KAKHETI GUIDE

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Kakheti is one big adventure, especially in autumn when a very important period –the harvest and wine making- begin in the region. Viticulture is a traditional field of agriculture for Kakheti, which is always associated with high-quality wine. The soil there is fertile with many pastures planted. This beautiful region also has a great climate– the Alazani Valley is temperate subtropical and the climate is dry subtropical in outer Kakheti. In winter the average temperature is -0, 1 -2, 3 degrees while in summer it reaches +23 – +25 degrees. 

Native Kakhetians are famous for their cheerfulness, diligence, straightforwardness and hospitality. 

Kakheti is located in eastern Georgia, bordering Chechnya and Dagestan from the north and Azerbaijan from the east and south. From the west it neighbors the Georgian regions of Mtskheta-Mtianeti and Kvemo Kartli. The population in the region stands at approximately 407,000 people, 9 % of the entire population of Georgia. The administrative center of Kakheti is Telavi.

Kakheti is rather picturesque with its landscapes: valleys, mountains, lakes, rivers, deserts and forests. One can also catch a glimpse of the stunning snow-capped peaks of the Caucasus Mountains which reach heights of 3300 – 4500 meters.

You can also find a number of architectural monuments there – from castles to ancient churches and monasteries. 

TELAVI THE HEART OF KAKHETI

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The territory of Telavi has been populated since the Bronze Age. Prior to that, this place was home to beautiful, strong elm trees (in Georgian tela), hence the settlement was named ‘Telavi.’ At present, Telavi is a modern town, with lots of interesting venues and beautiful sights.

By car:

Kutaisi International Airport – Telavi – 345 km. 4 hr. 15min.

Tbilisi International Airport – Telavi – 80 km. 1 hr.

Batumi International Airport – Telavi – 465 km. 5 hr. 45min.

What To See In And Around Telavi

NADIKVARI PARK 

One of the landmarks of Telavi, with walking trails, a 12-meter long bridge, panoramic views, an open-air theatre and almost a 900 year-old giant maple tree, which is one of the oldest attractions of the town.

THE GIORGI CHUBINASHVILI TELAVI STATE HISTORY AND ENTHOGRAPHY MUSEUM

Founded in 1927 and is situated in the halls of King Erekle II’s palace, it houses a fascinating photo collection depicting old Telavi.

Cholokashvili StreetOne of the most beautiful and authentic streets in Telavi.

Batoni Castle (Erekle II Avenue

dates back to 1667-75 and consists of the palace of Kakhetian kings, various royal churches, a castle wall, a bath-house and a tunnel situated on the territory of the palace.

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Old and New Shuamta Monasteries  

Old Shuamta is 7 km from Telavi and consists of a V century basilica, one of the most beautiful examples of Christian Georgian Architecture. Nearby you can find New Shuamta, with a church of typical Kakhetian architecture, dating back to the XVI century. 

Ikalto Monastery

 is located in the village of Ikalto 7-8 km west of Telavi. Ikalto monastery was founded by Saint Zenon, one of the 13 Syrian Fathers, in the late VI century. It was known as one of the most significant cultural-scholastic centers of Georgia and, according to legend, the prominent XII century Georgian poet Shota Rustaveli studied there. Ghvtaeba, Sameba and Kvelatsminda churches have been retained on the monastery territory, all of which make an attractive addition with their white color against a background of green mountains. 

The Museum of Alexandre Chavchavadze

 The fascinating story of the Museum, to be found in the village of Tsinandali, began in the XVII century when it became home to prominent Georgian poet – Alexandre Chavchavadze, the first Georgian noble to produce and bottle Georgian wine according to European methods. His vineyard has been cultivated to present day and visitors can see a bottle of Saperavi wine from the first harvest in 1839. There are also 16,500 bottles of other sorts of wines. Visitors can also take a walk in the gardens which house more than 100 plant species.

