Foothills and Plains

The fertile land around Tskhinval is home to a large part of the country's population. At the same time, it has the highest concentration of historical monuments in South Ossetia. Would you like to become part of the slow-paced rural life? Would you like to walk along the hills and forests, looking for trails to medieval temples and fortresses? Take more time to explore the surrounding valleys and gorges.
West of Tskhinval
One-day trips from Tskhinval are a great way to explore the valleys of the Western, Middle, and Eastern Prone. It is not that far and the roads in the Znaur District are intact. However, if you wish you can spend the night in one of the villages or at the Nagutni resort.

Monastyr and the Tirsky Monastery

In fact, these are the two villages - Lower Monastyr and Upper Monastyr -, which can be reached by both the Transcaucasian Highway and the Zarskaya road. Both are located on the left bank of the Mumla River. By the way, there are freshwater crabs there. Between the villages, right by the road, stands the Tirsky Monastery. Monks lived there until 1811, after that the monastery was turned into a rural parish. The complex consists of a functioning church (the end of the 13th century), bell tower (14th century), refectory (16th century), as well as outbuildings and small artificial grottoes which were probably used as cells. This is a rare example of Georgian architecture from the Mongol period when stone construction was practically non-existent in Kartli and Kakheti. The main advantage of the temple is its rich and diverse stone carving. The frescoes of the 14th century, which are similar in style to those in Ubisa and Zarzma (in Georgia) and Nuzal (North Ossetia), are also interesting. The facades inscriptions indicate that the monastery was supported by the Princes Tavkhelidze and Machabeli's donations. It says, "God bless Tavkhelidze Siusha and Rati, and Asata, and Helu, and Machabeli and their parents!" above the entrance to the bell tower.


You should visit the WWII veterans memorial in this village. There are similar monuments throughout the former USSR, but only a few of them this sincere. And where else will you see a horn instead of the eternal fire which the villagers raise in commemoration of their ancestors?


A large village around which there are many monuments: five churches in ruins and one active, medieval towers (up to seven-story tall), and man-made caves. Vakhushti Bagrationi, a chronicler of the 18th century, reported, "There are rocky caves and towers in Kornis. They were destroyed by the Leki (Dagestani)." A road leads to the Karaset Sanctuary located on a high wooded hill. At the top, there is a well-preserved church. Dzuarbon is held there on one of the Sundays of July when residents from all over the area climb the hill. The Gverda Church, built of large stones, is hidden at the top of the hill below. Since the hill is sacred, it is forbidden to cut down trees on it, which, believe me, does not help when climbing up the hill. The roof and part of the walls of the temple collapsed, and the villagers claim that a red snake lives in a pile of stones, but do not be afraid of it - according to Ossetian beliefs snakes bring abundance and good luck.


The main attraction of the village is the Tskhovrebovs Tower. It is located in the backyard of the house where the lonely widow Elsa lives. Most likely, she will let you in to see the tower up close.


In the center of the village, there are inconspicuous ruins of the church inside which there are frescoes of the 16th century. They are pretty well preserved. It is amazing how resistant the plaster and paints turned out to be. The church has already lost its roof and most of its walls, but the frescoes open to the rains and winds are still there. They depict, most likely, the ktetors who paid for its construction.

The road from the eastern outskirts of the village leads to the woods to Gomarty Dzuar, the late 15th century temple built by the feudal lords Palavandishvili and rebuilt from the ruins by local residents. A pleasant 5 kilometers (3 miles) walk or a drive in an off-road vehicle.


There are practically no residents left in this village; all houses are mainly used as summerhouses. However, a 15-minute walk down the trail along the Middle Prone will lead to the ruins of the 13th century Tskhrakara temple lost in the magical beech and hornbeam forest. Back in the day, it was a large walled complex, but now we can admire only its surviving details like the magnificent stone carvings. There are the inscriptions in the Asomtavruli script on the tympanum rock lying on the ground. The trefoils bear the inscription, "Holy Mary, please intercede for Saiosh, son of Aleksandr," and in the lower part, "Dear Lord, please praise the patrons of this monastery. Have mercy on Tinatin, Padlon, and their sons. Most likely, it talks about Saiosh Tavkhelidze mentioned in the inscription on the bell tower of the Tirsky Monastery because during construction of the Tskhrakara Princes Tavkhelidze were the patrons of these places. Although it might as well be Prince Saiosh Palavandishvili who in 1488 received "the Okona Monastery and the village with other churches" (i.e. a good part of the modern Znaur District) as a compensation for the murder of his father by Prince Gabelidze-Amiredzhibi.

