Georgia’s nature is its primary sight. Every location in Georgia--from the urban streets in Tbilisi to rural villages--has amazing views of mountains and amazing access to nature. As such, Georgia is a great country to experience nature without the crowds found in Western Europe or many of America’s and Canada’s national parks.
Svaneti, Racha, and Kazbegi are the best locations for tourists to experience the majesty of the Greater Caucasus Mountains in Georgia without having to forego comfort and convenience. Svaneti and Racha are two mountainous regions located in western Georgia between the occupied regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Mestia and Ambrolauri, Svaneti and Racha’s primary towns, respectively, are reachable via air travel and road from the rest of Georgia. Svaneti is better equipped to handle tourists as that it has more hotels, a newly renovated town center, and more hiking trails; however, Racha as a whole offers unadulterated scenic beauty and generally has fewer tourists than Mestia/Svaneti. Kazbegi is a short drive away from Tbilisi (around 2.5 hours/150 km) and is easily accessible with marshrutkas, taxis, and rental cars. Additionally, the nearby national reserve has extensive pristine mountains for those interested in off-trail hiking.
Tusheti and Lagodekhi are Georgia’s most isolated areas with access available only during warm weather when the roads are clear. These regions have untouched nature for those brave enough to reach them. Both regions have national parks with tourist centers, however, the trail system is not well developed and is intended for experienced trekkers.
Samtskhe-Javakheti is the best location in southern Georgia to see the mountains. The Javakheti National Park has numerous trails for both experienced and recreational hikers. Additionally, this reserve is close to Ninotsminda, making it relatively accessible. As with Tusheti and Lagodekhi, the Javakheti National Park is
Come see the scenic views in Kazbegi
weather-dependent and many of the roads between Akhaltsikhe and Marneuli close during the winter because of snow, making the park inaccessible at times. The Borjomi National Reserve has an extensive and well-developed trail network and is easily reachable from the visitor center which is located in Borjomi. The trails at the Borjomi Nature Reserve range from hikes lasting a few hours to multi-day hikes. Horseback riding is also possible here.
Georgia’s non-mountainous regions are equally beautiful as their mountainous counterparts, especially the Kolkheti Dabloba and Alazani Valley. The Kolkheti Dabloba is located predominantly in the regions of Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti and Imereti. The town of Poti, located in Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti and on the Black Sea coast, has the Kolkheti National Park. This national park has a large lake and marshes for those wanting to get close to nature. Likewise, Imereti has Okatse and Martvili Canyons, which have beautiful waterfalls and offer water sports such as kayaking and canoeing. Additionally, these two parks have hiking trails. Also in the Kolkheti Dabloba are Prometheus and Sataplia Caves.
The Alazani Valley is known for its wine and agriculture. Agro-tourism is doing well in this region, particularly near Telavi and Alverdi, where some of Georgia’s best wineries are located. The Vashlovani Nature Reserve, located near the Georgia-Azerbaijan border, is a good location for camping, fishing, and hiking through one of Georgia’s most unique geographical areas.
Georgia’s Black Sea coast is home to many seaside resorts and is Georgia’s primary summer destination. Batumi is the largest city on the Black Sea and Georgia’s second largest city by population. Batumi’s beach stretches for around 7 km/4 miles, from Batumi’s center to the Batumi Alexander Kartveli International Airport. Between Batumi and Poti are the towns of Kobuleti, Shekvetili, and Ureki, which also have extensive beaches but without the tourists of Batumi.
Enjoy kayaking on this beautiful lake in Rustavi
Georgia’s history starts around 1.8 million years ago, in Dmanisi with Homo erectus georgicus. Dmanisi has an active archeological site with fossils dating back nearly 2 million years. Uplistsikhe is a rock-hewn settlement that was inhabited from the Iron Age to the Middle Age and was a major trade center along the Mtkvari River. Near the city of Batumi is the fortress of Petra, which was a Greco-Roman structure built to protect their colonies along Georgia’s Black Sea coast.
Mtskheta was one of two of Georgia’s ancient capital cities and is one of the oldest continually inhabited cities in the country, dating back to the 5th Century BCE. Much of the city center is renovated, offering guests the chance to see what this medieval city was like. At the center of Mtskheta is Svetitskhoveli Cathedral, one of the holiest sites in Georgian Orthodoxy. The current building is over 1,000 years old and is said to hold the mantle of Christ. The fortifications around the cathedral are in good condition. For those interested in lesser-known places, there is a small castle ruin (Berberi Fortress) a few kilometers north of Mtskheta.
