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Caucasus Archives • Cook the Beans

Uplistsikhe Cave Town

The ancient and now abandoned rock-hewn town of Uplistsikhe is located in Eastern Georgia and is a must to any trip to Georgia. Uplistsikhe is on the UNESCO list and means “the fortress of the Lord”.

Uplistsikhe does slightly reminds Cappadocia (Turkey) and Northern Iran. The Cave Town-Fortress is situated on a rocky massif 10 km from Gori and has stunning views over Mtkvari Valley.

Uplistsikhe-  the Ancient cave town in Georgia

The Uplistsikhe site dates back to as early as the second millennium BC, witnessing key events and playing an important role in Georgian history.  Being for centuries one of the most important political and religious centres of pre-Christianity.

When Christianity arrived in the country the city lost importance for Mtskheta and TbilisiIn the 13th century, during the Mongol conquest, Uplistsikhe faced a rapid decline and large parts of the city were destroyed. 

The Uplistsikhe complex

The complex is divided into 3 main parts all connected by tunnels. Some of those tunnels also had the purpose of an emergency escape route. The Lower, central and upper area.

There are numerous temples related to the sun goddess. Most of the rock-cut structures, don’t show any decorative elements, aside from some of the larger structures.

The area has a Christian stone basilica from the 10th century and also pagan places of sacrifice, dwellings, a pharmacy, a bakery, a prison, a theatre and even an amphitheatre.

The views from the cliff over the village and the Mtkvari river are spectacular.

How to get to Uplistsikhe

You can either travel by train or marshrutka from Tbilisi to Gori (1.5 hours). When in Gori you have 3 options.

Go on a bike trip, take a taxi (just remember to negotiate the rate), or by bus from Gori. The only problem is that the bused are not frequent and you have to walk around 1 km from the village to the cave town. 

photography – all rights reserved – Ana Rocha

Prometheus cave

The Prometheus Cave is located 20km northwest of Kutaisi, one of the most important historical and economic centers in the western Georgia.

The Prometheus Cave, also known as Kumistavi Cave, is about 11 km, but only 1.4km are open to visitors. The cave is truly impressive and well worth of a visit.

You will be walking along six large chambers followed by a 400m-long underground lake, illuminated by coloured lighting and classical music. the scenery is decorated with amazing stalactites and stalagmites, like you are inside a magic fairy world.

You can’t visit on your own. When you buy the ticket they will be putting you in a group with a guide and you walk along a concrete path from where you can see a wonderful array of curtains of stalactites, stalagmites, petrified waterfalls, cave pearls, underground rivers, and lakes.

There is also the option of a boat tour on one of the underground rivers.

The temperature inside is a constant +14°С, while humidity varies from 96% to 98%.

How to get there:

Take a bus from the main station to Tskaltubo, from there you have buses to the cave. It costs 1 GEL.

Entrance fee is 23GEL with an extra of 17 GEL if you want a boat trip. More info here.

photography – all rights reserved – Ana Rocha

Mtskheta Georgia’s spiritual heart

The small city of Mtskheta was once the ancient capital of the Eastern Georgian Kingdom. Nowadays is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the oldest cities of Georgia. A perfect stop to any trip to Georgia.

The city is a 40-minute drive from the capital Tbilisi. Making Mtskheta an easy and enjoyable day trip from the capital.

There are several historical monuments which together make up the world heritage site.

Must-see Places in Mtskheta
Svetitskhoveli Cathedral

Svetitskhoveli is the biggest cathedral in the country, dates back to the 11th-century and is a UNESCO World Heritage listing.

Samtavro Church

A large church now part of a nunnery.

Armaztsikhe-Bagineti

An archaeological site of the residence of Iverian rulers.

Jvari Monastery

The 6th Century “ Monastery of the Cross” is the oldest Christian Monasteries in the country

Located on a mountaintop with a great view of the meeting between the Mtkvari and Aragvi rivers as well as the city of Mtskheta.

Jvari Monastery is listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

Bebris Tsikhe

A castle located on a mountaintop in northern Mtskheta with great views, seven minutes drive from the town.

How to get to Mtskheta

You can either travel by marshrutka or train, both options are affordable

Marshrutkas depart regularly from Didube Bus Station which is located right next to the Didube Metro Station.

Mtskheta lies on the Tbilisi-Kutaisi railway and all trains connecting these cities stop at Mtskheta.

The train station lies 2 km from the city centre. It’s possible to walk, or you can take a marshrutka from the station to the centre.

