I haven’t heard much about David Gareja monastery complex before my spring trip to Georgia this May. Of course, I’ve heard the name but I wasn’t really considering going there. To be honest, I was mostly planning to indulge in the bars of the capital. Don’t judge me. One needs it sometimes, particularly when one resides in Yerevan. But then, out of sudden, I found a leaflet advertising a shuttle minibus taking people to David Gareja for just 25 GEL both ways. This sounded reasonable to me and I decided to give it a try. Bars could wait. I woke up early, ate oily khachapuri for breakfast and headed to find the meeting place.
If you follow this blog, you probably know I’m totally allergic to group tours. It’s not that I hate people. I just prefer to travel by myself, to take decisions myself and to have enough time to take pictures. I might be a weirdo but I just like taking the entire responsibility in my little hands. All that said, I must admit I was extremely lucky with the company that time. Believe it or not but I’m still in touch with some of the fellow explorers I shared the ride with.
The ride is a bumpy one. Fortunately, it’s picturesque enough not to think about the comfort. And hey, I’m saying that. I was pretty famous of motion sickness in my golden elementary school times so I think this statement means something. Make sure you keep your eyes on the road. The landscape on the other side of the cracked glass will be changing constantly. Maybe you will even be lucky enough not to get a car with a cracked glass. Be aware that this is a pure luxury in South Caucasus.
70 kilometers later and you are the final destination. So, what is Davit Gareja monastery complex and why do I think it is special and you should pay it a visit?
It is a rock-hewn Orthodox monastery complex located on the half-desert slopes of Mount Gareja.The monastery functions till today. The territory of the complex is cut by state border; part of the site is actually located in Azerbaijan. Yes, it looks at it sounds. I mean it. The scenery is pretty close to how I imagined moon when I was a kid. The monastery is a true gem of Georgian sacred architecture. Architecture, though, is only one of the aspects you should pay attention to while visiting this site. Then, there are the landscapes. I’ve heard some people call it Georgian Grand Canyon. Not sure if it’s relevant. How do you think?
Lower part of the monastery is located at the foot of the mountain. The parking lot you are taken to is minute away from the complex. It’s fantastic and you will love it. But you should keep going up to see the upper part. It’s an approximately one hour hike. Well, one hour if you stop every five meters to shoot a photo and breathe the fresh air as I did.
The hike was my fave part. I’m not super sporty but I love the spaciousness of this place. The kind that makes you calm. In places like that everything makes sense. Even the soldiers controlling the state border with their guns and cheap, smelly cigarettes. Everyone and everything suddenly makes sense. There is enough space. I was trying to capture it. I hope I did.
I loved the place so much that I returned there in June. I brought my mom there to see it. She shared my enthusiasm. If you have an opportunity, go.