2nd December 2019
Lying at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, Georgia has a wealth of beautiful places to visit, friendly locals and fantastic cuisine to taste. Considered to be one of the most beautiful countries in the world, you’ll find yourself marveling at the breathtaking snow-covered mountains, its historical sites and the glittering waters of the Black Sea.
With so much to see, do and taste, we’ve highlighted the best places to visit in Georgia, so without further ado:
Tbilisi, the capital city of Georgia is a lively, charming city, built along the twisting valley of the river Mtkvari, and was for centuries one of the greatest multicultural trading cities along the Silk Road. Elegant 19th century buildings line its leafy boulevards and in the old town, wooden houses with carved overhanging balconies hug the mountainside. Georgians are famed for their hospitality; love of good food and wine and Tbilisi has many good restaurants where you can sample the local cuisine.
Travelling through the high mountain villages of Svaneti, the spirit of knighthood preserved here for centuries comes alive. Deep river gorges, narrow paths, house-towers, tiny, swift Caucasian horses, wild horsemen, folk bards, mystical rituals, cults of fire, spirits and ancient fairy tales here harmoniously blend.
This land is unique in terms of beautiful landscapes, remote traditions, superb architecture of Svan house-towers, churches richly decorated with mural painting and hospitable people. It was here that most of Colchis gold was obtained. For centuries the Svan ethnic group evolved there, cut off from the outside world by the high and inaccessible mountains, their culture preserved almost intact. In earlier centuries, Svaneti was a recognized part of the Kingdom of Colchis.
Kvareli is a small town located in the northeast of the famed wine region of Kakheti, located near the southern foothills of the stunning Greater Caucasus Mountains. Although set in the heart of the wine region, Kvareli also offers some beautiful scenery and fascinating history, and is a fantastic place to visit in Georgia to enjoy one of the country’s best areas for food and wine, before or after exploring the magnificent Caucasus mountains.
Stepantsminda town, commonly known as Kazbegi, sits in the shadow of Mount Kazbegi (5047m), and is one of the most picturesque places in Eurasia. From here you can do some fabulous walks up to the Gergeti Trinity Church, into the Truso Gorge or further up the Georgian Military Highway to see the Dariali Gorge and the border with Russia, made famous by Lermentov's classic novel 'Hero of Our Time'. Or, you can travel east, up to Juta and from there head over the 3,300m Abdularie Pass and down into Khevsureti.
This is where the true beauty and culture of rural Georgia kicks in, where hospitality is the creed and a laid-back way of life the norm. For most people, a journey up into the mountains represents the highlight of their trip.
Telavi, a country town with a population of around 28,000 is the capital of Kakheti, the main wine growing region of Georgia. There are two good reasons for visiting this area, the old churches in the pleasant and green countryside, and the wine.
The Kakhetians are known for their conviviality and rare is the visitor who can stay sober for long. The main sight in the town centre is the palace of Herekle built in the 18th century. Its grounds now house a history museum, art gallery, the royal church of Herekle and the remains of a basilica.
This 12th century medieval cave city was originally set up as a fort by King Giorgi III. It was when his daughter, Queen Tamar, built a monastery here that its purpose changed from military to religious, and helped it grow into a city of 50,000 people.
It is said that Queen Tamar was responsible for naming the place. While out hunting with her father, she became separated from the main group and it was only after one of the soldiers heard her call 'Ak var dzia' (I am here) that she was found. Climbing over 13 stories and stretching for more than a kilometer, the site is packed with churches, homes, theatres and shops and represents one of the highlights of a trip to Georgia.
Just 47km yet a two-hour drive from Mestia is the remote village of Ushguli and at 2100m it is reputedly the highest inhabited village in Europe. The harsh winters cut it off from the rest of the country each year, so the inhabitants are a hardy people. The village has been a UNESCO World Heritage site listed for its 20 Svan towers, including one which belonged to Queen Tamar. The mountains surrounding provide some fine walks, especially around Mt Shkara, Georgia's highest peak.
One of our favorite places to visit in Georgia is Uplistsikhe. This fascinating cave town is one of the oldest settlements in Georgia. It was inhabited for the first time in the Bronze Age around 1000BC but developed mainly in the 6th to 1st century BC.
As the main Asia-to-Europe caravan trade route passed by along the Mtkvari River it was also a major centre on the Silk Road and, before Christianity was brought to Georgia in the 4th century AD, a special site for pagan worship. At the complex there is a theatre, pharmacy, bar and wine shop, temples and a multitude of homes. At its peak 20,000 people lived here.
