Day trippin’ to Mtskheta and Jvari from Tbilisi

A quick guide on how to get to Mtskheta from Tbilisi, Georgia’s capital. Includes info on the cheapest way to visit Mtskheta from Tbilisi using public transport (marshrutka), and useful historical information on Mtskheta.

 

Though Tbilisi is a hopping city with plenty to see and do, sometimes you just need a breath of sweet, relatively-smogless air and a moment or two without the sounds of cars honking. When that need arises, the nearby city of Mtskheta (pronounced mush-ket-ah... we think) is a great day trip from Tbilisi. Mtskheta and the neighboring monastery of Jvari are both UNESCO world heritage sites, for good reason. Below you can find our guide on getting from Tbilisi to Mtskheta, and what to do in Mtskheta.

Panorama of Jvarti overlooking Mtskheta

The reason: they real nice.

A day trip from Tbilisi to Mtskheta

The Mtskheta area has been occupied since around 1000 BCE, and the inner city surrounding the central cathedral is quite charming with its cobblestone streets and mountainous backdrop. It is also one of Georgia’s oldest cities and its former capital. Mtskheta became a cultural heritage site in 1994.

Things to do in Mtskheta

There are several historical monuments in Mtskheta, which together make up the world heritage site. You can find info on them below

Svetitskhoveli Cathedral

The cathedral in the center of town, Svetitskhoveli (pronounced *???*… don’t ask questions), circa 300 CE-ish, is grand, awe-inspiring, and filled with plenty of beautiful icons to be kissed. There are also loads tombstones to be carefully skirted–or stomped upon, for the more antagonistic souls.

Looking for more things to do in Tbilisi? We got you. Check out our post on three days in Tbilisi on a budget!

Mtskheta from across the river

Look at that sexy town there. That’s Svetitskhoveli in the middle (…obviously).

People claim that the cathedral is built upon the burial ground of *THE* robe of Christ. Which robe, I do not know. The explanation further states that a Georgian Jew bought the robe off of a Roman soldier, then brought it back to Georgia. Methinks the Roman was likely laughing all the way to the bank, but for the Georgians’ sakes, I hope his souvenir was worth as much as he paid for it.

There is also a pillar inside the cathedral made of a cedar tree, that is said to have cured diseases and healed blindness when touched.

Jvari Monastery

The monastery is, to put it frankly, in a freaking epic location, and provides an excellent vantage point of Mtskheta and the river around the town, Aragvi. It’s a bit smaller and younger than the cathedral in town, being built around 500 CE. From what we could see when not being assaulted by the 38291309 different wedding parties that were swarming the place while we were there–clearly it is The Place to Be for people looking to tie the knot–it was just as incredible.

Weddings at Jvarti monastery outside Mtskheta

A wedding for you and a wedding for you and a wedding for you…

There are several other historical sites scattered around the city. These include the 3rd-century BC fortress of Armaztsikhe, the 11th-century Samtavro Monastery and, when the water is low, an old Roman bridge crossing the river. 

How to get to Mtskheta from Tbilisi on a budget

Mtskheta is easily reached by public transport from Tbilisi. Below you can find out how.

Getting to the minibus station in Tbilisi

Your journey begins with getting to the Didube bus station in Tbilisi. Go to your nearest metro station, and take the metro to Didube for 1 GEL (it’s a flat rate regardless of distance).

Once there, exit the metro and head through a tunnel out into the market/bus area. There will be plenty of taxi drivers, marshrutka (minibus) drivers, and random drivers of questionable origins milling about. Ignore the drivers that tell you there are no marshrutky going, or that they can do it cheaper. They’ll probably be telling you this in Russian anyway, so if you don’t know any Russian, it will be even easier to ignore them! Joy!

Head towards the signs that say “Kazbegi“. If you don’t see them, you can ask people “marshrutka Mtskheta?” and point in some direction questioningly. If you hear the word taxi, ignore and remind them you want a marshrutka. A useful Russian phrase: tollko marshrutka (только маршутка), only marshrutka.

Kazbegi sign minibus

Follow the signs to Kazbegi/ minibusses. Ignore stink eyes.

Once you find the minibus area, you can get a ticket from the cashier counter. It’s labeled with a blue sign that also has English writing on it. Conversely, you can also pay the marshrutka driver once you get off the bus, but it’s probably easier to determine the amount to be paid before getting on the bus, rather than while it’s in motion. A round trip to Mtskheta and back should be 1 GEL per person. Cheap, right?

