Georgia is an eastern European country that borders Russia, Turkey, Armenia, and Azerbaijan. It’s no surprise Georgia has gained popularity among travellers over recent years, with its ancient monasteries, the towering peaks of the Caucasus, and traditional wine culture. This makes it an exciting, interesting and beautiful travel destination.
Thanks to its natural scenery and hiking opportunities, Georgia mainly caters to nature enthusiasts. Below are 10 of the best and most beautiful places to see in this mountainous country.
One simply can’t visit Georgia and skip the capital. Besides the city being the central transportation hub, it’s buzzing with activities and has numerous sights as well. The capital has incredible architecture, from the majestic Holy Trinity Cathedral to the elevated Narikala Fortress which overlooks the city. For fun and more stunning views, take a yellow Soviet service bus or funicular up to Mtatsminda Amusement Park.
Tbilisi also provides an entrance to the Georgian cuisine. Here you’ll find many traditional restaurants serving classics such as khachapuri (bread oozing with cheese), khinkali (Georgian dumplings) and the harder-to-find but no less delicious kupati (sausage made from pork, intestines, and spices).
If you’re after a great night out, Tbilisi also has a lively night scene, with plenty of restaurants, bars, live music venues and clubs.
Mtskheta is a town near Tbilisi and is considered to be the centre of the Georgian Orthodox church. Because of this you’ll find many stone cathedrals spread over Mtskheta. One of the highlights is Jvari Monastery, a 6th-century complex located on a mountain top not far from the centre. It is one of the symbols of the early Orthodox church in Georgia, one of the first countries that accepted Christianity.
Down in the heart of Mtskheta, the Svetitskhoveli Cathedral is the major eye-catcher. This UNESCO-listed church was initially built in the 4th century and is a magnificent piece of architecture.
Kazbegi is the closest mountain getaway from the capital Tbilisi; it only takes 3 hours by minivan to reach the principal municipality of this elevated region, Stepantsminda. Upon arrival, you’ll notice Mount Kazbek which is the lonely giant west of the town. At over 5000 metres Mount Kazbek is Kazbegi’s highest mountain and almost a pilgrimage destination for adventurous travellers. Its extensive glaciers and hiking trails draws active people to this legendary peak.
Less strenuous is the hike up to the Gergeti Trinity Church (seen below), a small church which is located between Stepantsminda and Mount Kazbek.
The Truso Gorge offers more spectacular hiking at just 20 kilometres south of Stepantsminda. This valley has a beautiful river flowing through it, abandoned villages, and you’ll see imposing mountains all around.
4. David Gareja Monastery
Georgia has several monasteries and churches carved into mountains or rock formations, and David Gareja Monastery is one of the most breathtaking. The monastery dates back to the 6th century, and some of the original frescoes are still visible. You can stroll through the rooms and cobbled alleyways, where it takes little imagination to visualize how monks lived here in the past.
This stunning cloister lies near the border with Azerbaijan, and the scenery around it makes it stand out compared to other rock-hewn churches in the country. The tundra and magical rainbow mountains around the monastery make the 3-hour ride from Tbilisi worthwhile. A trail leads up to the hill behind the complex, from there you get an overview of the multi-coloured mountains to the north and a glimpse of the Azerbaijani steppe to the south.
Even though almost every household in Georgia has grapes and many families make their own wine, Georgia does have a particular wine region called Kakheti. This area covers the entire east of Georgia, and its most famous town is Telavi, an epicentre of wineries and tasting possibilities. There’s proof that Georgia’s winemaking history goes back more than 8000 years, and some wineries still work according to old methods. Taste the qvevri wines, aged and fermented in large earthenware jars with all ingredients of the grape kept inside.
Learn more about this tradition, wine in general and enjoy a few glasses at one of the many wineries by going on a day tour or visiting places such as Shumi Winery and Teliani Valley.
6. Tusheti National Park
Tusheti National Park is part of the Caucasus mountain range, that is shared by Russia and Georgia. With its green valleys, nerve-wracking roads over mountain passes, and typical fortified towers, Tusheti is a feast for the eyes.
Hiking is, like in many other areas, probably the best way to explore this far north-eastern park. The road winding through the Abano Pass is scenic and dangerous, but worth driving on. Don’t forget to stop at the Torha Pass viewpoint, where the rocky mountains and swinging roads reveal themselves.
Gori is located in central Georgia and is mainly known for the fact that Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin was born here in 1878. The town currently has a museum dedicated to Stalin, which provides visitors with a rather one-sided image of the Soviet leader. Here his kindness and great leadership take centre stage in the exhibitions. However, it is also an interesting spot for history lovers.
Just outside Gori, you’ll find Uplistsikhe, an ancient rock city sculpted into a mountain at around 1000 BC. It functioned as an important religious and political centre in pre-Christian Georgia, and even up to today, you can wander through the former wine cellars, houses, and carved out temples.
The West-Georgian town of Borjomi is world-famous for its fizzy mineral water, but it also has brilliant architecture and nature. Pay a visit to the Mineral Water Park, where you can sample the Borjomi water at its source. For interesting architecture, head over to the lovely Firuza house and Romanovs’ Palace, a colourful mansion that houses some historical exhibitions.
The nature around the town provides excellent terrain for mountain biking and hiking, as Borjomi is covered by vast forests. Almost a dozen walking trails provide enough outdoor fun to keep you busy in this region.
Svaneti can easily be considered as the outdoor capital of Georgia; the peaks of the Caucasus are at their highest here, and many hiking routes will show the epic scenery this region possesses. The most popular destinations here are Mestia and Ushguli, with the latter being favoured thanks to its stone towers and dramatic location between the mountains.
Serious mountaineers can climb their hearts out on giants like Mount Ushba (4710 metres), Mount Tetnuldi (4858 metres), and Mount Shkhara (5193 metres), while lesser trained travellers can choose from countless more straightforward treks.
During winter, Svaneti becomes a hub for winter sports; snow is guaranteed on these altitudes, and many ski and snowboard tracks open.
10. Abudelauri Lakes
Bringing a camera to Georgia is actually a must, and not bringing one to the Abudelauri Lakes leads to instant regrets. The green, blue and white basins lie east of Kazbegi and are encircled by the most dazzling summits of the Georgian Caucasus. Inexperienced hikers can start their journey to the lakes from the village Roshka, while seasoned trekkers might opt for the full-day hike from Juta. Sharp mountain peaks and the Abudelauri glacier are just a couple of rewards you get when travelling to these alpine lagoons.
When it comes to hiking, Europe has few places that can rival Georgia’s selection of treks and alpine landscapes. The unique wine culture, the lively capital Tbilisi, and monuments from old civilizations present an alternative for visitors who are not hugely fond of sports. Prices are low, and Georgia is relatively small, which makes this country a suitable landing-place for many travellers.
Travel suggestion: Combine your trip with a visit to some of the best and most beautiful places to visit in Armenia. You can also find various day tours from Tbilisi.
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