At the top of the cone-shaped hill above the Tskhrakara there are ruins of a small temple with a tower attached to it. It is Lisy Dzuar (Lisis- Dzuari). You will spend about half an hour climbing it from the village. There is also an inscription in the Asomtavruli script. "By God's will, I am Febronia, daughter of Utaloi, built this church of Holy Mary. I consecrated my brother Abuleti, [who] was martyred in Turchetti.


There's an old linden tree in the middle of the big village. The locals say it is over 800 years old, although usually these trees live no more than 5-6 centuries. A veteran tree - with the girth of its trunk of about 8 meters (26 feet) at chest level - seems to have deliberately grew so large to hide those who want to discuss the latest news or rural issues from the sun and rain. Just south of the linden tree are the ruins of the Kvedatsikhe or the Three Sisters fortress built in the 15th-16th centuries. The Palavandishvili Prince's Palace is at the same distance from the tree, but in the opposite direction. In the 15th century, they became the owners of these places - from Okona in the south to Ozhora and Vakhtana in the north. The tower adjoining the palace was rebuilt many times - its latest version dates back to the 17th-18th centuries.

Znaur and Tigwa

The district center is named after the revolutionary Znaur Aidarov who created the Ossetian Bolshevik Organization in Tbilisi in 1917, and two years later organized a peasant uprising in the neighboring Khashuri Municipality. He was captured in battle with government troops and shot the next day. The Znaur Aidarov statue portraying him wearing a burka (a coat made from felt or karakul) decorates the main square of the village. In addition, there is a community center, two grocery stores, a Megafon office, and a pleasant square, but the main attraction of these places and the entire area is in the neighboring village of Tigwa. The Church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary is the largest medieval church in South Ossetia. It was built in 1152 on the orders of Tamara, daughter of King David IV the Builder. Her father married her to the future Shirvanshah Manuchehr III The Great. The marriage was supposed to bring together two eternal rivals. However, Tamara failed to unite the Shirvan and the Bagratuni dynasty's possessions, and after her husband died she left for Tigwa and became a nun. Ask the locals where the church caretaker Domenti Latsabidze lives - only he has the key to the temple. Domenti is always happy to welcome guests and talk about the church and history of these places.
Domenti Latsabidze did not believe in God when he was young. He studied and worked in Leningrad, but then got sick and decided to return home. In accordance with local custom, his mother brought a sacrificial lamb to the church to pray for her son's recovery. Soon enough, Domenti got well, became a believer, and a diligent parishioner. He took part in restoration work in Tigwa and still takes care of the church.


The locality with such a name is widely known in South Ossetia due to the small hydrotherapy center called Nyfs located in the wooded gorge of Western Prone. It is open from July to September. However, to get to the Nagutni Resort you should make a dozen more kilometers (miles) along the rough country road way past Znaur. Making a way through a dead village of the same name with only one family living there is not what you want to do. And do not expect to come back to Tskhinval the same day to spend the night.
Artsev and its Surroundings
In Soviet times, Artsev was a large prosperous Ossetian village with fertile gardens and vineyards at the foot of the mountains east of Tskhinval, right on the border of the autonomous area. However, in 1991 it was almost completely destroyed by Georgian troops, to now find itself in some isolation. After taking a highway exit leading to the village of Khelchua, you will find yourself driving along the rough winding road around the foothills. However, you should make this way to see a well-preserved medieval temple and the best winery in the republic.


