Kakheti Travel Guide to the Land of Wine and Monasteries
If you’re looking for a place that has beautiful mountains, lakes, waterfalls and wineries, gorgeous landscapes, cave monasteries and history on every corner, delicious food and locals who treat every guest as if he were an angel, look no further than Kakheti.
Set to the east of the capital Tbilisi, it expands for 11.3 square kilometers and you could easily spend a week travelling around it. Some of the main sights can be reached in about 2 hours by car.
Where to go
If you’re up for a real adventure, you could start by taking a helicopter to the gorgeous mountains of Tusheti (driving is possible, but only from May to mid-October and only in a 4WD)– the air, mountain flowers and rivers, stone towers and the vistas will take you to a pure, beautiful and back-to-the basics reality which will make you forget about your smart phone. This is a hard-to-reach, remote and truly fascinating part of the world. Even the locals only live there in the summer, but they’ll gladly host you and put on a “supra” (Georgian feast) for you. Read more…
If you’re looking for something less adventurous, take the scenic drive to Telavi (especially beautiful in Autumn when you drive a windy road with dark-red leaves all around you) and spend a couple of days exploring the local wineries Khareba has great varieties of saperavi some of which have won international competitions, Chelti has also won competitions in Hong Kong and does wonderful European style and qvevri wines) – all set in Tuscany-like scenery, overlooking the Alazani valley and Caucasus mountains. The drive from Akhmeta to Lagodekhi will get you drunk on the wine and the views, but save space on the camera for the national park of Lagodekhi. This national park can be reached from Tbilisi in about 2.5 hours and has stunning waterfalls and lakes to admire. You can walk along the treks; expect to spend at least 5 hours walking to see the waterfalls and wandering around and taking it all in. Read more…
Probably the best-known part of the region is Sighnaghi – Italian-style town tucked in the middle of green hills overlooking Alazani valley. it was built in the 18th century and recently renovated. Cobbled-streets, carved balconies, a piazza, a wall that stretches for 4.5 kilometers alongside small mountain ridges – it’s the perfect setting for a glass of local saperavi. Signagi is also called “the city of love” – you can get married there any time of day. Read more…
Just 2 kilometers from Signagi is Bodbe monastery – a place of beauty and tranquility, where St.Nino, who brought Christianity to Georgia in the 4th century, is buried. Read more…
Driving from Tbilisi to David Gareji (just under 2 hours), you will see a completely different side of Kakheti – the steppe, red stone ridges and eagles will make you feel like you’re exploring a different country all together. David Gareji is a cave monastery complex, which still houses a few monks, was built in the 6th century. It consists of a lower and upper part. The lower part is easily accessible with a church, caves and beautiful views of red rocks around. The upper part is about a 40-60 minute hike up the mountain, but you’ll be rewarded with views over Azerbaijan and frescos from the 9th to the 14th century in caves. Read more…
Vashlovani is one of the protected areas of Georgia which is often referred to as “Georgian Africa” because of its mud volcanoes, the semi-dessert vegetation and steppe and floodplain forest. It’s also home to cliffs-of-the-canyons, known in the area as the “Sharp Walls”.
You can spend 1 or a few days hiking around the trails, which have bungalows, picnic spots and camping sites along the way.
Kakheti has a long turbulent history of being part of Kartli-Iberia, independent, ruled by Iran, Georgia, the Mongols, Persia, Russia, Turks and finally becoming part of Georgia. You can see traces of the history in the architecture of some of the sights: the curved balconies in Signagi, the Tsinandali estate which looks was built in European tradition but with Persian-influenced balconies, yet hosted some of Russia’s most prominent writers.
Climate and when to go
Kakheti enjoys a moderate climate similar to that in the south of France. Summer temperatures hover around +30, Autumn enjoys mild +25 to +15 from September to November, winters get a bit colder and at times misty with around 0 to +8. Spring is also pleasant from +15 to +20. The best time to go is on a sunny day, April-June or September-October if you don’t like to be too hot. Autumn is beautiful with the leaves putting on bright colors and fun at the time of rtveli – grape harvesting and wine-making – you can make some yourself in from mid-September to mid-October.
Cradle of Georgian Wine
Kakheti travel guide won’t be complete without mentioning that it is also the cradle of wine. Wine-making tradition here dates back to 6000 BC. The traditional method of making wine – in clay pots called qvevri – is still used and makes very unique flavored wines. The art of making qvevri is passed down generations and is UNESCO heritage. Today Kakheti wine-makers use both the traditional and European methods of making wine and have a fascinating variety which is getting noticed on the international wine market – Georgian orange wines have been recommended by the Washington Post and many wines have won international competitions.
There are 45 varieties of grape grown in Kakheti, including 14 Protected Designations of Origin, which means the name can only be used for the wine produced in that specific area.
The main red variety is Saperavi – a grape variety grown in different regions, and in some of them, like Napareuli, Mukuzani and Kindzmarauli the name is protected according to the area in which the wine is made (i.e. a wine can be called Napareuli only if it was made in Napareuli).
The main white varieties are Rkatsiteli, which, like Saperavi is grown in some areas which protect the name, like Tsinandali, and other grape varieties such as Mtsvane, Kisi and Tsitska.
A glass (or a few) of local wine will make any type of Kakheti experience and even more enjoyable one. And with the variety of activities and sights, Kakheti has something to offer for anyone.