Alaverdi

 the monastery of Alaverdi is located 20 km from Telavi in the stunning Alazani valley against the background of snowy Caucasus Mountains. The monastery was founded by the Assyrian monk Joseph Alaverdeli and consists of a complex that was famed for being a significant educational-spiritual center and a monastery for monks from its foundation. Later it was turned into a nunnery for nuns from royal. At present this beautiful complex is once again a monastery for monks, where one can also taste wine made by the monks, according to Georgian traditions, in Qvevri (a special clay vessel for wine which is on the UNESCO list).

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Sighnaghi The Museum Town in Kakheti

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Sighnaghi is one of Georgia’s smallest and most beautiful tourist centers. With a population of approximately 2 000 people, the town sits proudly atop the Cold Gombori Mountains, well deserving of its name “asylum,” in Turkish.

Sighnaghi is famous for producing wine and traditional carpets. The city and its surroundings are picturesque with stunning landscapes, historical monuments, wine cellars and the Ethnographic Museum.

One of Sighnaghi’s best-loved features is the longest (4, 5 km long) fortress-wall in Georgia, which harmonically blends in with the urban space.

Sighnaghi fortress is the biggest among historical buildings of Georgia. It has an area of 40 hectares in an uneven location, following as it does the mountain relief before slipping down into the deep ravine. 

In historical sources Sighnaghi as a town first appears in XVIII century accounts. Before this, the territory was known as Kambechovani and later Kiziki. There was no serfdom in Kiziki and people subordinated only to a king. 

It is very interesting to visit St. Stephan’s church (1762) in Sighnaghi, built into the tallest tower of the wall, from which you can enjoy a splendid view of the city and Alazani Valley.  

In Sighnaghi’s Archeological-Ethnographic Museum, located at # 8 Rustaveli Cul-de-Sac, you can check out paintings of the world-famous Georgian primitivist painter Niko Pirosmani.  The artist was from Kakheti and his art, especially in its first phase, was inspired by the region. At different times the same museum has hosted exhibitions of Pablo Picasso, John Wurdeman and Lado Gudiashvili. 

And don’t miss a chance to visit Sighnaghi’s Wedding House, a beautiful architectural monument which was built in the XIX century. 

Sighnaghi is also home to various folk festivals throughout the year.

There are a number of remarkable cafes and restaurants in Sighnaghi, often serving gourmet dishes made of organic products. There are also over ten hotels suitable for all types and tastes of visitor. 

WHAT TO SEE IN AND AROUND SIGHNAGHI

Bodbe –This Georgian monastery complex is located 2 km from Sighnaghi. Originally built in the IX century, it has been significantly remodeled, especially in the XVII century. The monastery now functions as a nunnery and is one of the major pilgrimage sites in Georgia due to its association with St. Nino, the 4th-century enlightener of Georgia, whose relics are shrined there. Kakhetian Kings were sanctified in Bodbe and since XVII century it has been famous as a religious –spiritual center and a book depository. Bodbe is a beautiful monastery complex nestled among perennial cypress, walnut and lime trees. One can also catch a glimpse of the magnificent Alazani Valley and Caucasus Mountains. The complex has its own farm, needlework and icon-painting workshops.

Khirsa – Founded by Assyrian Father Stephan of Khirsa in the VI century, Khirsa monastery is located in Tibaani village, 11 km east of Sighnaghi. The holy relics of the Assyrian Father are buried there and, by tradition, his grave has been used as a place of worship for both Georgians and Muslims. There is a religious school and an old cellar in the yard of the monastery. Khirsa was a famous missionary-enlightenment center, from which Christianity was spread to Dagestan, Ossetia, Ingushetia and other places. 

 

The Small Towns of Kakheti: 

Sagarejo – a beautiful town known as the “eye” of Kakheti

Gurjaani  – famous for winery and viticulture

Akhmeta – located in the Alazani Valley

Lagodekhi – the oldest reservation

Kvareli – famous for producing high quality wine

 Dedoplitskaro- ''Georgia's bread barn''

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Five Monuments of Cultural Heritage in Kakheti

Gremi –Kvareli district. The XVI century architectural monument of the royal citadel and the church of the Archangels. The complex is what has survived from the once flourishing town, which in the XVI and XVII centuries served as the capital of Kakheti in which Persian literature was translated. The lively trading and flourishing town of Gremi, famous for its living complexes, royal residence and bath-houses was razed to the ground by the armies of Shah Abbas I of Persia in 1615 and the town never regained its previous prosperity.

