Weekend activity: Ridge Hike to Vardzia

Koma-Kams Abkhazia

We reach Vardzia, a mysterious rock-hewed cave city that sits at the centre of the former Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic, Abkhazia. Vardzia is surrounded by towering mountains, making it a perfectly safe spot from which to hike the trail to the village itself, which lies about an hour’s walk away. The city has since been incorporated into Georgia, but its 800 inhabitants remain here today.

1. Stroll down the narrow cobbled steps of the ancient town square. Spend some time studying the striped artificial tree rings on the plinth; an Abkhaz tradition that dates back to the Middle Ages.

2. On your right, walk past a Roman amphitheatre (the villager was sure visitors would come), where you can glimpse the ruins of an art school that was destroyed by a storm in the 16th century.

3. Stay in the Museo Strosshan, a converted monastery that offers incredible views of both the Abkhazian mountains and the town itself. Designed by architect Enoch Pirash, it’s a jumble of colourful, original buildings that has been beautifully restored. It is also a great hotel – with rooms from £20 a night.

4. Next, make your way to the tile-roofed church in Vardzia’s fenced-off centre. This is where the novel is set; Dmitry Butylianou’s ambitiously conceived work describes a mysterious kingdom nestled among the hills.

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