Georgia, which was formerly a part of the Soviet Union, is a destination rich in ancient history, breathtaking scenery, and surprises. It is home to an award-winning wine industry as well as Tbilisi, Georgia’s cool capital with a magnificent Old Town and thriving nightlife.
To top it all off, the Caucasus Mountains provide fantastic hiking and climbing opportunities for anybody eager to explore the outdoors.
Georgia deserves all of the accolades it receives. It is truly jam-packed with activities and attractions and is progressively gaining popularity. My only regret is that I didn’t have more time there (but I suppose that’s just another incentive to go back, right?).
Georgia may not be the most apparent location to visit, but if you want an eclectic destination that is safe, affordable, and full of fantastic food and drink, Georgia is it! I cannot suggest it highly enough.
Here’s a list of some of the top things to see and do in Georgia, in my opinion:
1. Travel to Tbilisi
Georgia’s capital has a population of little more than a million people and is gaining a reputation as a dynamic city with an incredible combination of old and new.
Tbilisi is surrounded by hills, one of which has the remnants of the fourth-century Narikala Fortress. Take the cable car up for spectacular views of the city and the Mtkvari River. And there are colourful window frames, stunning balconies, ornate spiral staircases, and interesting lanes to explore in the restored mediaeval Old Town.
In contrast to this heritage, Tbilisi has a plethora of modern attractions, including the ultramodern bow-shaped Peace Bridge and an increasing number of stylish clubs and restaurants. If you want to dance the night away, go to Bassiani, one of the city’s most prominent nightclubs.
2. Consider a Sulphur Bath.
Tbilisi is famous for its sulphur baths, and natural hot springs rich in minerals that are supposed to alleviate joint pain, arthritis, eczema, and dry skin. They have been a part of the city since its inception and are today a popular sport for both visitors and locals. (There are over 2,000 mineral springs in Georgia, so you can take a spa day outside of Tbilisi as well.)
The Narikala Fortress baths are the best spot to sample this classic Georgian ritual; you can also enjoy a traditional scrub and massage. The baths are simple to find: enormous brick domes rise from the ground and cover the therapeutic waters.
A cheap bath house should cost at least 50 GEL (Georgian lari) (USD 17), while a fancier one should cost at least 100 GEL (USD 34).
3. The Georgia Chronicle
The Chronicle of Georgia, located just outside of Tbilisi, is made up of 16 massive pillars and columns with carved carvings depicting the nation’s history, each of which is over 30 metres tall! Some refer to this as “Georgia’s Stonehenge,” yet it is neither ancient nor magical – the memorial was created in 1985 by a Georgian artist (although it was never finished).
The Chronicle is easily accessible by taking the subway and then walking a short distance. You’ll enjoy a great perspective over the city and the Tbilisi Sea in addition to visiting this odd monument (which is free).
4. Look up Mtskheta.
Mtskheta was Georgia’s ancient capital and is currently renowned as the country’s religious hub. It’s roughly a half-hour drive north of Tbilisi and is home to mediaeval churches and exquisite Middle Ages architecture (some of them are UNESCO World Heritage sites as well). In 2014, the Georgian Orthodox Church proclaimed the entire city a Holy City.
One of the greatest things to do in Mtskheta is to climb to the mountaintop Jvari Monastery, which is well known for being the site where Christianity was established as the official religion in 319 CE. The monastery was founded in the sixth century and has remained virtually untouched since then. Beautiful views of the town and the two rivers that merge in Mtskheta may be had from here.
Don’t forget to pay a visit to the 11th-century Svetitskhoveli Cathedral and the fourth-century Samtavro Monastery.
5. Consume Khachapuri
There are several traditional Georgian meals to taste, but khachapuri is the one that everyone who visits Georgia raves about. It’s simply a cheesy bread with varied toppings and forms, sometimes like a pizza and other times resembling a large bread roll.
Every area of Georgia has its variety, but Adjarian khachapuri is arguably the most well-known. It comes in a boat form and is filled with cheese before being topped with an egg.
Kumari, a huge leavened bread pocket loaded with meat (typically pig or lamb) and veggies, is another popular dish you should try.
6. Pay a visit to the Vardzia Cave Monastery.
The Vardzia Cave Monastery is located in Aspindza in southern Georgia, approximately four hours by road from Tbilisi. It is one of the most well-known monasteries in the country. It is a cave system excavated into the side of Erusheli Mountain that was built in the 11th century. The complex once had 13 stories and about 6,000 residences. These were used to defend the locals from the Mongols, who destroyed the entire region in the 12th century.
After earthquake damage and invasion incursions, there are around three hundred surviving apartments and hallways that may still be accessible today. In addition, the subterranean Church of the Dormition, which houses frescoes representing historical moments of Georgian monarchy, is still standing.
7. Take to the slopes
Georgia is probably not your first choice for a skiing vacation. However, the country is quickly gaining popularity in Europe and Asia as a fun and affordable ski destination, with additional lifts being installed each season. It shares the region’s tallest mountain range and has enough snow in the winter, making it an excellent ski destination. Furthermore, it is far less expensive than many European solutions.
