A simply stunning visit to Signagi

A quick guide to travel in Signagi, a charming town in Georgia’s Kakheti region. Includes information on how to get to Signagi, what to do in Signagi, and where to stay if you travel to Signagi.

 

Signagi (also spelled Sighnaghi), is a tiny town atop a hill in the easternmost region of Georgia called Kakheti. One of the prettiest towns in Georgia, the hilltop hideout is sometimes referred to as the City of Love.

Understandably so; the town has cute cobblestone streets, a (mostly) intact old city wall with a whopping 23 towers, charming houses, and views to die for. Add the fact that wine flows freely (it’s in the Kakheti region after all), and it’s clear that you should travel to Signagi. Forget vineyards in France and villas in Tuscany–a summer holiday home in Signagi is officially on my wish list.

(Too bad I don’t have casual cashmonies lying around.)

Keep reading for my quick guide to travel in Signagi, including a little background about Signagi, things to do in Signagi, recommendations for places to stay and places to eat in Signagi, and how to travel to Signagi. In short: all the basics you need to know before traveling to one of Georgia’s most beautiful towns.

Travel in Signagi, Georgia: a quick guide

 

View of the hilltop town of Signagi, Georgia

Hilltop Signagi from a neighboring hill

Signagi’s background

Signagi is sometimes called Sighnaghi, which means shelter or trench in Turkic language. The first mention of Signagi as a settlement was recorded in the 18th century when a Georgian king sponsored the construction of the town and fort as a defense against tribesmen from Dagestan.

Signagi became an important agricultural hub during Soviet times, but in post-Soviet Georgia, the town suffered. Luckily, with the efforts of the Georgian government, the town was largely reconstructed and is now a great place for tourism in Georgia. Read further if you want to find out what there is to do in Signagi.

Historical Bodbe convent exterior in Signagi, Georgia

Bodbe convent from the outside

Things to do when you travel in Signagi

Walk around the city center of Signagi

One of the main joys of visiting Signagi is simply walking around to sample the atmosphere. Signagi oozes old-world charm, with cobblestone streets, several orthodox churches, and a Museum of History and Ethnography.

You can easily spend a day or two just strolling around, drinking some wine, and buying some souvenirs from the local ladies. There’s an old city wall to circumnavigate (with awesome views), several small churches, and plenty of viewpoints to marvel at the Caucasus mountain range from.

Visit a winery

No visit to Signagi is complete without a visit to a winery. Of course, you’ll be able to taste homemade wine in your guesthouse or homestay, but visiting a winery makes for a great way to familiarize yourself with one of Georgia’s main exports.

There are two well-known wineries around Signagi. Pheasant’s Tears Winery and Cradle of Wine. Pheasant’s Tears has a nice website where you can book tours, check out special events, or make a reservation at the lovely Pheasant’s Tears restaurant. For Cradle of Wine, it’s better to just walk in, or send them an email or give them a call.

Visit 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, also known as Bodbe monastery. 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. Several road signs are indicating the way to Bodbe monastery.

Fog in Signagi town in Georgia

Just look at that view! … or lack thereof.

Roughly 100 meters before the convent’s entrance, there is a fork in the road with a sign 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 (it’s an asphalted road to the spring below). But the first time I visited it was so foggy, and I 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 convent have recently been renovated, and the garden is immaculately kept by the nuns. 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. You can bathe in the water for 10 lari, and you get to keep the towel as a souvenir/holy artifact.

Fresco painting near the spring of Saint Nino at Bodbe convent in Georgia

Some frescoes inside the building housing the spring.

Visit the surrounding wine country

The Kakheti region is famous for its wine, and Signagi is a great place to base yourself to explore the region. The Alazani Valley houses several historic and important monasteries, and you can easily spend a day driving around visiting all the sites.

It’s best to ask your guesthouse to arrange a private car for you or check out some of the tour options in and around Signagi to make the most of your trip.

View of church in Signagi Sighnaghi Georgia

Where to stay in Signagi

There is no shortage of accommodation in Signagi, so you’ll find something regardless of your budget. There are small guesthouses, hostels, and homestays, traditional homes, and even luxury estates that you can choose from. In the off-season, it’s possible to just show up, walk around, and find a place you fancy, but with Signagi being as popular as it is, it’s generally recommended to book ahead.

Some recommended places include:

  • Cherqe Guest House: Cheap, cheerful, and run by a lovely family, budget travelers could do worse. The patio has a nice view, the rooms are spotless, and the breakfast comes highly recommended – Book Cherqe Guest House here.
  • Apartment Giorgi: Overlooking the historical town, with a nice garden full of fruit trees, the owners of Apartment Giori are super kind and will make you feel right at home. Come hungry, as they’ll stuff you – Book Apartment Giorgi here.
  • Guest House Alazani Valley: This midrange guest house is a bit out of town, but offers superb views of Signagi and the surrounding region – Book Guest House Alazani Valley here.

