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Akhalkalaki – Lake Tabatskhuri Direction

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The road to Lake Tabatskhuri (Tabatskhuri) is part of the domestic highway Borjomi – Bakuriani – Akhalkalaki. From Akhalkalaki, from the Paravani Canyon, the road winds up to the village of Khulgumo (1,690 m above sea level). Lake Tabatskhuri is 45 km away from here; the road is straight, with new facilities, gas stations, stores on the left and woods on the right. A trip to Lake Tabatskhuri will take an hour and a half by car and as much as 11 hours on foot. To the left of the main direction there is a road leading to the villages of Orja, Khando, Varevani, Alastani, Kokio. From here you can get to the Tetrobi Forest and Chobareti. Tetrobi is one of the Protected Areas of Georgia. Tetrobi Managed Reserve, with a total area of 31 sq.km (12 sq.miles), is situated on the Javakheti Plateau, in the Chobareti River valley, on the mountain range of Chobareti, on a volcano plateau in Tetrobi. These protected areas include part of The Chobareti forests. It is a pine forest and protected local plants. The coordinates are: 41°36′25″N 43°24′20″E. The distance from Akhalkalaki to Terobi is 31km, which takes 56 minutes by car. Unlike preserves, visiting the national parks and reserves is encouraged. The Tetrobi forest, as well as any other reserve, can be visited by anyone. Here you are allowed to put up tents, to stop for rest and to do partial economic activity. However, driving a car or a motorbike and hunting some animals is not allowed. There are limitations for making fires on the whole territory. You should know the special spots for these activities.
If you turn right at the village of Aragva, you will find a skiing base. It is located on a hill and there is a cottage among the pines. You can stop here and hire skis and equipment. The skiing cableway is right next to the cottage. You can spend some time skiing and doing other sports here in winter, and in summer you can just visit this beautiful place. It is believed that the air in this place is very healthy since breathing in the clean air of the pine forest enriches your body with oxygen. From the base on the hill you can enjoy a beautiful view of the surrounding areas in the direction of the village. It will take you 10 minutes to get to the village, where you can visit St. Gevorg Church.
St. Gevorg Church was built in 1830 and was one of the rare cross-domed buildings of that time. Built from basalt, the church has a reliable structure with an octagonal dome and a bell house. It has been restored several times and now it looks as majestic as it did originally. The beauty of the exterior is enhanced by the unusually long doors and windows. The interior is divided into three naves, with the altar in the eastern part and a christening bath at the northern wall. The total area of the church is 24.20×13.50m. There used to be a Sunday school founded in 1860. In the 1930s the priests were arrested and exiled and the school was shut down. Now, the Sunday school called Khrimyan Hairik is open to the children of the neighboring villages again.
Further on the way to Lake Tabatskhuri is the village of Kotelia, where you will find St.Ivlita and Kvirike Church. It is a one-nave basilica with a bell house built in the 15th century and was named after the saint martyrs Ivlita and Kvirike. Saint martyr Ivlita lived in Minor Asia in the 4th century A.D. For being Christians, the mother and son were taken to court, thereafter were beaten up and executed.After their martyred death they were both recognized as Christian saints, and St. Kvirike`s palm is now kept in the Zugdidi Ethnographic Museum.
Next, along the road, there is another interesting church in the village of Baraleti. The Baraleti Church is a medieval Orthodox church, with a very unusual location of the bell house, which was built later, in the 19th century. On top of the bell house you can see a stork`s big nest, which covers the dome almost completely thus making the church look unique. The church is situated in the village, to the right of the main road. It is made of stone blocks of different sizes, the roof is covered with stone tiles. The southern nave is a bit lower. You will find the entrance here, and on the eastern pane you will see a 13th century inscription made in a medieval font. The church is surrounded with a number of gravestones. One of them is to the martyr Peter Khmaladze (1775-1856). On the saint martyr`s gravestone you will find an icon-lamp in honor of the priest, who contributed into protection of Christianity. There is also Surb Astvadzadzin Church (Holy Virgin Church) in Baraleti. These churches have long been centers of spiritual development for communities of over 20 nearby villages. It is a basilica with a total area of 18.00×9.86m with a bell house in the western part based on eight columns. Built in 1855, it was originally called Surb Khach (Holy Cross) Church. In 1869 instead of the wooden church they built a new one – Holy Virgin Church.
