An amazing region of mountain peaks covered with eternal glaciers, where the rapid river of Alazani is originating, and the area of the most beautiful lakes in the valley, is situated in the eastern part of Georgia. The total area in excess of 11 thousand sq. km makes the region the largest in the country. Kakheti’s population is about 318 thousand people. The vast majority of its residents are ethnic Georgians. Azerbaijani have a rather large diaspora, and Russian make up less than 1%.
Kakheti territory can be nominally divided into several parts, based on the characteristics of its surface geography. Between the high mountains of the Caucasus, occupying the northern areas, and the wooded Tsiv-Gombori range, in the central part lies the Alazani Valley world-famous for its vineyards. The southern part of the region bordering with Azerbaijan by its vegetation is very similar to the savannah.
The land of Kakheti that people inhabited since ancient times, has always been under the strong influence of its southern neighbors, the Persians. It not accidentally that Zoroastrianism became popular here. In the long history of the region it was a time when the kingdom of Kakheti was an independent state. However, since the XVI century, its destiny has been inextricably linked with Georgia.
Until recently, Kakheti was unjustly neglected by tourists and travelers. However, in recent years, this jewel of Georgia has enjoyed quite an increasing popularity. It can be visited throughout the year, as the local nature is equally beautiful both in winter and in summer.
Beyond any doubt, the best time to visit Kakheti is the end of August - beginning of September. This is the time of the great feast of grapes harvest, the Rtveli accompanied by a festival of delicious Alazan wines. Folk concerts and theatrical performances are held here everywhere. Numerous fairs can offer wonderful souvenirs made by local craftsmen. Where if not here one can taste the new wine and the original dishes of the Kakheti cuisine?!
In addition to the wine tours, Kakheti will be of interest to an inquisitive tourist by the abundance of historical monuments. In order to reach many of them, one should overcome the mountain passes, so summer time would suit better for this purpose. The northern areas of the region, without any doubt will be of interest to enthusiasts of active recreation. One will have a chance to admire the beauty of the Caucasus Mountains while on walking or horse riding tours.
The cleanest mountain air of Kakheti has healing properties, as long has been noted by scientists. The Arhiloskalo sanatorium in the Dedoplistskaro district specializes in the treatment of neurological diseases. The Akhtala resort is well known for its unique mud baths of volcanic origin. The mud baths are particularly useful for children suffering from cerebral palsy and polio. The Ujarma sanatorium is for treatment of diseases of the musculoskeletal system. Geothermal baths are indicated in the therapy of nerve disorders.
First and foremost, Kakheti is attractive for the beauty of its unique nature; to get these impressions one can visit the Lagodekhi National Park. Its flat part is covered with oak and hornbeam forests. There are frequent beech or maple groves here, shrubs at the sides of the paths are cloaked with thick ivy. Dense forest areas are rich in lynx, wolves, foxes, and even dragons. One can see strolling pheasants and hear grouses. In the mountainous part it is worth admiring the cascading waterfalls on the rivers Shromiskhevi and Ninoskhevi, as well as exploring the glacier lake of Hala Hel.
Generally, lakes of Kakheti, with Lopota, Kvareli and Bazaleti considered as jewels among them, are worthy of a separate sight-seeing tour. Each of them is just exquisite, and has a romantic story of its origin, which local residents or competent guides will be happy to narrate.
The impression of the history of Kakheti is difficult to compose not having visited the town of Sighnaghi, comfortably located on the mountain terraces. The masterpieces of the beautifully restored town center are the Cathedral of St. George and Stephen. The city wall, which has up to present time has been guarded by 28 watchtowers is well preserved. In Gurjaani one should visit the All-Saints Church with two perfectly symmetrical domes built back in the VIII century. Not far from Akhmeta is the Monastery of Alaverdi famous for its 50-foot high cathedral. Its interior is painted with unique XV century frescoes.