Kakheti is not only a land of wine rivers, but also a world of captivating natural beauty, ancient fortresses, and temples. It is the territory of revival and establishment of the modern Georgian state. Genuine evidence of turbulent historical events is preserved in this amazing natural setting.
From Tbilisi, we travel to the fortress of Ujarma, founded in the 3rd century AD. In the 5th century, King Vakhtang Gorgasal declared it his residence. The fortress was destroyed by the Arabs in the 10th century, but was restored by King George III in the 12th century, who also established a treasury there. To this day, some elements of the citadel have survived, and it is interesting to wander around and enjoy the views from the hill. The uniqueness of the Ujarma fortress lies in the fact that there are very few structures with such excellent preservation and a millennial history in the world.
Next, we pass through the picturesque Gombori Pass (the highest point of the mountain range is Mount Tivi at 1,991 meters, and the highway passes at an altitude of 1,620 meters) and visit the fortress-monastery of Alaverdi. The monastery was founded in the second half of the 6th century, and the Alaverdi Cathedral, a cross-domed cathedral, was built in the first quarter of the 11th century. Prior to the appearance of the Tsminda Sameba in Tbilisi, the cathedral was the highest church in Georgia, with a height of about 50 meters outside and 42 meters inside. Fragments of frescoes from the 11th and 15th-16th centuries have been preserved inside.
We then head to Telavi and visit the fortress of Batonis-Tsikhe, which means "the fortress of the lord" in translation. In the 17th-18th centuries, the fortress was the residence of the kings of Kakheti. The fortress complex includes a fortress wall, a royal palace, two court churches, a bathhouse, and a tunnel.
The next stop on the route is the ancient capital of the Kakhetian Kingdom in the 16th-17th centuries, the architectural ensemble of the Gremi Castle, built in 1565. It consists of the churches of Archangels Michael and Gabriel, a bell tower, a three-story palace, a wine cellar (marani), and a fortress wall. The remains of a secret underground passage leading to the river Intsoba have been preserved.
We will end the day with a visit to the Nekresi Monastery, founded in the 6th century on a mountain above the Alazani Valley. The monastery complex includes several buildings, including a three-aisled basilica from the 4th century, which is considered the oldest Christian temple in Georgia. The church has interesting ancient frescoes, and the restored monastery winery is educational to visit.
We will stay overnight at a hotel on a private vineyard in the Alazani Valley. The hospitable host will give you a tour of the vineyard if you wish and organize a wine tasting straight from the "breathing" barrel. Those who are interested can also get a master class in making khinkali and khachapuri, which will surely impress friends upon your return home.
In the morning, we will head to Signagi, where we will visit the local fortress. It is the only ancient defensive structure in Georgia that has preserved its fortress walls in their original form, with a total length of 4.5 km and 28 watchtowers adjacent to them. The main fortress gates have the appearance of a stone arch, and you can climb the walls via the nearby staircase, which provides a view of the city and the Alazani Valley. The construction of the citadel dates back to the 17th century. The Signagi fortress has no defined geometric shape, and its walls follow the ridges of the mountains, with only the northern side descending into a gorge. After visiting the fortress, we will refresh ourselves in a cozy restaurant in Signagi with a breathtaking view of the vast expanse of the Alazani Valley, which stretches along the Alazani River for 150 km.
The next stop on our route is the ancient fortress of Khornabudzhi, from the height of which you can see fabulous views of the plain, a unique place for photography enthusiasts. The exact date of the fortress's construction is unknown. According to some data, the appearance of a fortress city in this place is associated with the name of King Vakhtang Gorgasali (5th century). However, during excavations in the vicinity of the fortress, traces of more ancient settlements were discovered. The fortress impresses with its complex architectural design. Due to the features of the landscape, it consists of a combination of masonry and rocky terrain, which looks very organic and impressive. Physical endurance is required to reach the top of the fortress.
Next, we head towards Tbilisi and on the way, we visit the Ninozminda Cathedral - one of the first Georgian churches, a predecessor of the Jvari Monastery. The cathedral was built in the 6th century, unfortunately, it has not survived to this day and today represents a rare example of a collapsed church, the architectural design of which can be mentally reconstructed from its ruins. There are few such objects in modern Georgia. The cathedral is located on the territory of the active women's monastery named after Saint Nino, surrounded by a wall with towers. The eastern wall, fragments of frescoes from the 16th century, part of the ornaments on the facade, and inscriptions in ancient Georgian language have survived from the cathedral.
This tour of Kakheti will reveal to you many new things about the rich history of Georgia. Walking from stone to stone in amazing places where the past and present meet, your imagination will bring to life historical epochs and their immortal heroes.