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

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

Tbilisi travel guide

Tbilisi, the capital city and beating heart of Georgia, located in the Caucasus region is a vibrant place with a lot to offer. The country has borders with Turkey, Russia, Azerbaijan, and Armenia and it used to be part of the Soviet Union.

Tbilisi is the largest city in Georgia, located on both sides of the Mtkvari River. Finding your way around the city is quite easy, and the public transport system is efficient and easy to navigate. There are two metro lines, numerous buses, and cable cars that you can use.

Travelling to Georgia’s capital city?  What to do and see in Tbilisi
Old Town

The picturesque and largely intact Old town of Tbilisi is the perfect place to wander aimlessly and get lost in the maze of streets and narrow alleys. Don’t be afraid to get lost, that is the way to make the most of it.

You will stumble in colourful houses, wandering cats and courtyards, amazing old churches including the Sioni Cathedral. One of the oldest cathedrals of the city, beautifully decorated with wall paintings, the Armenian Cathedral of St George and the lovely Anchiskhati Basilica. The oldest church in Tbilisi Old Town built in the 6th century.

Old Town’s main artery is Kote Abkhazi Street (formerly Leselidze) which connects Meidan square with Freedom Square.

Old town old buildings

Tbilisi has colourful old houses but also tired, old buildings with cracked walls and decades of layers of fading and peeling paint. Abandoned places with leaning balconies and ancient wooden doors leading to courtyards.

Freedom Square and Rustaveli Avenue

The Freedom Square marks the edge of the Tbilisi Old Town, with its golden statue of Saint George and also the beginning of

Take a stroll along the trafficked and famous Rustaveli Avenue to admire the splendid architecture like the Biltmore Hotel, the Georgian National Museum, Rustaveli Cinema, former Georgian Parliament, Kashveti Church and the Georgian National Opera Theater.

Meidan Bazaar

The underground Meidan Bazaar close to Europe Square in Old Town is a charming place for a stroll.

Peace Bridge

The eye-catching Peace Bridge on the River Mtkvari is absolutely stunning, walk across it and look at the city. The bridge is just for pedestrians and is made of steel and glass, linkings Tbilisi Old Town with the new town.

Clock tower

Although it’s quite recent it’s one of the most emblematic structures of the city. An angel comes out and strikes the bell with a small hammer on the hour.

Narikala Fortress and Mother Georgia 

The best to reach the Narikala Fortress (free) is by cable car (but you can also walk). The Fortress is an iconic castle with views over Old Tbilisi. The views are superb from the castle walls which can fairly easy be reached.

While you are there say hello to Mother Georgia (Kartlis Deda) taking a scenic stroll to the right from the top of the cable car. You will see the 20 metres-tall aluminium sculpture.

Cable car and the Rike Park

For some of the best views of the city, the short ride is quite popular to see the city from the top. The cable cars swings from the south end of Rike Park up to the Narikala Fortress across the old town.

Rike Park is a beautiful flowery place with paths, pools and fountains.

Mt Mtatsminda, Mtatsminda Park and funicular

The Mtatsminda Park Is a small amusement park not a highlight for the rides, but because is located on top of the Mtatsminda Hill offering really good views over the city and an exciting ride up the funicular. Mtatsminda Park is the highest point surrounding Tbilisi.

Holy Trinity Cathedral of Tbilisi

A beautiful Orthodox Church with a massive golden cupola. the place also offers here good views over the city.

Tbilisi Botanical Garden

The Botanical Garden (2GEL ~€0.60) is located between the Old Town and Narikala Fortress and is a great place for a relaxing walk.

Try the local cuisine

Georgian cuisine is vegan-friendly, and there is a decent offer of vegan restaurants.  Find here which traditional dishes are accidentally vegan and a list of the best vegan places in Tbilisi.

Don’t miss out on visiting and shopping at the fresh produce market.

Tbilisi street art

Street art is for what I felt a relatively new trend. Tbilisi hides some beautiful art in its backstreets and underground passways, being the best places the underground passages Hero’s Square and Vake Park and also the Fabrika Hostel.

Tbilisi travel tips – to make you trip easier
How to get to Tbilisi

by airTo get from Tbilisi airport to the city centre, you need to take bus no 37. It runs 24/7 from the airport to the central train station. The ticket really cheap and can be bought on board.

by taxi: you can take a Yandex Taxi – a local version of Uber, popular in many post-USSR countries, just download the app before the trip.

From Kutaisi International Airport: the Georgian Bus does the journey from Kutaisi airport to Tbilisi. The ticket can be bought online or at the airport exit from the arrivals zone. The journey takes around 4 hours.

From Yerevan (Armenia) or Baku (Azerbaijan): the train is the best solution. The station is well connected with central Tbilisi by metro.

Day trips from Tbilisi

Tbilisi can be a perfect base for day trips. The most popular is Mtskheta, the holy city located 20 km away from the capital.

Other places you can easily visit as day trips from Tbilisi include David Gareja, Sighnagi, Gori, Uplistsikhe, Ananuri or Kazbegi (although they definitely deserve way more than a day).

Is it worth to visit Tbilisi? this is a definite YES!! Tbilisi is an interesting capital city with plenty to do and see. A unique blend of cultures, influences and religions.

photography – all rights reserved – Ana Rocha

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