Georgians tend to joke about the Rachvelis, the inhabitants of the mountainous region of Racha in the North-West. They like to make fun of them for being slow, a bit simple and so on, but when you go to Racha, you’ll realize that maybe its all out of jealousy. Racha is a special place, high in the mountains and almost completely unspoiled, but only 210 kilometers away from Tbilisi. With rushing rivers bursting with trout, the region is popular with anglers and rafters, as well as mountain bikers and paragliders. The headwaters of the mighty Rioni River are a haven for fishing, whitewater rafting and kayaking. For many visitors to the region, Racha is a giant outdoor playground. The mountain resort of Shovi, which stays at a cool 16 degrees in July, is a must visit for anyone who loves the great outdoors. But as well as these pursuits, Racha also contains some remarkable cultural treasures. The church of Nikortsminda is outside Racha’s main town of Ambrolauri and features some of the finest stone carving around, with scenes depicting King Bagrat III who sponsored it’s construction, as well as Christ striking down the pagan Roman Emperor Diocletian. Dating from 1010, the church is on the tentative list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Oni, the region’s other town, boasts a richly decorated 19th century synagogue, the third largest in Georgia, which demonstrates the long presence of this mountain region’s local Jewish population. But no visitor to Racha can fail to be won over by the food. The smoked ham of the region – lori – is famous throughout Georgia. One of the country’s favorite dishes, the garlic and chicken fiesta called Shkmeruli, hails from the tiny village of Shkmeri in the mountains here. Not forgetting Racha’s most precious export, Khvanchkara – reportedly Stalin’s favorite wine. This fruity red grows in only one tiny village, making it highly precious, and as it does not travel well, it really has to be tasted close to home. Just one more reason to come to Racha.
Oni Local Museum
Oni local museum is located in Oni town, Racha region. The museum houses several collections: archeological findings (from the Stone Age up to the late medieval times, mostly from Bronze Age), architectural details and relief fragments from the Saint George and Saint Trinity churches dating back to 10th c., samples of 10-14th cc coins, ethnographic objects, manuscripts and printed books, and painting by well-known Georgian artists from 20th c.
Nikortsminda Cathedral is a Georgian Orthodox Church, located in Nikortsminda, Racha region of Georgia. Nikortsminda was built in 1010-1014 during the reign of Bagrat III of Georgia and was repaired in 1634 by the King Bagrat III of Imereti. Three-storied bell-tower next to the Cathedral was built in the second half of the 19th century. Frescoes inside the Cathedral date from the 17th century. The Cathedral is on the Tentative List for status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The church of the Archangel, commonly known as Khotevi Church, and temple were built in the village of Khotevi during the 13th century. At that time the village was significant trade centre, and served as a link for Imereti and Kvemo Racha regions. The first mention of this village was in written documents of the 11th century.
Barakoni Church of the Mother of God is located near the town of Ambrolauri, in the Tsesi village, in mountainous Racha region. Barakoni is one of the last important monuments in the tradition of medieval Georgian architecture. Barakoni was built in 1753, by the ordert of local lord the Ruler of Racha Principality – Rostom. The church was design by the architect Avtandil Shulavreli who is commemorated in the inscription of the eastern facade.
The church was closed and desecrated under the Bolshevik rule. It suffered further damage, though not serious, in the 1991 Racha earthquake, but was quickly repaired. Located on a top of a steep cliff, it overlooks Rioni River which joins the Lukhuni River just below the mountain.