GarejiSagarejo district. A rock-hewn monastery complex of the VI-XVIII centuries, Gareji is located on the half-desert slopes and is the biggest complex in Georgia. It was founded by the Assyrian Father David Garejeli. Besides architecture, Gareji is famous for its beautiful and unique icon-wall paintings. The monastery was often raided. 

Kvareli FortressDating back to the XVI-XVII centuries, this fortress is situated on the plains, surrounded by tunnels and having a quadrangular shape.   

NekresiKvareli District. The monastery complex of the IV-VI centuries. At present a monastery of monks functions there. The town was established by King Pharnajom around the II –I centuries BC. In the IV century AD, King Thrdat built a church in this place, which is one of the oldest Christian churches in Georgia. Nekresi was a spiritual, enlightening and politically significant center of Georgia.

Gurjaani KvelatsmindaGurjaani district A unique monument of Georgian architecture of the VII century. It is the only church to have two domes. As legend claims, the Virgin Mary made miracles in the church and curative milk flowed from the walls. At present it is a monastery of monks.

KhornabujiDedoplistskaro district. Ruins of a fortress and dramatic landscape. In historical sources it first emerged in the V century. Khornabuji always had an immense strategic importance and was the center of Kambechovani.

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Viticulture Wine in Kakheti

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There are approximately 4000 known grape species worldwide: 526 of these varieties come from Georgia and more than 437 of them are still grown.

Viticulture in Kakheti dates back to the VI millennium BC. 70% of Georgia’s vineyards are cultivated in Kakheti where there is a unique climate for grape ripening and the local grape has a vivid aroma. The most fruitful vineyards are located in Azani and Iori pools, at 400-700 meters above sea level.    

From 18 registered vineyards in Georgia, 14 are located in Kakheti: Tsinandali, Gurjaani, Vazisubani, Manavi, Kardenakhi, Tibaani, Kakheti, Kotekhi, Napareuli, Mukuzani, Teliani, Kindzmarauli,Akhasheni and Kvareli. From grape varieties Rkatsiteli, Mtsvane Kakhuri, Kisi, Khikhvi, Budeshuri, Mtsvivana, Sapena, Kumsi, Saperavi deserve particular mention.  

Wine is made in almost every Kakhetian family and wine prepared by a villager might be just as tasty and high-quality as other famous brand wines. 

A traditional technology of wine-making in Kakheti is unique: the grape is kept in a special wine cellar, then it is squeezed within a winepress, after which the liquid is poured into a special clay vessel – a Qvevri, which is buried in the earth, where it stays until final fermentation. 

One can produce both high quality European and traditional wines from Kakhetian grape varieties. For example, the well-known Georgian classic – Tsinandali – is made from Rkatsiteli and Kakhuri Mtsvane. Saperavi is the most widely-spread grape variety in Kakheti.

Wine Tasting in Kakheti

Wine tasting and traveling in Kakheti is an inseparable part of wine tourism. Guests have a chance not only to taste different sorts of Kakhetian wine, but also to observe the unique traditions of wine-making.

Harvest in Kakheti 

The grape harvest is a kind of national celebration in every region of Georgia. In most regions the harvest begins by the end of September, in some places in October, and lasts approximately two weeks. Many people, including guests and tourists get involved in grape picking, afterwards gathering around the table to celebrate the first harvest. 

Kakhetian Cellar

The Georgian word marani (cellar) means the ‘wine house’. In ancient times a person who had a big vineyard and a comfortable cellar was regarded a rich man. The Georgian wine cellar is a phenomena of cultural heritage and can also be seen being built in modern times as well. A typical cellar for the Kartl-Kakheti region is right-angled, has two doors and a chimney – a natural way of ventilation, even when there is no fire.  

Kakhetian Qvevri

The uniqueness of the Georgian Qvevri is in its distinctive shape, simplicity and significant role in Georgian wine-making. It is an egg-shaped amphora, with a conical bottom and a narrow spout. The average size is 1 – 1,5 meters and Kakheti used to be home to the biggest Qvevri vessels in Georgia. In 2013 the ancient Georgian tradition of making wine in Qvevri was listed on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage list. 