Have you ever been to Mtskheta or other places in the Mtianeti region?

photography – all rights reserved – Ana Rocha

Gori Travel

Gori is a small town on the confluence of the Kura and the Liakhi in the picturesque Kartlia valley, 80km west of Tbilisi.

A day trip to Gori from Tbilisi is easy and cheap but is better to stay overnight to visit the ancient cave city of Uplistsikhe that is located about 10 km from Gori.

Gori is a quiet town where you can wander through the streets and have a great chillout time eating out at one of the many restaurant terraces. 

Top sights
Stalin Museum

The town is best known for being the birthplace of Stalin the former Soviet leader. While he is not exactly a hero by any means, the town preserves memories of his life and displays them in the Stalin Museum.

The town has two other smaller museums. The War Museum and the Ethnographic Museum.

Goristsikhe fortress

The Fortress is free and offers some nice views the town and surrounding hills, especially during sunset. This oval citadel stands at the heart of Gori on top of a hill.

Churches

There are a few churches to be found around Gori. Mary’s Church is quite impressive.

Stalin Avenue

The main street is called Stalin Avenue. I don’t know how I feel about Gory having so many tributes to Stalin.. but … I believe (and hope) they don’t see him as a national hero but a local famous historic figure.

At the top end of the avenue you have the Stalin museum and the gardens. There is some impressive architecture along the street including the city hall.

How to get to Gori from Tbilisi

From Tbilisi, you can either take a train from the main station or a marshrutka (minibus).

To go bt marshrutka head to Didube bus station and look around for a van labelled ‘Gori’, they leave when full usually every 20-30mins. The journey takes around 1.5 hours.

All trains from Tbilisi going to Kutaisi and/or Batumi stop at Gori. 

How to Get from Gori to Uplistsikhe

At the bus station, you can find a minivan heading to Uplistsikhe. The journey takes around 25 minutes.

photography – all rights reserved – Ana Rocha

Kazbegi Travel Guide

Kazbegi, is located in the high Caucasus mountains, an unmissable place to visit while travelling in Georgia. Definitely, a key part of any itinerary if you are into hiking, mountains and beautiful scenery. Kazbegi is now officially named Stepantsmunda.

Kazbegi is part of the Mtskheta-Mtianeti region, a 3-hour drive from the capital of Georgia, Tbilisi and one hour from the Russian border.

The main town is called Stepantsminda, where you find accommodation and some basic tourist facilities.

Kazbegi – Stepantsminda village 

There is a slow pace to this tiny traditional village and a rural feel that gives you a sense of isolation. A place to contemplate, and relax.

Everything here including accommodation is in easy walking distance.

Perfect to spend time in nature, away from the hustle and bustle, go hiking, chill and enjoy the mountain air and views.

Tsminda Sameba Church

The famous 14th-century holy trinity Church sits on top of a hill directly in front of the great Mount Kazbek.

You need a good level of fitness to walk up the mountain. The walk is amazing, there are marked trails (you will not get lost) through stunning valleys. It is a 1 to 2 hour walk.

The visit to Gergeti Trinity Church can be combined with a longer hike up to the Ortsveri Glacier.

Hiking to Gergeti Glacier

For more adventurous travellers trekking to Gergeti Glacier is one of the most popular things to do in Kazbegi. It’s a tough trek but the landscape makes it worthy. The round-trip trek takes around 8-10 hours.

For people that take trekking and climbing more seriously, you can continue your way over the glacier to the top of Mount Kazbek.

Other day trips from Stepantsminda

Truso Valley, a landscape dotted with ancient towers and unspoiled villages.

Sno valler and Juta village, a stunning valley with great hikes. It’s also the link to Roshka.

Gveleti Waterfalls, both waterfalls are beautiful.

How to Get to Kazbegi from Tbilisi

From Tbilisi Didube Station there are shared minivans (called mashrutkas). You’re likely to hear people yelling “Kazbegi” trying to fill up their vehicles.

This is the easiest, cheapest (~10 Lari) and quickest way to get there, anywhere between 3.5 – 5.5 hour.

From Kazbegi to Tbilisi you just to the inverse. Getting a mashrutkas from the same central area in Stepantsminda. They depart when they are full.

photography – all rights reserved – Ana Rocha

Top Vegan places to eat in Yerevan

Armenian cuisine is rich in vegetables, meat, fish and lavash (flatbread), what doesn’t mean, that is not a good country to travel as a vegan. Especially the capital Yerevan. 

You start seeing some vegan/vegetarian dishes poping in the menus slowly in Yerevan, and many traditional Armenian dishes are accidentally vegan.

