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ABOUT THE TRAVEL GUIDE With only a rucksack on my back, I spent many years travelling throughout Georgia and the world on foot, by bicycle, bus or train. I even went hitchhiking on more than a few occasiones. During these trips, guides like Lonely Planet, Rough Guide, DK, Let’s Go and others were of great assistance. I gathered information about various sites and other points of interest, not to mention travel routes from these guides. They made it possible for me to plan my travels efficiently and saved me precious time and resources. Guides like Lonely Planet inspired the creation of a guide for one of Georgia’s most intriguing and beautiful, albeit underrated regions Javakheti. The Javakheti region offers a great many points of interest to nature lovers and those consumed by wanderlust. The diverse ecosystem of the region - its volcanic plateau, lakes and rivers, mountain wetlands, historical monuments and other unique sites make the region a very attractive and memorable place to visit. For the purpose of in situ conservation of biodiversity, the Javakheti Protected Areas were established in 2011. The objective of the guide is to familiarize readers with the natural and cultural points of interestin the region and the adjacent areas, not to mention to promote them as tourist destinations. The guide describes the history, the ethnological and natural and cultural heritage of the Javakheti region. In addition to the background information, much of the guide is dedicated to practical travel details - routes, meals, healthcare facilities, accommodations, tourist agencies, etc. We hope that the following compilation will serve as your personal companion and guide during your visits to the region and will be of great assistance in helping you to become familiar with what it has to offer. Welcome to Javakheti! Rati Japaridze Chairman of the Agency of Protected Areas

The Javakheti Travel Guide is the result of a collaborative effort of the Agency of Protected Areas of Georgia and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and has been prepared within the framework of the project “Establishment of Javakheti National Park in Georgia” (BMZ No. 2003 65 429) with the financial support of the KfW Bankengruppe (German Bank for Reconstruction and Development). Editorial Board: Rati Japaridze Nika Malazonia Managing Director: Lela Khartishvili TTG Georgia Ltd. 14, S. Chiaureli St., 0179 Tbilisi Tel.: +995 599992161 Project Consultants: Ia Jakeli, Vano Vashakmadze, Zaza Gagua Proofreader: Jeffrey Marshal Design and Typesetting: Gega Paksashvili Photos: Shalva Lezhava, Kakha Zazadze, Natela Grigalashvili, Mikheil Kavtaradze, Malkhaz Jakeli, Goga Vashakmadze, Lela Khartishvili, Maia Kipshidze, Tamaz Dundua, Agency of Protected Areas, WWF Photos on Cover: Shalva Lezhava, Goga Vashakmadze Maps: Nino Migriauli Geoland Travel Ltd.

Copyright © 2014 by Agency of Protected Areas The Agency of Protected Areas wishes to thank the: Inga Tkemaladze, Kakha Zazadze, Nodar Ebralidze, Dali Iverlishvili, Tamaz Karapetyan, Giorgi Tsintsadze, Tea Chitadze, and the Ecological Tourism Development Centre for assistance in the preparation of the Javakheti Travel Guide. ISBN 978-9941-0-6743-3

CONTENTS GEOGRAPHICAL LOCATION ........................................................... 6

JAVAKHETI REGION'S ADJOINING AREAS ............................................ 45

CLIMATE ............................................................... 7

FOLK FESTIVALS ................................................ 49

RIVERS AND LAKES .............................................. 8

JAVAKHETIAN CUISINE ...................................... 50

BIODIVERSITY AND JAVAKHETI PROTECTED AREAS ........................................... 10

AKHALKALAKI MUNICIPALITY .................................................. 53

HOW TO GET TO THE JAVAKHETI PROTECTED AREAS ........................................... 25 TRAVEL ROUTES AVAILABLE WITHIN THE JAVAKHETI PROTECTED AREAS ............................................. 28 HISTORY ............................................................ 34 CULTURAL HERITAGE ......................................................... 37

TRAVEL ROUTES IN AKHALKALAKI MUNICIPALITY ........................... 56 NINOTSMINDA MUNICIPALITI ................................................... 61 TRAVEL ROUTES IN NINOTSMINDA MUNICIPALITY ......................... 65 USEFUL INFORMATION .................................... 68 CULTURAL SITES, GIS DATA ............................... 74

FOREWORD Javakheti is the converging point of many historic events and sites - megalithic buildings, magnificent Christian architectural works from the Middle Ages, the vestiges of the conquests of Caucasian empires, as well as tragic occurrences of forced migration and emigration. Javakheti with its unblemished natural environment and interesting historical and cultural monuments is an attractive tourist destination. The mountain terrain, a plateau of volcanic origin, alpine and subalpine vegetation, mountain steppes, rivers, small and large lakes, remarkable highland marshes all provide opportunities for tourists to enjoy.




Javakheti is located in southern Georgia, in the Samtskhe-Javakheti region. Javakheti covers an area of 2590 km², administratively comprising the Akhalkalaki and Ninotsminda Municipalities and partly the Aspindza and Borjomi Municipalities. It borders Kvemo Kartli

to the south, Samtskhe to the north and northwest, Turkey to the southwest and west, and Armenia to the east. The absolute altitudes on the table of volcanic origin located between Georgia, Armenia and Turkey vary between 1500-3300 metres above sea level (m.a.s.l.) and, accordingly, the relief consists of soft volcanic forms. The highest point is Mount Didi Abuli at 3300 m.a.s.l. The mountain systems are the Niali Range (in the south), the Javakheti Range (in the east), the southern slopes of the Trialeti Range (in the north), the Abuli-Samsari Range (in the middle) and the Tetrobi-Chobareti Range, home to Tetrobi Plateau, which is formed of limestone beds. The highest alps are: • Didi Abuli (3300 m.a.s.l.); • Samsari (3285 m.a.s.l.); • Godorebi (3188 m.a.s.l.); • Patara Abuli (2800 m.a.s.l.).

CLIMATE The well-known German geographer Karl Ritter (1779-1859) once called Javakheti “a cool island rich in air and water”. A cool continental climate with long winters and cool, short summers is characteristic of the region. The average January temperature is -10,6°C, +13,1°C in August (in the winter, the temperature frequently drops as low as -38°C). The average annual precipitation is 733 mm; snow cover generally lasts for 100 days. In the summer (July and August), when the air temperature in Tbilisi rises to 40°C, in Akhalkalaki and Ninotsminda it usually does not exceed 20°C.

SOIL AND MINERAL RESOURCES Black and mountain-meadow soils predominate the region. Water-bogged meadow soils are often found at the foot of swampy plateaus. Mineral resources, such as limestone (Azavreti deposit), clay, volcanic slag (Gorelovka and Zakvi villages), pumice-stone (Dilipi, Sulda and Okami villages), andesite-basalt, among others are found in the region.



water birds passes through many of Javakheti’s lakes.

The main river of Javakheti is Paravani and its many tributaries (Abulistskali, Murjakhetistskali, Bughdashenistskali, Baraletistskali, Chaobaretistskali, and others), which stems from the southern part of Paravani Lake. The region’s other rivers include: Shaori, Sabaduristskali and many others.

The Tsalka-Ninotsminda highway runs along one bank of Paravani Lake, namely from the village of Rodionovka to the village of Poka. The lake is located on Javakheti Plateau, in a valley between the Abul-Samsari and Javakheti Ranges (in the Ninotsminda Municipality), at an altitude of 2073 m.a.s.l. It is the largest Georgian lake, covering 37.5 sq. km, with its maximum depth reaching 3.3 m. In the winter the lake freezes, its ice-cover depth reaching between 45-47 cm.

The region is abound with lakes of volcanic origin, which can be observed from the highway. Most Georgian lakes are found here and include the Paravani, Tabatskuri, Sagamo, Madatapa, Khanchali and Kartsakhi. The small lake islands and swamps are noted for their diverse aquatic vegetation and are a natural habitat for migratory birds. The migration route of waterfowl and other


The caravan routes leading from Kartli to Byzantium, Armenia, and western Georgia used to pass through here. The lakeside area has preserved artifacts dating back to the Paleolithic and

Eneolithic periods; sites, settlements, barrows, fortresses and ruins of cultural and historical monuments comprise the relics of times past. The remains of the Paravani Caravanserai, (which dates back to 12th century) built of hewn stone and brick, can be found here. At the southernmost bank of the lake is the village of Poka (28 km from Ninotsminda), which is home to some Orthodox monasteries and convents. Around the lake, there are several villages; however, the roads to these villages are in need of some repairs.

Saghamo Lake is located to the south of the Abul-Samsari Range, at 1996 m.a.s.l., along the Tsalka-Ninotsminda connecting motorway, 75 km from Tsalka (Ninotsminda Municipality). The distance from the lake to Ni-

notsminda is 16 km. The surface of the lake is 4.8 sq. km with maximum depth 2.3 m. The Paravani River flows in and out of the lake. The lake abounds with fish. The lake freezes in the winter. The Abul-Samsari and Javakheti Ranges, the heights of which reach 3200 m.a.s.l., encircle the lake, creating a serene and beautiful atmosphere. These mountains are: Mount Samsari (2800 m.a.s.l.), Mount Didi Abuli (3300 m.a.s.l.) and Mount Emlikli (3055 m.a.s.l.). There are many other lakes and natural ponds in Javakheti - Abuli, Eshtia and Levani among others, which are interspersed throughout the mountain pastures of Javakheti.Of small lakes the highest is Levani Lake, which is 2560 m.a.s.l. For more information about lakes in Javakheti Protected Areas, see pages 15-24.


BIODIVERSITY AND JAVAKHETI PROTECTED AREAS FLORA Javakheti is rich in endemic and rare species of flora, as well as medicinal plants. The flora of the region is generally composed of mountain steppe and mountain xerophytic (dry) vegetation.Before the Ice Age, vegetationwas widely spread throughout the Javakheti plateau. The flora has since become rel-


birch (Betula litwinowii), European aspen (Populus tremula), mountain ash (Sorbus aucuparia), cotoneaster (Cotoneaster integerrimus), dog rose (Rosa spinossima) and raspberry (Rubus idaeus) shrubs among others. On mountain steppes of the Javakheti volcanic plateau, fescue (Festuca valesiaca) and feather grass species (Stipa tirsa, St. capillata) grow. Versicolored fescue (Festuca woronowii), matgrass (Nardus stricta), different varieties of dwarf sedge (Carex humilis), legumes (Vicia variabilis+Trifolium ambiguum+T. pratense, T.alpestre) and many meadow grasses are found in the subalpine and alpine zones. On the northern and western mountain slopes, wet and mesophilic meadows can be found (to the north of Madatapa Lake and to the east of Kartsakhi Lake). Sedge, foxtail and other tallgrass species are commonly found along the lakesides. The alpine zone is abound with Caucasian Rhododendron (Rhododendron caucasicum). In the Javakheti highland, Kartsakhi ict (ancient species) and the boreal flora also survived the Ice Age. The fragments of subnival vegetation can be found on the peaks of the Abul-Samsari Range. The Alpine snowbed communities (Alpine spots) are also found in mountains. Javakheti is a woodless region. There are a few artificially planted pine groves and natural forest fragments, however. The most important natural subalpine forest is in the vicinity of Kartsakhi Lake, which runs near the Georgia-Turkey border. The forest is composed of a variety of tree species, including silver


and Sulda bogs are frequently created as a result of tussocks formed in lakes. These types of bog are mostly found in wetland ecosystems. They are predominantly formed by sedge (Carex acuta). The tussocky surface is always covered with lush, tall grass formed by species of sedge. A species of hardy, deciduous flowering shrub of the genus Dasiphora fruticosa (formerly Potentilla) and the family of Rosaceae has been found in Georgia near Kartsakhi Lake near the mountain steppes.