Located on the northern slopes of the Greater Caucasus Mountains, Tusheti is one of the most beautiful parts of one of the most beautiful countries in Europe.
Bordered by the Russian republics of Chechnya and Dagestan to the north and east and by the Georgian historic provinces Kakheti and Khevsureti to the south and west. It is a remote part of the country, accessed only by one dirt track, and, peppered as it is by tiny picturesque villages, turquoise lakes and primal forests, represents one of the best parts of Europe for walking and horse riding.
With Tusheti being one of the most beautiful parts of Georgia, Omalo is the main village within the valley.
Bordered by the Russian republics of Chechnya and Dagestan to the north and east and by the Georgian historic provinces Kakheti and Khevsureti to the south and west, it is a remote part of the country, accessed only by one dirt track, and, peppered as it is by tiny picturesque villages, turquoise lakes and primal forests, represents one of the best parts of Europe for walking and horse riding. Omalo itself is split between the upper and lower village and is renowned for its spectacular defensive towers.
This highland town is situated in the Caucasus Mountains at an altitude of 1500m. It is the main town and cultural heart of the Svan people. Though their language is different to Georgian, the Svan epitomise all that is Georgian and represent the heart of Georgian culture. Until 1935 the town was completely isolated and today it still feels remote and inaccessible.
Mestia is dominated by stone defensive towers and a collection of unique icons and manuscripts are kept in Mestia Historical-Ethnographic Museum. The town is also a centre of mountaineering tourism and alpinism.
Georgia's second city was the capital of the ancient kingdom of Colchis. It was here, according to legend, that Jason and his Argonauts came to steal the golden fleece. A hilly green city on the banks of the Rioni river, it has numerous interesting churches, in particular Bagrat Cathedral.
Less than 10km from Kutaisi on a beautiful hillside covered with forests is the Gelati Monastery complex. Founded in 1106 by King David the Builder it was intended as a royal monastery and an academy. The tomb of King David and his granddaughter Queen Tamara are located here.
This is a strange place that was at one time obviously quite a town, with pretty boulevards and large townhouses. But, like many other places across the former Soviet Union, it has suffered economically in recent years and many of the back streets now look rather drab. However, Gori does hold fame – or perhaps infamy would be a better word – for being the birthplace of the man many say is to blame for more deaths in the 20th century than any other. Josef Visarionovich Jugashvili – better known as Stalin.
A museum built during Soviet times is in the centre of the town is dedicated to the dictator and on the outskirts of the town the 6th century cave town of Uplistsikhe is worth visiting.
At the southern end of Georgia's Black Sea Coastline lies the seaside resort of Batumi, the capital of the province of Adjara, the warmest and wettest place in Georgia. Under Turkish rule in the 17th Century, Batumi was famous for its slave market, while in the 19th century under the Russians it was a free port.
Today, apart from the commercial port area, there is a wide beachfront, the old town, rundown mansions and wooden houses, shady avenues, parks and outdoor cafes. A pleasant place for a one- or two-night stop. There are some lovely coastal drives outside Batumi, with citrus and tea plantations, and subtropical vegetation.
The capital town of the region, Akhaltsikhe is dominated by the Rabat - castle - dating from the 12th Century and used by the Ottomans in the 17th-19th. The castle is the main draw to the town which has a large Armenian population.
Gudauri lies in the Kazbegi Region, 120km from capital Tbilisi, on the southern slopes of the Greater Caucasus Mountain near the Cross Pass, at the height of 2,196 m. Intersecting the Military Highway it is also Georgia’s premier ski resort.
In ancient times Mtskheta was the capital of Georgia and its most important religious centre. Situated in the heart of the Kartli Region it sits at the confluence of the Mtkvari and Aragvi Rivers and houses some hugely important religious monuments.
The most important among them is the 11th century Sveti-Tskhoveli Cathedral or cathedral of the life tree, which local tradition says houses the robe of Christ. Most of our Wild Frontier trips aim to get here around 11.00 on Sunday morning when a service is going on as the choir’s singing is wonderful.
This idyllic hilltop town has seen a government restoration of the centre and the 4km of city walls and 23 towers. Cobbled streets run between shady squares which are lined by historical buildings making Sighnaghi one of the prettiest towns in the Kakheti region.