We were desirous to travel to Georgia in 2014 but unfortunately at that time Georgian Government was in the process of changing their visa rules, owing to which we had to change our plans and hence traveled to Russia instead. Georgia was at that time not much known to Indians as a country and often they confused it with Georgia State in the US. Recently Georgia is into buzz and is pulling in popularity for tourism due to ease in visa rules. Soon after Georgia permitted visa free entry for stay up to 3 months for UAE residence holders, we were over joyous and began to plan our much awaited Georgia excursion. We planned our trip to be a blend of low pace with flavors of adventure. We planned a 12 day trip to Georgia starting with East and ending with the West part. Here is our 12 days brief itinerary of the various destinations we explored in Georgia:
We began our Georgia journey from Tbilisi, which is the capital and the largest urban center of Georgia, lying on the banks of the Mtkvari River. Tbilisi is derived from the old Georgian word “Tpili”, meaning warm. The name Tbilisi therefore means warm location.We beheld most of the experience in this beautiful metropolis where cultural and historic presence of east and west meet. The re-organization of architectural structures is yet under construction, but the surviving structures are fascinating. This exposes the influence of various civilizations from Gothic to Neo-Classical times. The passageways and paths towards the elevated districts are simply captivating.
Holding at the foot of the spectacular hill capped by the Narikala Fortress is the Old town of Tbilisi. Bustling with history, culture & people, the old town has something for everyone in store. Handmade souvenirs, exclusive local wines, café’s, bars & restaurants and plenty of tourist retail therapies or just a stroll round and savor the magnificent atmosphere with local music.
Tbilisi has lots of things to offer and listing them is not an unsound estimate! The best manner to explore is to catch a tourist map and begin in the proper directions. Our 3 days stay in Tbilisi involved:
- Exploring the old Tbilisi area.
- Taking 360 degree view of Tbilisi from Narikala Fortress.
- Experiencing the world’s tallest Orthodox Cathedral.
- Checking out some unique and modern architecture.
Mtskheta is one of Georgia’s oldest cities located approximately 20KMS north of Tbilisi at the juncture of the Aragvi and Mtkvari rivers. It’s a respected site for those who desire to understand Georgia. Mtskheta was the site of Georgia’s adoption of Christianity in 334BC. We determined to plan a daytime trip to this charming Unesco World Heritage site from Tbilisi. Setting out here wasn’t difficult for us as there were many minibuses available to progress to this site which costed us less than a Lari.
Mtskheta is revered as a spiritual treasure in lonely planet and it’s Svetitskhoveli Cathedral (dating back in the 11th century) is still set for important Georgian orthodox church ceremonies.
Kakheti is the wine making region of “Georgia”, which has become the part of the country’s identity in late times. After learning so much about this region we decided to explore it. This time we bought a private tour for the Kakheti region from a local tour company, since we wanted to know a bit more about this area and wanted to explore it in a local mode.
The different towns we passed over in this region those are:
- Bodbe – marked for its centuries old monastery, is the burial site of St. Nino, a most important religious figure of Georgians. The monastery offers a pleasant and tranquil garden, providing the incredible view of Alazani Valley.
- The next halt in our schedule was Signagi – the town which is located 2 kms from Bodbe, is regarded as a city of love. With beautiful cobbled stone street & charming houses, it gives the feel of some small Italian town. The town rests high upon the hill with breathtaking views of Caucasus Mountains and Alazani Valley. We spent about 4 hours enjoying the local wine, food and wandering around the City wall.
- From Signagi we proceeded towards Tsinandali Palace, which is located in Tsinandali village. This Palace is restored from a summer house of Alexander Chavchavadze to a Beautiful Museum. Though this Palace is not so enamored, but you can definitely find more serious wine from here. After sampling some wine, we took a walk in the park which was beautifully maintained.
Our next destination was Kutaisi where we decided to spend about 2 days. The travel time between Tbilisi to Kutaisi was 4 hrs by Marshrutka and is the cheapest means to travel.
Kutaisi is the second largest city after Tbilisi & also the rival of Tbilisi for becoming the capital of Georgia. Kutaisi is a very beautiful city and different if you compare it with Tbilisi. This city is conceived to be lived as early as 7th century BC. Our stay in Kutaisi was not as good as compared to Tbilisi. Our Host house was situated far from the city center, which made it a bit hard for us to savor the city at night. We thoroughly loved the urban center as this city holds a lots of history. Our 2 days stay in Kutaisi included:
- Visiting the Prometheus Caves which is one of Georgia’s natural wonders and is the most popular destinations in the region.
- Draw the best view of Kutaisi from Bagrati Cathedral which was built in 10th century and is included in UNESCO World Heritage site list as a single entity.
- Walking up to the Gelati Monastery which is religious and educational heart of Georgia. The most celebrated King Of Georgia, King David the builder is buried in yard of this monastery.
- Exploring the modern & historical part of Kutaisi.
We decided to spend 2 days in the Upper Svaneti region (trust me 2 days is quite less), dividing it into 1 day Mestia and 1 day Ushguli.
Mestia & Ushguli is the most ravishing region of Georgia.The single best word to describe them is “heaven”. Our ride from Kutaisi to Mestia was the most difficult in our entire journey, but it’s worthwhile once we reached Mestia, getting the picturesque view of Svan towers and snow capped Caucasus mountains. We choose this time to stay with locals , to set out the true flavor of Georgia. Mestia is popular for its beautiful trekking trails & the Svan towers which was used as watchtowers in the medieval times. Svaneti region is also called as a home of Self sufficient people.
From Mestia it’s a 1.5 hour journey towards Ushguli, which was really a heart sinking ride. For me Ushguli is a, “Fairy-tale town”, the beauty of this place is endearing, the lovely locals, we met, I was very warmed by their hospitality. After reaching Ushguli, I released how wrong I was to plan just a day for Ushguli, which is not enough to capture the feel of this town.
After frequently moving for 8 days, Hrishi decided to spend some relaxing time, and what else can be a better spot than a beach. Batumi which for me is a, “Las Vegas” of Georgia.
With crazy Nightlife, which one can only imagine in Georgia. We spend our 3 days in Batumi, enjoying the beach, riding scooters along the beautiful Batumi Boulevard, doing a bit of gambling, meeting few locals and trying out Adjara food.
Batumi, which is as well recognized as “Pearl of the black sea”, bears a unique, diverse landscape, with an amazing coastline at your foot to the magnificent mountains as its backdrop. Batumi is one of the most popular region in Georgia among tourists for its resorts and its prestine nature.
Kazbegi is situated in the northeast portion of Georgia and is presently known as Stepantsminda. Located at the foot of Mount Kazbek, this region is renowned for its Mountainous Terrain. Most of the travelers come to this region to mark out its beauty and Gergeti Trinity Church, which is besides the celebrated landmark of this region.
Before ending our trip to Georgia and having one full day in hand, we planned a brief visit to this region & therefore did take a one day tour from one of the reputed tour Co. in Tbilisi.
A trip to Kazbegi was really a memorable experience since it was the final day of our amazing journey through Georgia.
I want to truly say do add Georgia to your travel list if you haven’t so far.