Although travelers usually only see Akhaltsikhe as a jump-off point to get to Vardzia, the truth is that it is worth a stop, even only a few hours. It would be a crime not to visit its fortress. The structure is in great shape and has lots of history to offer. Plus, we are talking about seeing what true Georgia really looks like during your visit here.
Recently, this part of Georgia has undergone plenty of reconstruction or more like architectural surgery. That made the whole place look like new.
Akhaltsikhe is the capital of the province of Samtskhe-Javakheti and it is an example of tolerance between different cultures. Here Georgians, Armenians, Greeks, Russians, Turks, and Jews live together. Orthodox churches, a mosque, a synagogue, and a madrasa can still be found in the city.
Inside the fortress, there is a quite efficient tourist office where they will help you out. The city has the occasional hotel and bus connections to Armenia (Gyumri and Yerevan).
The city’s strategic position, in the middle of important commercial routes connecting Georgia with Byzantium and the rest of European countries, turned it into the political, cultural, and administrative center of the south of the country. Hence, it harbored so much mixture of cultures.
Its foundation dates from the ninth century and Lomsia was its original name. The word Akhaltsikhe was adopted later and it means “new castle”. The area was in the hands of the powerful Jakeli family from the 13th to the 17th century. Later on, it became an administrative center of the Ottomans under the command of a Pasha. In the nineteenth century, the Russians took over the city.
What to See in Akhaltsikhe?
Address: 1 Kharichirashvili Street.
Price of the ticket: 7 GEL.
Opening Hours: from 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Although it was built in the 12th century, the Rabati Castle looks like it is new. It was subjected to an extensive renovation work that lasted 15 months and ended in 2012. Inside, the multicultural personality of Akhaltsikhe is exhibited.
In the complex, the architecture of the diverse cultures that passed through the city is concentrated. Inside there is the citadel, a few baths, the mosque of Pasha Haji Ahmed, a school, a church, a castle, and other buildings for various purposes.
So you might take a couple of hours minimum to explore this place. There is also the Samtse-Javakheti History Museum, which occupies the space of what was once the Palace of the Jaqelis today. Its interior impresses with its refinement and majesty and a hotel, a restaurant, a couple of shops, and the tourist office have been opened recently.
The fortress dominates the city from the north bank of the Potskhovi River and it is the greatest attraction of the capital of Samtskhe-Javakheti. A guided tour (20 GEL) is not bad for you so you get an idea of how the past of this fortress looked like. The fortress was also a filming location for a movie so there are plenty of picture-worthy spots there.
Samtse-Javakheti History Museum
Opening Hours: from 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
This museum has an interesting sample of archaeological, ethnographic, numismatic objects, weapons, and diverse visual material explaining the past of the region. The center is part of the National Museum of Georgia.
Akhaltsikhe Tourist Office
Opening Hours: from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
It is inside the fortress. It offers all kinds of information, brochures, and audio guides.
- Akhaltsikhe-Borjomi-Tbilisi : every 40 minutes from 6:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m, (4 and 8 GEL).
- Akhaltsikhe-Batumi : 8:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m (20 GEL).
- Akhaltsikhe Khulo : 10:00 a.m (there are no connections to Batumi in Khulo). It only works in summer, when the snow has been removed (15 GEL).
- Akhaltsikhe-Kutaisi : 10:40 a.m., 4:00 p.m and 6:00 p.m.
- Akhaltsikhe-Vardzia : 10:30 a.m, 12.20 p.m, 4:00 p.m y 5:30 p.m. (4 GEL)
- Akhaltsikhe-Gyumri (Armenia): 7:00 a.m.
- Akhaltsikhe-Yerevan (Armenia): 7:00 a.m. (25 GEL).
Old Town Hotel
Address: 106 Eqvtime Antoneli Street.
Phone: +995 574 88 06 78// +995 599 94 67 89.
A family hotel very close to the bus station and Rabati Castle. There is a good quality-price relation. Large, bright, well-furnished rooms with comfortable beds and a good level of cleanliness. Private bathrooms. The breakfasts are worth it. Double: 75 GEL with breakfast. Triples: 100 GEL with breakfast.
Gino Wellness Hotel
Address: 1 Kharischirashvili Street.
Phone: (+995) 322 19 29 39. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
It is inside the fortress and it is the best hotel in the city. It has a good restaurant, SPA, modern and newly renovated rooms, and everything you need to feel like a pasha. Double rooms (195-250 GEL), lux rooms (270-290 GEL) and apartments (420-450 GEL). For more information: www.gino.ge