RARE, ENDANGERED AND ENDEMIC PLANT SPECIES 474 species of flora from 235 genera and 62 families can be found in the southern part of the region’s wetland. The flora also includes 55 Caucasian (regional) endemics and 14 Georgian (national) endemics. The most distinguished of these species are: Javakhetian Viper Grass (Scorzonera dzavakhetica), Ketskhoveli Salsify (Scorzonera Ketzkhovelii), and Kozlovskyi Salsify (Scorzonera Kozlovskyi). The Javakhetian Sword-lily (Gladiolus dzavakheticus) is a local endemic. Three regional endemic species - Vavilov’s milk vetch (Astragalus vavilovii), rock jasmine (Androsace raddeana) Ruprecht’s Primula (Primula ruprechtii), also known as Caucasus Oxlip, are found in the subnival zone of Mt. Emlikli.


FAUNA Almost 40 species of mammals have been registered in the Javakheti highlands including 10 predators and 2 hoofed animals. Commonly found species include: the Marbled Polecat (Vormela peregusna), (a globally vulnerable species), the Eurasian Otter (Lutra lutra), the Mountain Hare (Lepus europaeus), the European Badger (Meles meles), the Red Fox (Vulpes vuples), the Grey Wolf (Canis lupus), the Eurasian Lynx (Lynx lynx) and the European Brown Bear (Ursus arctos). The Eurasian Otter (Lutra lutra) and the Marbled Polecat (Vormela peregusna) are rare and endangered species. The

Marbled Polecat is found only in and around the border zone (in the environs of Madatapa Lake). The Mountain Hare, the Red Fox and the Grey Wolf are frequently seen throughout the Javakheti highlands. The following six species of mammals (mostly rodents) are Caucasian endemics: Nehring’s Blind Mole Rat (Nannospalax nehringi), the Turkish Hamster (Mesocricetus brandti), the Daghestani Pine Vole (Terricola daghestanicus), Nazarov’s Pine Vole (Terricola nasarovi), the Transcaucasian Water Shrew (Neomys teres), the Caucasian Shrew (Sorex


satunini Ognev). These species are concentrated in the region’s southern border and in the Samtskhe-Javakheti Mountains. The only non-local mammal is the muskrat (Ondatra zibethicus), which was introduced to Khanchali Lake in the mid-1980s. Today this species can be found in almost all local lakes. Lakes have always been habitats for wild birds. Over 140 bird species have been registered in Lake Khanchali. Of these 140, 80-85 species are inhabitants; others are migrants or summer guests. The Dalmatian Pelican (Pelecanus crispus) is found in great numbers in Kartsakhi Lake. Javakheti Highland is the only area in Georgia where breeding populations of the Common Crane (Grus grus), the Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea), the European White Stork (Ciconia ciconia), the Great White Pelican (Pelecanus onocrotalus), the Dalmatian Pelican (P. crispus) and the Velvet Scoter (Melanitta fusca) are found. The heron and the stork are frequently encountered in the southern part of Ninotsminda Munici-


pality (on Lake Khanchali, Bughdasheni and Madatapa). The Velvet Scoter can be found around all major lakes. Javakheti is known for its vast colonies of the Armenian Gull. The region’s lakesides and swamps are full of snipe, great snipes, lepwings and blackwinged stilts. The moor birds of prey, including the Long-legged Buzzard nest in swamps; they are the most widely distributed birds of prey on the Plateau. Two species of fish fauna that breed in the lakes of Javakheti have been entered in the “Red Book”, Georgia’s endangered species list. Earlier these lakes were known to be full of trout, although over the course of time their population has decreased. Currently, 12 new fish species can be found in the lakes of Javakheti.


The Javakheti Protected Areas were established in 2011 and encompass parts of the Akhalkalaki and Ninotsminda Municipalities. They include Javakheti National Park, the wetland sanctuaries of Kartsakhi, Sulda, Khanchali, Bughdasheni and Madatapa Lakes. The Protected Areas also accommodate the Tetrobi and Ktsia-Tabatskuri Nature Reserves. As a result of fostering transboundary coordination between Armenia and Georgia, Arpi Lake National Park was established (21,179 ha), which borders



the Javakheti Protected Areas from Armenia. More information about Arpi Lake National Park is available at: Javakheti Protected Areas comprise 16209 ha and are unique because of their mountains of volcanic origin, vast valleys, subalpine meadows, highland steppes, freshwater lakes and wetlands, and canyon-like gorges with quickly-flowing streams. Javakheti Protected Areas are a place of global importance for migratory and some resident species of birds, many of which have been included in the “Red Book” (endangered species lists) of IUCN and Georgia, are protected by different international conventions; some are mentioned in the African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbird Agreement (AEWA). Javakheti’s lakes are true waterfowl sanctuaries. 260 bird species have been sighted and registered here. Of those 260 species, 76 are residents of the area; the rest are migratory birds. The Dalmatian Pelican (Pelicanus crispus), included in the “Red List”, is one of Javakheti National Park’s distinctive creatures. The islets of Kartsakhi Lake are home to the world’s largest colony of Dalmation Pelicans.The park’s resident birds of prey include: the Black Kite (Milvus migrans), the Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus), the Eurasian Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus), the Short-toed Snake Eagle (Circaetus gallicus), the Long-legged Buzzard (Buteo rufinus), the Steppe Eagle (Aquila nipalensis orientalis), the Greater Spotted Eagle (Aquila clanga), among others.


The lakes, marshes and wetlands of Javakheti Plateau are ideal resting habitats for a variety of birds.

The Kartsakhi Wetland (Marsh) Sanctuary is located between the villages of Kartsakhi and Filipovka (Akhlkalaki Municipality). The

wetland is fed by streamlets and the runoff of nearby mountains. Water in the marsh comes from an artificial canal that flows into Kartsakhi Lake along the village of Kartsakhi. Kartsakhi Wetland Sanctuary, together with other wetlands, is important for migratory birds, especially in the autumn during their migration.

Kartsakhi Lake is situated on the Turkish border, namely near the village of Kartsakhi, at 1798 m above sea level (m.a.s.l.) (Akhalkalaki Municipality). A third of the lake (its southwestern part) is within the territory of Turkey. The lake’s surface (26 km2) ranks second in the region, its length exceeds 8 km and its maximum


depth reaches 1.5 m. Kartsakhi is the only lake in the region noted for its high salinity. It is also stagnant. Kartsakhi River and several streams flow into the lake from the north. Distinct from other lakes, maximum water level at Kartsakhi Lake is fixed from July through August, irrespective of the abundant precipitation in May. The upper layer of the lake is covered with aquatic plants; the northern part of the lake is bogged. In the western part of the lake (Turkish territory), there is a tussocky islet, which ishome to many rare waterfowl. On the lakeshore stands a watchtower, which previously belonged to Soviet frontier troops. Nowadays, the tower is used for birdwatching.

Because of its shallow depth, the lake is a warm and comfortable residence and resting place for waterfowl. Many endangered species of birds use the lake during breeding or migration periods. In the northwestern part, the Agrichai River flows into the lake, which then joins Paravani River. A significant part of the lake has been drained for the purpose of building a dam. As a result, the lake is now only a third of its original size. The local population uses the drained part for agricultural purposes. Not far from Khanchali Lake is a village bearing the lake’s namesake.

Khanchali Lake Sanctuary is situated at 1920-1980 m above sea level (m.a.s.l.), within the Paravani river basin (Ninotsminda Municipality). Its maximum width is 2.5 km, and it average depth is 0.5 m. The lake water is fresh and most of its surface is covered by aquatic plants. Khanchali Lake is rather shallow, making it easy for wild waterfowl to find food.



Madatapa Lake Sanctuary, which borders Armenia

Bughdasheni Lake Sanctuary is situated within the Para-

(Ninotsminda Municipality), is situated at 2107 m.a.s.l. The volcanic Mount Madatapa borders the sanctuary to the north. The nearest village is Efremovka. The lake’s surface is 8.8 km², and its maximum depth is 1.7 m. The water temperature in the summer is between 17-18°C; in the winter the lake becomes almost entirely frozen. The crucian carp found in the lake is a favorite among waterfowl, especially pelicans.

vani River basin, at 2040 m.a.s.l. (Ninotsminda Municipality). The surface of the triangularly shaped lake is 0.39 km²; its maximum depth is 0.9 m and its average depth is 0.4 m. Bughdasheni Lake has a relatively stronger underground influent. The lake reaches its highest water level in May, which is caused by melting snow flowing down from the mountains and heavy rains; the lowest levels are recording during February. The water level fluctuates by 80 cm. In the wintertime, the lake freezes for about five months. The southern part of the lake is mostly bogged.


In the southeastern part of the lake, there is an islet full of cliffs. Many birds use the islet to nest. The western and eastern shores of the lake are shallow and are thus prone to becoming bogs. Of all the lakes found within the Javakheti Protected Areas, Bughdasheni Lake is the most interesting and attractive, particularly due to the many different birds inhabiting the lake. Spring and autumn are the best seasons for birdwatching. Gorelovka is the lake’s nearby village.


Sulda Wetland / Marsh Sanctuary is located 2.5 km away from the village of Sulda (Akhalkalaki Municipality). The Murakvali mountain range and the village of Bozali border the sanctuary to the south, the village of Sulda lies to the east, and the village of Miasnikyan lies to the north. The wetlands are fed by infiltration water, natural springs and surface runoff of the neighboring mountains. Spring and autumn are the best seasons for birdwatching.

ti. Tetrobi Sanctuary encompasses the northern, southern and central subzones of the Adjara-Trialeti zone. Tetrobi Sanctuary is interesting for many reasons - its flora in particular. Scientists have referred to Tetrobi as a “nest of endemic species�.

Ktsia-Tabatskuri Sanctuary (Borjomi Municipality) is situated in the northernmost part of the Javakheti Range. It was established in 1995 in order to protect the birds found in the area - the Black Stork and the White Stork (Ciconia nigra and C. ciconia), the Common Crane (Grus grus), the Corncrake (Crex crex) and the Velvet Scoter (Melanitta fusca) and their habitat - as well as the unique wetlands and highland ecosystems. BirdLife International has listed Tabatskuri Lake as an Important Bird Area (IBA).

Sulda Wetland Sanctuary, like the other four sanctuaries of Javakheti Protected Areas, is a Ramsar candidate area.

Tetrobi Sanctuary (Akhalkalaki Municipality) was established in 1995 for the purpose of protecting forestlands and local endemics on Javakheti Plateau and occupies 3100 ha on the Lesser Caucasus mountain slopes. The sanctuary is located at the crossroads of two historic regions of Georgia - Tori and Javakhe-


Tabatskuri Lake is distinguished by its dark-blue color and its densely inhabited inlet and peninsula. The lake is situated at 1990 m.a.s.l. near the village of Tabatskuri (the last Javakhetian settlement), on the Akhlkalaki-Bakuriani connecting road (on the border of the Borjomi and Akhalkalaki Municipalities). Lofty mountains surround the lake. The village built on the lakeshore derives its name from tbis kuri (the lake’s ear). It is the deepest lake in Javakheti (its maximum depth exceeds 40 meters) and the largest in Georgia in terms of its volume. It is also noted for its rich flora and fauna. Tabatskuri Lake’s surface area


14.2 km². The lake freezes at the end of December and remains frozen until the end of March. The remains of an aisle and its access path under the lake in the northeastern part of the lake are evidence of a fascine dwelling settlement dating back to the Late Stone Age. Tabatskuri Lake is popular among vacationers heading to Borjomi and Bakuriani (Borjomi Municipality). Campers, hikers and horseback riders can be frequently seen near the lake. For more information, please visit:


to April), requires an all-wheel/4-wheel drive vehicle.

