Drawing in influences from neighbouring Asia, Russia, Europe and the Middle East. Formerly a holiday haunt for the rich elite of the Soviet Union, Georgia is one of the most beautiful countries in the world.
Heaven for outdoors enthusiasts and adventurers, Georgia’s natural beauty never fails to amaze, while its fine wines and happy, cultured people add to the pleasure. The country also boasts a complex and intriguing historical heritage, along with magnificent architecture, both ancient and contemporary, and ever-improving facilities for visitors.
Top 5 places to see in Georgia
This picturesque capital city stands on the banks of the River Mtkvari, nestled within a steep valley. Both modern and ancient, Tbilisi is the beating heart of Georgia and shouldn’t be missed.
Expect a newly spruced up city with a lively arts and cultural scene. It offers inviting cafes, funky bars and clubs for taking in the atmosphere, along with spruced-up museums and galleries, parks, plazas and whole streets-full of eye-catching contemporary architecture.
The Old Town at the narrowest part of the valley is a place to stroll through winding lanes and marvel at balconied houses, leafy squares and handsome churches, all in the shadow of the historic Narikala Fortress.
Georgia’s fascinating cultural heritage is well represented in Tbilisi’s museums. The Georgian State Museum houses a beautiful collection of frescoes, icons and porcelain, in addition to jewellery which was discovered in pre-Christian Georgian tombs. The Georgian Museum of Fine Arts, in the town centre, displays many works by Niko Pirosmani, Georgia’s popular 19th-century ‘primitive’ artist. The open-air Museum of Ethnography showcases interesting examples of Georgia’s rural buildings and artefacts.
The magnificent city of Mtskheta is a UNESCO World Heritage Site having been the centre of Georgian Christianity until the 12th century.
Perhaps the city’s greatest claim to fame is its 15th century Svetitskhoveli Cathedral, standing at the confluence of the Mtkvari and Aragvi rivers. According to legend, it was built on the spot where Christ’s crucifixion robe fell to the ground in AD328, having been brought from Jerusalem by a local Jew. Fragments of the robe are kept inside the cathedral making it widely considered to be the holiest place in Georgia.
Georgian Military Highway
The Georgian Military Highway stretches 220 kilometres from Tbilisi to Vladikavkaz in North Ossetia, now part of the Russian Federation. It’s a scenic route through the dramatic Caucasus Mountains, the road having been built by the Russians in the 19th century to help them keep control of their conquered Georgian territories.
Along the way, you might like to stop at the 14th century Sameba Church and enjoy the views towards the mountain town of Kazbegi. Then take a tour of Mtskheta. The Gudauri ski resort is also situated along the highway.
Georgia boasts stunning coastal beauty too. Head for the southwest of the country, close to the Turkish border on the Black Sea Coast where you’ll find Batumi, the capital of the Georgian autonomous republic of Ajarian.
The place has a decidedly Turkish character and, to add to its charm, the town sits in a lush, subtropical setting, among citrus groves, palm trees, tea plantations and mountains rising from the sea’s shores. Batumi is also a vibrant party hub often hosting international DJs and music concerts.
Georgia’s great outdoors
For outdoors activities, there’s little to beat the mountains of the Caucasus which extend between the Black and Caspian Seas, offering countless opportunities for hiking, skiing and snowboarding. Mount Shkora has the country’s highest peak at 5,068 metres while Mount Kazbegi (or Mkinvartsveri) is a favourite for mountain-climbing. The ski resorts of Gudauri and Bakuriani are popular for skiers of all abilities and have guaranteed snow from December to April.
Vashlovani National Park and Nature Reserve is located in the heart of inland Georgia, where hyena, brown bear, wolf and lynx roam and griffin vulture and Egyptian vulture can be spotted.
You can explore on foot or horseback; however make sure you check in (bring ID) at the Visitors’ Centre in Dedoplistskaro before setting off around the park where you can also get clued up on the protected areas, travel routes and safety rules of the park. The network of walking and cycling trails are well marked and campsites and picnic spots are arranged along the way.