Tucked away in the foothills of the Tsiv-Gombori mountains just south of the Caucusus, is the sleepy wine riddled town of Telavi. This historic city is the heart of the Kakheti region and known for its charming nostalgic streets, traditional wine cellars, ruined Batonis Tsikhe, and picturesque surroundings. Whether you’re headed out on a day trip from Tbilisi or looking to soak up Telavi for a few days – here are some things to add to your list.
Visit a Small Family Winery
Of course, no visit to Telavi (or Kakheti as a whole) is complete without at least one visit to a small family winery. It’s what the region is known for and not without cause as the entire area is dotted with tiny vineyards and cozy cellars. The absolute best winery I can recommend is Togonidze’s Wine Cellar in Shalauri. If you’re looking for more options, though, I’ve got you covered here.
Stroll the Tsinandali Estate
Just outside Telavi in Tsinandali, you’ll find the Tsinandali Estate, which houses Prince Alexander Chavchavadze’s memorial home, stunning gardens, and a historical winery. A 7 lari ticket comes with a tour through the museum/Chavchavadze home and a complimentary glass of wine in the Radisson lobby, which is located on the grounds.
Wander Batonis Tsikhe
Sprawled behind the unmissable King Erekle II statue at the center of the city, you’ll find Batonis Tsikhe. Batonis Tsikhe (fortress of master) was constructed in the mid-1600s and is considered to be the best-preserved medieval palace in the country. The small complex holds what remains of the Palace, the King’s Bath, Church of the Court of Erekle II, remains of the schools founded by Erekle along with a small museum. It’s absolutely worth visiting as King Erekle II, also referred to as “The Little Kakhetian” is famous throughout the region. There’s plenty of room to imagine what life was like for the Kakhetian Kings of the 17th and 18th centuries, most notably the room where King Erekle II was born and died and curious medieval sarcophagi.
Wonder at the Giant Plane Tree
This massive hollow tree is nearly 1,000 years old. It’s a local favorite and is revered for the history it has witnessed over the past 900 some odd years. It’s catty-cornered from Batonis Tsikhe, so it makes for a perfect visit before or after. From the tree, you can see a charming view of traditional Georgian houses in Telavi that frame the interesting snail sculpture.
Grab a Bite At Kapiloni
Smack dab in the middle of the city between the Plane Tree and Batonis Tsikhe, you’ll find Kapiloni. They serve incredible traditional foods with warm service and beautiful views of the mountains. Be sure to grab a spot on the upper patio if possible and don’t leave without trying the khashlama, lobio, or house khinkali.
Pick Up Some Churchkhela, Spices or Pickles at Telavis Bazari
Discombobulated, chaotic, and crowded – Telavis Bazari is a must. This bustling local market is a mecca for local spices and random food goodies. It’s a great place to grab some village khmeli suneli, churchkhela, or just about anything that can be pickled. If you’re traveling by marshrutka, it’s on the way to the meeting point, so it’d be a great place to walk for a bit on your way out.
Have a Coffee at Nadikvari
Nadikvari is a park perched up on the East end of Telavi. It offers unbeatable views of the surrounding Caucasus and Gombori mountain ranges along with several charming walkways and a great little cafe called Nadikvari Terrace. Whether you’re looking to relax in the sun or enjoy a scenic walk or take in a local theatre performance, Nadikvari is a must.
Appreciate the Incredible Ikalto Monastery
Ikalto Monastery is just 10km west of Telavi in the village of Ikalto. It’s home to not two, but three churches in ruins and the 6th-century Ikalto Academy famous for everything from astronomy studies to pottery making to pharmacology. What’s more special, though, is its founder – Ikalto Monastery was founded by one of the 13 Assyrian Fathers, Saint Zenon. Moreover, Shota Rustaveli (yes, that one) is thought to have studied in the Ikalto Academy.
Grab Some Sausage and Commune With the (Canine) Locals
C’mon, Telavi is a small town. I promise you’re not too busy to pop into a Nikora and grab some cheap snacks for the four-leggeds that patrol the streets. It’s a fun way to make a walk somewhere more exciting and you’ll make some new friends in the process.
That’s all for now, folks
I hope you enjoyed my recommendations for Telavi! I’d love to know if you’ve visited or plan to visit soon.