Fifteen historical and natural monuments of Georgia are included in the Tentative List of UNESCO World Heritage Sites



Town: Akhmeta, Region: Kakheti, XI Century AD

Alaverdi St. George Cathedral (first half of the 11th century) is located 18 km from the town of Telavi in the Alazani-River valley. Earliest structures of Alaverdi Monastery date back to 6th century. The present day Cathedral is part of an 11th century Georgian Orthodox monastery. The Monastery was founded by the monk Joseph [Abba] Alaverdeli, who came from Antioch and settled in Alaverdi, then a small village and the former pagan religious centre dedicated to Moon. At the beginning of 11th century, Kakhetian King Kvirike the Great built a cathedral in the place of a small church of St. George.

Alaverdi is the highest cathedral in Georgia (up to 50 meters). It dominates the surrounding landscape in a fertile river valley against the backdrop of the Caucasus Mountains. It is a cross with three apses inscribed in a rectangle. In the western part of the building, there are galleries on the second tier of the side naves. The interior of the cathedral is extremely imposing. Outside the Cathedral is devoid of embellishments, and the facades have monumental blind arcades and niches for decoration, which give the entire structure an air of monumentality and solemnity. The walls are of fieldstone faced with hewn slabs of shirimi water tuff, now badly weathered.  An area enclosed by a fortified wall contains dwelling houses, the refectory of the monastery, wine cellars, baths, and other structures.

The characteristic features of the Kakhetian architecture with its upward aspiring tendency were reflected in Alaverdi. The decor is totally neglected. An impressive space of the interior of this church has no analogy in Georgia.



Nearest city: Tbilisi, Region: Mtskheta-Mtianeti, XVI—XVIII Centuries AD

The Ananuri fortified ensemble (architect K. Bakhsarashvili), dating from the 17th century, is located on the left bank of the Aragvi River, along the famous original Georgian Military Highway, 66km from Tbilisi. It incorporates a circuit wall with turrets, a porch, a Church of Virgin, a minor Church of Gvtaeba, a tower with a stepped pyramidal roof of Svanetian type, a single-nave Church Mkurnali, tower Sheupovari, a bell-tower, a spring and a reservoir. In the Church of the Virgin are buried some of the Eristavis (dukes) of Aragvi. The Church of the Assumption, built in 1689, has richly decorated facades with the fine relief carvings featuring human, animal and floral images, including a carved north entrance. It also contains the remains of a number of beautiful frescoes.

The wall paintings executed between the 17th and the 18th centuries contain the depiction of Thirteen Assyrian Fathers (prominent ecclesiastical figures), which represent a convincible evidence for the study of the iconography of these figures.



Regions: Guria, Samegrelo-Zemo (Upper) Svaneti, Adjara

Area of Colchis wetlands and forests is c. 74 826 ha. Due to its uniqueness, Colchis wetlands ecosystems were given a status of international importance under the Ramsar Convention in 1997.

This area is one of the last remains of the landscape belt, rich in tropical and sub-tropical habitats, which existed some ten million years ago and stretched as an almost unbroken line over the vast Eurasian continent. This is the unique territory with its biodiversity, wetlands and forest ecosystems variety, high endemism, richness in relics of the tertiary period and especial objects of geological and palaeontological importance.

The territory is cut by a numerous bog-type small stagnant rivers (Pichori, Kukani, Dedabera, Tkhorina, Tsia, Tsiva, Churia, Munchia, Mukhurjina, etc.). Here one can find the scenic lakes - Paleastomi, Patara Paleastomi, Imnati, Parto Tskali. The peat bogs such as Anaklia, Churia, Nabada, Imnati, Maltakva, Grigoleti and Pichori that contain contemporary and fossil unbroken peat layers are located in the coastal plain.  The thickness of the peat layers in certain places exceeds 12 meters. The main mass of peat in the mentioned bogs is subsided below the sea level.

