The eastern Georgian region of Kakheti is known for its fertile soils and diverse wine culture. But there is much more to discover: cozy little towns, imposing buildings, and breathtaking landscapes.
The principality of Kakheti came into being as early as the 8th century when it was able to break free from Arab occupation. After Kakheti was subsequently able to incorporate further territories, it was one of the most powerful states in the territory of present-day Georgia by the end of the 10th century. Various kings of other Georgian kingdoms attempted to conquer Kakheti without much success. It was not until 1104 that King Davit IV succeeded: Kakheti was incorporated into the centralized Georgian state, which was the most powerful state in the entire Caucasus at the time.
A Brief History of Kakheti
In the middle of the 13th century, Kakheti became part of the Mongol Empire before becoming independent again 200 years later. With the invasion of the Russian Empire, Kakheti lost its independence for good. Apart from a brief period between 1918 and 1921, Kakheti was continuously occupied by the Russians/Soviets until 1991.
Kakheti is without doubt the most versatile region of Georgia: You can find green valleys and rivers, semi-deserts, and impressive mountain areas. In this article, we focus on seven places you should visit during your journey to Kakheti.
With just under 20,000 inhabitants, Telavi is the largest city of Kakheti and the region’s capital. Located on the slopes of Gombori Ridge, the town offers breathtaking views of the Alazani Valley and the Caucasus mountains on the other side. In Telavi, you can find several good restaurants and wine bars, and interesting landmarks such as the Erekle II Palace and the Historical Museum. Close to Telavi, you will find the monasteries Ikalto, New Shuamta, and Old Shuamta.
2. Alaverdi Monastery
Another monastery in Telavi’s proximity, probably the most impressive one and a brilliant example of Georgian religious architecture, is called Alaverdi. The monastery complex consists of a number of buildings such as the Saint George Cathedral, the palace of Paykar Khan, the bell tower, and a wine cellar among others.
3. Gremi Archangel Church
If you drive to the other side of the valley, you will find another important Kakhetian landmark: the Gremi Archangel Church, a three-story building located on a rock. A few centuries ago, Gremi used to be one of Kakheti’s most important towns with baths, hotels, a caravanserai, and even a functional water system. While the Gremi Complex is preserved very well, the town itself was destroyed by Shah Abbas I in 1616.
4. Lagodekhi National Park
An hour’s drive from Gremi, on the border with Azerbaijan, is the small town of Lagodekhi and the national park of the same name, a green oasis in the far north-east of Georgia. There are various hiking routes in Lagodekhi National Park – from easy to difficult. The longest route leads to Black Rock Lake, which forms the border with Dagestan. Read more on the official website.
5. Vashlovani National Park
The Vashlovani National Park covers a large territory in the south-east of Georgia. It consists of desert, semi-desert, and steppe areas as well as forested parts, canyons, and cliffs. In Vashlovani National Park you can find a large number of reptiles, among them poisonous snakes such as vipers. The park is furthermore home to brown bears, jackals, wolves, and lynxes. In our opinion, spring is the best time to visit We highly recommend booking a guided tour. Read more on the official website.
6. Davit Gareji Monastery
Not far from the Vashlovani National Park, there is another must-see place: the cave monastery Davit Gareji, founded in the 6th century. Not only the monastic complex itself but also the surrounding nature is worth visiting.
Sighnaghi is probably the prettiest town in Kakheti and one of the most beautiful in Georgia. It is situated on a hill from where you have a wonderful view of the Alazani Valley and the Caucasus mountains. Sighnaghi is famous for its wine, narrow cobbled streets, imposing town walls and, of course, the Bodbe Monastery, which is located nearby.