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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.