Georgia is one of the most exciting, diverse, and culturally and historically significant countries in the world. Set between the Caucasus Mountains, the Black Sea and the Caspian, Georgia sits at the crossroads between Europe and Asia. This prime position lead to the ancient trade route known as the Great Silk Road and many invasion attempts over the years. Today, Georgia is a cultural hub with a captivating energy. Those who visit, may never want to leave. Especially after meeting the welcoming locals and sampling Georgia’s tomatoes (the BEST tomatoes in the world).
1. Discover the beauty of old and new Tbilisi
Tbilisi is the cosmopolitan capital of Georgia. The city is a blend of traditional and modern architecture with dramatic landscapes, picturesque Old Town, and a vibrant culture and people.
The Old Town
The Old Town seems more like a collection of smaller ‘old towns’ close together. Each of the historic districts of the Old Town have their own charm. Wander through a labyrinth of narrow streets, discover doorways that lead to hidden courtyards, and unravel the secrets of Tbilisi. Visit Meidan Square, the sulphur bath houses built on naturally occurring hot springs, Art Nouveau district of Sololaki, and the neoclassical mansions of Mtatsminda.
The New Town
The newer, more modern cultural heart of the city is found across the river from the Old Town. Night is when this area really comes alive. With plenty of bars, restaurants and clubs to hop between, the nights here are an exciting experience. The best place in the city to have a local beer or glass of wine is Fabrika. This former soviet sewing factory, now multi-functional urban space, is a hotspot for creativity and innovation.
2. Drink at the birthplace of wine
You’ve heard of French, Italian, Californian, and Australian wines but what about Georgian? Georgia is actually the world’s oldest wine region. With more than 8,000 years of winemaking, Georgia’s winemaking technique is one steeped in tradition. In fact, the technique known as Kvevri has been added to the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage list. They use more than 500 endemic grape varieties, including endangered vines found only in Georgia, to produce their wines.
And what’s more, you can visit the winemaking region of Kakheti, about two hours outside Tbilisi, to sample it from the source. Head for the Alaverdi Monastery, in the Kakheti region. The monastery produces its own wine and is the second tallest religious building in Georgia.
3. Tap into your spirituality (or curiosity) at Georgia‘s monasteries
Many of Georgia’s historic monasteries were built in isolated locations to avoid invasion and religious persecution. Today, these monasteries are considered some of the most exciting and beautiful in the world.
Vardzia Monastery, Southern Georgia
This monastery was built directly into the mountain in 1180, during the Mongol invasion. Queen Tamar wanted a sanctuary unknown to her enemies and commissioned the monastery. You can explore most of the monastery, its meditation rooms, and remaining artwork.
Katskhi Pillar Monastery, Imereti region
Built on top of a 40-metre-high narrow limestone rock, Katskhi Pillar Monastery is one of the most beautiful and surreal monasteries in the region. It’s still a working monastery, and you can visit it. However, to reach its doors, you’ll need to scale some pretty steep stairs. Make sure you are mentally and physically prepared. Katskhi Pillar Monastery is well worth the effort.
Jvari Monastery, Mtskheta
Jvari Monastery is a is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Originally built in the 6th century, the monastery sits atop a mountain overlooking the city of Mtskheta (Georgia’s former capital). The monastery was built over a former pagan temple that was believed to perform miracles.
Kazbegi Gergeti Monastery, Gergeti
This spectacular monastery is located at the foot of Mount Kazbek, near Stepantsminda. It was built int he 14th century on the Alpine meadows, 2,200 metres above sea level. This monastery is so beautiful, it’s image and surrounding landscape have been used to show off the beauty of the South Caucasus region.
David Gareja Monastery, Kakheti region
This is another of Georgia’s cave monasteries. Unfortunately, this monastery has seen much destruction since it was built in the 6th century. Thankfully it has been rebuilt over the years, and this ancient monastery complex is one of the most remarkable historical sites in Georgia.
The Gelati Monastery, Imereti region
The Gelati Monastery is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Built during the Georgian Golden Age, the monastery features impressive 12th-century murals and mosaics. The Gelati Monastery is one of the largest medieval Orthodox monasteries. It was also a centre for science and education, and was one of the most important centres of culture in ancient Georgia.
4. Go caving and canyon exploring
The Martvili Canyon, Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti region
The canyon was once a bath place for Georgian noble family, the Dadiani. Visitors can explore Dadianis’ Path, mountain river gorge, limestone natural bridges, and waterfalls on foot or by boat. It is a breathtaking experience.
The Okatse Canyon, Imereti region
Okatse Canyon is one of the most picturesque sights in the Kutaisi area. It measures about 16 kilometres in its length, its width ranges from 10 to 15 metres, while its depth is about 50 metres. Once a little-known and hard-to-reach place, Okatse Canyon is one of the most popular destinations for a day trip. This is all thanks to a suspension bridge built over the gorge, showing off the incredible scenery. There are lots of waterfalls in the area you can visit, as well as the Prometheus Cave.
