Akhaltsikhe, located 200km from Tbilisi, is a city in Georgia’s southwestern region of Samtskhe-Javakheti. It is situated on the both banks of a small river Potskhovi, which separates the city to the old city in the north and new in the south.
It’s a base city to explore Georgia’s one of the main sightseeing: cave city of Vardzia. It’s also near Abastumany resort with its pine forest and observatory. But Akhaltsikhe and its surroundings itself is also worth exploring.
How to get to Akhaltsikhe
Buses run regularly from Tbilisi to Akhaltsikhe from Didube station. There are buses also from Kutaisi and Khashuri.
Akhaltsikhe’s historical part, its Rabati fortress was recently renovated. Although it lost its original look and looks a bit artificial after restoration, it’s possible to take nice photos in a good weather on the background of its stunning eastern-styled towers, shining mosque, charming palaces and fountains, etc.
Sapara Monastery (10th century) is definitely worth visiting in the vicinity of Akhaltsikhe for its best-preserved frescoes, classically Georgian and fascinating architecture and unarguably superb location. Hidden in the mountain forest, it’s located 10km from Akhaltsikhe. Road is now good and paved. and you should go up castle above it. You may need two hours to explore the site (in a nice weather you can stay even more) and to climb up the nearby slopes towards a rocky outcropping to get lovely views over the monastery and the valleys in the distance.
Uraveli Gorge’s Hiking Route
One of the exotic sightseeing of Akhaltsikhe disrict, my favorite for its undescribed nature in spring-autumn (May and October months) seasons, is Uraveli gorge’s short hiking route (you can see gps track below) from village Uraveli (16km from akhaltsikhe) to the Agara church ruins and Enteli stoneman (idol).What it remains out of once Enteli village today is just church and nearby a well-preserved megalithic monument called the “Enteli Stoneman” also shepherds hut nearby.
The route is close Turkish border and has very wild and impressive scenery and panoramas especially in special period for mixed forest (Fall colors in October 15+-1 week and Beginning of May). On the way to Uraveli village you can also visit Baiebi rock-cut fortress. First you need to get to village Uraveli and from there you can hike up to the idol. Beware of ugly weather and shepherd’s dogs.
Also don’t go there if it’s late autumn or early spring and trees are without leaves and ugly. There is/was wild marijuana plants going on the route, but not sure how usable it is – still makes the way to the idol quite fun. If you dont get to smoke some weed in Uraveli gorge there are many places places where you can eat fresh salmon, for example Edemi restaurant which works during tourist season. Uraveli gorge offers interesting options for jeeptours, picnics or bike tours from Akhaltsikhe.