The warm, humid climate and the dense hydrographical network have, to a great extent, contributed to the rich floristical composition and the development of rather diverse vegetation. The coastal peat bogs are the home for the Boreal flora species - sphagnum mosses - Sphagnum spp.; Drozera roxundiflora, Drosera rotundifolia, Rhinchospora afla, Carex lasiocarpa, Menianthes trifoliata, etc. The plants of the alpine zone -Rhododendron flavum and Rhododendron ponticum give the bogs especial appearance. In the swamped and wetland forests, alongside the peat bogs,Alnus barbata, Pterocarya pterocarpa, Quercus imeretina, Quercus  hartwissiana, etc., are found. These forests are characterised by the development of evergreen undergrowth (Hedera colchica, etc.). Aquatic plants, such as Nymphaea alba,  Trapa,etc., are common in  the peat bogs, lakes, swamp rivers and along them. The vegetation of coastal zone's sandy dunes is of much interest. On the substrata of this narrow stripe typical salt-loving, xerophytes and ephemeral vegetation (Hippophae rhamnoides, Paliurus spina-christi, Imperata cylindrical, Cynodon dactylon, Pancratium maritimum, Glaucum corniculatum, etc.) are developed. The uniqueness of the park's vegetation is determined by plentiness of relic and endemic species (Alnus barbata, Pterocarya  pterocarpa, Quercus imeretina, Quercus hartwissiana, Trapa, etc.).

The coastal zone together with the adjacent marine area lies along one of the main routes of migration of water-fowls and waders of Africa and Eurasia. Over 194 different bird species are found within the region, including 21 species of migratory birds. A number of species, such as Black Stork (Ciconia Nigra), Crane (Grus grus), Great White Egret (Egretta alba), are on the verge of extinction and included in the Red Data Book of Georgia. The National Park together with other areas of the Kolkheti lowlands is considered the homeland of the legendary Colchis pheasant. The park swamps, swamp rivers, lakes, swamped and wetland forests provide a shelter for a number of endangered species, such as roe deer, boar, otter, Triturus vittatusEmys orbicularis, Elaphe longisima. The marine area provides a comparatively undisturbed habitat for dolphins (Delphinus delphis, Tursiops truncates, Phocoena phocoena).



Nearest city: Tbilisi, Region: Kakheti, VI Century DA

David Gareji is located in Eastern Georgia, 25 km from Tbilisi, on Iori plateau near the border of Georgia and Azerbaijan. It includes the complex of 19 Medieval monasteries with approximately 5 000 cells for monks.

David Gareji is one of the most important landmarks of Georgia. This site is characterised by a unique combination of historic architecture, prehistoric archaeological sites, rich palaeonthological fields and important bio-geographical features widely spread within the arid and semiarid landscape of the river Iori plateau. The dozens of cave monasteries decorated with unique frescoes are the best examples of harmonious interaction of man made structures with the dramatic landscape. They bear the traditional principles of sustainable living and are considered as the masterpieces of Georgian Medieval art.

The archaeological excavations have revealed the remains of Acheulian, Mousterian, Kura-Araxes, and Trialeti cultures. Urban-type settlements of the Late Bronze and Iron Ages have also been discovered. After a gap in the classical period, significant archaeological material has come to light on Medieval sites, notably in the monasteries of the desert.

The foundation of monastic centre in the first half of 6th century in the Gareji desert is connected with the name of one of the 13 Assyrian Fathers, St. David named Garejeli and his disciples Lukiane, Dodo and others. Along with the Lavra founded by St. David Garejeli, they laid the foundation of the monasteries of Virgin (Dodos Rka) and St. John the Baptist (Natlismtsemeli).

In Medieval times, Gareji desert with its rock-cut monasteries and magnificent murals containing the portraits of Georgian Kings, served as one of the most important monastic and pilgrimage centres of Georgia. It was a Royal monastery with a primary and figurative meaning. The Kings themselves patronised and took care of it.

In addition to churches, chapels and cells, there were numerous caves at Gareji for practical, everyday purposes; caves which served as barns, bakeries, smithies and housing for livestock. Terraces were constructed for agricultural purposes.

Some unique mural paintings are preserved in the Gareji monasteries, the oldest of which go back to the 8th century. Analysis of the surviving remains leads to the conclusion that till the end of the 10th century they only partially painted the interiors of Churches: usually just the apse and dome, but sometimes the northern wall as well. The most ancient mural paintings are found in the Dodos Rka Monastery, on an apse of one of the small Churches. Mural paintings of the 10th century are to be found in the Tsamebuli and Udabno Monasteries.

The period between the end of 10th to the beginning of 13th centuries was a golden age of Gareji monasteries. The Gareji School of painting developed in this period. One of the main features of this School is the representation of episodes from the life of St. David Garejeli in addition to the canonical scenes. The oldest example is to be found in the first layer of paintings of the main Church chapel of the Udabno Monastery. Another feature of the Gareji school of painting is an abundance of contemporary and realistic portraits of Royal personages. In some cases, they are the only images to have survived.