Thirty years after the attack (it seems these were the nationalists from the White Legion), Artsev looks depressing - crumbling asphalt, abandoned homes and gardens. The only reason to come there is to meet Tola Goyaev (+7 929 805 09 12), the best winemaker of the republic. If you are tired of drinking peasant wine from glasses, it will be pleasant experience. Tola studies scientific literature about winemaking, grows autochthonous varieties, invests in new technologies, and even pours wine into the right glasses. He is a former field commander who organized the defense by militia forces of the area from Artsev to Tsinagar on the edge of the Gori Plain where there are no natural fortifications whatsoever. Now, Tola cultivates the lands for which he fought for so many years and develops wine culture in the republic.


The temple, which, according to it's facade inscription was completed in 1172, served as the Duchy of Ksani family burial place. In particular, Elisbar and Shalva Eristavi were buried there. The Georgian church canonized them as martyrs. In 1659, in alliance with Kakheti Prince Bidzina Cholokashvili, they revolted against the Persians who decided to give these lands to the Turkmen settlers. The rebels exterminated and drove away the Qizilbash. However, they were surrendered to Shah Abbas II and beheaded on the orders of Vakhtang V of Kartli. The relics of the saints were kept in the Ikorta church for three centuries, but in the 1990s they were moved to Tskhinval, and in 2008 - to the
"Ikorta is the earliest representative of the group of churches built at the turn of the 12th and 13th centuries. It looks like a rectangle approaching the square. <...> All the facades are covered with an arcade motif made of double or triple-sided fasciae which are framed by windows and decorative crosses and rhombuses. Deep niches of the eastern facade are decorated with fasciae and festoons. The dome resting on a square base has a slender drum with twelve windows decorated with wide carved platbands and fasciae in the form of twisted wire ropes. The ornaments covering the frieze and drum cornice, as well as all the window platbands and decorative elements, are made with great skill."

N. Dzhanberidze, I. Tsitsishvili, Archeological Monuments of Georgia
Alan Epiphany Monastery in North Ossetia. The church is in excellent condition. A few years before the war of 2008, Georgian craftsmen restored it with money donated by the international foundations. Later, the South Ossetian Committee for the Protection of Cultural Monuments held several activities to maintain the monument in order.
Another battle took place on July 2nd, 1736 right next to the walls of the Ikorta fortress (ruins to the west of the temple). Shanshe, Duke of the Ksani, defeated the Persians. This part of Kartli was freed from extortions and taxes until the next spring when the new army from Iran arrived.
"At the end of April [1737], Sefikhan came to Kartli with a big army and attacked the Duke of the Ksani, capturing the Ikorta fortress, Kulbithi fortress, and Vanati fortress. Then, attacked Vakhushti Abashidze, capturing the Tsikhisdziri fortress and Surami fortress. Then, [again] attacked the Duke of the Ksani, capturing the Atskveri fortress, Besho fortress, and Monasteri. Iese, the Duke of the Ksani's brother, left with his family for Kadeta, the Duke of the Ksani ran away with his son too. The Qizilbash captured his family and property. Shanshe and his family went to Imereti and from there to Russia."

Sehnia Chkheidze's Life of Kings
Mejida (Medzhida) Valley
Many years ago, we discovered this valley. It was almost deserted after the war. Nowadays, there are woods where there used to be hayfields and arable land, and some completely abandoned khutors (rural localities). Although, only one pass separates it from Tskhinval. A few years ago, new asphalt pavement was laid on the road through the lower part of the gorge to the Leningori District. However, to get from one village to another in the upper reaches of Mejida you have to use an off-road vehicle or the old ox trails. However, almost every local is ready to share his house, bread, and stories with guests. Ossetians and Georgians live there side by side, help each other in everything, celebrate, and mourn together. The religious traditions of these two nations are intertwined so that it is impossible to understand which are the Kartvelian traditions and which is the Ossetian people's religion.