There are several ways to get to Javakheti Protected Areas and the Javakheti region in general.

6. Khashuri - Borjomi - Akhaltsikhe Akhalkalaki: distance - 150 km, travel time - 2 hrs.

People travelling from Tbilisi can use the following routes:

7. Khashuri - Borjomi - Bakuriani - Tabatskuri - Akhalkalaki: distance - 109 km, travel time - 2.5 hrs. (closed from November to April; requires an allwheel/4-wheel drive vehicle).

1. Tbilisi - Partskhisi - Tsalka - Akhalkalaki motor road: distance - 195 km, travel time - 3.5 hrs. 2. Tbilisi - Manglisi - Tsalka - Akhalkalaki: distance - 182 km, travel time - 3.20 hrs. 3. Tbilisi - Tetri Tskaro - Bediani - Tsalka - Akhalkalaki: distance - 206 km, travel time - 4.5 hrs. The conditions of the Tiktamashi Pass road (2150 m.a.s.l) should be checked when traveling by car in wintertime. 4. Tbilisi - Borjomi - Akhaltsikhe - Akhalkalaki: distance - 277 km, travel time - 4 hrs. 5. Tbilisi - Borjomi - Bakuriani - Akhalkalaki motor road: distance - 273 km, travel time - 5 hrs. (closed from November

People traveling from western Georgia can get to the region on the following routes:

8. Batumi - Goderzi Pass - Adigeni Akhaltsikhe - Akhalkalaki: distance 238 km, travel time - 5 hrs. (closed from November to April; requires an all-wheel/4-wheel drive vehicle). 9. Akhaltsikhe - Akhalkalaki: distance 75 km, travel time - 1 hr. All of the roads are paved except Batumi-Akhalkalaki (Gorerdzi Pass section), Borjomi-Akhalkalaki (Tskhratskaro Pass section), Tbilisi-Akhalkalaki (BedianiKhramhesi section), which have dirt roads that are ideal for off-road jeep tours.


PUBLIC TRANSPORT The motorway and railway go through the region. A minibus taxi from Tbilisi via Marneuli leaves from the Okriba bus station (address: 4 Karaleti St.; phone: +995 32 2342692) everyday, several times a day. The fare is 17 GEL. The distance from the Georgian-Armenian border (Ninotsminda border crossing point, known as Bavra in Armenia) to the administrative center of the region, Akhalkalaki, is 45 km. The distance from the Georgian-Turkish border (up to the Kartsakhi village border crossing point) to Akhalkalaki is 50 km, while the distance to the Vale village border crossing point is 91 km.


Citizens of Georgia can enter Armenia and Turkey without entrance visas. Georgian citizens must present their passports or ID cards. The Bordercrossing fee is 1000 Dram (which is equivalent to 4-5 GEL). Cars, buses or minibuses crossing the border are subject to an additional fee for vehicle insurance and a customs charge that varies according to the power of the vehicle’s engine. The fee varies between 35-45 GEL. Foreign nationals may enter Armenia and/or Turkey by purchasing a traveler’s visa at the border upon presentation of a passport and payment of visa charge (equivalent to USD 15-20). For additional information regarding visas, refer to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Armenia’s website at: Entrance to Turkey currently occurs at the Vale border crossing point.

THE IRON SILK ROAD The Iron Silk Road - the shortest possible route linking the rest of the world to rapidly growing Asian markets will soon be put into operation in the region. The Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railroad, rightfully named the Iron Silk Road, is a project of global significance that will link China and Central Asian countries to Europe and vice versa.

border railroad tunnel, part of which is at Turkish territory, are being constructed as part of the project. The tunnel’s total length is 4476 m, of which 2070 m are in Georgia.

A 254 km section of the railroad will pass through Georgia. The Marabda-Kartsakhi will be the highest railroad in Europe. New railway bridges and a


TRAVEL ROUTES AVAILABLE WITHIN THE JAVAKHETI PROTECTED AREAS The Agency of Protected Areas offers the following seven travel routes within Javakheti Protected Areas. These routes include hiking, horse-riding and biking trails. Along the way, visitors will find all the necessary tourist infrastructure - a visitors’ center with a museum, signposted information, a travel information center (in Patara Khanchali) souvenir shops, bird hides and watchtowers, fishing areas, camping sites, and even equipment rental (camping materials, horses, bikes, kayaks, snowshoes). A railway and customs house are also being constructed in the region.



a good place for a short rest. The hiking trail from the border watchtower (1850 m above sea level (m.a.s.l.), N 41o13.977’; E 43o15.495’) runs along the lakeshore to the eastern bay of the lake, where there is a picnic area (1800 m.a.s.l., N41o12.702’; E43o15.205’) and a birdwatching tower. The return trail (approx. 200 m) runs along the lakeshore to the motor road near the border crossing point.



Complexity: Easy Distance: 5 km

Complexity: Easy

Difference in elevation: 50 m

Distance: 3 km

Trail options: Hiking

Difference in elevation: 50 m

Activities/services: Birdwatching, fishing, horseback riding

Trail options: Hiking, cycling Activities/services: Birdwatching, fishing Route description: Kartsakhi Lake is a great destination for those who enjoy fishing and birdwatching. Professional ornithologists are also in for a treat. There is a turn from the motor road to a parking site near the border watchtower, which is


Route description: The sanctuary is located 2.4 km away from the village of Sulda. On its western border is the Murakvali Range, to the south is the village of Bozalo, to the east is the village of Miasnikyan. The sanctuary offers other activities, including: birdwatching, fishing and horseback riding. In Sulda, visitors can overnight in a guesthouse.







Tiger Canyon owes its name to the different colors of the surrounding landscapes that give the canyon the appearance of a tiger’s stripes.

Complexity: Hard Distance: 15 km (circular) Highest point: 2800 m.a.s.l. Difference in elevation: 700 m Trail options: Hiking, horse Offerings: Mountaineering, mountain scenery, panoramic views, Alpine skiing in springtime Travel note: Tiger Canyon is an ideal trail for experienced hikers and mountaineers. Being in good physical condition, having mountaineering garments and footwear and a tent (if choosing to staythe night) are all necessities for this hike.


Route description: The recommended starting point for this hike is at the motor road’s end near the village Patara Khanchali (1980 m.a.s.l., N 41o15.001’; E 43o30.476’). The route runs along the southern range of Tiger Canyon, ending at an area with a panoramic view. (2800 m.a.s.l., N 41o11.230’; E 43o27.663’). The return route passes by the canyon. The route ends at the eco-camp (which is along the old motor road). Visitors may stay overnight at the eco-camp (2370 m.a.s.l., N 41o13.034’; E 43o29.333’). Visitors can extend the hike by ascending the mountain (which peaks at 2980 m.a.s.l.), which leads to the Armenia-Georgia-Turkey border. However, before making the ascent, visitors must notify the national park and border control offices.





Complexity: Easy

Complexity: Easy

Distance: 3 km

Distance: 2 km

Difference in elevation: 50 m Trail options: Hiking, cycling Offerings: Birdwatching, fishing Route description: The trail runs along the lakeshore at 1920 m.a.s.l. Experienced hikers and mountaineers can transfer to the Tiger Canyon trail by referring to the guide found on the information board located along the trail.

Difference in elevation: 0 m Trail options: Hiking Offerings: Rest, birdwatching Route description: The trail runs along the lakeshore at 2040 m.a.s.l. on the other side of the motor road. The lake is rather shallow. The lake’s surroundings are characterized by a large quantity of migratory birds and a pristine lakeshore. Picnic sites and a birdwatching tower are available for visitor use. For those interested, rowboats are available for rent.






Complexity: Medium difficulty Distance: 22 km (circular) Difference in elevation: 50 m Trail options: Hiking, cycling, horseback riding Offerings: Birdwatching, fishing, mountain scenery, cycling tours, horseback riding, kayaking Route description: Reaching a maximum elevation of 2107 m.a.s.l., the route begins in the village of Sameba at the local guesthouse (2010 m.a.s.l.). Horses can also be rent-


ed in the village. The circular trail runs along the eastern lakeshore. At the foot of Mt. Madatapa, there is a picnic area and a bird hide for birdwatching on the eastern promontory (6 km along the trail). A vista of the lake and its eastern shore bays opens from this area. Nearby is a bay for fishing. The route continues north (visitors can use the telephone towers to serve as a reference point) and passes the village of Efremovka. The route goes back along the motor road to Sameba. In total, the route takes 5-6 hours to traverse. The guesthouse in Sameba also offers food, excursions and services.



Complexity: Hard Highest point: 2714 m.a.s.l. Difference in elevation: 600 m Trail options: Hiking Offerings: Mountaineering Route description: Mt. Madatapa is a cone-shaped mountain of volcanic origin, wherefrom a scenic panorama Javakheti Plateau and Samsari Range opens. On the top of the mountain, the remains of a circular megalithic building can be found. The route starts from the guesthouse in Sameba, goes towards the eastern

bay of the lake, turns eastward, passes a shepherds’ camp and ends on the plateau (2300 m.a.s.l.). The plateau can be reached by automobile. The mountaineering-hiking trail begins at the plateau, and then runs along the eastern mountain slope, eventually reaching the peak (2714 m.a.s.l., N41o13.125’; E43o48.539’). The route takes 4-5 hours to complete.


