The Cradle of Wine

KAKHETI

Kakheti is a region in eastern Georgia consisting from the historical province of Kakheti and the small, mountainous province of Tusheti. Telavi is its capital.

Kakheti is bordered by the Russian Federation to the Northeast, Azerbaijan to the Southeast, and the Georgian regions of Mtskheta-Mtianeti and Kvemo Kartli to the west.

Total area of region is 11thousand square meters and population 442 thousand.

Kakheti is rich with historical monuments - more than 5000.

The region is famous for its wine production and Viticulture.

The method of wine production in Kakheti is principally different from European methods.

More info on Georgian and Kakhetian wines here.

Best time to visit Kakheti Region is autumn, during “Rtveli”, when Kakhetians collect grapes and prepare for wine making.

This is the time when Churchkhelas are also made (popular Georgian sweets, made from grape juice and nuts).


Below we describe all main highlights and attractions one should visit during the travel to the region.


Route Details (Roundtrip)

Total Length: 533km; 11 hours without traffic. 

And here is the link for directions on Google Maps: https://goo.gl/maps/dnqAt34ECmG2




David Gareja Monastery

David Gareja is a rock-hewn Georgian Orthodox monastery complex located in the Kakheti region of Eastern Georgia, on the half-desert slopes of Mount Gareja, 60–70 km southeast of Tbilisi. The complex includes hundreds of cells, churches, chapels, refectories and living quarters hollowed out of the rock face.

Part of the complex is located in the Azerbaijani territory and has been subject to a border dispute between Georgia and Azerbaijan. 

By the way, If you’re not going to Azerbaijan, you can at least say you’ve set foot in their territory! :)

The area is also home to protected animal species and evidence of some of the oldest human habitations in the region (pay attention to white seashell stuck in rocks in some areas - referencing that the whole area used to be covered by ocean many years ago).

Uniqueness of the complex is heightened by a lunar, semi desert landscape that turns green and blooms with flowers in early summer. Davit Gareja comprises about 15 monasteries spread over a remote area (most long abandoned), but visitors usually just see two – Lavra (which has been restored since Soviet times and is now again inhabited by monks) and, on the hill above it, Udabno, which has beautiful frescoes.

Lavra, the original monastery here, was founded by Davit Gareja, one of the 13 ascetic Syrian fathers who returned from the Middle East to spread Christianity in Georgia in the 6th century. The complex grew until monasteries were spread over a wide area. Manuscripts were translated and copied, and a celebrated school of fresco painting flourished here. The monasteries were destroyed by the Mongols in 1265, revived in the 14th century by Giorgi V the Brilliant, sacked by Timur, and then destroyed on Easter night 1615 when Shah Abbas’ soldiers killed 6000 monks and trashed many of the artistic treasures. The monasteries never regained their former importance, though they remained active until the end of the 19th century. During the Soviet era, the military used the area for exercises and vandalized the monasteries.

It takes two to three hours to explore Lavra and Udabno. In July and August it can get fearfully hot here by the middle of the day, so an early start, getting here by 10am, is a good idea.

Also, keep in mind that there are many snakes and reptiles lurking the area so watch your step carefully.

There are many interesting symbolic myths and legends connected to the complex and reflected in the icons and wall paintings so hiring a guide might be a good idea if you’re into culture, history and legends :)


Useful info:

- There are no entrance fees to the site.

- Keep in mind that David Gareja is an active monastery, and the monks can be pretty strict, so please try dress and act in accordance.

- We recommend wearing long pants.

- Take water with you, there usually is no running water.

- There is a public toilet near the entrance.

- On the way back we highly recommend stopping in a small village Udabno (the first one on the way to Sagarejo, in the middle of Georgian desert), at the very nice cafe "Oasis Club" where you can try tasty Georgian food and refreshments.

They also have a nice guesthouse / hostel and offer some horse riding tours.

Website: oasisclubudabno.com

E-mail: oasisclubudabno@gmail.com
Tel. +995 574 80 55 63


How to get there:

We recommend hiring a 4WD vehicle with cars4rent.ge and driving a comfortable car on your own.

There are 2 roads going to Gareja, one, the most popular, is on our map, a red rout turning from town Sagarejo. Another option (Google Maps will recommend this one) is to take a road from town Rustavi, the drive will be interesting but the road is in a worse condition so we recommend the one through Sagarejo.

