Gori is the central city of Shida Kartli region, located around 85 km from Tbilisi, the capital. It’s considered to be one of the oldest settlements in the country. The proximity of the town to the capital enables you to visit it as a day or two-day trip. There are limited things to do in Gori, but the main reason tourists go there is to explore the birthplace and the museum of the Soviet leader, Joseph Stalin and travel back in time while wandering the ancient Uplistsikhe cave town.
How to get to Gori
Getting to Gori is not a problem at all. There are daily
If you are traveling around Georgia with a car, you’ll need to follow S1 highway from Tbilisi that goes through Mtskheta and Khidistavi.
A short history l
esson of Gori
From ancient times the region of Shida Kartli was crisscrossed by several essential trade routes going from the north to the south and from the east to the west. This contributed to the creation of several towns along the routes: Mtskheta, Mukhrani, Gori, and Urbnisi to name a few.
The name of the town, Gori, comes from a Georgian word gora, meaning the ‘hill’. According to the archeological studies of the area, a city-type settlement used to be on the territory of modern Gori at the turn of the 1st century AD.
Natural conditions and geographical location of the region rapidly defined its role in the establishment of the country. However, the fact that it was the epicenter of world trade roads, meant a lot of foreign invasions, including Persians, Ottomans, and Russians who ruled over the entire area.
Gori is also close to the breakaway region of South Ossetia and its capital Tskhinvali. During the Georgia-Russia war of 2008, the city of Gori was bombed by the Russian Air Force resulting in dozens of civilian injuries and 11 deaths. According to the Human Rights Watch, Russian forces indiscriminately deployed cluster bombs in civilian areas around the town. For a short time during the war, the town was occupied by the Russian military and separatist militia of South Ossetia. They only withdrew forces on August 22, ten days after the war ended. Today, the northern part of Shida Kartli, commonly referred to as Tskhinvali region is under de-facto control of a separatist regime and the Russian Federation.
If interested, there’s a Hollywood movie dedicated to the conflict called 5 Days of War, starring Rupert Friend, Emanuel Chriqui, Heather Graham, and Andi Garcia to name a few.
What to do in Gori, Georgia
As I mentioned above, there are limited things to do in Gori, but this shouldn’t keep you away from spending a night here. As I was traveling with my niece and nephew, I decided to take it a bit slow and spend 48 hours in Gori. Honestly, it was too much and we had plenty of spare time doing nothing in the evenings, but it also was a great, cheap getaway from Tbilisi for the weekend. Moreover, getting around the city is perfectly doable by foot. Everything you need to see is within a walking distance from each other.
Things to do in Gori: Joseph Stalin Museum
Gori is the birthplace of the Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, therefore, visiting his house-museum is the number one reason why travelers include the city in their Georgia itinerary.
The Jopseh Stalin Museum is located in the very center of Gori, on Stalin Street. The complex includes a memorial house where he was born, an exposition building, and his personal train carriage by which he used to travel to Yalta, Potsdam, and Tehran.
When the Soviet Government decided to build a museum for the great leader, they decided to construct it around his birthplace house. Therefore, it’s not a replica, it still stands where it used to be hundreds of years ago. Unfortunately, exploring the house from the inside is not allowed.
The exhibition building showcases his personal memorabilia, his study room and office furniture sent from Kremlin, gifts from the world’s delegations visiting him, manuscripts, his death mask, and the maquette of the mausoleum. More importantly, there are plenty of portraits, photographs, and busts of Stalin anywhere you look around.
Honestly, the museum made to my list of ‘the weirdest/unusual museums I have visited’ due to the fact that it showcases the dictator as a great leader, not talking about his actions that resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths.
The entrance fee for the Joseph Stalin Museum, including the exhibition halls, the carriage, and the house costs 15₾. The price includes a tour guide in various languages including English, Russian, and Georgia to name a few. And if you think the time spent here during the guided tour was not enough for you and would like to take a closer look at the exhibits, you can come back after the tour finishes and explore it on your pace without paying again.
The opening hours of the museum: every day from 10 a.m – 6 p.m in summer months; 10 a.m – 5 p.m in the winter months.
Things to do in Gori: Great Patriotic War Museum
If you are a history buff who’s interested in World War II, then visiting the Great Patriotic War Museum, close to the Joseph Stalin Museum, is another exciting thing to do in Gori. The museum is devoted to the heroic achievements of the Red Army. There are lots of medals on display along with photographs, various monuments, guns, uniforms, mortars, and a number of big ceremonial flags. You can also find portraits of those ‘heroes’ from Gori who bravely fought it the WWII.
The museum also has a small section given to the Georgian-Russian war in 2008 and shows the photos of the devastated city, including the civilian casualties. Note that the labels explaining a piece are only in Georgian or Russian. However, most of the time, exhibits in such museums speak for themselves, but if you’d like someone to tell you a whole story, you can take a guided tour too.
Things to do in Gori: Sergi Makalatia Gori Historical and Ethnographic Museum
Those of you who are interested in cultural and ethnography, Historical and Ethnographic Museum on 12 Kirion II street is a place for you to explore.
The museum displays artifacts found during the archeological excavations of the area that date back to 5-3rd Millenium BC. Here, you can find ceramic family seals, weapons, numismatic collection, 18-19th-century ethnographic items such as rugs, carpets, golden thread embroidery, and textiles to name a few, as well as the weapons collection dating back to the 17-19th centuries.
