Visitor access to Vardzia, Uplitstikhe monuments restricted for pandemic safety

A view on Uplistsikhe, a cave town-fortress located 15km east of the central Georgian town of Gori and dating all the way back to I-II millennium BCE. Photo via National Agency for Cultural Heritage Preservation of Georgia., 10 Nov 2020 - 14:42, Tbilisi,Georgia

Two of Georgia's most coveted cultural heritage monuments, the Vardzia and Uplistsikhe cave complexes, have been temporarily restricted to visitors for ensuring pandemic safety on the backdrop of growing COVID-19 cases.

The move to impose the measure was announced by the National Agency for Cultural Heritage Preservation on Tuesday, with the monument management body saying the decision had been made due to a "risk of emergence of epidemiological condition" at the sites.

The agency will now look to "fulfil established regulations and carry out recommendations by epidemiologists" at the rock-hewn complexes before reopening the two locations for access, the announcement said.

Ensuring safety for employees of the museum-reserves, the status carried by Vardzia and Uplistsikhe, will be required before a decision on reopening admittance is made by the state organisation, which urged tourist companies and citizens to postpone their scheduled visits to the two monuments in the meanwhile.

The two sites are on the UNESCO Tentative List of World Heritage, with the Vardzia complex dating back to the 12th-13th centuries CE and the Uplistsikhe cave town-fortress to the I-II millennium BCE.