Although if you are more interested in public transport, every season it’s possible to get to David Gareja by mini-bus, operated by Gareji Linewhich departs from Freedom Square. Here is contact information:

Parking by Pushkin Park / Liberty Square (0.45 km)
551 95 14 47

The Gareji Line bus departs at 11am daily, costs 25 GEL per person and the journey takes just over one hour. 

Please double check, the minibus line operates only from Srping to Autumn.

Town Sighnaghi

Signagi is a beautiful small town in Kakheti region. Although it is one of Georgia's smallest towns, Signagi serves as a popular tourist destination due to its location at the heart of Georgia's wine-growing region, as well as its picturesque landscapes, pastel houses and narrow, cobblestone streets. Located on a steep hill, Signagi overlooks the vast Alazani Valley, with the Caucasus Mountains visible at a distance.

Signagi as a settlement is first recorded in the early 18th century. In 1762, King Heraclius II of Georgia sponsored the construction of the town and erected a fortress to defend the area from marauding attacks by Dagestan tribesmen.

Sighnaghi is famous for its long city walls: there are well preserved 4.5 kilometer of stone walls - which stretch along small mountain ridges. There are two entrances to the wall, so you can stroll along it and admire the Alazani Valley. (Interesting fact is that the stone material for the fortress and walls were brought all the way up from Alazani Valley)

The town quickly rose in its size and population and became an agricultural center under the Soviet Union. The severe economic crisis in post-Soviet Georgia heavily affected the town, but a major reconstruction project launched by the Government of Georgia and co-funded by several international organizations addressed an increasing tourist interest and modernized infrastructure.

Signagi and its environs are home to several historical and cultural monuments and has been specifically protected by the State since 1975. The town is walled with the remnants of 18th-century fortifications. There are two Georgian Orthodox churches in the town itself.

The local Ethnographic and Archaeological Museum dating from the 1950s was upgraded and developed into a modern-standard exhibition the – Signagi Museum – in 2007.

Signagi is known as a "City of Love" in Georgia, with many couples visiting it just to get married.


How to get there:

From Tbilisi marshrutkas run daily from Samgori station at 09:00, 11:00, 13:00, 15:00, 17:00, and 18:00. Travel duration is 1.5 hours, cost 6 gel, with a same schedule returning.

Mashrutka's and shared taxis also depart frequently from the Isani bus terminal at similar prices. Beware of the destination, some only stop in nearby Tsnori, requiring a taxi ride to Signagi (about 10 minutes, 5 lari can be negotiated).


Bodbe Monastery
Located two kilometers far from the Sighnaghi, this beautiful monastery is one of the most important places for Georgians, because St. Nino, who brought Christianity to Georgia, is buried there. Her grave can be visited – people say that the saint helps fulfill your cherished wishes.

Strolling through the magnificent monastery garden makes you feel calmed down and relaxed...

You can also go down to the holy spring of St. Nino, and plunge into healing cold water.

Originally built in the 9th century, it has been significantly remodeled, especially in the 17th century. The monastery now functions as a nunnery.


Town Telavi

Telavi is the main city and administrative center of Georgia's eastern province of Kakheti. Its population consists of some 21,800 inhabitants (as of the year 2002). The city is located on foot-hills of Tsiv-Gombori Range at 500–800 meters above the sea level.

The first archaeological findings from Telavi date back to the Bronze Age. One of the earliest surviving accounts of Telavi is from the 2nd century AD. Telavi began to transform into a fairly important and large political and administrative center in the 8th century AD.

From the 10th until the 12th century AD, Telavi served as the capital of the Kingdom of Kakheti.

During the so-called Golden Era of the Georgian State (12th-13th centuries), Telavi turned into one of the most important political and economic centers of the Georgian State. After the disintegration of the united Georgian Kingdom in the 15th century, the role of Telavi started to decline and the city eventually became an ordinary town of trade and crafts. Telavi re-gained its political importance in the 17th century when it became a capital of the kingdom of Kakheti.

Telavi and its surroundings are rich in historical, architectural and natural monuments. 