Things to do in Gori: Gori Fortress
Once you are done with museums, walk towards the Gori fortress for panoramic views of the city. This medieval citadel controlled major economic and strategic routes and featured a large garrison. The current ruins of the citadel date back to the 17th and 18th centuries. When Georgia became part of Russian Empire at the beginning of the 19th century, Russian grenadier battalion used the fortress as their base. The significance of the fortress gradually declined and lost its function.
At the foot of the castle, in the direction of I. Gogebashvili Garden, you’ll notice a monument with soldiers sitting in a semicircle. When you take a closer look, you’ll notice that each solder is missing one part of the body – some don’t have a leg, another an arm, or even a face. This is Warrior Memorial, dedicated, in my opinion, to the horrible outcome the war has on people, especially those who are fighting in the actual battle.
Things to do in Gori: Uplistsikhe cave town
Uplistsikhe is one of the cave towns in Georgia, apart from Vardzia and David Gareji. The name of the cave town literally translates into English as ‘the lord’s fortress’ and is located 14 km from Gori. The complex dates back to the first half of the 1st Millenium BC. This rock-hewn town is characterized by a unique combination of different rock-cut cultures of Iran and Anatolia that co-exists along with Christian and pagan architecture.
Archeologists have found various temples devoted to a sun goddess, who was worshiped before the country adopted Christianity. After Christianity was established as an official religion of the country, the city lost importance, but the life continued with Christian buildings built in its territory.
When the Arabs conquered the capital, Uplistsikhe became the residence of the kings of Kartli, resulting in its second heyday – the town became a significant caravan trading spot. Unfortunately, over the time, when various invaders were conquering the country, it significantly affected the city.
When wandering through those rock-cut structures, you’ll notice that they are without any decorations, except some larger structures that have stone carvings. Explore the Christian stone basilica of the 10th century, pagan places of sacrifice, large hall, dwellings, a bakery, a pharmacy, a prison, and even an amphitheater. Those structures are connected by tunnels, but there are other ones that were used for an emergency exit.
How to get to Uplistsikhe Cave Town
There are daily minibuses from Gori to Uplistsikhe that run every 30 minutes. However, do note that they don’t take you directly to the entrance of the cave town. They stop at the nearest village called Kvakhvreli and you’ll have to walk 2 km to get to the entrance. The price for one way ticket is only 1₾.
The entrance fee of Uplistsikhe caves is 7₾ for adults, while a ticket for students and school children costs only 1₾. The guided tour is additional 25₾, while there’s also an audio guide available for 10₾. Uplistsikhe opening hours vary seasonally. From April to November, the complex is open from 10 a.m to 7 p.m, while from November till April from 10 a.m to 6 p.m
If you are short on time, there are taxi’s available at the Gori bus station who are willing to take you to the town, wait for an hour, and take you back. The service will cost you around 20-30₾.
Those of you who want to skip all those sightseeing in Gori and want to go directly from Tbilisi to Uplistsikhe, you need to come to Gori first by the minibus and change it to Kvakhvreli. There is no direct public transport, unfortunately.
But if you are driving from Tbilisi to Uplistikhe, you need to follow the S1 highway and make a turn to the right when you see the sign Kvakhvreli.
In order to go back from Uplistsikhe to Gori, you need to walk back two kilometers to the nearest village, the spot your driver dropped you before. The last minibus that leaves Kvakhvreli to Gori is around 5-5:30, but to be on the safe side, please check it with the driver.
Where to Eat in Gori
Similar to the sightseeing, the dining scene is quite limited. However, we found a couple of good restaurants in Gori on our visit that
If you are looking for tasty Georgian cuisine on your trip to Gori, check out Mzareulebi restaurant at 60
Cafe 22, located on 22 Stalin Avenue, is a perfect spot for any type of the meal. Their breakfast menu includes eggs prepared in different styles, including boiled, scrambled, or fried. You can also order a sausage with your eggs, or if you are up for more sweet breakfast option, they have crepes or toasts with different fillings. Breakfast will cost you around 5-7₾ the tops, not even.
The rest of the menu consists of both Georgian and European meals. On our visit, kids wanted to have pizza, so we order two of them with tea and coffee. The total cost was 33.55₾
The cafe also has a bakery on its side where you can take different pastries on the go. They have both sour and sweet pastries that were quite delicious.
We also had dinner at Champs-Elysees, located on 13 Stalin Avenue. The prices are moderately high compared to the other places we have visited and the taste of the meals was quite terrible. For the meal for three of us, which included their special pizza, a bottle of a lemonade, and two Mexican patties with fries, cost us 38.50₾.
Where to Stay in Gori
Accommodation choices in Gori are a bit diverse, however, don’t expect something fancy or luxurious. You’ll find hotels, hostels, guesthouses and Airbnb apartments. We stayed in a lovely guesthouse Salxino. The room actually was a dorm, with 8 bunk beds, but we were the only ones in the room. They also have separate twin and single rooms, if that’s what you prefer. If you are looking for a place to stay and would like to book either through Booking.com or Airbnb, here are my discount links for both websites where you can get 10% off at Booking and $25 off at Airbnb.
As always, if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask in the comments down below, or connect with me on my social media channels. I will be happy to assist you as much as possible.