The turn of the 12th and 13th centuries witnessed the creation of the mural paintings of Bertubani Monastery, the finest achievement of the Gareji School. They are very impressive free style works and are distinguished by complete renditions of Life of the Virgin Mary.

Paintings of the small Annunciation Church in the Udabno Monastery date to the second half of the 13th century. An unknown artist inspired by the Bertubani paintings created murals of the Annunciation in the canonical manner and in a similarly free style; the colours, however, are darker.

The Mongol invasions of the first half of the 13th century brought monastic life at Gareji to an end for the time being. New mural paintings were not to be made until the 17th and 18th centuries, when serious attempt were made to revive monastic life, albeit on a small scale.

David Gareji area as a distinguished sacred site and a prominent monument of cultural heritage has never lost its importance. The historical value of David Gareji deserts monastic complex as well as uniqueness of biodiversity of its site still remains a reason for the urgent need for their care.



Region: Kvemo (Lower) Kartl

Recent excavations of Dmanisi have revealed an extraordinary record of the earliest hominid dispersal beyond Africa (1,75 million years ago). Several hominid individuals along with abundant well-preserved remains of fossil animals and stone artefacts have been found. The Dmanisi specimens are the most primitive and small-brained humans found outside of Africa to be attributed to Homo erectus sensu lato, and they are the closest to the presumed Homo habilis-like stream. It is widely recognized that Dmanisi discoveries have changed scientist's knowledge concerning the migration of homo from Africa to the European continent.

Dmanisi is located about 85 km south-west of Tbilisi buried below the ruins of the medieval town of Dmanisi, in the Mashavera River Valley, which drains the Javakheti volcanic chain to the west of the site. The site is situated on a promontory elevated about 80 m above the confluence of the Mashavera and Pinezaouri River valleys. Just prior to the occupations at Dmanisi, the Mashavera Valley was filled by 80-100 m of mafic lavas that formed the Mashavera Basalt. This basalt dammed the Pinezaouri Valley, forming a lake ca. 1 km long immediately south of the site.

The hominid and artefact-bearing deposits (up to 3 m thick) directly cover the original surface of basalt layer (Mashavera basalt) and are magnetically normal, dated ca. 1.8±0.01 Ma and correlated with Olduvai subchron. No evidence of erosion and minimal weathering of its surface suggest that the basalt was quickly buried by volcanic ash and fossiliferous sediments.

Presently two main stratigraphic units are distinguished in the exposed sections:

  • Stratum A, bearing vast majority of the faunal materials and all hominid remains - consisting of pyroclastic silt and fine sand with weak pedogenic structure and pedogenic carbonates in the upper part.
  • Stratum B, with highest densities of stone artefacts but poorer with fossils - consisting of weathered volcanic silts and sands, with dark grey ash in the middle of the unit and prominent basal grey ash.

These two layers are separated by calcareous horizon that has halted further diagenetic damage and compaction in stratum A thus allowing remarkable fossil preservation. The structure and thickness of calcareous horizon is variable in different locations and is posing questions concerning sedimentation process that need to be clarified.

Central geographic location, dramatic biodiversity, and the extremely dynamic geologic evolution of the Caucasus region on the Neogene-Quaternary boundary, permits to generate not only new geologic information, but also new protocols for expanding stratigraphic studies and archaeological site surveys by teams working in the important adjacent regions of the Levant, south-eastern Europe, and south-central Asia.

Dmanisi archaeological material is well dated by science-based methods to about 1.75 million years ago. The Lower Palaeolithic site has the fascinating and unusual context of being located underneath the medieval ruins of an ancient town and fortress frequently visited by tourists. In fact, the Palaeolithic excavations have all been conducted from within the walls of ancient structures. From point of view of the early palaeontology, the site has been known since 1983 when fossilized bones of extinct animals were found by medieval archaeologists in the walls of household pits of the Dmanisi medieval town. Immediately, it was clear that we were dealing with late-middle Villafranchian fauna, of approximately 1.8-1.7 million years in age. Then in 1984, with the discovery of primitive stone tools, a new page started not only in the history of the site excavations, but of one of the major events in human evolution: the peopling of the northern latitudes and eventually the entire globe. Dmanisi is the key to deciphering Homo's origins and for tracing the earliest Pleistocene hominid migrations. Dmanisi have an iconic position inthe discovery and demonstration of human evolution.

