Gremi Fortress, Kakheti

Gremi Fortress, Kakheti

The Gremi Fortress, dating back to the mid-16th century, towers over the endless Alazani Valley from its hilltop perch. It draws thousands of tourists from across the globe each year, eager to marvel at its architectural splendor. Gremi isn't just a highlight of Kakheti; it's a contender for the most impressive castle in the country, rivaling even the famed Ananuri fortress.

Once, a bustling city of over 100,000 people thrived at the citadel's base. This city was a hive of activity with its trade quarters, royal residence, and the Church of the Archangels Michael and Gabriel. Positioned on the Great Silk Road, it quickly grew into a vital trading hub, bustling with markets, baths, caravanserais, wine storages, and food warehouses. The streets were alive with traders peddling food and goods, while local artisans offered everything from daily necessities to rare finds.

But peace didn't last. In the early 17th century, Persian Shah Abbas I's forces wiped Gremi off the map, leaving only the citadel and church standing as silent witnesses to its former glory.

Today, the Gremi architectural complex includes not only the Church of the Archangels Michael and Gabriel but also a bell tower, a grand three-story palace, and a marani for wine storage. The church, adorned with frescoes in 1577, houses the tomb of King Levan, under whose rule Gremi flourished as the capital of Kakheti. There's even a museum beside the bell tower.

For the best views, make your way up the tower stairs. The panoramic vista of the mountain-encircled valley is truly a sight to behold, making Gremi a must-visit for anyone exploring this part of Georgia.