Tuesday, 03 March 2020 04:43

Racha and Lower Svaneti

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Racha Lechkhumi and Lower Svaneti Racha Lechkhumi and Lower Svaneti Racha Lechkhumi and Lower Svaneti by Frank Zeccin

Racha Lechkhumi and Lower Svaneti

Under Georgia’s current administrative subdivision, Racha is included in the Racha-Lechkhumi and Kvemo (Lower) Svaneti region. Racha is a highland area in western Georgia, located in the upper Rioni river valley and enclosed by Greater Caucasus mountains and rivers.

Racha is separated from Lechkhumi and Svaneti by the mountains. Racha is known for its unique flora and fauna, the great number of natural mineral waters, semi-sweet red wine Khvanchkara (said to be Stalin's favorite) as well as calmness and patience of the local people. With its mountains and raging rivers, the region is popular within anglers and rafters, as well as mountain bikers and paragliders. Rioni River is full of trout and is a haven for fishing, whitewater rafting, and kayaking.

Racha Lechkhumi and Lower Svaneti, by Frank Zecchin

Racha had been part of Colchis and Caucasian Iberia since ancient times and one of its main towns - Oni was said to have been founded by King Parnajom of Iberia in the 2nd century BC. 

Ghebi village

Ghebi village is located 1,350 meters above sea level. The history of the village going back thousands of years. The excavations revealed artifacts that belonged to the Bronze  Age, 3rd-1st century BC. Archaeological excavations have also revealed metalwork from the 16th-10th century BC as well as burial mounds from the late Bronze Age. Ghebi was a unique tower settlement in Racha, but most of the towers have been damaged by earthquakes, and today only a few remain. Usually, the towers had 4 floors. The first floor was used as a storage room. The room on the second floor was used for sacrifices using livestock.  The last floors served as defensive shelters.

Tower 1


Oni Local Museum

The museum was established in 1937. It exhibits several collections including more than 15000 artifacts that were found here. The archaeological collection presents items from the Stone Age up to late medieval times, most of them are Bronze Age dated. The collection includes bronze sheep figures, fragments of weapons and some equipment. Some samples of 10th-14th-century coins, ethnographic objects, manuscripts, and printed books are keeping here.  

St. George Church in Nakuraleshi

St. George Church is located in the mountain village of Lechkhumi. The church is a typical example of rural chapels in the Georgian highlands. What makes the church look unusual is that both the interior and exterior walls were covered with 17th-century frescoes. Utsera village is worth visiting as well. The village is at 1,050 meters above sea level and it is known for its mineral water, health resort, and spa. The top place to see is the alley of  800-year-old trees.


Shovi is a mountain climatic and health resort. Visitors can enjoy its calmness, fresh air, beautiful forests, and mineral waters. The resort is located at the foot of the Mamisoni Mountain range and is surrounded by snowy mountains. This is the place for visitors who seek the most beautiful landscapes and tranquility.  The region is absolutely, naturally unspoiled and beautiful. There is a bumpy road, some family guesthouses, a hotel, a very decent restaurant straight in the forest (open only during the touristic season) and mountains, rivers, and tranquility.

Shovi village by mzia saganelidze

Oni Synagogue

Ony Synagogue is a nice building with beautiful windows and a rounded dome of a silver color. It was built in 1895 by a Polish architect and the builders were Greek Jews from Thessaloniki. It is Georgia’s third-largest synagogue, after those of Tbilisi and Kutaisi. Oni was a village with a prevailing Jewish population. The third of Oni's population was represented by a Jewish, a large and powerful community. In the '70s there were over 3000 Jews in Oni, now only some 25-30 people stayed. Most of the families emigrated to Israel during the '90s. The synagogue was refurbished during the summer of 2013.

Nikortsminda St. Nicolas Cathedral

Nikortsminda St. Nicolas Cathedral is located in the village of Nikortsminda, near Ambrolauri. With its impressive decorations, there is nothing else like it in Georgia. The temple, built at the beginning of the 11th century in the name of St. Nicholas the Miracle-Worker, contains many examples of old Georgian script and the interior walls of the temple are painted with frescoes dating back to the 16-17th centuries. These paintings were ordered by a local noble, Tsulukidze, and prepared by the painters of Gelati. In 1534, King Bagrat III renovated the temple, but it was significantly damaged during an earthquake in 1991 and re-opened after renovation in 1997. The bell tower standing next to the church was added in the 19th century.


Chiora is one of the most beautiful villages in Racha. It is located at 1,360 meters above sea level, on the south slope of the main Caucasus Mountain range. The population, during medieval period, was significant. It had a large population and a number of defensive structures.

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