Racha-Lechkhumi

Racha-Lechkhumi and Kvemo Svaneti is a region in northwestern Georgia which includes the historical provinces of Racha, Lechkhumi and Kvemo Svaneti (i.e., Lower Svaneti). It covers an area of 4,954 km² and has a population of 50,969 (2002 census). It is the most sparsely populated region in the country. The capital is Ambrolauri.

Georgians tend to joke about the Rachvelis,. They like to make fun of them for being slow, a bit simple and so on.

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 intrepid travelers, the small town of Lentekhi marks the start of an amazing mountain road, o the hidden world of Upper Svaneti, and Ushguli - Europe’s highest village.

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 its 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.

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. This is just one more reason to come to Racha.