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Akhaltsikhe

Country
Georgia
State
Georgia (General)
City
Akhaltsikhe
Type of Location
Multiple
About Location

Akhaltsikhe is a small city of about 50,000 and the capital of Samtskhe-Javakheti. The city has been around for at least 800 years, and was a regional administrative center for the Ottomans from the sixteenth century up to the Russo-Turkish War. Until the twentieth century Akhaltsikhe was majority Armenian, but today, unlike most of the province, it is majority Georgian. It's a rather sleepy town, but its Old City is worth a visit, and it's a great base for exploring the surrounding areas, including Sapara Monastery and Khertvisi Fortress in the immediate vicinity



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How to Reach

By train

Akhaltsikhe is connected to the main Batumi–Tbilisi–Baku railroad by a spur through Borjomi ending in Akhaltsikhe itself. You should be able to find a train going this way once daily from the Batumi, Kutaisi, and Tbilisi train stations.

By car/marshrutka

The principal route to Akhaltsikhe runs from Georgia's main East-West highway (E60) at the spur in Khashuri leading to Borjomi. Marshrutkas run to Akhaltsikhe's main market/bus station from Tbilisi's Didube market, as well as from the bus stations in Kutaisi and Khashuri. Coming from Kutaisi or Tbilisi, it's best to catch your ride early in the morning if you want to avoid finding another marshrutka upon arrival in Khashuri. But it's not terribly difficult to catch a marshrutka going between Akhaltsikhe and Khashuri before dinner time.

Key places to visit
Sapara Monastery, Khertvisi Fortress, Akhaltsikhe Castle, St. Marine's Church


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Places to Visit

Sapara Monastery

Sapara Monastery is about 10-12 km outside of Akhaltsikhe up into the mountains. The monastery was established in the tenth century, but the principal church, St. Sabas, was built sometime in the thirteenth century. Until the twentieth century, the monastery had been perfectly preserved, as its hidden location saved it from Ottoman discovery throughout the empire's three-century long control of southwestern Georgia. Alas, the Soviets found it, and abused it in the usual soulless fashion, albeit not to the same extent as many other Georgian Orthodox establishments—the frescoed walls were not whitewashed, and remain in good condition (especially following a recent restoration). During a visit, make sure to climb up the nearby slopes towards a rocky outcropping to get lovely views over the monastery and the valleys in the distance. Also make sure not to use flash photography in the churches, unless you want to see some seriously angry monks. If you can make yourself understood, you can overnight in the monastery's chambers.

Khertvisi Fortress

Khertvisi Fortress looms over the village of Khertvisi. The outcrop was used as a fortress from the second century B.C., and was reputedly destroyed by Alexander the Great. The "modern" fortress, however, was built around the thirteenth-fourteenth centuries, and saw fighting during the Ottoman invasion (and subsequent occupation) in the sixteenth century. The walls on the far side drop down a sheer cliff to the Mtkvari far below, so if you fancy a bout of vertigo, pull yourself up and look straight down.


Also visit Akhaltsikhe Castle  and  St. Marine's Church

Right Time to Visit

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Temperature

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