My first Georgia trip, back in 2011, changed my travelling forever. It was the first country in former USSR I’ve ever been to, the first of the (then) unknown destinations I’ve decided to visit.
My trip happened shortly after the war with Russia, before the low-cost airlines started flying there and before Georgia got into the radar of mass tourism. I didn’t know what to expect from the place and I was even reconsidering my decision to visit Georgia as I felt I’m not ready for such an adventurous solo trip.
But I went, full of fear, and it turned out to be the best trip ever. I felt in love with Georgia right away and since then I’ve been visiting Georgia over and over again., it’s been over 10 times now. Even if the tourism in the country has changed recently, not in the best way, I still enjoy every single trip to Georgia and whenever I see cheap flights I can’t resist and book them.
Table of contents
- 1 Reasons to visit Georgia
- 1.1 Georgian food is the best
- 1.2 Beautiful, diverse landscape
- 1.3 Long and turbulent history
- 1.4 Excellent wine
- 1.5 Hospitable people
- 1.6 Vibrant cities
- 1.7 Interesting abandoned spaces
- 1.8 Great Soviet architecture: concrete + mosaics
- 1.9 The hipster place to be
- 1.10 Perfect adventure destination
- 1.11 Interesting monuments
- 1.12 Religion
- 1.13 Georgia is safe
- 1.14 Affordable prices
- 1.15 Visit Georgia before it’s too late
- 2 Visit Georgia – practical information
Reasons to visit Georgia
There are so many reasons why Georgia is among my favorite countries and why you should visit Georgia too. From delicious food to hospitable people, from incredible landscape to vibrant cities – Georgia has it all! It’s one of these countries where, within a short span of time, you can swim in the Black Sea, go skiing in the Caucasus mountains and in between enjoy a bustling city life.
If you’re still wondering if you should visit Georgia or not below are some convincing reasons why yes, it’s an excellent idea!
Georgian food is the best
Georgian food is hands down the best. This already is a solid reason why I keep returning to Georgia. We do have few Georgian restaurants and bakeries here in Warsaw too that I visit frequently but it’s still not as good as in Georgia.
The best thing about the local cuisine is that, even if there are numerous meat dishes, vegetarians will be really happy there too. I know I am! I start each visit in Georgia with a real feast and the goodies I’m always most looking forward to are badrijani (fried eggplant with walnut sauce), khachapuri (cheese-bread), lobio (very thick bean soup), khinkhali (dumplings), ajapsandali (vegetable stew) and few more.
But my absolutely favorite food in Georgia is just a simple salad made from cucumbers and tomatoes. It’s a pure heaven, the ingredients are so fresh, so crispy like nowhere else. Just writing this made me miss Georgian food!
Beautiful, diverse landscape
Georgian landscape is breathtaking and there is no exaggeration in this statement. It’s a relatively small country but offer so much: Black Sea beaches (mostly full of stones but still decent enough to spend some relaxing time at), high Caucasus and lower lush mountains, incredible caves, green valleys and more. I don’t think there is a boring part of Georgia, everywhere you go you will be in awe of the amazing landscape around you.
Long and turbulent history
The area of Georgia was an important place already in the ancient world (then it was known as Colchis and Kingdom of Iberia) and for centuries it has been a strong an independent country. The peak of prosperity happened between 11th and 13th century, especially when Queen Tamar ruled the country (until today she is a role model of many Georgian women but then how many badass queens you know from the history?).
Since the end of the 18th century Georgia was under the Russian rule, it was also part of the Soviet Union (btw, did you know that Stalin was born in Gori, Georgia and his full name was Ioseb Besarionis dze Jughashvili?).
On April 9th 1991 Georgia regained its independence but that’s when the turbulent history has started again – if you follow world’s news you might remember the civil war or the 2008 short war with Russia. Now finally the peace and stability came to Georgia.
While everyone is raving about wines from such exotic destinations like New Zealand, South Africa or Argentina it’s Georgian wine that deserves the attention. Not only it’s really good, it also has a long history. Did you know that the wine was produced in the area already in the 6th century BC (however the oldest winery in the world can be found in the neighboring Armenia)?
These days the main region to taste Georgian wine is Kakheti in the eastern part of the country, 75% of the production comes from there. What’s more you can get an excellent homemade wine just about everywhere, you can buy it in the restaurants or at local markets where they are sold in the Coca-Cola bottles (it’s actually part of the charm of the markets).
Georgian people are among the nicest and most hospitable I’ve ever met. Even if over the years tourism has ruined the encounters a bit and now scams happen more and more often I still think very highly of local people. During my first trip to Georgia I could have experienced some incredible hospitality, including the famous kidnapping when locals didn’t take no for an answer, invited me to their homes and feed me delicious food. Fortunately I was prepared and had some small souvenirs from Poland with me so I could at least pay back this way.