HISTORY According to the legend, Mtskhetos, the son of Kartlos, divided Zemo Kartli into two parts and distributed it among his sons. To Odzarokhos, he gave the land from Tashiskari to the Speri (Black) Sea. Javakhos received the areas from Paravani to the Mtkvari riverhead - the territory later called Javakheti. Javakhos


built two fortress towns - Tsunda and Artaani. The remains of ancient Tsunda are located in the Aspindza region; Artaani is now in Turkey and is known as Ardahan. The first mention of Javakheti is found in Urartian sources, in the inscriptions of King Argishti I (785 B.C.), where Javakheti is mentioned under the name of Zaabakhi (Zabakha). According to scholars, Javakhi is associated with the

of the kingdom of Kartli - Mtskheta. [See page 43 - Poka Monastery]. During the reign of Pharnavaz in the 3rd century B.C., Georgia was divided into seven saeristavos, (saeristavo = district of an eristavi; eristavi is a term for the ancient ruling noble class of Georgia) and one saspaspeto (a district ruled by a spaspeti, or general). One of them was Tsunda saeristavo, which stretched from Paravani to the Mtkvari riverhead and included Javakheti, Kola and Artaani. Over the course of time, the saeristavo borders changed. In the 8th century, Georgia was overrun by the Arabs, who destroyed important town-fortresses, including Tsunda. According to historical documents from the 10th century, Tmogvi (Aspindza Municipality) is mentioned as the Javakheti saeristavo’s center. In the 11th century, Akhalkalaki became the center of Zemo Javakheti.

name of the Taokhi tribe, which was settled in southern Georgia (according to Georgian historian and philosopher, Pavle Ingorokva). The history of Georgia becoming a Christian nation (the 30s of 4th century) is associated with Javakheti. To Georgians, St. Nino is viewed as Georgia’s enlightener, and is almost seen as one of the apostles. She entered Georgia from Javakheti and went to the capital

In the early 9th century, Javakheti, together with other counties, was the northern province of Tao-Klarjeti, also referred to as the “Kingdom of Georgians” that arose in southwestern Georgia. The kingdom was ruled by the Bagrationi dynasty. The economic and cultural progress that was occurring in Tao-Klarjeti during the 11th-13th centuries is associated with the descendants of this family, Ashot and David Kuropalates. During the 11th-13thcenturies, the “Kingdom of Georgians” in Tao-Klarjeti was politically stable, and economically and culturally advanced. Invasion no longer being an immediate concern, agriculture was reinvigorated, and other areas such as craftsmanship, fine artsand literature began to flour-


ish. Significant monuments of Georgian architecture - Zarzma, Kumurdo, Vardzia, Bana, Khantzta, Khakhuli, Shatberdi, Oski, Opiza, and many others- were erected in this period. In the following period, Javakheti became an object of different conquerors. The region first fell victim to invasion by the Mongols, and then to repeated attacks by the Persians and Osman Turks. In the 17th century, enforced Islamization of the Samtskhe-Javakhetian population began as a result of the socio-political policy of the Ottoman Empire Many Georgians gradually converted to Islam. Some managed to avoid converting by escaping to the neighboring kingdoms of Kartli and Imereti. A small part became catholicized in order to retain the Christian faith. As a result of an agreement between Turkey and the Catholic Church, consolidated by the Pope’s protection, Catholics residing in the territory of Javakheti were less oppressed. As a result of the Russo-Turkish wars of 1828-1829 and the following periods, Javakheti, together with other Geor-


gian regions, was incorporated into the Russian Empire. A part of the Islamized population moved to Turkey. In 1830, Russian authorities brought Armenians from Erzerum (Turkey) and a large group of Greeks, to settle in the area. From 1841 to 1845, a relatively small part of the followers of one the Russian Christian sects, the Dukhobors, who were deported from Russia. However, after the collapse of the Soviet Union the most of Dukhobors abandoned these places and returned to their historic motherland. [See page 62 Dukhobors in Georgia].

CULTURAL HERITAGE DWELLINGS, DEFENSIVE BUILDINGS AND OTHERS STRUCTURES The numerous architectural other monuments and defensive fortifications of different epochs are evidence of a high level of the architectural capability in Georgia and, namely, in Javakheti. The Akhalkalaki citadel and the time immemorial fortresses of Abuli and Shaori used to make a single chain of defensive buildings in southern Georgia. In the villages without such means of defense, underground dwellings and shelters, referred to in Georgian as darani, which had airways and water-supply systems, were built. Such darani can still be seen today on Javakheti Plateau, particularly in the villages of Saro, Khizabavra and Toki (Aspindza Municipality), as well as on the outskirts of the Abuli and Shaori fortresses. In the villages of Javakheti, a dwelling of an individual family consisted of a complex of a darbazi-style (hall-style) or earthen house with other household buildings. The buildings were joined and interconnected by a secret door. The creation of such households was a result of historical vicissitudes. Some dwellings had tunnels, through which the population could escape in order to defend themselves from the enemy. Such darbazi-style earthen dwellings did not catch one’s eye, whereas home-

stead gardens, vineyards, and farmland, which were all easely noticed, were located at a distance from the village. Darbazi-style houses can still be found in some of Javakheti Plateau’s villages: Saro, Toki, Baraleti, also in the villages of Akhalkalaki Municipality - Apnia, Gogasheni, and others. Darbazi had many-sided vaults (gvirgvini), and ended with a central opening at the top (erdo), which served as a window and smoke flue. The sunrays entering through the erdos would brighten the entirety of the dwelling. Singing in such vaulted dwellings was particularly interesting. In order to improve the acoustics of the households, dwellers of darbazi-style homes used a special architectural method to construct the erdo of the home. The dwellings typically housed a cowshed, hayloft, barn, and purne (oven). Earlier, bread used to be baked in purnes that were partially built into the earth. Later, such purnes were eventually replaced by above ground earthen purnes.


ETHNOLOGICAL HERITAGE AND FARMING Cattle breeding, beekeeping, potato, grain and fruit farming are well developed agricultural practices in the region. The local honey from the alpine meadows is well known for its quality and taste. Earlier, Javakheti Plateau was a renowned region for growing cereals (wheat) and legumes (horse beans, chickpeas, lentils). The remains of terraced farming can still be found on the slopes of Javakheti Range. Vineyards and orchards planted on the terraces had excellent irrigation systems, and the terraces themselves resembled am-


phitheaters. In this respect, the terraces found in the village of Tmogvi and within the area adjoining Javakheti are particularly interesting. Flax was traditionally grown in the region and used to produce linen and flax oil. Ancient oil millstones (gelazi in Georgian) can still be found in villages and other sites. By the end of the 19th century, the oil used to be exported to Imereti, Shida Kartli, Armenia and Turkey. Locals frequently work as sheep breeders. Large areas in Javakheti serve as summer pastures for sheep and other animal herds. The local population uses milk to make different cheeses: guda (sheep cheese), chechili (a brined string cheese), tenili (mixed sulguni and cream), and many others. Small cheese-making enterprises also operate in the region.

PRE-CHRISTIAN ART Ancient works of architectural art - the vestiges of residential, religious and defensive buildings, megalithic structures and cyclopean town-fortresses - dating back to the 3rd through 1st millennia B.C., as well as works of fine and applied arts - burial grounds, house-

hold implements and weapons - have been preserved in Javakheti. These artifacts serve as evidence of both the creative originality of Georgian culture and the close connection between Georgia, Near Eastern and Mediterranean countries. Megaliths (a term stemming from the Ancient Greek words megas, meaning “great” and lithos, meaning “stone”) are structures made of large worked or rough stones. Georgia’s megaliths include menhir and dolmen. Megaliths are mostly found in littoral regions and generally date back to the Neolithic and Bronze Age (3rd and 2nd millennia B.C.). Stonehenge (in England) is one of the world’s most famous megaliths and dates back to the Neolithic Age.

Amiranis Gora (Amirani’s Hill) - is a volcanic hill that encircles of the town of Akhalkalaki. The ancient settlement dates back to the Stone Age. In the Late Bronze Age, the hill had a fortified settlement.

SHAORI CYCLOPEAN FORTRESS (2nd millennium B.C.) Shaori Fortress is seated on a mountain northwest of Paravani Lake, at 2752 m.a.s.l. The pre-Christian cyclopean structure leads its visitors to a mystical environment. Upon ascending the mountain, one can discern the vestige of an old settlement with a wide road and flat-cover quarters around it. The main part of the fortification is the upper section of the fortress. Built out of dry rubble, the wall’s height is approximately 4 meters. Outside the wall, there is a great number of darani (underground shelters). The village of Shaori was an important settlement that was protected by the fortress above. A scenic panorama of Paravani Lake and the Javakheti Plateau opens up from Shoari Fortress. Access road: on the Tsalka-Ninotsminda motor road, in the village of Poka, 28 km from the town of Ninotsminda, there is a turn to the right. From the turn, the road runs north-west via the village of Vladimirovka to the village of Aspara. [See page 66 description and map of Shaori travel route].


village of Tontio and then via the village of Eshtia ascends to Abuli Pass. [See page 65 description and map of Abuli travel route].

ABULI FORTRESS AND SETTLEMENT SITE (2nd millennium B.C.) The dry mason cyclopean fortress, near the village of Abuli (12 km from Akhlkalaki) is seated on the southern slope of Mt. Patara (which means little or small in Georgian) Abuli, at 2800 m above sea level (m.a.s.l.). The complex is scattered along the mountain slope. The whole range is covered with the ruins of ancient buildings, many of which were darani shelters. The fortress wall consists of the wall and the interior fortress. Notwithstanding the fact that dry masonry was used to construct all the buildings in the area, the wall reaches a towering height 5 m and has a width of 3 m. Access road: on the Akhalkalaki-Ninotsminda motor road, in Khojabegi, the first village of Akhalkalaki Municipality, there is a turn to the right. From the turn, the road runs north through the


CHIKIANI MENHIR (2nd millennium B.C.) In the northern part of Javakheti Range, on the watershed of the Paravani and Tsalka valleys, in the environs of Mt. Chikiani, stands a menhir - a large upright standing stone, over 3 meters in height and approximately 3 meters in circumference, with fragments of obsidian blocks scattered around. Dating back to the 2ndmillenium B.C., this monument is a conspicuous specimen of megalithic culture of pre-Christian Georgia. A workshop of Stone Age implements was also found in the areas around Mt. Chikiani. Access road: on the Tsalka-Ninotsminda road, 2 km from Tikmatashi Pass, facing towards the village of Rodionovka where the railway runs along the motor road, there is a footpath leading to the Chikiani menhir, which is easily noticed from the motor road. [See page 60 Ninotsminda Municipality map].

KUMURDO (10th century)

EARLY AND MEDIEVAL ARCHITECTURE Georgia’s renaissance and period of improved statehood is clearly reflected in the local architecture and cultural activities of Javakheti. Cathedrals, churches and town-fortresses used to be built here; gold smithing, fresco painting and other crafts also developed in the region. Beginning from the Middle Feudal period to around the 19th century, the practice of stone carving was developing in Javakheti. Images of horses and sheep were carved out of stone, some of which can still be found near old settlement sites.

Kumurdo is the only work of domed architecture in Javakheti (although currently the dome is collapsed). The Kumurdo Episcope Ioane Kumurdoeli, or John of Kumurdo (10th cent.) later continued his activity on Mt. Sinai in the Georgian monastery there. Kumurdo Temple is a structure built of a pinkish colored hewn stone. The chapel’s window is decorated with glyphs - symbols of joyful heralds and figures of angels, lions, eagles, and oxen. The interior is decorated with frescos, including a portrait of King Bagrat III’s mother, Gurandukht. Access road: a motor road runs from Akhalkalaki towards Paskia Lake along the village of Kirovokani. Kumurdo is located approximately 6 km Kirovokani along the motor road. [See page 59 description and map of the Akhalkalaki-Kumurdo-Vardzia Travel Route].


ABULI CHURCH (11th century) Standing at an elevation of 1960 m.a.s.l. in the village of Abuli is a well-preserved 11th century Georgian church. The churchyard has many old tombstones and crosses carved from stone.

KILDA (10th century) To the north of Kumurdo, approximately 3 km outside of the village, stands Kilda Church. Kilda church has two congregational areas and a southern extension. Distinguished tombstones with ram figures can be found around the church. The remains of underground shelters (darnebi) can be seen at the old settlement-site. Access road: a 12 km motor road runs from Akhalkalaki westward along Paskia Lake and the village of Kirovokani to the village of Kumurdo. Kilda is 6 km to the north of Kumurdo on Javakheti Plateau. The road leading to Kilda is a dirt road.

KVARSHA (10th century) The ruins of Kvarsha Church lie several kilometers north of Kilda. The northern walls of the church bear heraldic images of saints mounted on horses and old Georgian inscriptions. Of interest are the darani-shelters and the preserved ancient oil millstones called gelazi. Access road: a dirt road runs from the village of Kilda westwards along Akhalkalaki Plateau, towards the Kvarsha settlement site.


