In this country of wine-lovers, everyone agrees that the very best wines come from the fertile easternmost part of Georgia, called by Dumas “the garden province of Kakheti.” In some ways, little has changed since his time – horse-drawn carts are a frequent sight on the quiet country roads, the fields are dotted with hayricks, the rivers wind untrammeled through green pastures and the sweet grapes are still harvested by hand.
But wine is not all that Kakheti has to offer – the rich history of the region has bequeathed to us some of Georgia’s finest examples of church architecture. Add to this the friendliness and easy-going hospitality of the people and you will understand why a visit to Kakheti is always a pleasure.
The Town of Telavi;
David Gareja Cave Monastery;
Bodbe Monastery of St Nino;
The Town of Telavi is the administrative and cultural centre of the region. In earlier times, it was the capital of the Kakhetian kingdom and the 17th century royal castle of Batonistsikhe still dominates the heart of the town today.
Bodbe Monastery of St Nino (4th century) holds the tomb of St Nino, the Cappadocian maiden who converted the Georgian people to Christianity as early as 337AD.
David Gareja Cave Monastery was founded in the 6th century by David, one of the 13 Syrian Fathers who preached Christianity to the Georgian people. Its painted caves look out over a starkly beautiful landscape of striated valleys and windswept ridges giving stunning views over to neighbouring Azerbaijan.
Ninotsminda Monastery is named after St Nino. The ruined 6th century church contrasts with the Persian-style belltower built a thousand years later.
At 50m, Alaverdi Cathedral (11th century) is the tallest in Georgia. It stands in a fertile river valley, its surrounding walls silhouetted against the backdrop of the Caucasus Mountains and enclosing the monastic refectory, wine-cellar and bath-house as well as the 17th century governor’s residence from a time when Kakheti was under Islamic rule.
Kvelatsminda Church (8th – 9th centuries) is dedicated to All Saints. Its twin cupolas make it unique in Georgian church architecture.
Ikalto - A peaceful walled garden encloses the 6th century monastery buildings and the famed academy, added in the 12th century by King David the Builder. This is where the great national poet Shota Rustaveli studied, no doubt drawing inspiration for his work from the beautiful landscape of the Kakheti countryside.
Shuamta or “between the mountains” is the name given to two monasteries – Akhali (New) Shuamta, a 16th century monastery now once again in use, and the isolated Dzveli (Old) Shuamta with its three early churches dating to the 6th –7th centuries set among forested hills.
Gremi - On a crag overlooking peaceful meadows and a few romantic ruins are the 16th century church and tower of Gremi - all that remains of the once flourishing capital of Kakheti.