Among those Georgian towns that lively preserve old monuments, Sighnaghi is the most outstanding. It is just 117 km east of the capital, Tbilisi, and has always been in the centre of events. The oldest of its artifacts date back to prehistoric times, but monumentally its fortress, founded by the famous King Erekle II in 1772, is the most expressive. Twenty-three towers and seven gates adorn the town’s circuit walls that run 4.5 km in length, passing over all the other similar medieval structures in the country. Uniquely designed terrace architecture perfectly fits Sighnaghi’s raised landscape. Constructed mainly between 18th and 19th centuries, it reacted to the epoch’s commercial demands. First floors of two to three storey houses of fine (thin) Georgian brick were designed to accommodate variety of stores and workshops (still popular because of their high quality leather production, metalwork, carpet weaving and ceramics). Narrow, paved streets crisscross the hill slopes and expose to the viewers state-of-the-art wooden lacy balconies and tiled roofs of the buildings, unique ornamental layout and bow-backed windows. Unlike Tbilisi, Sighnaghi has no courtyards with balconies surrounding them from all sides. The houses stand in line along the streets and make up an accomplished urban entity. The so-called “Fifth Façade” or the roofs help determine the image of Sighnaghi. A number of famous Georgians whose lives and works affected the history and culture of the country were natives of Sighnaghi. Among them are composer Vano Sarajishvili, Philosopher and writer Solomon Dodashvili, political figure Sandro Mirianashvili and others. However, the most famous Georgian born on the outskirts of Sighnaghi, in the small village Mirzaani, was an internationally renowned primitive painter Niko Pirosmanishvili. The Town of Sighnaghi has always been popular for traditional folk crafts: leather productions, wood-carvings, metalwork, carpet waving and ceramics. Weaving of carpets, rugs and gobelin tapestry is one of the oldest traditions still upheld in Sighnaghi.
Georgia is the birthplace of wine and for thousands of years the most ancient traditions of the vintner’s art have been refined and perfected in and around Sighnaghi. Sighnaghi, with its range of hotels and amenities, is an ideal place to explore the lush vineyards of Kakheti, the cradle of wine. Georgia boasts over 500 varieties of grapes – more than anywhere else in the world. In Kakheti, many villages have their own unique strains, but some of the more common varieties are: Rkatsiteli, Kakhuri Mtsvane (Kakhetian Green), Khikhvi, Qisi, Saperavi. Recent renovations turned Sighnaghi into a perfect tourist attraction - numerous educational tours, up-to-date recreational facilities, delicious cuisine and wonderful wine.
Sights to see:
Massive snow-clad summits of the Caucasus linger on the northern horizon while the charms of Alazani Valley unfold to the south. Sighnaghi’s nearby area is replete with the sites to see. The most appealing are: Khornabuji Fortress ensemble, with the walls and numerous towers running up the hill, also featuring the network of underground tunnels and Khirsa Monastery with the 14th century bell-tower and even older wall paintings in Ozaani. Early Christian archeological evidences of Nekresi, Tcheremi and Gurjaani are also on the distance of a stretched hand. However, Georgian mythology often shows the noble warriors in search of the beauties hidden in unassailable fortresses amid gigantic rocks. Vertiginous slopes of Caucasia also conceal a natural beauty known as Kaheti, the pearl of Georgia. Resting against the snowy summits in the north, the breast of this region lies over the fertile valley of the Alazani River, Blooming landscape here nature’s plethora of fruits, but incontestably favors dozens of varieties of grapes. Purity of Kakhetian wine challenges the Crystal Rivers streaming down from the Caucasian Mountain Range and brings inspirations for the famous Kakhetian songs.