Georgia has an incredible diverse selection of attractions! If you are looking for an adventure here are some useful tips on what to visit!
Walk around the old town, Dzveli Tbilisi, admire the buildings of various styles! You can see particularly beautiful houses with balconies, reminiscent of the Moorish, Andalusian style houses. The Moors had little to do with Georgia, but the style still took root. The style of the cathedrals is similar, so you can choose the one that will be in your way. For example with its height of 97.5 meters, the Holy Trinity Cathedral is the third tallest Orthodox church in the World.
There is no shortage of viewpoints: you can take the cable car to the statue of Mother of Georgia or you can chose the Narikala Fortress. Opening hours can greatly influence your choice, but there is one important thing to note: the country is safe as a tourist, even after sunset! And as a bonus it is worth taking a stroll to experience the busy nightlife, with street musicians and cheerful youth!
The delicacies of the Georgian cuisine are going to amaze you! There are several varieties of khachapuri and khinkali that you can taste all around the different regions.
For the finest food, the best service, the best wines, and the most cozy interior, you should visit the Margalita restaurant! Looking back to our trip: this was the best food we had. It is worth trying the Adjaruli khachapuri here, it is a cheesy bred with a raw egg on top.
Khinkali is another varied dish: you can find the dumpling with mushroom-coriander, cheese and potato fillings. The other big favourite is the walnut-hazelnut tomato salad! It complements every traditional dish.
The thermal baths hidden under the brick domes offer an outstanding experience. The name T′bili or T′bilisi means ‘warm place’ and the city has received it because of its many thermal baths. Their waters have an average temperature of 38-40 degrees Celsius. If you are used to the waters of the Budapest baths, the Georgians will not disturb you either, but do not go there before a hike! The water is rich in minerals and your body can feel a bit overwhelmed the next day! You can read detailed descriptions, prices, reservations and other useful tips at Emily Lush by clicking here!
Mtskheta is one of the oldest inhabited settlements in Georgia. Located at the confluence of the Aragvi and Mtkvari rivers, it was the capital of Kartli, the eastern part of what is now the country. In 337 Christianity was proclaimed here as the official religion of Georgia, and today it is the centre of the Orthodox Church. Due to its outstanding importance given by its rivers, it was a bridge between the Roman Empire, the Persian Empire, Syria, Palestine and Byzantium.(source)
Two outstanding religious buildings can be visited here, both open at 9.00! Samtavro’s Convent is in the city, while the Jvari Monastery is located on a hill above the city. Both were built on the remains of older churches, the elements of which are mixed. In the case of Jvari Monastery it is believed that St. Nino, the enlightener of Georgia, whom I have already mentioned, prayed on the site, and erected a cross here. That is the reason why the Jvari Monastery was built on this very place.
It is worth noting that while in Romania and Russia Orthodox churches crumble with ornamentation, in Georgia they are characterized by a more puritanical ornamentation. It feels like they express greatness with the grandeur of buildings and interiors.
On the way to Kazbegi
Ananuri Castle and Jinvali Reservoir
The road to Kazbegi will lead along the Jinvali Reservoir. It is worth stopping in the parking lot next to Ananuri Castle, from where there is a beautiful view of the reservoir and you can visit the castle as well.
An interesting sight is the merging of the two branches of the Aragvi River, in a short section the two colored rivers run well separated from each other in the riverbed. I think they are light and dark blue, but the description promises white and black. You will find it here on the map: Aragvi River of Two Colors Viewpoint.
Kazbegi can be reached by following the Georgian military highway. An unmissable stop is the Gudauri viewpoint, built as a symbol of Georgian-Russian friendship. Overlooking the Devil’s Valley and the Jvari Pass, the building’s mosaic stones tell the common Russian-Georgian history, in pictures. It has a metaphorical meaning as well, as not everyone is convinced that both parties honoured their contract to help each other.
