Georgia boasts arguably the oldest wine-making tradition in the world, with vintages going back 8,000 years. Wine tourism is Georgia is a growing phenomenon and the country’s main wine, producing region, Kakheti, is conveniently located within easy reach from the country’s capital. This beautiful region located in the valley of the river Alazani is popular for both locals and tourists alike looking for a fun getaway from the big city, with the main draw being the beautiful hilltop town of Sighnaghi (Signagi). So if you’re wondering how to get from Tbilisi to Sighnagi or Kakheti and what to do in Sighnaghi, then this is the guide for you!
Hot to Get From Tbilisi to Sighnaghi
Because of its popularity amongst both tourists and locals looking for a romantic weekend away, Sighnaghi is incredibly easy to reach from the capital and there are a few ways that you can get from Tbilisi to Sighnaghi both independently or by an organised day tour.
As Sighnaghi is only located about 70 kilometres from Tbilisi, many choose to visit only as a day trip from the capital. This is certainly doable and recommended if you only have a short time to spend in Georgia but want to venture into the wine country.
If you have more time we would recommend spending at least two days in the region. This will give you the time to really enjoy not only the charming Sighnaghi but the fantastic wineries that surround it.
While most people visit Sighnaghi from Tbilisi, it is possible to get from Sheki, Azerbaijan to Sighnaghi, as well. It also isn’t a complicated as you might think!
Tbilisi to Sighnaghi by Bus
The easiest and most affordable way to get from Tbilisi to Kakheti region independently is by minibus, or marshrutka. And because of the popularity of this route, there are multiple connections per day from Tbilisi to Sighnaghi
Buses leave from the Samgori Bus Station in Tbilisi, which is easily accessible from the city centre by metro or taxi.
Buses to Sighnaghi leave at approximately 9 AM, 11 AM, 1 PM, 3 PM, 5 PM, and 6 PM, though will often only leave when full or if the driver determines it is “full enough.” If you want to get on a specific bus time, we recommend getting to the station at least 30 minutes to one hour before your bus is due to leave to ensure that you get a seat.
The journey will cost 6 GEL per person and takes about two hours.
Tbilisi to Sighnaghi by Taxi
If you don’t want to be crammed into a marshrutka for two hours but still want to visit Sighnaghi independently, then your best bet is to go by taxi. This is going to work out to be significantly more expensive than a minibus, but can be more comfortable.
You should be able to find a taxi willing to take you at the Samgori bus station. If you can get four people to share the taxi, your price per person will go down, however, it will likely not be much more comfortable than a marshrutka and will cost a fair bit more.
Again, expect the journey to take about the same amount of time as a marshrutka, maybe a little bit quicker — about 1.5 – 2 hours.
Tbilisi to Sighnaghi by Organised Tour
If you are pressed for time or would prefer to be as hands-off as possible when visiting Sighnaghi or going from Tbilisi to Kakheti, then an organised tour might be the best option for you.
There are a myriad of tour options available from Tbilisi that will either just take to you Sighnaghi or give you a proper tour of the wine region of Kakheti. If you would like to see both Sighnaghi and visit some wineries in one day then this guided tour is a good option as it takes you to both a large and small winery as well as exploring some of the highlights of Sighnaghi.
Depending on the type of tour that you choose, the prices can really vary. However, you might find it a lot easier to organise and more fun to travel here independently unless you’re very much pressed for time and want to see as much as possible.
Kakheti Region Itinerary
If you have some time to devote to exploring Sighnaghi and the Kakheti region, we recommend planning to spend about two full days there. That way you can spend one of those days exploring Sighnaghi and another on a tour to some of the sites and wineries of the Alazani Valley.
If you only have one day to spend, then prioritise what you’re most interested in and choose on option. If you want to sample a lot of wine but also would like to explore the charming town of Sighnaghi, you can do that by just staying there. There are numerous wine cellars where you can try vintages from both traditional Georgian methods and the more familiar “European” style.
If you are visiting Kakheti more so because you’re interested in touring wineries and don’t care to enjoy the hilltop charms and views in Sighnaghi, then we recommend organising a driver to take you to some wineries further afield rather than in the town proper. Follow the “things to do in Kakheti” section for some suggestions.
Day 1 – Explore the town of Sighnaghi
Sighnaghi — sometimes spelt Signagi — is often lauded as the prettiest town in Georgia and with one glimpse of this walled hill town, it isn’t hard to see why. Situated atop a hill overlooking the Alazani Valley with views of the Greater Caucasus mountains.
Though popular among daytrippers and tour groups, the small streets of Sighnaghi are far from overrun and retain a significant amount of charm despite growing tourist numbers.
Because of its small size, you can see most of the main sites of Sighnaghi itself within the span of one day, so if you’re wondering what to do in Sighnaghi
Start your day in Sighnaghi at the nearby Bodbe Monastery — one of the most important sites for Christians in Georgia.