Now I still keep meeting nice people everywhere around who do their best to welcome me in their country. Just a small hint: if you decide to visit Georgia try to learn at least some basic Russian as it helps tremendously when talking to the locals, especially older generation.
You should go to Tbilisi to see beautiful yet crumbling capital with numerous attractions that will keep you occupied for at least 2-3 days. Old Tbilisi, the main touristic spot, looks like from a fairy tale really!
Batumi, the seaside resort, is more than just the beach and funky architecture. The city has a charming old town, amazing botanical garden, some good street art around and lush mountains surrounding the city.
Kutaisi is often overlooked by tourists but second biggest city in Georgia is worth your time too, it’s such a pleasant and offbeat destination. These cities are a perfect example than Georgia is more than its beautiful nature.
Interesting abandoned spaces
If you’re fan of abandoned places and would like to visit places like Chernobyl (or maybe you’ve already been there) then Georgia might be an interesting destination for you. Due to the recent conflicts and weak economy there are numerous places that once, in full glory, were impressing masses and now are decaying, forgotten by many.
The perfect example here is Tskaltubo, a former spa town located just a short ride away from Kutaisi. Back in the golden times even Stalin used to come here for the treatment, now the fancy sanatoriums, a stunning example of Soviet architecture, are either abandoned or home to IDPs from Abkhazia. You can even find lots of old abandoned houses in the Old Tbilisi and even if they are slowly being renovated it still breaks my heart to see how damaged some of the beautiful houses are. But on the other hand they are part of Old Tbilisi’s charm…
Great Soviet architecture: concrete + mosaics
There are not too many fans of Soviet architecture but for those who admire it (and I’m one of them) Georgia is like a big playground. During my last visit in Tbilisi I spent the whole day chasing Soviet architecture and mosaics and I’ve seen only a small part of what I was hoping for.
I bet you’ve seen the building that looks like the real life Tetris – that’s The Bank of Georgia headquarters (former Soviet Ministry of Roads) located in Tbilisi, a real gem of brutalism architecture. But there are many more concrete wonders around. If you like colorful Soviet mosaics you will find plenty of them around too, including in one of the Tbilisi hotspots – Fabrika.
The hipster place to be
Speaking of Fabrika – you might not expect it but Tbilisi is one of the most hipster cities you will see in Europe (and definitely in the former Soviet Union) and Fabrika is the heart of it. A former sewing factory is now full of cafes/bars, start-ups and artists’ studios. But that’s not the only place where you will find cool and funky places, they are spread all over the city.
Young Georgians are stylish and with a great taste, looking at them makes me often feel jealous as I’m far from being fashionable. I can’t decide which city is more hipster-ish, Kiev or Tbilisi. If you like alterative spots include Tbilisi in your bucket list!
Perfect adventure destination
Thanks to diverse landscape Georgia can be a great destination for adventure lovers. You can go skiing here in Gudauri, climb Mt. Kazbek (5047 meters above the sea level), go horseback riding in numerous valleys or paragliding in Caucasus mountains. Even such a random thing like riding a cable car can be thrilling when you do it in Chiatura where cars remember 1950s and are called “moving coffins”.
Don’t forget about Georgian drivers who are a bit crazy and you say good bye to your life every second marshrutka ride. Georgia is full of adventures!
Georgia might not be too big on monuments (minus churches but more about them later) but those you can find around are surely impressive. Some of the best monuments in Georgia include fortresses (like the one in Tbilisi or Gori) and castles (Ananuri, Rabati) as well as incredible cave towns like Uplistsikhe or Vardzia.
There are also some random monuments in the middle of nowhere – when you travel to Kazbegi you will spot on your left side a concrete monument of Georgian-Russian friendship that is located in the most random place ever, on the side of the road, surrounded by beautiful Caucasus mountains.
Georgia is the second country in the world, after Armenia, that took Christianity as a state religion, in the 4th century. All over the country you will find beautiful and one of a kind churches, some of them as old as from the 6th century (like the one in Mtskheta, the “holy city” of Georgia).
Georgian monasteries have a distinctive shape, you will recognize them everywhere (only Armenian churches are very similar but more round) with their raw architecture. However as soon as you go inside your jaw might drop a bit after seeing the beautiful old paintings. If you’re lucky you can even witness a magical play of light pouring in through the small windows.
Georgia is safe
I remember how afraid I was of visiting Georgia prior my first trip – already on my first day I learnt that there is nothing really to worry about, it’s just a regular country and besides using the common sense like everywhere else there are no extra safety precautions you should take.