Gudauri viewpoint – paragliding
If you are brave enough you can also try paragliding! A 30-minute flight has a price around 65 Euros! In clear weather, the view can be amazing, but due to time constraints, we had to skip this…maybe one day we will be back!
Sulphur Waters near Jvari Pass
Taking advantage of the freedom given by the car, we stopped here, not knowing exactly what we were seeing. The map helped us! The explanation is simple, a river has made its way from the mountain, the water is dissolving the minerals that are slowly building a terrace.
Gergeti Trinity Church
Undoubtedly, the highlight of this trip is the church rising above the mountains! We are at an altitude of 2170 meters. The small church and the bell tower next to it were built in the 14th century. The interior of the church is rich but restrained in decoration.
When we got there, the rain washed away the road, so it was completely closed! It was possible to approach it on an alternative route, but only with 4x4s! The taxis below were already waiting for the tourists to take them up for 40 lari (per person), but since we didn’t have cash, we quickly looked at how far is by foot…
✅ Spontaneous hike to the Gergeti Trinity Church
Distance: 6,5 km
Duration: around 2h
Elevation: 323 m
A 6 kilometers long hike is not scary, so we said goodbye to the taxi drivers. After the first 1 km to the right we saw the signs of a well-marked hiking trail! We also asked two Georgian men on the road for guidance.
The trail can be easily followed, the distance is indicated by direction indicators! You need to be prepared for the variability of the weather in Georgia, and an extra scarf comes in handy when visiting the interiors of the church. The feeling when you arrive is indescribable! The snow-capped mountains on the right, and the church on the left, makes the hike worth it!
Rooms Hotel Kazbegi
It is worth mentioning because the view from the hotel terrace is nice and even the coffee is good after a long journey. However, we left immediately, turning our backs on the crowd. Luckily that extra time was needed to climb the road to Gergeti!
Alternatives to Kazbegi
The elements of the list below were recommended by our dear hosts at the wine tasting! And now we have plenty for another full itinerary.
Our hosts say it offers the same as Mestia, but it is less touristy! The only downside is that it is difficult to reach! Recommended only for experienced drivers, in good weather, with a 4×4 car.
Juta-Chaukhi trail, Chaukhi hágó
Juta region is perfect for hiking! You can choose from easier hiking trails in an area rich in glaciers. Recommended only for experienced drivers, in good weather, with a 4×4 car. It’s good to know that in the post-September period, snow can already be expected in these parts.
Sno: Gigantic Sculptures, castle, chapel
An interesting sight is the sea of sculptures nicknamed the Georgian Easter Islands. You don’t even have to make a big detour if you are interested in these human creations. Click here for the Google Maps data.
Kakheti wine region
Georgia can be divided into several wine regions, perhaps the most beautiful and complex of which is Kakheti. It is believed that the Kakheti region has the best quality soil, which favors the production of high quality and flavoured grapes! Of the 20 ancient wines registered in Georgia, 15 were specific to the Kakheti region. You can read more about wines and wine tasting by clicking here.
Situated on the Wine route, the city is a lookout point to the peaks of the Caucasus and the Alazani Valley. In good weather, the distant snowy peaks are well outlined! And this is the reason why the city was built here in the early 1760s. Its strong castle walls served as a defence mechanism against the invasions of the Dagestan tribes. These castle walls are also nicknamed the Great Wall of Georgia, and Sighnaghi also proudly bears the title of City of Love.
Bodbe Monastery or St. Nino Monastery
There are two churches in the area of the monastery, the smaller, older one, according to legend, was built on the tomb of St. Nino, in the 4th century. Its interior is covered with beautiful frescoes, biblical scenes come to life on its walls. It is strictly forbidden to take a picture here!
The centre of Kutaisi is a small jewellery box and it can be easily explored on foot. Try the restaurants with terraces around the Colchis Fountain. The town will be a great starting point for the adventures ahead!
Bagrati Cathedral and Gelati Monastery
Both are UNESCO World Heritage Sites and are considered to be endangered cultural treasures due to their condition. Bagrati Cathedral was built in the 10th century, at the orders of King Bagrat the 3rd. If you want to see a richly decorated church interior, it is better to head to the Bodbe Monastery of St. Nino.