This beautiful Monastery and Convent is located about three kilometres outside of the town centre and is one of the most popular attractions in the city. Situated in the mountains circling the city, the incredibly well-kept grounds provide spectacular views of Sighnaghi and the surrounding area.
However, the most important aspect of the Bodbe Monastery is the fact that it is the final resting place of Saint Nino, who is credited with bringing Christianity to Georgia. As only the second nation in the world to have officially adopted Christianity as a state religion (Armenia was the first), this means it is a very important site. It also gets very busy with eager tourists and pilgrims later in the day, so it’s best to get here as early as possible to avoid tourist crowds.
If you’re up for a little bit of a hike, then you can very easily walk up to the monastery in about 45 minutes from the town centre. Otherwise, you can take a taxi (who will wait for you) for about 4 GEL.
Explore the Town Centre
After visiting the Bodbe Monastery, take a leisurely walk (or taxi ride) back down the hill to the town centre and take an hour or two to get lost in the beautiful cobbled streets to absorb the charming atmosphere.
Sighnaghi is considered to be one of the prettiest towns in Georgia and it really becomes apparent as you stroll along its lovely streets and gaze upon the colourful balconies and gorgeous viewpoints.
In the main park, there is often a small marketplace set up with local vendors selling fresh churchkhela, homemade wine in repurposed soda bottles, knitted goods, and more. You can also wander further down toward the city walls and see some of the “knitting ladies” make handmade souvenirs.
Lunch at The Terrace
After visiting Bodbe and exploring the town, it’s time to head to lunch. And one of the best places to eat in Sighnaghi is at The Terrace Restaurant.
Located a bit outside of the town centre and up a rather steep hill, the strenuous walk up here is more than made up for as soon as you see the view. Boasting some of the best views of Sighnaghi, this restaurant also cooks up some delicious traditional Georgian fare and has excellent draft wine.
Walk Along the City Walls
After filling up on delicious food at The Terrace, it’s time to work off some of those acquired calories with a walk along the city walls. Though the entire city of Sighnaghi is surrounded by medieval walls, only a short portion is open for visitors to walk along (the rest are not restored safely enough).
Though only a small bit is open, it is worth to go for the walk as the views of the valley below are truly stunning and you can an also let your imagination run wild pretending you’re on Game of Thrones.
Entry onto the walls is free of charge and the pathway takes you along three watchtowers along the way. It is well-paved and there is a handrail along the inner side, however, it is a bit of an uphill walk on the way back.
Mari’s Wine Cellar
Now that you’ve done a lot of sightseeing around Sighnaghi, it’s time to sample the one thing that this region is known for — wine! While there are a lot of wine cellars in Sighnaghi that could draw you in, we recommend heading to the small, family-run Mari’s Wine Cellar.
Also operating at a guesthouse (called Guesthouse Wine), it is located just behind the main square. The family has a lovely cellar where they make a few delicious wines using traditional methods. What is unique about this place, however, is that they do not store their wine in plastic bottles at all and they will serve you directly from the qvevri — an underground clay pot used to make wine.
They offer full degustations or you can just get a glass of wine for 5 GEL.
Dinner at Pancho Villa
After enjoying some wine, it’s time to head to dinner. And there really is no better place to do that than Pancho Villa Mexican restaurant.
This might be the only Mexican restaurant in Georgia and, while every authentic ingredient might not be available in a small town in Georgia, it is surprisingly good and this comes from someone who grew up close to the border.
Pancho Villa is one of the top-rated restaurants in Sighnaghi and, as there are only four tables, it is advisable to book in advance. While Mexican food in Georgia might sound odd, you will not regret eating here.
Day 2 – Explore the Kakheti Region
On your second day in Sighnaghi, take the time to venture out into the Kakheti and take a tour of the local wineries and a monastery in the Alazani Valley. Generally speaking, you can have your guesthouse or hotel arrange a driver for you or you can find an organised tour to book through as well. It is generally difficult to do this independently unless you have rented a car and someone has volunteered to be a designated driver!
Your guide will likely take you on a route that works best for them, but these are the stops that we made on our wine tour and we highly recommend them. Expect this to cost about 100-120 GEL for the day, and note that it is most often quoted as the price of the car and not per person.
Your first stop on your tour of the Kakheti region should be at the beautiful Gremi Monastery. This monastery, situated on a hilltop and commanding spectacular views of the surrounding area, was originally constructed in the 16th Century.
The main church has one of the most impressive interiors that we had seen in Georgia, with beautiful floor-to-ceiling religious paintings and an intimate feeling. There is also a possibility to climb to the top of the bell tower and see some lovely views of the Alazani Valley below.
