For a truly authentic journey away from overcrowded tourist attractions and busy streets, consider Georgia, one of the world’s best-kept secrets. On Ker & Downey’s 7-night journey, you’ll visit Tbilisi and the surrounding area, Telavi, Kvareli, and Signagi, including the Bodbe Monastery, one of the major pilgrimage sites of the region, and Jvari Monastery, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Georgia is a seldom-traveled country full of hospitable people, beautiful scenery, and a long history of Christianity that has permeated the region and shaped its culture for centuries. The Apostles Simon and Peter first preached Christianity in the region in the first century, but it wasn’t until the fourth century when St. Nino the female evangelist began to spread the gospel in the region that people really began to take hold of the religion. She converted Queen Nana after a miraculous healing, as well as her husband, the pagan King Mirian III. According to legend, King Mirian III was walking through the forest after a hunting trip when the land became dark and he was blinded. In desperation he prayed to St. Nino’s God that he would be delivered from the darkness. After regaining sight, he renounced all other gods, converting to Christianity and declared it the official state religion of Georgia in 326. Before her death, St. Nino retreated to the Bodbe Gorge area where she eventually died. At the request of King Mirian III, a small church was built in the place that she was buried.
On Ker & Downey’s seven-night Georgian Panorama journey, you’ll travel to the Georgian Orthodox monastery of St. Nino, the Bodbe Monastery, located two hours east of Tbilisi. The monastery was built in the ninth century, underwent major renovations in the 17th century, and currently serves as a nunnery. St. Nino’s relics are still there, including a cross made of vines, with which St. Nino baptized the people of Georgia in the waters of Aragvi River in Mtskheta. The monastery sits atop a hill overlooking the beautiful Alazani Valley, with stunning views of the Greater Caucasus Mountains. Just down the hill from the monastery is the Spring of Nino. According to local tradition, the spring emerged from Nino’s prayers and it is said to have healing properties, making it a popular pilgrimage destination among Christians.
You will also visit the Jvari Monastery, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Mtskheta, the ancient capital of eastern Georgia and one of the country’s most important religious centers. Tradition says that on this location St. Nino erected a large wooden cross on the site of a pagan temple, symbolizing the fall of paganism in Georgia. The cross reportedly was able to work miracles and many pilgrims from all over the region flocked to it. In 545 a small church was built just north of the cross. Forty to fifty years later, a larger church was built over the remnants. From inside the church, you can see the base of the cross that still remains.
On June 1, Georgia celebrated the day St. Nino entered Georgia, forever shaping the history and culture of a country that remains nearly untouched by tourists. Visiting the various monasteries in the region is just a start to uncovering the splendor of Georgia. An afternoon spent at a local home for a meal shared over wine reinforces why the country is world-famous for its hospitality, not just its history.