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Sighnaghi: The Most Romantic Village in Georgia

Sighnaghi gives off a lot much charm through and through. It is a picturesque village with a spectacular panoramic view of the plain of the Alazani valley. The beautiful summits of the Great Caucasus serve as its backdrop.

Its cobblestone streets are mixed with the city’s typical colorful wooden balconies and its 18th-century wall protects it as if it were a treasure. The city offers a variety of hotels and restaurants that serve the demands of thousands of tourists who choose Sighnaghi as a destination for destressing from the world for a couple of days.

History

They say that the word Sighnaghi is of Turkish origin and that it means ‘refuge’. Apparently, here there was a fortress from the thirteenth or fourteenth centuries.

However, its development as a city is attributed to King Erekle II of Kartli-Kakheti. In 1762, he decided to found a town. He then reinforced the wall and he enabled families of merchants and artisans to settle here in order to boost the area’s economy.

In the mid-nineteenth century, with the Russians in power, the inhabitants lived a more elegant life and the city had halls for the elites, where they drank tea and discussed politics. Between 2005 and 2008, the Georgian government injected a large sum of money into the local economy to restore the city’s streets and renovate the buildings without losing their original appearance. Since then, Sighnaghi has become one of the most visited places in the region.

What to See in Sighnaghi?

The Wall

In 1762, King Erekle II reinforced the Sighnaghi wall and he turned it into one of the largest in Georgia. It is more than 4 kilometers (2 miles) long and it encloses an area that could house more than 40 football fields. Along its route are 23 defensive towers with names based on the nearby villages.

In times of war, Sighnaghi welcomed the people of the surrounding villages and each locality was in charge of the defense of their watchtower. The wall has 5 entrance doors and you can walk through it in some sections. Saint George and Stephen’s Churches are sheltered within the defensive wall.

The Sighnaghi Museum

Address: 8 Rustavelis blind-Alley

Opening Hours: Tuesday to Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (winter) and from 11:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. (summer).

E-mail: info@museum.ge

This museum showcases archaeological and ethnographic objects found around the Kakheti region explains the area’s history, lifestyle, and culture from six thousand years ago until today. It also hosts an interesting exhibition of some of the works by Niko Pirosmanil, a genius Georgian painter. He was born in Mirzaani, a nearby town.

The museum is a modern center that has facilities adapted to the demands of modern museology. Explanations are in Georgian and English. For more information: www.museum.ge

Bodbe Monastery

Opening Hours: 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

From Sighnaghi to the Bodbe Monastery, there is a very pleasant walk of about three kilometers (1 mile). The affection that the Georgians have for this place makes it one of the most pilgrim-visited temples of Georgia. And here lies the tomb of Nino as well. Nino is the woman who converted the country to Christianity.

Tradition says that after King Miriam III declared the new faith as the official religion, the nun retired to this place and died here. In the fourth century, a temple was built in her honor and King Vakhtang Gorgasali made her an episcopate.

The importance of Bodbe has led many kings to contribute to it and magnify it. However, here you can breathe a much more intimate and friendly atmosphere than in the rest of Georgia’s great sanctuaries. One of the most venerated icons of the sanctuary is the Mother Mary of Iveria.

From the convent, there are some stairs going down several hundred meters to a fountain emerging after Nino prayed here. It is said that its waters cure all kinds of diseases, so a lot of people come to try their luck every day.

Practical Information

Sighnaghi Tourist Office

Address: 10 Kostava Street

Summertime: from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Phone: +995 355 23 24 14

Find here various brochures, guidance, and information about accommodation. The staff will help you out in every way possible.

Activities

  • Horse riding. In the nearby village of Qedeli, the company Living Roots Horse Ranch offers horse riding in the area for one hour (35 GEL), two hours (60 GEL), and three hours (85 GEL). The price includes guidance and everything necessary for the riding. Phone: +995 599 48 00 86. For more information: http://travellivingroots.com
  • Tourist bus. During the summer, Sighnaghi offers tourists the option to ride a bus with 18 seats and tour the area. Price: 1 GEL
  • Quads. This a different way to explore Sighnaghi and the surrounding area. Price of the city tour: 60 GEL.

