Kartli is the historical heart of Georgia, cut through by the river Mtkvari and known for its scenic beauty and historic monuments. Its boundaries, which were never strictly defined, have significantly fluctuated over the course of history.

Today, the area is divided into two administrative regions, Shida (inner) Kartli and Kvemo (lower) Kartli.

Gori is the centre of Inner Kartli and Rustavi is the capital of Kvemo Kartli.


Located on the ancient Silk Route, Kartli is considered the cradle of Georgian civilization, steeped, marinated and glazed in layers of history. In Georgian, the country is called Sakartvelo, a name derived from this province and the tribe, the Karts, that settled there. By the late 4th-early 3rd centuries BC, the Kartli Kingdom had emerged as a powerful force and created a single Georgian civilization.

Geography and climate

This large historical area is located in central-eastern Georgia and is filled with gorgeous hidden valleys, plains, orchards and significant cultural treasures.

Separated from the west by low mountain ranges, Shida Kartli occupies a high plateau that extends along the Mtkvari River and its tributaries. Lower Kartli to the south consists largely of steppes and a number of volcanic lakes.

The climate of the Kartli region is quite distinct from the climate of West Georgia. It is dry and continental, with temperatures ranging through the year from -1C° in January to 23C° in August.

What to see and do

The historic monuments peppered throughout Kartli are a profoundly memorable attraction for travelers.

Those based in the city of Gori must visit the city’s fortress. According to the legend, it was built by Byzantine, Caesar Heraclius when he fought against Persians in the 7th century. The fortress was invaded many times and numerous important treasuries have been discovered here.

For a contrasting historical experience, Gori’s museum of Joseph Stalin is certainly worth a visit. One of Georgia’s most interesting museums, it follows Stalin’s life from his church school in Gori to a bronze copy of his eerie death mask.

The Ateni Sioni domed church, the Rkoni monastic complex and the Kintsvisi monastery are all notable historic attractions in the wider region.

Uplistsikhe is located on the river Mtkvari in Inner Kartli and is one of Georgia’s most significant tourist attractions. The complex of caves was a very important cultural center for pagan worship in the Kartli region.

For travelers looking to relax away from hectic city lives, take a break at the popular mountain resort of Surami. Soak up the scenery, gulp lungful of fresh alpine air and drink the cocktail of mineral waters. While there, be sure to have a look around the great Surami fortress that overlooks the town, a monumental reminder of ancient times.