Entry into the monastery itself is free, however, entry into the bell tower will cost an additional 5 GEL per person. There is also a wine cellar on site if you are keen to get your wine tastings started early!
After getting some culture at the Gremi Monastery, it’s time to make your first stop on the wine tasting tour at Kindzmaurali Corporation.
This modern winery has a professional storefront and factory where they produce a number of wines using both traditional Georgian and “European style” methods. This winery, in particular, has an interesting technique of blending the two methods and make some very interesting and delicious wines.
They offer tours and degustations here where they will tell you of all of their processes and give you a great overview of how wine has traditionally been made in Georgia, how Georgians drink wine, and how the industry has adapted for export and tourism. Our guide, Natia, was incredibly knowledgeable and very helpful.
Tastings cost 2 GEL per glass and a tour of the facilities is included in the price if you have at least two tastings.
This is probably the most famous winery in the Kakheti region and is well-known for its labyrinthine network of subterranean tunnels operating as its wine cellar. Because of its popularity, it is also the most commercialised and expensive winery to visit on this list.
A visit to Khareba includes a tour of part of its expansive “wine cave,” a network of tunnels that were originally built to be a war bunker but were then repurposed into a wine cellar when they realised the temperature was consistently the ideal range between 12 and 14 degrees.
A tour of the wine cellar with a tasting of two traditional-style wines costs 15 GEL, though there are numerous tasting and tour packages to choose from with different pricing structures.
Numisi Cellar Museum
After visiting some more modern establishments that make wine in both traditional and European fashions, it’s time to head to the Numisi Cellar Museum, which churns out wines, chacha, and brandies with completely traditional methods.
The site of this cellar is interesting, as well, as wine jugs and cups from up to 4,000 years ago were found here, which is why it is considered to be a museum. This cellar, however, concentrates more on traditional winemaking and they will offer you a wonderful tour where you will learn all there is to know about the natural qvevri method that is used throughout Georgia.
A degustation here includes more wine than in any of the others, including about a half litre of natural, unfiltered dry red and white, a substantial amount of chacha (Georgian grappa), and their own aged brandy (which they call cognac). This degustation and a tour will cost 10 GEL per person (3 GEL for the tour and 7 GEL for the tasting).
Dinner at Okro’s Wines in Sighnaghi
After filling up on wine, chacha, and brandy during your tour of the Kakheti wine region, it’s time to head back to Sighnaghi and have dinner (and maybe another degustation!) at Okro’s Wines.
As one of the premier wineries in Sighnaghi, this place also has a wonderful menu serving delicious, traditional Georgian dishes (the shkmeruli is fantastic!). Located in a converted house atop a hill in the town centre, the views from their patio are also some of the best.
How to Get from Sighnaghi to Tbilisi
After enjoying a couple of days in Sighnaghi, it is likely that you’re going to want to return to Tbilisi unless you have plans to head into Azerbaijan.
The easiest way to get back to Tbilisi from Sighnaghi is by marshrutka, which leaves frequently daily at 7 AM, 9 AM, 11 AM, 1 PM, 4 PM, and 6 PM. Like when travelling from Tbilisi to Sighnaghi, it is advisable that you turn up to the bus station about an hour before you want to leave, especially if you have luggage.
If you know when you want to leave in advance, you can have your guesthouse call and book you a spot on the bus ahead of time to save you having to get there too early. The bus will generally leave when it is full or just about full.
Where to Stay in Sighnaghi
Sighnaghi is a popular destination in Georgia and, despite its small size, there are a number of great accommodation options to choose from. If you’re planning more than a Sighnaghi day trip and want to know where to stay in the town, have a look at these suggestions:
Maya Guesthouse — This family-run guesthouse located close to the town centre boasts one of the best views of Sighnaghi from its expansive balcony. Run by the kindhearted Maya and her husband Gela, they have a range of very clean and comfortable rooms available. They also will include breakfast and dinner for an additional fee and organise tours into the Kakheti region. Click here to see their latest prices
Guesthouse Wine — This is another family-run guesthouse in the town centre that offer a range of clean and comfortable rooms with friendly and helpful owners. They also make and sell their own delicious wine on site. Click here to see their latest prices
Boutique Hotel BelleVue — If you’re looking for something a bit more high-end and romantic than an affordable family guesthouse, then this is a great option for you. This small hotel is located in the town centre and has a range of great, clean, and comfortable rooms available — some with balconies with spectacular views. Click here to see their latest prices
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Sighnaghi hotels!
Visiting the wonderful Kakheti region is one of the things you absolutely have to do when you visit Georgia, and luckily, with so much to offer, you don’t have to wonder what to do in Sighnaghi or Kakheti for long.
Are you planning to visit Sighnaghi or the Kakheti region of Georgia? Have you been? Let us know in the comments!