Of course crime happens there, like in numerous other places around the world, but if you’re worrying about Georgia safety you can stop now. The biggest risk there is travelling around as Georgian drivers are just crazy!
The good thing about travelling to Georgia is that it won’t drain your wallet. Everything is very affordable in comparison to Western European standards. 1 lari is currently around $0,38 or €0,33.
To give you some examples of prices: marshrutka from Kutaisi city to Tbilisi is 10 lari for over 3 hours journey (230kms), metro ride in Tbilisi costs 0,50 lari, you can get khachapuri in the bakery for 2-3 lari, lunch for even as little as 10-15 lari and a decent accommodation for 50 lari/night.
If you’re looking for a low-cost destination that offers good standard for little price Georgia is your answer!
Visit Georgia before it’s too late
Even if there are more and more tourists visiting Georgia each year (it was on the fourth place of the UNWTO’s 2018 list of fastest growing tourism destinations) the country still is a bit undiscovered. While most of the tourists focus on the highlights and visit Georgia in the summer time you should travel there in the off season when everything is much calmer and nicer.
It’s a matter of time when tourists will really overflow Georgia and the country will change forever so now is the best time to go, before it’s too late!
Visit Georgia – practical information
How to get to Georgia
There are three international airports in Tbilisi, Kutaisi and Batumi – most likely you will fly into the second one as it serves low-cost airlines from numerous destinations all over Europe and offers really good prices. I always search for flights at SkyScanner – click here to find your own flights to Georgia!
If you do arrive to Kutaisi airport there is no need to worry about getting out from there – a local company Georgian Bus has shuttle buses to Tbilisi, Batumi and Kutaisi, connected with all the flights. You can get the ticket online or after arriving – their stand is right in front of the exit from the arrivals hall, you can’t miss it. One way ticket from Kutaisi airport to Tbilisi is 20 lari and to Kutaisi city is 5 lari. In Tbilisi buses arrive to Liberty Square in the very center of the city.
If you fly to Tbilisi there is a local bus no 37 running 24/7 that connects the airport with the city (Liberty Square, Rustaveli metro station and train station), the ticket is 0,50 lari.
How to get around Georgia
There’re very few train lines that can get you from Tbilisi to Batumi or Zugdidi (and from there you can catch marshrutka to Svaneti) as well as some local destinations. Most likely you will just use marshrutkas – Soviet style mini buses that are not very comfortable but they are fast, cheap and often your only option. In Tbilisi they depart from few places, depending on the destination, you will most likely use the Didube station for places in north and west of the country and Samgori station for Kakheti.
If you are short of time or the whole process of finding the right marshrutka is overwhelming you can go for organized tours – there are plenty of them and they are often affordable. Click here to find and book some of the best tours.
What to see in Georgia
You can already see a lot in few days if you base yourself in Tbilisi and go for day trips around but of course the more time you have the better. Some of the places you can’t miss are:
- Tbilisi – the amazing capital
- Kazbegi with Gergeti Triniti Church – on the way you should stop in Ananuri and Mtskheta
- One (or all) of the cave towns: David Gareja, Uplistsikhe, Vardzia
- Spa town Borjomi
- Kakheti wine region
- Kutaisi, with day trips to Chiatura, Tskaltubo, Prometeus Cave, Gelati monastery or Okatse Canyon
- The Black Sea resort Batumi
- Svaneti for some amazing mountains view
Where to stay in Georgia
There’s a whole range of accommodation to choose from, from hostels and guest houses to boutique hotels – you can choose whatever you like! Just keep in mind that sometimes the standard, especially in the cheaper places, might not be the best – Georgia is still learning the tourism industry and many people try to earn from a sudden flow of visitors, offering their places to rent that might not really be ideal in Western standards. Before booking the accommodation take a minute to read the reviews and see pictures to know what you’re getting.
I always find my accommodation at Booking.com and never had any major issues in Georgia. Click here to find your accommodation in Georgia!
Language in Georgia
Georgia has its own alphabet that is just the prettiest but you understand literally nothing. It took me a while to recognize the name “Tbilisi” written in Georgian (თბილისი) and that’s about it. Getting around with English only is doable, especially in touristic areas but often knowing some Russian is a life-saver, even if it’s just enough to ask where is your marshrutka and what’s the price for the ride.
It’s also good to know few Georgian words, that always brings smile on people’s faces. Those I use most often are didi madloba (thank you) and gamarjoba (hello) – don’t confuse it with “gaumarjos” (cheers) – I did it once at Kutaisi airport and got friendly laughs from the border officer in return.
Don’t travel without a travel insurance! I’ve learnt my lesson that you never know what might happen and I don’t leave the house without being insured. Click here for more info and best rates on travel insurance at World Nomads!
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