Heart of Georgian wine-making and hospitality with great history, unforgettable panoramas and dozens of ancient monasteries and churches.
Main details about Kakheti
All you need to know to plan a trip
Telavi is located 100 km away from Tbilisi, Sighnaghi is 110 km away.
Telavi is the main city of the region, also Sighnaghi and Kvareli should be mentioned.
The climate is dry, moderately warm. In spring and autumn most days are sunny with an average temperature of +20-25°C during the daytime and +10-15°C in the evenings. During the hottest summer months the temperature can reach 40°C in the shadow, and in winter it rarely goes below 0°C.
How to get there
Almost all sights are accessible by car. There are two roads leading to Kakheti: one goes over the curvy Gombori pass (it is more convenient to get to Telavi), and the other one is the straight Kakhetian highway (to Sighnaghi). Marshrutkas to these cities depart every hour from the Navtlugi (Samgori m/s), Isani and Ortachala stations.
Best time to go
Kakheti is open for travelers all year round, but the most wonderful time to go there is from April till June and in September – October. Going there in early autumn is especially interesting because of Rtveli (grape harvesting) season. In summer long-term trips to Kakheti may be exhausting because of the heat.
Hotels and restaurants
Due to rampant development of wine tourism, Kakheti offers a wide choice of hotels, wineries and restaurants that suit every pocket. To lovers of boutique hotels we recommend Chateau Mere, Kvareli Lake, Lopota Lake resort, Schuchmann Wines Chateau & SPA, while budget travelers will find lots of options at local guesthouses.
Best tourist attractions in Kakheti
This Kakhetian natural interests is sometimes also called the Kakhetian range. The range separates the rivers of Iori and Alazani and is around 120 km long. Lagaismta, the highest mountain of the range, is 2506 meters high. Here you can fully enjoy the beauties of mountain meadows and admire the local vineyards at a height.
Telavi is located in the Alazani valley aslope of the Gombori range and is one of the most ancient cities in the country. In olden times it used to be an important trading center on the caravan track from the Middle East to Europe. The city impresses with its views: here you can please your eyes with the slopes of the Great Caucasus thickly forested with horn-beech and oaks.
The Old Shuamta basilica was built in the V century and is one of the first churches in Kakheti. A bit later the two other churches of the monastery were built, one of which is very similar to Jvari. The New Shuamta monastery was founded in XVI by Queen Tinatin, who once dreamed that she had to build an orthodox church. In this church the Queen was later admitted to the veil and buried on the monastery's territory after her death. The fresco paintings of the XVII century with images of Tinatin and King Levani have survived to these days. Alexander Chavchavadze, a famous Georgian poet and educator, is also buried here.
The ancient Ikalto academy was founded by King David the Builder and is famous because Shota Rustaveli, a well-known Georgian poet, studied there. Every year in November Shotaoba, the poet's memory day, is celebrated there. Back in the day, the academy was the most important cultural and educational center of the country. The academy building is the youngest from the whole Ikalto monastery ensemble and is dated back to the XII century. The monastery itself, according to a legend, was founded in the VI century by Zenon Ikaltoeli, one of the 13 Assyrian Fathers, and includes small churches dated back to the VI, VII and IX centuries.
The cathedral church of Alaverdi (officially called the church of St. George) was built in the first quarter of the XI century. The architectural ensemble is surrounded by a grand fortification wall and includes buildings of various purpose. Inside the Alaverdi there are fragments of wall paintings of the XI, XV and XVII centuries. The cathedral is one of the highest churches in Georgia – it is about 50 meters high, the internal height is more than 42 meters.
The monastery is connected with the name of one of the Assyrian Fathers – Abibos Nekreseli – and it is a must-visit due to several reasons: - Its buildings, the oldest dating back to the IV century (the church of John the Baptist); - The monastery cellar (marani) survived to this day; - Overwhelming views of the Alazani valley; - Silence and tranquility prevailing on the monastery territory. The monastery can be reached by local buses on the mountain spiral road. Cost is 1.5 lari per person. The buses departure every 20 minutes.