Lower Goret

Three houses at the confluence of the Mejida and Goretdon Rivers are home to only a few people. Most of them speak only Ossetian and have difficulty speaking Georgian and Russian. The exception is Murat Khatsyrty, a local historian and one of the best masters of the traditional Ossetian feasts who is invited to any celebration in the valley (however, he rarely accepts invitations). Murat will be glad to receive you as his guest (a separate room, outhouse, no shower) and become your guide in the neighborhood. He will take you to Usanet and Biet. He also makes excellent beer, wine, and Araka - do not miss the chance to try them or take part in their production. In addition to all-Ossetian holidays, the villagers celebrate Tba-Uacilla (second Monday after the Trinity).


This khutor is home to one family - a husband, a wife, and their three adult sons. They own two houses, one for themselves the other one is a guesthouse, and the only store around. The brothers are hunters, they know all the trails in the area, the elder brother (+7 929 805 34 84, WhatsApp) is an excellent driver with an off-road vehicle ready for any off-road situations. The wife makes very tasty pies.


This village is empty since the 1990s. The surrounding inhabitants use its territory as hayfields. A hiking trail, which leads to an abandoned monastery in the woods, runs through Biet. The trail is marked coming from Lower Goret, but there is also a road leading there from Nishi. The construction of the complex is attributed to the end of 9th century. They found inscriptions in the local temple mentioning Eristavi Ioane Kanchaeli who was the governor of Western Kartli at the time. The architecture of the monument does not strictly follow the local construction traditions, it has both motifs borrowed from Armenia and methods and solutions typical of the Asia Minor monasteries. The vaults of the temple have not been strengthened for a long time and, it seems, they are about to fall apart, so hurry up - it is one of the most interesting medieval monuments of South Ossetia.
From the middle of the 9th century to the beginning of the 11th century, these lands were the subject of constant disputes between Tbeli and Kanchaeli local feudal lords. At the same time, these lands were claimed by the Abkhazian Kingdom, the Kingdom of Iberia, and the Bagratid Kingdom of Armenia.
"Due to the interaction, albeit military, in these territories of different cultures of principalities and kingdoms of Georgia, as well as the Arab component, each of which had its own construction traditions, the relationship between the temple construction and the political events taking place at that time is of particular interest. External influences are manifested only in certain elements of some buildings. The interior of the temple in Biet is oriented more towards the cave architecture of Asia Minor (double rows of flat niches) than the famous Georgian cave buildings in Shio-Mgvime and David Gareja. The decor of the eastern window, which has no analogues in the Georgian architecture in this period, is also not typical for the local architecture. It is flanked by the twin columns on which pilasters rests a double arch shaped in the form of fasciae. The buildings of the Bagratid Kingdom of Armenia, for example,
in the St.Hovannes (John the Baptist) Church in Byurakan (898-929) feature similar decor."

O.A. Barashko's Temple Architecture of the Headwaters of the Liakhvi and Ksani Rivers of the 9th-10th Centuries

"But only external influence can explain the appearance in the Biet temple of such a unique detail for the Caucasus as the decoration of the interior walls with two narrow counter-arches typical only for cave and ground architecture of Asia Minor. The arches on the northern wall of the temple, with a non-functional passage behind them, find a single analogy in the Tagar Cave Church, Cappadocia, Turkey. Borrowing such a decoration from Asia Minor, as well as a window framed by a double fasciae in the form of columns and an arch, which finds a direct parallel in Banya (888-923) and the St.Hovannes (John the Baptist) Church in Byurakan (898-929), more likely
occurred during the period of domination of the Bagratid kings over Kartli, that is, in the mid 890s - early 900s."

Andrei Vinogradov's Stones and Images


Only one person - Tolik Margiev - lives in this village all year round. However, in the summer, another family spends a month or even more there. A holiday unusual for this part of the republic - Atynag the beginning of haymaking - is celebrated there on the third Sunday of July. It is more typical for the mountainous villages of Ossetia. Moreover, they start haymaking in the Mejida Valley much earlier. The fact is that back in the day the families from the village of Tlia, who brought a stone from the sanctuary where Atynag was celebrated, moved to Andoret. From then on, Andoret people had a holy Atynag place and a local holiday.


