If we had three words to describe Georgia it would be “Europe’s Hidden Gem”. Previously this destination was rarely on peoples must visit list but it is becoming the place to go for a different city break. Georgia is beautiful, culturally rich and deep rotted in history.
Georgia absolutely stole our hearts as soon as we touched down in Tbilisi from the generosity of the people to the astonishing landscapes and not to mention the local grape-based beverages!
In a short span of time you can enjoy swimming in the black sea, visiting the mountains of Kazbegi, walk the beautiful cobblestone streets and even take a day trip to Batumi.
To start off with, Tbilisi, the nation’s capital. Our experience in Tbilisi alone was sufficient to justify a trip to Georgia. Tbilisi may not be the most famous or prosperous city in Europe, however in the past few years this wonderful city has seen major revitalisation and not to mention its charm and warmth.
A 3-hour drive away from the Capital Tbilisi, the Kazbegi Mountain range is one of the most breathtaking views we have seen! Close to the Russian border you get to witness the spectacular 5,033m high Mt Kazbek.
Amongst this spectacular mountain range, you can find Gergeti Trinity Church. This ancient church overlooks the small town of Kazbegi and gives you unrivalled panoramic views of the surrounding mountain ranges.
On the way you can pick up traditional souvenirs and can experience white water rapids, also make sure you pick up some local honey, it’s delicious! Georgia, is also known as the land of the oldest honey discovered; Home to 13,000 flora species, Georgia is a true bliss for Caucasian Grey bees to make honey which tastes amazing. You can stop at a local market on your way up Kazbegi and buy the nicest, richest honey you've ever tasted.
Only 40 minutes away from Tbilisi is the town of Mtskheta which is where Georgia adopted Christianity in 334 AD and is the seat of the Georgian Orthodox Church. It’s quite a small town, however you can take a short hike out of the town and visit the hilltop Monestary.
Svaneti Mountain Region
Much like Kazbegi, here you can explore the beautiful Caucus Mountains. The first thing you will notice when you reach Svaneti are the ancient guard towers dotted around the villages. They were built to defend against the Moguls, and while they were never used for this purpose they make for a beautiful and unique look to the villages.
Our first taste of Georgian cuisine was their ever famous Khinkhali, which are a local favourite (dumplings consisting of minced meat i.e. lamb, pork and beef mixed together.) Khachapuri was another local dish we fell in love with. It is a traditional cheese-filled bread, where the cheese is the star off the show and traditionally garnished with a raw egg at the centre.
Another really interesting fact about Georgia is its various forms of transportation. You can get around by ordering a cab with an app called ‘Bolt’. This is a useful if you are a newbie in town because you can pinpoint your exact location. Although most cab drivers’ English isn't that great so be sure the location on the app is correct.
Due to the wonderful scenery, huge hills and mountains, Georgia offers another usual but fantastic way of transport via there Aerial Cable Car. This cable car opened in 2012 and connects Rike Park on the banks of the River Mtkvari with Narikala Fortress high above old Tbilisi. For just 2 Lari (around 0.9 euro) a ride, you’ll get spectacular views over Tbilisi Old Town and the wider city itself. You can pay for this trip in cash or with the Tbilisi metro card, which allows you to bypass the ticket booth line and use the cable car from late morning until midnight.
The local currency is known as GEL which is almost on par with AED (1 AED = 0.8 GEL). However, USD are widely accepted throughout the country.
The Grape Beverages!
While everyone is talking about grape beverages from such exotic destinations like New Zealand, South Africa, and Argentina, Georgian ones deserves the attention. Not only it’s good, but it also has a long history. Georgia is believed to be the birthplace of winemaking, dating back to around 8,000 years. These days the main region to taste Georgian varieties is Kakheti in the eastern part of the country, 75% of the production comes from there. What's more, you can find superb homemade ones almost anywhere; you can buy it in restaurants or in local markets where they are offered in Coca-Cola bottles (this is part of the fun of the markets).
There are various different tours that you can enjoy and learn how they are (still to this day) made in the very traditional way they have been for thousands of years. We have no doubt during your time in Georgia if you were to go on any of the tours on offer, your tour guide will whip out a bottle of Chacha! Chacha is their local form of brandy and is the local’s favourite beverage. Warning It’s quite strong!
We hope you enjoyed our ‘City Guide’ and might think of adding beautiful Georgia to your next mini-break list. It’s worth a visit!