From Baraleti , to the right of the main highway, you will find two villages: Didi Samsari (Big Samsari) and Patara Samsari (Small Samsari). Here you will find very interesting caves dating back to the 10th century. It`s a cave complex which is in the north-east of Didi Samsari, on the right bank of a small gorge, 2 km west of Mt. Samsari. The river which flows in the gorge rises from the springs 1km south east of the village. In the outskirts of the village and in the village itself there are a lot of monuments. On the right side of the gorge, which stretches along the north-eastern skirts of the village, in the cliffs you can find a lot of caves. The biggest of them is a cave church, which is located 50-60 m away from the river, on the right bank, in the glen of Patara Samsari. It is a rectangular three-nave domed basilica, which has passages leading to it, even secret ones. Between the river and the cave complex there are some rocks. Besides the church there is also a chapel here. As for the caves, there are big and small ones connected to each other with long narrow passages that go up and down, and sometimes stretch to different sides, thus opening up new passages. The height of the caves varies and in some places you will have to bend down. Inside the caves are clean and the air density is normal.
The way to the lake runs from Baraleti, from where you can get to Lake Tabatskhuri through the villages of Kochio, Alatumani and Bezhano. The village of Moliti is situated right at the lake. The road runs next to the lake and Tabatskhuri is not far away. Tabatskhuri is a drainless mountain lake in the Samtskhe-Javakheti area, Georgia. It is located on the Javakheti Plateau, at the foot of the Trialeti and Samsari Ranges. Lake Tabatskhuri (41°38′27″ с. ш. 43°37′34″ в is situated at the height of 1,991m above sea level and has a volcanic origin. The area of the lake is 14.2 sq.km, it`s 6.5 km long and 4 km wide. The average depth of the lake is 15.5m and its maximal depth is 40.2m. The lake gets its water supplies mainly from underground and drains back under ground. The shores are mostly high and steep, on the foreshore the ground is stony and sand-gravel. The water temperature in August goes up to 24.5 degrees Celsius. The water vegetation is not rich. The freeze-up lasts from December to April.
Lake Tabatskhuri is very beautiful in different seasons. In winter the mountains here are snow white, the sky is blue and clear and the lake is dark blue. The clouds cloak the peaks of the mountains which run along almost the whole shoreline on the opposite side. All the surroundings are already covered in snow by late December and in this season fans of winter sports can ride snowmobiles and go skiing. And a bit later the lake gets frozen over. Four months in a year it is covered with a thick coating of ice, it is frozen over from December to March. Still in winter you can only get to the lake from Akhalkalaki. The distance from Borjomi to Tabatskhuri is 60 km and you can get there from Bakuriani, but only in a warm season. The village of Tabatskhuri is situated on a peninsular which looks like a narrow stripe and blends into the lake very beautifully. It is a very unusual village, with houses built very close to one another. There are two churches here: Surb Karapet Church built in 1843 and Tsiteli Eklesia ( The Red Church) built in the 10th century. The local residents are occupied in farming and cattle raising. In spring and summer various plants bloom and the shore land gets covered in rich vegetation and flowers. The mountains look completely different; there are fields and woods around. The scenery round the lake is so beautiful that it could become a subject of a picturesque painting. Here you can stay to enjoy the panoramic view, walk along the shoreline, take lots of bright photos, go fishing and have a rest amid the picturesque countryside. Don`t forget to take a comfortable and waterproof outfit. Lake Tabatskhuri is one of the deepest lakes in Georgia, it is rather cold and you can have a swim in it in summer only. Fishing is more popular here.

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