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Direction Akhalkalaki-Kumurdo, Lake Kartsakh (Khozapini)

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The distance from Akhalkalaki to Lake Kartsakhi is 39 km. It takes 45 minutes to get to the lake and to the Javakheti Park by car and another 8 hours on foot. If youdrive towards Kartsakhi and turn right atLake Paskia( Zresi) near the village of Kirovakan, you can get to the village of Kumurdo. Kumurdo is only 12 km away from the city. Lake Paskia,a man-made reservoir built in the 1930s, is halfway from Akhalkalaki to Kumurdo. The reservoir isn`t very deep, only 2,5 m deep, its area range is from 150 to 180 ha, depending on the season. Here you can find crabs and fish. People used to go boating across the lake, now you can go fishing here.
Next we come to the village of Kumurdo. Here you will find one of the most important cross-domed churches in Georgia – the Gumurdo Cathedral.
(DMS) 41°23’51.6″ N 43°21’17.34″ E

(DM) 41°23.860′ N 43°21.289′ E

(DD) 41.3977 N 43.3548 E
The Gumurdo Cathedral, a protected monument of Georgia, is an Orthodox Church built in 964 during the years of the Abkhasian tsar Leon III. Very soon, after the restauration of the western section and the dome, it will acquire its original look again. On the whole, as a 10th century monument, the church has a strong construction, looks very attractive and has a very unusual layout design, which can hardly be found anywhere else in Georgia. It is a magnificent building, which is unique from the point of view of architecture: it is a cross-domed building shaped like a Greek cross, with five apsis. From the western side there is a rectangular gallery attached to the church.In the 11th century a gallery covered in frescoes was added to the southern side of the building. There are numerous inscriptions on the walls, including bas-relief. The windows around the altar are decorated with images of angels, oxen, eagles and lions. Originally the church was a domed building of 29x20m. The dome was 15.3 m high with a diameter of 9m. The dome of the building rested on six wall columns. You can also see an altar with fragments of 10th century painting here. At present this monument of architecture, with its original look and interior design, is remarkable for its majesty, moderateness and originality.
The church is located in the center of the village, about 130 m away from the Kura Canyon. Not far from here there is a big cliff which separates the Javakheti Plateau from the canyon. It will only take you ten minutes to walk from the church to the cliff, from where you can get a panoramic view of the Kura Canyon and the cave town of Vardzia. The cliff is so high that it`s hard to see its surface well enough. The view of the canyon that opens fromKumurdo is really impressive with its rocky mountains, the river and the cave town. If you choose a proper time of the day, you might be lucky enough to take good photos of the view. And if you are standing in the Kura Canyon between Khertvisi and Vardzia, you might see Kumurdo up on the hill. From the village of Tmogvi you can go up the slope, but it will take about an hour and a half. The Kumurdo Cathedral is situated at the height of 1,750 m above sea level, and the village of Nokalakevi is 1,300 m high above sea level. You can climb following the paths, you can also go up the slope. When you get to the edge of the plateau, you will see the village of Kumurdo.
On the way to Lake Kartsakhi you can turn from the village of Chamdzvrala(Chamdura) to the village of Murjakheti and see a rare menhir, the so-called ‘ dragon-stone’.Menhirs are the simplest megaliths of wild stone. Translated from Bretonian, menhir means “a long stone” ( men- stone, hir – long) and is a long stone roughly shaped into a pile. These stones can stand both on their own and in groups.
Menhirs can be considered the first man-made buildings of our ancestors that are preserved till these days. Menhirs are believed to be from 5 to 6 thousand years old. The menhir in the village of Murjakheti , 4 km to the south of Akhalkalaki, is a monolith with a bas-relief of a dragon.
The coordinates:
(DMS) 41°21’39.06″ N 43°28’19.26″ E
(DM) 41°21.651′ N 43°28.321′ E
(DD) 41.3608 N 43.472 E
In this direction, beside the road, you will see resting places for tourists marked on the maps.( See the maps for resting places). One of those is Lake Vachiani, situated on the left. The lake attracts tourists by its beautiful sight. Besides, it is a quiet place with a lot of green space around. Further on, at the village of Sulda, there are two guest houses beside the highway: ‘Flora’ and ‘Sulda’. Ahead you will see a vast openness on both sides of the highway, soft-wood forests, hills and panoramic reliefs in the direction of Sulda and Bozali.
Dadesh is situated 13 km south-west of Akhalkalaki. The ancestors of the local residents moved here from the village of Ashkala, the Erzrum Province, from Mush and Kars. One of the most remarkable buildings in the village is the Holy Virgin Church.
Being part of the international highway Akhalkalaki-Kartsakhi- Turkish border,the road leading to Lake Kartsakhi is paved. On the right of the road lies the new railway Baku-Tbilisi-Kars, which connects the railways of Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey. Approaching the Customs House, you will see a sign which indicates that to the right there is a road leading to Lake Kartsakhi and to the National Park of Protected Areas of Georgia.
The Protected Areas of Javakheti, founded on the territory of the Akhalkalaki and Ninotsminda municipalities have an area of 13,498.02 ha, most of which is in the Akhalkalaki municipality.It is the Javakheti National Park and three wildlife areas: Kartsakhi Swamp Wildlife Area, Sulda Swamp Wildlife Area and Tetrobi Forest Wildlife Area. Lake Kartsakhi in the Javakheti National Park is situated at the height of 1,799m above sea level, the basin area is 158 square km, the reflecting surface area is 26.3 square km. 58% of the lake belongs to Georgia, the remaining 42 % is part of Turkey. Next to the lake there are cottages for tourists. The Javakheti National Park is very popular with local and international tourists, fishermen and ornithologists. The Park`s Visitor Center exhibits various species of the unique local flora and fauna, which are exhibited both under glass and on photo galleries. In the Protected Area of the Park visitors have an opportunity to go birdwatching, fishing and horse-riding. Besides,there are special spots for picnics provided for holiday-makers. The terms of an extended stay in this area correspond to the rules of staying in frontier zones adopted throughout Georgia.
In the village of Kartsakhi you can visit the SurbHovannes-Karapet Church. It was built in the 1830s and is mentioned in the Armenian Apostolic Church Georgian and Imeretian Diocese bulletin of 1839-1840.Later, in 1896, the church was enlarged and abell tower was added to the western side of the church at the entrance. The church is made of basalt and as a type of architectural monument is a basilica. The total area of the church is 23.75×13.25m – it`s a large hall with three arched columns on both sides, which divide the interior of the basilica into three naves. In the eastern part, opposite the entrance there is an altar. The interior of the church is extremely beautiful. The frontispiece, which used to be cracked, after the restauration, which was implemented with a permit given by the Monument Protection Agency of Georgia in 2010, was fortified. The church is decorated with ornamental arches, and on the walls there are arched windows. The roof is covered with stone tiles, which are buried in grass growing here and there and can be seen from above. A stone hedge with figured niches fortifies and decorates the churchyard and adds an unusual flavor to it.
This unusual flavor is preserved in the village itself and the hospitable people of Kartsakhi host a lot of guests in summer. The village streets are crowded with thousands of visitors from different cities. In this way Ashugh Jivani`s Day is celebrated on the 27th of August here. It`s a big event, which is of great interest to visitors as well, and includes a concert and a fair where you can try lavashand buy local products. In the center of the village there is a monument to the ashugh and in the museum you can see samples of Armenian musical instruments. The ashugh`s house is now a memorial, where you can see different ancient items from everyday rural life.