Kakheti, a region in eastern Georgia, is a treasure trove of history and culture. Nestled within Kakheti lies the historic center of Telavi, a place that whispers stories of the past and beckons visitors to uncover its secrets. In this comprehensive guide, we embark on a journey through time, delving into the heart of Kakheti’s rich heritage.
A Brief History of Telavi
Telavi’s story began with the emergence of the first settlements in the Late Bronze Age. As time marched on, the Hellenistic period ushered in an era of development, while the late Antique period saw the birth of a city-like settlement. Historical records trace Telavi’s existence back to the 11th century.
The Middle Ages transformed Telavi into one of Georgia’s most significant cities, celebrated for its vibrant trade and flourishing crafts. In the latter half of the 17th century, King Archil II of Kakheti moved his royal residence from Gremi to Telavi, marking a turning point in the town’s history. With the king’s arrival, Telavi blossomed into a hub of erudition.
In 1758, the School of Philosophy-Theology was established, evolving into a seminary by 1782. Telavi isn’t merely a page from the history books; it’s a dynamic, modern town that embraces the past while building for the future.
Telavi thrives as an essential transportation hub, an industrial powerhouse, an agricultural oasis, and a bustling cultural center. It proudly hosts a state university, a vibrant theater, and a historical-ethnographic museum that preserves the rich tapestry of Kakheti’s history.
Beyond its historical significance, Telavi also boasts a breathtaking natural landscape. The boundless Alazani Valley, framed by the majestic Kakheti Caucasus, is a sight to behold. Telavi offers not only cultural heritage but also an opportunity to immerse yourself in Georgia’s remarkable scenery.
In Telavi, history, culture, and natural beauty converge to create an experience that leaves a lasting impression. This is not just a municipality; it’s a journey through the annals of time, offering a glimpse into the heart and soul of Kakheti.
Infrastructure around it
- Accommodation: There are several hotels, guesthouses, and small inns in and around Telavi to accommodate tourists. Many of these offer traditional Georgian hospitality. You can reserve here on www.booking.com
- Restaurants and Cafes: Telavi has plenty of restaurants and cafes serving both traditional Georgian cuisine and international dishes. You can find various dining options to suit different tastes and budgets.
- Medical Facilities: There are several medical clinics in Telavi to cater to the healthcare needs of residents and visitors.
- Shopping: The town has various shops and markets, where you can purchase locally-made products, souvenirs, and necessities. Telavi’s Bazar is known throughout Georgia for both its size and its distinctive design.
- Cultural and Tourist Attractions: Telavi is known for its beautiful historic architecture, including the Batonis Tsikhe and the local History Museum. Telavi’s beauty extends beyond its city limits. Venture into the surrounding countryside to discover even more wonders. The Alazani Valley offers hiking and biking trails that lead to stunning viewpoints, allowing you to soak in the natural beauty of the region. Gremi Fortress, Alaverdi Cathedral, Ikalto Academy, Tsinandali, and Shuamta Monastery, are just a few kilometers’ drive away. All of them are another must-visit spot, with its serene atmosphere and historical significance.
- Wine Tourism: The Kakheti region, where Telavi is located, is famous for its wineries and vineyards. Wine enthusiasts can explore the wine routes in the region and visit the numerous wineries for tastings and tours.
- ATMs and Banking Services – Access to banking services and ATMs is available in Telavi, where you can withdraw local currency and manage your financial needs.
How to get there
Telavi is accessible by car, bus, or taxi from Tbilisi, the capital city. If you’re driving, be prepared for winding roads. Public transport is affordable and reliable.
From Tbilisi: Telavi is located 95 kilometers east of Tbilisi. Traveling via the Gombori Pass, it takes around 2 hours to reach the city by road. Marshrutka vans and shared taxis to Telavi depart daily from Isani and Ortachala. There is no passenger train service to Kakheti at present.
From Sighnaghi: The distance between Telavi and Sighnaghi is 60 kilometers, taking 1.5-2 hours to travel by road. There are infrequent van services between the two centers so it can be more convenient to travel by shared or private taxi.
Tours via Telavi
- Travel Lightly – Georgia is known for its traditional supra feasts and delicious local wines. Leave some space in your luggage for unique souvenirs like Georgian wine and handcrafted items.
- Weather Matters – The region experiences distinct seasons. Summers can be hot, so pack accordingly, while winters are relatively mild. Be prepared for changing weather, especially if you’re exploring the surrounding mountains.
- Local Cuisine – Don’t miss the chance to savor traditional Georgian dishes. Try khachapuri (cheese-filled bread) and khinkali (dumplings). Visit local restaurants, and indulge in the country’s diverse culinary delights.
- Wine Tasting – Telavi is at the heart of Georgia’s wine country. Take a wine tour and visit local wineries to learn about the ancient winemaking traditions and, of course, enjoy tastings.
- Respect Local Traditions – Georgia has a rich cultural heritage. When visiting churches and monasteries, be sure to dress modestly and remove your shoes. It’s customary to toast with wine during meals, so join the locals in their heartfelt “Gaumarjos!” (Cheers!)
- Festivals and Events – Check local event calendars to see if your visit coincides with festivals, music events, or cultural celebrations. Participating in these can provide unique insights into Georgian traditions.
- Explore the Outdoors – The Kakheti region boasts stunning natural beauty. Venture beyond the town and explore the Alazani Valley, the Caucasus Mountains, and the many hiking trails. Be sure to bring comfortable shoes, sun protection, and plenty of water.
- Be Open to New Experiences – Most importantly, be open to new experiences and the warmth of Georgian hospitality. Engage with the locals, immerse yourself in the culture, and let the beauty of Telavi leave an indelible mark on your journey.
Main Sights of Telavi
- Batonis Tsikhe
- King Erekle II Monument
- Telavi Historical Museum
- King Erekle II Palace
- Giant Plane Tree
- Main Street (Erekle II)
- Cholokashvili Street
- St. Mariam’s Orthodox Church
- Nadikvari Park
- Telavi Bazaar
- Zurab Kviriashvili Vineyards
- Family Wine Cellar Rostomaant Marani
- Togonidze’s Wine Cellar
- Mosmieri Kakheti Wine Centre
- Shalauri Wine Cellar
- Schuchman Wines Chateau
- Ruispiri Biodynamic