The name Gori may look and sound like the plural form of the Russian word for mountain (горы, GO-ry), but the name of Gori, incidentally meaning hill (singular) in Georgian, is much older than the first Russian contact with the Georgian kingdoms in the 1500s.
Tourist Information OfficeIt hands out a leaflet with all the twelve sights of Gori and a map.
By marshrutkaFrom specific destinations:
- Tbilisi – Many marshrutkas run daily between Tbilisi's Didube market and the central square of Gori. 4 lari.
- Akhaltsikhe – 08:15, and 13:00. 2½ hr. 7 lari.
- Borjomi – 08:30, and 12:40. 5 lari.
By taxiA more expensive, yet still reasonable option, is to hire a taxi (in some areas you can find cheaper intercity taxis).
On footEverything that a tourist would want to see within Gori is easily accessible on foot; the city center is compact.
By taxiTo get to the nearby Uplistsikhe complex, however, it is best to hire a taxi. Taxis are easy to find around the main square and drivers will be willing to wait for you while you explore the Uplistsikhe complex so that they can drive you back to Gori once you have finished. The whole taxi ride, including waiting, should not cost more than 25 lari and drivers will go as low as 15 lari if you are a hard bargainer.
By marshrutkaPublic transport to the modern Uplistsikhe village is much cheaper at 1 lari each way. Buses go from Stalin Avenue. A train departs to Uplistsikhe village from Gori at around 10:00 and returns around 17:00. A bus also makes the trip, departing Gori's bus station once around 09:00 and again at noon, returning around 15:00. There are also the usual marshrutkas running from the main marshrutka dropoff by the stadium. Once in Uplistsikhe village it is a walk of 700 m across the bridge over the river to the Uplistsikhe complex.
By carIf you are driving, head south in Gori on Stalin Ave across the Mtkvari River and turn left on the second main cross-street (not the one running right along the river). This road will take you through the village of Khidistavi, where you should try to maintain a straight course, bearing to the left if at a fork, and past the village you should approach Uplistsikhe. If you are feeling lost, ask anyone for directions (try "sahd-ah-rees uu-plis-tsi-khe?") and they will point you right.
Gori FortressIt has a great view over the city and beyond. You can even see the highway. It is under renovation, so expect an entrance fee (~5 lari) as early as 2020.
Virgin Mary Cathedral
The Stalin Cult
Unlike the majority of Georgia, Gori is full of people who still revere their home-town boy who made such an indelible mark on human history. The principal attractions (and the principal revenue earners) in the city are monuments to Stalin and they are all on or near the main square along Stalin Ave. Having visited Georgia and not having seen the birthplace of the Great Man is like going to Agra and not visiting the Taj Mahal.
phone: +995 270 27 52 15address: 32 Stalin AveThe Stalin Museum is the highlight of a visit to the city of Gori. Behind its faux-Venetian facade is an impressive museum filled with paraphernalia and media documenting the life and career of I.V. Jughashvili. The museum's portrayal of Stalin is one-sidedly nostalgic, which can be jarring for visitors, but the exhibits are actually quite well done and there are ample Georgian babushkas throughout the museum who will be more than happy to elaborate on the exhibits and answer questions. Unfortunately, the exhibits are overwhelmingly in Russian and Georgian, to the disadvantage of most Western visitors. But the main show requires no language—Stalin's death mask. Stalin's bronze death mask is not so exciting, but the lighting and bizarre, personality cult-chic, red velvet display will surely elicit goose bumps. At the ticket office, ask about an English or German-speaking guide. Guided tours start regularly. They are sometimes available and will often show you the inside of Stalin's home and train car.
Stalin's BirthplaceIf we are to believe the plaque, Stalin's birth house now resides within a cage of neoclassical Doric columns. There is not much here for the visitor other than a creepy photo opportunity.
Stalin StatueFew of the many statues of Stalin throughout the former USSR have survived and Gori's is certainly one of the most magnificent and well-kept. This large statue long stood in front of Gori's city hall, up Stalin Ave. from the end of the main square, opposite the Stalin Museum, until a bush-league surprise removal in the middle of the night by the current pro-Western government (over presumed objections by Gori residents and officials). The statue was re-erected in the park before the Stalin museum. There are two other Stalin statues in Gori: a replica of the main statue is in Stalin Park and the second—of Stalin as a young man—can be found beside Gori State University.
UplistsikheUplistsikhe is of considerable historical interest and is properly enjoyed with a guide. Chances are good that your guide will find you before you ask (there is not much alternative employment in this area) and there is a good chance of finding an English-speaking guide on site. Be sure to negotiate prices with the guide though, and don't accept the first offer. The receptionist will try to sell you leaflets and books but don't fall for it as she is trying to rip you off. The guides sell the same books more cheaply.
The Fortress of the Lord) is easily one of the oldest existing cities in Georgia, although it is now uninhabited save for tourists. Founded in the sixteenth century BC and carved out of rock, this was a bustling city over 3000 years ago and was, before the introduction of Christianity in the 4th century, a major regional center of Caucasian pagan worship. After Saint Nino converted King Mirian II of Iberia, the pagan temples of Uplistsikhe were sacked and the city went into long-term decline. Its decline was hastened by devastation at the hands of the Mongols in the 12th century, although it remained inhabited, serving as a stop along the Silk Road until the 15th century.
