kakheti in Georgië

Kakheti in Georgia: the birthplace of wine

Kakheti in Georgia is considered the birthplace of wine with a history dating back as far as 8,000 years. Here wine is still made the traditional way in qvevri. Besides tasting local wines and delicious dishes, you will also discover Georgia’s interesting culture. Wine and religion are closely intertwined in Georgia. Consequently, Kakheti is home to some of the most beautiful monasteries and landscapes in the country. Here you can read about the best things to do in Kakheti, where to stay and how to get there!

Where is Kakheti located in Georgia

The Kakheti region is located in eastern Georgia and borders Russia and Azerbaijan. Driving through the region you very much get the feeling of having landed in Tuscany, only here you have the snowy peaks of the Caucasus in the background! In the Kakheti region you will find two towns that are fine as a base. On the one hand, you have the larger city of Telavi that has a good connection to capital Tbilisi. On the other hand, you have the smaller town of Sighnaghi which is popular for day trips. Both are very charming places to stay and still have a lot of authentic architecture and the typical wooden houses of Georgia. We ourselves stayed in Telavi for several days.

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Best things to do in Kakheti

There is a lot to see in this region, and many of the sights described are often within driving distance of each other. Therefore, if you have the time, we recommend spending 3 days here to get the most out of your visit to Kakheti in Georgia.

1) David Gareja monastery

On the border with Azerbaijan you will find the UNESCO complex David Gareja. This cave complex is unique because it includes 19 monasteries dating back to the 6th century AD. Despite many attacks over the centuries from the Mongols and other peoples, it has stood the test of time well. Now you can still find hand-painted murals. This is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful sights in all of Georgia and should definitely not be missed while visiting the Kakheti region.

TRAVEL TIP: The David Gareja Monastery is a bit more remote and can only be reached by car. We recommend visiting this when traveling from Tbilisi to the Kaketi region or back. Even easier is to book a day tour from Tbilisi!

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monasteries in kakheti georgia
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2) Explore the city of Telavi

Discover the charming capital of the region: Telavi. Besides being a good base from which to explore Kakheti, it is also fun to stroll through the cobblestone streets of Telavi. In Telavi, you can visit the Batonis Tsikhe fort. This archaeological complex is now home to the Historical Museum, one of the best museums in Georgia. Close to the complex you will also find the oldest tree in Georgia: the Giant Plane Tree which is a whopping 900 years old. Finally, don’t miss a visit to the Telavi Bazaar where you can find all kinds of local products such as homemade cheese, churchkhela and chacha.

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3) Tsinandali Estate (Chavchavadze Estate)

The Tsinandali Estate from the 19th century is a fine example of Georgia’s rich art history. Here great artists and poets gathered at events organized by aristocrat Alexander Chavchavadze. Today you can visit the museum inside where you will get more information from the guide about the importance the Tsinandali Estate. Or stroll through the beautiful landscaped gardens and vineyard. By the way, the Tsinandali Estate is also a winery, and they were the first to bottle wine in Georgia.

Opening hours Tsinandali Estate: daily from 10 am to 6 pm | museum price: 10 GEL

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tsinandali estate details kakheti
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4) Visit local wineries (marani’s)

You can’t visit Kakheti without tasting wine! Georgia is home to more than 500 indigenous grape varieties of which Saperavi, Rkatsiteli and Chinuri are some of the best known. Wine in Georgia is still made the traditional way: in large, earthenware urns called qvevri which is considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site! The grapes are thrown into the urns with seeds and skins, after which the wine ferments underground for several months. The result are natural or “unfiltered” wines that often have a slightly cloudier color. The taste is sublime, and no doubt you won’t have tasted anywhere else! In the Kakheti region you will find numerous wineries or marani, ranging from larger ones that export internationally to the local winemaker who still makes everything himself on a small scale in his garden.

Are you limited on time but still want to do a wine tour? Then consider an organized day tour from Tbilisi for the best of the wine region !

Family Cellars

Wineries operated by local families is where you can really immerse yourself in the history and culture of Georgian wine. Here you will find a small-scale production where wine is made with love. Knowledge is often passed from generation to generation. We went to such a family cellar in Telavi called Rostomaant Manari and can only recommend it. While the man passionately tells you about his wines, his wife provides delicious, local dishes adapted to the wines. Another family cellar not to be missed is Sesikeli. For family cellars, however, it is recommended to make reservations in advance.

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sesikeli wine georgia
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Major wineries

We also definitely recommend visiting the larger wineries or marani’s. We ourselves visited Kindzmarauli Coorperation. After an extensive tour of the wine estate where we learned more about the wines and how they are made on a grand scale, we were allowed to join for a wine tasting. We were impressed by how internationally distributed Georgian wines already are. At these wineries, it’s also easier to do a walk-in. Expect about 50 GEL (~ €16) per person for a tour and wine tasting.

