Sighnaghi or Signagi is a small town on a mountainside surrounded by fortress walls. It's the perfect place to escape the hustle and bustle of Tbilisi. It takes about an hour and a half by car to get there. The population is about 2,000 people.
The city hides behind the walls of a stone fortress erected by King Irakli II to protect the inhabitants from marauders and enemy raids. Sighnaghi doesn't know bloody wars, it was difficult to approach because of its location on the hill.
It has a pleasant, mild climate and moderate humidity. It is an ideal place to grow the best sorts of grapes. The best wines are produced here, which are famous all over the world.
The City of Love
Sighnaghi is called the city of lovers, and there are two explanations. The first legend says that the name came from a beautiful wedding palace, which works even at night. All you have to do is write an application an hour before the event, bring two witnesses and take the documents.
The second legend is more sad and poetic. Once upon a time, a poor and talented artist lived here, and he fell in love with a French actress. He sold his house to buy a sea of scarlet roses for her, and to cover the square under his sweetheart's windows with them. But she did not love him back, and he was left with a broken heart and no home. By the way, Alla Pugacheva's song "A Million Scarlet Roses" is about this story.
What to see
The most visited place is the Signach fortress, which surrounds the city. From its height opens up a gorgeous view of the Alazan Valley. It consists of 28 towers and 5 entrances. It is possible not only to look at the fortress, but also to visit it inside. It is equipped with a wooden walkway, steps, and fence for safety.
Walking around the city you can notice the copper sculptures that decorate the street. There are a lot of archeological findings, antique ceramics and weapons made of bronze. There are also paintings by local artists.
On the highest point of the hill stands the church of St. Stephen. It was erected inside a tower, so it has an impregnable appearance. Nearby there is an observation deck where you can admire the panorama of the city and the valley.
Do not miss and Bodbe monastery. It is a religious building, which was once the home of St. Nino, who spread peasantry in Georgia. A few kilometers from it there is a holy spring of Nino and healing water.
An ordinary walk through the city with its cobblestone streets, neat red-roofed houses, carved balconies and well-kept facades, will give great pleasure to everyone.
Where to eat
Signagi offers visitors a variety of dining options where they can taste traditional Georgian dishes and local wine. Here are some recommendations:
- Pheasant's Tears - This award-winning restaurant serves authentic Georgian cuisine made with fresh, local ingredients. They specialize in clay-pot cooking and offer a variety of traditional Georgian dishes, including khachapuri, chakapuli, and pkhali.
- Lopota Lake Resort & Spa Restaurant - Located just outside of Signagi, this restaurant offers stunning views of the surrounding countryside and specializes in European and Georgian cuisine. They also have an extensive wine list featuring local wines from the Kakheti region.
- Twins Wine Cellar - This restaurant is located in a historic wine cellar and offers visitors the chance to sample local wines while enjoying traditional Georgian dishes. They also offer wine tours and tastings for those interested in learning more about Georgian wine.
- Cafe Leila - This cozy cafe offers a selection of Georgian and Mediterranean dishes, including khinkali, shashlik, and falafel. They also have a rooftop terrace with stunning views of the Alazani Valley.
- Signagi Marani - This family-owned winery and restaurant offers visitors the chance to taste a variety of local wines while enjoying traditional Georgian dishes, including khinkali, khachapuri, and shashlik. They also offer wine tours and tastings.
- Nikala - This restaurant offers a mix of Georgian and European cuisine, including fresh seafood dishes. They also have a lovely outdoor terrace with views of the surrounding mountains.
- Cafe Nana - Located in the heart of Signagi, this cozy cafe offers a variety of Georgian dishes, including khachapuri, pkhali, and khinkali. They also have a selection of local wines and a lovely outdoor terrace.
Where to stay
Here are a few highly rated hotels in Signagi:
- Hotel Kabadoni - This luxurious hotel features a rooftop terrace with stunning views, a restaurant serving Georgian cuisine, and a spa. Guests can also enjoy wine tastings and tours of nearby vineyards.
- Boutique Hotel KiT - This charming hotel is located in the heart of Signagi's Old Town and features a garden, terrace, and traditional Georgian breakfast.
- Hotel Brigitte - This cozy hotel is situated on a hill overlooking Signagi and offers comfortable rooms, a restaurant with panoramic views, and a wine bar.
- Hotel Signagi Palace - This modern hotel is located just a short walk from the city center and features spacious rooms, a restaurant, and a terrace with beautiful views.
- Hotel Alaznis Veli - This elegant hotel is set in a historic building and features a restaurant serving local cuisine, a garden, and a wine cellar where guests can sample some of Georgia's finest wines.
All of these hotels have received high ratings from previous guests and offer a range of amenities to make your stay in Signagi comfortable and memorable.
Signagi is a small town, so parking is not a major issue. However, if you plan to visit during peak tourist season or on weekends, it's advisable to arrive early to secure a parking spot. Most hotels in Signagi offer parking for their guests, so it's a good idea to confirm this when making your reservation.
In the town center, there are several public parking lots where you can park your car for a small fee. These parking lots are located near the town square and the main attractions. It's important to note that parking regulations are strictly enforced in Signagi, so be sure to park only in designated areas and pay any required fees. Parking illegally may result in fines or even towing of your vehicle.
Tips for drivers
Here are some tips for drivers in Signagi:
- The roads can be narrow and winding, so it's important to drive cautiously and keep an eye out for other vehicles, pedestrians, and animals.
- Some of the roads in the surrounding wine region may be unpaved, so it's important to have a vehicle that can handle rough terrain if you plan on exploring the area.
- Be aware of local driving laws and regulations, including speed limits, seat belt requirements, and alcohol limits for drivers.
- If you plan on drinking wine in the region, make sure to have a designated driver or use a tour service to explore the vineyards and wineries. Drinking and driving is never safe and can result in serious consequences.
Overall, Signagi and the Kakheti wine region offer visitors a unique blend of history, culture, and natural beauty, making it a must-visit destination in Georgia.