Highlights include: a Hellenistic amphitheater overlooking the Mtkvari river where residents of Uplistsikhe once enjoyed Greek-style performances, a functioning 9th century church built atop the ruins of an ancient pagan temple to the Caucasian sun god, a once pillared seat of kings, and a fun cave tunnel leading out of the city to the riverside. There are round storage spaces that were used for wheat, and shelf-like spaces for medicinal herbs—a veritable Bronze Age pharmacy!
Uplistsikhe suffered long years of neglect and vandalism and is undergoing significant restoration as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Accordingly, certain areas may be closed off from direct contact during your visit, although all sites will still be viewable.
Getting there/away: It should cost 10 lari to get a taxi one-way from Gori to the Uplistsikhe complex. Buses also go from Gori to Uplistsikhe village on the other side of the river, 700 m from the Uplistsikhe complex. These run fairly frequently and cost 1 lari. The bus from Gori leaves from the bus station. Ask someone which minibus to take (there is no English sign); you can ask in the ticket office. Getting a bus back to Gori is very simple (just walk along the main street of the village until you see a group of people waiting by the road, just near the point where it meets another road) but you may have to wait an hour or longer.
Goris Tsikhe (Gori Castle)Goris Tsikhe stands at the heart of the city atop a large hill and is the only structure in town that could dwarf the Stalin statue. According to locals, Goris Tsikhe's most notable moment in world history occurred in the first century BC, when it was conquered by the Roman General Pompeii. The current ruins are more recent, however, having been built after the Mongol invasion. There is not much to see inside the ruined castle's walls, but there are nice views of the city and the surrounding dark green plains of Shida Kartli. The approach to the ruins has been repaved and the surrounding area cleaned up, but the site remains free and the only price of admission is the short, steep walk up the path.
Gori Jvari (Gori Cross)
The church at Gori Jvari stands on an outcropping of rocks and can be seen from practically anywhere in Gori. Originally built in the 12th century, it was burned down by the Turks, rebuilt, and destroyed again by an earthquake in 1920. The current church was built in the 1980s. On days commemorating St. George (November 23 and April 23), Gori residents flock to the church with sacrificial sheep. The sheep are walked around the church three times, and in accordance with Orthodox tradition, are taken just off the church grounds for slaughter. On a clear day, the view of the Caucasus from the church is spectacular.
The moderate hike is approximately 3 hours round trip. To reach the trail head, walk south along Stalin Avenue until you cross the river. The road will cut to the right and then cross the railway tracks. On the other side of the tracks, turn right then take the first left and then the windy path up the hill that is immediately on your right. This twists up the hill. If you find a graveyard on your left, you are going in the right direction. There are more hiking options along the mountain ridge above Gori Jvari and there a number of ruined churches scattered through the area.
Historical Ethnographic Museumphone: +995 8 370 27 28 67address: 12 Kirion II StThe Ethnographic Museum houses cultural and historical exhibits, including ancient archaeological artifacts, weapons, national costumes and textiles, traditional jewelry, and furniture. A good place to get a feel for the Georgian way of life in past eras. Guided comments available in Russian and in English.
The Great Patriotic War Museumphone: +995 270 27-27-12address: 19 Stalin AveThe museum has a unique mural outside. Inside is a collection of photographs and memorabilia, such as medals, some equipment, personal effects, and an interesting exhibit showing Gori and the region's participants. A section on the 2008 invasion has been added.
Gori Academic Theaterphone: +995 270 273740address: Chavchavadze StOffers plays in Georgian and Russian,
Gori Stadiumaddress: at the edge of Stalin Park on Chavchavadze StOffers occasional soccer games.
Stalin Parkaddress: along the river south of Chavchavadze StThe park has a statue of the great man, avary, cages with brown bears, a few aging rides, a Ferris wheel, and a paint ball range. On summer evenings, it is often crowded with people and a good place for people watching.
GorijvariA church complex and mineral water resort.
Icons and other religious paraphernalia can be purchased at the shop beside the Cathedral of the Nativity of the Virgin. These can make for interesting gifts. Shops along Chavchavadze Street (running perpendicular to Stalin Avenue) also sell Georgian jewelry and icons.
Along Stalin Ave. several late night stores sell essentials and foodstuffs.
Central Bazaaraddress: Chavchavadze StThe place to go to buy goods, albeit with a lot of local flavor. Food, fresh produce, stationery, electronics, adaptors, clothes, shoes, etc.
phone: +995 270 27 56 65address: 26 Chavchavadze StOne of the best-stocked grocery stores in the city center, and undergoing an expansion. It has phone cards, water, soda, sweets, toiletries, cleaning supplies, pre-made meals for lunch on-the-go.
Grocery Store SamebaA renovated grocery store, good for water, soda, pastries, and khachapuri
Atriumaddress: 6 Stalin StA local favorite, the Atrium offers traditional Georgian food and a pleasant atmosphere. The service is amongst the best in town.