The Prometheus Cave, Imereti region
Legend has it that Prometheus the Titan, was tasked with creating people. He went on to steal fire from the god Zeus to give it to the people. As a result, Zeus took Prometheus to the Caucasus Mountains and chained him to a rock with unbreakable bonds. Supposedly this cave is the cave Prometheus was chained to. Whether the legend is true or not, there is a wonderful array of stalactites, stalagmites, petrified waterfalls, cave pearls, underground rivers, and lakes, waiting to be discovered.
5. See palaces and historical monuments
Ananuri Fortress, Mtskheta-Mtianeti Region
The Ananuri Fortress is lucky to be standing today, as it was once the staging grounds of numerous battles that Georgians both won and lost. Today, the 17th century fortress complex, set by turquoise waters of the Aragvi River, is peaceful. Ananuri Fortress showcases Georgia’s diverse blend of architectural influence. The fortress complex features classical Greco-Roman, Byzantine, and Persian Empires architectural styles namely due to its proximity to the ancient Silk Road trade route.
Rabati Castle, Akhaltsikhe
Located in Akhaltsikhe, on the banks of the river Potskhovi is the stunning medieval fortress Rabati Castle. The castle fortress was built on a high hill and is visible from any point of the city. Rabati Castle has seen its fair share of invasions over the years, which have caused repeated destruction. Thankfully, the castle has been rebuilt each time it has faced destruction. One of the most incredible aspects of this castle fortress is that inside the fortress, not only is there a palace, museum and citadel but there is one mosque, one minaret, one synagogue and one Christian church. The site is a blend of history, religion and incredible architecture.
Dadiani Summer Palace, Zugdidi
The Dadiani Palaces History and Architecture Museum is considered one of the most eminent palaces in Caucasus. It belonged to the governor of the region of Samegrelo, Davi Dadiani. The Dadiani Palaces are now a museum preserving the history and culture of the site and Georgia. It houses more than 41, 000 pieces in Georgian and foreign art, historic documents and golden and silver treasures. Coin collectors and admirers will particularly like the museums collection of Byzantian, Kolkhidian, Romanian, Russian, Polish and Hungarian coins.
6. Climb a mountain or two
The best time to enjoy hiking in Georgia is in late spring and early summer. Outside this, there can be melting snow, occasional landslides and intense summer heat – no one wants that on a beautiful hike. There is no shortage of mountain trails and hikes in Georgia. Choosing one can be tough. To make it easier, here are our favourites:
For a relatively easy day trip, Truso Valley is the place to be. Surround yourself by nature, travertine formations, and ancient towers and abandoned settlements. The near-deserted valley is very peaceful. The journey is approximately six hours return from Kvenmo Okrokana village to the Zakagori Fortress.
Udziro Lake, Racha
Love a view that takes your breath away? Head form the stunning Alpine Udziro Lake. The lake, whose name means ‘without bottom’, offers panoramic views of the Caucasus. This two-day hike is one for more experienced climbers with its steep ascent. No matter how steep, when you reach the top you’ll quickly realise the views are definitely worth the burning leg pain.
Black Rock Lake, Lagodekhi National Park
Nature lovers unite… the hike to Black Rock Lake is simply sublime. Follow the walking trails in Georgia’s oldest protected park. Across roughly three-days, you’ll be able to explore the glacial lakes, waterfalls, and lush valleys of the forest. You might even come across the forest’s incredible wildlife, which include red deer, Eurasian lynx, grey wolf, brown bears and eagles.
7. Relax in the sea, sulphur baths or spa town
Black Sea, Batumi
The Black Sea is a bit of a trek from Tbilisi, but you’d be hard pressed to find a person who didn’t think a trip to the Black Sea was worth the journey. About four hours by train from Tbilisi, is the city of Batumi and the Black Sea. The city boasts a stunning historic old town, modern architecture and incredible surrounding natural beauty. You can walk along the seven-kilometre-long waterfront promenade in Batumi, or take to the waters. One of the most incredible things about the black sea is its salt levels, and its ability to make you float.
Sulphur Baths, Tbilisi
According to Georgians, you can cure a hangover with a sulphur bath and soup. And as far as hangover cures go, that sounds pretty good. Because of this, there are dozens of sulphur baths to choose from, particularly in the Abanotubani district. Enjoy the Zen atmosphere, hot water, massages and scrubs on offer.
The Spa Town of Borjomi
A whole town dedicated to spas? Yes, please. Borjomi is a beautiful resort town found in the Lesser Caucasus. The natural mineral springs in the region offer are said to have healing powers. So, it comes as no surprise that a whole resort town has been built around this idea. Pre-or-post spa, you can take to nature by hiking through the Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park.
For more personalised information tips and advice, or to book this incredible holiday contact your local TravelManagers’ personal travel manager here.