There are currently four major ski resort areas: Gudauri, Mestia, Goderdzi, and Bakuriani. Gudauri, which is approximately a two-hour drive from Tbilisi, even has a ski school with English-speaking instructors. Lift tickets can be purchased for as cheap as 30 GEL (USD 10).
8. Examine the Katskhi Pillar
Visit Katskhi Pillar in western Georgia for a very unusual sight. This massive limestone monolith is a natural tower standing more than 130 feet tall. Katskhi may be reached in a couple of hours from Batumi or three and a half hours from Tbilisi.
But that’s not all: a church complex going back to the seventh century is erected on top of this slender pillar. Until 2015, a monk lived on top, but now monks sleep in the monastery at the bottom — and only monks are permitted to ascend the steel ladder on the side as part of their daily trek to pray in the church. The buildings have recently been renovated, and a tourist centre is in the plans.
9. Go trekking or hiking.
If you enjoy hiking or trekking, Georgia is the place for you. The Caucasus Mountains run over 1,000 kilometres from the Black Sea to the Caspian Sea, so there are several options.
Walking from Mestia to Ushguli is the most popular multi-day journey (4 days). There are enough communities along the road that camping is unnecessary. Unsurprisingly, the landscape along the route is breathtaking.
Because Georgia is a hiker’s paradise, there are hundreds of additional hiking options, so have a look around and discover what sort of walk matches your needs. Omalo to Shatili (5 days), Chaukhi Pass (1-2 days), and Svaneti to Racha are all worthwhile options (a challenging 3-4 days).
10. Try Georgian Wine
Georgia is claimed to have the world’s oldest winemaking tradition. Georgians have been making wine for nearly 8,000 years, so they must be fairly excellent by now. For a distinct flavour, they ferment grapes in qvevri (clay pots buried in the ground). Georgia’s climate is also ideal for winemaking, so it’s no surprise that Georgian wine is beginning to receive worldwide accolades.
Georgia has five major wine areas, with Kakheti in the east being the largest and most visited. Technically, it’s a day trip from Tbilisi, but it demands more than a few hours. If you wish to explore the wineries, choose Sighnaghi or Telavi as your base.
11. explore the Coast
Georgia even offers a beach resort section along the coast if you’re searching for some rest and leisure. Batumi, on the Black Sea, has subtropical temperatures that are ideal for swimming. Summers might also be rather humid.
You may explore at a beach resort in Batumi or go crazy in this region of Georgia (it’s sometimes referred to as the Las Vegas of the Black Sea). The region includes some interesting architecture and a lot of casinos, but it also features the massive Batumi Botanical Gardens, which has one of the most diversified flora collections in any botanical park.
12. Pay a visit to Gergeti Trinity Church.
This church, built in the 14th century on Mount Kazbek, is located about 2,200 metres above sea level and draws visitors from all across the country. It’s one of Georgia’s most attractive sites, with breathtaking vistas of the mountain range (which you’ve seen on Instagram).
While you may visit on a day trip from Tbilisi, staying overnight in Stepantsminda is a preferable option. Either way, you may visit the church early in the morning (when the light is best for photography) and avoid the tourist throngs that will ultimately arrive from the capital.
13. Gareja’s Caves
This Georgian Orthodox structure, on the border with Azerbaijan, goes back to the sixth century. Hundreds of modest apartments, chapels, cathedrals, and monastic dwelling quarters have been cut into the rock face.
The monastery withstood Mongol and Persian raids but was closed down and utilised for military training during the Soviet administration (which caused a lot of damage to the buildings).
Today, the complex may be seen on a day excursion from Tbilisi. The bus journey takes about three hours and costs 25 GEL (USD 9).
14. Go to Gori
Joseph Stalin, the cruel Soviet tyrant, was born in Gori. The popular Stalin Museum is located 90 minutes from Tbilisi and has many relics (including the wooden cabin where he was born) and information about his life – all of it sanitised and slanted, of course.
There’s also a World War II museum here that concentrates on the Red Army’s successes, as well as Gori Fortress, a 17th-century stronghold with a panoramic perspective of the region.
Although it is near enough to Tbilisi for a day excursion, you may remain in this little city of 50,000 for a day or two to get away from the throng.
15. Go Outside in Svaneti
This is one of the most gorgeous parts of the country. Tucked away in Georgia’s northern region, you’ll find several little towns and fantastic hiking. There are also many UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the vicinity, including 12th-century watchtowers. The Caucasus Mountains will also surround you, providing both a scenic backdrop and breathtaking vistas.
Stay at Mestia, a little community of fewer than 2,000 inhabitants, and explore the surrounding area by foot or by automobile. You’ll also discover some of the greatest cheese in the country, prepared using ancient methods that the Svans have preserved alive (an ethnic subgroup). The location is one of Georgia’s most isolated regions; visit before the visitors arrive.
This list only touches the surface of what Georgia has to offer in terms of wonderful things to see and do. There are hundreds more historical monuments, monasteries, caverns, and castles to visit, as well as a plethora of breathtaking landscapes to explore. (The country is also relatively safe.)
Whether you have a few days to appreciate Tbilisi and its surroundings or a few weeks to explore more of rural Georgia, you will not be disappointed!