Access road: an 8-km dirt road runs from Akhalkalaki via the village of Bavra southwest towards the village of Kartikana. Abuli, the highest village in Javakheti, is 4 km westwards of Kartikana.

BAVRA CHURCH (10th-14th centuries) Standing in the center of the village, Bavra Church is a 10th century darbazi-style church with an extension facing the south (which was added during the 14th century). Sophroni, the name of the church’s builder, is inscribed in old Georgian script, on the facade of the church. Access road: Approximately 3 km southwest of Akhalkalaki, at the converging point of the Abulistskali and Paravnistskali Rivers, is the village of Bavra. It is the first village that the road passes through.

GANDZANI ARMENIAN CHURCH (19th century) The church is situated at a distance of 22 km south east of Akhalkalaki on the left bank of the Paravani River. The church stands at 2050 m.a.s.l.

BEZHANO ARMENIAN CHURCH (19th century) Erected in 1830, Bezhano Church, an Armenian basilica was built. The church has a single congregational area. Bezhano has been mentioned in “Kartlis Tskhovreba” (A History of Georgia) as a summer residence for Georgian royalty.

Access road: 23 km northeast of Akhalkalaki, along the Baraleti-Tabatskuri motor road, stands the village of Bezhano. [See page 56 description and map of Tabatskuri travel route].

Access road: along the Tsalka-Ninotsminda motor road, 2 km from Tikmatashi Pass, via the village of Rodionovka, is the village of Poka. The distance from Poka to Ninotsminda is 28 km. [See page 60 Ninotsminda Municipality map].



(11th century)

On the western shore of Paravani Lake, stands St. Nino’s Monastery of Poka. The establishment of Poka Monastery is associated with St. Nino - the saint who enlightened Georgia through bringing Christianity to the country. St. Nino entered Georgia from Javakheti and rested near Paravani Lake. In the 11th century, a darbazi-style church dedicated to St. Nino was erected there. It is built of hewn stone blocks. The windows and doors have been molded with stucco, and the fragments of mural paintings can be seen in the interior. At the place where St. Nino entered, a friary was founded in 1989; a nunnery was later established in 1992. At present both monasteries are functional. A parochial school instructed by nuns and a medical clinic are also in operation. The nuns also have a small farm where they raise cattle and make cheese. A cloisonné studio, “Pokani”, has been opened at the monastery. Pokani makes and sells various icons, religious items, souvenirs and adornments.

A rock-cut domed church carved out of the stone of Mt. Samsari and a monastic complex dating back to the 10th century are situated in the river canyon, near the village of Patara (which means “little” or “small” in Georgian) Samsari. Inside the Church, Georgian inscriptions dating to the 10th-11th centuries have been preserved. Along the main church in the canyon, there are many caves arranged in 2-3 layers. Unfortunately, the complex is somewhat damaged and many of its caves have collapsed.

MEGHREKI MONASTIC SETTLEMENT 2 km north of Patara Samsari, the Meghreki megalithic wall runs along the Bakuriani-Akhalkalaki motor road. Meghreki was constructed circa the 2nd millenium B.C. The ruins of the monastery wall are well preserved.


Access road: west of Akhakalaki, via the villages of Aragva and Kotelia, a dirt road runs eastwards to the village of Baraleti. From there, the road continues northwest via the Ghrtila settlement site to the Samsari monastery complex. [See page 56 description and map of Tabatskuri travel route].

Access road: west of Akhakalaki via Aragva and Kotelia, a dirt road goes eastwards to the village of Baraleti. Approximately 8 km to the north of Baraleti is the village of Kachio. [See page 56 description and map of Tabatskuri travel route].

KOTELIA CHURCH (16th century)


A darbazi-style church stands on Akhalkalaki Plateau at 1680 m.a.s.l. in the village of Kotelia (which is 15 km from Akhalkalaki). The village is home to a multi-generational Javakhetian population. The faรงade of the church is composed of several reddish andesitic broad stones. Access road: [See page 56 description and map of Tabatskuri travel route via Kotelia Village].

KACHIO (10th century) Situated at 1720 m.a.s.l, the Kachio darbazi-style church is located in the village of Kachio, which is 24 km from Akhlkalaki. Unfortunately, the church is heavily damaged and is in need of restoration. The remaining walls and vault are built from reddish basalt broad stones.


(13th-14th centuries) The village of Kaurma (formerly Tontio), built on the both banks of the Paravani River, was a catholic village. A darbazi-style church, erected between 10201027, stands in the center of the village. The five-arched Kaurma bridge on the Paravani River served as one of the central routes leading from Byzantium, later from Turkey and Armenia, to eastern Georgia. Access road: on the Tsalka-Ninotsminda road, in Khojabegi - the first village of Akhalkalaki Municipality - there is a turn to the right, from which a 9-km road runs northward to the village of Tontio. [See page 65 description and map of Abuli travel route].

JAVAKHETI REGION'S ADJOINING AREAS Points of interests within the Mtkvari valley and Trialeri Range (Aspindza, Borjomi and Tsalka Municipalities)

TMOGVI TOWN-FORTRESS AND CHURCH (10th-14th centuries) Tmogvi was an important military stronghold in Javakheti at the beginning of the 10th century. It later served as an administrative center for the region. The monument is situated on a high rocky mountain, on the left bank of the Mtkvari River. On the eastern slope of the fortress lie the ruins of a small domed church, the interior of which is frescoed. In the western gorge is the church of St. Ephrem, a rock-cut church with a sanctuary. Access road: the monument can be accessed from Aspindza to the right of the village of Nakalakevi by crossing an iron bridge, where a signposted 3-km dirt road leads up to the Tmogvi town-fortress.

TSUNDA (12th-13th centuries) The Tsunda darbazi-style church is built on a small bed of hewn straight broad stones; the gateway vault and windows are ornamented. On the western gate there is an inscription in Asomtavruli, mentioning the name of the donor. The belfry and gelazi stones, as well as the nearby terraces are well preserved. Access road: 15 km south along the Aspindza-Akhalkalaki motor road on the right bank of the Mtkvari River, there is the village of Nakalakevi, near which stands Tsunda Church. The church can be seen from the motor road.

BERTAKANA CAVES In the village of Tmogvi, on the left bank of the Mtkvari River, are the threelayer caves of Bertakana. Each of the caves is interconnected via tunnels. Along the path leading to the site of the Bertakana settlement, there are burial mounds that date back to the 17th-16th centuries B.C.


founder of the church, Rati Surameli, ruler of the Kartli - adorn the northern wall. The monastery complex played a great role in the political, cultural, educational and spiritual life of Georgia during the reign of Queen Tamar (1184-1213).

THE ROCK-CUT VARDZIA MONASTERY COMPLEX (12th-13th centuries) Vardzia is located in the historic Meskheti region. It is a monastic complex carved from rock at 1300 m.a.s.l. In the center of the complex, there is the Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin. The darbazi­-style church is known for its 17 murals which depict various significant events from Georgia’s history. Portraits of the royal family - Queen Tamar, King Giorgi III, and the


Access road: along the Aspindza-Akhalkalaki motor road, near Khertvisi, there is a turn to the right. From there, a motor road runs along Mtkvari valley southwards to Vardzia. To the right of the road, Tmogvi Fortress can be seen; Vani Caves are to the left of the fortress. The distance to Vardzia from Khertvisi is 17 km, and 3 km from Vardzia to Vani Caves.

VANI CAVES (8th-16th centuries) Among the buildings of this multi-level ensemble are darbazi-style churches, monastic cells, auxiliary chambers and the remains of tunnels and a water-supply system. The cupola of the ensemble was restored in 1180.

CYCLOPEAN FORTRESS AND CHURCH OF SARO The area has an ensemble of fortresses at the beginning of the road ascending from the Mtkvari River Valley. Around the fortress, there are several darani-shelters. Nearby stands St. Archangel’s Church, which has two congregational areas. In the village, visitors can view darbazi-style houses with flat earthen roofs. Access road: along the Aspindza-Akhalkalaki road, near the village of Nijgori, there is a turn to the left, from which point a dirt road leads to the village of Saro. The distance between the turn at Nijgori and Saro is 3 km. [See page 58 description and map of Saro travel route].

KHERTVISI FORTRESS (14th century) Khertvisi Fortress is one of Georgia’s best-preserved fortresses. The fortress comprises a large ensemble of differ-

ent structures, exceeding 100 meters in length. Access road: At the converging point of the Paravani and Mtkvari Rivers, along the Aspindza-Akhalkalaki motor road, there is a turn to the right (the Apindza- Vardzia motor road) that runs along the Mtkvari valley to Khertvisi Fortress. The fortress is on the left side of the main road.



In the center of the village of Tabatskuri, on a hill near Tabatskuri Lake stands the “Red Church�, which was constructed during the 10th century. The church derives its name from the rusty reddish color of its walls. Access road: the motor road from Akhalkalaki runs northwards of the village of Kotelia. Several kilometers outside of Kotelia, there is a right turn onto a dirt road that leads eastwards. [See page 56 description and map of Tabatskuri travel route].

AVRANLO CYCLOPEAN FORTRESS (1st millennium B.C.) The historic sites of the village of Avranlo (ancient Tezi) are located at an elevation of 1580 m.a.s.l. on the left bank of the Ktsia River. The sites include: a cyclopean fortress-settlement, early medieval churches carved into the canyon and a church built during the Late Medieval Period. Access road: To get to Avranlo, after passing the village of Aiazmi, after driving 1.8 km turn to the right at the village of Nardevan, wherefrom the road will lead to the north up to the village of Kuschi. From Kuschi drive northwest to Avranlo via the village Kizilkilisi. The distance from Tsalka to Avranlo is 32 km.

BERTA MONASTERY Berta (formerly Oliangi) is home to Berta Monastery. The small temple is built on a karst spring full of trout. According to folklore, the spring trout have mag-


ical healing properties. Those able to touch the fish will recover from their illnesses. Access road: 2 km from the village of Kushchi to the east, and 35 km from the town of Tsalka, there is the village of Berta (former Oliangi), where Berta Monastery is located (20 km from Tsalka).

TEJISI MENHIR Tsalka Municipality is home the biggest megalith in Georgia - Tejisi Menhir. A darbazi-stylechurch (the Middle Ages) has been built over the menhir. The wall around the church is a megalithic structure. St. Nicholas Church is also located in the village of Tejisi. Access road: this historic site can be seen along the Tbilisi-Akhalkalaki motor road (before reaching Tsalka). Near the village of Imera, there is a turn to the right, wherefrom a dirt road will lead you to Tejisi via the villages of Bareti and Sabechisi.

FOLK FESTIVALS NINOOBA (St. Nino’s Day) Ninooba festival is held in the village of Poka to commemorate the day of St. Nino’s arrival in Georgia. A Divine Liturgy and church services are conducted as part of the event. Those willing are baptized in Paravani Lake. In the evening, participants can follow in St. Nino’s footsteps and go on a pilgrimage towards Mtskheta, starting on June 1st and ending on July 13th.

JIVANOBA On the last Saturday of June every year, Jivanoba is held. Jivanoba is a holiday dedicated to Jivani (born Serob Stepani Levonian) - a renowned of Armenian ashik (folk poetry) artist - is held in his native village, Kartsakhi. During Jivanoba, artists, writers, poets and folklore expertsgather and hold festive parties, events and activities that seek to inspire creativity.


