Vardzia is a place I have wanted to visit since coming to Georgia. Monastic caves in the side of a mountain. And I had seen my friends take awesome pictures when they had visited. But getting there had always been a problem. It seems all the people I wanted to go with were leaving from Tbilisi, which was on the opposite side of the country from me. So had to bide my time.
The fortunate thing is Vardzia is such a visited place, that although several modes of transportation is needed to get to the destination, little Georgian is required to get there. We had to get a marshrutka to the city of Al. From there we had to rent a taxi. (Another issue that needed to be negotiated was determining when the last marshrutka back to Tbilisi was. You don’t want to get stranded in the middle of nowhere. Our awesome Hostel clerk wrote the question down for us in Georgian.)
I was told that the taxi rates for a round trip go for 50- 70 Lari. That includes a private direct route and the driver waits while we take our leisure touring the caves. We found one for 60 Lari. Our driver proudly proclaimed that he was from Armenia. And he was a happy-go-lucky fella. He even paid for our breakfast/snack of Khachapuri before we set off to Vardzia. I think he made his real money on ‘upgrades’ though. To go see a fortress 10 km away he wanted to charge 30 more Lari. Even to drive to the castle up the hill from the marshrutka station was a baffling 20 Lari. But he respectfully accepted each decline with, ‘no problem’.
Vardzia is in the middle of nowhere. We traveled for an hour through what looked like Arizona. Beautiful canyons and views, absent of people or homes. After an hour of dodging cows and potholes (No problem!), we finally reached our destination.
The caves were simply amazing and awe inspiring.
“Babe lets get packed..tank tops and flip flops if you got them
No shoes, no shirt, no problems
No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problem, Kenny Chesney