Kareli is first mentioned as a village in the 1715 documents. It was a property of the Tsitsishvili noble family. It acquired the status of a town under the Soviet government in 1981. Since 1939, it has been an administrative center of the homonymous district. As of the 2002 census, Kareli had a population of approximately 7,200.
Kareli has a humid subtropical climate with moderately cold winters and long warm summers. The town’s environs are a home to several architectural monuments of medieval Georgia such as the churches of Zghuderi, Samtsevrisi, Ruisi, and Kintsvisi, and the fortress of Ortubani (Dzama).