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Zaodoba

 is a vodka distilling process which mostly involves men. It is a kind of celebration in Kakheti, bringing together countrymen, relatives and guests. Some bring wine, others,  beef for the barbeque or cheese and pickles. “Zaodi” – the vodka distilling machine – stands in a separate room, chacha (grape husks) boil in a pot and hot vodka comes from the narrow tube drop by drop. It is not recommended to drink hot vodka and at “zaodoba” people prefer to take their pleasure from wine. “Zaodoba” is a labor and joyful feast as well. Vodka distilling usually begins in October. 

Tataraoba

 only women participate in the joyful and impressive process of tataraoba, in which they make traditional Georgian sweet churchkhela – a string of walnut halves that have been dipped in grape juice called Tatara or Phelamushi (grape juice thickened with flour), and dried in the sun. Churchkhelas are one of the main sweets of the New Year feast and are usually made in autumn when the primary ingredients – grapes and nuts -are harvested. After being dried, these “sausage-shaped” sweets are kept in a dry and dark place. Tataraoba is an inseparable part of wine tourism. 

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Kakheti Resorts

Akhtala  is located in Gurjaani and is the only mud-curative resort in Georgia. At the Akhtala resort people with skin diseases, bone and joint diseases, peripheral nervous system diseases and others are treated.  The resort season lasts from April to November. The resort infrastructure is more or less comfortable in Akhtala.

Ujarma is the balneological resort in Sagarejo district. The main natural resource of the resort is medicinal waters with iodine and bromine, which are effective for musculoskeletal system, cardiological and gynecological diseases and the nervous system. The resort season lasts from May to October. The resort infrastructure still echoes Soviet times.

Arkhiloskalo  This resort, with a dry and subtropical climate, is located in Dedoplitskaro region and is good for patients with neurological problems.

The Protected Areas of Kakheti

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Lagodekhi Protected Areas– There are 14 state reserves in Georgia with a total area of 140,672 thousand hectares. The first reserve was founded in Lagodekhi district in 1912, which consists of Lagodekhi Reserve and Aghkvetili on the southern slopes of the Caucasus. At present, five breathtaking, safe and informative tourist trails are set up in the reserve of Lagodekhi Protected Areas: Grouse Waterfall, Ninoskhevi Waterfall, Machi Castle, Black Rock Lake and the Knowledge of Nature Trail. Lagodekhi is also known for its wildlife, and has been famous for its hunting potential. Major predators include Eurasian lynx, grey wolf, brown bear, and the raptors: bearded vulture, eastern imperial eagle, golden eagle and steppe eagle. Altogether, 150 species of birds, 53 mammals, 5 amphibians, 12 reptiles, and 4 fish species can be found in the reserves; 26 of its plant species and more than 40 of its animals are in the Red Data Book. 

Vashlovani Protected Areas is located in the extreme eastern part of the Dedoplistskaro district. It includes Vashlovani Nature Reserve, National Park and three Natural Monuments – Eagle Gorge, Takhti-Tepa Mud Volcanoes and Kakliskure Alazani floodplain forest. Its area includes the Pantishara-Vashlovani massive which rises up to 300-600 meters above sea level. The name Vashlovani is derived from the natural similarity and disposition of pistachio and apple trees that leaves the association of a fruit garden. Its total area is approximately 35053,7 hectares. The Administration and Visitors Center of the national park is located in Dedoplistskaro. Exhibition and presentation halls are located in the administrative building where visitors have the opportunity to become familiar with the specifics of the protected areas, existing tariffs, safety rules and choose the desired travel route. Tourists of Vashlovani Protected Areas have the option of hiking for one or several days. Paths are marked and well-arranged. Bungalows, picnic spots and camping sites are situated along the routes. Sites for setting up a fire are also allocated. The national park offers hiking, geological, biking, photo, cultural and educational tours.

For further information about the reserves, check out:  http://apa.gov.ge/en/protected-areas

 

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