Just 20 kilometers north of Tbilisi is Mtshketa (მცხეთა). Mtshketa is the first major city to encounter along the Military Highway. The city is located on two rivers, where the Aragvi flows into the Mtkvari. It is one of the oldest cities in Georgia, founded sometime in the 5th century BC. It was also in Mtshketa that the Georgians converted to Christianity and founded the Georgian Orthodox Church.
Svetitskhoveli Cathedral (11th century) and Jvari Monastery (6th century) are among the most eye-catching monuments in Georgia. They are of particular historical importance as the ancient inscriptions above doors and gates are an important source of the Old Georgian alphabet.
The Svetitskhoveli Cathedral (სვეტიცხოვლის საკათედრო ტაძარი – a mouthful) is a cathedral with history. The oldest elements date back to the 4th century, but as the cathedral was destroyed several times by earthquakes and wars, the current structure is said to date from the 11th century.
Jvari Monastery (ჯვრის მონასტერი) is located in the hills above Mtshketa. The monastery is also called Monastery of the Cross. The story goes that Saint Nino planted a wooden cross on top of the then still pagan hills. She was one of those who brought Christianity to Georgia.
The monastery offers a nice view of the city and the surrounding hills and rivers. The Georgians themselves seem to agree: in good weather you run the risk of accidentally ending up on Georgian wedding photos.