A 1,854 meters (6,083 ft.) high mountain with the ruins of an ancient temple on top. From there, you can enjoy a beautiful view of the Kartlian Plain, the mountains of the Lesser Caucasus, and even the Greater Caucasus Range. The sanctuary build on the ruins is honored by the residents of all surrounding villages. The Dzuarbon takes place on Saturday, seven weeks after Easter on Usanet. There is a dirt road which goes almost to the top of the pass that separates the Tskhinval and Leningor Districts. Then, it is about half an hour climb from there.
"The holy place was being built in a different location, but the three swallows kept circling above it, dragging blades of grass from there to Usanet. This was how people realized that the sanctuary had to be moved to the top of the peak of Usanet. They say that during the Dzuarbon, Usanet marries Sanib, and their wedding is continued on the Daudzhita."

According to Murat Khatsyrty
The ruins of the temple aren't very expressive. The carved stella, which was moved from there in the Soviet time, is of great interest. Now, it is stored in the Georgian National Museum in Tbilisi. It depicts the prophet Daniel in the moat with the lions, the baptism in the Jordan River, entry of Our Lord into Jerusalem, and several saints and angels. The inscription in the Mtavruli script reads, "Holy Kvirike, have mercy on Catholicos Cyril," which allows to date it to the turn of the 8th-9th centuries. Scientists noticed the contrast between the richly decorated stella and the modesty of the temple itself - they assumed that the stones were made for a wealthy customer, and the temple was built at the expense of the villagers and perhaps earlier.

"An old man told me what he saw when he was a kid. Every year, a deer would walk up the Usanet, and it would be sacrificed to Dzuar on holiday. However, one day, people gathered, as usual, waiting. They waited all day long. Everyone was already angry and hungry. At sunset, the deer came. He was tired, breathing heavily, his tongue sticking out. The man, who was supposed to sacrifice the deer, cut his tongue and then killed him. From then on, the deer never went up the Usanet again."

According to Murat Khatsyrty

Bikar and Mahis

It is the center of the Bikar village council. It covers the entire territory of the Mejida Valley north of Goret. The head of the village council, Zaliko Dudayev, lives in Mahis (+7 929 806 70 36) together with his wife Mzia (+7 929 810 09 36, WhatsApp). Bikar is the largest village in the area, with about 10 farms. If you want to spend a few days in the valley with comfort, you should stay there. Zaur Dudayev is an amazingly energetic old man, though he is over 70. He has built a guesthouse, a trout farm, and is always happy to welcome guests. He lives in Vladikavkaz, but he has built a great house with three guest rooms and a large hall for feasts for his friends and tourists. There is also a mini-hotel called Vigena in the village.
There is a well-preserved defensive tower of the Dudayevs' clan, a ruined church of the Virgin Mary, and a mineral spring (4 km (2.5 miles) away from the village, easily accessible by any off-road vehicle). The only school in the valley is located in Bikar. Only eight children attend it. Are you ready to teach an interesting lesson, don't hesitate, it's a great idea.

The largest Dzuarbon is held on Saturday, seven weeks after Easter. On this day, they hike up to the Usanet Sanctuary. They celebrate Daudzhita the following weekend and Tba-Uacilla on Monday eight days later.


There are three families living in this village. The house of Nani (Ivan) is located near the road. Ivan is a big guy. He is about 70 years old. But you just can't call him an old man. He looks 15 years younger. He is called the eldest of Kuvd on holidays in the area. He and his wife Venera brew beer. They are very hospitable. They have an apiary and a lot of big dogs, but don't be afraid, they bark but don't bite.

The next day after Easter, the village celebrates the Helatseminda Holiday, the All Saints' Day. Actually, traditional Ossetian All Saints' Day is called Daudzhita and is celebrated on the fifth Sunday after Easter. In Arkinaret, they celebrate it on a different day and use the Georgian word for it. We have not yet found out why. Go there, find out details, and tell us.


Only Dzhudzhuna and her husband Soslan live full-time in this khutor located at the far end of the Benderdon side gorge. They have a large household: a horse, cows, pigs, chickens. If you really want to escape civilization - visit them. Guests rarely come there, so they are always glad to meet someone and give them some tea. It is better to stay overnight somewhere else.