Okatse és Martvili Canyon
We head to a more touristy way! The two canyons are similar to the Plitvice Lakes in Croatia. Dizzying waterfalls, deep blue water, and water running through spectacular rocks! You have to be prepared for the crowd and for the fact that in most parts you don’t see untouched nature but carefully constructed narrow paths.
Martvili Canyon – alternative
I read Travellina’s post in which she managed to find a more secluded bridge overlooking the canyon!
If you face the ticket office in the parking lot, a gravel road leads up the mountain to the right – you have to get up to the bridge there. Worth it!Source and a big thank you: Travellina
It is definitely worth it! When we found the bridge two Georgian men were talking there, one in a bathing suit, the other in a shepherd’s outfit. The latter showed me some pictures and offered to take us there for 20 lari!
At the bridge, a path leads into the forest on the left. You only have to stay on the path all the way. The view speaks for itself, and the biggest advantage is that there no one! Beautiful turquoise water, small waterfalls, and a slowly flowing river welcomes you here! I think even more beautiful than the fenced part below!
Hot sulphur spring
On the way to Mestia you can stop for a quick bath at the local sulphur spring! And if you are already here, try a local restaurant. The exact location of the spring is available from here!
Recharged and rested we continued on our way to Mestia! It is good to know that there are very few shops and restaurants at this stage, you need to plan ahead! For lunch, we sat in a local restaurant in Taleri, which offers unparalleled views of the Tekhuri River. More photos are available from here.
The name of the place is Tekhura Restaurant and you can click here to get its coordinates! They cook amazingly well, it’s worth trying a local dishes, the owner is more than happy to offer you a couple of choices! We had just finished eating when the storm arrived. The power supply was cut off, so we decided to continue our journey to Mestia!
Alternative sights around Kutaisi
The cave system dotted with huge stalactites and lakes is definitely an unmissable experience for those who love the caves. We skipped this time to have more time in the canyons, but it’s worth mentioning!
Svaneti region: Mestia, Ushguli
The highlight of your trip to Georgia is the Svaneti region! If you only have limited time, don’t skip this by any means!
It’s a lucky coincidence that we left the canyons later than we planned and escorted only the edge of the storm through the mountains! The road in front of us was full of rock debris, huge pieces of rock, landslides, fallen trees! We couldn’t turn back anymore because we didn’t know where the storm would hit again! Luckily, everyone was driving cautiously. Sometimes we asked the oncoming cars if it was possible to get to Mestia, but we always got the affirmative answer.
Jvari-Enguri mountain lake and dam
The road leads along the Jvari-Enguri mountain lake, you can stop at the Enguri dam, click here to get its coordinates! On one side of the road there is a turquoise lake, on the other a steep rocky mountain! Unfortunately, due to bad weather and the risk of a rocks falling down, we didn’t even dare get out of the car. Avoid this road if the weather is bad.
Not far from the Russian border, surrounded by the Caucasus this town is the highlight of a trip to Georgia. The region is named after one of the ethnic minority living here: the Svan tribe. They are still bilingual, speaking Svan along with the Georgian language!
They needed constant protection due to the invasions. However, typical of mountain peoples, the Svan ethnic group also lived scattered around the hills. It was not possible to build a strong line of defence. Instead, each residential house was given a tall, well-defended tower. In case of danger, the family was able to hide there.
The oldest svan towers were built in the 9th century, they are 20-25 meters high and have 4-6 floors. All this without an entrance! At least you can’t meet the usual ground floor entrance, you have to get in through a door placed higher.
Mestia – accommodation
In Mestia it is worth booking accommodation that has its own svan tower! Be prepared that the guest houses are not always accessible, even though the map shows the way! Accommodation will be more easily accessible along the main road. But the more interesting ones are on the hillside on the left!
