Lost historic region features spectacular rock formations and hiking in Gome Valley

This week I visited Vardzia, one of Georgia’s dramatic rock-hewed caves. The caves are 1,230 feet high and encompass some 8,000 acres.

Originally occupied in 1200 BC by Indus and Mesopotamian cultures, they were abandoned in the early 1950s. They’re now protected as the Bikaner Parks and Museums.

Only 36 km long, Vardzia is as mysterious as it is intriguing. Its history is unknown. There are no archaeological sites nearby — and there’s little sign of a Muslim population; references to people from Iran and Pakistan are from the 13th and 14th centuries.

The district of Gordzia, which is part of the Vardzia City Municipality, has three limestone caves — the oldest dating to 1,500 years ago. There are a total of 19 caves and 20 rock-hewn towers. Six cave trails run through the vast landscape and visitors can hike to the top of a 1,300-foot rock face for 360-degree views.

There are also 700 acres of nature, including wetlands, meadows and forested ridge regions. Crossways have been constructed to establish a small hotel and guesthouse near the caves, and trails lead to the nearby villages of Gurkara, Uchad and Tiberaria.

The Tiberaria gorge is famous for blue trout, red sand trout and buffalo longhorn cattle. The Tiberiya fjord is famed for whitewater swimming.

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