Sighnaghi: The City of Love!
While planning your trip to Georgia, you need to know that you'll be covering plenty of cities together. Since most of them lie around 2-3 hrs from each other it only makes sense to make one city (Tbilsi, Batumi) the base and tour the rest of them from there.
From Tbilisi you can easily visit the Kazbegi and Kakheti regions, while another popular day trip is the Mtshekhta-Gori-Uplistsikhe.
1 GEL = $0.34
There are three main ways to get to Kakheti. By a public bus, a taxi or a group/private tour. The cheapest way to get to Sighngahi is by a minibus or marshrutka. Buses run every two hours from 9am to 6pm from the Samgori Bus station in Tbilisi. You can get there by a taxi or metro. The bus ride will cost you approximately 6 GEL.
Since we were short on time we decided to take a group tour from Tbilisi to Sighnaghi, which included the Bodbe Monastery, Sighnaghi and wine tasting in the end. It cost us 45 GEL pp which also included the wine tasting activity.
Our group tour of about 15 people began from Old Tbilisi, with first stop being the Bodbe Monastery. This was a Georgian orthodox monastic complex and is one of the MAJOR pilgrimage sights. Now on the territory of the monastery, there is a church of St. George of the IX century made of bricks as well as the The monastery of St. Nino is located in the village of Bodbe. History states that in 4th century, Saint Nino, the queen responsible for the conversion of Georgia to Christianity withdrew to Bodbe Gorge where she died. This is where she wanted to be buried as well rather than taken away elsewhere by the king, hence the monastery was built.
The venue and its gardens are tended by the few nuns who live here. While you're there don't forget to roam around the location, the lush greenery, those tall trees and the lovely gardens will remind you so much of the vineyards of Italy!
On the way from Bodbe Monastery to Sighnaghi town we stopped in the middle of the road to look at the postcard views of Signaghi! Those terracotta rooftops, the ancient churches, tall trees with the back drop of the snowcapped Caucasus mountains and the crisp air, it was a sight for sore eyes!
Signaghi, is a small, fortified town, with just 3000 inhabitants, 2 hours away from Tbilisi. It is very well preserved, considering it was built by King Erekle II in the 18th century as a refuge against attack. In fact, the word Signaghi was derived from the Turkish word signak, which means shelter. The English translation of Sighnaghi is refuge. Also, Did you know it is popularly known as the City of Love?! Thats because couples can come and get married here at any time of the day! Quite interesting right? The Sighnaghi Wedding Chapel was the first one to be open round the clock, 7 days a week. Therefore it is a popular venue for weddings and is commonly used as a venue for traditional Georgian dances and other festivals.
Here are my first impressions of the town after stepping out of our tour bus!
Sighnaghi is surrounded by a massive city wall which a well preserved remnant of the medieval past (13th century) and definitely worth a visit. The wall runs for around 4 kms and has over 20 towers and 6 gates. Our tour guide informed us that its also known as the mini Great Wall of China as when standing at a height you can view it going up and down the curves of the hills just like the actual one! I was pretty excited to see it as the actual Great Wall of China has always been on my bucket list. Walking along the wall was on of the highlights of our trip as it offers some gorgeous views overlooking the Alazani Valley, which is one of Georgia’s most famous wine-producing regions. Just keep in mind there is only one section open for visitors to lookout through the towers. If you look closely in my photos, you'll see the surreal views of the snowcapped Greater Caucasus Mountains too! All you need to do is stand still, soak in the beauty of this place and breathe the fresh air, you'll end up forgetting all the worries of the world.
Luckily our tour guide took us to Church of St. Stephen as well, a place we might haven't visited if we weren't with a tour guide. The narrow rickety steps to the ruins of the church are nearly hidden, but once you go up, around the stoned tower you'll be surprised by the far fetched views you’ll get of the entire town.
My favourite time in Sighnaghi was spent walking down possibly one of the loveliest streets in Sighnaghi! You can access it once you enter the town’s fortress gate, which forms part of the original fortifications that were constructed in 1762 by order of King Heraclius II of Georgia.
Other than that you should definitely take your time and wander through its charming cobbled stone meandering alleys and pathways. On some of the main old streets you'll fine the stoned walls lined with meticulously hand knitted socks, woven rugs, and fur hats for sale. You will find plenty of beautiful photo spots here too! Overall it is such an enchanting experience as it is a town different from all the others in Georgia which is one reason it was on top of my list while I was there. You’ll realise why it is known as the City of Love!
Sighnaghi is a great place to start a wine tour in Georgia’s prime wine country, especially since several vineyards and wineries are just a short drive from the town’s center. We stepped a little outside Sighaghi to go to one of the privately owned vineyards. They had a cozy little restaurant, a gallery upstairs, a wine cellar and shop outside. It was a quaint little area which again, somewhat made me feel I'm in Italy! We spent the rest of our afternoon taking a tour of their well maintained gardens, and the lovely house. The food I found was almost average which cost us around 30 GEL.
However there are plenty of options within the town as well which include Orko’s wine or Pheasant’s Tears which is the most famous one due to its interior and the other interesting exhibits found there. Pheasant’s Tears is located in a 300-year-old house in which they found an old wine cellar with buried Qvevri during their restoration. Here the tastings range from 15 GEL-30 GEL.
Things to do in Sighanghi:
Visit the Sighnaghi Museum
Walk around the towers of the wall
Visit St Stephen’s Church
Roam around the cobbled stone streets of Sighnaghi
Visit the very famous Pheasant’s Tears Restaurant and winery
St George’s church
Let me know in the comments below if you found this blog helpful!