Click here for more sleeping options in Signagi

Wine with a view in Signagi, Georgia

Wine with a view—what’s not to love?

Where to eat in Signagi

The restaurant scene in Signagi reflects its popular tourist destination status, in a somewhat disappointing fashion. Most places have more or less the same menu of standard Georgian fare, and the quality is hit and miss. Due to the Covid pandemic, many places had to close down or reduce their menu. Expect things to pick up when tourism returns to Georgia. Below are the restaurants that I think are ahead of the pack.

The Terrace Signagni

With views to die for, this place is worth the 10-minute walk from the main square. The menu is pretty basic,  but you get solid portions and it’s all very tasty. Their mushrooms are delicious.

Amo

This place is a bit of a hike, but boy is it worth it. About 15 minutes out of town (uphill), or a 5-minute taxi ride, this place offers gorgeous views of Signagi and a rustic atmosphere.  The food is delicious, the house wine tasty and affordable, and the staff friendly.

Honorable mention: Pheasant’s Tear

Pheasant’s Tear winery has a restaurant in the heart of Signagi. Usually, this is one of the most popular places in town, so it pays to make a reservation. However, due to the Covid pandemic, they drastically had to cut their menu, and business has been slow. Prices are also a bit high for Signagi standards (18 lari for smoked vegetables). It’s still a nice place to eat, and their wine is top-notch, but it wouldn’t be my number one recommendation.

Bus time table for travel to Signagi, Georgia from Tbilisi

How to travel to and from Signagi

To/from Telavi

There is one marshrutka per day from Signagi to Telavi, leaving at 09.00 in the morning from the bus station in the center of town. Make sure to check out my guide to Telavi for more info.

To get to Signagi from Telavi, there’s one marshrutka leaving around 15.00 from the Telavi bus stand.

To/from Tbilisi

To get from Tbilisi to Signagi. head to the bus station next to the Samgori metro station. There are seven marshrutkas per day, starting from 09.00 in the morning and leaving roughly every two hours until 18.00. The trip is 7 lari per person and takes about 1.5/2 hours.

It’s also possible to take s shared taxi from Tbilisi to Signagi. Shared taxis leave from Isani metro station when full, and cost about 10 lari per person (price might fluctuate based on gas prices). They leave when there are four people.

From Signagi to Tbilisi there are six daily marshrutkas. The first one leaves at 07.00 and the last one leaves around 18.00.

More posts from Georgia

 

Still have questions about travel to Signagi? Ask them in the comments!

 

Alex Reynolds

American by birth, British by passport, Filipina by appearance. Addicted to ice cream. Enjoys climbing trees, dislikes falling out. Has great fondness for goats which is usually not reciprocated.

More about Alex

10 thoughts on “A simply stunning visit to Signagi

    Liliia Sokotun says:

    awesome! will try to do ti tmrrw 🙂 Georgia is awesome indeed!

    We hope you enjoyed it as much as we did!

    Liliia Sokotun says:

    so in the end we didnt go, it was 37 degrees and we were just exhausted. However we dont get upset, we decided to come back to Georgia at some point!

    Yeah it’s no fun when you’re dying of heat. Glad you like the country enough to go back, we want to do the same 🙂

    Somefing Looms says:

    Dogs. What about dogs on your walk? The town dogs are fine. But the farm dogs are vicious. Did you come across any when you walked to and from the monastery?
    Cheers.

    We must have been very lucky. We did not encounter any vicious dogs, which is a very good thing. Sebastiaan is scared as shit when it comes to vicious stray dogs 😉

    sebastian says:

    hey buddy

    My name is Sebastian as well, I will be visiting George in September very soon
    NIce blog about your experience in Signaghi, I wonder if I really need to stay overnight there, I was told that it could be done as a day trip from Signaghi, what do u think?
    Have u been to any cave city such as Vardzia or David gareja? if so, which one u like best?

    Thanks
    Sebastian

    Sebastiaan says:

    Hi Seb,

    We really liked Signaghi, and would recommend staying there overnight. But it all depends on how much time you have, I guess. We did visit Vardzia, but not David Gareja. We’d recommend Vardzia, as well as Sapara Monastery, which can be combined in a day trip. Regardless of where you’ll go, we’re sure you’ll love it. Georgia is a great country!

    @signor_happy says:

    Regarding Telavi to Signagi marshutka, you can take the ones that go to Tbilisi which will go east and have them stop at Chalaubani (right at the police station). From here we were told you could get another marshutka that is coming from tbilisi and going to signagi, however we waited 20 min and never saw it. A taxi quoted us 15 gel to take us the rest of the way, but we just hitched a ride instead. Another option might be to take the first marshutka to Gurjaani and try to get another one to Signagi but it’s all a crap shoot.

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