Transportation

  • Marshrutkas to Sighnaghi
      • Tbilisi-Sighnaghi: every two hours from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. from Samgori station (6 GEL)
      • Telavi-Sighnaghi: 3:15 p.m. (5 GEL)
  • Marshrutkas from Sighnaghi station (2 Erekle II Street)
      • Sighnaghi-Tbilisi: 7:00, 9:00, 11:00, 1.00, 4:00 y 6:00 p.m. (6 GEL)
      • Sighnaghi-Tsnori: every 30 minutes from 9:15 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (except Saturdays and Sundays).
      • Sighnaghi-Telavi: 9:15 a.m, except Sunday (5 GEL)
      • Sighnaghi-Bodbe: 8:00, 9:00, 11:00, 12:15, 1:00, 4:00, 5:00 y 6:00 p.m. (1 GEL).
  • Marshrutkas from the nearby village of Tsnori, 7 km (4 miles).
    • Tsnori-Sighnaghi: every 30 minutes from 8:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (except Saturdays and Sundays).
    • Tsnori-Lagodekhi: 10:00 and 11:00 a.m. (3 GEL).
    • Tsnori-Telavi: 7:45, 8:30, 1:40, 3:20 p.m. (4.50 GEL).

Tsnori-Dedopliskharo: every hour 8.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m. (2.50 GEL)

Accommodations

Cheap Lodging

Leli´s Guesthouse

Address: 11 Tamar Mepe Avenue

Phone: +995 593 43 22 43

E-mail: lelamama@yahoo.com

Leli’s house, which is a few meters from the Saint George’s Church, has an impressive terrace overlooking the Alazani valley. In addition, it has 5 comfortable double rooms, cozy and well furnished. In winter, the owner lives in Tbilisi and she usually spends summers in Sighnaghi, so it is better to contact her beforehand. Price of double rooms: 90 GEL.

The Host of Sighnaghi

Address: 28 Baratashvili Street

Phone: +995 13 93 36

E-mail: marina.goginashvili@mail.ru

It has two double rooms with double beds and one quadruple. The bathroom is shared. They do not speak English. Price: 15 GEL.

David Zandarashvili Guesthouse

Phone: +995 5 99 75 05 10/+995 5 77 75 25 10

Address: 8 Saint Giorgi Street

E-mail: davidzandarashvili@yahoo.com

This is one of the favorite places to stay for backpackers. It is a huge house with 14 rooms, beautiful views and it is managed by two brothers who speak English and organize tours to discover the region: Davit Gareja, Lagodekhi, Vashlovani, etc.

During the harvest season, they also organize visits to the harvest areas. At the time of our visit, they were expanding the house with five more bedrooms. Price: 30 individual GEL, double: 40 GEL, triple: 45 GEL.

Medium Price Lodging

Pirosmani Hotel

Address: 6 Aghmashenebeli Square

It belongs to the Rcheuli chain. It is a boutique hotel opened in 2008. There are standard rooms and spacious suites with classic decoration. Lately, some complaints about the service have been reported. Prices: 85-145 GEL.

Expensive Lodging

Kabadoni Boutique Hotel

Address: 1 Tamar Mepe Avenue

Phone: +995 322 240 400

E-mail: info@kabadoni.ge

It opened in 2012 and it is the best accommodation in Sighnaghi. It is a boutique hotel with stunning views. They are modern and comfortable. The hotel has its own SPA, pool, gym and there are even handmade Georgian carpets in each room.

The hotel has won several awards from the accommodation sector. It has some French furniture and it was the first non-smoking hotel in Georgia. Single rooms (270 GEL), double rooms (350 GEL), and suites (584 GEL).

Restaurants

Expensive Restaurant

Pheasants Tears Winery-Restaurant

Address: 18 Baratashvili Street

Phone: +995 599 53 44 84

E-mail: jwuderman@pheasantstears.com 

You must visit it because it is more of a restaurant or a wine bar and it is quite an experience, by the way. It has an art gallery and another one of those beloved Caucasian carpets.

In addition, they produce their own wine in the traditional Georgian style and their cuisine is known throughout the city. They also organize tastings and tours through the wineries in the area. You can enjoy organic Georgian food and wines produced in the traditional way in this restaurant’s magnificent garden.

Festivals

Sighnaghi wine festival

This festival does not have a fixed date. It is usually celebrated on Sunday, during the month of October. It’s the city’s vintage party. There’s popular music, regional dances, street stalls, and loads of fun.