Welcome to Kakheti
The eastern region of Kakheti is Georgia’s premier wine-producing area. Almost everywhere you go, you’ll be invited to drink a glass of traditional qvevri brew, and it’s easy to find yourself wandering around in a semipermanent mellow haze. Kakheti is also rich in history: here you’ll find the incredible monastery cave complex of Davit Gareja in a desolate spot overlooking the Azerbaijan border; the vaguely Tuscan-looking hilltop town of Sighnaghi; and many extraordinarily located churches and castles – both ruined and restored – around the charming regional capital, Telavi.
In this country of wine-lovers, everyone agrees that the very best wines come from the fertile easternmost part of Georgia, called by Dumas “the garden province of Kakheti.” In some ways, little has changed since his time – horse-drawn carts are a frequent sight on the quiet country roads, the fields are dotted with hayricks, the rivers wind untrammeled through green pastures and the sweet grapes are still harvested by hand.
But wine is not all that Kakheti has to offer – the rich history of the region has bequeathed to us some of Georgia’s finest examples of church architecture. Add to this the friendliness and easy-going hospitality of the people and you will understand why a visit to Kakheti is always a pleasure.
The Georgian town of Sighnaghi is located in the eastern part of Kakheti, and is known as the City of Love. Sighnaghi was also one of Georgia’s many stops along the ancient Silk Road. Sighnaghi is just over an hour away from Tbilisi, which makes it a good escape from the busy life of the city. Many day trips and short excursions travel to Sighnaghi.
The town has recently undergone significant restoration and infrastructural improvement, rendering Sighnaghi a must-see destination in Georgia. Casino gambling, high end hotels and dining, fine wines and a stunning view of the Alazani Valley make Sighnaghi one of Georgia’s most attractive small towns.
The town sits atop a bluff overlooking the Alazani Valley, which is one of Georgia’s most famous wine-producing regions. Sighnaghi is a great place to start a wine tour in Georgia’s prime wine country, especially since several vineyards and wineries are just a short drive from the town’s center. The surreal views of the Greater Caucasus Mountains add an extra level to the scenery.
As is typical of Georgia, Sighnaghi is endowed with significant historic and cultural heritage sites. Its charming cobblestone streets and alleys, restored original nouveau woodwork, and detailed facades give the town a romantic mystique. Billed the City of Love, Sighnaghi is a popular wedding venue. The wedding chapel here was the first to operate around the clock, and put Sighnaghi on the map as a destination. Its marriage chapel now hosts ceremonies taking place all hours of the day and night. It is also a frequent venue for traditional Georgian dance recitals, music and craft festivals.
Sighnaghi’s location in the Kakheti Region, in eastern Georgia, means that the weather is pleasant year-round, perfect for a trip at any time of the year.
Two Georgian Orthodox houses of worship can be found in Sighnaghi proper. St. George and St. Stephen churches are both fine examples of traditional architecture and religious works. Both are open to visitors and located with a few minutes’ walk from each other.
Any itinerary for Signagi should include a trip to Bodbe Monastery, just 2 km (1.25 miles) outside town. This 9th century monastery houses the grave and relics of St. Nino, who converted Georgia to Christianity in the 4th century. A few km from the main complex, at the site of St. Zebulon’s Chapel, is St. Nino’s Spring, famous for its healing powers. Bodbe has survived several partial demolitions from outside invaders over the centuries. At one point during the Soviet Union the monastery was retrofitted and was used as a hospital for several decades. The turn of the 20th century of the century brought extensive restoration and a renewed interest in the historic marvel of Orthodox faith. Today the monastic complex is active as convent, and nuns live here. Bodbe receives visitors year-round.
Ethnographic and Archaeological Museum
A museum in the center of Sighnaghi features relics from archaeological excavations, as well as art exhibitions and traveling exhibits. The famous Georgian painter Pirosmani was born in the Kakheti Region and some of his works are on display at the museum. Visiting exhibitions also come to the museum in Sighnaghi, some of which don’t even reach museums in Tbilisi.