A quick guide to travel in Signagi, a charming town in the Kakheti region. Includes information on how to get there, what to do, and where to stay.
Signagi (sometimes spelled Sighnaghi), is a tiny town atop a hill in the Kakheti region. It is probably the prettiest town in Georgia. It has cobblestone streets, a (mostly) intact old city wall, charming houses, and views to die for. Add the fact that wine flows freely (it’s in the Kakheti region after all), and we were sold. Forget vineyards in France and villas in Tuscany–a summer holiday home in Signagi is officially on our wish list.
(Too bad we don’t have any spare cash lying around.)
How to get to Signagi from Telavi
The most logical approach to Signagi would be from Telavi, the center of Kakheti and Georgia’s wine region. But unfortunately, Telavi to Signagi doesn’t seem to be a popular route. There is only one marshrutka, and it goes at 15:00.
Alex: The morning of our departure, I went to the marshrutka station to double check the departure time. I approached a group of drivers standing in a circle, idly smoking their cigarettes, and asked what time the marshrutka to Signagi left. The drivers all stood scratching their heads, and several shouted to their compatriots lounging in their buses, asking a) was there a marshrutka to Signagi? and b) at what time? After a while, a voice chimed in from across the yard: it left at 3 o’clock. Question resolved.
Fast forward to 14:00 that day, when we were standing in the station/market area with all of our bags, looking for the marshrutka. The same scenario played out (with some of the same drivers present)… this time, the answer to the question: no marshrutky to Signagi for two days because it was Saturday, the weekend. Question UNresolved.
We’re not sure if this only applies to the low season, no one could give us a definitive answer. Double check if you’re traveling in summer/fall.
Sebastiaan: So how did we get there in the end? It seems that marshrutky routes are not necessarily fixed. After some haggling here and there, the driver of the Tsnori marshrutka agreed to drop us off in Signagi for double the rate. We paid 10 GEL each, while the regular marshrutka ride should cost 5 GEL. Getting to Signagi took about 45 minutes.
If you’re coming from Tbilisi, there are direct buses from the Ortachala bus stand.
Things to do when you travel in Signagi
One of the main joys of visiting Signagi is simply walking around to sample the atmosphere. Signagi oozes old world charm. There’s also an old city wall to circumnavigate (with awesome views), a Museum of History and Ethnography, and, obviously, churches to visit.
Outside Signagi: Bodbe convent
Once you’re done ogling the picturesque town center, you can venture out to the significant sites around Signagi, the most notable being Bodbe convent. The active convent is dedicated to St. Nino, who is (supposedly) buried there.
The walk to the convent is pretty straightforward–it should only take about half an hour, and the views of Signagi along the way are grand. Just follow the road going south (uphill) out of Signagi, until you see the church buildings peeking through the trees. There are several road signs indicating the way to Bodbe.
Roughly 100 meters before the convent’s entrance, there is a fork in the road with a sign that says something like “Tsminda Nino Something Something” with an arrow pointing left. Normally, you would be able to clearly see the church at this point, and realize that this sign is pointing at something else (we still don’t know what). But, since it was so foggy, we couldn’t see anything except the sign. If you’re here while it’s foggy, don’t follow the arrow, go right instead.
The buildings of the Bodbe convent were under construction when we were there, and it was still too cold for the convent garden to be in season. So aside from the view and the beautiful walk, there wasn’t much to see church-wise. However, for those searching for enlightenment/repentance/freedom from sins/guilt-free livin’, 800 meters down the hill from the church is a small place of worship housing St. Nino’s spring, which is thought to have holy, healing properties.
Some Signagi lovin’: where to stay in Signagi
The cherry on top of our visit was the hospitality of our hosts at Abramichi guesthouse. The owners of the guesthouse once again made us realize how incredibly hospitable Georgians are.
Despite our language barriers, the husband and wife duo did everything in their ability to make us feel welcome in their home. We sampled different herbs from their garden. They had lengthy discussions with us about the geography of the incredible views from the guesthouse balcony. And they fed us copious amounts of wine and cheese of their own making… though not enough for their liking, it seems. The husband told us that real Georgian men can/should drink about 4 liters of wine in one sitting. You can book Abramichi guesthouse here.
It’s a bit of a walk outside of the city center. But for only 30 GEL/night you get a private room with bathroom and a whole lot of excellent views, love, and wine. We were thrilled with our stay with the family. Georgian hospitality, we’re going to miss you.
Other places to stay in Signagi include:
- Guest House Gidi: Clean guesthouse with comfortable beds and a friendly host. Offers a range of private rooms – Book Guest House Gidi here.
- Mironichi: Boasts a great location right across from the museum. Limited English is spoken, but a bit of homemade wine usually solves that problem – Book Mironichi here.
- Guest House Alazani Valley: This midrange guest house is a bit out of town, but offers suberb views of Signagi and the surrounding region – Book Guest House Alazani Valley here.
So there you have it, a quick guide to travel in Signagi, including tips on what to do and where to stay. Let us know in the comments if you miss anything.