Even the tiniest countries have the power to surprise us with their diversity. One of those is the former Soviet nation of Georgia.
Its location on the westernmost tip of the Asian continent earned Georgia its nickname, the Balcony of Europe. Drawing together fascinating yet turbulent history, unique gastronomy, rich winemaking heritage, monastery-topped mountains, cave cities, and subtropical Black Sea coastline - Georgia is a wonder for travelers to discover.
Here are six places in Georgia to add to your radar.
Tbilisi, the Georgian capital, is a myriad of balconied hotels, residences, and cafes. A sculpture of the Mother of Georgia stands to watch over the city, brandishing a sword - for enemies - and a cup of wine - for guests - Georgians are renowned for their hospitality.
As the epicenter of Georgian culture, you have museums, art galleries, botanic gardens, and ancient sites, including the Narikala Fortress, at your fingertips.
Tbilisi translates into ‘warm place.’ This is due to its network of hot springs, which lead to the foundation of a series of bathhouses. Nowadays, in the Abanotubani, there remains a handful of these where you can soak in a healing sulfur bath.
In the heart of Georgia, the resort town of Borjomi is nestled among some of Georgia’s finest forestland - the Borjomi National Park.
‘Borjomi’ is a brand of bottled mineral water that you will find all over Georgia. But in Borjomi Central Park, you can drink this volcanic spring directly from the source. At the same time, you can enjoy a rejuvenating dip in Borjomi’s open-air thermal baths.
Borjomi is home to boutique hotels, including the photogenic Golden Tulip Hotel. You can pick up pots of locally-produced pinecone jam and bee pollen just outside.
It would be a shame to visit this Caucasian gem without getting a close look at the Caucasus Mountains.
The mountain town of Kazbegi (officially Stepantsminda) sits at an elevation of 1,740 meters and provides a clear view of Mount Kazbek - Georgia’s third-highest peak. Also presiding over the townlet is the Gergeti Trinity Church, which is accessible via a grueling uphill hike or by car. You can savor views of both over dinner on the terrace of Rooms Hotel Kazbegi.
Kazbegi is a short drive from the Russian border. In fact, when you hike in the nearby Truso Valley, you can peer over the border from the Zakagori Fortress.
Every mile west brings you a step closer to Georgia’s sub-tropical beach resorts that line the Black Sea. Energetic Batumi is by far the most popular. In complete contrast to Tbilisi, Batumi’s skyline is known for its experimental high rises and edgy street sculptures.
The four-mile Batumi Boulevard is a pleasure to stroll or cycle along at any time of day - if you keep your eyes peeled, you may spot the resident pod of dolphins.
Because Batumi Beach is made up of stones, many visitors appreciate a day trip north to Ureki Beach. This magnetic black sand beach is rumored to have healing powers.
Over 8,000 years ago, Georgia conceived the very first drop of wine by using clay vessels known as qvevri. Georgia’s winemaking heritage flourishes today - with over 500 varieties of grape.
While you can sample wine anywhere, Sighnaghi (the City of Love) is the best place for wine enthusiasts. Located in the Kakheti wine region, the whole area is teeming with wineries. It’s lovely any time of year, but the best time to visit is during the late-September grape harvest.
Georgia’s Cave Cities
Another unique experience you can have in Georgia is to wander around its cave cities and monasteries. Namely Uplistsikhe, Vardzia, and Davit Gareja. These archaeological wonders feature a network of churches, cellars, dwellings, and halls cut right into the mountains.
Georgia has appeared on numerous travel lists for 2021 and is set to become a major destination as the world reopens. Please contact me if you’d like to discuss your own bespoke itinerary for Georgia.
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