Racha is a historic province in Georgia, in the mountainous northwestern part of the country. Comprising the present-day districts of Oni and Ambrolauri, it is included in the region of Racha-Lechkhumi and Lower (Georgian – Kvemo) Svaneti. It is bordered by the mountain-range of Greater Caucasus to the north and east, Imereti to the south, Lechkhumi and Svaneti to the west. It is situated in the northern valley of Rioni river and is surrounded by mountains.
Racha-Lechkhumi and Lower Svaneti has a humid climate, with an elevation reaching up to 2000 meters above sea level. The winter is cold and long, while the summer is traditionally short and warm. In Racha, the climate in the mountains is humid and is characterized by an absence of a real summer. The climate in Lechkhumi changes by elevation. In the low lands, it is a humid sub-tropical climate while there is snow and ice all year round in the mountains.
Racha-Lechkhumi is often called the Georgian Switzerland. It is famous for its unique types of grapes: Alexandrouli, Tsolikouri, Tetra, and Ojaleshi. They are used for making high-quality vintage red and white table and semi-sweet wines. The village of Khvanchkara is also situated here, which produces the semi-sweet wine known throughout the world.
The main town of Racha-Lechxumi is Oni.
Utsera: is known for its mineral water (of the same name), and health resort. While the village boasts the usual Georgian medieval churches, the 800-yearold “Alley of Trees” is especially worth a visit. The village is located 1,500 meters above sea level.
Shovi: is an important health resort. Visitors can enjoy the mountain climate, its natural beauty, and mineral springs. The resort is located at the base of the Mamisoni Mountain range and is surrounded by snowy mountains.
Ghebi: as well as its surroundings, has been settled since ancient times, a fact confirmed by finds from archeological expeditions. Burial mounds from the 3rd -1st centuries BC are especially interesting. Archeologists discovered artifacts including bronze belts and the head of a silver bull. The village is located 1,350 meters above sea level. Remnants of metal work from the 16-10th centuries BC as well as burial mounds from the late Bronze Age were found in archeological digs of the area. Gebi was the only tower-type settlement in Racha, but most of the towers were damaged by an earthquake, and only a few remain standing today.
Chiora: is one of the most beautiful villages in Racha. It is located 1,360 meters above sea level, on the south slope of the main Caucasus Mountain range. During medieval times it had a large population and a number of defensive structures. Currently there are only a few towers and two small churches still standing.
Bardnala: is a small village in Lechkhumi which was made famous through poems written by the well-known Georgian writer Lado Asatiani. The house of Lado Asatiani is in Bardnala and has been preserved as it was in the beginning of the 20th century, complete with an engraved balcony, wooden stairs, roof-tiles and a quaint yard. The museum contains a permanent public display of artifacts from the poet’s life.
Shaori Reservoir: is located in Racha. It is situated in the heart of forested area encompassed by the Caucasus Mountains. The reservoir is set at 1134 miter above sea level and occupies about 1300 sq. miter. Shaori is surrounded by the oldest villages of Nikortsminda, Cheliaghele and Tlughi. It is quite near to Ambrolauri – administrative centre of the region. The nearby territory of the reservoir is rich in flora and fauna. Waterfalls, rivers, deep forests, grottos and curative springs are abounding near it.
The Nikortsminda Church (11th century. situated at Nikortsminda village ) is a magnificent monument of Georgian architecture known for its wealth of bas-reliefs and frescoes, which include multi-figure thematic compositions of the Transfiguration, the Second Advent, and the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. Depictions of the saints of the Georgian Church and figures of animals, both realistic and fantastical, have been preserved inside the church. The façades of the church, which are inlaid with light-colored brick, are adorned with sculptural decorations.
Shaori’s unique climate – moderately hot summer and fresh air make it a splendid summer resort. In winter steep mountain slopes covered with snow turn the area into attractive winter resort.