Buying ticket to Mtskheta

1 GEL? Oh, you tease.

The minibus from Tbilisi to Mtskheta

You’ll know you’re in Mtskheta once you see the cathedral in the city center. The ride is about 20 minutes from Tbilisi. We’re not sure if the minibus has a specific halting point in the city–we just got off once we seemed somewhat close to the cathedral and other people were getting off.

Mtskheta to Jvari monastery

After checking out Svetitskhoveli Cathedral and once you’ve wandered around the city a bit, you can head to the Jvari monastery by taxi. We were told you could get there on foot, but we’re thinking that’s only for the hardcore walkers–the monastery is around 12 kilometers from the city.

For us normal humans, a taxi is the way to go. The taxi can be bargained to 10 GEL (in total, not per person) for a round trip to the monastery, or so we’ve heard from others. We paid 20 because derp, and we couldn’t remember how much it was supposed to be at the time.

You can always share a taxi with other stingy backpacker folks that you might see wandering about. We only saw Russian tour groups, but February isn’t exactly peak tourist time. The taxi ride takes about 15 minutes because of winding roads.

Getting back from Mtskheta to Tbilisi

Once you’ve communed with God/given up on becoming a monk/seen what you wanted to see, you can head back from Mtskheta to  Tbilisi via the minibus. They follow the same route going out of the city as they do going in. There are no specific stops, so if you see a minibus with some kind of sign in the window, just flag them down and ask if they’re going to Tbilisi (they probably are). We caught ours outside of the Samtavro cathedral, a smaller church + monastery combo nearby the main cathedral which, coincidentally, was also filled with 10001 wedding parties. Go figure.

All in all, the total cost of transportation is 12 GEL, less if you share a taxi with someone, which you probably will. Enjoy your visit to Mtskheta!

Where to stay in Tbilisi

Tbilisi is a hopping city with loads to do. Many travelers plan to stay only a few days, but end up staying much longer than that. If you’re looking for a good place to stay in Tbilisi, consider the following options:

  • BroBro: Centrally located with a friendly and helpful staff, this place is great for budget travelers – Book BroBro Hostel now.
  • Gallery Hostel Tbilisi: A stylish hostel catering to the upper-budget and mid-range segment of travelers – Book Gallery Hostel Tbilisi now.
  • Homestays: We are a big fan of homestays, as they allow you to get a better understand of the people and culture you’re visiting – Book your homestay in Tbilisi now.

 

Big fat georgian wedding

A summary of our day out in Mtskheta.

 

Have you ever been to Mtskheta or other places in the Mtianeti region? Have tips for other travelers? Share in the comments below! It will bring great honor to your family.

Yay transparency! There are affiliate links in this post. If you book a stay after clicking on one of the links, we get a small commission, at no extra expense to you. We haven’t sold our soul to booking.com or anything–we honestly found booking rooms through their website to be the cheapest option throughout Georgia. We stayed in all budget options listed, and picked the mid-range options based on recommendations by other. This is how we manage to keep this blog running. It takes a lot of time and effort, after all! If you’ve found our content helpful, we’d love it if you’d do us a solid and book through one of these links 🙂 Cheers!

Alex

American by birth, British by passport, Filipina by appearance. Addicted to ice cream. Enjoys climbing trees, dislikes falling out. Has great fondness for goats which is usually not reciprocated.

More about Alex Reynolds

26 thoughts on “Day trippin’ to Mtskheta and Jvari from Tbilisi

    Helpful post! We’ll be visiting Georgia and probably Mtskheta next year!

    Glad it’s helpful. We highly recommend Mtskheta. It’s gorgeous, and an easy day trip from Tbilisi. Enjoy your trip to Georgia!

    This article was super useful guys!We went to visit Mtskheta a few day ago and followed your advice.We took a minibus (marshrutka) from the Didube bus station.Beautifully written article and super useful!!Keep them coming!

    Glad we didn’t send you in the wrong direction! It’s a beautiful place, no? Got invited to any Georgian weddings?

    Shu says:

    Such a helpful post, thank you! We will be spending 10 days in Georgia to celebrate my parent’s anniversary and my sister’s graduation. Thanks to you Mtskheta is now on the bucket list! We are still building out itinerary and trying to figure out where to go/eat and how to move around. Thanks very much!