From my experience, Yerevan restaurants, in general, serve quality food and have always some options for vegan even if not identified as such.

Here, is a list of great places from where you can have a delicious vegan meal while travelling in the capital city of Armenia, Yerevan.

TOP vegan restaurants in Yerevan
Jengyalov Hac

Cosy place that serves just one dish, the delicious Jengyalov Hac a flatbread with an assortment of about 20 types of fresh herbs from Artsakh. This is a great place for a cheap, traditional, tasty meal in Yerevan.

Dr.Veggie
A health-food shop and vegan cafe with an entirely vegan menu, serving some local dishes without meat. They have salads, dolma, blinchik and delicious soups.
Life food 

Raw vegan restaurant with a beautiful terrace space on Saryan Street. The food is delicious and they make creative combinations of flavours. They serve amazing burgers, pizza, ice cream, cake, drinks, bowls, soups and wraps.

Twelve Tables

A restaurant with great vegan options like soups, salads, bruschetta, burger and an absolutely divine raw vegan chocolate cake that you can’t miss.

Gouroo Club & Garden 

A cosy restaurant on Saryan Street offering organic, sustainable, natural, and local food. The most popular vegan dishes are the salad with avocado and apple, Soup Laksa and Cauliflower steak. The green juices are also a must.

Soul Kitchen

A Western Armenian home-style cooking restaurant that offers some absolutely delicious vegan dishes.

Elie’s Lahmajun

A cosy traditional family-run business that has some vegan options and exceptionally friendly staff.  They serve Armenian food in the heart of Yerevan and have an affordable menu and delicious food.

Crumbs The Bread Factory 

A coffee shop specialised in European bread and pastry baking.

But apart from the huge bread varieties its also a perfect place to stop and have a cup of coffee or a light healthy lunch. They have a few vegan options on the menu, including a baked falafel sandwich, soup, a delicious vegan sandwich and salad.

Eat&Fit

A great place with a fair amount of vegan options, perfect to go for a cup of fresh juice, a delicious snack or a light healthy meal.

Karas 

A vegan-friendly fast-food franchise with some vegan options such as Lenten dolma, vegetable cutlets and lentil soup.

Have you been in Yerevan, are there any other worth mentioning places serving delicious vegan food?

Top Vegan places to eat in Tbilisi

Once in Georgia, you will find out that lots of local Georgian dishes just happen to be vegan and true to be told.. they are delicious! So don’t worry, if you’re planning to visit this stunning country finding vegan food will not be a problem.

Tbilisi is the vibrant and cosmopolitan capital of Georgia, where the vegan scene is growing. Nowadays there are several outstanding options to choose from.

Here is a list of my favourite places in Tbilisi to eat a great vegan meal.

TOP 5 Vegan restaurants in Tbilisi
Namu

Outstanding place with mainly raw vegan food, gluten-free, sugar-free and table salt-free. Namu was the first raw plant-based place opening in Georgia.

They use high-quality ingredients and create something that is both a treat to the eyes and also incredibly tasty.

They serve fresh juice, kombucha, granola, chocolate, cake, soup, delicious toasts, bowls and rolls. If you want to try some of Ana Tikaradze’s creations she has some recipes on this website.

Irmale’s Cafe

Irmale’s is a small cafe serving healthy vegan dishes and indulgent dessert. They have an eclectic mix of breakfast and lunch options including salads, soups, buckwheat pancakes, juices, smoothies, avocado toast, vegan chocolate and cakes.

Living Vino: Natural Wine Bar & Vegan Food

A wonderful place serving delicious healthy vegan food. Ingredients are sourced from eco farms and the wines from local producers.

Kiwi Vegan Café

One of the most popular places for local vegans. They have an extensive menu, that includes delicious tofu, aubergine sandwich, a cheeseburger with fries, hummus, falafels, pizza, salads, soups, pasta dishes, and wraps.

Muhudo 

Vegan falafel shop in the centre Tbilisi that serves falafel, dips and drinks. The perfect place for a quick tasty snack.

Muhudo მუხუდო vegan yerevan

TOP 2 restaurants in Tbilisi serving vegan food
Mama Terra – Veggie corner

Mama terra is a vegetarian restaurant with lots of vegan options. The food is absolutely delicious from the wide selection of vegan sandwiches, quinoa bowls, tacos, raw spring rolls, soups, desserts, teas, kombucha and coffees.

The menu is well-marked as vegan, raw food and gluten-free and they use high-quality ingredients. The menu is constantly expanding.

