Khertvisi Fortress and Sapara Monastery

After exploring the cave city of Vardzia, and despite the thunderstorms that had been rolling through the valley all morning, we had our taxi driver drop us off at Khertvisi Fortress. There has been a fortress on this spot for almost 2,000 years, although the walls that currently stand are “only” 700 years old.

Approaching Khertvisi Fortress

It started to sprinkle as we hurried up the rocky hill. Some cattle guarded the entrance. Judging by the fresh cow pies we had to avoid, they also maintained the grass inside the walls.

Standing guard

We stood in the rain and watched the valley emerge from the mist. The roving patches of sun and blankets of rain shifted the colors before our eyes.

The fortress bell

Tony and Alicia

Fat droplets started to fall and we ran down the hill to the taxi.

As we approached Akhaltsikhe, our driver pointed at a sign for Sapara Monastery. We didn’t plan on going there, but knew there was no way he was going to throw in the side trip for free, so we asked, “ra ghirs?” He pulled off the road, put on a pair of glasses and wrote a large number on the piece of paper that showed our previously agreed upon price. We laughed and said, “ara, ara, Akhaltsikhshi.” He scribbled a slightly smaller number on the page. We hesitated, but repeated our previous statement. He wrote one more number. Well, ok.

On the road to Sapara

The Lada’s engine roared to life and up the gravel road we went. Or careened, or hurtled, or whatever the appropriate adjective is for the things he was able to do with that car. It was truly amazing because back home this would be something that would be undertaken at a quarter of the speed, and maybe only then with four wheel drive.

Sapara from above

At the top of the mountain, Sapara emerged from the trees in all of its ancient glory. It was silent except for the lizards patrolling the stone walls, the hum of the bee boxes and the splashing of the spring water.

St. Saba, Sapara

View from Sapara

Architectural detail

Maybe the toolshed

We stayed longer than we intended, and of course our driver tried to extract more money from us by the time we returned, but we finally agreed on a price that was more than fair. Vardzia, Khertvisi, Sapara… it was such a full day! And it ended with a rainbow. What can we say? Georgia loves us as much as we love it.


(Click here for our short video of Sapara!)