უდაბნოს მონასტერი

Udabno Lavra - Desert Monastery


Useful Information

Location: David Gareja, 80 km southeast of Tiblisi.
(41.445093, 45.373497)
Open: currently closed due to border dispute between Georgia and Azerbaijan.
[2021]
Fee: currently closed due to border dispute between Georgia and Azerbaijan.
[2021]
Classification: SubterraneaCave House SubterraneaCave Church
Light: bring torch
Dimension:  
Guided tours: self guided and guided
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Bibliography:  
Address: Udabno Lavra, Tel: +995-, Fax: +995-,
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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History

10th to 13th cty frescoes painted.
06-MAY-2012 Azerbaijani border guards set up camp on the territory of the monastery and do not allow tourists to enter.
2012 borders reopened until the problem is formally solved.
JUN-2019 new dispute between Georgia and Azerbaijan, access again restricted.

Description

The monastery named უდაბნოს მონასტერი (Udabno Lavra, Desert Monastery) is located at the top of Udabno hill. It is reached on a 45-minute hike from David Gareja monastery. While David Gareja is located at the foot of the hill, this monastery is located right at the ridge. Be careful when you walk to the monastery, there are many snakes in this area, especially from April to June.

The monastery is a complex of caves which are cut into the cliff face on various levels. Many caves were cells for the monks, but the most impressive caves are the churches and chapels with their murals and frescoes. They were created by the renowned fresco school which flourished here between the 10th and 13th century. The monastery's refectory is decorated by an 11th century depiction of the Last Supper. The monks had to kneel to eat at low stone tables.

On the north wall of what was the main church, a painting shows Davit Gareja and Lukiane surrounded by deer. This is a reference to the story that deer gave them milk when they were wandering without supplies in this remote wilderness. The pictures below show Kakhetian princes. There is a cave with a spring inside which is called Davit's Tears.

The ridge is the border to Azerbaijan, the monastery is on both sides of the ridge. There is a map of the border from the 1920s, where the border is located at the ridge of the hill. During Soviet times the whole area was used by the military and was a restricted area. They actually used the area to shoot with various weapons, and the vibrations caused by this have destroyed several caves. Today the border seems to be comparably harmless and there is neither a restricted area nor a fortified borderline. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, there were actually other more pressing problems than the whereabouts of an ancient monastery. The nearby David Gareja Monastery is still in use, and so tourism started from this place. In 2012 Azerbaijan remembered that they actually own a part of the site, and started to claim it, by sending border guards. After some discussions the border was reopened, until the state of the museum was formally . The map is too old, there has been a World War and the rise and fall of the Soviet Union since then. And the actual border of today was never officially agreed on. However, the discussion were slow and never resulted in a solution, and in 2019 Azerbaijan finally blocked the border again. Currently, it is not possible to walk to the monastery. Normally, border guards of Georgia ask visitors politely to return, before they meet the Azerbaijan border guards. We suggest following their suggestion and not cause additional border tensions.