The only thing left of the village is the ruins of the tower. On the other hand, it's a great place to stay in a tent. There is a flat meadow right next to the tower, water and plenty of firewood nearby.
It happened in the 19th century. Eristavi-Aldar and his accomplices arrived in Lekuan to collect taxes. It was spring. Aldar fell in love with this place and once again stopped by Lekuan and turned one of the temples into a house. People were concerned. They used to say, "We escaped from the wolf, but he settled in our village!" Lekuan residents tried to kick Aldar out several times, but it didn't work out. Days passed, weeks passed, and one day Aldar decided to go fishing in the Dodat Gorge. He took his minions and a couple of men from the village along and set out on his way. From morning until evening, he made people stay in the water and look for fish, while he himself walked back and forth along the coast. From then on, he imposed an additional duty on the villagers to go fishing for him. Those who lived further away, however, had to catch fish themselves and bring it to him. He also made it their duty to bring him some warm butter. Whether or not people had it, they had to bring it to him! He would also take village horses every day and race them on the slope between Lekuan and the Dodat Gorge. Horses would die from exhaustion. People couldn't bear this life anymore...

It was winter. There was a lot of snow. The rivers were freezing over. There was no way for the horse to pass through the gorge. However, Mamamze Eristavi still wanted to go fishing. So he came up with this idea of a human carriage, harnessed the locals into it, and forced them to take him to the gorge. From morning until evening, he forced people to stand in an icy river, and then bring him back to Lekuan when it got dark. By spring, few of the Lekuan residents were able to walk. Life was getting harder and harder.

One day, Eristavi-Aldar went to collect taxes from the villagers in the lowlands. When people found out about it, they started to congratulate each other on this, thinking he would never come back. Everybody gathered in Lekuan and started thinking their next move. They talked for a long time, but did not come to an agreement.

Finally, an old bearded man named Garsuan Tuaev with a walking stick in his hand came from the village of Tsipora. People stood up when he arrived. He said hello to them and went to the place of honor.
Garsuan listened to what people were saying and addressed them, "Listen, good people. Look at me, look at my head – it is covered in scars. Aldars broke my hands and legs. Look at me - I am closer to the dead than to the living. I can't stand this kind of life anymore. What I want to tell you is that if the wolf is here, he won't leave us alone. So don't say, 'Our enemy is gone!'" People stated staring at their feet, they were freezing. Garsuan continued, "Our lives are worse than death. Let's agree and kill our enemy. Let us draw lots to decide who will go to the woods after Tsria, which is located above Bender. There's no better place to kill Aldar and his henchmen!"

So they did, it was Tota Tuayev, Mito Kudukhov, and Esta Tuayev.

They spent two days and two nights in an ambush. On the third evening, just when the oxen were released, they saw Aldar and three of his servants riding down the Tsria slope, all happy. Esta said to his friends, "Leave Aldar to me, you deal with his servants!"

As soon as they came close, Mito and Tota shot the servants dead. Esta was also a good shot, but his gunpowder got wet and his rifle didn't fire. While he was taking out dry powder from his pocket, Aldar escaped towards the gorge. Esta jumped right onto the road and took a knee, "Here goes nothing!" He aimed and shot right away! - The bullet ripped a piece of flesh out of Mamamze Eristavi's chest. Esta winked to his friends, "Hurry up hand me the shotgun! Don't let his servant get away!" They put a loaded shotgun in his hands. He aimed again, and the third Aldar's henchman suffered the fate of his friends.

A few days later, the imperial troops occupied the villages of Lekuan and Tsipor. The soldiers mercilessly beat people up, took away everything they had, their cattle and all, and locked them in the barns. Esta, Mito, and Tota were exiled to Siberia. That's where they died.


