Racha-Lechkhumi and Lower Svaneti is a region in northwestern Georgia which includes the historical provinces of Racha, Lechkhumi and Lower Svaneti. It is the most sparsely populated region in the country. Ambrolauri is the administrative centre of the region. Racha-Lechkhumi and Lower Svaneti consist of 4 administrative districts: Ambrolauri, Lentekhi, Oni, and Tsageri. Most all of Racha-Lechkhumi and Lower Svaneti is a mountainous area and the economy heavily relies on agriculture. The region boasts a diverse landscape of mountain forests and meadows. The low lands are covered with forests of beech trees at high altitudes, along with pine and spruce trees.
Racha-Lechkhumi and Lower Svaneti has a humid climate, with an elevation reaching up to 2000 meters above sea level. The winter is cold and long, while the summer is traditionally short and warm. In Racha, the climate in the mountains is humid and is characterized by an absence of a real summer. The climate in Lechkhumi changes by elevation. In the low lands, it is a humid sub-tropical climate while there is snow and ice all year round in the mountains.
Culture and traditions:
Cultural monuments and strong traditions have been passed down through the generations in Racha-Lechkhumi and Lower Svaneti. Its people are known for their dedication to work, love for wine, and ability to sing. They still maintain ancient traditions of vineyards and winemaking, just as they were described in ancient Greek and Roman writing. During the 19th century, wine bottled in Racha was presented at famous European exhibitions and wine bottlers won prizes which can still be found in local museums. As many as 60 local species of grape vines were cultivated here, including Alexandrouli, Usakhelouri, Mujuretuli, Tsolikouri, Tetra and Ojaleshi. The most popular is Khvanchkara wine, made from grapes that can only grow on the rich lands of Khvanchkara village. The population of Racha-Lechkhumi and Lower Svaneti is known for viticulture, bee-keeping, production of dairy products, cattle-breeding and horticulture, as well as carpentry and singing. Racha, like most of Georgia, is known for its hospitality. Carpenters of Racha 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 semi-circular back. Traditionally 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 and Lower Savaneti, like most of Georgia, is known for its hospitality. In Racha, however, the usual supra and entertainment are marked by a very specific style - slowness. Traditionally, the people from Racha are known for their “measured” slowness and were even featured in a famous Georgian movie called “The Fastest People in the World.” Some of the special dishes and food of Racha-Lechkhumi and Lower Svaneti include: beans, lori (ham), lobiani (spiced bean stuffed bread, baked or fried), khachapuri (baked cheese stuffed bread), satsivi (chicken in a spiced walnut sauce), gomi (Georgian style grits usually served with cheese), mchadi (fried corn bread usually served with cheese), Georgian cheese (usually soft, salty and homemade), matsoni (fresh homemade yogurt), and pkhali (fresh spinach ground with walnuts and spices). There are also several different dishes with fish, chicken, veal, vegetables, honey, chiri (dried fruit), and jam. A well-known dish called “Shkmeruli” (chicken in garlic sauce) comes from the village of Shkmeri in Racha. Most of the dishes are prepared in clay pots and adorned for serving.
Utsera: is known for its mineral water (of the same name), and health resort. While the village boasts the usual Georgian medieval churches, the 800-yearold “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 can enjoy the mountain climate, its natural beauty, and mineral springs. The resort is located at the base of the Mamisoni Mountain range and is surrounded by snowy mountains.
Ghebi: as well as its surroundings, has been settled since ancient times, a fact confirmed by finds from archeological expeditions. Burial mounds from the 3rd -1st centuries BC are especially interesting. Archeologists discovered artifacts including bronze belts and the head of a silver bull. The village is located 1,350 meters above sea level. Remnants of metal work from the 16-10th centuries BC as well as burial mounds from the late Bronze Age were found in archeological digs of the area. Gebi was the only tower-type settlement in Racha, but most of the towers were damaged by an earthquake, and only a few remain standing today.
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 Mountain range. During medieval times it had a large population and a number of defensive structures. Currently there are only a few towers and two small churches still standing.
Bardnala: is a small village in Lechkhumi which was made famous through poems written by the well-known Georgian writer Lado Asatiani. The house of Lado Asatiani is in Bardnala and has been preserved as it was in the beginning of the 20th century, complete with an engraved balcony, wooden stairs, roof-tiles and a quaint yard. The museum contains a permanent public display of artifacts from the poet’s life.
Shaori Reservoir: is located in Racha – one of the mountainous regions of Georgia. It is situated in the heart of forested area encompassed by the Caucasus Mountains. The reservoir is set at 1134 miter above sea level and occupies about 1300 sq. miter. Shaori is surrounded by the oldest villages of Nikortsminda, Cheliaghele and Tlughi. It is quite near to Ambrolauri - administrative centre of the region. The nearby territory of the reservoir is rich in flora and fauna. Waterfalls, rivers, deep forests, grottos and curative springs are abounding near it. Shaori’s unique climate – moderately hot summer and fresh air make it a splendid summer resort. In winter steep mountain slopes covered with snow turn the area into attractive winter resort.