For far too long, the country of Georgia has flown under the radar, existing as an ‘off the beaten’ track destination and evading most travel itineraries. This, however, is changing – and fast! A Caucasus classic, Georgia has an wealth of treats in store for visitors, who are increasingly able to take advantage of increased aviation links – and a rapidly improving tourist infrastructure – to enjoy the famous hospitality of this special country.
We had an absolute blast here, and can’t wait to come back and get some more exploring under our belts. Here are our 9 top reasons why you must visit Georgia – and visit it now!
1: Wonderful Tbilisi
No visit to Georgia would be complete without spending a good chunk of time in its bustling capital, Tbilisi.
Without exaggeration, this is one of our all-time favourite cities. Visually, it’s a place which will never bore – on one quick taxi journey across town, you could be gazing up at monumental Soviet apartment blocks and then looking out over the domes of Persian-style baths barely a few minutes later. Cast a glimpse further into the distance and you’ll spot the towering ‘Mother Georgia’ statue perched on a mountain top, looking out over her city with a sword in one hand (for her enemies) and a bowl of wine in the other (for her friends).
We know which hand we would prefer…
2: The Spectacular Mountains
The peaks of the Greater Caucasus, one of the great European ranges, provide a natural barrier between Georgia and Russia, and is home to some of the most spectacular mountain scenery you’re likely to find.
Visitors to Georgia can opt to visit Europe’s highest village – Ushguli – at 2,200m above sea level, or take in the classic views of Gergeti Trinity Church superimposed against the immense backdrop of Mount Kazbek.
Mount Kazbek, along with numerous other peaks, provides a great challenge for the adventurous traveller. At over 5,000m, these are serious mountains, with alpine skills and a real stomach for adventure required to reach the summit.
3: Beautiful Beaches & Vertigo-inspiring Valleys
If mountains aren’t quite your scene, then Georgia has a bustling stretch of coastline which makes for a perfect seaside break on the Black Sea.
Batumi is Georgia’s main seaside destination, attracting holidaymakers from all over the country and beyond – including plenty of Russians who will fly in especially to enjoy the beaches and activities on offer.
Away from the beaches, there are plenty more spectacular sights to see – including the Okatse Canyon, with its vertigo-inspiring walkway clinging to the cliff-edge. Not too far away from the heights of the canyon, you can take a trip into the spectacular depths of the Prometheus cave system – a gargantuan network of underground tunnels and halls which is accessible via guided tour.
4: More Mountains…of Food!
Georgian food is one of the first things which springs to mind when explaining to friends and family why this country should be added to any travel bucket list.
Firstly, the sheer quantity of food you’ll be presented with – whether in a restaurant or in someone’s house – is enough to make even a competitive eater feel full! Georgia is well known for its ‘feasts’, and you’ll certainly never go hungry.
If there are two dishes you must try when in Georgia, it’s Khachapuri (a local cheese bread) and Khinkhali (dumplings with a choice of meat or vegetarian filling). These will be served in pretty much all Georgian restaurants, so you won’t need to look far.
5: Unforgettable Wine
Perhaps Georgia’s most famous culinary export is its wine. It may be relatively unknown as a wine region among casual observers, but anyone who knows their stuff will be aware that Georgia has some of the finest vineyards anywhere in the world.
Dozens of tour companies in Tbilisi will offer tours of the vineyards ranging in length from a few hours to several days, the latter demonstrating the quantity of venues to choose from.
It’s not, however, just the vineyards which are producing wine in Georgia. Take a drive through any town in the country, and it’ll feel like almost everyone is growing grapes in their own gardens. Homemade wine is huge here – don’t expect the same taste as a Châteauneuf-du-pape, but there’s something special about trying a wine that was made by your own host.
6: The Warmest Hospitality
Almost inextricably linked to the rich culture of food and drink, Georgian hospitality is simply brilliant. The country is still relatively undiscovered among ‘Western’ tourists, and Georgians have a well-deserved reputation for being generous and warm hosts – regardless of where you have travelled from. There is a huge amount of pride in the notion of taking great care of guests, and this will shine through as you travel through the country.
Expect more great food, drinks and plenty of laughs – regardless of any language barrier!
7: A Colourful History
From ancient cave cities, to churches which have stood for hundreds of years, there is evidence of Georgia’s rich history dotted all over the country.
Closer to home, few countries have gone through a journey as turbulent as Georgia’s over the last 100 years. The town of Gori is infamous as the birthplace of Stalin, whose memory is immortalised in the form of a surreal museum – which includes his death mask, personal train, and childhood home. It feels uncomfortably like a celebration of his life – which does add a certain edge to the experience.
The Soviet legacy is still stark throughout the country, but can be contrasted strongly against the very European-feel to cities like Tbilisi. You can be strolling through flea markets (like the amazing Dry Bridge market), surrounded by locals selling USSR badges, cameras and more, before heading to a cafe for pancakes and an espresso.
8: The Unforgettable Characters
Georgia is full of characters – and we’re not talking about its alphabet (although this is awesome in itself. Seriously – Google it. It’s Lucy’s all-time favourite script). Spend any length of time here, and you’ll soon come across them. It’s the people of Georgia who will turn your trip into an unforgettable one.
Just like our tour guide who took us to Gori, and insisted that we wash down lunch not with water, not even with wine, but with shot after shot of chacha – a potent local spirit.
Or like the gentleman who hosts guests at Tbilisi’s most interesting and bizarre museum – a crumbling homage to Stalin’s old printing press. He’s proud to be the deputy leader of Georgia’s communist party, and runs the museum as a passion project. Just don’t mention the Gulags.
Or even like our hostess in Kutaisi, who – despite a number of questionable comments which bordered on overtly racist – took a liking to us, feeding us so much homemade jam that we nearly missed our flight, and finally bidding us farewell with a tender brush of the face.
9: The Budget-Friendly Prices
There are experiences to be found around every corner in Georgia – and the great news is that you won’t need to break the bank to make the most of your time here. Aside from a hostel, staying in a guest house or apartment in Tbilisi will probably be your most economical choice in the capital – we averaged around £30 a night for private accommodation, which was by no means the cheapest around. In Kutaisi, these costs were halved.
Food and drink is equally well priced (and believe us, you’ll get an absolute ton for your money!), whilst public transport provides an incredibly cheap way to get around. Hiring a private driver is also not going to set you back too much – we found that GoTrip was a brilliant platform for planning a route and getting a price agreed upfront.
All in all, Georgia is right up there at the top of our list of favourite countries. It really does have the lot – coastline, mountains, great food and drink, amazing people and a wealth of history to learn about. It already attracts Russian-speaking tourists in their droves, but with both Tbilisi and Kutaisi airports seeing increased numbers of flights from Western Europe and beyond, we suspect it won’t be too long before the rest of the world catches up. It’s definitely somewhere to visit before the secret gets out!