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5) Alaverdi monastery

The Alaverdi Monastery includes the second largest church in Georgia (after the Sabema Cathedral in Tbilisi). This monastery was founded in the 6th century A.D. and from the 11th century the monks also made wine in the well-known qvevri. To this day, wine is still made at the Alavederi Monastery, making it the longest continuous wine production in all of Georgia. So when you’re here, be sure to visit the old wine cellar. On the estate you can walk through the vines and feel for a moment like you are in Tuscany.

TRAVEL TIP : There are hundreds of Georgian Orthodox churches in the country. When you enter it, make sure that as a woman you always cover your hair and wear a long skirt. Men should wear long pants. You can usually find cloths at the entrance to churches that you may use.

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alaverdi monastery vineyards
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6) Ikalto monastery

Close to the Alaverdi Monastery you will find the Ikalto Monastery. In addition to a monastery, this complex also functioned as an academy. Here students could study theology, astronomy, philosophy and so much more. Some of Georgia’s greatest poets are said to have studied here in the 12th century. Today you can go take a look inside the austere church. All around the building is littered with antique qvevri which makes it a very photogenic stop!

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qvevris in georgia
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As you will notice, you will find numerous ancient monasteries in the Kakheti region! To visit them all you will need some time. These monasteries are also worth admiring:

  • Nekresi monastery: located on a hill you have a fantastic view of the region.
  • Dzveli Shuamta Monastery: tucked away in the woods, this is especially a nice stop for hiking.
  • Gremi citadel: Gremi was once the capital of the Kakheti region. This small castle and church is a remnant of that.

7) Day trip Sighnaghi

Sighnaghi in the Kakheti region is another popular city and is also called “the city of love. This is because of the many couples who descend here to get married! Located on a hill, you have a fantastic view of the Alazani Valley and the Caucasus mountains beyond. Stroll along the old city wall or get lost in the cobblestone streets of Sighnaghi. Here you will find charming architecture and plenty of cozy, artistic cafes that of course offer local wines! From Sighnaghi, it is also worth visiting Bodbe Monastery. From Telavi, you drive to Sighnaghi in about an hour.

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8) Taste the Georgian food

You might not immediately think it, but Georgian cuisine is one of the best there is! Everything here is still made fresh and with short chain. Some dishes that stand out are khachapuri, a bread filled with cheese or khinkalis, dumplings filled with meat or vegetables. In the Kakheti region you will find plenty of tasty restaurants where you can taste these dishes, accompanied, of course, by a good glass of wine. Some restaurants in Telavi that you must have tried are Mala’s Garden, Badia and Apsaiti.

You will also find plenty of delicious restaurants and wine bars in Tbilisi! Read our 3-day travel guide to Tbilisi here.

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Where to stay in Kakheti

Telavi and Sighnaghi are undoubtedly the two best places to explore Georgia’s Kakheti region. We stayed in Telavi because you will find more accommodations here and also near Telavi are numerous attractions. Telavi is generally more strategically located for exploring the Kakheti region and also has a smoother connection to Tbilisi. Sighnaghi, in turn, is fun to stay in because of its charming appearance and medieval atmosphere.

Best hotels in Telavi:

Best hotels in Sighnaghi:

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How to get around in Kakheti

The best way to explore the area around Telavi or Sighnaghi is with a local guide. We did this ourselves where we saw all the highlights around Telavi. This way you can also go to wineries and taste wine without still having to drive yourself. Ask your guest house or hotel for a private driver, they can undoubtedly recommend someone. Feel free to do some negotiating on the price. Another way is to rent your own car and explore the region at your own pace. If you are planning a tour in Georgia, renting a 4×4 with rooftop tent can be a nice option!

How to get there

From capital Tbilisi, you can get to Telavi and Sighnaghi smoothly by marshrutka, the shared transportation in Georgia. These minibuses leave Tbilisi several times a day when full. You spend only a few euros which you pay in cash on the spot. The drive to Telavi and SIghnaghi takes about 2 hours. Another alternative is to hire private cab in Tbilisi.

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Best Travel Time Kakheti

The best travel time for Kakheti in Georgia is from late April through September. The vines are in full bloom then and the many wineries are open. Therefore, you are most likely to have sunny days, and the necessary cooling can be found in one of the many monasteries. It can sometimes be busier in the summer, especially on weekends. Even in autumn and winter, you can definitely visit Kakheti. With any luck, everything will be covered with a white layer of snow. Note that not all wineries are open then.

Do you have any questions about Kakheti in Georgia or have you been there yourself? Let us know in a comment below! Looking for more information about your next trip? Please do not hesitate to contact us or send an email to snoezelsontheroad@gmail.com

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