Recent excavations of Dmanisi have revealed an extraordinary record of the earliest hominid dispersal beyond Africa. Several hominid individuals (4 skulls, 3 of them with maxillas, 4 mandibles, 16 isolated teeth and 24 post-cranial elements), along with abundant well-preserved remains of fossil animals and stone artefacts have been found. In 2003-04 field season another new hominid mandible, with fascinating pathologies having implications for the evolution of human disease and also social behaviour has been discovered. It was also found a new tibia and talus (ankle) bone, which will allow accurate estimations of body size, body proportions and locomotory behaviour. This is the richest and most complete collection of indisputable early Homo remains outside of Africa with good stratigraphic context, now well dated to about 1.75 million years ago. At Dmanisi, there is also clear potential to define and compare records of serial occupations in single locality.

Dmanisi discoveries are most ancient in whole Eurasia and are dated to 1.75 million years ago. There is the great potential for further finds as well.



Nearest town: Kvareli, Region: Kakheti, XVI Century AD

City of Gremi, capital of vanished Kachetian Kingdom of Georgia, located on the Gilian-Shemakha branch of the Great Silk Road, was destroyed by the army of Shah Abbas in XVI c. and never been restored since then. The ruins of Gremi city are now important Late Medieval archaeological site with ruins of churches, trading arcades, baths and dwellings. Gremi attracts visitors with the well-preserved architectural complex: Church of Archangels Michael and Gabriel and the Royal Tower.

The Gremi Church was built and painted upon the order of King Leon in 1565. Peculiar relation of proportions to separate volumes of Gremi Church attaches new features to traditional structure of Georgian cross-cupola churches. The main cross of the building is very high and narrow. The arches are arrowed and have not capitals or tractions. The dome is supported on two free-standing piers and the extensions of the apse. The fabric is of so-called Georgian brick. The façades are samples of developed brick church decorative system characteristic to late feudal epoch in Georgia. The forms of décor are achieved through deepening of planes and turquoise fittings. The wall painting of construction period is preserved inside the Church. The Gremi Church has become a prototype for a whole group of other church buildings in Georgia.

A three-store tower is erected beside the Church of Archangels. The two bottom floors are built earlier than the Church itself. There is a big, wide and high room on the ground floor. Along the back wall of the room, there is a corridor, which leads to the first and second floors. There is a belfry on the top of the tower.

The aspiration and rush for height of the Kachetian architecture is shown in Gremi with force incomparable hitherto. Elegance of silhouette of a Church and a Tower is an attractive architectural dominant in vast space. Through its location and interrelation with the surrounding landscape, the Gremi Church acquires outstanding artistic importance and remarkable force.



Nearest town: Telavi, Region: Kakheti, X Century AD

The Church in Kvetera is erected on the top of a hill within the structure of the 10th century Kvetera Fortress. The Church of Kvetera Fortress is a very interesting composition, light, refined and exquisite. It is a tetraconch in plan (four-apse cross with four niches between apses) and is built of carefully hewn local tuffa stone shirimi. The central square of the church, crowned with the dome is intersected crosswise once on the naves of the cross and then bias by its three-quarter niches. We have in result as though a star with rays of different length. There are the chancel-bays in front of each apse. On the corners of each nave, there are three semi-columns. The imposts of arches have the profile, which is repeated in imposts of all under-cupola and apse arches as well as in the basis of the semi-spheres of corner spaces. All arches are round. The transition from the square to the under-cupola circle is created by the system of arches, placed at different levels. The dome is round inside with one window on the East and West and two windows on the North and South. There are also the windows in all apses and corner niches. In the chancel apse, there are three windows. The entrances to the church are in southern and western apses. The altar from the hewn stone is preserved in the chancel. From the outside, the apse ledges are pentahedral. All facets are adorned by arches. The three-quarter corner niches are round from outside. Beyond corner niches, there are four corners of the basis of under-cupola square. The drum of the dome is divided to 12 arches. The church is roofed with glazed blue tiles.

