Samtskhe-Javakheti and Kvemo Kartli (Lower Kartli) are located in the Lesser Caucasus mountain range. Elsewhere in southern Georgia the soil is of volcanic origin with semi-volcanic lakes scattered in the valleys. The cuisine, not unexpectedly, is just as different. Kartlian cuisine is dominated by vegetables and soups, Meskheti is famous for its breads and cheeses.

Places to visit

Tsalka is an administrative centre on the bank of the river Khrami, 1460 m above sea level. The Tsalka plateau is a favourite bird watching site and the grasslands support beekeeping as well. In 1930 tumuli from the Trialeti culture (second millennium BC) were discovered. The windswept beauty of the landscape is striking.

The town of Akhaltsikhe looks up at the medieval castle complex of Rabati.  Nearby is an 18th-century mosque. The town’s history is marked by Mongol, Ottoman, and Russian occupations.

Zarzma Monastery Zarzma comprises a series of buildings which are dominated by a domed church and one of the largest bell towers in Georgia. The earliest church on the site was probably built in the 8th or 9th century. An active monastic community lives here today.

Sapara Monastery The monastery goes back at least as far as the 9th century.  St Saba is the largest of the 12 churches in the complex. The 14th-century frescoes inside are of high quality.

Dishes to savour

The Kartli region is famous for its soup and vegetable dishes. The region yields abundant fruit which is used fresh, or dried for winter use.

cornelian cherry sauce A purée of cornels (Cornus Mas) mixed with herbs and spices

gholos   Sorrel soup has a fresh acidic taste.  It is prepared with whey and blended with egg and butter.

chakapuli A dish of lamb or veal stewed in white wine with liberal amounts of herbs and green sour plum. Chakapuli is often made in spring or served church holidays .

The diversity of Meskheti cuisine reflects its history.  Meskhetians have preserved many of their national dishes but have also incorporated elements form occupying powers

such as the Turks. The region is well-known for its wheat. You can see, smell and taste the results of thousands of years of bread and cheese making.

meskhuri puri bread baked on the walls of a brick oven

duck dish   Dried, salted duck is heated to render its fat.  Onion and egg are added to the broth.

meskhuri khinkali  a wheat flour dumpling stuffed with duck

apokhti  this is khinkali made with chunks of beef or pork that were dried for keeping.

tatarboragi   boiled dough with onions fried in butter.

lukhum a sweet fried in butter and covered with honey.

Meskhetian mushrooms are tasty and famous. They are fried in butter with spices.

milk korkoti  wheat groats boiled in milk

Wine

UNESCO has added the ancient traditional Georgian winemaking method using kvevri

(clay jars) to the Intangible Cultural Heritage list.

White wines from Chinuri and Goruli Mtsvane grapes, and red Tavkveri.

Itinerary

Day 1: Tour to Tsalka, master class in Adjarian cuisine and sampling, wine degustation, overnight in Akhaltsikhe

Day 2: Excursion to Akhaltsikhe, visit Rabati castle complex, Sapara and Zarzma monasteries, overnight in Akhaltsikhe

Day 3: Master class in Meskhetian cuisine, sampling, free time, overnight in Akhaltsikhe Day 4: Departure from Akhaltsikhe, degustation of mineral water in Borjomi, end of tour

Note: Price depends on type of accommodation type and number of persons.