8. From Tbilisi: 2-Day Tour to Kutaisi
Day 1: Tbilisi - Gori - Uplistsikhe - Kutaisi - Gelati (Driving distance: 270 kilometers)
Depart at 09:30 from your hotel in Tbilisi. Begin your tour by visiting Joseph Stalin's Museum in Gori, established as a local history museum but clearly intended to become a memorial to Stalin. The main building of the complex is a large palace in Stalinist Gothic style. Enshrined within a Greco-Italianate pavilion is a small wooden hut, in which Stalin was born in 1878 and spent his first four years. After visiting Gori, drive further to Uplistsikhe cave city (10 kilometers east of the town of Gori). Uplistsikhe is identified by archaeologists as one of the oldest urban settlements in Georgia. It was an important religious, political and cultural center in the Hellenistic and Late Antiquity (4th-century BC - 4th-century AD). The central part of Uplistsikhe is the largest, containing a bulk of the Uplistsikhe rock cut structures, and is connected to the southern part via a narrow rock cut pass and a tunnel. Narrow alleys and sometimes staircases radiate from the central 'street' to the different structures. At the summit of the complex is a Christian basilica built of stone and brick in the 9th to 10th-centuries. The Uplistsikhe Cave complex has been on the tentative list for inclusion into the UNESCO World Heritage program since 2007.
On the way to Kutaisi (221 kilometers west of Tbilisi) have a stop at picturesque monastery of Gelati, which is a monastic complex near Kutaisi. It contains the Church of the Virgin founded by the King of Georgia known as David the Builder in 1106, and the 13th-century Churches of St. George and St. Nicholas. The site is renowned for its collection of 12th to 19th-century mosaics, wall paintings, enamels and metalwork. King David the Builder began constructing the monastery and academy in 1106 as a grand tribute to his victory over the Turks. The academy was one of the first institutions of higher education founded in the Middle Ages, and became a principal cultural center in Georgia. In 1994, Gelati was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and in 2006 was included on the list of Immovable Monuments of Georgian Cultural Heritage. Overnight in Kutaisi. Either in a guesthouse or 3-star hotel.
Day 2: Kutaisi - Sataplia caves - Bagrati Cathedral – Tbilisi (Driving distance: 260 kilometers)
Begin a day from visiting Bagrati Cathedral, which is regarded as a masterpiece in the history of medieval Georgian architecture; the Bagrati Cathedral is frequently used as the symbol of the city of Kutaisi. It was built during the reign of King Bagrat III (hence the name) in the 11th-century but was severely devastated in 1692 during the Ottoman invasion. The Bagrati Cathedral sits on a hill just above Kutaisi and offers a magnificent view of the city. It was Unesco World Heritage Site listed in 1994. Have a stop at an interesting place for Kutaisi visitors, at Sataplia Cave complex. The Sataplia karst cave lies 6 kilometers northwest of Kutaisi within Sataplia state preserve. Sataplia is known for its dinosaur traces which were discovered by Kutaisi environmentalist P. Chabukiani, who detected there a settlement of the primitive man, together with the footprints of a dinosaur. The Sataplia karst cave begins from the north and leads to the east. The 300 meter long, 10 meter high and 12 meter wide karst cave abounds in stalactites and stalagmites and a spring winds along its bottom. The air and water temperatures in the Sataplia karst cave are nearly equal ( 12 to 13 celsius). There is a speleological museum near it now. Visit one of the unique natural attractions of Georgia - Martvili canyon. Over millions of years, the water has created a breathtaking gorge in limestone rocks, reaching a depth of 40 meters, at the bottom of which flows a river. The total reachable length of the canyon is one kilometer. In the upper part of the canyon, take a boat trip and reach the beginning with a 7 meter high powerful waterfall. Due to the extremely humid microclimate there are lianas hanging from the huge rocks and centuries-old walls are covered with moss. Here and there, water pulls out from the rocky wall forming small streams and pretty powerful waterfalls.