Soviet-era excavations has proved that the area of Vardzia was inhabited during the Bronze Age. Later on in the 12th century, it served as a military base against the southern enemies. During the reign of King Tamar the importance of Vardzia significantly increased and achieved great prosperity. The annals tell us about the Queen's rich contributions to the monastery and the luxury of its caves. The chief seminary of southwestern Georgia was housing 2 000 monks until an earthquake ruined it in 1283. Another earthquake in 1456 was followed by invasion of Persian army in 1551, left Vardzia cave complex consisting of approximately 600 rooms of 3 000, which included stables, barracks, bakeries, wine presses and stores. The small church carved in the rock features fresco of King Tamar from the 12th century, only original image of queen which survived.
Location: 30 Km from Akhaltsikhe, 80 km from Borjomi, 200 km from Kutaisi