(Vahan Teryan Poetry Day) On the last Sunday of July, in coordination with the Writers’ Union of Armenia, a poetry day is celebrated in the village of Gandza (Ninotsminda Municipality). Terianoba is dedicated to the wellknown Armenian poet Vahan Teryan (1885-1924). Traditionally, a Divine Liturgy service is conducted in the Armenian Church that was erected in 1840. Guests from neighboring districts usually attend the Divine Liturgy service.

VARDAVAR The traditional festival of the Armenian population, Vardavar, is celebrated in summer, on the 98th day after Easter and is associated with the transfiguration of Christ. In pagan Armenia, Vardavar was traditionally associated with Astghik, the Armenian goddess of water, beauty, love and fertility. The festival’s name is derived from the Armenian word for rose (vard). In Akhalkalaki, this festival is celebrated at St. Cross Church (which was founded in 1856).


flavor to the noodles. Minced onion and small square-shaped pieces of dough that have been cooked in melted butter are then added to the boiled mixture of noodles, buttermilk and salt. The dish is then served as a soup.

ERISHTA (home-made pasta):

JAVAKHETIAN CUISINE The cuisine of Javakheti generally consists of dishes prepared with dairy products and meat. What follows are some descriptions of a variety well-known Javakhetian dishes.

TATARBERAKI (a pasta-like dish): Well-kneaded stiff wheat dough is flattened with a special rolling pin called an ukhlavi. The dough is then cut into small (3-4 cm) square noodles and boiled in salted boiling water. The boiled noodles are then strained. Then finely minced onion that has been roasted in butter is poured over the noodles. The dish is then served with matsoni (yogurt) and garlic. TUTMAJI (a soup): Well-kneaded stiff wheat dough is flattened using an ukhlavi, cut into 4-5 cm strips, which are then interwoven and cut again into small half-centimeter pieces. Once prepared, the noodles are then boiled. In the process of boiling, buttermilk and salt are added to add


A dough is prepared from wheat flour. The dough is rolled and flattened using an ukhlavi. The dough is then baked on a special iron baking dish called a saji. The baked dough is finely rolled and cut into one-centimeter pieces, which are dried in a slightly warm oven called a purne. The dried pasta is put in a colander. Boiling hot water is poured over the dried pasta, “scalding” it. Before serving, melted butter is poured over the “scalded” pasta. Goose dishes are very popular in southern Georgia. Almost all local households have a few geese. They salt the goose meat, and dry it on a spit. The cured meat is then used in cooking pilaf and khinkali. These dishes are cooked on holidays and other special days, and are usually served together with garlic sauce.

GOOSE KHINKALI: Salted and sun-cured goose meat is cut in fine pieces together with bones, is put in parts into thin flattened layers of dough, rolled and placed into a deep pan with a small amount of water. The tightly covered pan is put over light heat to be boiled and then stewed. The khinkali are cooked and ready to eat when there is no water is left in the pot. Goose khinkali can be served with matsoni or garlic sauce.

COOKED CHEESE: Fresh, slightly salted and fermented cheese is placed in hot melted butter and boiled on low heat. The boiling mixture should be constantly stirred with a spoon to completely mix the cheese with the melted butter. When the cheese is melted and mixed, the dish is ready to be served and eaten with bread. Sometimes mint leaves are added to the boiling cheese to add a pleasant aroma and flavor. The dish is - easy and quick to prepare, and is also - hearty and nourishing. Javakheti has long been known for the diversity of its cereal dishes, especially popular are its bread dishes.

BISHI: Bishi is a very popular traditional Javakhetian food. The dish is made of fermented dough boiled in oil or melted butter and baked as a kind of bread. It is prepared as follows: a little ball of fermented dough (about the size of a fist) is hand-flattened and placed into boiling oil or melted butter in a pan over a fire. When the bottom half of the dough is slightly reddened, it should be flipped over to cook the other side. The

baked bishi is taken out and the process is repeated. Warm bishi is served with greens or matsoni. This flat bread is very nourishing and is often prepared as a treat for guests.

CHIRIKHTA: The first step to preparing chirikhta is to prepare a thin dough from water mixed with wheat flour, leaven or milk. After sometime, a spoon is used to take a piece of dough (of about a half-egg size), which is then placed into boiling hot oil or butter. There should be enough melted butter or oil to allow the dough to float slightly. When the dough acquires a reddish tinge, it means that dough is cooked and can be served with matsoni, cheese or pickles (according to individual taste). Chirikhta remains a popular dish to this very day, and is commonly prepared for special occasions.


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AKHALKALAKI MUNICIPALITY GEOGRAPHICAL LOCATION Akhalkalaki Municipality is located on Javakheti Plateau, ranging between 1500-3305 meters above sea level (m.a.s.l.). It borders Turkey to the south, the municipalities of Aspindza and Borjomi to the west and the north, and Ninotsminda to the southeast. Mt. Didi Abuli, the highest peak in Samtskhe-Javakheti (3305 m.a.s.l.) and Georgia’s highest city, Akhalkalaki (at 1700 m.a.s.l.) is also located in Akhalkalaki Municipality. Akhalkalaki is also the administrative center of the mu-

nicipality. The municipality’s area comprises 1234km², which amounts to 1.8% of Georgia’s territory and 23.5% of the Samtskhe-Javakheti region. 75% of the total territory is agricultural land. The main river is the Paravnistskali River, which flows into the Mtkvari River near the village of Khertvisi. The population of Akhalkalaki Municipality totals 9.5 thousand people, 90% of whom are Armenians, 8% are Georgians, and the other 2% are Russians, Greeks and Ossetians.


AKHALKALAKI The town was founded in 1064 by Georgian King Bagrat III due of its favorable geographical location (between the Paravani and Murjakheti Rivers) as a military stronghold. Although it is damaged, the town’s lofty wall stands to this very day. The area of the old town has preserved historical monuments; as a result of archeological excavations, settlement sites dating back the Eneolithic and Early Bronze Age have been discovered in Akhalkalaki. During the 9th-10th centuries, a new period in the history of Georgian towns was observed. This period is also called the “Akhalkalakoba” (the “epoch of new towns” in Georgia). At that time, old settlements were transformed into towns. Some old towns were revived and new towns began to emerge. It was during this period that the towns of Dmanisi, Artanuji, Telavi, Ateni,


Akhalkalaki of Trialeti and Akhalkalaki of Javakheti came into existence. As the “The Chronicle of Kartli” retells, “[the] fortification of Akhalkalaki began, for at the time it was not fortified”. After an archeological excavation was completed, an inscription in Asomtavruli (Georgia’s oldest script) stating “Christ save Mariam” was found on the old settlement’s wall. Mariam was the Queen Mother of Bagrat IV.

In the 16th century, Akhalkalaki was seized by Seljuk Turks. At the time, buildings also underwent significant changes. In the 18th century Erekle II, the renowned King of Kartli and Kakheti, made several futile attempts to liberate Akhalkalaki. In 1828, Russo-Georgian military units under the command of General I. Paskevich gained control of Akhlkalaki. After Akhalkalaki joined the Russian Empire, the Mohammedan Georgians moved to Turkey and the area was repopulated by Armenians resettled from the Vilayet of Erzurum.

bus, minibus and private taxi) to Batumi, Akhaltsikhe, Yerevan and other cities and regions of Georgia and abroad. The transport schedule can be viewed at:

Today, the population of the city totals around 9.5 thousand. The city has industrial enterprises, health care, educational and cultural institutions and a local history museum. A monument to St. Mesrop Mashtots (the inventor of the Armenian alphabet, theologian, linguist and hymnologist) stands in the city. Akhalkalaki is the residence of the Akhalkalaki and Kumurdo Eparchy. A local history museum operates in Akhalkalaki (on 37 M. Mashtots St.). The museum has exhibits of local household items (rugs, carpets, costumes) and an ethnographic collection (19th-20th centuries), an archaeological collection (from the Late Bronze Age through the Middle Ages) of implements, weapons, decorations, earthenware and glassware. The museum is open Monday through Friday from 10:00 to 17:00. Admission is free. An interesting and busy location is the city bazaar (24 Freedom St.), where locally made natural products are sold. [See page 25 “How to get to the region”]. The city has a bus station (4 Dzerzhinski St.), which serves as a hub for travel (by

In the near future Akhalkalaki will have an European-standard railway station building designed by the well-known German architect, Jurgen Meyer. The station will be designed for both passenger traffic and cargo transportation. The new, high speed, not to mentioncomfortable train running a line from Baku, through Tbilisi, to Istanbul the will pass through Akhalkalaki. [See page 27 “The Iron Silk Road”].




Akhalkalaki - Kotelia - Baraleti Ghrtila - Meghreki - Samsari - Sirgva Tabatskuri Lake - Tabatskuri Red Church - Tskhratskaro - Bakuriani Complexity: Hard Distance: 100 km Duration: 8 hrs Max. elevation: 2200 m.a.s.l. Min. elevation: 1500 m.a.s.l. The tour starts in Akhakalaki and runs north via the village of Aragvi along the main road to the village of Kotelia. Af-


ter a few km, there is a turn to the right that turns into a dirt road which leads to the village of Baraleti. From Baraleti, the road continues in the direction of Meghreki Monastery settlement site and the cyclopean gateway. Near the village of Samsari, in the canyon, visitors will find the rock-cut domed church of Samsara and the monastery settlement site. There are also numerous caves near the main church. On the return to Baraleti, the route continues north toward the Ktsia-Tabatskuri Natural Reserve. From the village of Bezhano, the road runs toward Moliti, offering many scenic views of the dark-blue Tabatskuri Lake. It is even more impressive to continue on the road along the lake and observe the lake, the densely inhabited isles, as well as the Red Church of Tabatskuri. The route via Ktsia-Tabatskuri remains in Borjomi Municipality, running through Tsratskaro Pass (at 2454 m.a.s.l) to Bakuriani and Borjomi.






Akhalkalaki - Varevani - Toki - Saro - Khizabavra - Aspindza Complexity: Easy Distance: 40 km Duration: 6 hrs Max. elevation: 2650 m.a.s.l. Min. elevation: 1200 m.a.s.l. The tour runs from Akhalkalaki northeast of Javakheti Plateau to the village of Varevani. The 4x4 motor road on Javakheti Plateau is wide and easily accessible. Near Varevani, visitors can examine the ruins of Vardistsikhe. The


road runs through scenic landscapes to the village of Toki, where St. George’s Church, a 14th century church, is located. The serpentine road from Toki runs toward the villages of Saro and Khuzabavra. These villages are known for their historical monuments and underground darani-shelters. From Saro, where the ancient settlement, a cyclopean structure and a medieval church are located [see page 47 - Saro Cyclopean Structure and St. Archangel’s Church], a breathtaking vista of the Mtkvari gorge opens. The villages of Nijgori and Atskvita can be seen from the ruins. Approximately 5 km outside of Saro, the route connects to the Aspindza-Akhalkalaki main road.



Akhalkalaki - Kumurdo - Gogasheni Vardzia Complexity: Medium difficulty Distance: 20-22 km Duration: 2.5 hrs by car, 9 hrs on foot Max. elevation: 1745 m.a.s.l. Min. elevation: 1348 m.a.s.l.