The most important heritage monuments preserved within the city include:

- Dzveli Galavani (old walls) - fortress of the first Kakhetian kings, 9th-10th centuries AD

- Church of the St. Mary, 16th century AD

- Church of the Holy Trinity, 6th century AD

- Fortress "Batonis Tsikhe" (fortress of master) built in 17th century AD - this is one of the only well-preserved medieval royal palaces in Georgia;

The landscape of Telavi is scenic. The city is wrapped in picturesque landscapes from all sides. Telavi faces the Tsiv-Gombori Range to the south and south-west and borders on the Alazani Valley to the north and east. The Greater Caucasus Mountain Range, which runs to the north of the Alazani Valley, can be seen from most of Telavi.

Because of its beauty, historical monuments and most importantly, the hospitality and the reputation for kindness of its residents, the city is a popular tourist destination in Georgia.

At present, the city of Telavi is connected with Tbilisi by two highways. Shorter route, which runs through the highlands of the Gombori Mountain Range, approximately 96 km, is quite scenic and pretty well paved - therefore recommended.

Another highway runs through the rural areas of Kakheti and is longer (the overall length of the highway is approximately 156 km).


How to get there:

A shared minibus from Ortochala Bus station cost 7 GEL per person and takes around 4 hours. The driving is appalling.

At the same station you can also find a shared minivan taxis for the price of 10-15 GEL per person.

Tsinandali Museum

Tsinandali is a village in Kakheti, Georgia, noted for the estate and its historic winery which once belonged to the 19th-century aristocratic poet Alexander Chavchavadze (1786–1846). It is situated in the district of Telavi.

Alexander Chavchavadze inherited this village, lying in the Alazani River valley, from his father, Prince Garsevan. He refurbished the estate, constructed a new Italianate palace and built a decorative garden in 1835. It was the place where Chavchavadze frequently entertained foreign guests with music, wit, and – most especially – the fine vintages made at his estate winery. Familiar with European ways, Chavchavadze built Georgia’s oldest and largest winery where he combined European and centuries-long Georgian winemaking traditions. The highly regarded dry white Tsinandali is still produced there.

The Tsinandali garden was renovated in 1887 and passed to the state n 1917. In 1947, the estate was organized into a museum.


Here you can:

Walk in the 19th century cellar while drinking wine made in 21th century and enjoy the unique collection of approximately 16.500 wine bottles from different countries. Here you can also see  a dusty bottle of Saperavi wine made in year 1836 by the owner of the manor, Alexander Chavchavadze.

Walk in British style park, designed by British gardeners in 19th century.

There is the "Alley of Love", and as local legend says, if one walks it from end to end with their eyes closed, will have their conceived wish fulfilled.


Working hours:

Monday - Wednesday 10.00 - 18.00,

Friday - Sunday 10.00 - 19.00.

Tel: (+995 350) 2 3 37 17; (+995 5 99) 71 41 22


Ticket price:   

5 Lari - Park and museum.

7 Lari - Park, Museum and a glass of water.

20 Lari - Park, museum and degustation of five sorts of wine.

Park has a cafe and a souvenir shop.


Alaverdi Monastery

Alaverdi Monastery is a Georgian Eastern Orthodox, in the Kakheti region. While parts of the monastery date back to 6th century, the present day cathedral was built in the 11th century replacing an older church of St. George.

The monastery was founded by the Assyrian monk Joseph (Yoseb) Alaverdeli, who came from Antioch and settled in Alaverdi, then a small village and former pagan religious center dedicated to the Moon. At a height of over 55 meters, Alaverdi Cathedral is the second tallest religious building in Georgia, after Holy Trinity Cathedral of Tbilisi, which was consecrated in 2004. The monastery is the focus of the annual religious celebration Alaverdoba. Situated in the heart of the world's oldest wine region, the monks also make their own wine, known as Alaverdi Monastery Cellar.


Gremi Church

Gremi is a 16th-century architectural monument – the royal citadel and the Church of the Archangels – in Kakheti. The complex is what has survived from the once flourishing town of Gremi and is located southwest of the present-day village of the same name in the Kvareli district, 175 kilometers east of Tbilisi.

Gremi was the capital of the Kingdom of Kakheti in the 16th and 17th centuries. Founded by Levan of Kakheti, it functioned as a lively trading town on the Silk Road and royal residence until being razed to the ground by the armies of Shah Abbas I of Persia in 1615. The town never regained its past prosperity and the kings of Kakheti transferred their capital to Telavi in the mid-17th century.

