Telavi

Travel Guide Europe Georgia Telavi

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Introduction

Telavi, with a population of 21,800, is the capital of the province of Kakheti in the country of Georgia. Located within the Alasani valley and besides Sighnaghi, Telavi is an important regional tourist centre with many accommodation options; it serves as a base for trips (churches, wineries, parks) into the rest of the region. Nevertheless, it is also great for a day trip from Tbilisi. The similarity of the city's name to Tel Aviv is often used in Georgian jokes.

In the 2nd century, Telavi was first mentioned as Teleda on the world map Geographike Hyphegesis of the Greek geographer Ptolemy. The name originated from the Georgian word Tela, meaning elm. Under Kwirike the Great and during the 9th century, the city became the capital of the kingdom Kakhati-Hereti. The city developed into an important Georgian trade centre until the 12th century, due to its convenient location near the silk road. King Artshil II. made the city capital of the Kakheti region and built his palace and fortress here.

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Sights and Activities

  • The Palace of King Erekle II (was closed and under renovation 2017) inside a big frortress, built in the 18th century.
  • The Cholokashvili street, a renovated street in the old town, with the St. George Church.

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Getting There

By Car

There are two options to get to Telavi from Tbilisi. One is highway no. 5 and no. 42 by Gurjaani, about 140 kilometres. The shorter and newer option is highway no. 38, departing shortly after the Tbilisi city border near Vaziani north from highway no. 5, about 70 kilometres. The latter one is via the Gombori Pass and notably shorter, even though not much faster due to the many turns and serpentines. In winter and with snow it is recommended to take the longer route.

The road between Akhmeta and the Georgian Military Highway, via Tianeti, can only be done by 4WD.

By Bus

There are 3 marshrutka stations:

  • Main marshrutka station (south end of Alazani Avenue). E.g. for Tsinandali, 8 kilometres east of Telavi, 0.5 lari; taxi: 5 lari. Although Sighnaghi and Telavi are close to each other, there are only 1-2 marshrutkas a day, so check the schedule beforehand. Your best bet in that case would be hitch-hiking instead, which is rather easy along the "highway".
  • Marshrutkas heading to Alaverdi Monastery (from the main marshrutka station cross the road, take a narrow street for 20-30 metres, and there is a small parking lot with more marshrutkas).
  • Marshrutkas heading from/to Tbilisi (walk 200-300 metres from the main marshrutka station direction North (i.e. down) of Alazari avenue. The station is a bit hidden shortly after the traffic light, on the left). From Tbilisi, marshrutkas depart more or less hourly (at least 9:00am and 10:00am, but there many more throughout the day) from the Ortachalla station (in front of the station). 10 lari, takes up to 2½ hr (especially when by near Sighnaghi and through Gurjaani before heading to Telavi).

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Getting Around

The city is small enough to be walkable. However, visiting the neighboring sites requires the use of further marshrutkas and/or taxis.

Whereas seeing one or two sites (e.g., the fortress/palace and nearby Alaverdi Monastery) can be a one-day activity from Tbilisi, it is best to stay several days in Telavi to fully enjoy the surroundings (including Tusheti and Sighnaghi).

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Eat

Several restaurants on the main street, majority of them located on the basement level.

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Drink

Kakheti is Georgia's most famous wine region, so Telavi is perfect for sampling some. The tourist information (along Erekli 2 street) has an overview of all the wine cellars and companies in and around Telavi, and maps of the region if you have your own car.

A good starting point is the shop close to the big Plane tree and the statue in Telavi itself. The staff speaks fluent English, they sell wines from a number of wineries and they have information and prices for different tastings you can do. They can also organize a driver to take you there.

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Sleep

Numerous homestays have opened up in Telavi. Many Kakhetian houses are quite large and are traditionally home for both the family of the wife and the husband. If part of the family moves out, the resulting empty floor is used by guests. There are also a few traditional hotels, and a couple luxury resorts too.

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Keep Connected

Internet

Internet cafés, locally called "internet clubs", are common and cheap in Tbilisi and Batumi but scarce in Kutaisi. Some places offer free WLAN to their customers. At least in Tbilisi, all hostels have free fast WLAN.

There is free Wi-Fi network all over the Tbilisi. Other places might have some hotels, restaurants etc. with (free) wifi.

Phone

See also: International Telephone Calls

International calling code for Georgia is 995. The emergency number is 112.

Many Georgians have now have access to a mobile phone and as such public payphones are becomming obsolete in the bigger cities, although there are many places offering phone services, usually attached to an internet cafe of 'Xerox' shop.

Georgia uses GSM (900 MHz and 1800 MHz) for mobile phones and has three mobile operators. Magti, Bee Line and GeoCell. The best coverage is offered by GeoCell which covers most of the country and a fair bit of the mountains. SIM cards can be purchased from all the networks and topped up with scratch cards purchesed from shops or various touch screen 'kiosks' in the bigger cities. It usually works out a lof cheaper compared to roaming with your own cell phone, especially regarding internet costs.

Post

Georgian Post offers a range of services, but don't count on it being very reliable or quick. On top of that they are relatively expensive. It is advisable to post letters in central post offices rather than using the post boxes in the street. Opening hours are usually from 10:00am to 6:00pm from Monday to Friday, some larger ones at Saturday and most are closed on Sunday.
"Georgian International Express Mail Service" is a member of the World Network of "Express Mail Services". It sends letters and parcels to 200 countries and delivers inbound items received by EMS network to all Georgian regions. EMS has branches in Kutaisi, Batumi, Poti, Gori, Marneuli. All items are insured by insurance company "IC Group". Nevertheless, you might use international courier companies lik TNT, UPS, DHL or FedEx, as they are reliable, fast and comptitively priced as well.

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This is version 4. Last edited at 8:19 on Jun 21, 18 by Utrecht. 1 article links to this page.

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