WHAT TO DO IN THE RACHA-LECHKHUMI REGION
Developed forms of tourism in the region include cultural-educational, entertainment, trekking, 4WD adventure, botanic and fishing tours, as well as a resort spa in upper Racha.
Tourist potential: horse-riding, white water rafting (on the river Rioni), agro-tourism, Eco-tourism photo-video, bird watching, food and wine tours. At the same time, it is also possible to arrange tours in the mountains of average difficulty for climbers: Phasis Mountain (3090m), Anchakhi Mountain (4462), Shovi and Samertskhle (3584), Chutkhari (3562), Kareta (3354), and Lukhunists-veri (3216) while there are also walking tours to Mamisoni, Klukhuni and Lapuri crosses (2819). Cave tours: Gogoleti, Tsakhi, Tskhrajvari, Sakinule and Shaora-Sharauli underground caves.
Racha carpenters are famous throughout Georgia. One of the biggest contributions they have made to Georgian art is the"Sakvartskhuli," the chair used by the head of the family. It had three legs and a semicircular back. The back of the chair is decorated with symbolic engravings.
In the regions outside of the capital, tourists can watch - and even participate - in the process of making traditional crafts. Racha is known for its wood craftsmanship.
Racha-Lechkhumi is very interesting region for birdwatching. The most attractive seasons for birdwatchers are spring, summer and autumn, because of climate conditions. This site is a spectacular upland area in the upper reaches of the largest river of western Georgia - Rioni. The area covers a range of landscapes, from coniferous mountain forest to alpine tundra. Region provides spectacular mountain landscapes in a sparsely settled province. A trip to the site will take at least 3 days (better 5- 7 days).
The rivers of Racha-Lechkhumi are known for fast moving currents that have created sharp slopes, deep channels and canyons, and are excellent for white water rafting trips.
In Racha-Lechkhumi region, families which grow grapes, with great pleasure, host and entertain volunteers who want to participate in harvesting the grapes. During the harvest the volunteer has the status of guest even though he is helping the host family, and no guest is left without special attention and entertainment. Local wine growers teach guests the old methods of vine cultivation and show them traditional wine cellars, known as marani, various wine glasses and equipment which are stored there. Guests are welcome to sample as much wine as they like! After the harvest is over, work moves to the marani where grapes are pressed, pelamushi (porridge with grape juice and corn or wheat flour) is boiled and churchkhela - nuts dipped in grape juice and dried - is prepared. Although the grape harvest is a lot of work, it is always accompanied with songs and dances. Huge picnics, called supras, are held for all the workers in the vineyard under the open sky.
Some of the special dishes and food of Racha-Lechkhumi are: Beans Lori - ham, Lobiani - a pie made with kidney beans, which is either baked or fried, Khachapuri - cheese pie, Satsivi - a dish with chicken and walnut sauce, Gomi - a grits-type dish, usually served with cheese; Mchadi -fried corn bread, usually served with cheese; Cheese - Georgian cheese is usually soft, salty and homemade Matsoni - a type of yogurt. Bread Herbs, Pkhali - a dish with walnuts and spices. There are also several different dishes with fish, chicken, veil, vegetables, honey, chiri (dried fruit), jam, etc. A well-known dish -"Shkmeruli"( a dish with chicken and garlic sauce) comes from the village Shkmeri in Racha. Most of the dishes are prepared in clay pots and decorated well.
Utsera is known for its mineral water, "Utsera," and health resort/spa. While the village boasts the usual medieval churches, the 800-year-old "alley of trees" is especially worth a visit. The village is located 1,500 meters above sea level.
Shovi is an important health resort. Visitors enjoy its mountain climate, nature and mineral waters. The resort is located at the base of the Mamisoni Mountain range and is surrounded by snowy mountains.
Gebi village, as well as its surroundings, has been settled since ancient times, a fact confirmed by finds from archaeological expeditions. Burial mounds from the 3rd-1st century BC are especially interesting; archaeologists discovered bronze belts and the head of a silver bull. The village is located 1,350 meters above sea level. Digs in Gebi found remnants from metal work from the 16-1 Oth century BC as well as burial mounds from the late Bronze Age, often referred to by the local population as "Gogrichiani Pieces". Gebi was the only tower-type settlement in Racha, but most of the towers were damaged by an earthquake, and only a few towers remain.
Chiora is one of the most beautiful villages in Racha. It is located 1,360 meters above sea level, on the south slope of the main Caucasus Mounain range. During medieval times it had a large population and a number of defensive structures. At the moment there are only a few towers and two small churches remaining.
Bardnala is a small village in Lechkhumi made famous by the poems written by Lado Asatiani, a wellknown Georgian poet. The house of Lado Asatiani is in Bardnala and has been preserved as at it was in the beginning of the 20th century -complete with an engraved balcony, wooden stairs, rooftiles and a pretty yard. The house-museum contains a permanent public display of artefacts from the poet's life. Every Summer Bardnala holds a celebration -Ladooba, dedicated to the poet.
WHAT TO SEE IN RACHA-LECHKHUMI REGION
Racha-Lechkhumi has numerous churches and monasteries dating back to the middle ages. Some sites worth particular interest include the Nikortsminda and Barakoni temples, Mravaldzali St. George Church, and 19th century Tsageri Cathedral, as well as the medieval Khotevi, Sori, Krikhi, Bugeuli and Labechini churches.
Nikortsminda Temple is located in the village of Nikortsminda, near Ambrolauri. There is nothing like it in Georgia, in terms of facade decorations. The temple was built in the name of St. Nicholas the Miracle-Maker and contains many examples of old Georgian script. The temple is in the shape of a cross and domes. The interior of the temple is painted although the original paintings inside the church were destroyed. Current frescos date back to the 16-17th centuries. These paintings were ordered by a local noble, Tsulukidze, and prepared by the painters of Gelati. During 1534, King Bagrat III renovated the temple and founded the eparchy. The temple was significantly damaged during an earthquake in 1991. After its restoration, which lasted for several years, the temple was reopened in 1997. Currently Nikortsminda is a temple of the eparchy.
During the 13th century, the Church of Archangel and temple were built in the village of Khotevi. The first mention of the village was in writings dating back to the 11th century. It was a significant trade center, and served as a link for Imereti and Kvemo Racha.
Barakoni Church of the Virgin is located in the village Tsesi.The Church was built in 1753 by the master Avtandil Shulabvreli upon the request of the Racha Eristavi, or the prince of Racha. The church's facade includes engravings which are a good example of the art form from the 18th century.
ONI LOCAL MUSEUM
26 Rustaveli Str. Oni Mob: (+995 99) 37 68 63
The museum houses several collections: archaeological (from the Stone Age up to late medieval times); Collection of architectural details and relief fragments from X-XI c.c. St. George and St. Trinity churches; samples of X-XIV c.c. coins; ethnographic objects; manuscripts and printed books; paintings of XX c. artists.
49 KingTamar Str. Lentekhi Mob: (+995 99) 16 32 24
The museum houses the Bronze Age archaeological materials, XI c. ceremonial cross and crazier, details of the church altar with Christ image, XVII-XVII c.c. manuscript prayer-book. Lower Svaneti ethnography collection is displayed in machubi -local type of traditional dwelling.
20 Rustaveli Str. Tsageri Mob: (+995 99) 24 18 70 The museum houses archaeological collections from Lower Svaneti and Lechkhumi regions (West Georgia) mostly are dated Bronze Age and Antiquity periods; collection of coins -coin of Alexander the Great, Cholchian tetri, etc.; rare books (XIX c).