Wine and History: Gems of Kakheti

The closer September is, the more appealing Kakheti region seems to the travelers who appreciate historical heritage and good wine. In Georgia, these themes are intertwined a lot, as wine is produced almost everywhere. Old monasteries are not the exception! Kakheti is the biggest region of our country, and one of the most picturesque. There are several national parks (some of them are worth a separate story, as for example Tusheti), there are valleys and lakes, and even a semi-desert. We decided to pick ten truly interesting places to visit, so that you could understand that staying out of Kakheti is almost a crime.

Nekresi Monastery

Nekresi Monastery
Photo Source: Eurasia.travel

The medieval monastery complex is located in 128 km (79.5 mi) from Tbilisi and is quite well hidden. Though, while passing by the road from Telavi to Kvareli, you might notice this monastery on the green slope of a mountain – a piece of red roof is very visible among the trees. In order to get there, you will need to turn from the main road and follow the road signs, unless you reach the lower gate of the monastery. As you might understand, it’s possible either with a private car, or if you step up from the marshrutka that is going along the road.

The way up is super steep, that’s why you can buy a ticket for 1 GEL (0.4 USD) for a shuttle bus that will take you to the hill. Be aware that it doesn’t stop on the way due to the steepness of the road, so if you decide to walk up on foot, be sure that you are fit enough to finish it.

What is expecting you up the hill? A fantastic monastic complex that started in the IV century, as the local kind Thrdat has built a church there in the IV century. In the VI century by father Abybos, one of thirteen Assyrian priests who came to Georgia with the holy mission, has found shelter there, and since that time the monastery started growing. At the moments, there is IV century basilica, VI century Blessed Virgin church, IX century bishop palace, a wine cellar and bell tower.

Gremi Fortress

Gremi Fortress
Photo Source: Eurasia.travel

A beautiful XV century fortress is crowning the hill on the Telavi-Kvareli road in 113 km (70 mi) from Tbilisi. Hard to believe, but around 600 years ago it was a city, and even the capital of Kakhetian kingdom! Royal palace, market place, streets and house, several churches of different confessions, school, baths…Almost all of this didn’t survive the invasion of Shah Abbas I in 1615. Now the walls are embracing the impressive Archangel Church, a little castle with museum inside it (the entrance is 3 GEL (1.25 USD), and a wine cellar. The panoramic view from the citadel is stunning!

How to get there? Well, it can be tricky, if you try to get to the public transport, because the minibus connection between Telavi and Kvareli is a mystery. The taxi or a private car from Tbilisi to the nearby cities via Gremi could cost around 200 GEL (80 USD).

There is also a relatively new and affordable option – twice a week, on Tuesday and Thursday, at 9 AM, a shuttle bus “Donkey Express” is departing from “Fabrika” in Tbilisi. It takes the passengers to Sighnaghi, Gremi and Kvareli and offers an excursion to the wine factory with tasting. The price is 85 GEL (35 USD)

David Gareji

David Gareji
Photo Source: 1photo1day.com

The rock-hewn monastery in the semi-desert on the border to Azerbaijan is also related to one of the thirteen Assyrian priests, and namely, Saint David Garejeli. His path in Georgia was long and far from easy, but he has managed to find loyal disciples, found the monastery in such a remote and unfriendly place and convert a big part of the local population to Christianity. The monastery consists of multiple cells with the frescoes on the walls, as well as churches, refectories and living premises. Most of the frescoes were damaged during the invasion of 1615 (you will notice that some saints don’t have a face), but later on the restoration works were conducted there.

During the Soviet time the area was used for military trainings for Afghan war, but the protests of students and intelligentsia made an end to it. As you will get on the top of the ridge, you will understand why this terrain has been chosen for those trainings… In only 70 km (44 mi) from the green hills of Tbilisi, yellow and dark red colours are dominating in the landscape. This is totally different from the other parts of our country!

Getting to David Gareji is possible with a shuttle called Gareji Line. It departs from Pushkin Square at 11 AM every day, drops you near the monastery, takes you back in 3 – 3.5 hours and stops at the place called Oasis Udabno on the way, so that you could eat in the local café and enjoy the view of the steppe.


Kvareli

Kvareli Lake
Photo Source: franksukraine.blogspot

Hometown of the founding father of the Georgian nation, the politician, writer, poet Ilia Chavchavadze, Kvareli is a quiet town in the fruitful Alazani valley. Now it is a home of several high class spa resorts (Royal Batoni, Kvareli Gardens, Kvareli Eden and Kvareli Lake), where one could get luxury spa treatment, swim in the pool, enjoy the landscape and get distracted from the daily routine. For those who are not ready to spend more than 100 USD for a night, but still want to go to the lake, there is a budget option. The Ilia Lake that is located in 4 km (2.5 mi) from Kvareli center, is managed by municipality, and the entrance to the area is free. Though, the bike or boat rental is starting from 10-15 GEL (4 – 6 USD).

Also, it’s possible to make great wine tastings in the town. The factory of Corporation Kindzmarauli and Wine Tunnel of Khareba are the most popular destinations for that. Wine Tunnel is located a bit far from center, but the experience of the tour and tasting is great. The prices start at 21 GEL (8.6 USD).

Corporation Kindzmarauli charges 6 – 15 GEL (2.5 – 6 USD) for tastings. It is the final point of above mentioned Donkey Express.

Alaverdi Monastery

Alaverdi Monastery
Photo Source: harrogatewine.wordpress.com

An immense medieval church surrounded by vineyards is appearing in your sight quite suddenly, as you are driving towards it from Telavi. It is located in 106 km (66 mi) from Tbilisi, and the drive there will take you about two hours. The monastery itself has been founded in the VI century by father Joseph (Ioseb), the fellow preacher of David Garejeli and Abybos from Nekresi. The grandiose church we see now is dated by the XI century. Its frescoes have survived all the invasions, though not without the damages. The restoration works are going on till now.

Already in 1011, the local monks started producing wine. Fifty clay vessels (qvevri) have been discovered there by the archaeologists in 2006. Nowadays, the signature qvevri wine that is ripening in the wine cellars of Alaverdi is called “1011”. You can buy it in the shop near the monastery or even have a full wine tour upon arrival. The price is 55 – 120 GEL (23 – 50 USD).

Another thing to taste there is matsoni – Georgian yogurt. They serve it with honey and walnuts in Alaverdi, and it tastes incredibly well. A great option of light meal during your trip around Kakheti!

B&B in Telavi

Collage Under The Moonlight
Photo Source: Collage Under The Moonlight FP

This is a recently renovated hostel – Collage Under The moonlight and we recommend to overnight here at least once, because of loveliest hosts and it’s history. As soon as you enter into this house you feel the spirit of previous centuries. From 1870 Georgian musicians, publicists and writers used to gather in this house, enjoying relationship with each other, the house was a heart of Georgian art that time. The name itself comes from the former owner’s Zaira Arsenishvili’s well known novel which was written in 20th century “Collage under the moonlight”. The architecture of a house is a good example of 19-th century Georgian house designing. There are three bedrooms and a large living room with an antique royal piano in the center. Musicians are welcome to play on it!

The house is situated in the very center of the city. It takes approximately 5 minutes to get to the King’s Castle and Nadikvari park with great view on Alazani valley and Caucasus.

2017-08-17T19:46:11+00:00 August 17th, 2017|