If you’re looking for a picturesque and quiet place to spend your time in Georgia, look no farther than Sighnaghi! It lies in the heart of Georgia’s main wine region, Kakheti, and is a great jumping-off point for visiting several wineries. You might want to read up about the Best Georgian Wines before you visit.
Telavi is the other main city in Kakheti. It’s bigger and is about 70km (43mi) northeast of Sighnaghi. It’s up to you which city you choose as a home base for your wine adventure. Sighnaghi definitely has more charm with its narrow cobblestone streets and surrounding fortress walls. It’s even nicknamed “The City of Love” because so many couples come to this idyllic town just to get married.
Visiting Sighnaghi From Tbilisi
Distance: Sighnaghi is 110 km (68 mi) east of Tbilisi.
By Car: It takes about 1 hr 45 min by car from Tbilisi.
By Taxi: A private taxi will cost around 40 GEL one way ($12.74). A shared taxi costs 10 GEL/person ($3.18). Catch them at the Isani Metro Station.
By Marshrutka: Departs from Tbilisi every 2 hrs between 7am – 6pm. You’ll have to catch it at the Samgori Metro Stations. Costs 6 GEL/person one way ($1.91), and takes around 2.5 hrs.
Getting Around: Sighnaghi itself is pretty small but many of the wineries are located a bit outside of town. You can hire a taxi to take you around for the day.
Amount of Time to Visit: People visit to decompress and get away from the hustle and bustle. 2 – 3 days should be enough to relax, experience the town, and visit the wineries of Kakheti. If you don’t have that much time, Sighnaghi is still worth a day trip.
Best Time to Visit: As this is wine country, visiting during rtveli (grape harvest season) makes for a fun festive time. This happens in late September-early October and you will also find significantly fewer crowds.
What To See
Hours: 9am – 6pm
Important Note: As this is a religious site, knees and shoulders need to be covered.
Bodbe is a gorgeous, well-kept monastery run by nuns that is about 2 km (1.2 mi) outside of Sighnaghi. It is a nice walk if the weather is good. The monastery is the final resting place of St. Nino, a highly revered nun who is credited with bringing Christianity to Georgia in the 4th century. Her tomb is in a small chapel in the southeast corner.
Also on the grounds is St. Nino’s Spring which allegedly burst forth when St. Nino prayed on that spot. Pilgrims often line up here to drink and splash themselves with the holy water.
Sighnaghi City Walls
Much of the original 4 km of walls built in the 18th century are still intact. You can climb some of the lookout towers for an amazing view of the valley below. On the northwest side of town, you will also find St. Stephan’s Church inside one of the towers.
Old Town Sighnaghi
Sighnaghi, even though small and charming, is still a tourist hub with lots of souvenirs to buy. Wander around the cobblestone streets and peruse the various knitted goods being sold by friendly ladies on their front porches.
Where To Drink Wine in Sighnaghi
Hours: 12pm – 11pm
This is a joint American-Georgian venture and the brand is exported internationally. Pheasant’s Tears is probably the most famous winery in Sighnaghi and they get a fair amount of visitors here.
All the wines at Pheasant’s Tears are fermented and aged in qvevri (traditional clay pots first used by early Georgian ancestors). Trying the Saperavi is a must. Their Kisi and Rkatsiteli are great options too. For 30 GEL ($9.55), you can taste 2 reds, 2 whites, and 1 chacha. There is also a restaurant located at the winery if you get peckish but prices are a bit high.
Cradle of Wine Marani
Hours: 1pm – 7pm
This is an amazing place for true wine lovers. The owner, Paul, is a natural storyteller and has an energetic passion for all things wine. If you visit during the harvest season, he might even let you crush some Saperavi grapes. The tasting includes a generous flight of wines plus some bread, cheese, and chacha (Georgian brandy). Costs around 30 GEL ($9.55) depending on the group size.
This is not the place for a quick sip and dash. Come early and expect to stay a couple of hours at least. You won’t regret it! It is recommended that you make a reservation ahead of time but walk ins are possible.
Hours: 11:30am – 9pm
Okro’s is a restaurant as well as a winery, and they offer a beautiful view of Sighnaghi from their terrace. However, the service level can be a bit uneven especially when they’re busy during meal hours. The tasting is not nearly as interactive as Cradle of Wine so you only need about an hour here. It’s best to go early but definitely worth checking out. Okro’s knows their wine. Esquire Magazine listed the 2015 Okro’s Wines Mtsvane one of the best sparkling wines under $40!
Costs 30 GEL ($9.55) for 4 wines and a chacha.
This is a truly unique experience. Nothing says Georgian hospitality like the Demetrashvili Family inviting you into their home for a feast of traditional Kakhetian cuisine. Also on the menu: wine tasting, live music, and a festive good time. They even offer cooking and winemaking masterclasses during the harvest season. Check out their website for more information and make sure to reserve ahead of time.
As Sighnaghi is in the heart of wine country, good wine is aplenty! You will see the local markets selling Georgian wine out of reusable plastic bottles. No label? Looks sketchy? Don’t worry, that’s how you know it’s the good stuff!