There are only three houses in the entire village. Two on the bank of the Mejida River and the third one on a hill. A young family with three daughters lives there - they are always happy to welcome their guests (+7 929 804 50 98). The owner's name is Albert Tuayev. He is a former military man who served as a peacekeeper until 2008 and is now a professional driver who can take you anywhere in his off-roader. His wife Nino is an Ossetian from Tbilisi. She speaks only Georgian and is very good at cooking Georgian dishes. Next to their house in the forest stands a medieval tower with an attached temple. However, not everyone is recommended to stay overnight at the Tuayevs - the conditions could hardly be more austere: old spring beds, an outhouse, no shower.

Lower Vilda

The Bichenov family is from this village. According to the Nart Saga, the first wife of Nart Khamyts, father of Bartraz, the strongest of all Narts, was from this family. Now, mostly Georgians named Eliauri live in the village. One of the houses belongs to the old couple Amiran and Izolda and their son Goche - a very hospitable family! Goche has an off-roader, he can take you further up the mountains if, of course, he has enough gas (which is rare).

Dvaliantkari and Ardis

This is the farthest part of the Mejida Gorge, life there is harsh, and there's even no electricity there. Only the Dvaloshvili family - Givi, Leila, and their son Gia – live there. If you like easy hikes in the mountains, spend a day there. However, keep in mind that you will have to spend the night in a tent.
"Back in the day, there was a family tower in the place of the church in Ardis where a silver cross was kept. However, once an avalanche destroyed the tower. When the snow melted, the villagers found a cross in the wreckage of the tower and built a church there to keep the shrine in it."

According to Murat Khatsyrty
We recommend a circular route along the ridge to the Khubyltakhokh Mountain (in Georgian – Dzhirisi, which means "root, origin"). The whole gorge starts there. There is a powerful spring - the source of the Mejida River - at its foot and the Santho Sanctuary on top of it. One of the routes to the Keli Highland (a volcanic field) begins from Dvaliantkari. It takes about 6 hours of horseback riding from the Givi's house to the Tsitelikhati Lakes (twin lakes).

Near Dvaliantkari, on the opposite bank of the Mejida River above the precipice, stands the Church of St. George. The church in the deserted Ardis khutor serves as a branch of the Santho Sanctuary.


Only Kazbek and his wife live on the farm - they have a small household and an austere way of life. People rarely get to Isro, so if you can stop by the old people, they'll be glad.
Small Liakhva Reserve
A handful of enthusiasts have been able to protect biodiversity on a mountainous area of more than 6,000 hectares (14,826 acres) for three decades. Several forest rangers make sure that there's no hunting in the reserve. They can be proud of the fact that they have managed to restore the population of red deer which was completely wiped out there in Soviet times. The number of wild boars affected by the plague epidemic several years ago has also been increased. Recently, two groups of spotted reindeer have been introduced. The penalty for one killed deer is 300 thousand rubles (4,639 US dollars), and nobody is able to get away from the forest rangers.

The administration of the reserve is glad to welcome its guests - the development of tourism has recently become one of the priority tasks. In 2017, a shelter for tourists was built, an UAZ SUV was purchased and specially prepared for local roads. In autumn and winter time, the director may organize a reindeer photography tour, and it is not some sort of entertainment - you will have to really sit in a ground blind in the cold.


This village is where the administration of the reserve and guesthouses are located. There is a house for overnight stay with shower and toilet (maximum 12 people) and a separate dining room. There is always one of the employees in the office, but it is better to make an appointment with Tolik Bestaev in advance (+ 7 929 806 67 45).
Leningor District
This region of the republic remained almost entirely under the control of Tbilisi until 2008. There was no direct road from here to Tskhinval. The new highway was opened only in 2015. At this point, many local residents have no citizenship of the Republic of South Ossetia and enjoy the right to regularly travel to Georgia to visit relatives across the border and bring some contraband on the way back using special passes. The road to the north runs along the Ĉysandon River (in Georgian - Ksani) to the Keli Highland - this is the roundabout way to get there.