Cake Houseaddress: 22 Stalin AveAside from a large selection of delicious cakes, the cafe offers khachapuri, pirozhki, and pizza.
Coffee Houseaddress: Stalin AveDespite the name, the cafe only offers two types of coffee. There is a decent selection of other foods, however, including bliny, salads, and pizza.
Intourist Cafeaddress: 26 Stalin AveThe main dining room is inside the Intourist Hotel but may be unavailable because of private parties. There is a second entrance beside the hotel (walking toward the Stalin Museum) with a secluded outdoor patio. The selection is not as wide as Orbi's, but the quality is comparable.
Melange CaféThe staff is being complained about, and you should definitely check your bill. But there is no 10% service charge, and it is a great dinning opportunity late at night without the usual "this we don't have anymore", but great khatchapuri angrali.
Orbi's Restaurantaddress: 78 Queen Tamara StA local favorite, offers a wide selection of Georgian food and inexpensive locally-brewed beer. There is a large outdoor patio; inside, it's best to ask for a private dining room-the music can be unbearably loud.
Restaurant Dzmobis Dukaniaddress: Queen Tamar StTypical Georgian cuisine with large private dining rooms. The restaurant is locally known for its beef stroganoff.
phone: +995 555 53 65 33address: 10 Stalin StreetNon-smoking restaurant and café on the main avenue of Gori. Salads, pizzas, some Georgian dishes, desserts. Drinks include a selection of Althaus teas, coffee, alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages.
phone: +995 370 27 34 05address: 3 Chitadze stHas an interesting interior, very friendly environment, excellent service, and delicious food and drinks, including interesting cocktails.
Gori is only about an hour away from Tbilisi by marshrutka, so it is possible to visit Gori and Uplistsikhe as a day trip. There are not many commercial opportunities for overnight stays, though the options are improving. Staying in Gori does present a cheaper alternative to Tbilisi, and can be a pleasant change of pace from the capital.
Hotel Intouristaddress: 26-32 Stalin AveA typical Soviet hotel with typical dour Soviet service and rooms that look unrenovated since the Khruschev era. Water and electricity are not always available. On the second floor, Rooms No. 1 & No. 2 have been renovated (50 lari - more if you are non-local/Russian); the rooms on the third floor, while cheaper, are less than desirable. Hotel Georgia in north wing of the same block.
Hotel Victoriaphone: +995 (32) 95-12-72address: 76 Queen Tamara StThe best hotel in Gori. Built in 2000, it has modern rooms with air conditioning and television. Conference facilities are available. Orbi's Restaurant is next door. Accepts major credit cards.
Guesthouse Lukaphone: +995 370 27 87 58, +995 598 55 20 53address: 19 Aghmashenebeli St, TsmindatskaliA 2nd floor apartment with clean rooms, hot water and internet access. Toilet flush by water bucket. Hosts speak Russian and sufficient English. Make sure to ask for a receipt if paying for more than one night, otherwise you may be asked to pay again. No doorsign, entry is the door under the balcony.
Guesthouse Tamaziphone: +995 598307326, +995 370275707 (Tamazi Kharibegashvili)address: Rustavi St. 1110 min walk from the Stalin museum. The rooms are very tidy and comfortable. The family is very friendly and hospitable, they speak Georgian and Russian and can host up to 3 people.
Internet Cafe @ ENTERaddress: Chavchavadze StThe best of the two internet cafes in Gori, but expect to be surrounded by adolescent boys playing computer games. The connection is reasonably fast and the staff are helpful.
Internet Cafe/Computer Storeaddress: Stalin AveSmoky, dark and generally unpleasant. Only go here if you're in a bind. The computer store in front offers a limited selection of computer supplies.
Visitors to local churches should respect Orthodox customs. Women should wear longer skirts and cover their head (either with a hat or with a head scarf). Some churches will provide this for you. Foreigners are generally welcomed, but be mindful of those worshipping.
If you're traveling west, there are daily direct buses and marshrutkas to Kutaisi, Borjomi, and Batumi. Timetables are posted in the bus station. All westbound vehicles pass through the transport hub in Khashuri, so you can take a marshrutka to Khashuri departing every half hour (2 lari, 1 hr) and transfer to another one from there. The Tbilisi-Batumi night train (15-25 lari to Batumi, 7 hr) passes through Gori at 23:30. Tickets can be purchased only one hour in advance, so be sure to show up to the train station early.
There are also other trains going throughout the day, although not much. Locals generally do not know of the existence of these trains and information is difficult to come by. As of September 14 (a Friday), a stop train to Kutaisi departed from Gori at 16:30 for 1 lari, and arrived around 21:00 in Kutaisi (roughly 40 stops in between, very slow and hard plastic seats. Okay scenery). On this particular Friday there were also trains to Borjomi (17:51), Poti (18:46) and Tbilisi (19:17). More trains are available, although sparsely and again there are very slow.
Additionally there are hourly north-bound buses during the day from the main bus station to the villages north of Gori on the road to Tskhinvali, the capital of South Ossetia. However, since the South Ossetian conflict in August 2008, crossing the border is very difficult, and there are security concerns in the area around the border.