Accommodation called Larissa is not the easiest to reach as you have to drive up the steep side. However, it has its own car park, so you can leave your 4×4 car nearby. Click here for pictures that will convince you that it’s worth sleeping here. The view is beautiful from the terrace, where you can even relax in a hammock.
Chalaadi Glacier hike
Distance: 6,5 km
Duration: around 2h
Elevation: 333-400 m
The Chalaadi Glacier is the easiest hike if you want to visit a glacier in Georgia. By car you can go to the iron bridge. From Mestia you just have to follow the river passing by the airport, as the Google map shows. The journey will be a bit longer on foot, but you can also book a ride from the city centre’s tourist office.
You can easily walk along the trail, in proper sports shoes. Due to the slow elevation, you won’t even feel those 340 meters, at an average altitude of 1500-1800 meters.
You can safely walk to the bottom of the glacier. Bear in mind that in the summer, when the ice of the glacier melts, huge rocks and pieces of ice fall down from it! A river emerges from under the glacier, sitting on the shore you can hear and see the water rolling down the huge ice blocks!
It is an incredible experience to watch the power of nature up close! Get ready to have enough time for it! It’s worth leaving early so you can be alone.
I mention it because it’s an unmissable sight, but a slightly more difficult hike than the one leading up to the glacier. Due to the shortness of time, and the rain, we preferred to spend more time on the glacier, so we skipped it.
One of the highest inhabited settlements in Europe! The view of the svan towers and the mountains is spectacular. The stones from which the towers and dwellings were built may be familiar from the road leading up here: they use the rocks from the mountains!
Ushguli is almost inaccessible for half a year because the last 20 kilometers of a 40 kilometer long journey is impassable. A 4×4 is essential here as 20 kilometers lead along a rubble road cut into the hillside, which is sometimes crossed by shallow mountain ridges. It’s image is constantly changing, because after every rain the cliffs fall down.
This is one of the most difficult sections, the narrow road. If you are not an experienced driver, don’t try to drive on your own.
Sights in Ushguli:
- Queen Tamar Castle
- St.George Church “JGRag”
- Zagari Pass
From Ushguli two roads lead back to Kutaisi. After the storm the road was almost impassable in the direction of Mestia, on the advice of the locals we set off in the other direction, through the Zagari pass. We were happy with the new route and the hiking opportunities!
In Georgia, it is very easy to befriend locals, and during a conversation, a man promised that only the first 20 kilometers of the road through the Zagari Pass was bad, the rest is “flat.” “Flat” means a flat surface…
Instead of 20 kilometers, 94 was dirt road, without asphalt, because as it turned out, “flat” doesn’t necessarily mean asphalt. We crossed the breath-taking mountains at 10 km/h to Tsageri! And while the journey was tiring, we haven’t seen anything more beautiful than this in Georgia!
Zagari pass – hike
Distance: 18 km
Duration: around 3h
Elevation: 400-500 m
Hiking at an altitude of 2,620 meters is an unforgettable experience! From Ushguli you can approach the valley by following the river. You can also drive here through the valley, all the way up to the Zagari Pass mountain range. For a beautiful view and a close-to-nature experience, you don’t want to skip this!
If you are only interested in the view, you can also reach by 4×4, on the road running on the hillside. The Zagari pass is marked on the map itself, and there is a small Orthodox church next to it.(13 ასურელი მამის ეკლესია).
The most adventurous (and at the same time most dangerous) section is the part after the Zagari pass. Since the rain followed us, we had no chance to turn back, we could only go forward, towards Kutaisi. The road here takes you below the neck-breaking peaks with 4-5000 meters altitude! The Ailama (4,547 m) is clearly visible, with its vast glacier.
If you are not a confident driver, getting around in Georgia can be a challenge. Organised tours can be an amazing alternative to explore the country. Tour descriptions are available in English on the website of VisitGeorgia, and you can request offers for one-day or two-day tours, beside the longer tours listed. Check out this intense hiking tour going on the same route as we did by clicking here!
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