One of the oldest temples in South Ossetia - a building built in 864 - stands right by the road connecting Tskhinval and Leningor. As you move towards Leningor, keep an eye on the left side of the road – you will see a stone fence with a sign and a staircase. You will see the temple only after climbing up there.
"For the first time, the territory [of Kartli] was under the rule of Abkhazian kings in the 870s. At the end of the 9th - beginning of the 10th centuries, they had to fight hard for these lands with Bagratid kings and Arab generals, but after 914 Western Kartli belonged to them. In the 870s and 920-960s, Abkhazian possessions beyond the Likhi Range were ruled by the eldest son of the king, and in between - local Aznauri Kanchaeli and Tbeli. Church construction in Kartli was resumed in the post-Arab period in the area that was most distant from the Arab invasions - the upper reaches of the Prone, Liakhvi, Mejuda, and Ksani Rivers <...> It is there that the largest number of church buildings and the vast majority of dome temples of the second half of the 9th-10th centuries are located. Typological and stylistic analysis makes us divide them into the two groups:
"Kanchaeli" and "Tbeli" schools. The first precisely dated temple [of the Kanchaeli school] was built in Armazi on the bank of the Ksani River in 864. <...> The revival of church architecture in Kartli probably begins with the copying of prestigious early examples. However, an important innovation is the simplification of the ceiling: the blind dome is hidden under the common gable roof of the building. Such rare elements as squinch supporting the drumless dome hidden under a gable roof, keel arches, and three-part blind arcades on lateral facades, bring Armazi closer to the temple in Zirkoli [on the right bank of the Ĉysandon (Ksani) River]. In turn, such a unique element as a keel shaped arch indicates the connection of Armazi and Tsirkoli with the semi-cave two-hall temple in Biet."

Andrei Vinogradov's Stones and Images

Leningor (Ahalgori)

By South Ossetian standards, it is practically a city - two cafes, several stores, a gas station, a kindergarten, and a school. A very good asphalt road leads from Tskhinval to Leningor, and soon the roads in the village should be paid with asphalt too. Its old name is Akhalgori (it means "New Gori" in Georgian). It was first mentioned in chronicles in the second quarter of the 15th century and soon became the residence of the Duchy of Ksani - local feudal lords. Most historians agree on the Alan origin of Kartli and Kakheti vassal kings. However, the estimates of the time of their appearance in the area vary significantly - from the 6th century to the 14th century. A small exposition in the courtyard of the Duchy of Ksani palace surrounded by fortress walls is devoted to the history of the appanage princes. It is the main attraction of Leningor.

Until the beginning of the 20th century, the population of the settlement was predominantly Armenian. The manuscripts of the priest Grigoriy of Akhalgori dated 1631-1645 are kept in the Matenadaran in Yerevan. There is also a Khachkar (Armenian cross-stone) with an inscription about the renovation of the local church in 1462. There were several Armenian temples in Akhalgori, but only the Church of Our Lady located in the center of the village, rebuilt in the 19th century preserved. It now belongs to the Orthodox Alanian Diocese. In Soviet times, the village was called Leningori, in the 1990s it was renamed to Akhalgori again (Georgian maps still use this name), but after the events of 2008 it officially got Lenin name back. In Ossetian, it sounds Leningor.


It is a small village upstream of Ĉysandon almost adjacent to Leningor from the north. At the exit from Ikot, right by the road, there is a nuns convent - an island of exemplary order and purity. The nuns speak only Georgian.


This is where the earlier residence of the Duchy of Ksani was located. Then, they had to climb up Ĉysandon repeatedly when they could not fight off the enemy conquerors at the entrance to the gorge near Akhalgori. Now, it is just a village. Only an elegant church of St. Theodore erected in 1759 is left of the Largvisi Monastery which is quite large and often mentioned in various chronicles, including the Life in Georgia by Vakhushti Bagrationi.


The uppermost of inhabited villages of the Chysan Gorge. There lives an interesting and kind guy named Shota. He plans to open a guesthouse (+7 929 803 73 98).
© 2019 Caucasus Explorer
This travel guide was created by Caucasus Explorer. Our company conceived this project to respond to the hospitality of the highlanders and, at the same time, to support the urban development of Tskhinval and help preserve the traditional way of life in the villages.
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