A four hour drive and 300 km (190 mi) away from Tbilisi lies the region of Racha – a highland area located in northwestern Georgia. This place has always attracted Georgian and international tourists  and, with recent infrastructure investments, it’s popularity has been booming.

How to get there?

Racha Mountains
Photo Source: georgia.travel

We don’t recommend going to Racha by bus as the travel time can take up to 8 hours from Tbilisi. Renting a car or going by minibus (marshrutka) will greatly reduce your time on the road. Marshrutkas leave from Didube Station in Tbilisi with the price per person around 10-12 USD. Flights are also available from Natakhtari (35km / 20mi from Tbilisi) and cost about 35 USD both ways. 

Shaori and Nikortsminda

Shaori Lake
Photo Source: tkibuli.eko.org.pl

The first place you should visit in Racha is Shaori – the largest lake in this region. In autumn, the colorful trees that reflect in the water create a fairy-tale land. In summer it is a welcomingly cool place for picnics. Fishermen appreciate Shaori as carp up to 10kg (22 lbs) are often caught in its waters. Ten minutes further into the heart of Racha and you will arrive at the village of Nikortmsinda where a 10th century temple is located and is currently a UNESCO World Heritage Site candidate.

Ambrolauri

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Ambrolauri Region, Village Sadmeli
Photo Source: Vino Martville  FP

Ambrolauri is a small city with a population of only 2,000 people located 550 m (1,800 ft) above sea level. Interesting sights in this city include the Museum of Fine Arts and Brakoni, a Georgian Orthodox church. The latter is a 12 minute drive from the city center. The Museum of Fine Arts holds over 550 paintings of well-known Georgian artists (Gudiashvili, Akhvlediani, Kakabadze, Varazi, and others) and is open every day except Monday from 10:00 to 17:00. Entrance fees are less than 0.50 USD for adults and half that for students and schoolchildren.

Oni

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Racha
Photo Source: impress.ge

Oni is 30 km (19 mi) northeast of Ambrolauri and is the municipal center of Racha. According to the legend, the city was founded in the 2nd century BCE though it’s probably much older as it has been inhabited since the Bronze Age. Visit Oni’s Local Museum founded in 1937. It houses 15,000 archaeological artifacts, architectural elements, and ethnographic objects such as textiles, coins, and painting books. The museum is open every day except Monday from 10:00 to 17:00. The entrance fee is less than 0.50 USD for adults and half that for students and schoolchildren. You can also check out ruins of old medieval forts and Orthodox churches as well a Synagogue built in 1880. If you have time, you shouldn’t miss the villages of Utsera and Shovi near Oni. These have breathtaking landmarks with some amazing hiking routes and spas.

Where to stay

Artists House, Oni
Photo Source: 

The family owned hotel, Artists’ House, located in Oni could proudly bear the name of a museum. Every detail of the building reflects its local culture. The host can proudly show you prehistoric bugs and shells dating back 50 million years. Weapons and pots from ancient Georgia are exhibited together with recent paintings and handmade furnishings created by the host. All artifacts have been collected by the family’s members. Double and triple rooms cost around 30-40 USD. Homemade dishes and local wine are served upon request and hiking tours can be arranged for interested guests. Although summer is the peak season for visiting Racha, the fall colors during September and October are an underappreciated joy. The landscape is at its most picturesque during these months.

When visiting Racha don’t forget about their mouthwatering local dishes; Lobiani, smoked pork, and semi-sweet wines like Kvanchkara and Tvishi.