Georgia has turned the small but picturesque town of Sighnaghi into a major tourist brand. Georgian San Marino, located in the east (in the Kakheti region, 110 km from Tbilisi), has been completely restored, which did not deprive it of its historical value, but only added European charm to the old fortifications and winding cobblestone streets. Having become one of the most visited cities in Georgia, Sighnaghi with its pretty low-rise houses under bright tiled roofs remained quiet and calm – the permanent population is only 2,500 people.
The city, whose name has Turkic roots and means “impregnable” in translation, was founded in the second half of the 18th century as a defensive structure. Its territory has the shape of a polygon, an area of 2 978 km square. and a frame in the form of 28 well-preserved towers and ramparts. The latter “go” to the deep gorge from the north side, and from the rest they repeat the outlines of the mountain ranges. Using the stairs equipped near the main fortress gate, you can climb the walls and see not only the whole city, but also the Alazani Valley, in full view.
The city’s attractions
Looking at the photos of Sighnaghi, even experienced travelers can confuse the town of Georgia with a European resort with a developed infrastructure. Such was the idea of architects who combined distinctive traditions with South Italian classics. There are many hotels and hostels, souvenir shops and markets, about 15 cafes and restaurants where you can try national dishes and good wines.
The latter are obligatory for tasting, because Kakheti is famous for its vineyards and wine cellars, where a light Chinuri, spicy Rkatsiteli, berry Tavkveri, magnificent Saperavi and many other treasures “hide”. The vast majority of tourists take a bottle of local wine from Sighnaghi.
Park April 9
To get acquainted with the sights of Sighnaghi is from April 9 Park, so named in honor of the Restoration of Independence Day of Georgia. Breathing in the fresh mountain air, admiring the fragrant flowers and tasting the famous churchkhela, you can go on a tour of the nearby squares – Solomon Dodashvili and Tsar David the Builder. By the way, a statue of the first – a cult Georgian writer, philosopher and public figure – stands in the park.
Old Town District
Two main streets (Lalashvili and Kostava) lead down from the two mentioned Sighnaghi squares. Tourists walk along them, stopping at souvenir shops and pausing for a long time with cameras in front of apartment buildings with colorful balconies twined with vine.
At the end of the journey, each of them will meet with another square – Heraclius II, where there is an elegant fountain, a casino and the reason Sighnaghi is called the city of love. It’s about the round-the-clock Wedding Palace. You can register your relationship with him without an appointment, having received a marriage certificate, recognized worldwide.
Signagi received the status of the city of love also because it was here that the famous artist in Georgia and far beyond its borders, Niko Pirosmani, committed a romantic act that became the plot for a song about a million red roses.
According to a legend that any local resident will tell you in his interpretation, Pirosmani fell in love with the French actress Margarita who came on tour, sold his house in Sighnaghi and bought armfuls of flowers with all his money to cover the street near his beloved house. Unfortunately, history has a sad ending – after the end of the tour, the girl left Georgia forever, but the artist did not forget about his love, depicting Margarita on the canvas of the same name.
Talking about what to see in Sighnaghi, one cannot but mention the temples.
St. George Church is located on Gorgasali Street near the tower of the fortress wall. A brick basilica was built, and against the background of the Alazani valley it looks very photogenic: a green-blue canvas covered with settlements with “beaded” houses and powerful mountain ranges in the background.
Church of St. Stefan (the point is on the map) is the highest point of the city and allows you to enjoy the views of the surroundings from a specially equipped viewing platform.
Museum of History and Ethnography
History buffs will be interested in the unique collections of the Signagi Museum of Local Lore. Lovers of antiquities (archaeological finds, bronze tools, ceramic dishes, interior items and clothing), as well as fans of the works of the graphic artist and monumentalist Lado Gudiashvili, should visit his new building in the city center.
On the second floor of the museum, 16 paintings by Niko Pirosmani are also presented – these are not the most significant of his creations. The best canvases, including Actress Margarita, are kept in Tbilisi, but less famous canvases are worthy of attention.
If you are interested in looking at the house in which Pirosmani was born and raised, go to the neighboring village of Mirzaani, Sighnaghi. There you will find the house-museum of the Georgian artist. You can get to Mirzaani by your own car or taxi – go 20 km.
Another attraction to visit in Sighnaghi is an ethnographic park, the road to which departs from Ketevan Tsamebuli Street. Several guest houses along the way will offer you to taste local dishes and watch from a height at the Temple of George and the Alazani Valley.
Entrance to the ethnographic park is free – here you can familiarize yourself with local household items and varieties of grapes grown in Kakheti, make pita bread and churchkhela yourself, swing on old swings and relax on benches, after which you should climb the dirt road to the southern gate of the city.
Separate words deserve numerous sculptures. These attractions in Sighnaghi have no number. Funny, sophisticated and touching, they seem almost alive – a girl near the registry office is preparing to give her bouquet to happy newlyweds, a lady with a dog hiding in the shade from the hot sun, and the doctor on a donkey decided to take a break after a long journey. The last sculpture was installed in honor of Benjamin Glonti – the character of George Danelia’s film “Do not Cry!”, Some of the episodes of which were shot in Signagi.
How to get to Sighnaghi from Tbilisi
1 – On the minibus
The easiest and cheapest way to get on a minibus. This mode of transport leaves for Sighnaghi from Tbilisi every two hours (from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.). Departure point – bus station near Samgori metro station.
Before you go to Sighnaghi from Tbilisi on your own, check the schedule on the spot – it can change depending on the time of year. The fare is 13 GEL.
Buses from Tbilisi to Sighnaghi also run from Isani metro. The road takes about 2 hours.
2 – By car
Another option to get from Tbilisi to Sighnaghi is to rent a car, turn on the navigator and drive, enjoying the breathtaking views, for about an hour and a half. If you want to completely relax, take a taxi, and halfway from Tbilisi, pay attention to the Niahura fortress, built in the 16th century.
Arriving in Sighnaghi by car, leave it at the entrance to the city and walk on foot – first climb to the very top, and then go down, looking at the sights and admiring the views.
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Weather and climate, when to visit the city
The climate of Sighnaghi is determined by its immediate surroundings – valleys, the Caucasus Mountains, broad-leaved forests.
Summer in Sighnaghi is the sunniest and hottest time of the year. Already in June, the temperature reaches + 29 ° C. The heat peak occurs in July and August – on some days the thermometer rises to + 37 ° C.In the cold season, dense fog often falls on the city, in the spring it rains, on some summer days there is an abnormal heat.
The best period in all respects for visiting the Georgian “city of lovers” is May and September – the first half of October.
Every year, at the end of the first month of autumn – the beginning of October, the Rtveli grape harvest festival is held in the Kakheti region for 5-7 days. It will be rational to combine a wine tour with a study of the beauties of Sighnaghi.
All of September and the first half of October in “little Italy” delight in comfortable weather. In the afternoon, the air warms up to + 20-25 ° C. In mid-October, rains and fogs came to the city.
Winter in Sighnaghi is usually relatively warm (4-7 ° C). But January and February are rather capricious – snow may suddenly fall, hit a light frost or a thaw.
In March and early April, warm days alternate with cool. For those who want to visit Sighnaghi in the spring, experienced tourists recommend going on a trip in the second half of April or in May – everything blooms around, the probability of fogs is small, and the air warms up to 25-30 ° C.
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Having made Sighnaghi its “visiting card”, Georgia presented the world with a pastoral, sometimes a toy and a very charming venue for leisurely walks, interesting studies, romantic impulses and a pleasant rest from noisy megalopolises.