The route starts in Kumurdo village (12 km from Akhalkalaki), where the twonave church (10th-11th centuries) is situated. At a distance of 2.5-3 km to the north of Kumurdo village, the 10th century Kilda two-nave church stands. The route to Vardzia proper runs southwest from Kumurdo village, via the Dankali settlement, toward Gogasheni village (1740 m.a.s.l). An impressive view of Tmogvi ravine opens up between Kumurdo and Dankali. On the way, a 10th century church can be observed. Just 40-50 meters from the church, on the way to Berta Kanebi or Margastani, an impressive view on the Vardzia-Tmogvi side opens. The distance from Kumurdo to Gogasheni is 7 km. From Gogasheni, at a distance of 2 km, the Apnia serpentine road (1700 m.a.s.l) toward the rockcut Vardzia monastic complex begins. Chachkari village (near Vardzia) is also an interesting place to visit. The village has numerous ancient Georgian buildings, including St. George’s Church, a church with a rock-cut cupola and a shelter.


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NINOTSMINDA MUNICIPALITY GEOGRAPHICAL LOCATION Ninotsminda Municipality is situated in the southeasternmost part of Samtskhe-Javakheti, on Javakheti Plateau, at 1700-3300 meters above sea level (m.a.s.l.). The municipality’s southwestern part runs along with the Georgia-Turkey state border, while its southern part runs parallel to the Georgia-Armenia state border. The municipality borders the district Akhalkalaki to the west, Tsalka Municipality to the north, and Bolnisi Municipality to the east. The municipality’s administrative center is the city of Ninotsminda (formerly Bogdanovka).

others comprise the other 1%. After the Dukhobors resettled themselves in the 19th century, the municipality’s name was Bodganovka untill 1991. The distance from Tbilisi to Ninotsminda (via Tsalka) totals 160 km, from Akhaltsikhe it is 75 km, and from Borjomi it is 140 km. From the Armenian frontier (at the Sameba border crossing point), the distance is 25 km.

Ninotsminda Municipality’s area totals 1354 km², 15% of which is arable land; the rest are pastures and grasslands. The population of Ninotsminda Municipality totals 6.3 thousand, 98% of which are ethnic Armenians - 98%, Georgians comprise 1%, and Russians, Greeks and


was originally given to them by an Orthodox Archbishop in the Russian town of Ekaterinoslav in 1785. After being expelled from Tsarist Russia in 1841, the Dukhobors settled in Georgia and inhabited ten villages: Gorelovka, Spasovka, Orlovka, Efremovka, Kalinino, Vladimirovka, and Tambovka.The names of the villages come from their native villages in Russia.

Before 1991, Ninotsminda Municipality was known as the Bogdanovka district. The name is associated with the Dukhobors who had settled there in the 19th century. The municipality has preserved old Georgian architectural monuments, and historical-cultural monuments of Armenian and Dukhobor origin.

DUKHOBORS IN GEORGIA The Dukhobors are ethnic Russians who today reside in Russia, the Caucasus and Canada. The word “Dukhobor” means “Spirit Wrestler” and the name


Dukhobors labored with great enthusiasm, established a community, set up the Sirotskiy Dom (the Orphan Home), and a school. The Gorelovka Russian School was built with the assistance of Lev Tolstoy. The spiritual leader of the Georgian Dukhobors, Lukeria Kalmykova, is buried in the village of Gorelovka. There is also a house of prayer where women, dressed in traditional attire, used to gather for collective Sunday prayers and to sing or recite special psalms. Today, there are approximately 40 Dukhobor families left in Georgia. They all reside within the village of Gorelovka. The majority of the Dukhobors have repatriated to Russia. The chil-

dren of the remaining Dukhobors go to the Gorelovka Russian School (the only Russian school in Ninotsminda Municipality). The Dukhobors’ century-old houses have unique exterior patterns and designs, as well as old Russian-style stoves. Unfortunately, many of these homes have fallen into a state of disrepair and are gradually falling apart.

The Vahan Teryan House Museum operates in the village of Gandza: Date of establishment - 1957 Tel.: +995 599 94 78 09 Working hours: Monday-Saturday from 09:00 - 16:00 Entrance: free One of the last monuments of Dukhobor culture - Sirotskiy Dom (Orphan Home) is located in the village of Gorelovka. In 2009, it became a legally recognized memorial house. The name “Orphan Home” is misleading. The Orphan Home was moved from the Tavrich Province. It was built in 1847 to accommodate the Dukhobors' community leaders. In addition, it functioned as the main storage location for seeds and the funds that the community collected from their work, which were later distributed among community members. Such aid was primarily intended for the old and children. Hence the title Orphan Home.

The House Museum of the Armenian poet and artist Victor Ovsepian (Viktor Hovsepyan) is located in the village of Eshtia. Public transportation to Ninotsminda is available. [See page 25 - How to Get to the Region]. The nearest railway station is in Akhalkalaki. From the Ninotsminda bus station (8 Freedom St.), one can travel by minibus to Yerevan, Tbilisi, Akhaltsikhe and other Georgian towns. The updated travel schedule can be viewed at: The distance from Ninotsminda to the Georgian-Armenian border (Ninotsminda border crossing point) is 23 km.





Akhalkalaki - Tontio - Eshtia - Abuli Fortress Complexity: Hard Distance: 70 km Duration: 7 hrs Max. elevation: 2650 m.a.s.l. Min. elevation: 1700 m.a.s.l.

The tour begins in the village of Khojabegi (on Akhalkalaki - Ninotsminda road; a signpost indicates the start) and runs north to the village of Tontio. After crossing Paravani River via the old bridge, the car route turns to the right, heading east, and goes to the village of Eshtia. At a distance of 1.7 km from the village, the road runs northwest toward the village of Ujarma. 13 km from there, via the bogged lake, the route ascends sharply and continues to Abuli Pass, which offers a scenic view of Abuli Fortress and its nearby settlement. The walk to the fortress takes 20-25 minutes.




Ninotsminda - Poka - Vladimirovka Aspara - Shaori Complexity: Hard Distance: 13.5 km Duration: 4 hrs Max elevation: 2760 m.a.s.l. Min elevation: 1800 m.a.s.l. The route begins in the village of Poka (on the Tsalka-Ninotsminda motor road; a signpost indicates the starting point) and runs northwest along the shore of Paravani Lake toward the village of Valdimirovka. Heading north to the village of Aspara, you will gradual-


ly depart from Paravani Lake, going to the right. The route to Aspara runs to the left towards the foot of the mountain. From there, the trekking route (1 km) goes up to Shaori Fortress. Through the entrance of the lower wall of the fortress, trekkers may ascend to the part of the fortress located on a lower platform of the same mountain. In order to facilitate walking on the lumpy ground, a 3-meter wide cobbled path runs upwards. The main part of the fortress is the so-called “upper fortress� which has a low entrance and one and two story quarter extensions inside. The fortress is surrounded by hidden darani-shelters. The best time to climb Shaori is from August to September. [See page 39 Shaori Cyclopean Structure].


USEFUL INFORMATION OFFICIAL HOLIDAYS New Year’s Day (January 1, 2) Orthodox Christmas (January 7) Orthodox Epiphany/Baptism (January 19)

BANKS/ATMS The national currency, the “Lari” (GEL) is the only legal form of tender in Georgia. Payments throughout Javakheti are generally made in cash, as very few businesses accept credit cards. Currency exchange centers and ATMs are available in larger towns. AKHALKALAKI

Mother’s Day (March 3)

Bank of Georgia/ATM - 35 Mkhitar Nalbandyan St.

Women’s Day (March 8)

Liberty Bank/ATM - 62 Tamar Mepe St.

National Unity Day (April 9)

TaoPrivat Bank/ATM - 4 Freedom St.

Orthodox Easter (movable holiday, March-April-May)

PrivatBank/ATM - 69 Freedom St.

Orthodox Easter Monday


Victory Against Fascism Day (May 9)

Liberty Bank/ATM - 22 Freedom St.

St. Andrew’s Day (May 12)

TaoPrivat Bank/ATM - 115 Freedom St.

Independence Day (May 26) Mariamoba, Assumption of the Virgin Mary (August 28) Svetitskhovloba - Celebration of the first Christian church in Georgia, Svetitskhoveli Cathedral (October 14) Giorgoba, St. George’s Day (November 23)

TELEPHONE SERVICES The main mobile operators Magticom, Geocell and Beeline cover the entire municipality. Internet providers are Silknet (ADSL and dial-up), Magticom, Geocell and Beeline. The main telephone codes of major towns are: Akhalkalaki +995 362; Ninotsminda +995 361. Mobile SIM cards can be purchased at service offices of Akhalkalaki-based telephone companies: Magticom - 41/2 Freedom St. Geocell - 22 Nalbandyan St. Beeline - 34 Freedom St.


Offices are open every day, except holidays from 9:00-18:00 with a lunch break from 13:00-14:00. Working hours on weekends are from 10:00-17:00 and do not close for a lunch break.

Ninotsminda District Police Department: 48 Freedom St., emergency contact number: 122



Tap water is safe in most places. Many stores also sell a range of bottled (carbonated, still and mineral) waters.


HEALTHCARE We recommend buying medicines in pharmacies such as Aversi, PSP, GPS. The UniMed Samtskhe medical center has locations in Akhalkalaki and Ninotsminda. Tel.: +995 579 02 90 90 31 David Aghmashenebeli St. Akhalkalaki 48 Freedom St. Ninotsminda

POLICE AND EMERGENCY SERVICES Akhalkalaki District Police Department: 5 Aghmashenebeli St., emergency contact number: 122

Wissol, 115 David Aghmashenebeli St. Lukoil, 1 David Aghmashenebeli St. Rompetrol, 2 David Aghmashenebeli St. Chevron, 17 David Aghmashenebeli St. Gulf, 14 David Aghmashenebeli St. NINOTSMINDA

Wissol Petroleum, 2a Freedom St. Lukoil, 1 Freedom St.

NATURAL GAS STATIONS Vachiani Highway Akhalgazi AKHALKALAKI SG Gas Company, 100 Freedom St.



Garni, 38 David Aghmashenebeli St., +995 599 10 18 35 EuroStar, Airport Turn, +995 571 90 94 56

The Javakheti Travel Guide provides addresses of hotels and guesthouses located in the region and nearby areas including village family hotels and agro-tourist farms, where visitors can purchase accommodations (2-5 rooms) with or without meals. The hosts offer their guests local products and cuisine and familiarize them with traditional farming and everyday life. The overnight stay rate per person at hotels, including breakfast, varies between 60-100 GEL. The service charge at guesthouses runs between 30-40 GEL (with breakfast).

GUESTHOUSE “SULDA” Address: Village Sulda, Akhalkalaki Municipality Contact: Zoya Janoyan

Host families can prepare sack lunches for picnics, as well as dinners as per your request. Accommodations can be made to include room and breakfast, as well as room, breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Phone: +995 555 54 77 64, +995 599 49 29 67, +995 790 79 01 96

The guesthouses and family hotels listed in this guide have been supported and trained as a part of the WWF project, “Establishment of Javakheti National Park in Georgia”.

The guesthouse is located at a distance of 700 meters from the main village road. There are 2 bedrooms (double and triple) with a shared bathroom and a living room with a dining area available for guests in the guesthouse. The house has a large yard with a vegetable garden and some fruit trees, as well as an old, traditional style house with a tone (a traditional bread oven).