In the XV century King George I built the city of Gremi and made it the capital of the Kakhetian kingdom. In the XVI century King Levani built the royal palace and the church of the Archangels Michael and Gabriel. In 1615 Shah Abass destroyed the city and only the church buildings survived. The church is built from brick according to the Middle Age Georgian architecture canons, but it also has interpreted elements of Iranian and Persian architecture. There is a small museum inside the three-level tower with everyday items of that time. Entrance fee is 5 lari per person.
Knyaz Garsevan Chavchavadze was one of facilitators of the Georgian accession to Russia by signing the Treaty of Georgievsk. His son Alexander Chavchavadze, a famous poet, built a residence with European interiors in Tsinandali, created the first winery producing wine according to the European technology and laid the foundation for industrial wine-making. It was the time when the today-famous Tsinandali wine was born. The first grand piano in Georgia played here, poets Alexander Pushkin, Mikhail Lermontov, Alexander Odoevskiy and French writer Alexander Duma came here. Here Alexander Griboedov met Nina Chavchavadze, his future wife. Entrance fee to the residence is 7 lari per person.
David Gareji cave monastery
David Gareji is a rock-hewn monastery complex set along the Azerbaijan border and 25 km in length. The first monastery was set up in the VI century by St. David Garejeli, one of the Assyrian Fathers. He took ascetism a step further that other monks and moved directly to the Gareja desert, the most difficult place for living in whole Georgia. The monastery reached its fulflowering in the 11-12th centuries, and there were 14 complexes at that time. Being the mainstay of Christianity in the South Caucasus, David Gareji did not avoid the rough luck of the rest of Georgia and in different time was ruined by the Tamerlan's troops, the Seljuk Turks, and Mongolian invasions. In 1615 the monastery was seized by Shah Abass and lives of 5000 were forfeit of their refusal to abjure their religion.
Sighnaghi, the city well-known to many romantic people as the city of love, is called so for two reasons: 1) A 24-hour marriage registration office that operates here; 2) Pirosmani, the famous primitivist artist who was born there The city was founded in the XVIII century by King Erekle II as a refugee from the Lezgin and Persian attacks. In 2005 Sighnaghi was massively renovated and the city became even more attractive. In addition to its amazing panoramas and survived city wall, the city is interesting with its museum, where one can see archeological findings and pictures by Pirosmani.
This monastery is in the first place interesting because of St. Nino, who spent her last years and then was buried there. Already by the end of the VI century there was a monastery founded. The central altar of the cathedral is dedicated to St. George, and the grave of St. Nino is at the South altar. One of the most venerated icons of Georgia – the myrrh-streaming and wonder-working icon of the Iberian Mother of God – is stored in the cathedral. We also recommend visiting St. Nino's font with saint spring water. There is a 700-step path from the monastery to the font through the forest. There is also a car road, but it is the descent on foot that creates the feeling of pilgrimage.
Best trekking routes in Kakheti
A 40-meter high waterfall of Gurgeniani is located in the Lagodekhi natural reserve at the foothill of the Great Caucasus. The route to the waterfall starts 7 km away from the Lagodekhi village and goes along the Ninoskhevi river valley. Last 300 meters are not for everybody: to pass it, one has to climb a steep and slippery rock. In June the river overflows, so be ready to cross the river several times by wading. From July to September water level is much lower. Route length: 5 km, duration: 6-8 hours.
The Eagle clove is a natural monument of limestone cliffs located 3,5 km away from Dedoplistskaro and a part of Vashlovani national park. Here up to 9 species of predatory birds can be seen, many of them (bearded vulture, black vulture, griffon vulture) are on the Red List of endangered species. Early morning is the best time for bird watching. The route goes 2 km along the clove and is accessible to everyone. Half a day would be enough to visit and it is good to combine it with a visit to the Khornabuji fortress.
This fortress built in the V century is a great sample of fortification. Shakh Abbasa, a historian, said that if the inhabitants of the fortress had access to drinkable water, no one would ever be able to seize it. Ascend to the fortress is a very twisted adventure and is only recommended to those who are self-confident and are not afraid of heights. But it is topped with a just reward: a tremendous panorama of the Alazani valley and the Great Caucasus.