The town appears to have occupied the area of approximately 40 hectares and to have been composed of three principal parts – the Archangels’ Church complex, the royal residence and the commercial neighborhood.

The Archangels’ Church complex is located on a hill and composed of the Church of the Archangels Michael and Gabriel itself, a three-story castle, a bell tower and a wine cellar (marani). It is encircled by a wall secured by embrasures, turrets and towers. Remains of the secret tunnel leading to the Ints’obi River have also survived.

The Church of the Archangels was constructed in 1565 and frescoed by 1577. It is a cruciform domed church built chiefly of stone. Its design marries traditional Georgian masonry with a local interpretation of the contemporary Iranian architectural taste. The building has three entrances, one facing west, one facing to the south, and the third facing to the north. The interior is crowned with a dome supported by the corners of the sanctuary and two basic piers. The façade is divided into three arched sections. The dome sits on an arcaded drum which is punctured by eight windows.

The bell-tower also houses a museum where several archaeological artifacts and the 16th-century cannon are displayed.


Apart from the highlights mentioned above, if you have some extra time we recommend visiting following attractions:


Nekresi Monastery
Nekresi is a historic town in Kakheti, in modern day Kvareli Municipality. The town was established in 2nd-1st centuries BC. In the 4th century AD, king Thrdat built a church in this place. This church became a refuge to one of the Assyrian fathers, Abibus, in the late 6th century. Around this time Diocese of Nekresi was established, which existed until the 19th century.The church was recently restored, stone masonry repaired, roof rebuilt, windows put in place.


Ikalto Monastery
Ikalto is a village about 10 km west of the town Telavi. It is mostly known for its monastery complex and the Ikalto Academy.

The Ikalto monastery was founded by Saint Zenon, one of the 13 Syrian Fathers, in the late 6th century. It was known as one of the most significant cultural-scholastic centres of Georgia. An academy was founded at the monastery during King David the Builder by Arsen Ikaltoeli in the early 12th century. The Academy of Ikalto trained its students in theology, rhetoric, astronomy, philosophy, geography, geometry chanting but also more practical skills such as pottery making, metal work, viticulture and winemaking and pharmacology. According to a legend the famous 12th century Georgian poet Shota Rustaveli studied there.

There are three churches on the monastery grounds. The main church, (Holy Spirit), was built in the 8th–9th century on the site of an older church (in which Saint Zenon had been buried). In 1616 the Persian invaders led by Shah Abbas I set the Ikalto Academy on fire and it ceased to exist.


Shuamta Monasteries
Near Telavi in the village of Shuamta you can see the fragments of old Shuamta and new Shuamta Monasteries. These two monasteries differ from each other in architecture and were built in different times.

Old Shuamta monastery is older. It is a complex of several ancient churches. The small church standing in the foreground is dated 5th century AD, the other two – bigger and smaller domical churches – 7th century. The churches were painted in 12th century.

New Shuamta Monastery was built in the 16th century. This monastery is still active. The big temple, the bell tower, the fencing parts of the monastery complex. According to the legend the monastery was constructed by Tina, the Kakhetian queen. When she was a little girl she had a dream where she was told to build an Orthodox temple. In her dream she saw the site of the future monastery. The place appeared unfamiliar, and only when she married Kakhetian prince, Tina recognized the place during her travel across Georgia. That was how the monastery was founded.


Lake Resorts
In Kakheti there are 2 lake resorts. Lopota and Kvareli. Both are situated near small lakes in very beautiful area. Both resorts have very good infrastructure and offer very good leisure and relaxing surroundings. Both resorts are pretty highly priced. You can see more details at their websites:

Lopota Lake Resort

http://lopota.ge/home/eng

Tel: +995 32 2 400 400 /+995 591 700 777

Email: info@lopota.ge

Kvareli Lake Resort

http://www.kvarelilakeresort.ge/

Tel: +995322 30 30 30

Email: welcome@kvarelilakeresort.ge


And finally once in the region we highly recommend visiting beautiful national Parks, Vashlovani and Lagodekhi. For more information on those and other National Parks in Georgia please visit our National Parks page.