AKHALKALAKI HOTELS Art-Seg, 31 Mesrop Mashtotsi St., +995 362 2 37 07, +995 79 74 34 11 Ararat, 13Kamo St., +995 92 61 85 75, +995 93 61 85 75 Anank, 5 Levon Darbinyan St., +995 99 10 18 35


Price (Bad & Breakfast): 40 GEL Price (Half Board): 50 GEL

GUESTHOUSE “FLORA” Address: Sulda village, Akhalkalaki Municipality Contact: Flora Apoyan

Phone: +995 595 21 11 36, +995 790 94 58 19, +995 579 07 01 71 Price (Bad & Breakfast): 40 GEL Price (Half Board): 50 GEL The guesthouse is located at a distance of 600 meters from the main village road. There are 3 bedrooms (double, triple and quad) with a shared bathroom (shower and toilet separately) and a living room with dining area available for guests in the guesthouse. The house is surrounded by a large, green yard with fruit trees and five ponds with a variety of fish.

The guesthouse is located near Madatapa Lake, along the village main road. On the second floor, the house has 2 bedrooms (double and triple) with a shared bathroom and a dining room for guests. From the balcony, along the front façade of the house, there is a panoramic view of Madatapa Lake and the surrounding mountains and picturesque scenery. The house has a large yard with a vegetable garden.

ASPINDZA Hotel Taoskari, Vardzia, +995 599 54 35 40, +995 598 24 24 03




Chiko, 9 Vardzia St., Aspindza, +995 593 90 64 05

Ararat (also has a restaurant on the ground floor), 12a V. Teruan St., +995 599 23 84 23, +995 361 22 23 84

Imedi, Tmogvi village, +995 595 28 57 50


Tsiskari, Tmogvi village, +995 598 96 86 87

Address: Sameba village, Ninotsminda Municipality

Kviskari, Gelsunda village, +995 599 75 52 90

Contact: Petros Tamasyan Phone: +995 568 02 00 92, +995 599 17 21 13, +995 790 17 21 13 Price (Bad & Breakfast): 40 GEL

BORJOMI Tskhratskaro, Tabatskuri village, +995 595 202 737


AGRO-TOURISM Bermukha, 16 Jacob Gogebashvili St., Aspindza, +995 599 18 17 63 Tirebi, Nakalakevi village, +995 599 33 88 71 Valodia’s Cottage, Koriskhevi, Vardzia, +995 599 11 62 07

ministration Office or Visitors' Centre to make travel reservations. (93 Nalbandyan St., Akhalkalaki, +995 577 64 04 82 / 77) Guesthouses in Javakheti are incorporated in the Rural Tourism Network of the Association Elkana, which has created aguesthouse/family hotel service standard. You may also make use of Elkana’s booking system. Visitors can contact Elkana to make arrangements at: +995 32 2536487,


HOW TO GET TO THE HOTELS AND GUESTHOUSE Hotels and guesthouses have their numbers and signboards listed visibly via signposts or billboards. For more information, please contact the Protected Areas Administration: +995 577 64 04 82,,

BOOKING Visitors can book accommodations through direct communication with the host family or hotel. Visitors who do not speak Georgian or Russian are encouraged to contact the Protected Areas Ad-


Art-Seg 31 Mesrop Mashtotsi St., +995 362 2 37 07, +995 79 74 34 11 Farel 38/2 David Aghmashenebeli St., +995 99 18 08 84, +995 99 67 50 07 Hovik Military Camp #14 Garni 38 David Aghmashenebeli St. Roland 14 Tbilisi St. Café Pharaoh 62 Freedom St., +995 99 18 62 63 Café Luxe 9 Charents St., +995 99 77 72 12

NINOTSMINDA RESTAURANTS Ararat Hotel 2a V. Teryan St., +995 99 23 84 23, +995 361 2 23 84 Javakheti, 24 Freedom St., +995 361 2 32 52, +995 99 48 45 85 Kavkasia, 2 Freedom St., +995 98 28 83 33 Café, 24 Freedom St., +995 361 2 32 04, +995 93 60 77 88, +995 58 52 31 52

The Samtskhe-Javakheti Tourist Agency Psiti offers eco and cycling tours, rafting, trekking and cultural tours in the Samtskhe-Javakheti region and the other nearby areas. Contact: +995 595 642 346, +995 599 11 45 06,,

For arranging extreme tours from Bakuriani to Tabatskuri (snowmobiles in winter and all-terrain vehicles in summer), please contact the representatives of the Burans Club at: +995 592 806 869, +995 577 250 562, Javakheti Protected Areas Administration +995 577 64 04 82 Agency of Protected Areas +995 577 90 72 72 +995 32 272 03 88, *8888 Facebook: Agency of Protected Areas +995 577 64 04 80,



Khaveti Church Ruins and settlement-site N 41°16.190’ E 43°11.792’


Khospio Upper Hall-Church N 41°22.272’ E 43°30.041’

Abuli Church N 41°24.077’ E 43°36.622’

Khospio Lower Hall-Church N 41°22.215’ E 43°29.884’

Khulgumo Hall-Church N 41°24.666’ E 43°29.711’

Abuli Fortress N 41°37.2990’ E 43°68.462’

Khulgumo (little church) Church Ruins N 41°24.994’ E 43°29.813’

Apnia St. Demetre Hall-Church N 41°21.888’ E 43°16.432’

Kilda Double-Nave Church N 41°26.372’ E 43°20.440’

Akhalkalaki Fortress N 41°24.920’ E 43°28.829’

Kotelia St. George’s Hall-Church N 41°31.744’ E 43°28.875’

Alastani Hall-Church N 41°32.675’ E 43°24.021’

Kotelia Hall-Church (Kviriketi) N 41°31.645’ E 43°28.968’

Azavreti Hall-Church N 41°35.201’ E 43°27.269’

Kumurdo Dome-Shaped Temple N 41°23.860’ E 43°21.289’

Azmana Hall-Church N 41°18.828’ E 43°17.642’

Merenia Springs St. George’s Stone Icon N 41°32.426’ E 43°33.174’

Baraleti Double-Nave Church N 41°33.850’ E 43°30.639’ Bavra Hall-Church N 41°23.934’ E 43°30.808’ Bozhano Kings’ Dwelling Ancient Ruins and St. Ioane Natlismtsemeli Hall-Church N 41°35.606’ E 43°34.989’

Meghreki Church Ruins N 41°33.189’ E 43°34.319’ Murjakheti Hall-Church N 41°21.638’ E 43°28.429’ Murjakheti Stela Dzikva and Laliskva N 41°21.652’ E 43°28.315’

Burnasheti Hall-Church N 41°35.182’ E 43°27.995’

Murjikani Hall-Church N 41°27.144’ E 43°26.776’

Gokio Hall-Church (#1) N 41°34.063’ E 43°24.638’

Naisa Hall-Church N 41°28.954‘ E 43°21.853‘

Gokio Hall-Church (#2) N 41°33.988’ E 43°24.578’

Okami Church Ruins N 41°19.134’ E 43°20.317’

Ikhtila Hall-Church N 41°33.180’ E 43°32.333’

Oloda Cave & Hall-Church Complex N 41°18.976’ E 43°13.714’

Karcebi Church Ruins N 41°19.495’ E 43°17.306’

OlodaHall-Church N 41°18.389’ E 43°12.765’

Kachio Hall-Church N 41°34.805’ E 43°32.376’

Oloda Monastery N 41°18.393’ E 43°12.716’

Khando Half-Nave Church N 41°29.602’ E 43°23.978’

Oloda Fortress N 41°19.040’ E 43°13.439’


Samsari Dome-Shaped Monastery Caves N 41°32.970’ E 43°36.319’

Poka Hall-Church (St. Nino Temple) N 41°23.874’ E 43°47.596’

Samsari Dome-Shaped Monastery Caves N 41°32.766‘ E 43°35.435‘

Poka Megalithic Fortres-settlement complex ruins N 41°23.756’ E 43°47.066’

Sulda Hall-Church N 41°16.397’ E 43°22.166’ Tabatskuri Red Church N 41°39.756’ E 43°37.506’ Vardistsikhe Hall-Church Ruins N 41°31.089’ E 43°24.603’ Varevani Hall-Church N 41°30.879’ E 43°23.546’ Varevani Hall-Church Ruins N 41°30.879’ E 43°23.546’

NINOTSMINDA Aspara Church ruins N 41°27.161’ E 43°46.879’ Chikiani Menhir N 41°49.706’ E 43°87.589’ Gandzani John the aptist Hall-Church N 41°19.499’ E 43°43.490’ Gandzani (Lower) Nave-Church N 41°21.060’ E 43°44.769’ Jigrasheni Hall-Church N 41°19.103’ E 43°33.305’ Karneti Hall-Church N 41°20.200’ E 43°30.369’ Khorenia Hall-Church (Big) N 41°20.511’ E 43°31.375’ Khorenia Hall-Church (Little) N 41°20.566’ E 43°31.163’ Paravani Big Hall-Church N 41°27.128’ E 43°50.952’

Satkhe Hall-Church N 41°17.264’ E 43°39.316’ Saghamo Big Hall-Church N 41°18.725’ E 43°45.611’ Saghamo Nave-Church N 41°18.508’ E 43°45.646’ Saghamo Hall-Church Ruins N 41°18.665’ E 43°45.644’ Shaori Cyclopean Fortress Upper Fortress N 41°29.103’ E 43°44.747’ Lower Fortress N 41°29.018’ E 43°44.942’ Tontio St. George’s Hall-Church N 41°19.416’ E 43°35.073’ Tontio Fortress N 41°19.909’ E 43°35.480’ Tontio Five-Arched Bridge N 41°19.347’ E 43°35.044’

ASPINDZA Bertubani N 41°23.162’ E 43°17.726’ Chachkari Cave Complex and St. George’s Church N 41°23.118’ E 43°17.125’ Gogasheni The Virgin Hall-Church N 41°22.367’ E 43°18.003’

Paravani Small Hall-Church N 41°27.074’ E 43°50.890’

Gogasheni St. Archangel’s Hall-Church N 41°22.293’ E 43°18.510’

Paravani Th ree-Arched Caravanserai N 41°27.102’ E 43°50.943’

Khertvisi Fortress N 41°28.762’ E 43°17.081’

Pharavani Stone-Cross N 41°44.459’ E 43°88.613’

Khizabavra Gharta Hall-Church N 41°31.351’ E 43°17.347’


Khizabavri Catholic Hall-Church N 41°31.351’ E 43°17.347’ Kvarsha Hall-Church Ruins N 41°28.417’ E 43°18.540’ Lebisi Underground Village N 41°22.397’ E 43°11.739’ Margastani settlement-site N 41°23.982’ E 43°20.078’ Margastani (Village) Cave Complex N 41°23.995’ E 43°20.351’ Nijgori St. George’s Hall-Church N 41°30.328’ E 43°16.024’ Saro (mud-hut) Darbazi-type, Earthen House N 41°30.317’ E 43°16.782’ Saro Village St. Archangels Double-Nave Church N 41°30.339’ E 43°16.754’ Saro Fortress N 41°30.333’ E 43°16.742’ Tsunda Hall-Church N 41°24.468’ E 43°20.061’ Tmogvi Town-Fortress N 41°23.885’ E 43°19.006’ Tmogvi (Upper ) Triple-Nave Church N 41°24.202’ E 43°17.270’ Vanis Kvabebi (Vani Caves) N 41°22.960’ E 43°18.436’ Vardzia Cave Monastery N 41°22.881’ E 43°17.119’ Vardzia (Upper) Caves N 41°22.691’ E 43°15.696’ Vardzia (Upper) Double-Nave Church of the Virgin N 41°23.038’ E 43°15.448’




The guide describes the history, the ethnological and natural and cultural heritage of the Javakheti region. It gives travel details about r...


The guide describes the history, the ethnological and natural and cultural heritage of the Javakheti region. It gives travel details about r...