Racha is the most beautiful corner of Georgia. It is located on the southern plateau of Central Kavkasioni, between Lechkhumi and Racha mountain uplands, in the area of upper flow of river Rioni. The area of Racha is 2.47 thousand sq. km. It was settled from old Stone Age that is proved by more than single archeological monument. Nowadays a number of Racha dwellers constantly go down – during the last decades its number has shrunk by 1/3. It was established that in summer months, at the expense of seasonal re-emigration, population of Racha increases 5-fold.
Racha is distinguished with diversity of natural conditions. From hypsometry point it is spread on nearly 4 km. In geological structure volcanogenic rocks and chalk limestone prevail. Climate is moderately moist and warm. Average temperature in January is 00–120C, and in July it hovers around +7,60+220C. Volume of precipitation with the increase in height first goes up (from 800 mm to 2000 mm), and in high mountains again goes down. Geological structure and plush precipitation facilitate salinity of underground waters.
Diversity of Racha’s natural environment is in direct link with its landscape variety. In a very short range here, sub-nival and nival landscapes of forests typical for Kolkheti lower and middle uplands morph into forests of Caucasian dark coniferous middle mountain, then switch into a high mountain sub-Alpine and Alpine meadows.
Special recreational function in Racha is held by dark coniferous forests, mineral and thermal springs. Thanks to that local resorts have basically a climate spa purpose.
A spa of Shovi located on 1520 meters above the sea level is noted with inimitable landscapes and mineral springs. The average temperature here in July does not top +160C that is especially important in summertime recreational season. In the vicinity of the spa there are several flowing springs of mineral water (hydrocarbon sodium and potassium mineral water) which are known among the local residents as sour waters. Shovi waters are effectively used to treat bile and urine ducts, while air rich with phytoncides cures respiratory organs.
Resort Utsera is situated on the bank of river Rioni, 1050 meters above the sea level. July temperature attains +170C, and annual precipitation volume is 1400 mm. Here flows water of two types of salinity. Hydrocarbon sodium and potassium water treats liver and alimentary tract diseases, and water with low salinity is used for baths.
Nikortsminda is a dome cathedral in Racha, 16 km from Ambrolauri, in the hamlet of Nikortsminda. Cathedral of St. Nicholas of the Racha Eparchy (XI-XIX cc.) according to the donator inscription on the western gate was built by the first king of unified Georgia, Bagrat III in 1010-1014. The southern and western gates were attached in XI century. In 1534 cathedral was refurbished by Imereti king, Bagrat III (1510-1565). Three-story bell tower of Nikortsminda was built in the second half of XIX century. Cathedral has the form of a short-sleeved right-angled cross, five apses. Interior has preserved frescos of XVII century. The jacket of the church is decorated with well-processed stone. The 12-window neck of the dome is shaped with arcade. Cathedral is lavishly adorned with rich ornaments. There is a big multi-figure bas-relief with a plot, multi-figure scene (Second Coming of Christ, Transfiguration, Elevation of the Holy Cross), images of Saints, mythical and real zoomorphic figures. Windows have encircled ornamented decoration
Barakoni is one of the last important monuments in Racha belonging to the Middle Age Georgian dome architecture. Cathedral of the Virgin Mary is located near hamlet of Tsesi in Ambrolauri region. On order of Racha ruler, Rostom, it was built in 1753 by Avtandil Shulavreli. Cathedral was built with cut stone and is richly ornamented. Restoration of cathedral was done in 1991 after it received damage because of earthquake.
Khotevi is a village on the northern knee of Racha plateau, 10 km from the town of Ambrolauri, 1000 meters above the sea level. First mentioned in historical sources in ‘Nikortsminda Annals’ (XI c.). Thanks to location on the road connecting Imereti and Lower Racha, Khotevi was an advanced merchant point. Russian ambassadors of XVII century, Aleksi Ievlev and Nikifore Tolchanov, mention Khotevi among towns of the country of Imereti. In XIX century Khotevi was a center of the district of Racha. In the village there are remnants of the church of Archangel and ruins of the fortress of XVI-XVII cc. According to the legend on the name of Khotevi, one of the kings of Imereti relocated here a family of prince Tsulukidze who built a fortress. When construction was finished, a king visited the fortress and asked Tsulukidze: “Is there enough space for you at the fortress?” After that it was named Khotevi Fortress stemming from a pun in Georgian meaning enough space (kho-tevi – enough), later giving this name to the whole village. Fortress is today destroyed. Extant part has emplacements. It used to have a fence. Fortress had two floors. Khotevi fortress used to be very strong and impregnable.
Construction of hydro power plant was launched in the 50-ies of the XX century in the catchment area of river Shaori. Shaori cavity was picked for arranging water supply to HPP. That is how emerged an idea of making a water reservoir in the cavity of a river. Its area is 9,2 sq.km, maximum depth 14,5 m. Other than river water, the reservoir gets its feed from underground waters (including mineral water springs) and powerful underground rivers existing on the surrounding area (Dzrokhistvala, Kvakhetkila, Khvreleti, Chikvaidze Karis Satvale and others). Around the Shaori cavity (area 180 sq.km) there are many karst funnels and wells with the depth hovering from 5-15 m, as well as karst caves with until now unexplored underground halls. From the dam of the reservoir to the village of Nikortsminda there is an underground karst lake. Cavity is surrounded by Nakerala range covered with forests and Satsaliki mount covered with unique groves of beech trees, Caucasus fir-trees and mixed deciduous trees. There are a lot of mushroom species in the forest massif: Caesar’s mushroom, red pine mushroom, chanterelle, russule, milk mushroom. Recently plan of Shaori territory development has been worked out providing construction of tourism and recreational complex on the territory encircling the reservoir.