    Sebastiaan says:

    You’re most welcome. Congratulations to your parents and sister. Georgia is a great place to celebrate. Have fun!

    guywhowroteit says:

    hello
    i won’t get into other details, just wanted to say that the pronunciation of Mtskheta and Svetitskhoveli is actually ‘mtskheta’ and ‘svetitskhoveli’.
    thank you for your attention,
    a guy who wrote this comment/reply/message

    Sebastiaan says:

    Thank you for this enlightening insight, oh master of Georgian pronunciation.

    Anh Nguyen says:

    Thank you for all the post related to Georgia, I found lots of help here (I must say I got almost information for my trip from here)
    I totally agreed that Georgia is beautiful country, people are incredible nice and good nature, and the best thing is living cost is unbelievable cheap.
    Keep the page coming more destination. I properly be your loyal follower.

    Sebastiaan says:

    That’s great to hear. We’re super happy we could be of help, and really glad you liked Georgia!

    Denise says:

    Thanks for the blogpost and the tips. We followed your advice and saved ourselves 200lari that we can now spend on wine 🙂 We asked one of the cafes for taxi and they arranged it for us for 15 lari. And it was much more fun going with the minibus and seeing the local life.

    Sebastiaan says:

    That’s so great to hear. Was 200 lari what they quoted at your hotel to arrange it? That money is much better spend on wine and tasty food indeed! Glad you had a great time 🙂

    Michael from London says:

    Very useful and amusing article, thanks! We are two weeks into a three week trip around Georgia and having a wonderful time. This is our third trip! Lots of other people seem to have discovered Georgia now, but I suppose it would be selfish to keep it to ourselves…

    Sebastiaan says:

    Glad you liked it. Yeah, we see Georgia mentioned more and more. It’s a good thing for the country, as they certainly can use the tourist money. Let’s hope tourism will be done sustainable, though. Have fun!

    Sebastiaan says:

    Glad you liked it. Yeah, we see Georgia mentioned more and more. It’s a good thing for the country, as they certainly can use the tourist money. Let’s hope tourism will be done sustainable, though. Have fun!

    Rob says:

    You can walk up if you follow the track on maps.me. Head up the river (North-east?) to a footbridge then run across the main road and you’ll reach a farm from there take the track up to the cathedral road. It’s an hour’s walk each way from svavitsajikil monestary and much more enjoyable considering you have just taken a minivan to svatsajikil cathedral. I marked a shaded picnic bench on the way up.

    Depp says:

    Thank god I’ve found your post. Me and my friend are planning to visit Georgia this November and we’ve got headache how we will travel to the expect place in Georgia. So now it will be easier for us to make a plan. 😀

    Varsha says:

    Hi Alex,

    This article is super helpful- I’m planning a holiday around May this year to Georgia. Just wanted to know, did you’ll visit the Colourful Lakes of Abudelauri in Mtskheta Mtianeti? If so, how far are these from the main city? The pictures I’m seeing show them all in the middle of nowhere.
    Your views on this will be very helpful.
    Thanks in advance!

    PS: Could I please write you an email for some additional advice on planning my itinerary for a trip to Georgia? I need help with certain specific stuff. I promise not to spam you! 🙂

    Jeraldine says:

    GReat guide!!! I love the way you wrote your experience and thoughts !!! haahahhaa,, this really helped me a lot in planning our itinerary… Please suggest a specific Homestay (where you stayed). Is it better to avail homestay or rather book in a hostel? Please I need your suggestion about this 🙂

    Alex says:

    I always like to recommend homestays, as they’re a great way to experience local culture and ensure money goes directly to people/small businesses. (Plus Georgians are awesome and homestays are almost guaranteed to involve delicious local produce and… wine!) If you can find one in your budget, do it! I didn’t stay overnight in Mtskheta, though.

    Ann says:

    Your blog is great (great name too), very helpful info. on Georgia we will use. Keep it up and great adventures to you. You can definitely make this a lifetime avocation. I am 71 years old with over 70 countries under my belt, mostly in the developing world (the Caucasus are not anymore). I’d love to know where you’ve been and heading, but oh well. All the best.

    PINELOPI says:

    Thanks a lot!
    Posts like yours make travelling stress free.

    Xabi says:

    I was there today. Thanks for the really useful info, brilliant.
    *Updated prices July 2019, 1 lari single trip (100% inflation, Jeysus), and 15 GEL ( before bargaining) shared taxi to Jvari.
    And of course, summer Sunday, guess how many weddings were being held today…
    Thanks again. Didi magdoba !!

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