Georgia's most-impressive UNESCO sites

Lauren Hill

Senior Contributor

Venture to some of Georgia’s most dramatic landscapes and uncover each of these regions’ ancient history by touring the some of the impressive sites listed by UNESCO.

Gelati Monastery

A medieval complex dating all the way back to 1106, Gelati Monastery is considered one of Georgia’s most important historic monuments. So much so, it was designated UNESCO World Heritage in the early 90s. The captivating monastery originates from the time of prosperity between the 11th and 13th centuries that’s become known as the Golden Age of medieval Georgia. Not only is this one of the largest Orthodox monasteries from that time, it also once housed a centre for science and education that made it one of the most significant cultural hubs in ancient Georgia. Visit this monastery on the wooded slopes near Kutaisi, which is the city you access the site from, in the western Imereti region and step inside the main cathedral to marvel at its colourful frescoes.


As one of Georgia’s oldest cities — said to have been inhabited since before 1,000 BC — and the former capital of the eastern Georgian kingdom, it comes as no surprise that this site was also designated UNESCO World Heritage in ’94. The city lies to north of Tbilisi in the Mtskheta-Mtianeti province where the Mtkvari and Aragvi rivers meet. Having historically been located on an ancient trade route, the city has since seen archaeologists unearth countless artefacts that give insight into its fascinating story. Many of these finds are now on display in the local museum. While you’re here, visit the sixth-century Jvari Monastery overlooking Mtskheta, seek out the city’s frescoed Svetitskhoveli Cathedral and stop by Gvinis Palata (translating to the wine chamber) for wine tasting.

Upper Svaneti

Earning its status as a UNESCO World Heritage site with a level of preservation that’s the result of long-lasting isolation, this region of the Caucasus combines its dramatic mountainous scenery with the presence of well-preserved medieval villages. The village of Chazhashi, which sits at the confluence of the Inguri and Black Rivers, is of particular importance. More than 200 of the region’s distinctive tower-houses, which once acted as defence posts as well as homes, remain here to this day, alongside churches and castles decorated with murals that are considered outstanding examples of Renaissance painting in Georgia. Further to its historical importance, this region remains culturally unique with the local Svan people retaining their long-held traditions.

David Gareja Monastery Complex

One of the sites included on UNESCO’s tentative list for potential World Heritage status, this complex of medieval monasteries, which famously encompasses thousands of cells for monks, is thought to be one of the country’s most important landmarks. These frescoed cave monasteries are said to be masterpieces of Georgian medieval art and archaeological excavations reveal evidence of ancient cultures and settlements in the Late Bronze and Iron Ages. You can visit the monastery complex, which was founded in the 6th century by Assyrian monks, by taking a guided tour that introduces you to the site’s historic landmarks along with this region’s mountainous and semi-arid desert landscape.

Tbilisi Historic District

Another site worth visiting on the tentative UNESCO World Heritage list is the historic district of Georgia’s capital, Tbilisi. Even as the city develops around it, this historic neighbourhood retains its medieval structure of traditional houses and churches along narrow winding streets. Years of neglect meant the deterioration of some of this architecture until a Save Old Tsibili initiative was launched to conserve and protect the area in 1998. This initiative was later followed by its nomination for the UNESCO World Heritage list. The buildings here are said to be an important example of Georgian urban heritage, which took on the influences of other cultures through the city’s geo-political location on the crossroads between Europe and Asia. You can take tours of this historic neighbourhood or simple stroll through the streets to take it all in. 

Uplistsikhe Cave Town

The third of Georgia’s many sites on UNESCO’s tentative list to be included here is the ancient rock-hewn town of Uplistsikhe. This intriguing cave complex on the left bank of the Mtkvari River in eastern Georgia is said to go back to the late Bronze Age from when it was inhabited until around the 13th century. Between the 6th and 11th centuries it was an important religious and political centre. Believed to be one of the oldest settlements in Georgia, it combines the rock cutting styles of Anatolia and Iran with both pagan and Christian architecture. You can take a daytrip from Tbilisi to explore the ancient rock structures and see sites including temples, an amphitheatre and cellars within its vicinity. Many of the artefacts found on archaeological excavations are now on display in the National Museum of Tbilisi.

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