Goby 

Goby is a healthy fast food place offering a wide variety of delicious food with a mixture of Georgian, Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisines.

They serve flavorful and filling falafels, different types of hummus including beetroot, tasty sandwich, fritters, soups like yellow pea soup and salads.

Have you been to Tbilisi? have you tried any of the restaurants mentioned? Share with me if you know any other outstanding places to eat delicious vegan food.

If you are travelling around the country you will need to know which traditional Georgian food is vegan! Find here how amazingly vegan-friendly Georgia is.

Travelling vegan in Georgia

Georgia is a stunning country to travel to and the vegan food is abundant, fresh and delicious. When you find your way around the meat and cheese, you discover a whole world of beans, veggies, bread, potatoes and mushrooms.

One of the reasons Georgian food is so vegan-friendly is because of the Orthodox fasting periods, that many adopt, where they can’t have any food from land animals. You will find that many restaurants have a ‘fasting menu’.

Many local Georgian dishes just happen to be vegan, making our life easier while travelling. In Tbilisi, you have some choices of restaurants and cafes serving specifically vegan food, but outside the capital, the reality is different.

I assure you will not have any problems to eat vegan even when visiting small villages.

Here is a list of some of my favourite vegan dishes that you can get from a regular place in Georgia serving local food.

Vegan-friendly Georgian food
Veggie pâtés

Pkhali – different coloured balls of vegetables minced with walnuts and seasonings, normally with garlic, onion, herbs. The most common are spinach, aubergine and beetroot.

Eggplant with walnuts (Nigvziani Badrijani) – Slices of eggplant that filled with walnuts, coriander and garlic, served cold topped with pomegranates.

Red pepper stuffed with walnuts – as the name says is a red pepper filled with hearty walnut paste.

Beans and bread

Lobio – It’s a bean stew served in a clay pot, made with red beans, onion, garlic, herbs, and local seasonings. Mchadi – cornbread that is usually eaten with Lobio. Comes in fried and non-fried varieties.

Acharuli, Stew boats – a boat-shaped bread from Georgia, is the most popular filling melted salty cheese and egg. Although I found other options, from aubergine stew, wild mushrooms, spinach and other greens and even with tomato and cucumber salad.

Georgian Pastries: Lobiani – Is a mashed bean-filled bread easily found everywhere. Similar to lobiani is the Mkhvlovani- made with a mixture of different kinds of herbs. I did find other pastries that were vegan but couldn’t memorise the names.

Georgian traditional dumplings

Khinkali – The easiest vegan ones to find are the ones with potato and mushroom fillings, but I also found some with beans and spinach.

Mushrooms

There are several dishes with mushrooms served in clay pots.

They also have wild stewed mushrooms, fried mushrooms, grilled mushrooms, etc.. If you are a mushroom lover like me Georgia is heaven on earth. 

Ojakhuri with mushrooms – instead of the traditional potatoes with pork, this one is with mushrooms.

Shilaplavi – Kind of a Georgian risotto with mushrooms.

Vegetable stews

Ajapsandali – is a vegetable stew made with onion, potato, aubergine, pepper, tomato, parsley and other seasonings, a little bit like a ratatouille.

Salads 

The most common one is Cucumber and Tomato Salad with a creamy walnut and herb sauce, but there are various other kinds of salads too. The Georgian beetroot salad with tkemali (plum sauce) is also quite easy to find.

Mexican potatoes – Thickly cut potatoes with lots of seasoning. They can be fried or baked.

Pickles – you can order mixed pickles or plates of specific pickles.

Vegan Georgian Sweets

Churchkhela –  also known as the Georgian Snickers is a traditional sweet made from nuts and fruit juice. It is extremely delicious, nutritious, healthy and energizing. To prepare it the string of nuts is repeatedly dipped in concentrated fresh fruit juice.

Tklapi – Thin fruit sheet.

Pelamushi – reminds a frozen pudding prepared with grape juice and walnuts.

Georgian Markets and Street food

There is no best place to explore Georgian food culture than visiting some of the markets.   Here you can find the best deals to buy fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, dried fruit and grains, coffee and tea, spices and much more.

Street food is not a strong concept in Georgia by any means, but you can occasionally find small stalls selling, fresh fruit, fresh cold-pressed juice and Turkish coffee.

Have you been to Georgia and tried any of these dishes? Do you know any other traditional Georgian dish that is accidentally vegan?

If you are looking for some great vegan restaurants in Tbilisi find them here!

photography – all rights reserved – Ana Rocha