One of the most beautiful regions of Georgia, the land of vineyards – Kakheti – is becoming more and more popular with tourists from year to year. Such brands as the Alazani Valley and the charismatic Mimino performed by V. Kikabidze glorified her even under the USSR. Today, Kakheti is not only (still) good old wine, but also wonderful natural beauties, and an abundance of medieval monasteries and temples. Historically, this region was considered quite remote from the center of the country, even difficult to access. But with the opening of a new road through the Gombori Pass, the situation improved. And honestly, is even 2.5 hours on the road a lot if such beauty lies ahead?
One of the most beautiful cities in the wine region of Kakheti, Sighnaghi is called the “city of love”. The center has been beautifully restored and is somewhat reminiscent of Italy.
How to get there
According to liuxers.com, the easiest way to get to Kakheti is from Tbilisi. The distance between the Georgian capital and the city of Telavi is just over 80 km, so the journey by car or public transport will take no more than 2 hours, excluding traffic jams, but they are very rare in this section. Minibuses to Telavi run every 40 minutes from the Ortachala bus station, a ticket will cost from 7 GEL per passenger.
The road to another Kakhetian city – Sighnaghi – will also take a couple of hours, minibuses depart every 2 hours from the Samgori bus station in Tbilisi (the metro station of the same name is located nearby), starting from 7:00 to 18:00, the ticket will cost from 6 GEL per passenger.
A taxi ride from Tbilisi to Telavi and back will cost from 75 GEL, to Sighnaghi and back – from 110 GEL, rent a taxi with a driver for a day, ask him to take you to all the sights and return back to Tbilisi – from 150 GEL.
A bit of history
It is not known exactly in which century the origins of Kakheti should be sought, but it is quite certain that it will be some century BC. Until the 11th century Kakheti was independent, then became part of the Georgian kingdom, in the 15th century. got out of it again. After Kakheti twice experienced the devastating raids of the Persian army, in the 18th century. re-joined Georgia and already in its composition became part of the Russian Empire.
Entertainment and attractions of Kakheti
Khornabuji fortress near the city of Dedoplis-Tskaro, Kvareli fortress in the city of the same name, a wonderful national park not far from Lagodekhi – literally in every city of Kakheti there is something to see. This is not to mention the endless mountain villages and villages, which may not be famous for such bright sights, but are amazingly atmospheric.
The main city of Kakheti is Telavi. Yes, yes, the same one from where the character of the film “Mimino” was from. Telavi is not at all as small as one might conclude after watching the film, and is located not so far and high in the mountains: only 70 km from Tbilisi. The fortress of the 8th-13th centuries has been preserved in the city, and the Shuamta monastery complex of the 5th-16th centuries is located nearby. Also in the vicinity of Telavi are the ruins of the Ikaltoy Academy of the 11th-12th centuries: according to legend, it was the alma mater of Shota Rustaveli. Another city attraction is the patriarchal plane tree, which has already changed its ninth century.
There really is an airport in Telavi, and more than that – it is named after the same movie character: Mimino Airport.
Near Telavi there are two famous monastic complexes: Old and New Shuamta. Dzveli-Shuamta (“Old”) is located 7 km from the city, and the oldest local basilica dates back to the 5th century. Akhali-Shuamta (“New”) is located a couple of kilometers, on a hill surrounded by forests. Its main church was built in the 16th century. and consecrated in honor of the Nativity of the Virgin.
The ancient capital of Kakheti, the city of Gremi, was completely destroyed by the Persian Shah Abbas: only one church of the archangels has survived. But in recent years, Gremi has undergone a fairly large-scale renovation in order to increase its tourist attractiveness: for example, today wine cellars are open in the city, where anyone can taste local products. Near Gremi is Nekresi, founded around the 2nd-1st centuries. BC e. The local church is considered one of the oldest in the country. One of the treasures of the Nekresi monastery is the relics of saints, including the evangelists Matthew and Luke. The monastery has a good tourist infrastructure: a cafe in the former refectory, an information center and a souvenir shop.
Perhaps the best time to visit Kakheti is rtveli, harvesting. This is also the name of a bright family holiday, which takes place here in late August – early September. Unfortunately, it is difficult to guess the time of the trip because of the floating dates of the holiday: after all, the grapes do not ripen according to the calendar, but according to the weather.
Gurjaani – the third largest city in Kakheti – is famous for the Church of All Saints, which is located here. The church was built in the 8th century. and consecrated in honor of the Assumption of the Virgin. This unique temple is the only one in the country with two symmetrical domes and is considered one of the most important architectural landmarks of the transitional period in the culture of the country.
The town of Sighnaghi is the “smallest of the big” cities of Kakheti: only about 2,500 people live here. Sighnaghi stands on mountain terraces, along which medieval streets wind up and down. The Sighnaghi Fortress is one of the largest and most famous in the country; besides, it is surprisingly well preserved. The fortress walls surrounding the Old City still have 28 towers, which you can climb to admire the famous Alazani Valley. One of the most beautiful cities in the wine region of Kakheti, Sighnaghi is called the “city of love”. The center has been beautifully restored and is somewhat reminiscent of Italy, and the churches of St. George and St. Stephen serve as an incredibly photogenic visiting card for it.
The Cathedral of the Alaverdi Monastery, near Akhmeta, was built in the 11th century. This is a stunning majestic building with a height of almost 50 m, which, before the construction of Tbilisi’s Tsminda Sameba, was the largest temple in the country. To this day, inside the church you can see the paintings of the 15th century. The cathedral is included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Of course, the main pride of Kakheti is local wine, which is made not in barrels, but in giant kvevri vessels. These clay jugs are made only here. The wine “ripens” in kvevri buried in the ground; this is a special technology that, in combination with “native” grape varieties, turns Kakheti into a real wine capital of Georgia. Mukuzani, rkatsiteli, kindzmarauli, tsinandali, akhasheni, which in Soviet times were considered the best wines of the Union, are still produced here and in this way.
Near many churches in Kakheti, you can see a kind of “Kvevri cemetery”: according to tradition, after the holiday is over, you can’t take an empty jug back.
Otherwise, Kakhetian cuisine is quite simple and uncomplicated: lavash and fried meat here differ little from exactly the same in other parts of Georgia. Perhaps, only the emphasis on meat is done here more.