Georgia’s Golden Age lies solidly in the Middle Ages, with its most important churches and sites dating from this period. Kutaisi has many sites dating from Georgia’s medieval Golden Age. Bagrati Cathedral is located on a promontory above the Rioni River in the foothills of the Greater Caucasus Mountains. The cathedral is all that is left of the medieval citadel where the kings of Medieval Georgia once lived, however, some walls of this citadel still exist. Near Kutaisi is Gelati Monastery, which is one of Georgia’s most important monasteries. Davit Aghmashenebeli--the first king of Georgia’s Golden Age--is buried here, and King Tamar-- Georgia’s first and only female king and last of the rulers of Georgia’s Golden Age-- was coronated here. Additionally, this monastery has beautiful examples of Georgian Orthodox artwork on the walls. Motsameta Monastery is also located near Kutaisi and, like Gelati Monastery, is an excellent example of Medieval Georgian architecture.
Jvari Monastery is an exemplary example of historical and cultural Georgian heritage
Georgia has many old fortresses, such as Khertvisi Fortress in Samtskhe-Javakheti
Akhaltsikhe is located in Samtskhe-Javakheti, a region in Georgia’s south. The town center is well-maintained and many of the medieval structures around Rabati Fortress are renovated. Rabati Fortress, which looms over Akhaltsikhe, has also been recently renovated. Vardzia is the largest cave city in Georgia and is located near Akhaltsikhe. Vardzia was a major center for Georgia’s Christian heritage during the Middle Ages. On the way to Vardzia from Akhaltsikhe is Khertvisi Fortress--a small castle dating from this period--which has a newly constructed visitor center.
Sighnaghi is a town in Kakheti which dates back to Georgia’s Golden Age, complete with fortifications, a renovated town center, and views of the Alazani Valley. In Sighnaghi, it is possible to see what a typical town was like during this time. On the road to Sighnaghi is Bodbe Monastery, which is the burial site of St. Nino, the converter of the Georgians to Christianity. Like Sighnaghi, Bodbe rests on a ridge overlooking the Alazani Valley. In the Alazani Valley itself is the city of Telavi, which has many renovated streets in its center and the remains of King Erekle II’s palace. Near Telavi are Alaverdi and Ikalto Monasteries, which are both good locations to see traditional medieval Georgian architecture at is height. These two locations are Georgia’s equivalent of France’s Beauvais Cathedral or England’s Salisbury Cathedral.
Tbilisi is not a city that is full of museums, rather, it is a city to experience everyday life and culture. The city, particularly Historic and Central Tbilisi, is perfect for long, leisurely walks since its streets are generally clean, each neighborhood has a different vibe, and the city is safe to explore. The streets of Historic Tbilisi are lined with old, crumbling, charming buildings with small shops and bakeries.
The area around Metekhi Bridge, the Peace Bridge, and Kote Apkhazi Street have numerous nightclubs and lounges. In the Abanotubani area of the Old Town are the sulphur baths from which the neighborhood and city take their names. Here, it is possible to rent out saunas/bathhouses for groups or to use communal facilities. The Cafe Gallery (a cafe/nightclub) is located on Rustaveli Avenue, just off of First Republic Square. Bassiani Club is located beneath Dinamo Stadium, and is very popular. Aghamshenebeli Avenue also has a large number of bars and lounges.
Tbilisi is full of parks and squares to explore. The most well-known parks are Rike Park, Vake Park, and 9 April Park. Jansugh Kakhidze Garden, located on Aghmashenebeli
Tbilisi has many hidden gems, such as these
statues of traditional Georgian dancers in
Jansugh Kakhidze Garden
Avenue, has many tree-covered benches and a nice fountain. Mtatsminda Park, located on top of Mtatsminda, has a small amusement park for children, a restaurant, and breathtaking views of Tbilisi. The Hippodrome Park in Saburtalo, next to Kakutsa Cholokashvili Highway has wide open spaces and numerous dirt pathways. Lisi Park, which is accessible by bus route 29, has a large lake with a beach, numerous paved and unpathed pathways, cafes, and playgrounds for children.