Akhalkalaki is one of the most off the beaten path destinations in Georgia. This is the town in southern part of Georgia, it’s the center of Samtskhe-Javakheti region. Akhalkalaki is located in mountainous area with mineral springs and rough climate; in winters the temperature can be -40 C. What makes this region unlike any other in Georgia isn’t only the climate.
Akhalkalaki has own rich historical background, traditions, and language. This region is located close to boarders with Armenia and Turkey and has been a topic of debates between these countries for many years. It was a part of Turkey and then a part of Armenia, that’s why footprints of Armenian culture can be found everywhere. The Armenians are 95% of population of Akhalkalaki.
The name of the city translates as “new city”. The town was established in 1064, but was destroyed by the Turks a few years later. In 16th century the town became a part of Ottoman Empire and remained so for the next two centuries. During Russian-Turkish war, in 1806, Akhalkalaki almost became a part of Russian Empire, but was returned the Turks because of the Treaty of Bucharest. In 1828, General Paskevich invaded the town and officially made it a part of the Russian Empire. In that period ethnic composition of the region changed; the Turks and the Georgians-Muslims moved to Turkey.
Armenian refugees from Eastern Turkey inhabited the area instead of them. Akhalkalaki didn’t experience any rapid growth during Soviet times, however, it changed, when Saakashvili ordered to create a new, shorter road to Tbilisi. This road ended remoteness of the town, by reducing time on the road from a day to 3 hours.
Today Akhalkalaki isn’t promoted as a tourist destination, although, it might be interesting for historians. There’s a unique cave monastery – Vardzia. Tourists interested in ethnography might find something interesting about ethnography of the Armenians strange as it sounds.