As a certain squad in the history of architecture, Kvetera Church is interesting due to its composition conception. Kvetera Church has been forethought and configured by its architect as a graceful, miniature and decorative building. Within the framework of capacities of the 10th century Kachetian architecture, without using ornamental carving, architect created fascinating monument. Kvetera Church is a small elegant building, which reproduces, with innovative and creative modernisation, the earlier achievements of the ecclesiastic architecture in Georgia.



Region: Kakhet

Mta-Tusheti, a small historic geographic region in Eastern Georgia located on the northern slopes of the Greater Caucasus Mountains, covers the area of approximately 796 sq. km. It is one of the most ecologically unspoiled regions in Caucasus. Mta-Tusheti vernacular architecture in general and fortress-like residential buildings in particular represents special interest in terms of their unique and distinctive architectural forms. This region is remarkable for the extraordinary beauty of its alpine landscapes and represents greatest importance as a habitat of numerous rare and endemic animal and vegetative species.

Forest belt with its upper part is represented by the sub-belts of Pinus sosnowskyi andBetula litwinowii, from 1650 meters to 1800-1900 meters above the sea level. Sub-alpine belt goes higher (up to 2500-2550 meters a. s. l.), where the forest vegetation is represented by the same formations. Pinus sosnowskyi are featured by geo-botanical diversity. Here the large group of associations is represented, among which the typical Northern (boreal) associations as well as the associations peculiar to the Caucasus pinous associations, are noted. Berch forests dominate on the Northern slopes and the slopes of the exposition transient to North. The birch forests are represented by the two association groups: Rhododendron caucasicum and Betuleta herbosa. In subalpine and alpine zones the meadows (hayfields and pastures), also those of Rhododendron caucasicum are widely spread. Above 2300 meters (Sub-alps, Alps) primary high mountain meadows and Rhododendron caucasicum are spread. On the slopes of Northern exposition in Sub-alps (also the upper sub-zone of forest zone) the Juniperus oblonga, J. depressa, J. Sabina are spread. High grass is found in form of small areas and fragments on the slopes of Northern exposition, flatnesses, and hollows. High grass of Tusheti is totally deprived of Kolkhetian species such as Heracleum sosnowskyi, Telekia speciosa, Aconitum orientale, Senecio rhombifolius, Veratrum lobelianum and others. Highland meadows are phitocenologically diverse. Especially widespread areNardus glabriculmis, Festuca varia, Alchimilla sp., Sibbaldia parviflora, Carex tristismedows. In subniveal zone (3000 meters above the sea level) the open cenoses are found (vegetation of rocky places and scree vegetation), while in relatively favourable conditions we can see small areas and fragments of Alpine meadow (Festuca varia, Colpodium variegatum, Sibbaldia semiglabra, Veronica minuta, Cerastium purpuraglens and others).

From mammals found here, the Front-Asian panther is notable. From the Bovidae family,Capra cylindricornis and Rupicapra rupicapra caucasica are found here, the number of which is being reduced in the whole Caucasus. From other hoofed animals, roe deer and wild boar are found here. From other beasts of prey, apart from Front-Asian panther, there are lynx, wild cat, and wolf. From other predators, endangered Lutra lutra meridionalis is notable. From bird species, Gypaettus Caucasian endemic species are notable: Tetrao mlokosiewiczi, and Tetraogalus caucasica. From amphibians Vipera kaznakovi Caucasian endemic specie is notable.



Nearest town: Ambrolauri, Regions: Racha-Lechkhumi and Kvemo (Lower) Svaneti, XVI—XVII Centuries AD

The Nicortsminda Cathedral of St. Nicholas is one of the most important architectural monuments of the medieval Georgia. It is located in the village bearing the same name in the mountainous region Racha in Western Georgia. According to the epigraphy on the western entrance, Nicortsminda Cathedral was built during the reign of King Bagrat III in 1010-1014.

The Cathedral is interesting because of its plan: it is inscribed within a hexagonal whose sides, with the exception of the West one, are flanked by the apses; from the outside, it is cruciform. The chapels were added later, but also in the 11th century. Cathedral is generously decorated with rich ornamental relief depicting Transfiguration, Doomsday and other evangelic subjects, figures of the Saints, and of real and fantastic beasts. Nicortsminda lapidary decoration testifies to the superb skill of the craftsmen and the artistic standards, which make this Cathedral one of the most outstanding examples of Georgian architecture.

The interior is decorated with wall painting of 16th and 17th centuries with numerous portraits of feudal rulers.




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