Just 10 kilometers east of Gori is Uplistsikhe, a once vast cave city that housed as many as 20,000 before Christianity was introduced in Georgia.
The city was established in the 16th century BC and carved out of rocks, serving as a major regional center of pagan worship in the Caucasus.
After King Mirian II of Iberia converted to Christianity, the city declined in importance and lost its position to Mtshketa. It was eventually destroyed by the Mongols in the 12th century, although it still functioned as a hideout during invasions and as a stop in the Silk Road until the 15th century.
Majority of the caves have no decorations, while the larger ones have
coffered tunnel-vaulted ceilings or niches, suggesting they were used for ceremonies.
Near the top is a large slab of rock with shelf-like spaces for medicinal herbs and other ancient medicine. According to our guide Bako, this served as the pharmacy of the city. At the summit of the complex is a 9th century basilica built over the ruins of a pagan temple.
A tunnel leads visitors from the city to the riverside where a short walk takes us back to the park entrance.