Kakheti is the region in the eastern part of Georgia. It is known for its vineyard and winemaking factories. This is the main reason why I chose this full packed day-tour, though I’m just a seasonal drinker.
Location: Kakheti, Georgia
Accomodation: Urban Botique Hotel
Buddies: Family (2+)
Beka, our assigned driver/guide for our entire stay in Georgia picked us up at 09:15am. We’re so happy that he decorated his car with Christmas ornaments. His efforts made our first meeting so delighted. Our communication was awkward because most of the conversation must be typed in google translation for us to understand each other. This is not an issue for me because I’m aware with this kind of arrangement. Just like, I’m renting a private vehicle including a driver. The driver serves as a local companion to the trip. Normally, a tourist guide will tell detailed history and stories behind every site but this local driver will tell more about his family, lifestyle, and his personal experiences. A tourist guide knows the best spot for an Instagram post but the local driver never cares about the backdrop as everything are worth to be framed.
We left the city excitedly heading to Gombori Pass. At first, the road is just a usual straight highway with withered trees beside it. Its landscape is changing from agricultural into wide grassland and up to the hills. As we’re approaching the snowy mountain, the pavement started to show its features. It is a curvy track on inclining slope. I didn’t mind it since I was enjoying the vicinity. The withered grasses and trees are shining like crystals because frosts bounced the sunlight. We felt thirsty as the elevation increases and the heater of the car was hiding from us the actual temperature outside. Unfortunately, we forgot to bring drinking water and there was no shop along the way.
After an hour, we stopped to buy water. I saw a small shop and lead the way up there. The shop is small and selling hot drinks but there was no bottled water. The place is majestic as I compared it to the cartoons series, Heidi-Girl of the Alps. A hammock, a big tree, a small house, and there was a big dog too.. Too perfect!!! Unfortunately, there was a drunk costumer starting a tipsy conversation with me but Beka was too defensive keeping him few steps from us. I didn’t understand particularly what they were arguing about but I really appreciate Beka for protecting us though it was not necessary. I somehow understand the longing for a talk when an alcohol effect is playing in the mind. He then led us down in the natural spring beside the road after asking a paper cup from the shop owner. At first, we’re on hesitant to drink until Beka told us that its safe. The cold water tastes sweet and refreshing.
Few meters from the shop, we stopped for 5 minutes to enjoy the beautiful landscape of the mountain covered with a thin snow frosting.
Gombori Pass finally entered a forest but because its winter, the trees looks too depressing. Its beauty is not enchanting…but bewitching.
We headed to Telavi and arrived at Batonis-Tsekhi Fortress, a palace built from 17th century. Only me and Beka went inside because my two companions felt sick after passing the ghostly-looking and curvy road of Gombori Pass. Inside the gated wall, there is a museum, a chapel, and a school founded by the previous king of Kakheti. We didn’t stay longer and after securing that my family has been relieved from nausea, we headed to the vineyard town of Kvareli, another town in Kakheti.
After passing vast but dead vineyards, we reached the lake. The Ilias Lake -is a manmade lake named after Ilia Chavchavadze, a man who also believe that pen is mightier than sword. He is like Philippine national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal, who used ink to show his patriotism. The lake is surrounded by mountains but sad to say that our visit was completely quiet. Aside from us, there was no other visitor in the lake. The lake is said lively during summer but looks like an abandoned park during winter. Kvareli is best to visit during summer for grown vegetation especially grapes.
Few minutes drive from the lake, we stepped in on our main goal, the Winery Khareba. There is an entrance fee and they required vaccination card upon entry. We availed their Classic Package tour at 40 lari per head which includes wine tasting (4 wines and 1 chacha), and tutorial for making local bread and candy. The Winery Khareba is the biggest winery maker in Georgia. It still uses the traditional method of fermentation in some of their production. The tunnel we passed though is storing wines for aging. The tunnel maintains wine storing ideal temperature at all times. After a short but joyous guided tour in the tunnel, we tasted four wines which made us tipsy on our way out. We continued to the class tutorial of Georgian clay oven bread making and churchkhela, wallnuts beaded on a thread dipped in a grape jam. My wife and son enjoyed the experience.
The final event included in the package was a shot of chacha. The winery guide told us that it tastes like water but we’re totally feeling high and drunk. We just laughed for the feelings that we bullied our own selves. We left the winery with our heart satisfaction and headed to Sighnaghi.
Sighnaghi is called the city of love because many couples visited the town just to get married. Its location is on the top of the mountain. Once we stood in the town, the valley below and the surrounding Caucasus mountains filled our eyes with love. The town is walled symbolizing that it has deep history rooted on it. The main entrance was closed but we managed to climb up on one side of the wall. This town is very old and settlement started here since 18th century.
Beka shown me the translated text on his mobile. “The monastery will close at 5pm. We will continue or we will look for a restaurant to eat?“. I checked my watch and it was almost 4pm. I told Beka to visit our last site, the Bodbe Monastery.
In less than 15 minutes drive from the town, we arrived in Bodbe Monastery. At this time, my wife stayed alone inside the car for she was not yet recovered from the effect of alcohol. The monastery was built from the 9th century. It is an honor that I had glimpsed on this kind of old structure. It was also my first time to see the complex interior of the monastery to fulfill my curiosity.
Our tour ended after a mixed barbecue dinner at Nikala Sighnaghi. We left Sighnaghi before 6pm for a 2-hour drive back to Tbilisi.
- Tour Name: Kakheti Tour (Eastern Georgia)
- Price: 90 USD
- No entrance fees except for Winery Khareba