Davit'garejis samonastro komplek'si, sometimes spelled Davit Gareja) is a rock-hewn Georgian Orthodox monastery complex located in the Kakheti region of Georgia, on the half-desert slopes of Mount Gareja, some 60–70 km southeast of Georgia's capital Tbilisi, and partially located in Azerbaijan.
Although most of the complex 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.
One can go there by car, by taxi, or using a travel agency, e.g., based in Tbilisi. There is also an inexpensive (25 lari tour) shuttle bus Gareji Line going daily from and back to Tbilisi from 14th of April to 15th of October.
There are two options to get there: either via Sagarejo (with a road in an acceptable state), or via Rustavi, which offers an amazing view on the industrial desert of this former factory city, but at the price of a road in a very bad state (4-wheel drive only). In both cases, make sure you have a good GPS software, as the road signs are almost non-existent (slightly better via Sagarejo).
- Chartering a taxi from Tbilisi; this may cost at least 100 lari, including the 2 or 3-hour waiting time in the monastery.
- Going by marshrutka (e.g., the one heading to Sighnaghi) until the crossroad of Sagarejo; from there, charter a taxi, which may cost around 50-60 lari. This option will for sure work during the high season, but can be more challenging in winter time.
In Tbilisi, Rest Hostel and Tours can organize half-day trips to David Gareja.
- Rest Hostel and Tours, 68 Dimitri Uznadze str., Tbilisi, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. The driver will also accompany you for the walk around the monastery.+phone=+995 599 164249; 598111469 100 lari for 1-3 persons by 4-wheel drive, 150 lari for up to 6 people in a minivan..
By travel agency
Many travel agencies (e.g., in Tbilisi) can organize a one-day or half-day tour to the monastery. But it may be much more expensive than chartering a taxi yourself.
No entrance fees.
Be aware that it is often windy; so during winter be sure to wear warm clothes.
There are no toilets on site; however, some 100 meters before the entrance (the "church shop"), there are some public toilets on the left (small house with a red roof).
The main monastery is right behind the small parking lot. You can visit most of it; the rooms not allowed to tourists are clearly marked with "no entrance" signs, in both English and Georgian. See the tomb of the first monk to have lived there (St. David Garejeli).
Then, you can follow the path starting right behind the church shop, that goes on the top of the small mountain. There, you have a wonderful view towards both Georgia and Azerbaijan. And you will see many troglodyte churches, some of them with paintings from the 11th and 12th centuries. Total time: about 1h30, using a sometime steep path.
The church shop at the entrance of the site sells some religious objects.
There are no places to eat nor drink around. Bring your own food!
No accommodation here.
No Internet. However, there is some phone network… partially coming from Azerbaijan.
- Rustavi - a post-Soviet upcoming city, 30 km W
- Tbilisi - the capital, 70 km NW
- Telavi - Alaverdi Cathedral and Castle, 70 km N
- Sighnaghi - fortress and convent in the country's smallest town, 50 km NE